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Superintendent, Madras Government Museum ; Correspondant Etranger, 

Soci6t6 d'Anthropologie de Paris ; Socio Corrispondante, 

Societa Romana di Anthropologia. 



of the Madras Government Museum. 




U h O 

V. ^ 

3 R A 

NOV 1 ? 1966 

!??/rv OF 1055:^ 



^ARAKK Avar.— The Marakkayars are de- 
Y^i I scribed, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, 
as "a Tamil-speaking Musalman tribe of 
mixed Hindu and Musalman origin, the people of 
which are usually traders. They seem to be distinct 
from the Labbais {g'.z'.) in several respects, but the 
statistics of the two have apparently been confused, 
as the numbers of the Marakkayars are smaller than 
they should be." Concerning the Marakkayars of the 
South Arcot district, Mr. Francis writes as follows.* 
" The Marakkayars are largely big traders with other 
countries such as Ceylon and the Straits Settlements, 
and own most of the native coasting craft. They are 
particularly numerous in Porto Novo. The word Marak- 
kayar is usually derived from the Arabic markab, a boat. 
The story goes that, when the first immigrants of this 
class (who, like the Labbais, were driven from their own 
country by persecutions) landed on the Indian shore, 
they were naturally asked who they were, and whence 
they came. In answer they pointed to their boats, and 
pronounced the word markab, and they became in 
consequence known to the Hindus as Marakkayars, or 

* Gazetteer of the South Arcot district. 


the people of markab. The Musalmans of pure descent 
hold themselves to be socially superior to the Marak- 
kayars, and the Marakkayars consider themselves better 
than the Labbais. There is, of course, no religious bar 
to intermarriages between these different sub-divisions, 
but such unions are rare, and are usually only brought 
about by the offer of strong financial inducements to the 
socially superior party. Generally speaking, the pure- 
bred Musalmans differ from those of mixed descent by 
dressing themselves and their women in the strict 
Musalman fashion, and by speaking Hindustani at home 
among themselves. Some of the Marakkayars are now 
following their example in both these matters, but most 
of them affect the high hat of plaited coloured grass and 
the tartan (kambayam) waist-cloth. The Labbais also 
very generally wear these, and so are not always readily 
distinguishable from the Marakkayars, but some of them 
use the Hindu turban and waist-cloth, and let their 
womankind dress almost exactly like Hindu women. 
In the same way^ some Labbais insist on the use of 
Hindustani in their houses, while others speak Tamil. 
There seems to be a growing dislike to the introduction 
of Hindu rites into domestic ceremonies, and the proces- 
sions and music, which were once common at marriages, 
are slowly giving place to a simpler ritual more in resem- 
blance with the nikka ceremony of the Musalman faith." 
Of 13,712 inhabitants of Porto Novo returned at the 
census, 1901, as many as 3,805 were Muhammadans. 
" The ordinary vernacular name of the town is Farangi- 
pettai or European town, but the Musalmans call it 
Muhammad Bandar (Port). The interest of the majority 
of the inhabitants centres in matters connected with 
the sea. A large proportion of them earn their living 
either as owners of, or sailors in, the boats which ply 


between the place and Ceylon and other parts, and it is 
significant that the most popular of the unusually large 
number of Musalman saints who are buried in the town 
is one Malumiyar, who was apparently in his lifetime a 
notable sea-captain. His fame as a sailor has been 
magnified into the miraculous, and it is declared that 
he owned ten or a dozen ships, and used to appear in 
command of all of them simultaneously. He has now 
the reputation of being able to deliver from danger 
those who go down to the sea in ships, and sailors 
setting out on a voyage or returning from one in safety 
usually put an offering in the little box kept at his 
darga, and these sums are expended in keeping that 
building lighted and whitewashed. Another curious 
darga in the town is that of Araikasu Nachiyar, or the 
one pie lady. Offerings to her must on no account be 
worth more than one pie (-jJ-^ of a rupee) ; tributes in 
excess of that value are of no effect. If sugar for so 
small an amount cannot be procured, the devotee spends 
the money on chunam (lime) for her tomb, and this is 
consequently covered with a superabundance of white- 
wash. Stories are told of the way in which the valuable 
offerings of rich men have altogether failed to obtain her 
favour, and have had to be replaced by others of the 
regulation diminutive dimensions. The chief mosque is 
well kept. Behind it are two tombs, which stand at an 
odd angle with one another, instead of being parallel as 
usual. The legend goes that once upon a time there 
was a great saint called Hafiz Mir Sahib, who had an 
even more devout disciple called Saiyad Shah. The 
latter died and was duly buried, and not long after the 
saint died also. The disciple had always asked to be 
buried at the feet of his master, and so the grave of this 
latter was so placed that his feet were opposite the head 

V-I B 

marakkAyar 4 

of his late pupil. But his spirit recognised that the 
pupil was really greater than the master, and when men 
came later to see the two graves they found that the 
saint had turned his tomb round so that his feet no 
longer pointed with such lack of respect towards the 
head of his disciple." * 

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Jonagans 
are separated from the Marakkayars, and are described 
as Musalman traders of partly Hindu parentage. And, 
in the Gazetteer of South Arcot, Mr. Francis says that 
"the term Jonagan or Sonagan, meaning a native of 
Sonagan^or Arabia, is applied by Hindus to both Labbais 
and Marakkayars, but it is usually held to have a contemp- 
tuous flavour about it." There is some little confusion 
concerning the exact application of the name Jonagan, 
but I gather that it is applied to sea-fishermen and 
boatmen, while the more prosperous traders are called 
Marakkayars. A point, in which the Labbais are said 
to differ from the Marakkayars, is that the former are 
Hanafis, and the latter Shafis. 

The Marakkayars are said to admit converts from 
various Hindu classes, who are called Pulukkais, and 
may not intermarry with the Marakkayars for several 
generations, or until they have become prosperous. 

In one form of the marriage rites, the ceremonial 
extends over four days. The most important items 
on the first day are fixing the mehr (bride-price) in the 
presence of the vakils (representatives), and the per- 
formance of the nikka rite by the Kazi. The nikka 
kudbha is read, and the hands of the contracting couple 
are united by male elders, the bride standing within a 
screen. During the reading of the kudbha, a sister of 

* Gazetteer of the South Arcot district. 

5 mAran or MARAYAN 

the bridegroom ties a string of black beads round the 
bride's neck. All the women present set up a roar, 
called kulavi-idal. On the following day, the couple sit 
among women, and the bridegroom ties a golden tali 
on the bride's neck. On the third or fourth day a 
ceremony called paparakkolam, or Brahman disguise, is 
performed. The bride is dressed like a Brahman woman, 
and holds a brass vessel in one hand, and a stick in the 
other. Approaching the bridegroom, she strikes him 
gently, and says " Did not I give you buttermilk and 
curds ? Pay me for them." The bridegroom then places 
a few tamarind seeds in the brass vessel, but the bride 
objects to this, and demands money, accompanying the 
demand with strokes of the stick. The man then places 
copper, silver, and gold coins in the vessel, and the bride 
retires in triumph to her chamber. 

Like the Labbais, the Marakkayars write Tamil in 
Arabic characters, and speak a language called Arab- 
Tamil, in which the Kuran and other books have been 
published. [See Labbai.) 

Maralu (sand). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Maran or Marayan. — The Malayans are summed 
up, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as being 
" temple servants and drummers in Malabar. Like 
many of the Malabar castes, they must have come from 
the east coast, as their name frequently occurs in the 
Tanjore inscriptions of 10 13 A.D. They followed then 
the same occupation as that by which they live to-day, 
and appear to have held a tolerably high social position. 
In parts of North Malabar they are called Oc'chan." 

" The development of this caste," Mr. H. A. 
Stuart writes,* " is interesting. In Chirakkal, the 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 


northernmost taluk of the Malabar district, and in the 
adjoining Kasargod taluk of South Canara, Marayans 
are barbers, serving Nayars and higher castes ; in the 
Kottayam and Kurumbranad taluks they are barbers and 
drummers, and also officiate as purohits (priests) at the 
funeral ceremonies of Nayars. In the latter capacity 
they are known in those parts also as Attikurissi Marayan. 
Going still further south, we find the Nayar purohit 
called simply Attikurissi, omitting the Marayan, and 
he considers it beneath his dignity to shave. Neverthe- 
less, he betrays his kinship with the Marayan of the 
north by the privilege which he claims of cutting the first 
hair when a Nayar is shaved after funeral obsequies. 
On the other hand, the drummer, who is called Marayan, 
or honorifically Marar, poses as a temple servant, and 
would be insulted if it were said that he was akin to the 
shaving Marayan of the north. He is considered next in 
rank only to Brahmans, and would be polluted by the 
touch of Nayars. He loses caste by eating the food of 
Nayars, but the Nayars also lose caste by eating his food. 
A proverb says that a Marayan has four privileges : — 

1. Pani, or drum, beaten with the hand. 

2. Koni, or bier, i.e.^ the making of the bier. 

3. Natumittam, or shaving. 

4. Tirumittam, or sweeping the temple courts. 

" In North Malabar a Marayan performs all the above 
duties even now. In the south there appears to have been 
a division of labour, and there a Marayan is in these days 
only a drummer and temple servant. Funeral rites are 
conducted by an Attikurissi Marayan, otherwise known 
as simply Attikurissi, and shaving is the duty of the 
Velakattalavan. This appears to have been the case for 
many generations, but I have not attempted to distin- 
guish between the two sections, and have classed all as 

7 mArAn or MARAYAN 

barbers. Moreover, it is only in parts of South Malabar 
that the caste has entirely given up the profession of 
barber ; and, curiously enough, these are the localities 
where Nambudiri influence is supreme. The Marayans 
there appear to have confined themselves to officiating 
as drummers in temples, and to have obtained the title 
of Ambalavasi ; and, in course of time, they were even 
honoured with sambandham of Nambudiris. In some 
places an attempt is made to draw a distinction between 
Marayan and Marayar, the former denoting the barber, 
and the latter, which is merely the honorific plural, the 
temple servant. There can, however, be little doubt 
that this is merely an ex post facto argument in support 
of the alleged superiority of those Marayans who have 
abandoned the barber's brush. It may be here noted 
that it is common to find barbers acting as musicians 
throughout the Madras Presidency, and that there are 
several other castes in Malabar, such as the Tiyyans, 
Mukkuvans, etc., who employ barbers as purohits at 
their funeral ceremonies." 

In the Cochin Census Report, 1901, Mr. M. Sankara 
Menon writes that the Marars are " Sudras, and, properly 
speaking, they ought to be classed along with Nayars. 
Owing, however, to their close connection with ser- 
vices in temples, and the absence of free interdining or 
intermarriage with Nayars, they are classed along 
with Ambalavasis. They are drummers, musicians, and 
storekeepers in temples. Like Tiyattu Nambiyars, some 
sections among them also draw figures of the goddess in 
Bhagavati temples, and chant songs. In some places 
they are also known as Kuruppus. Some sub-castes 
among them do not dine, or intermarry. As they have 
generally to serve in temples, they bathe if they touch 
Nayars. In the matter of marriage (tali-kettu and 

marAn or marAyan 8 

sambandham), inheritance, period of pollution, etc., they 
follow customs exactly like those of Nayars. In the 
southern taluks Elayads officiate as purohits, but, in the 
northern taluks, their own castemen take the part of the 
Elayads in their sradha ceremonies. The tali-kettu is 
likewise performed by Tirumalpads in the southern 
taluks, but by their own castemen, called Enangan, in 
the northern taluks. Their castemen or Brahmans unite 
themselves with their women in sambandham. As 
among Nayars, purificatory ceremonies after funerals, 
etc., are performed by Checthiyans or Nayar priests." 

For the following detailed note on the Marans of 
Travancore I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramani Iyer. 
The name Maran has nothing to do with maranam or 
death, as has been supposed, but is derived from the 
Tamil root mar, to beat. In the Tanjore inscriptions of 
the eleventh century, the caste on the Coromandel coast 
appears to have been known by this name. The Marans 
correspond to the Occhans of the Tamil country, and 
a class of Marans in North Malabar are sometimes called 
by this designation. In the old revenue records of the 
Travancore State, Mangalyam appears to be the term 
made use of. The two well-known titles of the caste 
are Kuruppu and Panikkar, both conveying the idea of 
a person who has some allotted work to perform. In 
modern days, English-educated men appear to have 
given these up for Pillai, the titular affix added to the 
name of the Sudra population generally. 

Marans may be divided into two main divisions, viz., 
Marans who called themselves Marars in North Travan- 
core, and who now hesitate to assist other castes in the 
performance of their funeral rites ; and Marans who do 
not convert their caste designation into an honorific 
plural, and act as priests for other castes. This distinction 


is most clearly marked in North Travancore, while to 
the south of Alleppey the boundary line may be said to 
remain only dim. In this part of the country, therefore, 
a fourfold division of the caste is the one best known to 
the people, namely Orunul, Irunul, Cheppat, and Kulanji. 
The Orunuls look upon themselves as higher than the 
Irunuls, basing their superiority on the custom obtaining 
among them of marrying only once in their lifetime, and 
contracting no second alliance after the first husband's 
death. Living, however, with a Brahman, or one of 
a distinctly higher caste, is tolerated among them in the 
event of that calamity. The word Orunul means one 
string, and signifies the absence of widow marriage. 
Among the Irunuls (two strings) the tali-tier is not 
necessarily the husband, nor is a second husband for- 
bidden after the death of the first. Cheppat and Kulanji 
were once mere local varieties, but have now become 
separate sub-divisions. The males of the four sections, 
but not the females, interdine. With what rapidity 
castes sub-divide and ramify in Travancore may be seen 
from the fact of the existence of a local variety of Ma- 
rans called Muttal, meaning substitute or emergency 
employee, in the Kalkulam taluk, who are believed to 
represent an elevation from a lower to a higher class of 
Marans, rendered necessary by a temple exigency. 
The Marans are also known as Asupanis, as they alone 
are entitled to sound the two characteristic musical 
instruments, of Malabar temples, called asu and pani. 
In the south they are called Chitikans, a corruption 
of the Sanskrit chaitika, meaning one whose occupation 
relates to the funeral pile, and in the north Asthikkurichis 
(asthi, a bone), as they help the relations of the dead 
in the collection of the bones after cremation. The 
Marans are, further, in some places known as Potuvans, 

mArAn or mArAyan to 

as their services are engaged at the funerals of many 

Before the days of Sankaracharya, the sole occupation 
of the Marans is said to have been beatino- the drum in 
Brahmanical temples. When Sankaracharya was refused 
assistance in the cremation of his dead mother by the 
Nambutiri Brahmans, he is believed to have sought in 
despair the help of one of these temple servants, with 
whose aid the corpse was divided into eight parts, and 
deposited in the pit. For undertaking this duty, which 
the Nambutiris repudiated from a sense of offended 
religious feeling, the particular Maran was thrown out 
of his caste by the general community, and a compromise 
had to be effected by the sage with the rest of the caste, 
who returned in a body on the day of purification along 
with the excommunicated man, and helped Sankaracharya 
to bring to a close his mother's death ceremonies. In 
recognition of this timely help, Sankara is believed to 
have declared the Maran to be an indispensable func- 
tionary at the death ceremonies of Nambutiris and 
Ambalavasis. It has even been suggested that the 
original form of Maran was Muran, derived from mur 
(to chop off), in reference to the manner in which the 
remains of Sankara's mother were disposed of. 

The traditional occupation of the Marans is sounding 
or playing on the panchavadya or five musical instru- 
ments used in temples. These are the sankh or 
conch-shell, timila, chendu, kaimani, and maddalam. 
The conch, which is necessary in every Hindu temple, 
is loudly sounded in the early morning, primarily to wake 
the deity, and secondarily to rouse the villagers. Again, 
when the temple service commences, and when the 
nivedya or offering is carried, the music of the conch is 
heard from the northern side of the temple. On this 

II mArAn or mArAyan 

account, many Marans call themselves Vadakkupurattu, 
or belonging to the northern side. The asu and pani 
are sounded by the highest dignitaries among them. 
The beating of the pani is the accompaniment of expiatory 
offerings to the Saptamata, or seven mothers of Hindu 
religious writings, viz., Brahmi, Mahesvari, Kaumari, 
Vaishnavi, A^arahi, Indrani, and Chamunda. Offerings 
are made to these divine mothers during the daily sribali 
procession, and in important temples also during the 
sribhutabali hours, and on the occasion of the utsavabali 
at the annual utsava of the temple. There are certain 
well-established rules prescribing the hymns to be recited, 
and the music to be played. So religiously have these 
rules to be observed during the utsavabali, that the 
priest who makes the offering, the Variyar who carries 
the light before him and the Marans who perform the 
music all have to fast, and to dress themselves in orthodox 
Brahmanical fashion, with the uttariya or upper garment 
worn in the manner of the sacred thread. It is sincerely 
believed that the smallest violation of the rules would be 
visited with dire consequences to the delinquents before 
the next utsava ceremony. 

In connection with the musical instrument called 
the timila, the following legend is current. There was a 
timila in the Sri Padmanabha temple made of kuruntotti, 
and there was a Maran attached to the temple, who 
was such an expert musician that the priest was unable 
to adjust his hymn recitation to the music of the Maran's 
drum, and was in consequence the recipient of the divine 
wrath. It was contrived to get a Brahman youth to 
officiate as priest, and, as he could not recite the hymns 
in consonance with the sounds produced by the drum, a 
hungry spirit lifted him up from the ground to a height 
of ten feet. The father of the youth, hearing what had 


occurred, hastened to the temple, and cut one of his 
fingers, the blood of which he offered to the spirit. The 
boy was then set free, and the old man, who was more 
than a match for the Maran, began to recite the hymns. 
The spirits, raising the Maran on high, sucked away his 
blood, and vanished. The particular timila has since 
this event never been used by any Maran. 

The higher classes of Marans claim six privileges, 
called pano, koni, tirumuttam, natumuttam, velichchor, 
and puchchor. Koni means literally a ladder, and refers 
to the stretcher, made of bamboo and kusa grass or 
straw, on which the corpses of high caste Hindus are 
laid. Tirumuttam is sweeping the temple courtyard, 
and natumuttam the erection of a small pandal (booth) 
in the courtyard of a Nambutiri's house, where oblations 
are offered to the departed spirit on the tenth day after 
death. Velichchor, or sacrificial rice, is the right to 
retain the remains of the food offered to the manes, and 
puchchor the offering made to the deity, on whom the 
priest throws a few flowers as part of the consecration 

A large portion of the time of a Maran is spent 
within the temple, and all through the night some watch 
over it. Many functions are attended to by them in the 
houses of Nambutiris. Not only at the tonsure ceremony, 
and samavartana or closing of the Brahmacharya stage, 
but also on the occasion of sacrificial rites, the Maran 
acts as the barber. At the funeral ceremony, the pre- 
paration of the last bed, and handing the til {Sesamtim) 
seeds, have to be done by him. The Chitikkans perform 
only the functions of shaving and attendance at funerals, 
and, though they may beat drums in temples, they are 
not privileged to touch the asu and pani. At Vechur 
there is a class of potters called Kusa Maran, who should 

13 marasAri 

be distinguished from the Marans proper, with whom 
they have absolutely nothing in common. 

Many families of the higher division of the Marans 
regard themselves as Ambalavasis, though of the lowest 
type, and abstain from flesh and liquor. Some Marans 
are engaged in the practice of sorcery, while others are 
agriculturists. Drinking is a common vice, sanctioned 
by popular opinion owing to the notion that it is good 
for persons with overworked lungs. 

In their ceremonies the Marans resemble the Nayars, 
as they do also in their caste government and religious 
worship. The annaprasana, or first food-giving cere- 
mony, is the only important one before marriage, and 
the child is taken to the temple, where it partakes of the 
consecrated food. The Nayars, on the contrary, gener- 
ally perform the ceremony at home. Purification by a 
Brahman is necessary to release the Maran from death 
pollution, which is not the case with the Nayars. In 
Travancore, at any rate, the Nayars are considered to 
be higher in the social scale than the Marans. 

In connection with asu and pani, which have been 
referred to in this note, I gather that, in Malabar, the 
instruments called maram (wood), timila, shanku, chen- 
gulam, and chenda, if played together, constitute pani 
kottugu, or playing pani. Asu and maram are the 
names of an instrument, which is included in pani 
kottugu. Among the occasions when this is indispensa- 
ble, are the dedication of the idol at a newly built temple, 
the udsavam puram and Sriveli festivals, and the carrying 
of the tadambu, or shield-like structure, on which a 
miniature idol (vigraham) is borne outside the temple. 

Marasari.— Marasari or Marapanikkan, meaning 
carpenter or worker in wood, is an occupational sub- 
division of Malayalam Kammalas. 

marAtha 14 

Maratha.— Mariithas are found in every district 
of the Madras Presidency, but are, according to the 
latest census returns, most numerous in the following 
districts : — 

South Canara .. .. ... .. 31,351 

Salem . . . . . . .. .. 7,314 

Taj-ijore .. .. .. .. .. 7,156 

Bellaiy 6,311 

It is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, 
that "the term Ivlarathi denotes the various Marathi 
non- Brahman castes, who came to the south either as 
soldiers or camp followers in the armies of the Marathi 
invaders ; but in South Canara, in which district the 
caste is most numerous, it appears to be the same as 
Are, a class of Marathi cultivators. Of the total number 
of 65,961, as many as 40,871 have returned Marathi 
as both caste and sub-division. The number of sub- 
divisions returned by the rest is no less than 305, of 
which the majority are the names of other castes. Some 
of these castes are purely Dravidian, and the names 
have evidently been used in their occupational sense. 
For example, we have Bogam, Gandla, Mangala, etc." 
Mr. H. A. Stuart writes further, in the South Canara 
Manual, that " Marathi, as a caste name, is somewhat 
open to confusion, and it is probable that many people 
of various castes, who speak Marathi, are shown as 
beine of that caste. The true Marathi caste is said to 
have come from Goa, and that place is the head-quarters. 
The caste is divided into twelve wargs or balls, which 
are exogamous sub-divisions. Caste disputes are settled 
by headmen called Hontagaru, and allegiance is paid to 
the head of the Sringeri math. The favourite deity 
is the goddess Mahadevi, Brahmans, usually Karadis, 
officiate at their ceremonies. Marriage is both infant 

15, marAtha 

and adult. The dhare form of marriage is used {see 
Bant). Widows may remarry, but they cannot marry 
again into the family of the deceased husband — a rule 
which is just the reverse of the Levirate. In some 
parts, however, the remarriage of widows is prohibited. 
A husband or a wife can divorce each other at will, and 
both parties may marry again. Marathis are either 
farmers, labourers, or hunters. They eat fish and flesh 
(except that of cattle and animals generally regarded as 
unclean) and they use alcoholic liquors. They speak 
either the ordinary Marathi or the Konkani dialect of 
it." The Marathis of South Canara call themselves Are 
and Are Kshatri. 

In the North Arcot Manual, Mr. Stuart records that 
the term Marathi is " usually applied to the various 
Maratha Sudra castes, which have come south. Their 
caste affix is always Rao. It is impossible to discover 
to what particular Sudra division each belongs, for they 
do not seem to know, and take advantage of being away 
from their own country to assert that they are Kshatri- 
yas — a claim which is ridiculed by other castes. In 
marriage they are particular to take a bride only from 
within the circle of their own family, so that an admixture 
of the oriorinal castes is thus avoided. Their laneuaee 
is Marathi, but they speak Telugu or Tamil as well, 
and engage in many professions. Many are tailors.* 
Others enlist in the army, in the police, or as peons 
(orderlies or messengers), and some take to agriculture 
or trading." 

Of the history of Marathas in those districts in which 
they are most prevalent, an account will be found in the 
Manuals and Gazetteers. 

• The Rangaris are Maratha dyers and tailors. 


The last Maratha King of Tanjore, Maharaja Sivaji, 
died in 1855. It is noted by Mr. M. J. Walhouse * 
that "an eye-witness has recorded the stately and 
solemn spectacle of his funeral, when, magnificently 
arranged, and loaded with the costliest jewels, his body, 
placed in an ivory palanquin, was borne by night through 
the torchlit streets of his royal city amid the wail of 
vast multitudes lamenting the last of their ruling race. 
The nearest descendant, a boy of twelve, was carried 
thrice round the pile, and at the last circuit a pot of water 
was dashed to pieces on the ground. The boy then 
lit the pile, and loud long-sustained lament of a nation 
filled the air as the flames rose." Upon the death of 
Sivaji, the Raj became, under the decision of the Court 
of Directors, extinct. His private estate was placed 
under the charge of the Collector of the district. 
In addition to three wives whom he had already 
married, Sivaji, three years before his death, married in 
a body seventeen girls. In 1907, three of the Ranis 
were still living in the palace at Tanjore. It is re- 
corded t by the Marchioness of Dufferin that, when the 
Viceroy visited the Tanjore palace in 1886 to speak 
with the Ranis, he was admitted behind the purdah. 
"The ladies had not expected him, and were not 
dressed out in their best, and no one could speak any 
intelligible language. However, a sort of chattering 
went on, and they made signs towards a chair, which, 
being covered with crimson cloth, Dufferin thought 
he was to sit down on. He turned and was just about 
to do so, when he thought he saw a slight movement, 
and he fancied there might be a little dog there, when 
two women pulled the cloth open, and there was the 

•Ind. Ant., VII, 187S. f Om Viceregal Life in India, 1884-88. 

1 7 marAtha 

principal Rani — a little old woman who reached half 
way up the back of the chair, and whom the Viceroy 
had been within an act of squashino-. He said it gave 
him such a turn !" 

A classified index to the Sanskrit Manuscripts in 
the Tanjore palace was published by Mr. A. C. Burnell 
in 1880. In the introduction thereto, he states that 
"the library was first brought to the notice of Euro- 
pean scholars by H.S.H. Count Noer, Prince Frederic 
of Schleswig-Holstein, who brought an account of it to 
the late Professor Goldstticker. But its full importance 
was not known till I was deputed, in 1871, to examine 
it by the then Governor of Madras, Lord Napier and 
Ettrick. The manuscripts are the result of perhaps 300 
years' collections ; firstly, by the Nayaks of Tanjore ; 
secondly, after about 1675, by the Mahratha princes. 
Some of the palm-leaf manuscripts belong to the earlier 
period, but the greater part were collected in the last 
and present centuries. All the Nagari Manuscripts 
belong to the Mahratha times, and a large number of 
these were collected at Benares by the Raja Serfojee 
(Carabhoji) about fifty years ago." 

In the Maratha Darbar Hall of the Tanjore palace 
are large pictures, of little artistic merit, of all the 
Maratha kings, and the palace also contains a fine statue 
of Sarabhoji by Chantrey. The small but splendid 
series of Maratha arms from this palace constitutes one 
of the most valuable assets of the Madras Museum. 
"The armoury," Mr. Walhouse writes,* "consisted of 
great heaps of old weapons of all conceivable descrip- 
tions, lying piled upon the floor of the Sangita Mahal 
(music-hall), which had long been occupied by many 

* Loc. cit. 


tons of rusty arms and weapons, in confused heaps, 
coated and caked together with thick rust. Hundreds 
of swords, straight, curved and ripple-edged, many 
beautifully damascened and inlaid with hunting or battle 
scenes in gold ; many broad blades with long inscriptions 
in Marathi or Kanarese characters, and some so finely 
tempered as to bend and quiver like whalebone. There 
were long gauntlet-hilts, brass or steel, in endless 
devices, hilts inlaid with gold, and hilts and guards of 
the most tasteful and elaborate steel -work. There were 
long-bladed swords and executioners' swords, two- 
handed, thick-backed, and immensely heavy. Daggers, 
knives, and poniards by scores, of all imaginable and 
almost unimaginable shapes, double and triple-bladed ; 
some with pistols or spring-blades concealed in their 
handles, and the hilts of many of the kuttars of the most 
beautiful and elaborate pierced steel- work, in endless 
devices, rivalling the best medieval European metal- 
work. There was a profusion of long narrow thin-bladed 
knives, mostly with bone or ivory handles very prettily 
carved, ending in parrot-heads and the like, or the 
whole handle formino- a bird or monster, with lesfs and 
wings pressed close to the body, all exquisitely carved. 
The use of these seemed problematical ; some said they 
were used to cut fruit, others that they had been poisoned 
and struck about the roofs and walls of the women's 
quarters, to serve the purpose of spikes or broken glass! 
A curious point was the extraordinary number of old 
European blades, often graven with letters and symbols 
of Christian meaning, attached to hilts and handles most 
distinctly Hindu, adorned with figures of gods and 
idolatrous emblems. There was an extraordinary number 
of long straight cut-and-thrust blades termed Phirangis, 
which Mr. Sinclair, in his interesting list of Dakhani 


weapons,* says means the Portuguese, or else made in 
imitation of such imported swords. A kuttar, with a 
handsome steel hilt, disclosed the well-known name 
ANDREA FERARA (siV.). Sir Walter Elliot has 
informed me that, when a notorious freebooter was 
captured in the Southern Maratha country many years 
ago, his sword was found to be an ' Andrea Ferrara,' 
Mr. Sinclair adds that both Grant DufI" and Meadows 
Taylor have mentioned that Raja Sivaji's favourite 
sword Bhavani was a Genoa blade t . . . . Even- 
tually the whole array (of arms) was removed to 
Trichinapalli and deposited in the Arsenal there, and, 
after a Committee of officers had sat upon the multifari- 
ous collection, and solemnly reported the ancient arms 
unfit for use in modern warfare, the Government, after 
selecting the best for the Museum, ordered the residue 
to be broken up and sold as old iron. This was in 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Bellary district, 
that ''in 1790 Lord Cornwallis, then Governor-General 
of India, entered into an alliance with the Marathas and 
the Nizam to reduce Tipu to order, and it was agreed 
that whatever territories should be acquired by them 
from Tipu should be equally divided between them. 
Certain specified poligars, among whom were the chiefs 
of Bellary, Rayadrug and Harpanahalli, were, however, 
to be left in possession of their districts. Tipu was 
reduced to submission in 1792, and by the treaty of that 
year he ceded half his territories to the allies. | Sandur 
was allotted to the Marathas, and a part of the Bellary 

• Ind. Ant., II, 1S74. 

t The word Genoa occurs on several blades in the Madras Museum collection. 
X The bas-relief of the statue of Lord Cornwallis in the Connemara Public 
Library, Madras, represents him receiving Tipu's two youthful sons as hostages. 
V-2 B 


district to the Nizam." The present Maratha chief of 
the little hill-locked Sandur State is a minor, whose 
name and titles are Raja Venkata Rao Rao Sahib Hindu 
Rao Ghorpade Senapati Mamalikat Madar. Of the 
eleven thousand inhabitants of the State, the various 
castes of Marathas number over a thousand. " Three 
families of them are Brahmans, who came to Sandur as 
officials with Siddoji Rao when he took the State from 
the Jaramali poligar. Except for two short intervals, 
Siddoji's descendants have held the State ever since. 
The others are grouped into three local divisions, namely, 
Khiisgi, Kumbi, and Lekavali. The first of these 
consists of only some eight families, and constitutes the 
aristocracy of the State. Some of them came to Sandur 
from the Maratha country with Siva Rao and other 
rulers of the State, and they take the chief seats at 
Darbars and on other public occasions, and are permitted 
to dine and intermarry with the Raja's family. They 
wear the sacred thread of the Kshatriyas, belong to the 
orthodox Brahmanical gotras, have Brahmans as their 
purohits, observe many of the Brahmanical ceremonies, 
burn their dead, forbid widow re-marriage, and keep 
their womankind gosha. On the other hand, they do 
not object to drinking alcohol or to smoking, and they eat 
meat, though not beef. Their family god is the same as 
that of the Raja's family, namely, Martanda Manimallari, 
and they worship him in the temple in his honour which 
is in the Raja's palace, and make pilgrimages to his 
shrine at Jejuri near Poona. [It is noted by Monler- 
Williams * that ' a deification, Khando-ba (also called 
Khande-Rao), was a personage who lived In the neigh- 
bourhood of the hill Jejuri, thirty miles from Poona. 

• Brahmanism and Hinduism. 

2 1 marAtha 

He is probably a deification of some powerful Raja 
or aboriginal chieftain, who made himself useful to the 
Brahmans. He is now regarded as an incarnation of 
Siva in his form Mallari. The legend is that the god 
Siva descended in this form to destroy a powerful demon 
named IMallasura, who lived on the hill, and was a terror 
to the neighbourhood. ParvatI descended at the same 
time to become Khando-bas wife. His worship is very 
popular among the people of low caste in the Maratha 
country. Sheep are sacrificed at the principal temple on 
the Jejuri hill, and a bad custom prevails of dedicating 
young girls to the god's service. Khando-ba is some- 
times represented with his wife on horseback, attended 
by a dog. A sect existed in Sankara's time, who wor- 
shipped Mallari as lord of dogs.'] At the marriages 
of the Khasgis, an unusual custom, called Vira Puja, or 
the worship of warriors, is observed. Before the cere- 
mony, the men form themselves into two parties, each 
under a leader, and march to the banks of the Narihalla 
river, engaging in mock combat as they go. At the 
river an offering is made to Siva in his form as the 
warrior Martanda, and his blessing is invoked. The god- 
dess Ganga is also worshipped, and then both parties 
march back, indulging on the way in more pretended 
fighting. The second division of the Marathas, the 
Kuribis, are generally agriculturists, though some are 
servants to the first division. They cannot intermarry 
with the Khasgis, or dine with them except in separate 
rows, and their womanfolk are not gosha ; but they 
have Brahmanical gotras and Brahman purohits. Some 
of them use the Raja's name of Ghorpade, but this is 
only because they are servants in his household. The 
third division, the Lekavalis, are said to be the offspring 
of irregular unions among other Marathas, and are many 



of them servants in the Raja's palace. Whence they 
are also called Manimakkalu. They all call themselves 
Ghorpades, and members of the Raja's (the Kansika) 
gotra. They thus cannot intermarry among them- 
selves, but occasionally their girls are married to Kunbis. 
Their women are in no way gosha." * 

The cranial type of the Marathas is, as shown by the 
following table, like that of the Canarese, mesaticephalic 
or sub-brachycephalic : — 





50 Holeyas ... 




30 Rangaris 




50 Vakkaligas 


93 "8 


30 Suka Sale.'? 

81 -s 



30 Sukun Sales 



Maravan.— " The Maravans," Mr. H. A. Stuart 
writes, t " are found chiefly in Madura and Tinnevelly, 
where they occupy the tracts bordering on the coast 
from Cape Comorin to the northern limits of the Ramnad 
zemindari. The proprietors of that estate, and of the 
great Sivaganga zemindari, are both of this caste. The 
Maravars must have been one of the first of the 
Dravidian tribes that penetrated to the south of the 
peninsula, and, like the Kalians, they have been but 
little affected by Brahmanical influence. There exists 
among them a picturesque tradition to the effect that, 
in consequence of their assisting Rama in his war against 
the demon Ravana, that deity gratefully exclaimed in 

* Garcilcer of the Bellary ilislricl. 

t Madras Census Rcporl, 1S91. 


good Tamil Maraven, or I will never forget, and that 
they have ever since been called Maravans. But, with 
more probability, the name may be connected with the 
word maram, which means killing, ferocity, bravery and 
the like, as pointing clearly to their unpleasant profession, 
that of robbing and slaying their neighbours. In former 
days they were a fierce and turbulent race, famous for 
their military prowess. At one time they temporarily 
held possession of the Pandya kingdom, and, at a later 
date, their armies gave valuable assistance to Tirumala 
Nayakkan. They gave the British much trouble at the 
end of last (eighteenth) century and the beginning of 
this (nineteenth) century, but they are now much the 
same as other ryots (cultivators), though perhaps some- 
what more bold and lawless. Agamudaiyan and Kalian 
are returned as sub-divisions by a comparatively large 
number of persons. Maravan is also found among the 
sub-divisions of Kalian, and there can be little doubt that 
there is a very close connection between Kalians, Mara- 
vans, and Agamudaiyans." This connection is dealt 
with in the article on the Kalians. But I may here 
quote the following legend relating thereto. " 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 Maravan from maram, a tree, whilst 
the third brazened it out, and stood his ground, thus earn- 
ing for himself the name of Ahamudeiyan, or the possessor 
of pride. This name was corrupted into Ahambadiyan."* 

* Madras Review, 1S99. 


"Some say the word Maravan is derived from 
marani, sin ; a Maravan being one who commits sin by 
killing living creatures without feeling pity, and without 
fear of god." * 

The Maravans claim descent from Guha or Kuha, 
Rama's boatman, who rowed him across to Ceylon. 
According to the legend, Rama promised Guha that he 
would come back at a fixed time. When he failed to 
return, Guha made a fire, whereon to burn himself 
to death. Hanuman, however, prevented him from 
committing suicide, and assured him that Rama would 
shortly return. This came to pass, and Rama, on learn- 
ing what Guha had done, called him Maravan, a brave 
or reckless fellow. According to another legend, the 
god Indra, having become enamoured of Ahalya, set 
out one night to visit her in the form of a crow, and, 
seating himself outside the dwelling of the Rishi her 
husband, cawed loudly. The Rishi, believing that it 
was dawn, went off to bathe, while Indra, assuming the 
form of her husband, went in to the woman, and satisfied 
his desire. When her husband reached the river, there 
were no signs of dawn, and he was much perturbed, but 
not for long, as his supernatural knowledge revealed to 
him how he had been beguiled, and he proceeded to 
curse Indra and his innocent wife. Indra was condemned 
to have a thousand female organs of generation all over 
his body, and the woman was turned into a stone. 
Indra repented, and the Rishi modified his disfigurement 
by arranging that, to the onlooker, he would seem to 
be clothed or covered with eyes, and the woman was 
allowed to resume her feminine form when Rama, in 
the course of his wanderings, should tread on her. The 

• F. FawccU. Journ. Anlhrop. Insl., XXXIII, 1903. 


result of Indra's escapade was a son, who was stowed 
away in a secret place (maravuidam). Hence his 
descendants are known as Maravan.* 

The head of the Maravans is the Setupati (lord of 
the bridge), or Raja of Ramnad. "The Sethupati line, 
or Marava dynasty of Ramnad," the Rev. J. E. Tracy 
writes,! " claims great antiquity. According to popular 
legendary accounts, it had its rise in the time of the 
great Rama himself, who is said to have appointed, 
on his victorious return from Lanka (Ceylon), seven 
guardians of the passage or bridge connecting Ceylon 
with the mainland .... Another supposition 
places the rise of the family in the second or third 
century B.C. It rests its case principally upon a state- 
ment in the Mahawanso, according to which the last of the 
three Tamil invasions of Ceylon, which took place in the 
second or third century B.C., was under the leadership of 
seven chieftains, who are supposed, owing to the silence 
of the Pandyan records on the subject of South Indian 
dealings with Ceylon, to have been neither Cheras, 
Cholas, or Pandyans, but mere local adventurers, whose 
territorial proximity and marauding ambition had tempted 
them to the undertaking .... Another supposition 
places the rise of the family in the eleventh or twelfth 
century A.D. There are two statements of this case, 
differing according to the source from which they come. 
According to the one, which has its source in South 
India, the rise of the family took place in or about 1059 
A.D., when Raja Raja, the Chola king, upon his invasion 
of Ceylon, appointed princes whom he knew to be loyal 
to himself, and who, according to some, had aided him 
in his conquest of all Pandya, to act as guardians of the 

• r. I'awccU, loc, cil. t Madras journ. Lit. Science, 1890. 


passage by which his armies must cross to and fro, and 
supplies be received from the mainland. According to 
the other statement, which has its source in Sinhalese 
records, the family took its rise from the appointment of 
Parakrama Bahu's General Lankapura, who, according 
to a very trustworthy Sinhalese epitome of the Maha- 
wanso, after conquering Pandya, remained some time at 
Ramespuram, building a temple there, and, while on the 
island, struck kahapanas (coins similar to those of the 
Sinhalese series). Whichever of these statements we 
may accept, the facts seem to point to the rise of the 
family in the eleventh or twelfth century A.D., and 
inscriptions quoted from Dr. Burgess by Mr. Robert 
Sewell * show that grants were made by Sethupati 
princes in 14 14, again in 1489, still again in 1500, and 
finally as late as 1540. These bring the line down to 
within two generations of the time when Muttu Krish- 
nappa Nayakka is said, in 1604, to have found affairs 
sadly disordered in the Marava country, and to have 
re-established the old family in the person of Sadaiyaka 
Tevar Udaiyar Sethupati. The coins of the Sethupatis 
divide themselves into an earlier and later series. The 
earlier series present specimens which are usually larger 
and better executed, and correspond in weight and 
appearance very nearly to the well-known coins of the 
Sinhalese series, together with which they are often 
found. ' These coins,' Rhys Davids writes, t ' are prob- 
ably the very ones referred to as having been struck by 
Parakrama's General Lankapura.' The coins of the later 
series are very rude in device and execution. The one 
face shows only the Tamil legend of the word Sethupati, 
while the other side is taken up with various devices." 

* Sketch of the Dynasties of South India, 
t Numismata Orient. Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon. 


A poet, in days of old, refers to " the wrathful and 
furious Maravar, whose curled beards resemble the 
twisted horns of the stag-, the loud twang of whose 
powerful bowstrings, and the stirring sound of whose 
double-headed drums, compel even kings at the head of 
large armies to turn their back and fly." * The Maravans 
are further described as follows. " Of strong limbs and 
hardy frames, and fierce looking as tigers, wearing long 
and curled locks of hair, the blood-thirsty Maravans, 
armed with the bow bound with leather, ever ready to 
injure others, shoot their arrows at poor and defenceless 
travellers, from whom they can steal nothing, only to 
feast their eyes on the quivering limbs of their victims." t 
In a note on the Maravans of the Tinnevelly district, it is 
recorded :j; that " to this class belonged most of the 
Poligars, or feudal chieftains, who disputed with the 
English the possession of Tinnevelly during the last, and 
first years of the present (nineteenth) century. As 
feudal chiefs and heads of a numerous class of the 
population, and one whose characteristics were eminently 
adapted for the roll of followers of a turbulent chieftain, 
bold, active, enterprising, cunning and capricious, this 
class constituted themselves, or were constituted by the 
peaceful cultivators, their protectors in time of bloodshed 
and rapine, when no central authority, capable of keeping 
the peace, existed. Hence arose the systems of Desha 
and Stalum Kaval, or the guard of a tract of country 
comprising a number of villages against open marauders 
in armed bands, and the guard of separate villages, their 
houses and crops, against secret theft. The feudal chief 
received a contribution from the area around his fort in 

* Kalilh-lhokai. 

t Kanakasabhai Pillai. The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Vcars ago. 1904. 

+ Manual of ihe Tinnevelly dislricl, 1879. 


consideration of protection afforded against armed inva- 
sion. The Maravars are chiefly the agricultural servants 
or sub-tenants of the wealthier ryots, under whom they 
cultivate, receiving a share of the crop. An increasing 
proportion of this caste are becoming the ryotwari owners 
of land by purchase from the original holders." 

Though the Maravans, Mr. Francis writes,* " are 
usually cultivators, they are some of them the most 
expert cattle-lifters in the Presidency. In Madura they 
have a particularly ingenious method of removing cattle. 
The actual thief steals the bullocks at night, and drives 
them at a gallop for half a dozen miles, hands them over 
to a confederate, and then returns and establishes an 
alibi. The confederate takes them on another stage, and 
does the same. A third and a fourth man keep them 
moving all that night. The next day they are hidden 
and rested, and thereafter they are driven by easier 
stages to the hills north of Madura, where their horns 
are cut and their brands altered, to prevent them from 
being recognised. They are then often sold at the great 
Chittrai cattle fair in Madura town. In some papers 
read in G.O., No. 535, Judicial, dated 29th March 1899, 
it was shown that, though, according to the 1891 census, 
the Maravans formed only 10 per cent, of the population 
of the district of Tinnevelly, yet they had committed 
70 per cent, of the dacoities which have occurred in that 
district in the previous five years. They have recently 
(1899) figured prominently in the anti-Shanar riots in the 
same district." {^See Shanan.) 

'• The Maravans," Mr. F. S. Mullaly writes, f " furnish 
nearly the whole of the village police (kavilgars, watch- 
men), robbers and thieves of the Tinnevelly district. 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 

t Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency. 


Very often the thief and the watchman are one and the 
same individual. The Maravans of the present time, of 
course, retain only a shadow of the power which their 
ancestors wielded under the poligars, who commenced the 
kavil system. Still the Marava of to-day, as a member 
of a caste which is numerous and influential, as a man of 
superior physique and bold independent spirit, thief and 
robber, village policeman and detective combined — is an 
immense power in the land." 

It is noted, in the Madras Police Report, 1903, that 
" a large section of the population in Tinnevelly — the 
Maravans — are criminal by predilection and training. 
Mr. Longden's efforts have been directed to the suppres- 
sion of a bad old custom, by which the police were in 
the habit of engaging the help of the Maravans them- 
selves in the detection of crime. The natural result was 
a mass of false evidence and false charges, and, worst 
of all, a police indebted to the Maravan, who was certain 
to \va.w&\\\s qtiid pro quo. This method being discoun- 
tenanced, and the station-house officer being deprived of 
the aid of his tuppans (men who provide a clue), the former 
has found himself very much at sea, and, until sounder 
methods can be inculcated, will fail to show successful 
results. Still, even a failure to detect is better than a 
police in the hands of the Maravans." Further informa- 
tion concerning tuppukuli, or clue hire, will be found in 
the note on Kalians. 

From a very interesting note on the Maravans of the 
Tinnevelly district, the following extract is taken.* " On 
the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief, Maravars 
are paid blackmail to keep their hands from picking and 
stealing, and to make restitution for any thefts that may 

* Tinnevelly, being an account of the district, the people, and the missions. 
Mission Field, 1897 


possibly take place, notwithstanding the vigilance of the 
watchmen. (A suit has been known to be instituted, in 
a Munsiff's Court, for failure to make restitution for theft 
after receipt of the kudikaval money.) As a matter of 
fact, no robberies on a large scale can possibly take place 
without the knowledge, connivance, or actual co-operation 
of the Kavalgars. People living in country places, remote 
from towns, are entirely at the mercy of the Maravars, 
and every householder or occupier of a mud hut, which 
is dignified by being called a house, must pay the 
Maravars half a fanam, which is equal to one anna eight 
pies, yearly. Those who own cattle, and there are few 
who do not, must pay one fanam a year. At the time 
of the harvest, it is the custom in Southern India for an 
enemy to go and reap his antagonist's crops as they are 
g'rowine in the fields. He does this to brinij matters to 
a climax, and to get the right side of his enemy, so that 
he may be forced to come to terms, reasonable or other- 
wise. Possession is nine points of the law. On occa- 
sions such as these, which are frequent, the advantage of 
the employment of Kavalgars can readily be understood. 
The Maravars are often true to their salt, though some- 
times their services can be obtained by the highest 
bidder. The plan of keeping kaval, or going the rounds 
like a policeman on duty, is, for a village of, say, a 
hundred Maravars, to divide into ten sections. Each 
section takes a particular duty, and they are paid by the 
people living within their range. If a robbery takes 
place, and the value of the property does not exceed ten 
rupees, then this section of ten men will each subscribe 
one rupee, and pay up ten rupees. If, however, the 
property lost exceeds the sum of ten rupees, then all the 
ten sections of Maravars, the hundred men, will join 
together, and make restitution for the robbery. How 


they are able to do this, and to recoup themselves, can 
be imagined. Various attempts for many years have 
been made to put a stop to this system of kudi-kaval. 
At one time the village (Nunguneri) of the chief 
Maravar was burnt down, and for many years the police 
have been on their track, and numerous convictions are 
constantly taking place. Out of 150,000 Maravars in 
the whole district, 10,000 are professional thieves, and 
of these 4,000 have been convicted, and are living at the 
present time. The question arises whether some plan 
could not be devised to make honest men of these 
rogues. It has been suggested that their occupation as 
watchmen should be recognised by Government, and 
that they should be enlisted as subordinate officials, just 
as some of them are now employed as Talayaris and 
Vettiyans .... The villages of the Maravars exist 
side by side with the other castes, and, as boys and 
girls, all the different classes grow up together, so 
that there is a bond of sympathy and regard between 
them all. The Maravans, therefore, are not regarded as 
marauding thieves by the other classes. Their position 
in the community as Kavalgars is recognised, and no 
one actually fears them. From time immemorial it has 
been the mamool (custom) to pay them certain dues, 
and, although illegal, who in India is prepared to act 
contrary to custom ? The small sum paid annually by 
the villagers is insignificant, and no one considers it a 
hardship to pay it, when he knows that his goods are 
in safety ; and, if the Maravars did not steal, there 
are plenty of other roving castes {e.^:, the Kuluvars, 
Kuravars, and Kambalatars) who would, so that, on the 
whole, ordinary unsophisticated natives, who dwell in 
the country side, rather like the Maravar than otherwise. 
When, however, these watchmen undertake torchlight 


dacoities, and attack travellers on the high-road, then 
they are no better than the professional thieves of other 
countries, and they deserve as little consideration. It 
must be borne in mind that, while robbery is the here- 
ditary occupation of the Maravars, there are thousands 
of them who lead strictly honest, upright lives as 
husbandmen, and who receive no benefit whatever from 
the kudi-kaval system. Some of the most noted and 
earnest Native Christians have been, and still are, men 
and women of this caste, and the reason seems to be 
that they never do things by halves. If they are 
murderers and robbers, nothing daunts them, and, on 
the other hand, if they are honest men, they are the salt 
of the earth." I am informed that, when a Maravan 
takes food in the house of a stranger, he will sometimes 
take a pinch of earth, and put it on the food before he 
commences his meal. This act frees him from the obliga- 
tion not to injure the family which has entertained him. 
In a note entitled Marava jati vernanam,* from the 
Mackenzie Manuscripts, it is recorded that " there are 
seven sub-divisions in the tribe of the Maravas, respect- 
ively denominated Sembunattu, Agattha, Oru-nattu, 
Upukatti, and Kurichikattu. Among these sub-divisions, 
that of the Sembunattu Maravas is the principal one." 
In the Madras Census Report, 1891, the following 
are returned as the most important sub-divisions : — 
Agamudaiyan, Kalian, Karana, Kondaikatti, Kottani, 
Sembanattu, and Vannikutti. Among the Sembanattus 
(or Sembanadus), the following septs or khilais have 
been recorded : — 





* Madras Journ. Lit. Science, IV, 1836. 



"The Kondayamkottai Maravars," Mr. F. Fawcett 
writes,* "are divided into six sub-tribes, or, as they call 
them, trees. Each tree, or kothu, is divided into three 
khilais or branches. These I call septs. Those of the 
khilais belonging to the same tree or kothu are never 
allowed to intermarry. A man or woman must marry 
with one of a khilai belonging to another tree than his 
own, his or her own being that of his or her mother, and 
not of the father. But marriage is not permissible between 
those of any two trees or kothus : there are some restric- 
tions. For instance, a branch of betel vine or leaves may 
marry with a branch of cocoanut, but not with areca nuts 
or dates. I am not positive what all the restrictions are, 
but restrictions of some kind, by which marriage between 
persons of all trees may not be made indiscriminately, 
certainly exist. The names of the trees or kothus and of 
the khilais or branches, as given to me from the Maraver 
Padel, a book considered to be authoritative, are these — 






Pepper vine ... < 





Betel vine ... ... < 

Alakhiya Pandiyan. 


Cocoanut ... ... < 





Areca nut ... ... < 





Dates ... ... < 




Panang ... 

Palmyra ... ... < 



* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., XXXIII, 1903. 



" Unfortunately I am unable to trace out the 
meanings of all these khilais. Agastya and Gautamar 
are, of course, sages of old. Viramudithanginan seems 
to mean a king's crown-bearer. Alakhiya Pandiyan 
seems to be one of the old Pandiyan kings of Madura 
(alakhiya means beautiful). Akhili is perhaps intended 
to mean the wife of Gautama, Lokamurti, the one being 
of the world, and Jambhuvar, a monkey king with a bear's 
face, who lived long, long ago. The common rule 
regulating marriages among Brahmans, and indeed 
people of almost every caste in Southern India, is that 
the proper husband for the girl is her mother's brother 
or bis son. But this is not so among the Kondayam- 
kottai Maravars. A girl can never marry her mother's 
brother, because they are of the same khilai. On the 
other hand, the children of a brother and sister may 
marry, and should do so, if this can be arranged, 
as, though the brother and sister are of the same 
khilai, their children are not, because the children of 
the brother belong perforce to that of their mother, 
who is of a different khilai. It very often happens 
that a man marries into his father's khilai ; indeed 
there seems to be some idea that he should do so 
if possible. The children of brothers may not marry 
with each other, although they are of different khilais, 
for two brothers may not marry into the same khilai. 
One of the first things to be done in connection with 
a marriage is that the female relations of the bride- 
groom must go and examine the intended bride, to 
test her physical suitability. She should not, as it 
was explained to me, have a flat foot; the calf of 
her leg should be slender, not so thick as the thigh ; 
the skin on the throat should not form more than 
two wrinkles ; the hair over the temple should grow 


crossways. The last is very important." A curl on 
the forehead resembling the head of a snake is of evil 

In one form of the marriage rites as carried out 
by the Maravans, the bridegroom's party proceed, on 
an auspicious day which has been fixed beforehand, 
to the home of the bride, taking with them five 
cocoanuts, five bunches of plantains, five pieces of 
turmeric, betel, and flowers, and the tali strung on 
a thread dyed with turmeric. At the auspicious hour, 
the bride is seated within the house on a plank, 
facing east. The bridegroom's sister removes the 
strincr of black beads from her neck, and ties the tali 
thereon. While this is being done, the conch-shell 
is blown, and women indulge in what Mr. Fawcett 
describes as a shrill kind of keening (kulavi idal). The 
bride is taken to the house of the bridegroom, where 
they sit side by side on a plank, and the ceremony 
of warding off the evil eye is performed. Further, 
milk is poured by people with crossed hands over the 
heads of the couple. A feast is held, in which meat 
takes a prominent part. A Maravan, who was asked 
to describe the marriage ceremony, replied that it 
consists in killing a sheep or fowl, and the bringing 
of the bride by the bridegroom's sister to her brother's 
house after the tali has been tied. The Kondaikatti 
Maravans, in some places, substitute for the usual golden 
tali a token representing "the head of Indra fastened 
to a bunch of human hair, or silken strings representing 
his hair." * 

In another form of the marriage ceremony, the 
father of the bridegroom goes to the bride's house, 

* F. Fawcett, loc. cit. 


accompanied by his relations, with the following articles 
in a box made of plaited palmyra leaves : — 

5 bundles of betel. 
21 measures of rice. 
7 cocoanuts. 
70 plantains. 

7 lumps of jaggery (crude 

21 pieces of turmeric. 
Flowers, sandal paste, etc. 

At the bride's house, these presents are touched 
by those assembled there, and the box is handed over to 
the bride's father. On the wedding day (which is four 
days afterwards), pongal (cooked rice) is offered to the 
house god early in the morning. Later in the day, the 
bridegroom is taken in a palanquin to the house of the 
bride. Betel is presented to him by her father or 
brother. The bride generally remains within the house 
till the time for tying the tali has arrived. The maternal 
uncle then blindfolds her with his hand, lifts her up, and 
carries her to the bridegroom. Four women stand 
round the contracting couple, and pass round a dish 
containing a broken cocoanut and a cake three times. 
The bride and bridegroom then spit into the dish, and 
the females set up their shrill keening. The maternal 
uncles join their hands together, and, on receiving the 
assent of those present, the bridegroom's sister ties the 
tali on the bride's neck. The tali consists of a ring 
attached to a black silk thread. After marriage, the 
" silk tali " is, for every day purposes, replaced by golden 
beads strung on a string, and the tali used at the 
wedding is often borrowed for the occasion. The tali 
having been tied, the pair are blessed, and, in some 
places, their knees, shoulders, heads, and backs are 
touched with a betel leaf dipped in milk, and blessed 
with the words " May the pair be prosperous, giving rise 
to leaves like a banyan tree, roots like the thurvi 
{Cynodon Dactylon) grass, and like the bamboo." Of 


the thurvi grass it is said in the Atharvvana Veda " May 
this grass, which rose from the water of Hfe, 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." 

Still further variants of the marriage ceremonial are 
described by Mr. Fawcett, in one of which " the Brah- 
man priest (purohit) hands the tali to the bridegroom's 
sister, who in turn hands it to the bridegroom, who ties 
a knot in it. The sister then ties two more knots in it, 
and puts it round the bride's neck. After this has been 
done, and while the pair are still seated, the Brahman 
ties together the litde fingers of the right hands of the 
pair, which are interlocked, with a silken thread. The 
pair then rise, walk thrice round the marriage seat 
(manavanai), and enter the house, where they sit, and 
the bridegroom receives present from the bride's father. 
The fingers are then untied. While undergoing the 
ceremony, the bridegroom wears a thread smeared 
with turmeric tied round the right wrist. It is called 

In the manuscript already quoted,* it is noted that 
''should it so happen, either in the case of wealthy 
rulers of districts or of poorer common people, that any 
impediment arises to prevent the complete celebration 
of the marriage with all attendant ceremonies according 
to the sacred books and customs of the tribe, then the 
tali only is sent, and the female is brought to the house 
of her husband. At a subsequent period, even after two 
or three children have been born, the husband sends the 
usual summons to a marriage of areca nut and betel 
leaf; and, when the relatives are assembled, the bride 

• Madras Journ. Lit. Science, IV, 1836. 


and bridegroom are publicly seated in state under the 
marriage pandal ; the want of completeness in the former 
contract is made up ; and, all needful ceremonies being 
gone through, they perform the public procession through 
the streets of the town, when they break the cocoanut 
in the presence of Vignesvara (Ganesa), and, according 
to the means possessed by the parties, the celebration 
of the marriage is concluded in one day, or prolonged 
to two, three or four days. The tali, being tied on, has 
the name of katu tali, and the name of the last ceremony 
is called the removal of the former deficiency. If it so 
happen that, after the first ceremony, the second be 
not performed, then the children of such an alliance 
are lightly regarded among the Maravas. Should the 
husband die during the continuance of the first relation, 
and before the second ceremony be performed, then the 
body of the man, and also the woman are placed upon 
the same seat, and the ceremonies of the second marriage, 
according to the customs of the tribe, being gone through, 
the tali is taken off; the woman is considered to be 
a widow, and can marry with some other man." It is 
further recorded * of the Orunattu Mara vans that "the 
elder or younger sister of the bridegroom goes to the 
house of the bride, and, to the sound of the conch-shell, 
ties on the tali ; and, early on the following morning, 
brings her to the house of the bridegroom. After some 
time, occasionally three or four years, when there are 
indications of offspring, in the fourth or fifth month, the 
relatives of the pair assemble, and perform the ceremony 
of removing the deficiency ; placing the man and his wife 
on a seat in public, and having the sacrifice by fire and 
other matters conducted by the Prohitan (or Brahman) ; 

* Madras Journ. Lit. Science, IV, 1836. 


after which the relatives sprinkle seshai rice (or rice 
beaten out without any application of water) over the 
heads of the pair. The relatives are feasted and other- 
wise hospitably entertained ; and these in return bestow 
donations on the pair, from one fanam to one pagoda. 
The marriage is then finished. Sometimes, when money 
for expenses is wanting, this wedding ceremony is post- 
poned till after the birth of two or three children. If 
the first husband dies, another marriage is customary. 
Should it so happen that the husband, after the tying 
on of the tali in the first instance, dislikes the object of 
his former choice, then the people of their tribe are 
assembled ; she is conducted back to her mother's house ; 
sheep, oxen, eating-plate, with brass cup, jewels, orna- 
ments, and whatever else she may have brought with 
her from her mother's house, are returned ; and the tali, 
which was put on, is broken off and taken away. If the 
wife dislikes the husband, then the money he paid, the 
expenses which he incurred in the wedding, the tali 
which he caused to be bound on her, are restored to him, 
and the woman, taking whatsoever she brought with her, 
returns to her mother's house, and marries again at her 

It is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, 
that "a special custom obtaining among the Marava 
zemindars of Tinnevelly is mentioned by the Registrar 
of that district. It is the celebration of marriage by 
means of a proxy for the bridegroom in the shape of 
a stick, which is sent by the bridegroom, and is set up 
in the marriage booth in his place. The tali is tied by 
some one representative of the bridegroom, and the 
marriage ceremony then becomes complete .... 
Widow re-marriage is freely allowed and practiced, 
except in the Sembunattu sub-division." " A widow," 

,' \ 



Mr. Fawcett writes, "may marry her deceased hus- 
band's elder brother, but not a younger brother. If 
^ she does not like him, she may marry some one 

When a girl reaches puberty, news of the event is 
conveyed by a washerman. On the sixteenth day she 
comes out of seclusion, bathes, and returns home. At 
the threshold, her future husband's sister is standing, and 
averts the evil eye by waving betel leaves, plantains, 
cocoanuts, cooked flour paste (puttu), a vessel filled with 
water, and an iron measure containing rice with a style 
(ambu) stuck in it. The style is removed by the girl's 
prospective sister-in-law, who beats her with it as she 
enters the house. A feast is held at the expense of the 
girl's maternal uncle, who brings a goat, and ties it to 
a pole at her house. 

Both burial and cremation are practiced by the 
Maravans, The Sembunattu Maravans of Ramnad 
regard the Agamudaiyans as their servants, and the water, 
with which the corpse is washed, is brought by them. 
Further, it is an Agamudaiyan, and not the son of the 
deceased, who carries the fire-pot to the burial-ground. 
The corpse is carried thither on a bier or palanquin. The 
grave is dug by an Andi, never by a Pallan or Paraiyan. 
Salt, powdered brick, and sacred ashes are placed on the 
floor thereof, and the corpse is placed in it in a sitting 
posture. The Kondaiyamkottai Maravans of Ramnad, 
who are stone and brick masons, burn their dead, and, 
on their way to the burning-ground, the bearers of the 
corpse walk over cloths spread on the ground. On the 
second or third day, lingams are made out of the ashes, 
or of mud from the grave if the corpse has been buried. 
To these, as well as to the soul of the deceased, and 
to the crows, offerings are made. On the sixteenth day, 


nine kinds of seed-grain are placed over the grave, or the 
spot where the corpse was burnt. A Pandaram sets up 
five kalasams (brass vessels), and does puja (worship). 
The son of the deceased, who officiated as chief mourner, 
goes to a Pillayar (Ganesa) shrine, carrying on his head 
a pot containing a Hghted lamp made of flour. As he 
draws near the god, a screen is stretched in front thereof. 
He then takes a few steps backwards, the screen is 
removed, and he worships the god. He then retires, 
walking backwards. The flour is distributed among 
those present. Presents of new cloths are made to the 
sons and daughters of the deceased. In his account of 
the Kondaiyamkottai Maravans, Mr. Fawcett gives the 
following account of the funeral rites. " Sandals having 
been fastened on the feet, the corpse is carried in a 
recumbent position, legs first, to the place of cremation. 
A little rice is placed in the mouth, and the relatives put 
a little money into a small vessel which is kept beside 
the chest. The karma karta (chief mourner) walks thrice 
round the corpse, carrying an earthen vessel filled with 
water, in which two or three holes are pierced. He 
allows some water to fall on the corpse, and breaks the 
pot near the head, which lies to the south. No Brahman 
attends this part of the ceremony. When he has broken 
the pot, the karma karta must not see the corpse again ; 
he goes away at once, and is completely shaved. The 
barber takes the cash which has been collected, and 
lights the pyre. When he returns to the house, the 
karma karta prostrates himself before a lighted lamp ; 
he partakes of no food, except a little grain and boiled 
pulse and water, boiled with coarse palm sugar and 
ginger. Next day he goes to the place of cremation, 
picks up such calcined bones as he finds, and places them 
in a basket, so that he may some day throw them in 


water which is considered to be sacred. On the eleventh 
or twelfth day, some grain is sown in two new earthen 
vessels which have been broken, and there is continued 
weeping around these. On the sixteenth day, the young 
plants, which have sprouted, are removed, and put into 
water, weeping going on all the while ; and, after this 
has been done, the relatives bathe and enjoy a festive 
meal, after which the karma karta is seated on a white 
cloth, and is presented with a new cloth and some money 
by his father-in-law and other relatives who are present. 
On the seventeenth day takes place the punyaga- 
vachanam or purification, at which the Brahman priest 
presides, and the karma karta takes an oil bath. The 
wood of the pipal tree {Fictcs religiosa) is never used for 
purposes of cremation." 

Concerning the death ceremonies in the Trichinopoly 
district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows. 
" Before the corpse is removed, the chief mourner and 
his wife take two balls of cow-dung, in which the barber 
has mixed various kinds of grain, and stick them on to 
the wall of the house. These are thrown into water on 
the eighth day. The ceremonial is called pattam kat- 
tugiradu, or investing with the title, and indicates the 
succession to the dead man's estate. A rocket is fired 
when the corpse is taken out of the house. On the sixth 
day, a pandal (booth) of naval {Etcgenia Janibolana) 
leaves is prepared, and offerings are made in it to the 
manes of the ancestors of the family. It is removed on 
the eighth day, and the chief mourner puts a turban on, 
and merry-making and dances arc indulged in. There 
are ordinarily no karumantaram ceremonies, but they 
are sometimes performed on the sixteenth day, a Brah- 
man being called in. On the return home from these 
ceremonies, each member of the party has to dip his toe 


into a mortar full of cow-dung water, and the last man 
has to knock it down." 

Among some Kondaiyamkottai Maravans, a cere- 
mony called palaya karmandhiram, or old death 
ceremony, is performed. Some months after the death 
of one who has died an unnatural death, the skull is 
exhumed, and placed beneath a pandal (booth) in an 
open space near the village. Libations of toddy are 
indulged in, and the villagers dance wildly round the 
head. The ceremony lasts over three days, and the 
final death ceremonies are then performed. 

For the following account of the jellikattu or bull- 
baiting, which is practiced by the Maravans, I am 
indebted to a note by Mr. J. H. Nelson.* "This," he 
writes, '' is a game worthy of a bold and free people, 
and it is to be regretted that certain Collectors (District 
Magistrates) should have discouraged it under the idea 
that it was somewhat dangerous. The jellikattu is 
conducted in the following manner. On a certain day 
in the year, large crowds of people, chieHy males, 
assemble together in the morning in some extensive 
open space, the dry bed of a river perhaps, or of a 
tank (pond), and many of them may be seen leading 
ploughing bullocks, of which the sleek bodies and 
rather wicked eyes afford clear evidence of the extra 
diet they have received for some days in anticipation 
of the great event. The owners of these animals 
soon begin to brag of their strength and speed, and to 
challenge all and any to catch and hold them ; and in a 
short time one of the best beasts is selected to open the 
day's proceedings. A new cloth is made fast round his 
horns, to be the prize of his captor, and he is then led 

* Manual of the Madura district. 


out into the midst of the arena by his owner, and there 
left to himself surrounded by a throng of shouting 
and excited strangers. Unaccustomed to this sort of 
treatment, and excited by the gestures of those who 
have undertaken to catch him, the bullock usually lowers 
his head at once, and charges wildly into the midst of 
the crowd, who nimbly run off on either side to make 
way for him. His speed being much greater than that 
of the men, he soon overtakes one of his enemies and 
makes at him to toss him savagely. Upon this the 
man drops on the sand like a stone, and the bullock, 
instead of goring him, leaps over his body, and rushes 
after another. The second man drops in his turn, and is 
passed like the first ; and, after repeating this operation 
several times, the beast either succeeds in breaking the 
ring, and galloping off to his village, charging every 
person he meets on the way, or is at last caught and 
held by the most vigorous of his pursuers. Strange as 
it may seem, the bullocks never by any chance toss 
or gore any one who throws himself down on their 
approach ; and the only danger arises from their acci- 
dentally reaching unseen and unheard some one who 
remains standing. After the first two or three animals 
have been let loose one after the other, two or three, or 
even half a dozen are let loose at a time, and the scene 
quickly becomes most exciting. The crowd sways 
violently to and fro in various directions in frantic 
efforts to escape being knocked over ; the air is filled 
with shouts, screams, and laughter ; and the bullocks 
thunder over the plain as fiercely as if blood and 
slaughter were their sole occupation. In this way per- 
haps two or three hundred animals are run in the course 
of a day, and, when all go home towards evening, a few 
cuts and bruises, borne with the utmost cheerfulness, 


are the only results of an amusement which requires 
great courage and agility on the part of the competitors 
for the prizes — that is for the cloths and other things 
tied to the bullocks' horns — and not a little on the part 
of the mere bystanders. The only time I saw this sport 
(from a place of safety) I was highly delighted with the 
entertainment, and no accident occurred to mar my 
pleasure. One man indeed was slightly wounded in the 
buttock, but he was quite able to walk, and seemed 
to be as happy as his friends." 

A further account of the jallikat or jelHcut is given 
in the Gazetteer of the Madura district. " The word 
jallikattu literally means tying of ornaments. On a day 
fixed and advertised by beat of drums at the adjacent 
weekly markets, a number of cattle, to the horns of 
which cloths and handkerchiefs have been tied, are 
loosed one after the other, in (juick succession, from 
a large pen or other enclosure, amid a furious tom- 
tomming and loud shouts from the crowd of assembled 
spectators. The animals have first to run the gauntlet 
down a long lane formed of country carts, and then 
gallop off wildly in every direction. The game consists 
in endeavouring to capture the cloths tied to their 
horns. To do this requires fleetness of foot and 
considerable pluck, and those who are successful are the 
heroes of the hour. Cuts and bruises are the reward of 
those who are less skilful, and now and again some of 
the excited cattle charge into the on-lookers, and send 
a few of them flying. The sport has been prohibited on 
more than one occasion. But, seeing that no one need 
run any risks unless he chooses, existing official opinion 
inclines to the view that it is a pity to discourage a manly 
amusement which is not really more dangerous than 
football, steeple-chasing, or fox-hunting. The keenness 


of the more virile sections of the community, especially 
the Kalians (</.^.)' ""^ ^^^^ 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." 

" Boomerangs," Dr. G. Oppert writes,* " are used 
by the 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 Pudukottai Raja a stock of wooden boomerangs is 
always kept. Their name in Tamil is valai tade (bent 
stick)." To Mr. R. Bruce Foote, I am indebted for the 
following note on the use of the boomerang in the 
Madura district. ** A very favourite weapon of the 
Madura country is a kind of curved throwing-stick, 
having a general likeness to the boomerang of the 
Australian aborigines. I have in my collection two of 
these Maravar weapons obtained from near Sivaganga. 
The larger measures 24^" along the outer curve, and 
the chord of the arc i7|-". At the handle end is a 
rather ovate knob 2^" long and i^" in its maximum 
thickness. The thinnest and smallest part of the weapon 
is just beyond the knob, and measures ^|" in diameter 
by i-i-" in width. From that point onwards its width 
increases very gradually to the distal end, where it 
measures 2|-" across and is squarely truncated. The 
lateral diameter is greatest three or four inches before 
the truncated end, where it measures i". My second 
specimen is a little smaller than the above, and is also 
rather less curved. Both are made of hard heavy wood, 
dark reddish brown in colour as seen through the 

* Madras Tourn. Lit. Science, XXV. 


varnish covering the surface. The wood is said to be 
tamarind root. The workmanship is rather rude. I 
had an opportunity of seeing these boomerangs in use 
near Sivaganga in March, 1883. In the morning I came 
across many parties, small and large, of men and big 
boys who were out hare-hunting with a few dogs. The 
parties straggled over the ground, which was sparsely 
covered with low scrub jungle. And, whenever an 
unlucky hare started out near to the hunters, it was 
greeted with a volley of the boomerangs, so strongly 
and dexterously thrown that poor puss had little chance 
of escape. I saw several knocked out of time. On 
making enquiries as to these hunting parties, I was 
told that they were in observance of a semi-religious 
duty, in which every Maravar male, not unfitted by age 
or ill-health, is bound to participate on a particular day 
in the year. Whether a dexterous Maravar thrower 
could make his weapon return to him I could not 
find out. Certainly in none of the throws observed 
by me was any tendency to a return perceptible. But 
for simple straight shots these boomerangs answer 
admirably. " 

The Maravans bear Saivite sectarian marks, but also 
worship various minor deities, among whom are included 
Kali, Karuppan, Muthu Karuppan, Periya Karuppan, 
Mathurai Viran, Aiyanar, and Munuswami. 

The lobes of the ears of Marava females are very 
elongated as the result of borinor and o-radual dilatation 
during childhood. Mr. (now Sir) F, A. Nicholson, who 
was some years ago stationed at Ramnad, tells me that 
the young Maravan princesses used to come and play in 
his garden, and, as they ran races, hung on to their ears, 
lest the heavy ornaments should rend asunder the 
filamentous ear lobes. 


It was recorded, in 1902, that a young Maravan, 
who was a member of the family of the Zemindar of 
Chokampatti, was the first non-Christian Maravan 
to pass the B.A. degree examination at the Madras 

The general title of the Maravans is Tevan (god), 
but some style themselves Talaivan (chief), Servaikkaran 
(captain), Karaiyalan (ruler of the coast), or Rayar- 
vamsam (Raja's clan). 

Marayan.— A synonym of Maran. 

Mari.— Mari or Marimanisaru is a sub-division of 

Mariyan. — Said to be a sub-division of Kolayan. 

Markandeya. — Agotraof Padma Sale and Seniyan 
(Devanga), named after the rishi or sage Markandeya, 
who was remarkable for his austerities and great age, 
and is also known as Dirghayus (the long-lived). Some 
Devangas and the Salapus claim him as their ancestor. 

Marri {Fie us bengalensis). — An exogamous sept of 
Mala and Mutracha. Marri-gunta (pond near a fig tree) 
occurs as an exogamous sept of Yanadi. 

Marumakkathayam. — The Malayalam name for 
the law of inheritance through the female line. 

Marvari.— A territorial name, meaning a native of 
Marwar. At times of census, Marvari has been returned 
as a caste of Jains, ix., Marvaris, who are Jains by 
religion. The Marvaris are enterprising traders, who 
have settled in various parts of Southern India, and are, 
in the city of Madras, money-lenders. 

Masadika. — A synonym for Nadava Bant. 

Masila (masi, dirt). — An exogamous sept of 

Masthan. — A Muhammadan title, meaning a saint, 
returned at times of census. 


Mastiga. — The Mastigas are described by the Rev. 
J. Cain* as mendicants and bards, who beg from Gollas, 
Malas, and Madigas. I am informed that they are also 
known as Mala Mastigas, as they are supposed to be 
illegitimate descendants of the Malas, and usually beg 
from them. When engaged in begging, they perform 
various contortionist and acrobatic feats. 

Matam (monastery, or religious institution). — An 
exogamous sept of Devanga. 

Matanga. — Matanga or Matangi is a synonym of 
Madiga. The Madigas sometimes call themselves 
Matangi Makkalu, or children of Matangi, who is their 
favourite goddess. Matangi is further the name of certain 
dedicated prostitutes, who are respected by the Madiga 

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

Matsya (fish). — A sept of Domb. 

Mattiya. — The Mattiyas are summed up as follows 
in the ]\Iadras Census Report, 1901. " In Vizagapatam 
these are hill cultivators from the Central Provinces, 
who are stated in one account to be a sub-division 
of the Gonds. Some of them wear the sacred thread, 
because the privilege was conferred upon their families 
by former Rajas of Malkanagiri, where they reside. 
They are said to eat with Ronas, drink with Porojas, 
but smoke only with their own people. The name 
is said to denote workers in mud (matti), and in 
Ganjam they are apparently earth-workers and labour- 
ers. In the Census Report, 1871, it is noted that the 
Matiyas are ' altogether superior to the Kois and to the 

• Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 



Parjas (Porojas). They say they sprang from the soil, 
and go so far as to point out a hole, out of which 
their ancestor came. They talk Uriya, and farm their 
lands well.' " 

For the following note, I am indebted to Mr. 
C. Hayavadana Rao. The caste is divided into at least 
four septs, named Bhag (tiger), Nag (cobra), Cheli 
(goat), and Kochchimo (tortoise). A man may claim 
his paternal aunt's daughter in marriage. Girls are, as 
a rule, married after puberty. When a match is contem- 
plated, the would-be husband presents a pot of liquor 
to the girl's parents. If this is accepted, a further 
present of liquor, rice, and a pair of cloths, is made later 
on. The liquor is distributed among the villagers, who, 
by accepting it, indicate their consent to the transfer of 
the girl to the man. A procession, with Dombs acting 
as musicians, is formed, and the girl is taken to the 
bridegroom's village. A pandal (booth) has been 
erected in front of the bridegroom's house, which the 
contracting couple enter on the following morning. 
Their hands are joined together by the presiding Desari, 
they bathe in turmeric water, and new cloths are given 
to them. Wearing these, they enter the house, the 
bridegroom leading the bride. Their relations then 
exhort them to be constant to each other, and behave 
well towards them. A feast follows, and the night is 
spent in dancing and drinking. Next day, the bride's 
parents are sent away with a present of a pair of cows 
or bulls as jholla tonka. The remarriage of widows is 
allowed, and a younger brother usually marries the 
widow of his elder brother. Divorce is permitted, and, 
when a husband separates from his wife, he gives her a 
new cloth and a bullock as compensation. A divorced 
woman may remarry. 

51 mavilAn 

By the Mattiyas, and other Oriya castes, the ghoro- 
javai (house son-in-law) custom is practiced. According 
to this custom, the poorer folk, in search of a wife, work, 
according to a contract, for their future father-in-law for 
a specified time, at the expiration of which they set up 
a separate establishment with his daughter. To begin 
married life with, presents are made to the couple by the 

The dead are burnt, and the spot where cremation 
takes place is marked by setting up in the ground a bam- 
boo pole, to which one of the dead man's rags is attached. 
The domestic pots, which were used during his last ill- 
ness, are broken there. Death pollution is observed 
for eight days. On the ninth day, the ashes, mixed with 
water, are cleared up, and milk is poured over the spot. 
The ashes are sometimes buried in a square hole, which is 
dug to a depth of about three feet, and filled in. Over 
it a small hut-like structure is raised. A fevv of these 
sepulchral monuments may be seen on the south side 
of the Pangam stream on the Jeypore-Malkangiri road. 
The personal names of the Mattiyas are often taken from 
the day of the week on which they are born. 

Mavilan. — Described, in the Madras Census Report, 
1 90 1, as a small tribe of shikaris (hunters) and herbalists, 
who follow makkathayam (inheritance from father to 
son), and speak corrupt Tulu. Tulumar (native of the 
Tulu country), and Chingattan (lion-hearted people) 
were returned as sub-divisions. " The name," Mr. H. A. 
Stuart writes,* "is said to be derived from mavilavu, a 
medicinal herb. I think, however, the real derivation 
must be sought in Tulu or Canarese, as it seems to be a 
Canarese caste. These people are found only in the 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 
V-4 B 


Chirakkal taluk of Malabar. Their present occupation 
is basket-making. Succession is from father to son, but 
among some it is also said to be in the female line." 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that the 
Mavilons are " divided into Tulu Mavilons and Eda 
Mavilons, and sub-divided into thirty illams. They are 
employed as mahouts (drivers of elephants), and collect 
honey and other forest produce. Their headmen are 
called Chingam (simham, lion), and their huts Mapura." 

Mayalotilu (rascal). — Mayalotilu or Manjulotilu is 
said by the Rev. J. Cain to be a name given by the 
hill Koyis to the Koyis who live near the Godavari river. 

Mayan.— Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 
as a synonym^ of Kammalan. The Kamsali goldsmiths 
claim descent from Maya. 

Meda, Medara, Medarlu, or Medarakaran. — 
The Medaras are workers in bamboo in the Telugu, Cana- 
rese, Oriya and Tamil countries, making sieves, baskets, 
cradles, mats, fans, boxes, umbrellas, and tatties (screens). 
Occasionally they receive orders for waste-paper baskets, 
coffins for Native Christian children, or cages for pigeons 
and parrots. In former days they made basket-caps for 
sepoys. They are said to cut the bamboos in the forest 
on dark nights, in the belief that they would be damaged 
if cut at any other time. They do not, like the Korachas, 
make articles from the leaf of the date-palm (PJiamix). 

They believe that they came from Mahendrachala 
mountain, the mountain of Indra, and the following 
legend is current among them. Dakshudu, the father- 
in-law of Siva, went to invite his son-in-law to a 
devotional sacrifice, which he was about to perform. 
Siva was in a state of meditation, and did not visibly 
return the obeisance which Dakshudu made by raising 
his hands to his forehead, Dakshudu became angry, 

53 m£da, medara 

and told his people not to receive Siva or his wife, or 
show them any mark of respect. Parvati, Siva's wife, 
went with her son Ganapati, against her husband's order, 
to the sacrifice, and received no sign of recognition. 
Thereat she shed tears, and the earth opened, and she 
disappeared. She was again born of Himavant (Hima- 
layas), and Siva, telling her who she was, remarried her. 
Siva, in reply to her enquiries, told her that she could 
avoid a further separation from him if she performed a 
religious vow, and gave cakes to Brahmans in a chata, 
or winnowing basket. She accordingly made a basket 
of gold, which was not efficacious, because, as Siva 
explained to her, it was not plaited, as bamboo baskets 
are. Taking his serpent, Siva turned it into a bamboo. 
He ordered Ganapati, and others, to become men, and 
gave them his trisula and ghada to work with on bamboo, 
from which they plaited a basket for the completion 
of Parvati's vow. Ganapati and the Ganas remained 
on the Mahendrachala mountain, and married Gandarva 
women, who bore children to them. Eventually they 
were ordered by Siva to return, and, as they could not 
take their wives and families with them, they told them 
to earn their livelihood by plaiting bamboo articles. 
Hence they were called Mahendrulu or Medarlu. 
According to another legend,* Parvati once wanted to 
perform the ceremony called gaurinomu, and, wanting a 
winnow, was at a loss to know how to secure one. She 
asked Siva to produce a man who could make one, and 
he ordered his riding-ox Vrishaban to produce such a 
person by chewing. Vrishaban complied, and the 
ancestor of the Medaras, being informed of the wish of 
the goddess, took the snake which formed Siva's necklace, 

* Manual of ihe North Arcol dislricl. 



and, going to a hill,, planted its head in the ground. 
A bamboo at once sprang up on the spot, which, after 
returning the snake to its owner, the man used for 
making" a winnow. The snake-like root of the bamboo 
is regarded as a proof of the truth of the story. 

As among many other castes, opprobrious names are 
given to children. For example, a boy, whose elder brother 
has died, may be called Pentayya (dung-heap). As a 
symbol of his being a dung-heap child, the infant, as 
soon as it is born, is placed on a leaf-platter. Other 
names are Thavvayya, or boy bought for bran, and 
Pakiru, mendicant. In a case where a male child had 
been ill for some months, a woman, under the influence 
of the deity, announced that he was possessed by the 
goddess Ankamma. The boy accordingly had the name 
of the goddess conferred on him. 

The following are some of the gotras and exogamous 
septs of the Medaras : — 

(a) Gotras. 

Hanumanta (monkey-god). 

Puli (tiger). 

Thagenilu (drinking water). 

Avisa {Sesbania grandiflora) 

Rela [Ficus). 

Seshai (snake ?). 

{b) Exogamous septs. 

Bombadai (a fish). 
Vinayaka (Ganesa). 
Kasi (Benares). 
Moduga {Buiea froiidosa). 
Kovila (koel or cuckoo). 

Pilli (cat). 

Parvatham (mountain). 
Putta (ant-hill). 
Konda (mountain). 
Javadi (civet-cat). 
Nandikattu (bull's modth). 
Kandikattu (dhal soup). 
Kottakunda (new pot). 
Pooreti (a bird). 
Kalluri (stone village). 

Nuvvulu (gingelly). 
Senagapapu (Bengal gram). 
Tsanda (subscription). 
Nlla (blue). 
Sirigiri (a hill). 
Kanigiri (a hill). 
Pothu (male). 
Naginldu (snake). 
Kola (ear of corn). 


A man most frequently marries his maternal uncle's 
daughter, less frequently the daughter of his paternal 
aunt. Marriage with a deceased wife's sister is regarded 
with special favour. Marriage with two living sisters, if 
one of them is suffering from disease, is common. 

In a note on the Medaras of the Vizagapatam district, 
Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao writes that girls are married 
before or after puberty. A Brahman officiates at the 
marriage ceremonies. Widows are allowed to remarry 
once, and the sathamanam (marriage badge) is tied by 
the new husband on the neck of the bride, who has, as in 
the Gudala caste, to sit near a mortar. 

Formerly all the Medaras were Saivites, but many 
are at the present day Vaishnavites, and even the Vaish- 
navites worship Siva. Every family has some special 
person or persons whom they worship, for example, 
Virullu, or boys who have died unmarried. A silver 
image is made, and kept in a basket. It is taken out on 
festive occasions, as before a marriage in a family, and 
offerings of milk and rice gruel are made to it. Bala 
Perantalu, or girls who have died before marriage, and 
Perantalu, or women who have died before their 
husbands, are worshipped with fruits, turmeric, rice, 
cocoanuts, etc. 

Some of the Saivites bury their dead in a sitting 
posture, while others resort to cremation. All the Vaish- 
navites burn the dead, and, like the Saivites, throw the 
ashes into a river. The place of burning or burial is not 
as a rule marked by any stone or mound. But, if the 
family can afford it, a tulsi fort is built, and the tulsi 
{Oczmjtm sanctum) planted therein. In the Vizagapatam 
district, death pollution is said to last for three days, 
during which the caste occupation is not carried out. 
On the third day, a fowl is killed, and food cooked. It 

mEda, medara 56 

is taken to the spot where the corpse was burnt, on which 
a portion is thrown, and the remainder eaten. 

The potency of charms in warding off evil spirits 
is believed in. For example, a figure of Hanuman the 
monkey-god, on a thin plate of gold, with cabalistic letters 
inscribed on it, is worn on the neck. And, on eclipse 
days, the root of the madar or arka plant {Calotropis 
gigantea), enclosed in a gold casket, is worn on the neck 
of females, and on the waist or arms of males. Some 
members of this, as of other castes, may be seen with 
cicatrices on the forehead, chest, back, or neck. These 
are the scars resulting from branding during infancy with 
lighted turmeric or cheroot, to cure infantile convulsions, 
resulting, it is believed, from inhaling tobacco smoke in 
small, ill-ventilated rooms. 

Various legends are current in connection with tribal 
heroes. One Medara Chennayya is said to have fed 
some thousands of people with a potful of rice. His 
grandson, Medara Thodayya, used to do basket-making, 
and bathed three times daily. A Brahman, afflicted with 
leprosy, lost a calf. In searching for it, he fell into a 
ditch filled with water, in which the Medara had bathed, 
and was cured. One Medara Kethayya and his wife 
were very poor, but charitable. In order to test him, 
the god Iswara made grains of gold appear in large 
quantities in the hollow of a bamboo, which he cut. He 
avoided the bamboos as being full of vermin, and useless. 
At some distance, he found an ant-hill with a bamboo 
growing in it, and, knowing that bamboos growing on 
such a hill will not be attacked by vermin, cut it. In so 
doing, he cut off the head of a Rishi, who was doing 
penance. Detecting the crime of which he had been 
guilty, he cried " Siva, Siva." His wife, who was miles 
away, heard him, and, knowing that he must be in some 

57 m£da, mEdara 

trouble, went to the spot. He asked her how he was to 
expiate his sin, and she repHed. " You have taken a 
life, and must give one in return." He thereon prepared 
to commit suicide, but his wife, taking the knife from 
him, was about to sacrifice herseh' when Iswara appeared, 
restored the Rishi to Hfe, and took Medara Kethayya 
and his wife to heaven. 

As among many other castes, the sthambamuhur- 
tham (putting up the post) ceremony is performed when 
the building of a new house is commenced, and the deep- 
arathana (lamp-w^orship) before it is occupied. In every 
settlement there is a Kulapedda, or hereditary caste 
headman, who has, among other things, the power of 
inflicting fines, sentencing to excommunication, and in- 
flicting punishments for adultery, eating with members 
of lower castes, etc. Excommunication is a real punish- 
ment, as the culprit is not allowed to take bamboo, or 
mess with his former castemen. In the Kistna and Goda- 
vari districts, serious disputes, which the local panchayat 
(council) cannot decide, are referred to the headman at 
Masulipatam, who at present is a native doctor. There 
are no trials by ordeal. The usual form of oath is 
" Where ten are, there God is. In his presence I say." 

When a girl reaches puberty, she has to sit in a room 
on five fresh palmyra palm leaves, bathes in turmeric 
water, and may not eat salt. If there is " leg's pre- 
sentation " at childbirth, the infant's maternal uncle should 
not hear the infant cry until the shanti ceremony has 
been performed. A Brahman recites some mantrams, 
and the reflection of the infant's face is first seen by the 
uncle from the surface of oil in a plate. Widow remar- 
riage is permitted. A widow can be recognised by her 
not wearing the tali, gazulu (glass bangles), and mettu 
(silver ring on the second toe). 

m£da 58 

The lowest castes with which the Medaras will eat 
are, they say, Komatis and Velamas. Some say that 
they will eat with Satanis. 

In the Coorg country, the Medaras are said to subsist 
by umbrella-making. They are the drummers at Coorg 
festivals, and it is their privilege to receive annually at 
harvest-time from each Coorg house of their district 
as much reaped paddy as they can bind up with a rope 
twelve cubits in length. They dress like the Coorgs, 
but in poorer style.* 

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead f that, "in 
Mercara taluk, in Ippanivolavade, and in Kadikeri in 
Halerinad. the villagers sacrifice a kona or male buffalo. 
Tied to a tree in a gloomy grove near the temple, the 
beast is killed by a Meda, who cuts off its head with a 
large knife, but no Coorgs are present at the time. The 
blood is spilled on a stone under a tree, and the flesh 
eaten by Medas." 

At the Census, 1901, Gauriga was returned as a sub- 
caste by some Medaras. The better classes are taking 
to call themselves Balijas, and affix the title Chetti to 
their names. The Godagula workers in split bamboo 
sometimes call themselves Odde (Oriya) Medara.J 

Meda (raised mound). — An exogamous sept of 
Padma Sale. 

Medam (fight). — An exogamous sept of Devanga. 

Mehtar.— A few Mehtars are returned, in the 
Madras Census Report, 1901, as a Central Provinces 
caste of scavengers. " This name," Yule and Burnell 
write,§ " is usual in Bengal, especially for the domestic 

* G. Richler. Manual of Coorg. 

+ Madras Museum Bull., V, 3, 1907. 

X yoi portions of this article I am indebted to a note by Mr. J. D. Samuel. 

§ Hobson-Jobson. 


servant of this class. The word is Pers., comp. mihtar 
(Lat. major), a great personage, a prince, and has been 
applied to the class in question in irony, or rather in 
consolation. But the name has so completely adhered 
in this application, that all sense of either irony or con- 
solation has perished. Mehtar is a sweeper, and nought 
else. His wife is the Matranee. It is not unusual to 
hear two Mehtars hailing each other as Maharaj ! " 

Meikaval (body-guard of the god). — A name for 

Mekala (goats). — Recorded as an exogamous sept 
of Boya, Chenchu, Golla, Kamma, Kapu, Togata, and 
Yanadi. Nerigi Mekala (a kind of goat) is a further 
sept of Yanadi. 

Mekhri. — A sub-division of Navayat Muhamma- 

Melachcheri. — A class of Muhammadans in the 
Laccadive islands {see Mappilla). 

Meladava. — Dancing-girls in South Canara. 

Melakkaran. — Concerning the Melakkarans, Mr. 
F. R. Hemingway writes as follows.* " The name 
means musicians, and, as far as Tanjore is concerned, 
is applied to two absolutely distinct castes, the Tamil 
and Telugu Melakkarans (of whom the latter are barber 
musicians). These two will not eat in each other's 
houses, and their views about dining with other castes 
are similar. They say they would mess (in a separate 
room) in a Vellalan's house, and would dine with a 
Kalian, but it is doubtful whether any but the lower 
non-Brahman communities would eat with them. In 
other respects the two castes are quite different. The 
former speak Tamil, and, in most of their customs, 

* Gazetteer of the Tanjore district. 


resemble generally the Vellalans and other higher 
Tamil castes, while the latter speak Telugu, and follow 
domestic practices similar to those of the Telugu Brah- 
mans. Both are musicians. The Telugus practice 
only the musician's art or periyamelam (band composed 
of clarionet or nagasaram, pipe, drum, and cymbals), 
having nothing to do with dancing or dancing-girls, to 
whom the chinnamelam or nautch music is appropriate. 
The Tamil caste provides, or has adopted all the dancing- 
girls in the district. The daughters of these women 
are generally brought up to their mother's profession, 
but the daughters of the men of the community rarely 
nowadays become dancing-girls, but are ordinarily mar- 
ried to members of the caste. The Tamil Melakkarans 
perform both the periyamelam and the nautch music. 
The latter consists of vocal music performed by a chorus 
of both sexes to the accompaniment of the pipe and 
cymbals. The class w^ho perform it are called Nattu- 
vans, and they are the instructors of the dancing-women. 
The periyamelam always finds a place at weddings, but 
the nautch is a luxury. Nowadays the better musicians 
hold themselves aloof from the dancing-women. Both 
castes have a high opinion of their own social standing. 
Indeed the Tamil section say they are really Kalians, 
Vellalans, Agamudaiyans, and so on, and that their pro- 
fession is merely an accident." The Vairavi, or temple 
servant of Nattukottai Chettis, must be a Melakkaran. 

Mellikallu. — Under the name Mellikallu or Mal- 
lekalu, seventy-six individuals are returned, in the 
Madras Census Report, 190T, as '' hill cultivators in 
Pedakota village of Viravalli taluk of the Vizagapatam 
Agency, who are reported to constitute a caste by them- 
selves. They pollute by touch, have their own priests, 
and eat pork but not beef." 


Melnadu. — Melnadu, or Melnatar, meaning western 
country, is the name of a territorial sub-division of 
Kalian and Shanan. 

Melu Sakkare. — A name, meaning western Sak- 
kare, by which Upparas in Mysore style themselves. 
They claim descent from a mythical individual, named 
Sagara, who dug the Bay of Bengal. Some Upparas 
explain that they work in salt, which is more essential 
than sugar, and that Mel Sakkara means superior 

Meman.— More than three hundred members 
of this Muhammadan class of Bombay traders were 
returned at the Madras Census, 1901. It is recorded, 
in the Bombay Gazetteer, that many Cutch Memans 
are prospering as traders in Kurrachee, Bombay, 
the Malabar coast, Hyderabad, Madras, Calcutta, and 

Menasu (pepper or chillies). — An exogamous sept 
of Kuruba, and gotra of Kurni. 

Menokki (overseer). — Menokki and Menoki have 
been returned, in the Travancore and Cochin Census 
Reports, as a sub-division of Nayars, who are employed 
as accountants in temples. The name is derived from 
mel, above, n5kki, from nokkunnu to look after. 

Menon. — By Wigram,* Menon is defined as "a 
title originally conferred by the Zamorin on his agents 
and writers. It is now used by all classes of Nayars. 
In Malabar, the village karnam (accountant) is called 
Menon." In the Travancore Census Report, 1901, 
Menon is said to be "a. contraction of Menavan (a 
superior person). The title was conferred upon several 
families by the Raja of Cochin, and corresponds to 

* Malabar Law and Custom. 

MERA 62 

Pillai down south. As soon as a person was made a 
Menon, he was presented with an ola (palmyra leaf for 
writing on) and an iron style, as symbolical of the office 
he was expected to fill, i.e.^ of an accountant. Even 
now, in British Malabar, each amsham or revenue 
village has a writer or accountant, who is called 
Menon." Mr. F. Fawcett writes* that "to those of 
the sub-clan attached to the Zamorin who were suffi- 
ciently capable to earn it, he gave the titular honour 
Menon, to be used as an affix to the name. The title 
Menon is in general hereditary, but, be it remarked, 
many who now use it are not entitled to do so. Properly 
speaking, only those whose investiture by the Zamorin 
or some other recognized chief is undisputed, and their 
descendants (in the female line) may use it. A man 
known to me was invested with the title Menon in 
1895 by the Karimpuzha chief, who, in the presence 
of a large assembly, said thrice ' From this day forward 
I confer on Krishnan Nayar the title of Krishna Me- 
non.' Nowadays be it said, the title Menon is used 
by Nayars of clans other than the Akattu Charna." 
Indian undergraduates at the English Universities, 
with names such as Krishna Menon, Raman Menon, 
Ramunni Menon, are known as Mr. Menon. In the 
same way, Maratha students are called by their titular 
name Mr. Rao. 

Mera. — A sub-division of Holeya. 

Meria. — At the Madras Census, 1901, twenty-five 
individuals returned themselves as Meria or Merakaya. 
They were descendants of persons who were reserved 
for human (Meriah) sacrifice, but rescued by Government 
officials in the middle of the last century. 

* Madras Museum Bull. Ill, 3, 1901. 

63 Mi LA 

Mesta.— A name taken by some Chaptegaras 
(carpenters) in South Canara. 

Mestri.— A title of Semmans and other Tamil classes. 
The Panan tailors are said to be also called Mestris. 
Concerning the word mestri, or maistry, Yule and 
Burnell write as follows.* "This word, a corruption of 
the Portuguese Mestre, has spread into the vernaculars 
all over India, and is in constant Anglo-Indian use. 
Properly a foreman, a master- worker. In W. and S. 
India maistry, as used in the household, generally means 
the cook or the tailor." 

Mettu Kamsali. — A synonym of Ojali blacksmith. 
Mettu means shoes or sandals. 

Mhallo.^A name for Konkani barbers. 

Midathala (locust). — An exogamous sept of Boya 
and Madiga. 

Middala or Meddala (storeyed house).— An 
exogamous sept of Padma Sale. 

Midichi (locust).— A gotra of Kurni. 

Mila. — The Milas are a fishing caste in Ganjam and 
Vizagapatam, for the following note on whom I am 
indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The name Mlla- 
vandlu, by which they are commonly known, means 
fishermen. They also call themselves Odavandlu, 
because they go out to sea, fishing from boats (oda). 
When they become wealthy, they style themselves Oda 
Balijas. The caste is divided into numerous exogamous 
septs, among which are dhoni (boat), and tota (garden). 
The custom of menarikam, according to which a man 
should marry his maternal uncle's daughter, is in force, 
and a man may also marry his sister's daughter. Girls 
are generally married after puberty. Gold jewellery is 

* Hobson-Jobson. 


presented in lieu of money as the bride-price (voli). On 
the occasion of a marriage, half a dozen males and 
females go to the house of the bride, where they are 
entertained at a feast. She is conducted to the home of 
the bridegroom. A plank is placed at the entrance to 
the house, on which the bride and bridegroom take their 
seats. After they have bathed, new cloths are presented 
to them, and the old ones given to the barber. They 
then sit once more on the plank, and the caste headman, 
called the Ejaman. takes up the sathamanam (marriage 
badge), which is passed round among those assembled. 
It is finally tied by the bridegroom on the bride's neck. 
The remarriage of widows is recognised. Each village 
has an Ejaman, who, in addition to officiating at wed- 
dings, presides over council meetings, collects fines, etc. 
The caste goddess is Polamma, to whom animal sacrifices 
are offered, and in whose honour an annual festival is 
held. The expenses thereof are met by public subscrip- 
tion and private donations. The dead are burnt, and 
a Satani officiates at funerals. Death pollution is not 
observed. On the twelfth day after death, the pedda 
rozu (big day) ceremony is performed. The caste titles 
are Anna and Ayya. 

Milaku (pepper : Piper 7iignun). — A tree or kothu 
of Kondaiyamkotti Maravans. 

Milikhan. — A class of Muhammadan pilots and 
sailors in the Laccadive islands [see Mappilla). 

Minalavaru (fish people). — An exogamous sept of 
Bedar or Boya. Min (fish) Palli occurs as a name for 
Pallis who have settled in the Telugu country, and 
adopted fishing as their profession. 

Minchu (metal toe-ring). — An exogamous sept of 

Mini (leather rope). — A gotra of Kurni. 


Minpidi (fish-catching). — A sub-division of Panan. 

y[\v2i'^3.^3.yB.{Capsicumfruiescens). — An exogamous 
sept of Boya. 

Mirigani. — A sub-division of Domb. 

Miriyala (pepper). — An exogamous sept of Balija. 

Mir Shikari. — A synonym of Kurivikkaran. 

Misala (whiskers). — An exogamous sept of B5ya. 

Mise (moustache). — An exogamous sept of Kuruba. 

Mochi.— ^^^ Mucchi. 

Modikaran.— The name sometimes applied to Nok- 
kan mendicants, who dabble in jugglery. Modi is a 
trial of magical powers between two persons, in which the 
hiding of money is the essential thing. 

Moduga {Butea frondosa). — A gotra of Medara. 

Moger.— The Mogers are the Tulu-speaking fisher- 
men of the South Canara district, who, for the most 
part, follow the aliya santana law of inheritance (in 
the female line), though some who are settled in the 
northern part of the district speak Canarese, and follow 
the makkala santana law (inheritance from father to 

The Mogers are largely engaged in sea-fishing, and 
are also employed in the Government fish-curing yards. 
On the occasion of an inspection of one of these yards at 
Mangalore, my eye caught sight of the saw of a saw- 
fish {Pristis) hanging on the wall of the office. Enquiry 
elicited that it was used as a "threatening instrument" 
in the yard. The ticket-holders were Mappillas and 
Mogers. I was informed that some of the Mogers used 
the hated thattu vala or achi vala (tapping net), in using 
which the sides of the boats are beaten with sticks, to 
drive the fish into the net. Those who object to this 
method of fishing maintain that the noise made with the 
sticks frightens away the shoals of mackerel and sardines. 


A few years ago, the nets were cut to pieces, and thrown 
into the sea, as a protest against their employment. A 
free fight ensued, with the resuh that nineteen indi- 
viduals were sentenced to a fine of fifty rupees, and three 
months' imprisonment. In connection with my inspec- 
tions of fisheries, the following quaint official report 
was submitted. " The Mogers about the town of Udipi 
are bound to supply the revenue and magisterial estab- 
lishment of the town early in the morning every day a 
number of fishes strung to a piece of rope. The custom 
was originated by a Tahsildar (Native revenue officer) 
about twenty years ago, when the Tahsildar wielded the 
powers of the magistrate and the revenue officer, and 
was more than a tyrant, if he so liked — when rich and 
poor would tremble at the name of an unscrupulous 
Tahsildar. The Tahsildar is divested of his magisterial 
powers, and to the law-abiding and punctual is not 
more harmful than the dormouse. But the custom 
continues, and the official, who, of all men, can afford to 
pay for what he eats, enjoys the privileges akin to those 
of the time of Louis XIV's court, and the poor fisher- 
man has to toil by night to supply the rich official's table 
with a delicious dish about gratis." A curious custom 
at Cannanore in Malabar may be incidentally referred 
to. Writing in 1S73, Dr. Francis Day states* that " at 
Cannanore, the Rajah's cat appears to be exercising a 
deleterious influence on one branch at least of the fish- 
ing, viz., that for sharks. It appears that, in olden times, 
one fish daily was taken from each boat as a perquisite 
for the Rajah's cat, or the poocha meen (cat fish) collec- 
tion. The cats apparently have not augmented so much 
as the fishing boats, so this has been commuted into a 

Sea Fisheries of India. 


money payment of two pies a day on each successful 
boat. In addition to this, the Rajah annually levies a 
tax of Rs. 2-4-0 on every boat. Half of the sharks' 
fins are also claimed by the Rajah's poocha meen 

Writing concerning the Mogers, Buchanan * states 
that " these fishermen are called Mogayer, and are a 
caste of Tulava origin. They resemble the Mucuas 
(Mukkuvans) of Malayala, but the one caste will have 
no communion with the other. The Mogayer are boat- 
men, fishermen, porters, and palanquin-bearers. They 
pretend to be Sudras of a pure descent, and assume a 
superiority over the Halepecas (Halepaiks), one of the 
most common castes of cultivators in Tulava ; but they 
acknowledge themselves greatly inferior to the Bunts." 
Some Mogers have abandoned their hereditary profes- 
sion of fishing, and taken to agriculture, oil-pressing, and 
playing on musical instruments. Some are still employed 
as palanquin-bearers. The oil-pressers call themselves 
Ganigas, the musicians Sappaligas, and the palanquin- 
bearers Bovis. These are all occupational names. 
Some Bestha immigrants from Mysore have settled in 
the Pattur taluk, and are also known as Bovis. The word 
Bovi is a form of the Telugu Boyi (bearer). 

The Mogers manufacture the caps made from the 
spathe of the areca palm, which are worn by Koragas 
and Holeyas. 

The settlements of the Moger fishing community 
are called pattana, e.g., Odorottu pattana, Manampade 
pattana. For this reason, Pattanadava is sometimes 
given as a synonym for the caste name. The Tamil 
fishermen of the City of Madras are, in like manner, 

Journey from Madras through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, 1807. 
V-5 B 

MOG£r 68 

called Pattanavan, because they live in pattanams or 
maritime villages. 

Like other Tulu castes, the Mogers worship bhuthas 
(devils). The principal bhutha of the fishing community 
is Bobbariya, in whose honour the kola festival is held 
periodically. Every settlement, or group of settlements, 
has a Bobbariya bhuthasthana (devil shrine). The Matti 
Brahmans, who, according to local tradition, are Mogers 
raised to the rank of Brahmans by one Vathiraja Swami, 
a Sanyasi, also have a Bobbariya bhuthasthana in the 
village of Matti. The Mogers who have ceased to be 
fishermen, and dwell in land, worship the bhuthas Pan- 
jurli and Baikadthi. There is a caste priest, called 
Mangala pujari, whose head-quarters are at Banne- 
kuduru near Barkur. Every family has to pay eight 
annas annually to the priest, to enable him to maintain 
the temple dedicated to Ammanoru or Mastiamma at 
Bannekuduru. According to some, Mastiamma is Mari, 
the goddess of small-pox, while others say that she is the 
same as Mohini, a female devil, who possesses men, and 
kills them. 

For every settlement, there must be at least two 
Gurikaras (headmen), and, in some settlements, there 
are as many as four. All the Gurikaras wear, as an 
emblem of their office, a gold bracelet on the left wrist. 
Some .wear, in addition, a bracelet presented by the 
members of the caste for some signal service. The office 
of headman is hereditary, and follows the aliya santana 
law of succession (in the female line). 

The ordinary Tulu barber (Kelasi) does not shave 
the Mogers, who have their ow^n caste barber, called 
Melantavam, who is entitled to receive a definite share 
of a catch of fish. The Konkani barbers (Mholla) 
do not object to shave Mogers, and, in some places 


where JM hollas are not available, the Billava barber is 
called in. 

Like other Tulu castes, the Mogers have exogamous 
septs, or balis, of which the following are examples : — 

Ane, elephant. 
Bali, a fish. 
Deva, god. 
Dyava, tortoise. 

Honne, Pterocarpiis 

Shetti, a fish. 
Tolana, wolf. 

The marriage ceremonial of the Mogers conforms 
to the customary Tulu type. A betrothal ceremony is 
gone through, and the sirdochi, or bride-price, varying 
from six to eight rupees, paid. The marriage rites last 
over two days. On the first day, the bride is seated on 
a plank or cot, and five women throw rice over her head, 
and retire. The bridegroom and his party come to the 
home of the bride, and are accommodated at her house, or 
elsewhere. On the following day, the contracting couple 
are seated together, and the bride's father, or the Guri- 
kara, pours the dhare water over their united hands. It is 
customary to place a cocoanut on a heap of rice, wuth some 
betel leaves and areca nuts at the side thereof. The 
dhare water (milk and water) is poured thrice over the 
cocoanut. Then all those assembled throw rice over the 
heads of the bride and bridegroom, and make presents of 
money. Divorce can be easily effected, after information 
of the intention has been given to the Gurikara. In the 
Udipi taluk, a man who wishes to divorce his wife goes 
to a certain tree with two or three men, and makes three 
cuts in the trunk with a bill-hook. This is called baraha- 
kodu, and is apparently observed by other castes. The 
Mogers largely adopt girls in preference to boys, and 
they need not be of the same sept as the adopter. 

On the seventh day after the birth of a child a 
Madivali (washerwoman) ties a waist-thread on it, and 



gives it a name. This name is usually dropped after a 
time, and another name substituted for it. 

The dead are either buried or cremated. If the 
corpse is burnt, the ashes are thrown into a tank (pond) 
or river on the third or fifth day. The final death cere- 
monies (bojja or savu) are performed on the seventh, ninth, 
eleventh, or thirteenth day, with details similar to those 
of the Biilavas. Like other Tulu castes, some Mogers 
perform a propitiatory ceremony on the fortieth day. 

The ordinary caste title of the Mogers is Marakaleru, 
and Gurikara that of members of the families to which 
the headmen belong. In the Kundapur taluk, the title 
Naicker is preferred to Marakaleru. 

The cephalic index of the Mogers is, as shown by the 
following table, slightly less than that of the Tulu Bants 
and Biilavas : — 




No. of times index 
80 or over. 

50 Biilavas 





40 Bants ... 





40 Mogers 





Mogili {Pandarms fasciailaris). — An exogamous 
sept of Kapu and Yerukala. 

Mogotho.— A sub-division of Gaudo, the members 
of which are considered inferior because they eat fowls. 

Mohiro (peacock). — An exogamous sept or gotra 
of Bhondari and Gaudo. 

Moksham (heaven). — An exogamous sept of 

Moktessor or Mukhtesar. — See Stanika. 

Mola (hare). — An exogamous sept of Gangadikara 
Holeya and Gangadikara Vakkaliga. 


Molaya Devan. — A.title of Kalian and Nokkan. 

Moliko. — A title of Doluva and Kondra. 

Monathinni.— The name, meaning- those who eat 
the \-cimin ot the earth, of a sub-division of Valaiyan. 

Mondi. — For the following- note -I am indebted to 
Mr. C. Haya\adana Rao. Mondi, Landa, Kalladi- 
siddhan {(j.t'.), and Kalladi-mangam, are different names 
for one and the same class of mendicants. The first two 
names denote a troublesome fellow, and the last two one 
who beats himself with a stone. The Mondis speak 
Tamil, and correspond to the Bandas of the Telugu 
country, banda meaning- an obstinate person or tricksy 
knave. [The name Banda is sometimes explained as 
meaning stone, in reference to these mendicants carry- 
ing about a stone, and threatening" to beat out their 
brains, if alms are not forthcoming.] They are as a 
rule tall, robust individuals, who go about all but naked, 
with a jingling chain tied to the right wrist, their hair 
long and matted, a knife in the hand, and a big stone on 
the left shoulder. When engaged in begging, they cut 
the skin of the thighs with the knife, lie clown and beat 
their chests with the stone, vomit, roll in the dust or 
mud, and throw dirt at those who will not contribute 
alms. In a note on the Mondis or Bandas,* Mr. H. A. 
Stuart writes that these beggars " lay no claim to a 
religious character. Though regarded as Sudras, it is 
difficult to think them such, as they are black and filthy 
in their appearance, and disgusting in their habits. 
Happily their numbers are few. They wander about 
singing, or rather warbling, for they utter no articulate 
words, and, if money or grain be not given to them, they 
have recourse to compulsion. The implements of their 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 


trade are knives and ordure. With the former they cut 
themselves until they draw blood, and the latter they 
throw into the house or shop of the person who proves 
uncharitable. They appear to possess the power of 
vomiting at pleasure, and use it to disgust people into a 
compliance with their demands. Sometimes they lie in 
the street, covering the entire face with dust, keeping, it 
is said, their eyes open the wiiile, and breathing through 
the dust. Eventually they always succeed by some of 
these means in extorting what they consider their dues." 
Boys are regularly trained to vomit at will. They are 
made to drink as much hot water or conji (gruel) as they 
can, and taught how to bring it up. At first, they are 
made to put several fingers in the mouth, and tickle the 
base of the tongue, so as to give rise to vomiting. By 
constant practice, they learn how to vomit at any time. 
Just before they start on a begging round, they drink 
some fluid, which is brought up while they are engaged 
in their professional calling. 

There are several proverbs relating to this class of 
mendicants, one of which is to the effect that the rough 
and rugged ground traversed by the Kalladi-siddhan 
is powdered to dust. Another gives the advice that, 
whichever way the Kalladi-mangam goes, you should 
dole out a measure of grain for him. Otherwise he will 
defile the road owing to his disgusting habits. A song, 
which the Mondi may often be heard warbling, runs as 
follows : — 

Mother, mother, Oh ! grandmother. 

Grandmother, who gave birth. 

Dole out my measure. 

Their original ancestor is said to have been a shep- 
herd, who had both his legs cut off by robbers in a 
jungle. The king of the country in compassion directed 


that every one should pay him and his descendants, 
called mondi or lame, a small amount of money or grain. 

The caste is divided into a series of bands, each of 
which has the right to collect alms within a particular 
area. The merchants and ryots are expected to pay 
them once a year, the former in money, and the latter 
in grain at harvest time. Each band recognises a head- 
man, who, with the aid of the caste elders, settles marital 
and other disputes. 

Marriage is usually celebrated after puberty. In the 
North Arcot district, it is customary for a man to marry 
his maternal uncle's daughter, and in the Madura district 
a man can claim his paternal aunt's daughter in marriage. 
The caste is considered so low in the social scale that 
Brahmans will not officiate at marriages. Divorce is 
easy, and adultery with a man of higher caste is condoned 
more readily than a similar offence within the caste. 

Mondolo. — Recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1901, as an Oriya title given by Zamindars to 
the headmen of villages. It is also a title of various 
Oriya castes. 

Mora Buvva. — A sub-division of Madigas, who 
offer food (buvva) to the god in a winnowing basket 
(mora) at marriage. 

Morasu. — The following legendary account of the 
origin of the " Morsu Vellallu " is given in the Barama- 
hal Records.* " In the kingdom of Conjiveram, there 
was a village named Paluru, the residence of a chieftain, 
who ruled over a small district inhabited by the Morsu 
Vellallu. It so happened that one of them had a hand- 
some daughter with whom the chieftain fell in love, and 
demanded her in marriage of her parents. But they 

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


would not comply with his demand, urging as an excuse 
the difference of caste, on which the inflamed lover 
determined on using force to obtain the object of his 
desires. This resolution coming to the knowledge of 
the parents of the girl, they held a consultation with the 
rest of the sect, and it was determined that for the 
present they should feign a compliance with his order, 
until they could meet with a favourable opportunity of 
quitting the country. They accordingly signified their 
consent to the matter, and fixed upon the nuptial day, 
and erected a pandal or temporary building in front of 
their house for the performance of the wedding cere- 
monies. At the proper time, the enamoured and 
enraptured chief sent in great state to the bride's house 
the wedding ornaments and clothes of considerable value, 
with grain and every other delicacy for the entertain- 
ment of the guests. The parents, having in concert 
with the other ]:)eople of the sect prepared everything 
for flight, they put the ornaments and clothes on the 
body of a dog, which they tied to the centre pillar 
of the pandal, threw all the delicacies on the ground 
before him, and, taking their daughter, fied. Their 
flight soon came to the ears of the chief, who, being 
vexed and mortified at the trick they had played him, 
set out with his attendants like a raging lion in quest 
of his prey. The fugitives at length came to the banks 
of the Tungabhadra river, which they found full and 
impassable, and their cruel pursuer nigh at hand. In 
the dreadful dilemma, they addressed to the God Vishnu 
the following prayer. ' O ! Vcnkatrama (a title of 
Vishnu), if thou wilt graciously deign to enable us to 
ford this river, and wilt condescend to assist us in 
crossing the water, as thou didst Hanumant in passing 
over the vast ocean, we from henceforth will adopt thee 


and thy ally Hanumant our tutelary deities.' Vishnu 
was pleased to grant their prayer, and by his command 
the water in an instant divided, and left a dry space, 
over which they passed. The moment they reached the 
opposite bank, the waters closed and prevented their 
adversary from pursuing them, who returned to his own 
country. The sect settled in the provinces near the 
Tuneabhadra river, and in course of time spread over 
the districts which now form the eastern part of the 
kingdom of Mysore then called Morsu, and from thence 
arose their surname." 

As in Africa, and among the American Indians, 
Australians, and Polynesians, so in Southern India 
artificial deformity of the hand is produced by chopping 
off some of the fingers. Writing in 1815. Buchanan 
(Hamilton)* says that " near Deonella or Deonhully, a 
town in Mysore, is a sector sub-division of the Murressoo 
Wocal caste, every woman of which, previous to piercing 
the ears of her eldest daughter, preparatory to her being 
betrothed in marriage, must undergo the amputation of 
the first joints of third and fourth fingers of her right 
hand. The amputation is performed by the blacksmith 
of the village, who, having placed the finger in a block, 
performs the operation with a chisel. If the girl to be 
betrothed is motherless, and the mother of the boy has 
not before been subjected to the amputation, it is incum- 
bent on her to suffer the operation." Of the same 
ceremony among the " Morsa-Okkala-Makkalu " of 
Mysore the Abbe Dubois t says that, if the bride's 
mother be dead, the bridegroom's mother, or in default 
of her the mother of the nearest relative, must submit to 
the cruel ordeal. In an editorial foot-note it is stated 

* East India Gazetteer. 

t Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, Ed., 1897. 


that this custom is no longer observed. Instead of the 
two fingers being amputated, they are now merely bound 
together, and thus rendered unfit for use. In the Census 
Report, 1 89 1, it is recorded that this type of deformity 
is found among the Morasus, chiclly in Cuddapah, North 
Arcot, and Salem. " There is a sub-section of them 
called Veralu Icche Kapulu, or Kapulu who give the 
fingers, from a curious custom which requires that, when 
a grandchild is born in a family, the wife of the eldest 
son of the grandfather must have the last two joints of 
the third and fourth fingers of her right hand amputated 
at a temple of Bhairava." Further, it is stated in the 
Manual of the Salem district (1883) that "the practice 
now observed in this district is that, when a grandchild 
is born in a family, the eldest son of the grandfather, 
with his wife, appears at the temple for the ceremony of 
boring the child's ear, and there the woman has the last 
two joints of the third and fourth fingers chopped off. 
It does not signify whether the father of the first grand- 
child born be the eldest son or not, as in any case it is 
the wife of the eldest son who has to undergo the muti- 
lation. After this, when children are born to other sons, 
their wives in succession undergo the operation. When 
a child is adopted, the same course is pursued. " 

The origin of the custom is narrated by Wilks,* and 
is briefly this. Mahadeo or Siva, who was in great peril, 
after hiding successively in a castor-oil andjawari planta- 
tion, concealed himself in a linga-tonde shrub from 
a rakshasa who was pursuing him , to whom a Marasa 
Vakkaliga cultivator indicated, with the little finger of 
his right hand, the hiding-place of Siva. The god was 
only rescued from his peril by the interposition of Vishnu 

History of Mysore. 


in the form of a lovely maiden meretriciously dressed, 
whom the lusty rakshasa, forgetting all about Siva, 
attempted to ravish, and was consumed to ashes. On 
emerging from his hiding-place, Siva decreed that the 
cultivator should forfeit the offending finger. The 
culprit's wife, who had just arrived at the field with food 
for her husband, hearing this dreadful sentence, threw 
herself at Siva's feet, and represented the certain ruin of 
her family if her husband should be disabled for some 
months from performing the labours of the farm, and 
besought the deity to accept two of her fingers instead of 
one from her husband. Siva, pleased with so sincere a 
proof of conjugal affection, accepted the exchange, and 
ordered that her family posterity in all future generations 
should sacrifice two fingers at his temple as a memorial 
of the transaction, and of their exclusive devotion to the 
god of the lingam. For the following account of the 
performance of the rite, as carried out by the Morasa 
Vakkaligaru of Mysore, I am indebted to an article by 
Mr. V. N. Narasimmiyengar.* " These people are 
roughly classed under three heads, viz. : (i) those whose 
women offer the sacrifice ; (2) those who substitute for 
the fingers a piece of gold wire, twisted round fingers in 
the shape of rings. Instead of cutting the fingers off, 
the carpenter removes and appropriates the rings ; (3) 
those who do not perform the rite. The modus operandi 
is as nearly as possible the following. About the time of 
the new moon in Chaitra, a propitious day is fixed by the 
village astrologer, and the woman who is to offer the 
sacrifice performs certain ceremonies or puje in honour 
of Siva, taking food only once a day. For three days 
before the operation, she has to support herself with 

Intl. Antiquary, II, 1873. 


milk, SLii^ar, fruits, etc., all substantial food being 
eschewed. On the day appointed, a common cart is 
brought out. painted in alternate strips with white and 
red ochre, and adorned with gay flags, flowers, etc., in 
imitation of a car. Sheep or pigs are slaughtered before 
it, their number being generally governed by the number 
of children borne by the sacrificing woman. The cart 
is then dragged by bullocks, preceded by music, the 
woman and her husband following, with new pots filled 
with water and small pieces of silver money, borne on 
their heads, and accompanied by a retinue of friends and 
relatives. The village washerman has to spread clean 
cloths along the path of the procession, which stops 
near the boundary of the village, where a leafy bower 
is prepared, with three pieces of stone installed in it. 
symbolising the god Siva. Flowers, fruits, cocoanuts, 
incense, etc., are then offered, varied occasionally by an 
additional sheep or pig. A wooden seat is placed before 
the image, and the sacrificing woman places upon it her 
right hand with the fingers spread out. A man holds 
her hand firmly, and the village carpenter, placing his 
chisel on the first joints of her ring and little fingers, 
chops them off with a single stroke. The pieces lopped 
off are thrown into an ant-hill, and the tips of the 
mutilated fingers, round which rags are bound, are 
dipped into a vessel containing boiling gingily [Sesamum 
indicinii) oil. A good skin eventually forms over the 
stump, which looks like a congenital malformation. The 
fee of the carpenter is one kanthiraya fanam (four annas 
eight pies) for each maimed finger, besides presents in 
kind. The woman undergoes the barbarous and j^ainful 
ceremony without a murmur, and it is an article of the 
popular belief that, were it neglected, or if nails grow on 
the stump, dire ruin and misfortune will overtake the 


recusant family. Staid matrons, who have had their 
fincfers maimed for life in the above manner, exhibit 
their stumps with a pride worthy of a better cause. At 
the termination of the sacrifice, the woman is presented 
with cloths, flowers, etc., by her friends and relations, to 
whom a feast is given. Her children are placed on an 
adorned seat, and, after receiving presents of flowers, 
fruits, etc.. their ears are pierced in the usual way. It 
is said that to do so before would be sacrilege." In a 
very full account of deformation of the hand by the 
Berulu Kodo sub-sect of the Vakaliga or ryat caste in 
Mysore, Mr. F. Fawcett says that it was regularly 
practiced until the Commissioner of Mysore put a stop 
to it about twenty years ago. " At present some take 
gold or silver pieces, stick them on to the finger's ends 
with flour paste, and either cut or pull them oft'. Others 
simply substitute an offering of small jjieces of gold or 
silver for the amputation. Others, again, tie flowers 
round the fingers that used to be cut, and go through a 
pantomime of cutting by putting the chisel on the joint, 
and taking it away again. All the rest of the ceremony 
is just as it used to be." The introduction of the 
decorated cart, which has been referred to, is connected 
by Mr. Fawcett with a legend concerning a zemindar, 
who sought the daughters of seven brothers in marriage 
with three youths of his family. As carts were used in 
the flight from the zemindar, the ceremonv is, to 
commemorate the event, called Bandi Devuru, or god of 
cars. As by throwing ear-rings into a river the fugitives 
passed through it, while the zemindar was drowned, 
the caste people insist on their women's ears being 
bored for ear-rings. And, in honour of the girls who 
cared more for the honour of their caste than for the dis- 
tinction of marriage into a great family, the amputation 

motAti 8o 

of part of two fingers of women of the caste was 

" Since the prohibition of cutting off the fingers," 
Mr. L. Rice writes,* " the women content themselves 
with putting on a gold or silver finger-stall or thimble, 
which is pulled off instead of the finger itself." 

Morasa Kapulu women never touch the new grain of 
the year without worshipping the sun (Surya), and may 
not eat food prepared from this grain before this act of 
worship has been performed. They wrap themselves in 
a kambli (blanket) after a purificatory bath, prostrate 
themselves on the ground, raise their hands to the fore- 
head in salutation, and make the usual offering of 
cocoanuts, etc. They are said, in times gone by, to 
have been lax in their morals and to have prayed to the 
sun to forgive them. 

Morasu has further been returned as a sub-division of 
Holeya, Mala and Odde. The name Morasu Paraiyan 
probably indicates Holeyas who have migrated from the 
Canarese to the Tamil country, and whose women, like 
the Kalians, wear a horse-shoe thread round the neck. 

Motati. — A sub-division of Kapu. 

Moyili.— The Moyilis or Mollis of South Canara 
are said t by Mr. H. A. Stuart to be " admittedly the 
descendants of the children of women attached to the 
temples, and their ranks are even now swelled in this 
manner. Their duties are similar to those of the 
Stanikas" (^.z^.). In the Madras Census Report, 1901, 
Golaka (a bastard) is clubbed with Moili. In the My- 
sore Census Report, this term is said to be applied to 
children of Brahmans by Malcrus (temple servants in 

Mysore. f Manual of the South Canara district. 


The following account of the origin of the Moylars 
was given by Buchanan at the beginning of the 
nineteenth century.* "In the temples of Tuluva there 
prevails a very singular custom, which has given origin 
to a caste named Moylar. Any woman of the four 
pure castes — Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya or Sudra — 
who is tired of her husband, or who (being a widow, 
and consequently incapable of marriage) is tired of a 
life of celibacy, goes to a temple, and eats some of 
the rice that is offered to the idol. She is then taken 
before the officers of Government, who assemble some 
people of her caste to inquire into the cause of her 
resolution ; and, if she be of the Brahman caste, to give 
her an option of living in the temple or out of its 
precincts. If she chooses the former, she gets a daily 
allowance of rice, and annually a piece of cloth. 
She must sweep the temple, fan the idol with a Tibet 
cow's tail and confine her amours to the Brahmans. In 
fact she generally becomes a concubine to some officer 
of revenue who gives her a triile in addition to her 
public allowance, and who will Bog her severely if she 
grants favours to any other person. The male children 
of these women are called Moylar, but are fond of 
assuming the title of Stanika, and wear the Brahmanical 
thread. As many of them as can procure employment 
live about the temples, sweep the areas, sprinkle them 
with an infusion of cow-dung, carry flambeaus before the 
gods, and perform other similar low offices." 

The Moyilis are also called Devadigas, and should 
not be mixed with the Malerus (or Maleyavaru). Both 
do temple service, but the Maleru females are mostly 
prostitutes, whereas Moyili women are not. Malerus 

* Journey through Mysore, etc. 


arc dancing-girls attached to the temples in South Canara, 
and their ranks are swelled by Konkani, Shivalli. and 
other Brahman women of bad character. 

The Moyilis have adopted the manners and customs 
of the Bants, and have the same balis (septs) as the Bants 
and Billavas. 

Mucchi. — The Mucchis or Mochis are summed up, 
in the Madras Census Re[)ort, 1901, as being a Marathi 
caste of painters and leather- workers. In the Mysore 
Census Report it is noted that " to the leather-working 
caste may be added a small body of Mochis, shoemakers 
and saddlers. They are immigrant Mahratas. who, it is 
said, came into Mysore with Khasim Khan, the general 
of Aurangzib. They claim to be Kshatriyas and Rajputs 
— pretensions which are not generally admitted. They 
are shoemakers and saddlers by trade, and are all Saivas 
by faith." " The Mucchi," Mr. A. Chatterton writes,* 
" is not a tanner, and as a leather- worker only enofaofes 
in the higher branches of the trade. Some of them make 
shoes, but draw the line at sandals. A considerable 
number are engaged as menial servants in Government 
offices. Throughout the country, nearly every office has 
its own Mucchi, whose principal duty is to keep in order 
the supplies of stationery, and from raw materials manu- 
facture ink, envelopes and covers, and generally make 
himself useful. A orood manv of the so-called Mucchis. 
however, do not belong to the caste, as very few have 
wandered south of Madras, and they are mostly to 
be found in Ganjam and the Ceded Districts." The 
duties of the office Mucchi have further been summed 
up as " to mend pencils, prepare ink from powders, clean 
ink-bottles, stitch note-books, paste covers, rule forms. 

• Monograph of Tanning and Working in Leather, Madras, 1904. 


and affix stamps to covers and aid the despatch of tappals " 
(postal correspondence). In the Moochee's Hand-book * 
by the head Mucchi in the office of the Inspector-General 
of Ordnance, and contractor for black ink powder, it is 
stated that "the Rev. J. P. Rottler, in his Tamil and 
English dictionary, defines the word Mucchi as signifying 
trunk-maker, stationer, painter. Mucchi's work com- 
prises the following duties: — 

To make black, red, and blue writing ink, also ink of 
other colours as may seem requisite. 

To mend quills, rule lines, make envelopes, mount or 
paste maps or plans on cloth with ribbon edges, pack 
parcels in wax-cloth, waterproof or common paper, seal 
letters, and open boxes or trunk parcels. 

To take charge of boxes, issue stationery for current 
use. and supply petty articles. 

To file ])rinted forms, etc., and bind books." 

In the Fort St. George Gazette, 1906, applications 
were invited from persons who have ])assed the Matricu- 
lation examination of the Madras University for the post 
of Mucchi on Rs. 8 per mensem in the office of a Deputy 
Superintendent of Police. 

In the District Manuals, the various occupations of 
the Mucchis are summed up as book-binding, working in 
leather, making saddles and trunks, ])ainting, making 
toys, and pen-making. At the present day, Mucchis 
(designers) are employed by piece-goods merchants 
in Madras in devising and painting new patterns for 
despatch to Europe, where they are engraved on copper 
cylinders. When, as at the ]:»resent day, the bazars 
of Southern India .are flooded with imported piece- 
goods of British manufacture, it is curious to look back, 

* G. D. lyah Pillay, Madras, 1878. 
V-6 B 


and reflect that the term piece-o-oods was originally- 
applied in trade to the Indian cotton fabrics exported 
to England, 

The term Mucchi is applied to two entirely different 
sets of people. In Mysore and parts of the Ceded 
Districts, it refers to Marathi-speaking workers in leather. 
But it is further applied to Telugu-speaking people, 
called Raju, Jinigara, or Chitrakara, who are mainly 
engaged in painting, making toys, etc., and not in leather- 
work. [See Rachevar.) 

Mucherikala.— Recorded by Mr. F. S. Mullaly* as 
a synonym of a thief class in the Telugu country. 

Mudali. — The title Mudali is used chiefly by the 
offspring of Deva-dasis (dancing-girls), Kaikolans, and 
Vellalas. The Vellalas generally take the title Mudali 
in the northern, and Pillai in the southern districts. By 
some Vellalas, Mudali is considered discourteous, as it 
is also the title of weavers.! Mudali further occurs as 
a title of some Jains, Gadabas, Occhans, Pallis or Vanni- 
yans, and Panisavans. Some Pattanavans style them- 
selves Varunakula Mudali. 

Mudavandi.^The Mudavandis are said J to be " a 
special begging class, descended from Vellala Goundans, 
since they had the immemorial privilege of taking 
possession, as of right, of any Vellala child that was 
infirm or maimed. The Modivandi made his claim by 
spitting into the child's face, and the parents were then 
obliged, even against their will, to give it up. Thence- 
forward it was a Modivandi, and married among them. 
The custom has fallen into desuetude for the last forty 
or fifty years, as a complaint of abduction would entail 

* Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency, 
t Manual of the North Arcot district. 
1 Manual of the Coimbatore district. 


serious consequences. Their special village is Modi- 
vandi Satyamangalam near Erode. The chief Modi- 
vandi, in 1887, applied for sanction to employ peons 
(orderlies) with belts and badges upon their begging tours, 
probably because contributions are less willingly made 
nowadays to idle men. They claim to be entitled to 
sheep and grain from the ryats." 

In a note on the Mudavandis, Mr. F. R. Hemingway 
writes that it is stated to be the custom that children born 
blind or lame in the Konga Vellala caste are handed 
over by their parents to become Mudavandis. If the 
parents hesitate to comply with the custom, the Muda- 
vandis tie a red cloth round the head of the child, and 
the parents can then no longer withhold their consent. 
They have to give the boy a bullock to ride on if he is 
lame, or a stick if he is blind. 

A Revenue Officer writes (1902) that, at the village 
of Andipalayam in the Salem district, there is a class of 
people called Modavandi, whose profession is the 
adoption of the infirm members of the Konga Vellalas. 
Andis are professional beggars. They go about among 
the Konga Vellalas, and all the blind and maimed 
children are pounced upon by them, and carried to their 
village. While parting with their children, the parents, 
always at the request of the children, give a few, some- 
times rising to a hundred, rupees. The infirm never loses 
his status. He becomes the adopted child of the Andi, 
and inherits half of his property invariably. They are 
married among the Andis, and are well looked after. In 
return for their services, the Andis receive four annas a 
head from the Konga Vellala community annually, and 
the income from this source alone amounts to Rs. 6,400. 
A forty-first part share is given to the temple of Arthanar- 
iswara at Trichengodu. None of the Vellalas can refuse 

MUDI 86 

the annual subscription, on j^ain of being placed under 
the ban of social excommunication, and the Andi a\ ill 
not leave the V'ellala's house until the infirm child is 
handed over to him. One Tahsildar (revenue ofl'icer) 
asked himself why the Andi's income should not be liable 
to income-tax, and the Andis were collectively assessed. 
Of course, it was cancelled on appeal. 

Mudi (knot). — An exogamous sept of Mala. 
Mudiya.— 1 he name, derived from mudi, a prepara- 
tion ot tried rice, of a sub-division of Chuditiya. 

Muduvar. — The Muduvars or Mudugars are a tribe 
of hill cultivators in Coimbatore. Madura, ]Malabar, and 
Travancore. For the following note on those who 
inhabit the Cardamom hills, I am indebted to Mr. Aylmer 
Ff. Martin. 

The name of the tribe is usually spelt Muduvar in 
English, and in Tamil pronounced Muthuvar, Muthuvar 
or Muthuvanal. Outsiders som.etimes call the tribe 
Thagappanmargal (a title sometimes used by low -caste 
people in addressing their masters). The Muduvars 
have a dialect of their own, closely allied to Tamil, with 
a few Malayalam words. Their names for males are 
mostly those of Hindu gods and heroes, but Kanjan (dry 
or stingy), Karupu Kunji (black chick), Kunjita (chicken) 
and Kar Megam (black cloud) are distinctive and com- 
mon. For females, the names of goddesses and heroines, 
Karapayi (black), Koopi (sweepings), and Paychi (she- 
devil) are common. Boy twins are invariably Lutchuman 
and Raman, girl twins Lutchmi and Rama}i. Boy and 
orirl twins are named Lutchmanand Ramavi, or Lutchmi 
and Raman. 

The Muduvars do not believe themselves to be indi- 
genous to the hills ; the legend, handed down from 
father to son, is that they originally lived in Madura. 


Owing' to troubles, or a war in which the Pandyan Raja 
of the times was engaged, they fled to the hills. When 
at Bodinayakanur, the pregnant women (or. as some say, 
a pregnant woman) were left behind, and eventually went 
with the offspring to the Nilgiris, while the bulk of the 
tribe came to the High Range of North Travancore. 
There is su])posed to be enmity between these rather 
vague Nilgiri peoj)le and the Muduvars. The Nilgiri 
people are said occasionally to visit Bodinayakanur, but, 
if by chance they are met by Muduvars, there is no speech 
between them, though each is supposed instinctively or 
intuiti\ely to recognise the presence of the other. Those 
that came to the High Range carried their children up 
the ghats on their backs, and it was thereupon decided to 
name the tribe Muduxar, or back people. According to 
another tradition, when the}- left Madura, they carried 
with them on their back the image of the goddess 
Minakshi, and brought it to Neriyamangalam. It is 
stated by Mr. P. E. Conner* that the Muduvars " rank 
high in point of precedency among the hill tribes. They 
were originally Vellalas, tradition representing them as 
having accompanied some of the Madura princes to the 
Travancore hills." The approximate time of the exodus 
from Madura cannot even be guessed by any of the 
tribe, but it was possibly at the time when the Pandyan 
Rajas entered the south, or more probably when the 
Telugu Naickers took possession of Bodinayakanur in 
the fourteenth century. It has also been suggested that 
the Muduvars were driven to the hills by the Muham- 
madan invaders in the latter part of the eighteenth 
century. Judging from the two distinct types of coun- 
tenance, their language, and their curious mixture of 

* M.-idras Journ. Liv. Science, I, 1833. 


customs, I hazard the conjecture that, when they arrived 
on the hills, they found a small tribe in possession, with 
whom they subsequently intermarried, this tribe having 
affinities with the west coast, while the new arrivals were 
connected with the east. 

The tribe is settled on the northern and western 
portion of the Cardamom Hills, and the High Range 
of Travancore, known as the Kanan Devan hills, and 
there is, 1 believe, one village on the Anaimalai 
hills. They wander to some extent, less so now than 
formerly, owing to the establishment of the planting 
community in their midst. The head-quarters at present 
may be said to be on the western slopes of the High 
Range. The present Mel Vaken or headman lives in a 
village on the western slope of the High Range at about 
2,000 feet elevation, but villages occur up to 6,000 feet 
above sea level, the majority of villages being about 
4,000 feet above the sea. The wandering takes place 
between the reaping of the final crop on one piece of 
land, and the sowing of the next. About November 
sees the breaking up of the old village, and February the 
establishment of the new. On the plateau of the High 
Range their dwellings are small rectangular, rather flat- 
roofed huts, made of jungle sticks or grass (both walls 
and root), and are very neat in appearance. On the 
western slopes, although the materials lend themselves 
to even neater building, their houses are usually of a 
rougher type. The meiterials used are the stems and 
leaves of the large-leaved ita (bamboo : Ocklandra 
travancoricd) owing to the absence of grass-land country. 
The back of the house has no wall, the roof sloping on 
to the hillside behind, and the other walls are generally 
made of a rough sort of matting made by plaiting split 
Ita stems. 


Outsiders are theoretically not received into the 
caste, but a weaver caste boy and girl who were starving 
(in the famine of 1877, as far as I can make out), and 
deserted on the hills, were adopted, and, when they 
grew up, were allowed the full privileges of the caste. 
Since then, a ' Thotiya Naicker ' child was similarly 
adopted, and is now a full-blown Muduvar with a 
Muduvar wife. On similar occasions, adoptions from 
similar or higher castes might take place, but the adop- 
tion of Pariahs or low-caste people would be quite 
impossible. In a lecture delivered some years ago by 
Mr. O. H. Bensley, it was stated that the Muduvars 
permit the entry of members of the Vellala caste into 
their community, but insist upon a considerable period 
of probation before finally admitting the *W'Ould-be 
Muduvar into their ranks. 

If any dispute arises in the community, it is referred 
to the men of the village, who form an informal 
panchayat (council), with the eldest or most influential 
man at its head. References are sometimes, but only 
seldom, made to the Muppen, a sort of sub-headman 
of the tribe, except, perhaps, in the particular village in 
which he resides. The office of both Muppen and Mel 
Vaken is hereditary, and follows the marumakkatayam 
custom, i.e., descent to the eldest son of the eldest sister. 
The orders of the panchayat, or of the headman, are not 
enforceable by any specified means. A sort of sending 
a delinquent to Coventry exists, but falls through when 
the matter has blown over. Adjudications only occur 
at the request of the parties concerned, or in the case of 
cohabitation between the prohibited degrees of consan- 
guinity, when, on it becoming known, the guilty pair 
are banished to the jungle, but seem nevertheless to be 
able to visit the village at will. When disputes between 


parties are settled against any one, he may be fined, 
generally in kind — a calf, a cow, a bull, or grain. There 
is no trial by ordeal. Oaths by the accuser, the accused, 
and partisans of both, are freely taken. The form of 
oath is to call upon God that the ])erson swearing, or 
his child, may die within so many days if the oath is 
untrue, at the same time stepping over the Rama kodu, 
which consists of lines drawn on the ground, one line for 
each day. It may consist of any number of lines, but 
three, five, or seven are usual. Increasing the number 
of lines indefinitely would be considered to be trifiing 
with the subject. 

There do not seem to be any good omens, but evil 
omens are numerous. The barking of 'jungle sheep' 
(barking deer) or sambar, the hill robin crossing the 
path when shifting the village, are examples. Oracles, 
magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and especially the evil eye, 
are believed in very firml\-, but are not practiced by 
Muduvars. I was myself supposed to have exercised 
the evil eye at one time. It once became my duty to 
apportion to Muduvars land for their next year's culti- 
vation, and I went round with some of them for this 
purpose, visiting the jungle they wished to clear. A 
particular friend of mine, called Kanjan, asked for a bit 
of secondary growth very close to a cinchona estate ; 
it was, in fact, situated between Lower Nettigudy and 
Upper Nettigudy, and the main road passed quite close. 
I told him that there was no objection, except that it 
was most unusual, and that probably the estate coolies 
would rob the place ; and I warned him \cry distinctly 
that, if evil came of his ch(Mce, he was not to put the 
blame on me. Shortly afterwards I left India, and 
was absent about three months, and, when I returned, 
I found that small-pox had practically wiped out that 


village, thirty-seven out of forty inhabitants having died, 
including Kanjan. I was, of course, very sorry ; but, 
as I found a small bit of the land in question had 
been felled, and there being no claimants, I planted 
it up with cinchona. As the smallpox had visited all 
the Mudu\'ar \-illages, and had spread great havoc 
among them, I w<is not surprised at their being scarce, 
but I noticed, on the few occasions when I did see 
them, that they were alwa\'s running awa)-. When I 
got the opportunity. I cornered a man b\- practicallv 
riding him down, and asked for an explanation. He 
then told me that, of course, the tribe had been sorely 
troubled, because I told Kanjan in so many words that 
evil would come. I had then disappeared (to work my 
magic, no doubt), and returned just in time to take 
that very bit of land for myself. That was nearly five 
years ago, and confidence in me is only now being 
gradually restored. 

The Muduvans have lucky days for starting on a 
journey — 

Monday, start before sunrise. 

Tuesday, start in the forenoon. 

Wednesday start before 7 a.m. 

Thursday, start after eating the morning meal. 

Friday, never make a start ; it is a bad day. 

Saturday and Sunday, start as soon as the sun has risen. 

When boys reach puberty, the parents give a feast 
to the village. In the case of a girl, a feast is likewise 
given, and she occupies, for the duration of the menstrual 
period, a hut set apart for all the women in the village 
to occupy during their uncleanness. When it is over, 
she washes her clothes, and takes a bath, washing her 
head. This is just what every woman of the village 
always does. There is no mutilation, and the girl just 


changes her child's dress for that of a woman. The 
married women of the village assist at confinements. 
Twins bring good luck. Monsters are said to be some- 
times born, bearing the form of little tigers, cows, 
monkeys, etc. On these occasions, the mother is said 
generally to die, but, when she does not die, she is said 
to eat the monster. Monstrosities must anyway be killed. 
Childless couples are dieted to make them fruitful, the 
principal diet for a man being plenty of black monkey, 
and for a woman a compound of various herbs and spices. 
A man may not marry the daughter of his brother 
or sister ; he ought to marry his uncle's daughter, 
and he may have two or three wives, who may or 
may not be sisters. Among the plateau Muduvars, both 
polygamy and polyandry are permitted, the former being 
common, and the latter occasional. In the case of the 
latter, brothers are prohibited from having a common 
wife, as also are cousins on the father's side. In the 
case of polygamy, the first married is the head wife, and 
the others take orders from her, but she has no other 
privileges. If the wives are amicably disposed, they 
live together, but, when inclined to disagree, they are 
given separate houses for the sake of peace and harmony. 
With quarrelsome women, one wife may be in one village, 
and the others in another. A man may be polygamous 
in one village, and be one of a polyandrous lot of men 
a few miles off. On the Cardamom Hills, and on the 
western slopes, where the majority of the tribe live, they 
are monogamous, and express abhorrence of both the 
polygamous and polyandrous condition, though they 
admit, with an affectation of amused disgust, that both 
are practiced by their brethren on the high lands. 

Marriages are arranged by the friends, and more 
often by the cousins on the mother's side of the 


bridegroom, who request the hand of a girl or woman 
from her parents. If they agree, the consent of the most 
remote relatives has also to be obtained, and, if everyone 
is amicable, a day is fixed, and the happy couple leave 
the village to live a few days in a cave by themselves. 
On their return, they announce whether they would like 
to go on with it, or not. In the former case, the man 
publicly gives ear-rings, a metal (generally brass) bangle, 
a cloth, and a comb to the woman, and takes her to his 
hut. The comb is a poor affair made of split ita or 
perhaps of bamboo, but it is the essential part of the 
ceremony. If the probationary period in the cave has 
not proved quite satisfactory to both parties, the marriage 
is put off, and the man and the woman are both at liberty 
to try again with some one else. Betrothal does not exist 
as a ceremony, though families often agree together to 
marry their children together, but this is not binding in 
any way. The tying of the tali (marriage badge) is said 
to have been tried in former days as part of the marriage 
ceremony, but, as the bride always died, the practice 
was discontinued. Remarriage of widows is permitted, 
and the widow by right belongs to, or should be taken 
over by her deceased husband's maternal aunt's son, and 
not, under any circumstances, by any of his brothers. In 
practice she marries almost any one but one of the 
brothers. No man should visit the house of his younger 
brother's wife, or even look at that lady. This prohibi- 
tion does not extend to the wives of his elder brothers, 
but sexual intercourse even here would be incest. The 
same ceremonies are gone through at the remarriage 
of a widow as in an ordinary marriage, the ear-rings 
and bangles, which she discarded on the death of the pre- 
vious husband, being replaced. Widows do not wear a 
special dress, but are known by the absence of jewelry. 


Eloj)ements dccur. WMion a man and woman do not 
obtain the consent of the |)ro})cr parties, they run away 
into the jung-le or a cave, visiting the village frequently, 
and getting grain, etc., from sympathisers. The anger 
aroused by their disgraceful conduct havingsubsided, they 
quietly return to the village, and live as man and wife. 
[It is noted, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, that, 
after a marriage is settled, the bridegroom forcibly takes 
away the maiden from her mother's house when she goes 
out for water or firewood, and lives with her separately for 
a few days or weeks in some secluded part of the forest. 
They then return, unless in the meantime they are 
searched for, and brought back by their relations.] In 
theory, a man may divorce his wife at will, but it is 
scarcely etiquette to do so, exce])t for infidelity, or in the 
case of incompatibility of temper. If he wants to get rid 
of her for less horrible crimes, he can ])alm her off on a 
friend. A woman cannot divorce her husband at all in 
theory, but she can make his life so unbearable that he 
gladly allows her to palm herself off on somebody else. 
Wives who have been divorced marry again freely. 

The tribe follow the west coast or marumakkatayam 
law of inheritance with a slight difference, the property 
descending to an elder or younger sister's son. Property, 
which seldom consists of more than a bill-hook, a blanket, 
and a few cattle, always goes to a nephew, and is not 
divided in any way. 

The tribe ]3rofesses to be Hindu, and the chief gods 
are Panaliandavar (a corruption of Palaniandi) and Kada- 
vallu, who are supposed to live in the Madura temple with 
Minakshiammal and her husband Sokuru. Thev are 
also said to worship Chantiattu Bhagavati and Neriya- 
mangalam Sasta. Suryan (the sun) is a beneficent deity. 
The deities which are considered maleficent are numerous, 


and all require propitiation. This is not very taxing-, as 
a respectful attitude when passing their reputed haunts 
seems to suffice. They are alluded to as Karapu (black 
ones). One in particular is Nyamaru, who lives on 
Nyamamallai, the jungles round which were said to be 
badly haunted. At present they arc flourishing tea 
estates, so Nyamaru has retired to the scrub at the top of 
the mountain. Certain caves are regarded as shrines, 
where spear-heads, a trident or two. and copper coins are 
placed, partly to mark them as holy places, and partly 
as offerings to bring good luck, good health, or good 
fortune. They occur in the most remote spots. The 
only important festival is Thai Pongal, when all who 
visit the village, be they who they may, must be fed. It 
occurs about the middle of January, and is a time of 
feasting and rejoicing. 

The tribe does not employ priests of other castes to 
perform religious ceremonies. Muduvars who are half- 
witted, or it may be eccentric, are recognised as Swamyars 
or priests. If one desires to get rid of a headache or 
illness, the Swamyar is told that he will get four annas 
or so if the complaint is soon removed, but he is not 
expected to perform miracles, or to make any active 
demonstration over the matter. Swamyars who spend 
their time in talking to the sun and moon as their 
brethren, and in supplications to mysterious and unknown 
beings, are the usual sort, and, if they live a celibate life, 
they are greatly esteemed. For those who live princi- 
pally on milk, in addition to practicing the other virtue, 
the greatest reverence is felt. Such an one occurs only 
once or twice in a century. 

The dead are buried lying down, face upwards, and 
placed north and south. The grave has a little thatched 
roof, about six feet by two, put over it. A stone. 


weighing twenty or thirty pounds, is put at the head, 
and a similar stone at the feet. These serve to mark 
the spot when the roof perishes, or is burnt during the 
next grass hre. The depth of the grave is, for a man, 
j\idged sufficient if the gravedigger, standing on the 
bottom, finds the level of the ground up to his waist, 
but, for a woman, it must be up to his armpits. The 
reason is that the surviving women do not like to think 
that they will be very near the surface, but the men 
are brave, and know that, if they lie north and south, 
nothing can harm them, and no evil approach. The 
ghosts of those killed by accident or dying a violent 
death, haunt the spot till the memory of the occurrence 
fades from the minds of the survivors and of succeeding 
generations. These ghosts are not propitiated, but the 
haunted spots are avoided as much as possible. The 
Muduvars share with many other jungle-folk the idea 
that, if any animal killed by a tiger or leopard falls so as 
to lie north and south, it will not be eaten by the beast 
of prey. Nor will it be re-visited, so that sitting over a 
"kill" which has fallen north and south, in the hopes of 
getting a shot at the returning tiger or leopard, is a 
useless proceeding. 

Totemism does not exist, but, in common with other 
jungle tribes, the tiger is often alluded to as jackal. 

Fire is still often made by means of the flint and 
steel, though match-boxes are common enough. Some 
dry cotton (generally in a dirty condition) is placed along 
the flint, the edge of which is struck with the steel. 
The spark generated ignites the cotton, and is carefully 
nursed into flame in dead and dry grass. The Muduvars 
also know how to make fire by friction, but nowadays 
this is very seldom resorted to. A rotten log of a parti- 
cular kind of tree has first to be found, the inside of 


which is in an extremely dry and powdery condition, while 
the outside is still fairly hard. Some of the top of the 
topmost side of the recumbent log having been cut away 
at a suitable place, and most of the inside removed, a 
very hard and pointed bit of wood, is rapidly rotated 
against the inner shell of the log where the powdery 
stuff is likely to ignite, and this soon begins to smoke, 
the fire being then nursed much in the same way as with 
the fire generated by the flint and steel. 

By the men, the languti and leg cloth of the Tamils 
are worn. A turban is also worn, and a cumbly or 
blanket is invariably carried, and put on when it rains. 
[It is noted, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, that 
males dress themselves like the Maravans of the low 
country. A huge turban is almost an invariable portion 
of the toilette. The chief of the Mudavars is known as 
Vakka, without whose consent the head-dress is not to 
be worn.] I have seen a Muduvar with an umbrella. 
Nowadays, the discarded coats of planters, and even 
trousers and tattered riding-breeches are common, and a 
Muduvar has been seen wearing a blazer. The men 
wear ear-rings, supposed to be, and sometimes in reality, 
of gold, with bits of glass of different colours in them, 
and also silver or brass finger and toe rings, and some- 
times a bangle on each arm or on one leg. The women 
go in very largely for beads, strings of them adorning 
their necks, white and blue being favourite colours. 
Rings for the ears, fingers and toes, and sometimes many 
glass bangles on the arms, and an anklet on each leg, 
are the usual things, the pattern of the metal jewelry 
being often the same as seen on the women of the plains. 
The cloth, after being brought round the waist, and 
tucked in there, is carried over the body, and two corners 
are knotted on the right shoulder. Unmarried girls wear 


less jewelry than the married women, and widows wear 
no jewelry till they are remarried, when they can in no 
way be distinguished from their sisters. Tattooing is 
not practiced. Sometimes a stout thread is worn on 
the arm, with a metal cylinder containing some charm 
against illness or the evil eye, but only the wise men or 
elders of the caste lay much store on, or have knowledge 
of these things. 

The Muduvars believe that they were originally culti- 
vators of the soil, and their surroundings and tastes have 
made them become hunters and trappers, since coming 
to the hills. At the present day, they cut down a bit 
of secondary jungle or cheppukad, and, after burning it 
oft, sow ragi (millet), or, where the rainfall is sufficient, 
hill-rice, which is weeded and tended by the women, 
the men contenting themselves by trying to keep out 
the enemies to their crops. After harvest there is not 
much to be done, except building a new village perhaps, 
making traps, and shooting. All they catch is game 
to them, though we should describe some of the ani- 
mals as vermin. They catch rats, squirrels, quail, jungle 
fowl, porcupines, mouse-deer, and fish. They kill, with 
a blowpipe and dart, many small birds. The traps 
in use are varied, but there are three principal ones, 
one of which looks like a big bow. It is fixed upright 
in the ground as a spring to close with a snap a small 
upright triangle of sharp-edged bamboo, to which it is 
connected, and into which any luckless small game may 
have intruded its head, induced to do so by finding 
all other roads closed with a cunningly made fence. 
Another is a bent sapling, from which a loop of twine 
or fibre hangs on what appears to be the ground, but is 
really a little platform on which the jungle fowl treads, 
andj immediately finds itself caught by both legs, and 


hanging in mid-air. The third is very much the same, 
but of stouter build. The loop is upright, and set in a 
hedge constructed for the purpose of keeping the fretful 
porcupine in the path, passing along which the beast 
unconsciously releases a pin, back flieg the sapling, and 
the porcupine is hung. If fouled in any way, he 
generally uses his teeth to advantage, and escapes. The 
Muduvars are also adepts at catching ' ibex ' (wild goat), 
which are driven towards a fence with nooses set in it at 
proper points, which cause the beasts to break their 
necks. Fish are caught in very beautifully constructed 
cruives, and also on the hook, while, on the larger rivers 
below the plateau, the use of the night-line is understood. 
With the gun, sambar, ' ibex, ' barking deer, mungooses, 
monkeys, squirrels, and martens are killed. Besides 
beinsr a orood shot, the Muduvar, when using his own 
powder, takes no risks. The stalk is continued until 
game is approached, sometimes to within a few yards, 
when a charge of slugs from the antiquated match-lock 
has the same effect as the most up-to-date bullet from 
the most modern weapon. Mr. Bensley records how, on 
one occasion, two English planters went out with two 
Muduvars after ' bison.' One of the Muduvars, carrying 
a rifle, tripped, and the weapon exploded, killing one of 
the planters on the spot. The two Muduvars immedi- 
ately took to their heels. The other planter covered 
them with his rifle, and threatened to shoot them if they 
did not return, which they at last did. Mr. Bensley held 
the magisterial enquiry, and the Muduvars were amazed 
at escaping capital punishment. 

In their agricultural operations, the Muduvars are 
very happy-go-lucky. They have no scare-crows to avert 
injury to crops or frighten away demons, but they employ 
many devices for keeping off pigs, sambar, and barking 



deer from their crops, none of which appear to be 
efficacious for long. The implement par excellence of 
the Muduvar is the bill-hook, from which he never parts 
company, and with which he can do almost anything, 
from building a house to skinning a rat, or from 
hammering sheet-lead into bullets to planting maize. 

The bulk of the tribe live on ragi or hill-rice, and 
whatever vegetables they can grow, and whatever meat 
they trap or shoot. They esteem the flesh of the black 
monkey {Semnupithecus johni) above everything, and 
lust after it. I have seen a Muduvar much pulled down 
by illness seize an expiring monkey, and suck the blood 
from its jugular vein. Muduvars will not eat beef, dog, 
jackals, or snakes, but will eat several sorts of lizards, 
and rats, ' ibex, ' and all the deer tribe, fish, fowl, and 
other birds, except kites and vultures, are put into the 
pot. The plateau Muduvars, and those on the eastern 
slopes, will not eat pig in any shape or form. Those on 
the western slopes are very keen on wild pig, and this 
fact causes them to be somewhat looked down upon by 
the others. I think this pork-eating habit is due to the 
absence of sambar or other deer in the heart of the 
forests. Muduvars are fond of alcohol in any shape or 
form. They take a liquor from a wild palm which grows 
on the western slopes, and, after allowing it to become 
fermented, drink it freely. Some members of the tribe, 
living in the vicinity of these palms, are more or less in 
a state of intoxication during the whole time it is in 
season. Their name for the drink is tippily-kal, and 
the palm resembles the kittul {Caryota urens). The 
western slope Muduvars are acquainted with opium 
from the west coast, and some of them are slaves to 
the habit. The Muduvars do not admit that any other 
caste is good enough to eat, drink, or smoke with 


them. They say that, once upon a time, they permitted 
these privileges to Vellalans, but this fact induced so 
many visitors to arrive that they really could not afford 
it any more, so they eat, drink, and smoke with no 
one now, but will give uncooked food to passing 

I have never heard any proverb, song, or folk-tale of 
the Muduvars, and believe the story of their arrival on 
the hills to be their stock tale. They have a story, which 
is more a statement of belief than anything else, that, 
when a certain bamboo below Pallivasal flowers, a son of 
the Maharaja of Travancore turns into a tiger or puli- 
manisan, and devours people. Men often turn into 
puli-manisan owing chiefly to witchcraft on the part of 
others, and stories of such happenings are often told. 
The nearest approach to a proverb I have heard is 
Tingakilamei nalla tingalam, which sounds rather tame 
and meaningless in English, '' On Monday you can eat 
well " — the play on the words being quite lost. 

The Muduvars make a miniature tom-tom by stretch- 
ing monkey skin over a firm frame of split bamboo or 
ita, on which the maker thereof will strum by the hour 
much to his own enjoyment. 

In former days, the whole tribe were very shy of 
strangers, and it is only within the last thirty years that 
they have become used to having dealings with outsiders. 
Old men still tell of the days when robbers from the 
Coimbatore side used to come up, burn the Muduvar 
villages, and carry off what cattle or fowls they could find. 
Even now, there are some of the men in whom this fear 
of strangers seems to be innate, and who have never 
spoken to Europeans. In the women this feeling is 
accentuated, for, when suddenly met with, they make 
themselves scarce in the most surprising way, and find 


cover as instinctively as a quail chick. There are now 
and again men in the tribe who aspire to read, but I do 
not know how far any of them succeed. 

The Muduvars are becoming accustomed to quite 
wonderful things — the harnessing of water which gene- 
rates electricity to work machinery, the mono-rail tram 
which now runs through their country, and, most 
wonderful of all, the telephone. An old man described 
how he would raise envy and wonder in the hearts of his 
tribe by relating his experience. " I am the first of my 
caste to speak and hear over five miles," said he. with 
evident delioht. 

I have alluded to the two different types of counte- 
nance ; perhaps there is a third resulting from a mixture 
of the other two. The first is distinctly aquiline-nosed 
and thin-lipped, and to this type the men generally belong. 
The second is flat-nosed, wide-nostrilled, and thick-lipped, 
and this fairly represents the women, who compare most 
unfavourably with the men in face. I have never seen 
men of the second type, but of an intermediate type they 
are not uncommon. On the Cardamom Hills there may 
still exist a tribe of dwarfs, of which very little is known. 
The late Mr, J. D. Munro had collected a little informa- 
tion about them. Mr. A. W. Turner had the luck to 
come across one, who was caught eating part of a barking 
deer raw. Mr. Turner managed to do a little conver- 
sation with the man by signs, and afterwards he related 
the incident to Srirangam, a good old Muduvar shikari 
(sportsman), who listened thoughtfully, and then asked 
" Did you not shoot him ? " The question put a new 
complexion on to the character of the usually peaceful 
and timid Muduvar. 

I know the Muduvars to be capable of real affection. 
Kanjan was very proud of his little son, and used to make 


plans for wounding an ibex, so that his boy might finish 
it off, and thus become accustomed to shooting. 

In South Coimbatore, "honey-combs are collected 
by Irulas, Muduvars, and Kadirs. The collection is a 
dangerous occupation. A hill-man, with a torch in his 
hand and a number of bamboo tubes suspended from his 
shoulders, descends by means of ropes or creepers to the 
vicinity of the comb. The sight of the torch drives away 
the bees, and he proceeds to fill the bamboos with the 
comb, and then ascends to the top of the rock." * 

Mugi (dumb). — An exogamous sept of Golla. 

Muka.— A sub-division of Konda Razu. 

Muka Dora. — Muka is recorded, in the Madras 
Census Reports, 1891 and 190 1, as a sub-division and 
synonym of Konda Dora, and I am informed that the 
Muka Doras, in Vizagapatam, hold a high position, and 
most of the chiefs among the Konda Doras are Muka 
Doras. Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao, to whom I am indebted 
to the following note, inclines to the opinion that the 
Muka Doras form a caste distinct from the Konda Doras. 
They are traditionally regarded as one of the primitive 
hill tribes, but their customs at the present day exhibit a 
great deal of low-country influence. They speak Telugu, 
their personal names are pure Telugu, and their titles are 
Anna and Ayya as well as Dora. They recognize one 
Vantari Dora of Padmapuram as their head. 

The Muka Doras are agriculturists and pushing petty 
traders. They may be seen travelling about the country 
with pack bullocks at the rice harvest season. They 
irrigate their lands with liquid manure in a manner 
similar to the Kunnuvans of the Palni hills in the Madura 

AgricuU ; Ledger Series, Calcutta, No. 7, 1904. 


They are divided into two sections, viz., Kora- 
vamsam, which reveres the sun, and Naga-vamsam, 
which reveres the cobra, and have further various 
exogamous septs or intiperulu, such as vemu or mm tree 
{JMclia Azadirachtd), chikkudi [Dolichos Lablab), 
velanga {Feroiiia elcpkantum), kakara [Momordica 

Girls are married either before or after puberty. The 
menarikam system is in force, according to which a man 
should marry his maternal uncle's daughter. On an 
auspicious day, some of the elders of the future bride- 
groom's family take a cock or goat, a new cloth for the 
girl's mother, rice and liquor to the girl's house. The 
presents are usually accepted, and the pasupu (turmeric) 
ceremony, practiced by many Telugu castes, is per- 
formed. On an appointed day, the bridegroom's party 
repair to the house of the bride, and bring her in pro- 
cession to the house of the bridegroom. Early next 
morning, the contracting couple enter a pandal (booth), 
the two central pillars of which are made of the neredi 
{^Eugenia Jamboland) and relli (Cassia Fistula) trees. 
The maternal uncle, who officiates, links their little fingers 
together. Their bodies are anointed with castor-oil 
mixed with turmeric powder, and they bathe. New 
cloths are then given to them by their fathers-in-law. 
Some rice is poured over the floor of the house, and the 
bride and bridegroom measure this three times. The 
ends of their cloths are tied together, and a procession 
is formed, which proceeds to the bank of a stream, where 
the bride fetches tooth-cleaning sticks three times, and 
gives them to the bridegroom, who repeats the process. 
They then sit down together, and clean their teeth. 
After a bath in the stream, the ends of their clothes are 
once more tied together, and the procession returns to 


the brideeroom's house. The bride cooks some of the 
rice which has already been measured with water brought 
from the stream, and the pair partake thereof. A caste 
feast, with much drinking, is held on this and the two 
following days. The newly-married couple then proceed, 
in the company of an old man, to the bride's house, and 
remain there from three to five days. If the girl is adult, 
she then goes to the home of her husband. 

When a girl reaches puberty, she is placed apart in 
a room, and sits within a triangular enclosure made 
by means of three arrows stuck in the ground, and con- 
nected together by three rounds of thread. From the 
roof a cradle, containing a stone, is placed. On the last 
day, a twig of the neredi tree is plucked, planted on the 
way to the village stream, and watered. As she passes 
the spot, the girl pulls it out of the ground, and takes it 
to the stream, into which she throws it. She then bathes 

The dead are, as a rule, burnt, and death pollution is 
observed for three days, during which the caste occupa- 
tion is not carried out. On the fourth day, a ceremony, 
called pasupu muttukovadam, or touching turmeric, is 
performed. The relations of the deceased repair to the 
spot where the corpse was burnt, collect the ashes, and 
sprinkle cow-dung, neredi and tamarind water over the 
spot. Some food is cooked, and three handfuls are 
thrown to the crows. They then perform a ceremonial 
ablution. The ceremony corresponds to the chinnarozu, 
or little day ceremony, of the low-country castes. The 
more well-to-do Muka Doras perform the peddarozu, or 
big day ceremony, on the twelfth day, or later on. The 
relations of the deceased then plant a plantain on the 
spot where he was burnt, and throw turmeric, castor-oil, 
and money according to their means. The coins are 


collected, and used for the purchase of materials for 
a feast. 

Mukkara (nose or ear ornament). — An exogamous 
sept of BOya. 

Mukkuvan. — The Mukkuvans are the sea fisher- 
men of the Malabar coast, who are described as follows 
by Buchanan. "•'* " The Mucua, or in the plural Mucuar, 
are a tribe who live near the sea-coast of Malayala, to 
the inland parts of which they seldom go, and beyond 
its limits any v/ay they rarely venture. Their proper 
business is that of fishermen, as palanquin-bearers for 
persons of low birth, or of no caste ; but they serve 
also as boatmen. The utmost distance to which they 
will venture on a voyage is to Mangalore. In some 
places they cultivate the cocoanut. In the southern 
parts of the province most of them have become 
Mussulmans, but continue to follow their usual occupa- 
tions. These are held in the utmost contempt by those 
of the north, who have given up all communication with 
the apostates. Those here do not pretend to be Sudras, 
and readily acknowledge the superior dignity of the 
Tiars. They have hereditary chiefs called Arayan, who 
settle disputes, and, with the assistance of a council, 
punish by fine or excommunication those who transgress 
the rules of the caste. The deity of the caste is the 
goddess Bhadra-Kali, who is represented by a log of 
wood, which is placed in a hut that is called a temple. 
Four times a year the Mucuas assemble, sacrifice a 
cock, and make offerings of fruit to the log of wood. 
One of the caste acts as priest (pujari). They are not 
admitted to enter within the precincts of any of the 
temples of the great gods who are worshipped by the 

Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, 1S07. 


Brahmans ; but they sometimes stand at a distance, and 
send their offerings by more pure hands." 

It is recorded by Captain Hamilton* that he saw "at 
many Muchwa Houses, a square Stake of Wood, with 
a few Notches cut about it, and that Stake drove into the 
Ground, about two Foot of it being left above, and 
that is covered with Cadjans or Cocoanut Tree Leaves, 
and is a Temple and a God to that Family." 

In the Gazetteer of Malabar (1908), the following 
account of the Mukkuvans is given. "A caste, which 
according to a probably erroneous tradition came 
originally from Ceylon, is that of the Mukkuvans, a 
caste of fishermen following marumakkatayam (inheri- 
tance through the female line) in the north, and 
makkattayam (inheritance from father to son) in the 
south. Their traditional occupations also include chunam 
(lime) making, and manchal-bearing (a manchal is a 
kind of hammock slung on a pole, and carried by four 
men, two at each end). In the extreme south of the 
district they are called Arayans, t a term elsewhere 
used as a title of their headmen. North of Cannanore 
there are some fishermen, known as Mugavars or 
Mugayans, who are presumably the same as the 
Mugayars of South Canara. Another account is that 
the Mugayans are properly river-fishers, and the Muk- 
kuvans sea-fishers ; but the distinction does not seem 
to hold good in fact. The Mukkuvans rank below the 
Tiyans and the artisan classes ; and it is creditable to 
the community that some of its members have recently 
risen to occupy such offices as that of Sub-magistrate 
and Sub-registrar. The caste has supplied many 

• A New Account of the East Indies, 1744. 

t I am informed that the Mukkuvans claim to be a caste distinct from 
the Arayans. 


converts to the ranks of Muhammadanism. In North 
Malabar the Mukkuvans are divided into four exoga- 
mous illams, called Ponillam (pon, gold), Chembillam 
(chembu, copper), Karillam, and Kachillam, and are 
hence called Nalillakkar, or people of the four illams ; 
while the South Malabar Mukkuvans and Arayans have 
only the three latter illams, and are therefore called 
Munillakkar, or people of the three illams. There is 
also a section of the caste called Kavuthiyans, who act as 
barbers to the others, and are sometimes called Pani- 
magans (work-children). The Nalillakkar are regarded 
as superior to the Munillakkar and the Kavuthiyans, 
and exact various signs of respect from them. The 
Kavuthiyans, like other barber castes, have special 
functions to perform in connection with the removal 
of ceremonial pollution ; and it is interesting to note 
that sea-water is used in the ritual sprinklings for this 
purpose. The old caste organisation seems to have 
persisted to the present day among the Mukkuvans to an 
extent which can be paralleled amongst few other castes. 
They have assemblies (rajiams) of elders called Kadavans, 
or Kadakkodis, presided over by presidents called 
Arayans or Kama vans, who settle questions of caste 
etiquette, and also constitute a divorce court. The 
position of the Arayans, like that of the Kadavans, is 
hereditary. It is said to have been conferred by the 
different Rajas in their respective territories, with certain 
insignia, a painted cadjan (palm leaf) umbrella, a stick, 
and a red silk sash. The Arayans are also entitled to 
the heads of porpoises captured in their jurisdictions, 
and to presents of tobacco and pan supari when a girl 
attains puberty or is married. Their consent is neces- 
sary to all regular marriages. The Mukkuvans have 
their oracles or seers called Ayittans or Attans ; and, 


when an Arayan dies, these select his successor from his 
Anandravans, while under the influence of the divine 
afflatus, and also choose from among the younger mem- 
bers of the Kadavan families priests called Manakkans 
or Banakkans, to perform puja in their temples. 

*' Fishing is the hereditary occupation of the Mukku- 
vans. Their boats, made of aini {Artoca^'piis hirsuta) or 
manofo wood, and fitted with a mat sail, cost from Rs. 200 
to Rs. 500, and carry a crew of 5 or 8 men according 
to size. Their nets are of all shapes and sizes, ranging 
from a fine net with a f" mesh for sardines and such 
small fry to a stout valiya sravuvala or shark net with a 
6 J" or 7" mesh ; and for a big Badagara boat a complete 
equipment is said to cost Rs. 1,000. The nets are 
generally made of fibre, cotton thread being used only 
for nets with the finest mesh. Salt is not usually carried 
in the boats, and the fish decompose so rapidly in the 
tropical sun that the usual fishing grounds are compara- 
tively close to the shore ; but boats sometimes venture 
out ten, fifteen, or even twenty miles. Shoals of the 
migratory sardine, which are pursued by predaceous 
sharks, kora, and cat-fish, yield the richest harvest of 
fishes great and small to the Mukkuvan. Huge quan- 
tities of mackerel or aila are also caught, and seir, white 
and black pomfret, prawns, whiting, and soles are 
common. The arrival of the boats is the great event of 
the day in a fishing village. Willing hands help to drag 
them up the beach, and an eager crowd gathers round 
each boat, discussing the catch and haggling over the 
price. The pile of fish soon melts away, and a string of 
coolies, each with a basket of fish on his head, starts off 
at a sling trot into the interior, and soon distributes the 
catch over a large area. Relays of runners convey fresh 
fish from Badagara and Tellicherry even as far as the 


Wynaad. All that is left unsold is taken from the boats 
to the yards to be cured under the supervision of the Salt 
Department with Tuticorin salt supplied at the rate of 
lo annas per maund. The fisherman is sometimes also 
the curer, but usually the two are distinct, and the former 
disposes of the fish to the latter 'on fixed terms to a 
fixed customer,' and 'looks to him for support during 
the slack season, the rainy and stormy south-west mon- 
soon.' The salt fish is conveyed by coasting steamers 
to Ceylon, and by the Madras Railway to Coimbatore, 
Salem, and other places. Sardines are the most popular 
fish, and are known as kudumbam pulartti, or the family 
blessing. In a good year, 200 sardines can be had for 
a single pie. Sun-dried, they form valuable manure for 
the coffee planter and the cocoanut grower, and are 
exported to Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, and occa- 
sionally to China and Japan ; and, boiled with a little 
water, they yield quantities of fish oil for export to Europe 
and Indian ports. Salted shark is esteemed a delicacy, 
particularly for a nursing woman. Sharks' fins find a 
ready sale, and are exported to China by way of Bombay. 
The maws or sounds of kora and cat-fishes are dried, 
and shipped to China and Europe for the preparation of 
isinolass."* It will be interesting to watch the effect of 
the recently instituted Fishery Bureau in developing the 
fishing industry and system of fish-curing in Southern 

Mukkuvans work side by side with Mappillas both 
at the fishing grounds and in the curing yards, and the 
two classes will eat together. It is said that, in former 
times, Mappillas were allowed to contract alliances with 
Mukkuva women, and that male children born as a 

• For further details concerning the fisheries and fish-curing operations of the 
West Coast, see Thurston, Madras Museum Bull. Ill, 2, 1900. 


result thereof on Friday were handed over to the Map- 
pilla community. It is recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1891, that "conversion to Islam is common 
among this caste. The converts are called Puislam or 
Putiya Islam* (new Islam). All Puislams follow the 
occupation of fishing. In the northernmost taluks there 
is a rule that Mukkuva females during their periods 
cannot remain in the house, but must occupy the house of 
a Mappilla, which shows that the two castes live on very 
close terms." The fishermen at Tanur are for the most 
part Puislamites, and will not go out fishing on Fridays. 
From a recent note (190S), I gather that the Mukku- 
vas and Puislams of Tanur have been prospering of late 
years, and would appear to be going in for a display 
of their prosperity by moving about arrayed in showy 
shirts, watch-chains, shoes of the kind known as Arabi 
cherippu, etc. This sort of ostentation has evidently not 
been appreciated by the Moplahs, who, it is said, sent 
round the Mukkuva village, known as Mukkadi, some 
Cherumas, numbering over sixty, to notify by beat of 
kerosene tins that any Mukkuva or Puislam who went 
into the Moplah bazaar wearing a shirt or coat or shoes 
would go in peril of his life. Some days after this 
alleged notification, two Mukkuvas and a Mukkuva 
woman complained to the Tirur Sub- Magistrate that 
they had been waylaid by several Moplahs on the public 
road in the Tanur bazaar, and had been severely beaten, 
the accused also robbing the woman of some gold orna- 
ments which were on her person. I am informed that 
Tanur is the only place where this feeling exists. Puis- 
lams and Mappillas settle down together peacefully 
enough elsewhere. 

* Spelt Pusler in a. recent educational report. 


There are two titles in vogue among the Mukkuvans, 
viz., Arayan and Marakkan. Of these, the former is the 
title of the headmen and members of their families, and 
the latter a title of ordinary members of the community. 
The caste deity is said to be Bhadrakali, and the 
Mukkuvans have temples of their own, whereat worship 
is performed by Yogi Gurukkals, or, it is said, by the 
Karanavans of certain families who have been initiated 
by a Yogi Gurukkal. 

At Tellicherry there are two headmen, called Arayan- 
mar, belonging to the Kachillam and Ponillam sections. 
In addition to the headmen, there are caste servants 
called Manakkan. It is stated, in the Manual of the 
South Canara district, that " there is an hereditary 
headman of the caste called the Ayathen, who settles 
disputes. For trifling faults the ordinary punishment is 
to direct the culprit to supply so much oil for lights to 
be burnt before the caste demon." The Velichapads, or 
oracles who become possessed by the spirit of the deity 
among the Mukkuvans, are called Ayathen, which is prob- 
ably an abbreviation of Ayuthathan, meaning a sword or 
weapon-bearer, as the oracle, when under the influence 
of the deity, carries a sword or knife. 

As among other Malayalam castes, Mukkuva girls 
must go through a ceremony before they attain puberty. 
This is called pandal kizhikkal, and corresponds to the 
tali-kettu kalyanam of the other castes. The consent of 
the Arayan is necessary for the performance of this cere- 
mony. On the night previous thereto, the girl is smeared 
with turmeric paste and oil. Early on the following 
morning, she is brought to the pandal (booth), which is 
erected in front of the house, and supported by four 
bamboo posts. She is bathed by having water poured 
over her by girls of septs other than her own. After the 


bath, she stands at the entrance to the house, and a 
Kavuthiyachi (barber woman) sprinkles sea-water over 
her with a tuft of grass i^Cynodon Dactylon). A cloth is 
thrown over her, and she is led into the house. The 
barber woman receives as her fee a cocoanut, some rice, 
and condiments. A tali (marriage badge) is tied on 
the girl's neck by her prospective husband's sister if 
a husband has been selected for her, or by a woman of 
a sept other than her own. The girl must fast until the 
conclusion of the ceremony, and should remain indoors 
for seven days afterwards. At the time of ceremony, 
she receives presents of money at the rate of two vellis 
per family. The Arayan receives two vellis, a bundle of 
betel leaves, areca nuts, and tobacco. 

Girls are married after puberty according to one of 
two forms of rite, called kodi-udukkal (tying the cloth) 
and vittil-kudal. The former is resorted to by the more 
prosperous members of the community, and lasts over 
two days. On the first day, the bridegroom goes to the 
home of the bride, accompanied by his relations and 
friends, and sweets, betel leaves and areca nuts, etc., are 
given to them. They then take their departure, and 
return later in the day, accompanied by musicians, in 
procession. At the entrance to the bride's house they 
stand while someone calls out the names of the eleven 
Arayans of the caste, who, if they are present, come 
forward without a body-cloth or coat. Betel leaves and 
areca nuts are presented to the Arayans or their repre- 
sentatives, and afterwards to the Rajyakkar, or chief 
men of the village. The bridegroom then goes inside, 
conducted by two men belonging to the septs of the 
contracting parties, to the bride's room. The bride- 
groom sits down to a meal with nine or eleven young 
men in a line, or in the same room. On the second day, 


the bride is brought to the pandal. Two persons are 
selected as representatives of the bridegroom and bride, 
and the representative of the former gives thirty-nine 
vellis to the representative of the latter. Some sweet- 
ened water is given to the bridegroom's relations. A 
woman who has been married according to the kodi- 
udukkal rite ties a new cloth round the waist of the 
bride, after asking her if she is willing to marry the 
bridegroom, and obtaining the consent of those assem- 
bled. Sometimes a necklace, composed of twenty-one 
gold coins, is also tied on the bride's neck. At night, the 
bridal couple take their departure for the home of the 
bridegroom. In South Canara, the ceremonial is spread 
over three days, and varies from the above in some 
points of detail. The bridegroom goes in procession to 
the bride's house, accompanied by a Sangayi or Munan 
(best or third man) belonging to a sept other than that 
of the bridal couple. The bride is seated in a room, 
with a lamp and a tray containing betel leaves, areca nuts, 
and flowers. The Sangayi takes a female cloth In which 
some money is tied, and throws it on a rope within the 
room. On the third day, the bride puts on this cloth, 
and, seated within the pandal, receives presents. 

The vittil-kudal marriage rite Is completed in a 
single day. The bridegroom comes to the home of the 
bride, and goes into her room, conducted thither by two 
men belonging to the septs of the contracting couple. 
The newly-married couple may not leave the bride's 
house until the seventh day after the marriage ceremony, 
and the wife is not obliged to live at her husband's 

There is yet another form of alliance called vechchi- 
rukkal, which is an informal union with the consent of 
the parents and the Arayans. It is recorded, in the 


Gazetteer of Malabar, that " amongst Mukkuvas the 
vidaram marriage obtains, but for this no ceremony is 
performed. The vidaram wife is not taken to her 
husband's house, and her family pay no stridhanam. A 
vidaram marriage can at any time be completed, as it 
were, by the performance of the kalyanam ceremonies. 
Even if this be not done, however, a child by a vida- 
ram wife has a claim to inherit to his father in South 
Malabar, if the latter recognises him by paying to the 
mother directly after her delivery a fee of three fanams 
called mukkapanam. A curious custom is that which 
prescribes that, if a girl be married after attaining 
puberty, she must remain for a period in the status of a 
vidaram wife, which may subsequently be raised by the 
performance of the regular kalyanam." 

Divorce is easily effected by payment of a fine, the 
money being divided between the husband or wife as the 
case may be, the temple, the Arayans, and charity. 

A pregnant woman has to go through a ceremony 
called puli or ney-kudi in the fifth or seventh month. A 
ripe cocoanut, which has lost its water, is selected, and 
heated over a fire. Oil is then expressed from it, and 
five or seven women smear the tongue and abdomen of 
the pregnant woman with it. A barber woman is present 
throughout the ceremony. The husband lets his hair 
grow until his wife has been delivered, and is shaved on 
the third day after the birth of the child. At the place 
where he sits for the operation, a cocoanut, betel leaves 
and areca nuts are placed. The cocoanut is broken in 
pieces by some one belonging to the same sept as the 
father of the child. Pollution is got rid of on this day 
by a barber woman sprinkling water at the houses of the 
Mukkuvans. A barber should also sprinkle water at the 
temple on the same day. 


The dead are, as a rule, buried. Soon after death 
has taken place, the widow of the deceased purchases 
twenty-eight cubits of white cloth. A gold ring is put 
into the hand of the corpse, and given to the widow or 
her relations, to be returned to the relations of the dead 
man. The corpse is bathed in fresh water, decorated, 
and placed on a bier. The widow then approaches, and, 
with a cloth over her head, cuts her tali off, and places 
it by the side of the corpse. Sometimes the tali is cut 
off by a barber woman, if the widow has been married 
according to the kodi-udukkal rite. In some places, the 
bier is kept in the custody of the barber, who brings 
it whenever it is required. In this case, the articles 
requisite for decorating the corpse, e.g., sandal paste and 
flowers, are brought by the barber, and given to the son 
of the deceased. Some four or five women belonging to 
the Kadavar families are engaged for mourning. The 
corpse is carried to the burial-ground, where a barber 
tears a piece of cloth from the winding-sheet, and gives 
it to the son. The bearers anoint themselves, bathe in 
the sea, and, with wet cloths, go three times round the 
corpse, and put a bit of gold, flowers, and rice, in its 
nose. The relations then pour water over the corpse, 
which is lowered into the grave. Once more the bearers, 
and the son, bathe in the sea, and go three times round 
the grave. The son carries a pot of water, and, at the 
end of the third round, throws it down, so that it is 
broken. On their return home, the son and bearers are 
met by a barber woman, who sprinkles them with rice 
and water. Death pollution is observed for seven days, 
during which the son abstains from salt and tamarind. 
A barber woman sprinkles water over those under 
pollution. On the eighth, or sometimes the fourteenth 
day, the final death ceremony is performed. Nine or 

117 mundAla 

eleven boys bathe in the sea, and offer food near it. 
They then come to the house of the deceased, and, with 
lamps on their heads, go round seven or nine small heaps 
of raw rice or paddy (unhusked rice), and place the 
lamps on the heaps. The eldest son is expected to 
abstain from shaving his head for six months or a year. 
At the end of this time, he is shaved on an auspicious 
day. The hair, plantains, and rice, are placed in a small 
new pot, which is thrown into the sea. After a bath, 
rice is spread on the floor of the house so as to resemble 
the figure of a man, over which a green cloth is thrown. 
At one end of the figure, a light in a measure is placed. 
Seven or nine heaps of rice or paddy are made, on which 
lights are put, and the son goes three times round, 
throwing rice at the north, south, east, and west corners. 
This brings the ceremonial to a clqse. 

Mulaka {Solanum x ant ho car punt). — A sept of Balija. 
The fruit of this plant is tied to the big toe of Brahman 

Muli. — Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 
1 90 1, as a class of blacksmiths in Ganjam, and stone- 
cutters in Vizagapatam. It is said to be a sub-division 
of Lohara. Muli also occurs as an occupational sub- 
division of Savara. 

Muli Kurava. — A name for Kuravas in Travancore. 

Mullangi (radish). — An exogamous sept of Komati. 

MuUu (thorn). — A gotra of Kurni. Mullu also 
occurs as a sub-division of Kurumba. 

Multani.— A territorial name, meaning a native of 
Multan in the Punjab. They are described, in the 
Mysore Census Report, 1901, as immigrant traders, 
found in the large towns, whose business consists chiefly 
of banking and money-lending. 

Mundala.— A sub-division of Holeya. 


MundapOtho.— Mundapotho (mundo, head ; potho, 
bury) is the name of a class of mendicants who wander 
about Ganjam. and frequent the streets of Jagannath 
(Puri). They try to arouse the sympathy of pilgrims by 
burying their head in the sand or dust, and exposing the 
rest of the body. They generally speak Telugu. 

Mungaru (woman's skirt). — An exogamous sept of 

Muni.— 6>^ Ravulo. 

Munillakkar (people of the three illams). — A section 
of Mukkuvans, which is divided into three illams. 

Munnuti Gumpu. — Recorded, in the Kurnool 
Manual, as "a mixed caste, comprising the illegitimate 
descendants of Balijas, and the male children of dancing- 
girls." It is not a caste name, but an insulting name for 
those of mixed origin. 

Munnuttan (men of the three hundred). — Recorded, 
at times of census, as a synonym of Velan, and sub-caste 
of Panan, among the latter of whom Anjuttan (men of 
five hundred) also occurs. In the Gazetteer of Malabar, 
Munnuttan appears as a class of Mannans, who are 
closely akin to the Velans. In Travancore, Munnutilkar 
is a name for Kumbakonam Vellalas, who have settled 

Muppan.— Muppan has been defined as "an elder, 
the headman of a class or business, one who presides 
over ploughmen and shepherds, etc. The word literally 
means an elder : mukkiradu, to grow old, and muppu, 
seniority." At recent times of census, Muppan has been 
returned as a title by many classes, which include Alavan, 
Ambalakaran, Kudumi, Pallan, Paraiyan and Tandan in 
Travancore, Senaikkudaiyan, Saliyan, Shanan, Sudarman 
and Valaiyan. It has further been returned as a division 
of Konkana Sudras in Travancore. 


During my wanderings in the Malabar Wynad, I 
came across a gang of coolies, working on a planter's 
estate, who called themselves Muppans. They were 
interesting owing to the frequent occurrence among 
them of a very simple type of finger-print impression 

Muppil (chief). — A sub-division of Nayar. 

Murikinadu. — Murikinadu or Murikinati is a terri- 
torial name, which occurs as a division of Telugu Brah- 
mans, and of various Telugu classes, e.g., Kamsala, Mala, 
Mangala, Razu, and Tsakala. 

Muriya.— A small class in Ganjam, who are engaged 
in making a preparation of fried rice (muri) and in 

Muru BalayanOru (three-bangle people). — A sub- 
division of Kappiliyan. 

Musaliar.—- An occupational term, denoting a 
Muhammadan priest, returned at times of census in the 
Tamil country. 

Musari.— A division of Malayalam Kammalans, 
whose occupation is that of brass and copper smiths. 
The equivalent Musarlu occurs among the Telugu 

Mushika (rat). — A gotra of Nagaralu. The rat is 
the vehicle of the Elephant God, Vignesvara or Ganesa. 

Mushtiga.— An exogamous sept of the Gollas, who 
may not use the mushtiga tree [Stiychnos Nux-vomica). 
It also occurs as a synonym of Jetti. 

Mushti Golla. — A class of mendicants, usually of 
mixed extraction. Mushti means alms. 

Mussad. — For the following note on the Mussads 
or Muttatus of Travancore, I am indebted to Mr. 
N. Subramani Aiyar. They are known as Muttatus or 
Mussatus in Travancore and Cochin, and Potuvals (or 

MUSSAD 1 20 

Poduvals) or Akapotuvals in North Malabar. The 
word Muttatu means elder, and is generally taken to 
indicate a community, which is higher than the Ambala- 
vasi castes, as Ilayatu (or Elayad), or younger, denotes 
a sub-caste slightly lower than the Brahmans. In early 
records, the word Mupputayor, which has an identical 
meaning, is met with. Potuval means a common person, 
i.e., the representative of a committee, and a Muttatu's 
right to this name is from the fact that, in the absence 
of the Nambutiri managers of a temple, he becomes 
their agent, and is invested with authority to exercise all 
their functions. The work of an Akapotuval always lies 
within the inner wall of the shrine, while that of the 
Purapotuval or Potuval proper lies outside. The caste- 
men themselves prefer the name Sivadvija or Saivite 
Brahman. A few families possess special titles, such 
as Nambi and Nambiyar. Their women are generally 
known as Manayammamar, mana meaning the house of 
a Brahman. There are no divisions or septs among the 

The origin of the Muttatus, and their place in Malabar 
society, are questions on which a good deal of discussion 
has been of late expended. In the Jatinirnaya, an old 
Sanskrit work on the castes of Kerala attributed 
to Sankaracharya, it is said that the four kinds of 
Ambalavasis, Tantri, Bharatabhattaraka, Agrima, and 
Slaghyavakku, are Brahmans degraded in the Krita, 
Treta, Dvapara, and Kali ages, respectively, and that 
those who were so degraded in the Dvapara Yuga — 
the Agrimas or Muttatus — and whose occupation is to 
cleanse the stone steps of shrines — are found in large 
numbers in Kerala. According to Kerala Mahatmya, 
another Sanskrit work on Malabar history and customs, 
these Muttatus are also known as Sivadvijas, or 


Brahmans dedicated to the worship of Siva, occupying 
a lower position in Malabar society than that of the 
Brahmans. One of them, disguised as a Nambutiri, mar- 
ried a Nambutiri's daughter, but his real status became 
known before the marriage was consummated, and the 
pair were degraded, and allotted a separate place in 
society. This tradition is not necessary to account for 
the present position of the Muttatus in Kerala, as, all 
over India, worship of fixed images was viewed with 
disfavour even in the days of Manu. Worship in Saivite 
temples was not sought by Brahmans, and was even 
considered as despiritualising on account of the divine 
displeasure which may be expected as the result of 
misfeasance. It w^as for a similar reason that the 
Nambiyans of even Vaishnavite temples on the east 
coast became degraded in society. The Illayatus and 
Muttatus have been long known in Malabar as Nyunas 
or castes slightly lower than the Brahmans, and 
Avantaras or castes intermediate between Brahmans and 
Ambalavasis. As, in subsequent days, the Brahmans 
themselves undertook with impunity the priestly pro- 
fession in Hindu temples, Saivite as well as Vaishnavite, 
the Muttatus had to be content with a more lowly 
occupation, viz., that of guarding the temples and images. 
According to Suchindra Mahatmyam, eleven Brahmans 
were ordered by Parasu Rama to partake of the remnants 
of the food offered to Siva, and to bear the Saivite image 
in procession round the shrine on occasions of festivals ; 
and, according to the Vaikam Sthalapuranam, three 
families of Sivadvijas were brought over by the same 
sage from eastern districts for service at that temple. 
Whatever may be said in regard to the antiquity or 
authenticity of many of these Sthalapuranams, corrobo- 
rative evidence of the Brahmanical origin of the Muttatus 


may be amply found in their manners and customs. A 
fresh colony of Sivadvijas is believed to have been 
invited to settle at Tiruvanchikkulam in Cranganore 
from Chidambaram by one of the Perumals of Kerala, 
in connection with the establishment of Saivite temples 
there. They have preserved their original occupation 
faithfully enough down to the present day. 

The houses of Muttatus arc known as illams and 
mattams, the former being the name of all Nambutiri 
houses. They are generally built beside some well- 
known shrine, with which the inmates are professionally 
connected. The dress of both men and women resembles, 
that of the Nambutiri Brahmans, the injunction to cover 
the whole of the body when they go out of doors being 
applicable also to the Manayammamar. Girls before 
marriage wear a ring and kuzal on the neck, and, on 
festive occasions, a palakka ring. The chuttu in the 
ears, and pozhutu tali on the neck are worn only after 
marriage, the latter being the symbol which distinguishes 
married women from widows and maidens. Widows are 
prohibited from wearing any ornament except the chuttu. 
In food and drink the Muttatus are quite like the 

The Muttatus are the custodians of the images, which 
they take in procession, and wash the stone steps leading 
to the inner sanctuary. They live by the naivedya or 
cooked food offering which they receive from the temple, 
and various other emoluments. It may be noted that one 
of the causes of their degradation was the partaking of 
this food, which Brahmans took care not to do. The 
Muttatus are generally well-read in Sanskrit, and study 
astrology, medicine, and sorcery. The social govern- 
ment of the Muttatus rests wholly with the Nambutiris, 
who enforce the smartavicharam or enquiry into a 


suspected case of adultery, as in the case of a Nambutiri 
woman. When Nambutiri priests are not available, 
Muttatus, if learned in the Vedas, may be employed, but 
punyaham, or purification after pollution, can only be 
done by a Nambijtiri. 

Like the Nambutiris, the Muttatus strictly observe 
the rule that only the eldest male member in a family 
can marry. The rest form casual connections with 
women of most of the Ambalavasi classes. They are, 
like the Brahmans, divided into exogamous septs or 
gotras. A girl is married before or after puberty. Poly- 
gamy is not uncommon, though the number of wives is 
never more than four. Widows do not remarry. In 
their marriage ceremonies, the Muttatus resemble the 
Nambutiris, with some minor points of difference. They 
follow two sutras, those of Asvalayana and Baudhayana, 
the former being members of the Rig Veda and the latter 
of the Yajur Veda. The former omit a number of details, 
such as the panchamehani and dasamehani, which are 
observed by the latter. According to a territorial dis- 
tinction, Mussad girls of North Malabar cannot become 
the daughters-in-law of South Malabar families, but girls 
of South Malabar can become the daughters-in-law of 
North Malabar families. 

The Muttatus observe all the religious rites of the 
Nambutiris. The rule is that the eldest son should be 
named after the paternal grandfather, the second after 
the maternal grandfather, and the third after that of the 
father. The upanayana ceremony is celebrated between 
the ages of seven and eleven, and the Gayatri hymn may 
only be repeated ten times thrice daily. In the funeral 
rites, the help of the Maran called Chitikan (a corruption 
of Chaitika, meaning one who is connected with the 
funeral pyre) is sought. Pollution lasts only ten days. 


The Muttatus stand above all sections of the Ambala- 
vasi group, and below every recognised section of the 
Brahman and Kshatriya communities, with whom they 
do not hold commensal relations in any part of Kerala. 
They arc thus on a par with the Illayatus, but the latter 
have their own hierarchy, and lead a social life almost 
independent of the Brahmans. The Muttatus seek their 
help and advice in all important matters. The Muttatus 
are, however, privileged to take their food within the 
nalampalam (tem.ple courts), and the leaf-plates are 
afterwards removed by temple servants. The Ambala- 
vasis do not possess a right of this kind. At Suchindram, 
the Narnbutiri by whom the chief image is served is not 
privileged to give prasada (remains of offerings) to any 
worshipper, this privilege being confined to the Muttatus 
engaged to serve the minor deities of the shrine. The 
washing of the stone steps leading to the inner sanctuary, 
the mandapa, kitchen, feeding rooms, and bali stones, 
both inside and outside the shrine, are done by Muttatus 
at temples with which they are connected. All Ambala- 
vasis freely receive food from Muttatus. 

It is further noted, in the Cochin Census Report, 
1 90 1, that " there is a pithy saying in Malayalam, 
according to which the Muthads are to be regarded as 
the highest of Ambalavasis, and the Elayads as the 
lowest of Brahmans. Considerable difference of opinion 
exists as to the exact social status of Muthads. For, 
while some hold that they are to be regarded as degraded 
Brahmans, others maintain that they are only the highest 
class of Ambalavasis. In the opinion, however, of the 
most learned Vydikan who was consulted on the subject, 
the Muthads are to be classed as degraded Brahmans. 
They are supposed to have suffered social degradation 
by their having tattooed their bodies with figures 


representing the weapons of the god Siva, and partaking 
of the offerings made to that god." 

A correspondent, who has made enquiry into caste 
questions in Malabar, writes to me as follows. There 
are several ways of spelling the name, e.g., Mussu, 
Mussad, and Muttatu. Some people tried to discri- 
minate between these, but I could not work out any 
distinctions. In practice, I think, all the classes noted 
below are called by either name indifferently, and most 
commonly Mussad. There are several classes, viz. : — 

(i) Brahman or quasi- Brahman. 

{a) Ashtavaidyanmar, or eight physicians, are eight 
families of hereditary physicians. They are called Jati- 
matrakaras (barely caste people), and it is supposed that 
they are Nambudiris slightly degraded by the necessity 
they may, as surgeons, be under of shedding blood. 
Most of them are called Mussad, but one at least is called 

(b) Urili Parisha Mussad, or assembly in the village 
Mussad, who are said to be degraded because they 
accepted gifts of land from Parasu Rama, and agreed to 
take on themselves the sin he had contracted by slaying 
the Kshetriyas. This class, as a whole, is called Sapta 
or Saptagrastan. 

(2) Ambalavasi. 

{c) Mussad or Muttatu, — They appear to be 
identical with the Agapothuvals, or inside Pothuvals, as 
distinguished from the Pura, or outside Pothuvals, in 
North Malabar. They are said to be the descendants 
of a Sivadvija man and pure Brahman girl. According 
to another account, they lost caste because they ate rice 
offered to Siva, which is prohibited by one of the ana- 
charams, or rules of conduct peculiar to Kerala. They 


perform various duties in temples, and escort the idol 
when it is carried in procession on an arrangement called 
tadambu, which is like an inverted shield with a shelf 
across it, on which the idol is placed. They wear the 
punul, or sacred thread. 

[d) Karuga Micssad. — So called from the karuga 
grass i^Cynodon DactyIo?i), which is used in ceremonies. 
Their exact position is disputed. They wear the sacred 
thread {cf. Karuga Nambudiris in North Malabar), who 
cook rice for the sradh (memorial ceremony) of Sudras. 
{e) Tirtivalayanath or Kovil [temple) Mussad.— 
They also wear the sacred thread, but perform puja in 
Bhadrakali temples, incidents of which are the shedding of 
blood and use of liquor. They seem to be almost identical 
with the caste called elsewhere Adigal or Pidaran, but, I 
think, Adigals arc a little higher, and do not touch liquor, 
while Pidarans are divided into two classes, the lower of 
which does not wear the thread or perform the actual piija, 
but only attends to various matters subsidiary thereto. 

In an account of the annual ceremony at the Pishari 
temple near Quilandy in Malabar in honour of Bhagavati, 
Mr. F. Fawcett informs us * that the Mussad priests 
repeat mantrams (prayers) over the goats for an hour as 
a preliminary to the sacrifice. Then the chief priest, 
with a chopper-like sword, decapitates the goats, and 
sacrifices several cocks. The Mussads cook some of the 
flesh of the goats, and one or two of the cocks with rice. 
This rice, when cooked, is taken to the kavu (grove) to 
the north of the temple, and there the Mussads again 
ply their mantrams. 

Musu Kamma. — The name of a special ear orna- 
ment worn by the Musu Kamma sub-division of Balijas. 

* Madras Museum Bull., Ill, 3, 1901. 

mlsl; kamma a\x)max. 


In the Salem District Manual, Musuku is recorded as a 
sub-division of this caste. 

Mutalpattukar. — A synonym of Tandan in Travan- 
core, indicating those who received an allowance for the 
assistance they were called on to render to carpenters. 

Mutracha. — Mutracha appears, in published records, 
in a variety of forms, such as Muttaracha, Muttirajulu, 
Muttarasan, and Mutratcha. The caste is known by one 
of these names in the Telugu country, and in the Tamil 
country as Muttiriyan or Palaiyakkaran. 

Concerning the Mutrachas, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes 
as follows.* " This is a Telugu caste most numerous in 
the Kistna, Nellore, Cuddapah, and North Arcot districts. 
The Mutrachas were employed by the Vijayanagar kings 
to defend the frontiers of their dominions, and were 
honoured with the title of paligars {cf. Palaiyakkaran). 
The word Mutracha is derived from the Dravidian roots 
mudi, old, and racha, a king ; but another derivation is 
from Mutu Raja, a sovereign of some part of the Telugu 
country. They eat flesh, and drink liquor. Their titles 
are Dora and Naidu." Mr. Stuart writes further t that 
in the North Arcot district they are " most numerous in 
the Chendragiri taluk, but found all over the district in 
the person of the village taliari or watchman, for which 
reason it is often called the taliari caste. They proudly 
call themselves paligars, and in Chendragiri doralu or 
lords, because several of the Chittoor palaiyams (villages 
governed by paligars) were in possession of members of 
their caste. They seem to have entered the country 
in the time of the Vijayanagar kings, and to have been 
appointed as its kavilgars (watchmen). The caste is 
usually esteemed by others as a low one. Most of its 

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


members are poor, even when they have left the pro- 
fession of taliari, and taken to agriculture. They eat in 
the houses of most other castes, and are not trammelled 
by many restrictions. In Chendragiri they rarely marry, 
but form connections with women of their caste, which 
are often permanent, though not sanctioned by the 
marriage ceremony, and the offspring of such associations 
are regarded as legitimate." 

In the Nellore Manual, the Mutrachasare summed up 
as being hunters, fishermen, bearers, palanquin-bearers, 
and hereditary watchmen in the villages. At times of 
census, Mutracha or Mutarasan has been recorded as 
a sub-division of Urali, and a title of Ambalakkaran. 
Muttiriyan, which is simply a Tamil form of Mutracha, 
appears as a title and sub-division of Ambalakkaran 
{q.v.). Further, Tolagari is recorded as a sub-division 
of Mutracha. The Tolagaris are stated * to be a small 
cultivating caste, who were formerly hunters, like the 
Palayakkarans. Most of the Mutrachas are engaged in 
agriculture. At Paniyam, in the Kurnool district, I 
found some employed in collecting winged white-ants 
{Termites), which they sun-dry, and store in large pots 
as an article of food. They are said to make use of some 
special powder as a means of attracting the insects, in 
catching w^hich they are very expert. 

In some places, the relations between the Mutrachas 
and Gollas, both of which castes belong to the left-hand 
section, are strained. On occasions of marriage among 
the Madigas, some pan-supari (betel leaves and areca 
nuts) is set apart for the Mutrachas, as a mark of respect. 

In consequence of the fact that some Mutrachas have 
been j)etty chieftains, they claim to be Kshatriyas, and 

• Manual of ihe North Arcot district. 


to be descended from Yayathi of the Mahabaratha. 
According to the legend, Devayana, the daughter of 
Sukracharya, the priest of the Daityas (demons and 
giants), went to a well with Charmanishta, the daughter 
of the Daitya king. A quarrel arose between them, and 
Charmanishta pushed Devayana into a dry well, from 
which she was rescued by king Yayathi. Sukracharya 
complained to the Daitya king, who made his daughter 
become a servant to Yayathi 's wife, Devayana. By 
her marriage Devayana bore two sons. Subsequently, 
Yayathi became enamoured of Charmanishta, by whom 
he had an illegitimate son. Hearing of this, Sukracharya 
cursed Yayathi that he should be subject to old age 
and infirmity. This curse he asked his children to take 
on themselves, but all refused except his illegitimate 
child Puru. He accordingly cursed his legitimate sons, 
that they should only rule over barren land overrun by 
Kiratas. One of them, Durvasa by name, had seven 
children, who were specially favoured by the goddess 
Ankamma. After a time, however, they were persu- 
aded to worship Maheswara or Virabhadra instead of 
Ankamma. This made the goddess angry, and she caused 
all flower gardens to disappear, except her own. Flowers 
being necessary for the purpose of w^orship, the perverts 
stole them from Ankamma's garden, and were caught 
in the act by the goddess. As a punishment for their 
sin, they had to lose their lives by killing themselves on 
a stake. One of the seven sons had a child named 
Ravideviraju, which was thrown into a well as soon as 
it was born. The Naga Kannikas of the nether regions 
rescued the infant, and tended it with care. One 
day, while Ankamma was traversing the Naga lokam 
(country), she heard a child crying, and sent her 
vehicle, a jackal (nakka), to bring the child, which, 



however, would not allow the animal to take it. 
The goddess accordingly herself carried it off. The 
child grew up under her care, and eventually had three 
sons, named Karnam Raju, Gangi Raju, and Bhupathi 
Raju, from whom the Mutrachas are descended. In 
return for the goddess protecting and bringing 'up the 
child, she is regarded as the special tutelary deity of the 

There is a saying current among the Mutrachas that 
the Mutracha caste is as good as a pearl, but became 
degraded as its members began to catch fish. According 
to a legend, the Mutrachas, being Kshatriyas, wore the 
sacred thread. Some of them, on their way home after a 
hunting expedition, halted by a pond, and were tempted 
by the enormous number of fish therein to fish for 
them, using their sacred threads as lines. They were 
seen by some Brahmans while thus engaged, and their 
degradation followed. 

In the Telugu country, two divisions, called Paligiri 
and Oruganti, are recognised by the Mutrachas, who 
further have exogamous septs or intipcrulu, of which the 
following are examples : — 

Avula, cow. 

Arigala, a dish carried in 

Busi, dirt. 
Ella, boundary. 
Guvvala, doves. 
India, house, 
iga, fly. 
Koppula, hair-knot. 

Katari, dagger. 
Marri, Ficns ben^alensts. 
Nakka, jackal. 
Puli, tiger. 
Talari, watchman. 
Tota, garden. 
Uyyala, a swing. 
Thumu, iron measure for 
measuring grain. 

During the first menstrual seclusion of a girl, she 
may not have her meals served on a metal plate, but 
uses an earthern cup, which is eventually thrown away. 

131 muttAn 

When she reaches puberty, a girl does up her hair in a 
knot called koppu. 

In the case of confinement, pollution ends on the 
tenth day. But, If a woman loses her infant, especially 
a first-born, the pollution period is shortened, and, at 
every subsequent time of delivery, the woman bathes on 
the seventh or ninth day. Every woman who visits her 
on the bathing day brings a pot of warm water, and pours 
it over her head. 

Muttal (substitute). — A sub-division of Maran. 

Muttan. — In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the 
Muttans are summed up as " a trading caste in Malabar. 
The better educated members of it have begun to claim 
a higher social status than that usually accorded them. 
Formerly they claimed to be Nayars, but recently they 
have gone further, and, in the census schedules, some 
of them returned themselves as Valsyas, and added 
the Vaisya title Gupta to their names. They do not, 
however, wear the sacred thread, or perform any Vedic 
rites, and Nayars consider themselves polluted by their 

It is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, 
under the conjoint heading Muttan and Tarakan, that 
" these two are allied castes, but the latter would 
consider It a disgrace to acknowledge any affinity with 
the former. Tarakan literally means a broker. Dr. 
Gundert says that these were originally warehouse- 
keepers at Palghat. Muttan Is probably from Muttavan, 
an elder. Tarakans have returned Muttan as a sub- 
division, and vice versa, and both appear as sub-divisions 
of Nayar. We have In our schedules instances of 
persons who have returned their caste as Tarakan, but 
with their names Krishna Muttan (male) and Lakshmi 
Chettlchlar (female). A Muttan may, in course of time, 

Y-9 B 

muttAn 132 

become a Tarakan, and then a Nayar. Both these 
castes follow closely the customs and manners of Nayars, 
but there are some differences. I have not, however, 
been able to get at the real state of affairs, as the 
members of the caste are very reticent on the subject, 
and simply assert that they are in all respects the same 
as Nayars. One difference is that a Brahmani does not 
sing at their tali-kettu marriages. Again, instead of 
having a Marayan, Attikurissi, or Elayad as their priest, 
they employ a man of their own caste, called Choratton. 
This man assists at their funeral ceremonies, and purifies 
them at the end of pollution, just as the Attikurissi does 
for Nayars. Kali temples seem to be specially affected 
by this caste, and these Chorattons are also priests 
in these temples. The Muttan and Tarakan castes 
are practically confined to Palghat and Walluvanad 

In a note on some castes in Malabar which are most 
likely of foreign origin, it is stated, in the Gazetteer of 
Malabar, that " this is certainly true of the Muttans, 
who are found only in the Palghat taluk and in the parts 
of Walavanad bordering on it, a part of the country 
where there is a large admixture of Tamils in the popula- 
tion. They are now advancing a claim to be Vaisyas, 
and some of them have adopted the title Gupta which 
is proper to that caste, while a few have the title 
Ezhutacchan. Some Muttans in Palghat are called 
Mannadiars, a title also apparently borne by some 
Taragans. The Muttans follow makkattayam (inherit- 
ance from father to son), and do not enter into the 
loose connections known as sambandhams ; their women 
are called Chettichiars, clearly indicating their eastern 
origin ; and their period of pollution is ten days, according 
to which test they would rank as a high caste. On 


the other hand, they may eat meat and drink Hquor. 
Their purificatory ceremonies are performed by a class 
known as Chorttavans (literally, sprinklers), who are 
said to be identical with Kulangara Nayars, and not 
by Attikurrissi Nayars as in the case with Nambudris, 
Ambalavasis, and Nayars. There is considerable 
antagonism between the Palghat and Walavanad sections 
of the caste. Another caste of traders, which has now 
been practically incorporated in the Nayar body, is the 
class known as Taragans (literally, brokers) found in 
Palghat and Walavanad, some of whom have consider- 
able wealth and high social position. The Taragans 
of Angadippuram and the surrounding neighbourhood 
claim to be immigrants from Travancore, and to be 
descendants of Ettuvittil Pillamar of Ouilon, who are 
high caste Nayars. They can marry Kiriyattil women, 
and their women occasionally have sambandham with 
Samantan Rajas. The Palghat Taragans on the other 
hand can marry only in their caste." 

Muttasari. — Recorded, in the Travancore Census 
Report, 1 90 1, as a name by which Kammalans are 

Muttiriyan. — See Mutracha. 

Mutyala (pearl). — An exogamous sept, and name 
of a sub-division of Balijas who deal in pearls. 
The Ambalakarans say that they were born of the 
sweat (muttu, a pearl or bead of perspiration) of 

Muvvari. — Recorded * as "a North Malabar caste 
of domestic servants under the Embrantiri Brahmans. 
Their customs resemble those of the Nayars, but the 
Elayads and the Marayans will not serve them." 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 

myAsa 134 

Myasa. — Myasa, meaning grass-land or forest, is 
one of the two main divisions, Uru (village) and Myasa, 
of the Bedars and Boyas. Among the Myasa Bedars, 
the rite of circumcision is practiced, and is said to be 
the survival of a custom which originated when they 
were included in the army of Haidar Ali. 

Nadan.— Nadan, meaning ruler of a country or 
village, or one who lives in the country, is a title of 
the Shanans, who, further, call themselves Nadans in 
preference to Shanans. 

Nadava. — " This, " Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,* " is a 
caste of Canarese farmers found only in South Canara, 
The Nadavas have returned four sub-divisions, one of 
which is Bant, and two of the other three are sub-divisions 
of Bants, the most important being Masadi. In the case 
of 33,212 individuals, Nadava has been returned as sub- 
division also. I have no information regarding the 
caste, but they seem to be closely allied to the Bant 
caste, of which Nadava is one of the sub-divisions." 
The name Nadava or Nadavaru means people of the 
nadu or country. It is one of the sub-divisions of the 

Naga (cobra : Naiatripudians). — Nag, Naga, Naga- 
sa, or Nageswara, occurs in the name of a sept or gotra of 
various classes in Ganjam and Vizagapatam, e.g., Aiyara- 
kulu, Bhondari, Bhumia, Bottada, Domb, Gadaba, Konda 
Dora, Medara, Muka Dora, Nagaralu, Omanaito, Poroja, 
Rona, and Samantiya. Members of the Nagabonso 
sept of Odiya claim to be descendants of Nagamuni, 

* Madras Census Report, 189 1. 

135 nagarAlu 

the serpent rishi. Naga is further a gotra or sept of 
Kurnis and Toreyas, of whom the latter, at their wed- 
dings, worship at 'ant ' {Tei^mitcs) hills, which are often 
the home of cobras. It is also a sub-division of Gazula 
Kapus and Koppala Yelamas. Nagavadam (cobra's 
hood) is the name of a sub-division of the Pallis, who 
wear an ornament, called nagavadam, shaped like a cobra's 
head, in the dilated lobes of the ears. Among the 
Viramushtis there is a sept named Naga Mallika 
i^Rhinacanthus communis), the roots of which shrub are 
believed to be an antidote to the bite of poisonous snakes. 
The flowers of CoiLrotipita gtdanensis, which has been 
introduced as a garden tree in Southern India, are 
known as naga linga pu, from the staminal portion of 
the flower which curves over the ovary being likened to a 
cobra's hood, and the ovary to a lingam. 

Nagali (plough). — An exogamous sept of Kapu. 

Nagalika (of the plough). — A name for Lingayats 
eno-aored in cultivation. 

Nagaralu.— 'The Nagaralu are a cultivating caste 
in Vizagapatam, concerning whom it is recorded * that 
" Nagaralu means the dwellers in a nagaram or city, 
and apparently this caste was originally a section of 
the Kapus, which took to town life, and separated itself 
off from the parent stock. They say their original occu- 
pation was medicine, and a number of them are still 
physicians and druggists, though the greater part are 

For the following note, I am indebted to Mr. C. 
Hayavadana Rao. Viziaram Raz, the friend of Bussy, 
conferred mokhasas (grants of land) on some of the 
most important members of the caste, whose descendants 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 



are to be found in various places. The caste is divided 
into three sections or gotras, viz., Nagesvara (cobra), 
Kurmesa (tortoise), and Vignesvara or Mushika (rat). 
The rat is the vehicle of the elephant god Ganesa or 
Vignesvara. It is further divided into exogamous septs 
or intiperulu, such as sampathi (riches), chakravarthi 
(king or ruler), majji, etc. 

The menarikam system, according to which a man 
should marry his maternal uncle's daughter, is in force. 
Girls are usually married before puberty, and a Brahman 
officiates at marriages. The marriage of widows and 
divorce are not permitted. 

The dead are burnt, and the chinna (little) and pedda 
rozu (big day) death ceremonies, whereat a Brahman 
officiates, are celebrated. 

Some members of the caste have acquired a great 
reputation as medicine-men and druggists. 

The usual caste title is Pathrulu, indicating those who 
are fit to receive a gift. 

Nagartha. — Nagarata, Nagarattar, or Nagarakulam 
is returned, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a 
sub-caste of Chetti. In the Census Report, 1891, it is 
recorded that the Nagarattu " hail from Kanchipuram 
(Conjeeveram), where, it is said, a thousand families of 
this caste formerly lived. Their namec;(nagaram, a city) 
refers to their original home. They wear the sacred 
thread, and worship both Vishnu and Siva. They take 
neither flesh nor alcohol. As they maintain that they 
are true Vaisyas, they closely imitate the Brahmanical 
ceremonies of marriage and death. This sub-division 
has a dancing-girl and a servant attached to it, whose 
duties are to dance, and to do miscellaneous work during 
marriages. The caste servant is called Jatipillai (child 
of the caste). 

137 nAga-sr£ni 

Concerning the Nagarthas, who are settled in the 
Mysore Province, I gather * that "the account locally 
obtained connects them with the Ganigas, and the two 
castes are said to have been co-emigrants to Bangalore, 
where one Mallaraje Ars made headmen of the principal 
members of the two castes, and exempted them from the 
house-tax. Certain gotras are said to be common to both 
castes, but they never eat together or intermarry. Both 
call themselves Dharmasivachar Vaisyas, and the feuds 
between them are said to have often culminated in much 
unpleasantness. The Nagarthas are principally found in 
towns and large trade centres. Some are worshippers of 
Vishnu, and others of Siva. Of the latter, some wear the 
linga. They are dealers in bullion, cloth, cotton, drugs, 
and grain. A curious mode of carrying the dead among 
the Namadarior Vaishnavite Nagarthas is that the dead 
body is rolled up in a blanket, instead of a bier or vimana 
as among others. These cremate their dead, whereas the 
others bury them. Marriage must be performed before 
a girl reaches puberty, and widows are not allowed to 
remarry. Polygamy is allowed, and divorce can be for 
adultery alone. It is recorded by Mr. L. Rice f that 
" cases sometimes occur ofaSivachar marrying a Nama- 
dari woman, and, when this happens, her tongue is burned 
with the linga, after which she forsakes her parents' house 
and religion. It is stated that the Sivachar Nagarthas 
never give their daughters in marriage to the Namadari 
sect." Among the gotras returned by the Nagarthas are 
Kasyapa, Chandramauleswara, and Cholendra. 

Naga-sreni.— A fanciful name, meaning those who 
live in the Naga street, used as a caste name by the 
Patramela dancing-girl caste. 

* Mysore Census Reports, 1891, 1901. t Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer. 


Nagavasulu. — The Nagavasulu are described, in 
the Vizagapatam Manual, as "cultivators in the Vizaga- 
patam district. Women who have not entered into 
matrimony earn money by prostitution, and acting 
as dancers at feasts. Some of the caste lead a bad 
life, and are excluded from the body of the caste." In 
the Madras Census Re])ort, 1891, it is stated that 
** Nagavasamu means a company of dancing-girls, and 
the sons of women of this profession frequently call 
themselves Nagavasulu. The bulk of the caste in 
Vizagapatam, however, are said to be respectable 
farmers." It is noted, in the Census Report, 1901, that 
*' most of the Nagavasulu are cultivators, but some of 
the women are prostitutes by profession, and outsiders 
are consequently admitted to the caste. Their title is 

Nagellu (plough). — An exogamous sept of Boya. 

Nagna (naked). — A name for Sanyasis, who go 
about naked. 

Naidu. — Naidu or Nayudu is a title, returned at 
times of census by many Telugu classes, e.^.^ Balija, 
Bestha, Boya, Ekari, Gavara, Golla, Kalingi, Kapu, 
Mutracha. and Velama. A Tamilian, when speaking 
of a Telugu person bearing this title, would call him 
Naicker or Naickan instead of Naidu. 

Naik. — The word Naik (Nayaka, a leader or chief) 
is used, by the older writers on Southern India, in 
several senses, of which the following examples, given 
by Yule and Burnell,* may be cited : — 

(a) Native captain or headman. "II s'appelle Naique, 
qui signifie Capitaine." Barretto, Rel du Prov de 


139 NAIK 

(d) A title of honour among Hindus in the Deccan. 
'' The kings of Deccan also have a custome when they 
will honour a man or rccompcnce their service done, and 
rayse him to dignitie and honour. They give him the 
title of Naygue ". — Linschoten. 

[c) The general name of the kings of Vijayanagara, 
and of the Lords of Madura and other places. "II y a 
plusieurs Naiques au Sud de Saint Thome, qui sont 
Souverains : Le Naigue de Madure on est un ". — 

Naik, Naickan, Naicker, Nayak or Nayakkan has 
been returned, at recent times of census, by the Tamil 
Pallis, Irulas, and Vedans, and also by various Telugu and 
Canarese classes, e.g. : — 

Telugu — Balija, Boya, Kkari, Golla, Kavarai, Mutti- 
riyan, Odde, Tottiyan, and Uppiliyan. 

Canarese — Bedar, Cheptegara, Charodi, Kannadiyan, 
Servegara, Siviyar, and Toreya. Some Jen Kurumbas 
(a jungle folk) in the Wynad are also locally known as 

Tulu — The Mogers, in some parts of South Canara, 
prefer the title Naiker to the ordinary caste title 
Marakaleru, and some Bants have the same title. 

The headman among the Lambadis or Brinjaris is 
called Naik. Naicker further occurs as a hereditary title 
in some Brahman families. I have, for example, heard of 
a Desastha Brahman bearing the name Nyna Naicker. 

Naik, Naiko, or Nayako appears as the title of 
various Oriya classes, e.g., Alia, Aruva, Bagata, Gaudo, 
Jatapu, Odia, Pentiya, Rona, and Teli. It is noted by 
Mr. S. P. Rice that " the Uriya Korono, or head of the 
village, appropriates to himself as his caste distinction 
the title Potonaiko signifying the Naik or head of the 


The name Nayar or Nair is, it may be noted, akin to 
Naik and Naidu, and signifies a leader or soldier.* In 
this connection, Mr. Lewis Moore writes t that " almost 
every page of Mr. Sewell's interesting book on Vijaya- 
nagar { bears testimony to the close connection between 
Yijayanagar and the west coast. It is remarkable that 
Colonel (afterwards Sir Thomas) Munro, in the 
memorandum written by him in 1802 on the poligars 
(feudal chiefs) of the Ceded Districts, when dealing with 
the cases of a number of poligars who were direct 
descendants of men who had been chiefs under the kings 
of Yijayanagar, calls them throughout his report Naigue 
or Nair, using the two names as if they were 

It is noted by Mr. Talboys Wheeler || that, in the 
city of Madras in former days, " police duties were 
entrusted to a Hindu official, known as the Pedda Naik 
or ' elder chief,' who kept a staff of peons, and was 
bound to make good all stolen articles that were not 

In the South Canara district, the name Naikini 
(Naik females) is taken by temple dancing-girls. 

Nainar.— 6"^^ Nayinar. 

Nakash.— A name, denoting exquisite workmanship, 
by which Rachevars or Chitrakaras are known in some 

Nakkala.— Nakkala or Nakka, meaning jackal, has 
been recorded as an exogamous sept of Boya, Gudala, 
Golla, and Mutracha. The jackal is the vehicle of the 
goddess Ankamma, who is the tutelary deity of the 

* Wij^rani : Malabar Law and Customs. t Ibid., 3rd ed., 1905. 

\ A I'orgoUen Empire, Yijayanagar. 

§ Fifth Report of the Committee on the affairs of the East India Comiiany. 
Reprint, Ilifjginbolham, Madras. 

11 College History of India, 1888. 


141 NALKE 

Mutrachas. The name occurs further as a name for the 
Kuruvikkarans, who manufacture spurious jackal horns 
as charms. 

Nali (bamboo tube). — An exogamous sept of 

Nalillakkar (people of the four illams). — A section 
of Mukkuvans, which is divided into four illams. 

Nalke.— The Nalkes or Nalakeyavas are described 
by Mr. H. A. Stuart* as "a caste of mat, basket, 
and umbrella makers, who furnish the devil-dancers, 
who play such an important part in the worship of the 
Tulu people. They have the usual Tulu exogamous 
sub-divisions or balls. They are generally held to be 
Holeyas or Pariahs. In Canarese they are called 

" Every village in Canara," Mr. Stuart writes 
further, t " has its Bhutasthanam or demon temple, in 
which the officiating priest or pujari is usually a man 
of the Billava caste, and shrines innumerable are scat- 
tered throughout the length and breadth of the land 
for the propitiation of the malevolent spirits of deceased 
celebrities, who, in their lifetime, had acquired a more 
than usual local reputation whether for good or evil, or 
had met with a sudden or violent death. In addition to 
these there are demons of the jungle and demons of the 
waste, demons who guard the village boundaries, and 
demons whose only apparent vocation is that of playing 
tricks, such as throwing stones on houses, and causing 
mischief generally. The demons who guard the village 
boundaries seem to be the only ones who are credited with 
even indirectly exercising a useful function. The others 
merely inspire terror by causing sickness and misfortune, 

* Manual of the South Canara district. -f Ikid. 

NALKE 142 

and have to be propitiated by offerings, which often 
involve the shedding of blood, that of a fowl being most 
common. There are also family Bhutas, and in every 
non-Brahman house a room, or sometimes only a corner, 
is set apart for the Bhuta, and called the Bhuta- 
kotya. The Bhutasthanam is generally a small, plain 
structure, 4 or 5 yards deep by 2 or 3 yards wide, with 
a door at one end covered by a portico supported on two 
pillars. The roof is of thatch, and the building is with- 
out windows. In front of it there are usually three or 
four T-shaped pillars. Flowers are placed, and cocoanuts 
broken on them at ceremonies. The temples of the 
more popular Bhutas are often substantial buildings of 
considerable size. Inside the Bhutasthanam there are 
usually a number of images, roughly made in brass, in 
human shape, or resembling animals, such as pigs, tigers, 
fowls, etc. These are brought out and worshipped 
as symbols of the Bhutas on various ceremonial occa- 
sions.* A peculiar small goglet or vase, made of bell- 
metal, into which from time to time water is poured, 
is kept before the Bhutas, and, on special occasions, 
kepula {Ixo7^a coccined) flowers, and lights are placed 
before them. In the larger sthanas a sword is always 
kept near the Bhuta, to be held by the officiating priest 
when he stands possessed and trembling with excitement 
before the people assembled for worship. t A bell or 
gong is also found in all Bhutasthanams. In the case 
of Bhutas connected with temples, there is a place set 
apart for them, called a gudi. The Bhutasthanam of the 
Baiderlu is called a garudi. 

" The names of the Bhutas are legion. One of the 
most dreaded is named Kalkuti. Two others commonly 

• M. J. Walhouse. Journ. Anthrop. Inst., V, 1876. 

t Devil Worship of the Tuluvas, Intl. Ant., XXIII, 1894. 


143 NALKE 

worshipped by the Bants and the Billavas arc Koti 
Baidya and Chennaya Baidya, who always have Billava 
pujaris. These two Bhutas are the departed spirits of 
two Billava heroes. The spirit of Kujumba Kanje, 
a Bant of renown, belongs to this class of Bhutas. 
Amongst the most well known of the others, may be 
mentioned Kodamanitaya and Mundaltaya, and the 
jungle demons Hakkerlu and Brahmerlu. The Holeyas 
worship a Bhuta of their own, who is not recognised 
by any other class of the people. He goes by the name 
of Kumberlu, and the place where he is said to reside 
is called Kumberlu-kotya. Very often a stone of any 
shape, or a small plank is placed on the ground, or fixed 
in a wall, and the name of a Bhuta given to it. Other 
representations of Bhutas are in the shape of an ox 
(Mahlsandaya), a horse (Jarandaya), a pig (Panjurli), or 
a giant (Baiderlu). 

" The Bhuta worship of South Canara is of four 
kinds, viz.. kola, bandi, nema, and agelu-tambila. Kola, 
or devil dancing, is offered to the Bhutas in the sthana 
of the village in which they are supposed to reside. 
The Sudras of the village, and of those adjacent to it, 
assemble near the sthana, and witness the kola ceremony 
in public, sharing the cost of it by subscriptions raised 
among all the Sudra families in the village in which the 
ceremony is held. Bandi is the same as kola, with the 
addition of dragging about a clumsy kind of car, on 
which the Pompada priest representing the Bhuta is 
seated. Nema is a private ceremony in honour of the 
Bhutas, held in the house of anyone who is so inclined. 
It is performed once in ten, fifteen, or twenty years by 
well-to-do Billavas or Bants. The expenses of the nema 
amount to about Rs. 600 or Rs. 700, and are borne by 
the master of the house in which the nema takes place. 

NALKR 144 

During the nema. the Bhutas, i.e., the things represent- 
ing them, are brought from the sthana to the house of 
the man giving the feast, and remain there till it is over. 
Agelu-tambila is a kind of worship offered only to the 
Baiderlu, and that annually by the Billavas only. It 
will be seen that kola, bandi, and nema are applicable 
to all the Bhutas, including the Baiderlu, but that the 
agelu-tambila is applicable only to the Baiderlu." 

The following account of Canara devil-dancers and 
exorcists is given in Mr. Lavie's Manuscript History of 
Canara. " It is their duty to carry a beautiful sword 
with a handsomely curved handle, and polished blade of 
the finest steel. These they shake and flourish about in 
all directions, jumping, dancing, and trembling in a most 
frightful manner. Their hair is loose and flowing, and, 
by their inflamed eyes and general appearance, I should 
suppose that they are prepared for the occasion by 
intoxicating liquids or drugs .... Their power as 
exorcists is exercised on any person supposed to be 
possessed with the devil. I have passed by a house in 
which an exorcist has been exercising his powers. He 
began with groans, sighs, and mutterings, and broke 
forth into low mournings. Afterwards he raised his voice, 
and uttered with rapidity and in a peculiar tone of voice 
certain mantrams or charms, all the while trembling 
violently, and moving his body backwards and forwards." 
The performance (of devil dances) always takes place at 
night, commencing about nine o'clock. At first the 
pujari, with the Bhuta sword and bell in his hands, 
whirls round and round, imitating the supposed mien 
and gestures of the demon. But he does not aspire to 
full possession ; that is reserved for a Pombada or a 
Nalke, a man of the lowest class, who comes forward 
when the Billava pujari has exhibited himself for about 




^v' -■- :.i 


145 NALKE 

half an hour. He is naked save for a waist-band, his 
face is painted with ochre, and he wears a sort of arch 
made of cocoanut leaves, and a metal mask. After 
pacing up and down slowly for some time, he gradually 
works himself up to a pitch of hysterical frenzy, while 
the tom-toms are beaten furiously, and the spectators 
join in raising a long, monotonous howling cry, with 
a peculiar vibration. At length he stops, and every 
one is addressed according to his rank ; if the Pombada 
offends a rich Bant by omitting any of his numerous 
titles, he is made to suffer for it. Matters regarding 
which there is any dispute are then submitted for 
the decision of the Bhuta, and his award is generally 
accepted. Either at this stage or earlier, the demon is 
fed, rice and food being offered to the Pombada, 
while, if the Bhuta is of low degree, flesh and arrack 
(liquor) are also presented. These festivals last for 
several nights, and Dr. Burnell states that the devil- 
dancer receives a fee of eight rupees for his frantic 

Of the three devil-dancing castes found in South 
Canara (Nalke, Parava, and Pompada), the Nalkes are 
apparently the lowest. Even a Koraga considers a 
Nalke or a Parava inferior to him. It is said that, when 
a Parava meets a Koraga, he is expected to raise his 
hand to his forehead. This practice does not, however, 
seem to be observed at the present day. The Nalkes, 
though living amidst castes which follow the aliya- 
santana law of inheritance (in the female line), follow 
the makkalakattu law of inheritance from father to son. 
The caste has numerous balls (septs), which are evi- 
dently borrowed from the Bants and Billavas. As 
examples of these, Salannaya, Bangerannaya, Kundar- 
annaya, and Uppenannayya may be cited. The Nalkes 


NALKE 146 

have a headman called Gurikara, who settles disputes 
and other matters affecting the community, and acts as 
the priest at marriages, death ceremonies, and other 

Girls are married after puberty, and a woman may 
marry any number of times. The marriage ceremony is 
concluded in a single day. The contracting couple are 
seated on planks, and the Gurikara throws coloured rice 
over their heads, and ties a turmeric-dyed string with 
beads strung on it round their necks. Those assembled 
then throw rice over them, their hands are joined by 
the Gurikara or their fathers, and the dhare water is 
poured thereon. 

The dead are either buried or cremated. After 
burial or cremation, a mound (dhupe) is, as among other 
castes in Canara, made over the spot. Round it, four 
posts are stuck in the ground, and decorated so as to 
resemble a small car {cf. Billava). The final death 
ceremonies (uttarakriya) are generally performed on 
the fifth or seventh day. On this day, cooked food is 
offered to the deceased by placing it near the dhupe, 
or on the spot where he breathed his last. This is 
followed by a feast. If the ceremony is not performed 
on one of the recognised days, the permission of some 
Bants or Billavas must be obtained before it can be 
carried out. 

All castes in South Canara have great faith in Bhutas, 
and, when any calamity or misfortune overtakes a family, 
the Bhutas must be propitiated. The worship of 
Bhutas is a mixture of ancestor and devil propitiation. 
In the Bhuta cult, the most important personage is 
Brahmeru, to whom the other Bhutas are subordinate. 
Owing to the influence of Brahman Tantris, Brahmeru 
is regarded as another name for Brahma, and the various 


R.v 8V 

147 NALKE 

Bhutas are regarded as ganas or attendants on Siva. 
Brahmanical influence is clearly to be traced in the 
various Bhuta songs, and all Bhutas are in some manner 
connected with Siva and Parvati. 

Whenever people want to propitiate the Bhutas, a 
Nalke or Parava is engaged. In some places, the Nalke 
disguises himself as any Bhuta, but, where Paravas are 
also to be found, the Nalke may not dress up as the 
Baiderkulu, Kodamanitaya, or Rakteswari. The pro- 
pitiation of the Bhuta takes the form of a ceremony 
called Kola, Nema, or Agelu Tambila. Of these. Kola 
is a periodical ceremony, in which various castes take 
part, and is always performed near a Bhutasthana. 
Nema is usually undertaken by a single family, and is 
performed at the house. Agelu Tambila is celebrated 
by Billavas at their homes. The Kola ceremony is 
usually performed for the propitiation of Bhutas other 
than the Baiderkulu. The Muktesar or chief man, with 
the assistance of a Brahman, fixes an auspicious day for 
its celebration. The jewels, and votive offerings made 
to the Bhutas, are kept in the custody of the Muktesar. 
On the Kola day, the people go in procession from the 
sthana to the Muktesar's house, and return to the sthana 
with the jewels and other articles. These are arranged 
on cots, and a Billava pujari places seven plantain leaves 
in a row on a cot, and heaps rice thereon. On each 
heap, a cocoanut is placed for the propitiation of the most 
important Bhuta. To the minor Bhutas, these things 
are offered on three or five leaves placed on cots, or 
on the floor of the sthana, according to the importance 
of the Bhuta. A seven-branched torch must be kept 
burning near the cot of the principal Bhuta. The pujari 
goes to the courtyard of the sthana, and piles up a 
conical mass of cooked rice on a stool. Over this, 


NALKE 148 

pieces of plantain fruits are scattered. Round the mass, 
several sheaths of plantain leaves are arranged, and on 
them tender cocoanut leaves, cut in various ways, are 
stuck. The pujari, who wears a metal belt and other 
jewelry, does puja to the Bhutas, and retires. The 
Nalkes or Paravas then advance dressed up as Bhutas, 
and request permission to put on their canopy (ani) 
and brass anklet (guggire). They then dance, and 
sing songs connected with the Bhutas which are 
being propitiated. When they are exhausted and 
retire, the pujari steps forwards, and addresses the 
assembly in the following terms : — " Oh ! great men 
who are assembled, with your permission I salute 
you all. Oh ! Brahmans who are assembled, I salute 
you. Oh ! priest, I salute you." In this manner, he is 
expected to run through the names of all important 
personnges who are present. When he has finished, 
the devil-dancers do the same, and the ceremony is at 
an end. 

Of the Bhutas, the best known are Brahmeru, Koda- 
manitaya, Kukkintaya, Jumadi, Sarlu Jumadi, Pancha 
Jumadi, Rakteswari, Panjurli, Kuppe Panjurli, Rakta 
Panjurli, Urundarayya, Hosadevata (or Hosa Bhuta), 
Devanajiri, Kalkutta, Ukkatiri, Gulige, Bobbariya, Nicha, 
Duggalaya, Mahisandaya, Varte, Chamundi, Baideru- 
kulu, Okkuballala, and Oditaya. According to some, 
Jumadi is the small-pox goddess Mari. There are only 
two female Bhutas — Ukkatiri and Kallurti. The Bhutas 
are supposed to belong to different castes. For example, 
Okkuballala and Devanajiri are Jains, Kodamanitaya 
and Kukkinataya are Bants, Kalkutta is a smith, Bob- 
bariya is a Mappilla, and Nicha a Koraga. 

In some temples dedicated to Siva, the Tantris offer 
food, etc., to the various Bhutas on special occasions, 


such as Dipavali and Sankaranthi. At Udipi, the 
Sanyasis of the various mutts (religious institutions) 
seem to believe in some of the Bhutas, as they give 
money for the performance of Kola to Panjurli, Saria 
Jumadi, and Chamundi. 

At Hiriadkap in South Canara, where the Nalkes 
performed before me, the dancers wore spathes of the 
areca palm, forming spats to prevent the skin from 
being injured by the metal bells round their ankles as 
they danced. 

The songs sung by the devil dancers are very numer- 
ous, and vary in different localities. Of the stories 
relating to Bhutas, a very full account has been given 
by Mr. A. C. BurnelL* 

A collection of stories (padanollu) belonging to the 
demon-worshippers of the Tulu country, and recited 
at their annual festivals, was published at the Mangalore 
Basel Mission Press in 1886. 

Nalla (black). — An exogamous sept of Koppala 

Nallur. — Nallur and Naluvitan are recorded, in the 
Travancore Census Report, 1901. as sub-divisions of 

Namadari.— A name, indicating one who wears the 
Vaishnava sectarian mark (namam). 7"he equivalent 
Namala occurs as an exogamous sept of Boya. 

Nambidi. — A class, included among the Ambalavasis. 
It is recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, 
that *' Nampitis are of two classes, the thread-wearing 
and the threadless. The former have their own priests, 
while the Ilayatus perform the required sacerdotal func- 
tions for the latter. Their ceremonies are very much 

» Devil Worship of the Tuluvas. Ind. Ant., XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI, 


like those of the Kshatriyas. Tradition connects them 
with royalty acquired under rather unenviable circum- 
stances. They are, therefore, called Tampurans (lords) 
by the Sudras, and also Muppinnu (elder) or Karanavap- 
pat (uncle) head of a matriarchal family. They observe 
twelve days' pollution, and inherit in the female line. 
Their women are called Mantalu. The chief man among 
the Nampitis is the Karanavappat of Kakkat in British 
Malabar." In the Cochin Census Report, 1901, it is 
noted that of the Nampidis "the Aiynikoor Nampidis, 
or the five families of Nampidis, are historically and 
socially the most important ; the eldest male member 
possesses the honorific title of Karanavarpad, enjoying 
special privileges at the hands of the rulers of Cochin, 
as the members of the family once held responsible 
posts in the militia of the State. According to tradition, 
they were Nambudris. One of the Perumals or Viceroys 
of Kerala having proved troublesome, the Brahmans 
resolved upon his removal. In the struggle that fol- 
lowed, the Perumal was killed by the Brahmans. When 
those who had slain him returned to the place where 
the Brahmans had met in solemn conclave, they were 
gladly welcomed, and asked to sit in their midst ; but, 
feeling that they had committed a heinous crime and 
thus disqualified themselves from sitting along with the 
Brahmans, they volunteered to sit apart on the threshold 
of the council room by saying nam padimel (we on the 
threshold), which fact is supposed to account for the 
origin of their name Nampadi. They and their com- 
panions have since been regarded as having almost lost 
their social status as Brahmans, and they are now classed 
along with the intermediate castes, having but a few 
privileges other than those enjoyed by the group. They 
wear the sacred thread, and have Gayatri. Nambudri 


Brahmans officiate as priests at marriage ceremonies, 
sradhas, and purification at the end of birth or death 
pollution, which lasts only for ten days. They follow 
the marumakkatayam law of inheritance (in the female 
line). The tali (marriage badge) is tied by their 
own caste men. Nambudris, or their own caste men, 
unite themselves in sambandham with Nampidi 
females. Nampidis are allowed to consort with Nayar 
women. At public feasts they are not privileged to 
sit and eat with Nambudris. Their women are called 

Nambiyassan. — A division of the Ambalavasis. It 
is noted, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, that 
" the Nampiassans, otherwise called Nampiyars or 
Nampis, have at present no temple service of any kind. 
They keep gymnasia or schools of training suited to 
the Indian system of warfare. They were the gurus 
(preceptors) of the fighting Nayars. They seem, how- 
ever, at one time to have followed the profession of 
garland-making in temples. It is still the occupation 
of many Nampiassans in Cochin and British Malabar." 
In the Cochin Census Report, 1901, it is stated that 
Nambiyar is rather a misleading title, as it is applied 
to more than one class of people. Some Nayars are 
known by that title. In some places, Muthads and 
Elayads are also called Nambiyars. Chakkiyar Nambi- 
yars beat a drum of a peculiar shape at intervals during 
the discourses or acting of the Chakkiyars, while their 
females, called Nangiyars, keep time. The Nangiyars 
also assume the figure of mythical characters, and perform 
a sort of pantomime on the Chakkiyar's stage. {See 

Nambiyatiri (a person worthy of worship). — A 
synonym of Elayad. 


Nambutiri Brahman.* — The name Nambutiri 
has been variously derived. The least objectionable 
origin seems to be nambu (sacred or trustworthy) and 
tiri (a light). The latter occurs as an honorific suffix 
among Malabar Brahmans, and other castes above the 
Nayars. The Nambutiris form the socio-spiritual aris- 
tocracy of Malabar, and, as the traditional landlords 
of Parasu Rama's land, they are everywhere held in great 

A Nambutiri, when questioned about the past, refers 
to the Keralolpatti. The Nambutiris and their organ- 
ization according to gramams owe their origin in legend, 
so far as Malabar is concerned, to Parasu Rama. Parasu 
Rama (Rama of the axe), an incarnation of Vishnu, had, 
according to the puranic story, slain his mother in a fit 
of wrath, and was advised by the sages to expiate his sin 
by extirpating the Kshatriyas twenty-one times. He 
did so, and handed over the land to the sages. But this 
annoyed the Brahmans exceedingly, for they got no share 
in the arrangement ; so they banished Parasu Rama 
from the land. By the performance of austerities he 
gained from the gods the boon to reclaim some land 
from Varuna, the sea god. Malabar was then non- 
existent. He was allowed to throw his axe from Cape 
Comorin, and possess all the land within the distance of 
his throw. So he threw his axe as far as Gokarnam in 
the South Canara district, and immediately there was land 
between these two places, within the direct line and the 
western ghats, now consisting of Travancore and Cochin, 
Malabar, and part of South Canara. To this land he 

* With the exception of the notes by Mr. Subramani Aiyar, this article is a 
reproduction, with very slight changes, of an account of the Nambiitiris by Mr. F. 
Fawcett, which has already been published in the Madras Bulletin Series (III, I, 


gave the name Karma Bhumi, or the country in which 
salvation or the reverse depends altogether on man's 
individual actions, and blessed it that there be plenty of 
rain and no famine in it. But he was alone. To relieve 
his loneliness, he brought some Brahmans from the 
banks of the Krishna river, but they did not remain long, 
for they were frightened by the snakes, l^hen he 
brought some Brahmans from the north, and, lest they 
too should flee, gave them peculiar customs, and located 
them in sixty-four gramams. He told them also to 
follow the marumakkattayam law of succession (in the 
female line), but only a few, the Nambiitiris of Payya- 
nur, obeyed him. The Brahmans ruled the land with 
severity, so that the people (who had somehow come into 
existence) resolved to have a king under whom they 
could live in peace. And, as it was impossible to choose 
one among themselves, they chose Keya Perumal, who 
was the first king of Malabar, and Malabar was called 
Keralam after him. The truths underlying this legend 
are that the littoral strip between the western ghats and 
the sea is certainly of recent formation geologically. It 
is not very long, geologically, since it was under the sea, 
and it is certain that the Nambutiris came from the 
north. The capital of the Chera kingdom was very 
probably on the west coast not far from Cranganore 
in the Travancore State, the site of it being now called 
Tiruvanjikkulam. There is still a Siva temple there, 
and about a quarter of a mile to the south-west of it 
are the foundations of the old palace. The rainfall of 
Malabar is very high, ranging from 300 inches in the 
hills to about 120 inches on the coast. 

" It is said that Parasu Rama ruled that all Nambudri 
women should carry with them an umbrella whenever 
they go out, to prevent their being seen by those of the 


male sex, that a Nayar woman called a Vrishali should 
invariably precede them, that they should be covered 
with a cloth from neck to foot, and that they should not 
wear jewels. These women are therefore always attended 
by a Nayar woman in their outdoor movements, and 
they go sheltering their faces from public gaze with a 
cadjan (palm leaf) umbrella."* 

The KcM-alolpatti relates the story of the exclusion of 
the Panniyiir Brahmans from the Vedas. There were 
in the beginning two religious factions among the Nam- 
butiris, the Vaishnavas or worshippers of Vishnu in his 
incarnation as a boar, and the Saivas ; the former residing 
in Panniyiir (boar village), and the latter in Chovur 
(Siva's village). The Saivas gained the upper hand, 
and, completely dominating the others, excluded them 
altogether from the Vedas. So now the Nambutiris of 
Panniyiir are said to be prohibited from studying the 
Vedas. It is said, however, that this prohibition is 
not observed, and that, as a matter of fact, the Panniyiir 
Nambutiris perform all the Vedic ceremonies. 

" Tradition," Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes, " as 
recorded in the Keralamahatmiya, traces the Nambiitiris 
to Ahikshetra, whence Parasu Rama invited Brahmans 
to settle in his newly reclaimed territory. In view to 
preventing the invited settlers from relinquishing it, he 
is said to have introduced, on the advice of the sage 
Narada, certain deep and distinctive changes in their 
personal, domestic, and communal institutions. The 
banks of the Nerbudda, the Krishna, and the Kaveri 
are believed to have given Brahmans to Malabar. I 
have come across Nambutiris who have referred to 
traditions in their families regarding villages on the east 

• N. Subramani Aiyar, Malabar Quart. Review, VII, I, 190S. 


coast whence their ancestors originally came, and the 
sub-divisions of the Smarta caste, Vadama, Brihatcha- 
ranam, Ashtasahasram, Sanketi, etc., to which they 
belonged. Even to this day, an east coast Brahman of 
the VadadcsattLi Vadama caste has to pour water into 
the hands of a Nambutiri Sanyasi as part of the latter's 
breakfast ritual. Broach in Kathiwar, one of the greatest 
emporiums of trade in the middle ages, is also mentioned 
as one of the ancient recruiting districts of the Nambutiri 
Brahmans. Broach was the ancient Bhrigucachchha, 
where Parasu Rama made his avabhritasnana (final 
bathing) after his great triumph over the Kshatriyas, 
and where to this day a set of people called Bhargava 
Brahmans live. Their comparatively low social status 
is ascribed to the original sin of their Brahman progeni- 
tor or founder having taken to the profession of arms. 
The date of the first settlement of the Nambutiris is not 
known. Orthodox tradition would place it in the Treta- 
yuga, or the second great Hindu cycle. The reference 
to the gramams of Chovvur and Panniyur contained in 
the Manigramam Syrian Christian grant of the eighth 
century, and its absence in the Jewish, have suggested 
to antiquarians some time between the seventh and 
eighth centuries as the probable period. The writings of 
Ptolemy and the Periplus furnish evidence of Brahman 
settlements on the Malabar coast as early as the first 
century, and it is probable that immigrant Brahman 
families began to pour in with the ascendancy of the 
Western Chalukya kings in the fourth and fifth centuries, 
and became gradually welded with the pre-existing 
Nambutiris. All these Nambutiris were grouped under 
two great sections : — (a) the Vaishnavites or Panniyur 
Gramakkar, who came with the patronage of the 
Vaishnavites of the Chalukya dynasty with the boar as 


their royal emblem ; [d) the Saivites or Chovvur 
Gramakkar, who readily accepted the Saivite teachings 
from the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kings who followed 
the Chalukyans. They included in all sixty-four gramams, 
which, in many cases, were only families. Of these, not 
more than ten belong to modern Travancore. These 
gramams constituted a regular autocracy, with four talis 
or administrative bodies having their head-quarters at 
Cranganore. It appears that a Raja or Perumal, as he 
was called, from the adjoining Chera kingdom, including 
the present districts of Salem and Coimbatore, was, as an 
improved arrangement, invited to rule for aduodecennial 
period, and was afterwards confirmed, whether by the 
lapse of time or by a formal act of the Brahman owners 
it is not known. The Chera Viceroys, by virtue of their 
isolation from their own fatherland, had then to arrange 
for marital alliances being made, as best they could, with 
the highest indigenous caste, the Nambutiris, the males 
consorting with Sudra women. The matriarchal form 
of inheritance was thus a necessary consequence. 
Certain tracts of Kerala, however, continued under direct 
Brahman sovereignty, of which the Ettappalli chief is 
almost the only surviving representative." 

Writing in the eighteenth century, Hamilton ob- 
serves * that " the Nambouries are the first in both 
capacities of Church and State, and some of them are 
Popes, being Sovereign Princes in both." Unlike 
the Brahmans of the remainder of the Madras Presi- 
dency, who so largely absorb all appointments worth 
having under Government, who engage in trade, in, one 
may say, every profitable profession and business, the 
Nambutiris hold almost entirely aloof from what the poet 

* A New Account of the East Indies, 1744. 


Gray calls "the busy world's ignoble strife," and, more 
than any class of Brahmans, retain their sacerdotal 
position, which is of course the highest. They are for 
the most part landholders. A very large portion of 
Malabar is owned by Nambutiris, especially in Wallu- 
vanad, most of which taluk is the property of Nambutiris. 
They are the aristocracy of the land, marked most 
impressively by two characteristics, exclusiveness and 
simplicity. Now and then a Nambutiri journeys to 
Benares, but, as a rule, he stays ai home. Their 
simplicity is really proverbial,* and they have not been 
influenced by contact with the English. 1 his contact, 
which has influenced every other caste or race, has left 
the Nambutiri just where he was before the English 
knew India. He is perhaps, as his measurements seem 
to prove, the truest Aryan in Southern India, and not only 
physically, but in his customs, habits, and ceremonies, which 
are so welded into him that forsake them he cannot if he 
would. It is noted, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that " as 
a class, the Nambudiris may be described as less affected 
than any other caste, except the very lowest, by western 
influences of whatever nature. One Nambudiri is known 
to have accepted a clerical post in Government service ; 
a good many are Adhigaris (village headmen), and one 
member of the caste possesses a Tile-works and is 
partner in a Cotton-mill. The bicycle now claims several 
votaries among the caste, and photography at least one 
other. But these are exceptions, and exceptions which, 
unimportant as they may seem to any one unacquainted 
with the remarkable conservatism of the caste, would 
certainly have caused considerable surprise to the author 
of the first Malabar Manual." 

The Nambutiris everywhere believe that Europeans have tails. 


Concerning the occupations of the Nambutiris, Mr. 
Subramani Aiyar writes that " service in temples, unless 
very remunerative, does not attract them. Teaching as 
a means of living is rank heterodoxy. And, if anywhere 
Manu's dictum to the Brahman * Never serve' is strictly 
observed, it is in Malabar. Judging from the records 
left by travellers, the Nambutiris used to be selected 
by kings as messengers during times of war. Writing 
concerninof them. Barbosa states that " these are the 
messengers who go on the road from one kingdom to 
another with letters and money and merchandise, because 
they pass in safety without any one molesting them, even 
though the king may be at war. These Brahmans are 
well read .... and possess many books, and 
are learned and masters of many arts ; and so the kings 
honour them as such." As the pre-historic heirs to the 
entire land of Kerala, the Nambutiris live on agriculture. 
But inefficiency in adaptation to changing environments 
operates as a severe handicap in the race for pro- 
gressive affluence, for which the initial equipment was 
exceptionally favourable. The difficulties incidental to 
an effete landlordism have contributed to making the 
Nambutiris a litigious population, and the ruinous scale 
of expenditure necessary for the disposal of a girl, be it 
of the most plebeian kind, has brought their general 
prosperity to a very low level. The feeling of responsible 
co-operation on the part of the unmarried males of a 
Nambutiri household in the interests of the family is 
fast decreasing ; old maids are increasing ; and the lot of 
the average Nambutiri man, and more especially woman, 
is very hard indeed. As matters now stand, the tradi- 
tional hospitality of the Hindu kings of Malabar, which, 
fortunately for them, has not yet relaxed, is the only suste- 
nance and support of the ordinary Nambutiri. The 


characteristic features of the Nambutiri are his faith in 
God and resignation to his will, hospitality to strangers, 
scrupulous veracity, punctiliousness as regards the 
ordinances prescribed, and extreme gentility in manners. 
The sustaining power of hib belief in divine providence 
is so ereat, that calamities of whatsoever kind do not 
exasperate him unduly. The story is told with great 
admiration of a Nambutiri who, with his large ancestral 
house on fire, his only son just tumbled into a deep 
disused well, while his wife was expiring undelivered, 
quietly called out to his servant for his betel-box. 
Evening baths, and daily prayers at sunrise, noon and 
sunset, are strictly observed. A tradition, illustrative of 
the miracles which spiritual power can work, is often 
told of the islet in the Vempanat lake known as Patira- 
manal (midnight sand) having been conjured into 
existence by the Tarananallur Nambutiripad, when, during 
a journey to Trivandrum, it was past evening, and the 
prayers to Sandhya had to be made after the usual 
ablutions. To the low^er animals, the attitude of the 
Nambutiri is one of child-like innocence. In his rela- 
tion to man, his guilelessness is a remarkable feature. 
Harshness of language is unknown to the Nambutlris, 
and it is commonly said that the severest expression of 
his resentment at an insult offered is generally that he 
(the Nambutiri) expects the adversary to take back the 
insult a hundred times over. Of course, the modern 
Nambutiri is not the unadulterated specimen of goodness, 
purity, and piety that he once was. But, on the whole, 
the Nambutiris form an interesting community, whose 
existence is indeed a treasure untold to all lovers of 
antiquity. Their present economic condition is, how- 
ever, far from re-assuring. They are no doubt the 
traditional owners of Kerala, and hold in their hands the 


janmom or proprietary interest in a large portion of 
Malabar. But their woeful want of accommodativeness 
to the altered conditions of present day life threatens to be 
their ruin. Their simplicity and absence of business-like 
habits have made them a prey to intrigue, fraudulence, 
and grievous neglect, and an unencumbered and well 
ordered estate is a rarity among Malabar Brahmans, at 
least in Travancore." 

The orthodox view of the Nambiitiri is thus stated 
in an official document of Travancore. "His person 
is holy ; his directions are commands ; his movements 
are a procession ; his meal is nectar ; he is the holiest 
of human beings ; he is the representative of god on 
earth." It may be noted that the priest at the temple 
of Badrinath in Gurhwal, which is said to have been 
established by Sankaracharya, and at the temple at 
Tiruvettiyur, eight miles north of Madras, must be a 
Nambutiri. The birth-place of Sankara has been located 
in a small village named Kaladi in Travancore. It is 
stated by Mr. Subramani Aiyar that " at some part of his 
eventful life, Sankara is believed to have returned to his 
native village, to do the last offices to his mother. Every 
assistance was withdrawn, and he became so helpless that 
he had to throw aside the orthodox ceremonials of crema- 
tion, which he could not get his relations to help him in, 
made a sacrificial pit in his garden, and there consigned 
his mother's mortal remains. The compound (garden) 
can still be seen on the banks of the Periyar river on the 
Travancore side, with a masonry wall enclosing the 
crematorium, and embowered by a thick grove of trees." 

Every Nambutiri is, theoretically, a life-long student 
of the Vedas. Some admit that religious study or 
exercise occupies a bare half hour in the day ; others 
devote to these a couple of hours or more. It is certain 


that every Nambutiri is under close study between the 
ages of seven and fifteen, or for about eight years of his 
Hfe, and nothing whatsoever is allowed to interfere with 
this. Should circumstances compel interruption of Vedic 
study, the whole course is, I believe, re-commenced and 
gone through da capo. A few years ago, a Nambutiri 
boy was wanted, to be informally examined in the matter 
of a dacolty in his father's illam ; but he had to be left 
alone, as, among other unpleasant consequences of 
beinsf treated as a witness, he would have had to besfin 
again his whole course of Vedic study. The Nambutiris 
are probably more familiar with Sanskrit than any other 
Brahmans, even though their scholarship may not be of 
a high order, and certainly none other is to the same 
extent governed by the letter of the law handed down in 

As already said, the Nambutiris are for the most 
part landholders, or of that class. They are also temple 
priests. The rich have their own temples, on which 
they spend much money. All over Malabar there are 
to be seen Pattar Brahmans, wandering here and there, 
fed free at the illams of rich Nambutiris, or at the var- 
ious kovilakams and temples. And they are always to 
be found at important ceremonial functions, marriage 
or the like, which they attend uninvited, and receive a 
small money present (dakshina). But the Nambutiri 
never o-oes anywhere, unless invited. From what I have 
seen, the presents to Brahmans on these occasions are 
usually given on the following scale : — eight annas to 
each Nambutiri, six annas to each Embrantiri, four annas 
to each Pattar Brahman. The Nambutiri is sometimes 
a money-lender. 

Of the two divisions, Nambutiri and Nambutiripad, 
the latter are supposed to be stricter, and to rank higher 



than the former. Pad, meaning power or authority, is 
often used to all Nambutiris when addressing them. 
Thus, some who are called Nambutiripads may really be 
Nambutiris. It may not be strictly correct to divide the 
Nambutiris thus, for neither so-called division is sepa- 
rated from the other by interdiction of marriage. The 
class distinctions are more properly denoted the Adhyan 
and Asyan, of which the former is the higher. An Adhyan 
is never a priest ; he is a being above even such functions 
as are sacerdotal in the temple. But there are also 
divisions according to the number of yagams or sacrifices 
performed by individuals, thus : — Somatiri or Somayaji, 
Akkitiri or Agnihotri, and Adittiri. A man may reach 
the first stage of these three, and become an Addittiripad 
by going through a certain ceremony. At this, three 
Nambutiri Vaidikars, or men well versed in the Vedas, 
must officiate. A square pit is made. Fire raised by 
friction between two pieces of pipal (Ficus religiosd) 
wood with a little cotton is placed in it. This fire is 
called aupasana. The ceremony cannot be performed 
until after marriage. It is only those belonging to 
certain gotras who may perform yagams, and, by so 
doing, acquire the three personal distinctions already 
named. Again, there are other divisions according to 
professions. Thus it is noted, in the Cochin Census 
Report, 1 90 1, that " the Adhyans are to study the Vedas 
and Sastras ; they are prohibited from taking parannam 
(literally meals belonging to another), from taking part 
in the funeral ceremonies of others, and from receiving 
presents. Those who perform the sacrifice of adhana are 
known as Aditiris, those who perform some yaga are 
called Somayagis or Chomatiris, while those who perform 
agni are called Agnihotris or Akkitiris. Only married 
men are qualified to perform the sacrifices. The Nayar 


is an indispensable factor in the performance of these 
sacrifices. The Bhattatiris are to study and teach the 
Sastras ; the Orthikans are to teach the Vedas, and to 
officiate as family priests. The Vadhyans are to teach 
the Vedas, and to supervise the moral conduct of their 
pupils. The Vydikans are the highest authority to 
decide what does or does not constitute violation of caste 
rules, and to prescribe expiatory ceremonies. The 
Smarthas are to study the Smritis and other Sastras 
relating to customs, with the special object of qualifying 
themselves to preside over caste panchayats, or courts, 
and to investigate, under the orders of the sovereign, 
cases of conjugal infidelity arising among the Nambutiris. 
The rulers of Cochin and Travancore issue the writs 
convening the committee in the case of offences committed 
within their territory. The Zamorin of Calicut, and 
other Chiefs or Rajas, also continue to exercise the 
privilege of issuing such orders in regard to cases 
occurring in Malabar. The Tantris officiate as high 
priests in temples. They also practice exorcism. There 
are Adhyans among this class also. Having received 
weapons from Parasu Rama and practiced the art of war, 
the Sastrangakars are treated as somewhat degraded 
Brahmans. They are prohibited from studying the 
Vedas, but are entitled to muthalmura, that is, reading 
the Vedas, or hearing them recited once. Having had 
to devote their time and energy to the practice of the 
art of war, they could not possibly spend their time in 
the study of the Vedas. The Vaidyans or physicians, 
known as Mussads, are to study the medical science, 
and to practice the same. As the profession of a doc- 
tor necessitates the performance of surgical operations 
entailinof the shedding of blood, the Mussads are also consi- 
dered as slightly degraded. They too are entitled only to 



muthalmura. Of these, there are eight families, known 
as Ashta Vaidyans. The Gramanis are alleged to have 
suffered degradation by reason of their having, at the 
command of Parasu Rama, undertaken the onerous duties 
of protecting the Brahman villages, and having had, as 
Rakshapurushas or protectors, to discharge the func- 
tions assigned to Kshatriyas. Ooril Parisha Mussads 
are supposed to have undergone degradation on account 
of their having accepted from Parasu Rama the 
accumulated sin of having killed the warrior Kshatriyas 
thrice seven times, along with immense gifts in the shape 
of landed estates. They are not allowed to read the 
Vedas even once." 

" There are," Mr. Subramani Aiyar writes, " five 
sub-divisions the Nambutiris, which may be 
referred to : — 

(i) TampuTakkal. — This is a corruption of the 
Sanskrit name Samrat, and has probable reference to 
temporal as much as to secular sovereignty. Of the two 
Tampurakkal families in South Malabar, Kalpancheri 
and Azhvancheri, the latter alone now remains. As 
spiritual Samrats (sovereigns) they are entitled to (i) 
bhadrasanam, or the highest position in an assembly, (2) 
brahmavarchasa, or authority in Vedic lore, and con- 
sequent sanctity, (3) brahmasamragyam, or lordship over 
Brahmans, (4) sarvamanyam, or universal acknowledg- 
ment of reverence. Once in six years, the Azhvancheri 
Tampurakkal is invited by the Maharaja of Travan- 
core, who accords him the highest honours, and pays 
him the homage of a sashtanganamaskaram, or prostra- 
tion obeisance. Even now, the Samrats form a saintly 
class in all Malabar. Though considered higher than 
all other sub-divisions of Nambutiris, they form, with 
the Adhyas, an endogamous community. 


(2) Adhyas. — They form eight families, called 
Ashtadhyas, and are said by tradition to be descended 
from the eight sons of a great Brahman sage, who lived 
on the banks of the river Krishna. The fund of accumu- 
lated spirituality inherited from remote ancestors is 
considered to be so large that sacrifices (yagas), as well 
as vanaprastha and sanyasa (the two last stages of the 
Brahman's life), are reckoned as being supererogatory 
for even the last in descent. They are, however, very 
strict in the observance of religious ordinances, and 
constantly engage themselves in the reverent study 
of Hindu scriptures. The Tantris are Adhyas with 
temple administration as their specialised function. 
They are the constituted gurus of the temple priests, 
and are the final authorities in all matters of temple 

(3) Visishta. — These are of two classes, Agnihotris 
and Bhattatiris. The former are the ritualists, and are 
of three kinds : — (i) Akkittiris, who have performed the 
agnichayanayaga, (2) Adittiris, who have done the cere- 
mony of agniadhana, (3) Chomatiris, who have performed 
the soma sacrifice. The Bhattatiris are the philosophers, 
and are, in a spirit of judicious economy, which is the 
characteristic feature of all early caste proscriptions, 
actually prohibited from trenching on the province of the 
Agnihotris. They study tarkka (logic), vedanta (religious 
philosophy or theology), vyakarana (grammar), mimamsa 
(ritualism), bhatta, from which they receive their name, 
and prabhakara, which are the six sciences of the early 
Nambutiris. They were the great religious teachers of 
Malabar, and always had a large number of disciples 
about them. Under this head come the Vadyars or 
heads of Vedic schools, of which there are two, one at 
Trichur in Cochin, and the other at Tirunavai in British 


Malabar ; the six VaicUkas or expounders of the caste 
canons, and the Smartas, who preside at the smarta- 
vicharams or socio-moral tribunals of Brahmanical 

(4) Sd7ndnyas. — They form the Nambutiri prole- 
tariat, from whom the study of the Vedas is all that 
is expected. They take up the study of mantra vada 
(mystic enchantment), puja (temple ritual), and reciting 
the sacred accounts of the Avatara and astrology. 

(5) Jdtimatras. — The eight leading physician 
families of Malabar, or Ashta Vaidyas, are, by an inexcusa- 
ble misuse of language, called Gatimatras or nominal 
Nambutiris. The class of Nambutiris called Yatrakalik- 
kar (a corruption of Sastrakalikkar) also comes under 
this head. They are believed to be the Brahmans, who 
accepted the profession of arms from their great founder. 
Those that actually received the territory from the hands 
of Parasu Rama, called Gramani Nambutiris or Gramani 
Adhyas, are also Gatimatras. They were the virtual 
sovereigns of their respective lands. The physicians, 
the soldiers, and the landed kings, having other duties to 
perform, were not able to devote all their time to Vedic 
recitations. The mutalmura or first study was, of course, 
gone through. In course of time, this fact was unfortu- 
nately taken by the religious conscience of the people to 
lower the Brahmans who were deputed under the scheme 
of Parasu Rama for special functions in the service of 
the nation in the scale of Nambutiri society, and to mean 
a formal prohibition as of men unworthy to be engaged 
in Vedic study. 

Papagrastas are Nambutiris, who are supposed to 
have questioned the divine nature of Parasu Rama. 
The Urilparisha Mussus, who too are Brahmans who 
received gifts of land from Parasu Rama, the Nambitis, 


the Panniyur Gramakkar, and the Payyanur Gramakkar 
or the Ammuvans (uncles), so called from their matri- 
archal system of inheritance, form other sections of 

It is recorded, in the Cochin Census Report, 1901, 
that " certain special privileges in regard to the perform- 
ance of religious rites and other matters of a purely 
social nature serve as the best basis for a sub-division 
of the Nambutiris in the order of social precedence as 
recognised amongst themselves. For this purpose, the 
privileges may be grouped under two main classes, as 
given in the following mnemonic formula : — 


1. Edu (the leaf of a cadjan grandha or book) : 

the right of studying and teaching the Vedas 
and Sastras. 

2. Piccha (mendicancy symbolic of family priests) : 

the right of officiating as family priests. 

3. Othu (Vedas) : the right of studying the 


4. Adukala (kitchen) : the right of cooking for all 

classes of Brahmans. 

5. Katavu (bathing place or ghat) : the right of 

bathing in the same bathing place with other 
Brahmans, or the right of touching after 
bathing, without thereby disqualifying the 
person touched for performing religious 


1. Adu (sheep): the right of performing holy 


2. Bhiksha (receiving alms) : the right of becom- 

ing a Sanyasi. 


3. Santhi (officiating as temple priests) : the right 

of performing priestly functions in temples. 

4. Arangu (stage) : the right of taking part in the 

performance of Sastrangam Nambudris. 

5. Panthi (row of eaters) : the right of messing in 

the same row with other Brahmans. 

Those who enjoy the privilege of No. i in A are 
entitled to all the privileges in A and B ; those enjoying 
No. 2 m A have all the privileges from No. 2 downwards 
in A and B ; those having No. 3 in ^4 have similarly all 
the privileges from No. 3 downwards in A and B, and 
so on. Those entitled to No. i in B have all the 
privileges except No. i in A ; similarly those entitled to 
No. 2 in B have all the privileges from No. 2 downwards 
in B, but only from No. 3 downwards in A, and so on." 

Among the people of good caste in Malabar, to speak 
of one as a hairy man is to speak of him reproachfully. 
Yet, putting aside Muhammadans, the highest of all, the 
Nambutiris are certainly the most hairy. In the young 
Nambutiri, the hair on the head is plentiful, glossy, and 
wavy. The hair is allovv-ed to grow over an oval patch 
from the vertex or a little behind it to a little back from 
the forehead. This is the regular Malabar fashion. 
The hair thus grown is done into a knot hanging over 
the forehead or at one side according to fancy, never 
hanging behind. The rest of the head, and also the face 
is shaved. The whole body, excepting this knot and 
the back, is shaved periodically. Karkkadakam, Kanni, 
Kumbham and Dhanu are months in which shaving 
should be avoided as far as possible. An auspicious day 
is always selected by the Nambutiri for being shaved. 
Gingelly oil (enna) is commonly used for the hair. When 
a Nambutiri 's wife is pregnant, he refrains from the 
barber, letting his hair grow as it will. And, as he may 


have as many as four wives, and he does not shave when 
any of them is in an interesting condition, he some- 
times has a long beard. A marked difference observed 
between the Nambutiri and those allied to him, and the 
lower races, is this. The former have whiskers in the 
shape of a full growth of hair on the cheeks, while in the 
latter this is scanty or entirely absent. Also, while the 
Nambutiris have very commonly a hairy chest, the others 
have little or no hair on the chest. So, too, in the case 
of hair on the arms and legs. One Nambutiri examined 
had hair all over the body, except over the ribs. 

In connection with a hypothesis that the Todas of 
the Niloriris are an offshoot of one of the races now 
existing in Malabar, Dr. W. H. R. Rivers writes as 
follows.* " Of all the castes or tribes of Malabar, the 
Nambutiris perhaps show the greatest number of 
resemblances to the customs of the Todas, and it is 
therefore interesting to note that Mr. Fawcett describes 
these people as the hairiest of all the races of Malabar, 
and especially notes that one individual he examined was 
like a Toda." 

It is noted by Mr. Subramani Aiyar that "the 
Nambutiris are passionate growers of finger-nails, which 
are sometimes more than a foot long, and serve several 
useful purposes. As in everything else, the Nambutiri 
is orthodox even in the matter of dress. Locally- 
manufactured cloths are alone purchased, and Indian 
publicists who deplore the crushing of indigenous indus- 
tries by the importation of foreign goods may congratulate 
the Kerala Brahmans on their protectionist habits. Silk 
and coloured cloths are not worn by either sex. The 
style of dress is peculiar. That of the males is known as 

The Todas, 1906. 


tattutukkuka. Unlike the Nayar dress, which the 
Nambutiris wear during other than religious hours, the 
cloth worn has a portion passing between the thighs and 
tucked in at the front and behind, with the front portion 
arranged in a number of characteristic reduplications. 
The Nambutiri wears wooden shoes, but never shoes 
made of leather. Nambutiri women have two styles of 
dress, viz., okkum koluttum vachchutukkuka for the 
Adhyans, and ngoringutukkuka for ordinary Nambutiris. 
Undyed cloths constitute the daily wearing apparel of 
Nambutiri women. It is interesting to notice that all 
Brahman women, during a yagnam (sacrifice), when, as at 
other ceremonials, all recent introductions are given up 
in favour of the old, wear undyed cloths. Beyond plain 
finger-rings and a golden amulet (elassu) attached to the 
waist-string, the Nambutiri wears no ornaments. His 
ears are bored, but no ear-rings are worn unless he is an 
Agnihotri, when ear-pendants of an elongated pattern 
(kundalam) are used. The ornaments of the Nambutiri 
women have several peculiarities. Gold bracelets are, 
as it were, proscribed even for the most wealthy. 
Hollow bangles of brass or bell-metal for ordinary 
Nambutiris, and of solid silver for the Adhyas, are the 
ones in use. The chuttu is their ear ornament. A 
peculiar necklace called cheru-tali is also worn, and 
beneath this Adhya women wear three garlands of manis 
or gold pieces, along with other jewels called kasumala, 
puttali, and kazhuttila. The Nambutiris do not bore 
their noses or wear nose-rings, and, in this respect, 
present a striking contrast to the Nayar women. 
No restriction, except the removal of the tali, is placed on 
the use of ornaments by Nambutiri women. Tattooing 
is taboo to Nambutiri women. They put on three 
horizontal lines of sandal paste after bathing. These 


marks have, in the case of Adhya women, a crescentic 
shape (ampilikkuri). Kunkuma, or red powder, is never 
appHed by Nambutiri women to the forehead. Turmeric 
powder as a cosmetic wash for the face is also not in 
vogue. Mr. Fawcett states that, on festive occasions, 
turmeric is used by the Brahmans of Malabar. But this 
is not borne out by the usage in Travancore. Eye- 
salves are applied, and may be seen extending as dark 
lines up to the ears on either side." 

The ornaments and marks worn by individual 
Nambutiri males are thus recorded by Mr. Fawcett : — 

(i) Left hand: gold ring with large green stone 
on first finger ; four plain gold rings on third finger ; 
a ring, in which an anavarahan coin is set, on little 
finger. This is a very lucky ring. Spurious imitations 
are often set in rings, but it is the genuine coin which 
brings good luck. Right hand : two plain gold rings, 
and a pavitram on the third finger. The pavitram is 
of about the thickness of an ordinary English wedding 
ring, shaped like a figure of eight, with a dotted 
pattern at each side, and the rest plain. It is made 
of gold, but, as every Nambutiri must wear a pavitram 
while performing or undergoing certain ceremonies, 
those who do not possess one of gold wear one made of 
darbha grass. They do not say so, but I think the ring 
of darbha grass is orthodox. 

(2) Golden amulet-case fastened to a string round 
the waist, and containing a figure (yantram) written 
or marked on a silver plate. He had worn it three 
years, having put it on because he used to feel hot 
during the cool season, and attributed the circumstance 
to the influence of an evil spirit. 

(3) Youth, aged 12. Wears a yak skin sash, an 
inch wide, over the left shoulder, fastened at the ends by 


a thong of the same skin. He put it on when he was 
seven, and will wear it till he is fifteen, when he will 
have completed his course of Vedic study. A ring, 
hanging to a string in front of his throat, called modiram, 
was put on in the sixth month when he was named, and 
will be worn until he is fifteen. The ears are pierced. 
He wears two amulets at the back, one of gold, the 
other of silver. In each are some chakrams (Travancore 
silver coins), and a gold leaf, on which a charm is 
inscribed. One of the charms was prepared by a 
Mappilla, the other by a Nambutiri. 

(4) Black spot edged with yellow in the centre of the 
forehead. Three horizontal white stripes on the forehead. 
A dab on each arm, and a stripe across the chest. 

(5) Black spot near glabella, and two yellow 
horizontal stripes near it. The same on the chest, with 
the spot between the lines. 

(6) Red spot and white stripe on the forehead. 
A red dab over the sternum, and on each arm in front 
of the deltoid. 

(7) An oval, cream-coloured spot with red centre, 
an inch in greatest length, over the glabella. 

The stripes on the forehead and chest are generally 
made with sandal paste. Rudraksha (nuts <d{ EIcbo carpus 
Ganitrus) necklaces, mounted in gold, are sometimes 

The thread worn by men over the left shoulder is 
made of a triple string of country-grown cotton, and, 
unlike other Brahmans of Southern India, no change 
is made after marriage. It may be changed on any 
auspicious day. Brahmans of Southern India outside 
Malabar change their thread once a year. 

Concerning the habitations of the Nambutiris, Mr. 
Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. " A Nambutiri's 


house stands within a compound (grounds) of its own. 
Each house has its own name, by which the members 
are known, and is called by the generic title of illam, the 
term used by Brahmans, or mana, which is the reverential 
expression of Sudras and others. Sometimes the two 
words are found combined, e.g., Itamana illam. In the 
compound surrounding the house, trees such as the 
tamarind, mango, and jak, grow in shady luxuriance. 
The area of the compound is very extensive ; in fact, no 
house in Malabar is surrounded by a more picturesque or 
more spacious garden than that of the Nambutiri. Plan- 
tains of all varieties are cultivated, and yams of various 
kinds and peas in their respective seasons. A tank (pond) 
is an inseparable accompaniment, and, in most Nambutiri 
houses, there are three or four of them, the largest being 
used for bathing, and the others for general and kitchen 
purposes. Whenever there is a temple of any importance 
near at hand, the Nambutiri may prefer to bathe in the 
tank attached to it, but his favourite ghat is always the 
tank near his home, and owned by him. Wells are 
never used for bathing, and a hot-water bath is avoided 
as far as possible, as plunging in a natural reservoir 
would alone confer the requisite ablutional purity. 
Towards the north-west corner of the house is located 
the sarpakkavu or snake abode, one of the indispensables 
of a Malabar house. The kavu is either an artificial 
jungle grown on purpose in the compound, or a relic of the 
unreclaimed primeval jungle, which every part of Malabar 
once was. Right in the centre of the kavu is the carved 
granite image of the cobra, and several flesh-and-blood 
representatives of the figure haunt the house, as if in 
recognition of the memorial raised. In the centre of the 
compound is situated the illam or mana, which is in most 
cases a costly habitat. All the houses used until recently 


to be thatched as a protection against the scorching heat 
of the tropical sun, which a tiled house would only 
aggravate. In form the house is essentially a square 
building, consisting of several courtyards in the centre, 
with rooms on all sides. On the east or west of the 
courtyard, a room having the space of two ordinary rooms 
serves as a drawing room and the dormitory of the 
unmarried members of the house. The rest of the house 
is zenana to the stranger. Right on the opposite side of 
the visitor's room, beyond the central courtyard, is the 
arappura, of massive wood- work, where the valuables are 
preserved. On either side of this are two rooms, one of 
which serves as a storehouse, and the other as a bed- 
room. The kitchen adjoins the visitor's room, and is 
tolerably spacious. In the front, which is generally the 
east of the house, is a spacious yard, square and flat, and 
leading to it is a flight of steps, generally made of granite. 
These steps lead to a gate-house, where the servants of the 
house keep watch at night. The whole house is built of 
wood, and substantially constructed. Though the houses 
look antiquated, they have a classical appearance all 
their own. To the north-east is the gosala, where large 
numbers of oxen and cows are housed. The furniture of 
a Nambutiri is extremely scanty. There are several cots, 
some made of coir (cocoanut fibre), and others of wooden 
planks. The kurmasana is the Nambutiri's devotional 
seat, and consists of a jak {Artoca7'pzcs integrifolia) plank 
carved in the form of a tortoise. Other seats, of a round 
or oblong shape, are also used, and no Brahman addresses 
himself to his meal without being seated on one of them. 
Every Brahman visitor is offered one, and is even pressed 
to sit on it. When the writer went to a Brahman house 
at Kalati, the native village of Sankaracharya, and wished 
the hosts not to trouble themselves about a seat for 


him, he was told that the contact of a Brahman's nates 
with the floor was harmful to the house. Hansfino- cots, 
attached to the ceiling by chains of iron, are common 
things in a Nambutiri's house, especially in the bed- 
rooms. Skins of spotted deer, used to sit on during 
prayers, also form part of the Nambutiri's furniture." 

The Nambutiris follow the makkatayam law of inherit- 
ance from father to son ; not, however, precisely as 
do the other people who do so. Nor is their system 
of inheritance the same as that of Brahmans to the 
eastward {i.e., of Southern India generally), with whom 
the family property may be divided up amongst the 
male members at the instance of any one of them. 
The Nambutiri household is described by Mr. Subra- 
mani Aiyar as representing a condition intermediate 
between the impartible matriarchal form of the Nayars 
and the divided patriarchal form of the other coast. 
Among the Nambutiris, the eldest male member of the 
family is the Karanavan or manager of it, and has 
complete control over all the property. The younger 
members of the family are entitled to nothing but 
maintenance. The head of the family may be a female, 
provided there is none of the other sex. The eldest 
son alone marries. The accepted practice, as well as 
the recognised principle among the Nambutiris, seems 
to be in consonance with the directions expounded by 
Manu, viz. — 

Immediately on the birth of his first-born, a man is 
the father of a son, and is free from the debt to the 
manes. That son is, therefore, worthy to receive the 
whole estate. 

That son alone, on whom he throws his debt, is 
begotten for (the fulfilment of) the law. All the rest 
they consider the offspring of desire. 


As a father supports his sons, so let the eldest 
support his younger brothers, and so let them, in accord- 
ance with the law, behave towards their eldest brother 
as sons behave towards their father. 

Should a Nambutiri eldest son die, the next mar- 
ries, and so on. Women join the family of their husband, 
and to this too her children belong. Self-acquired 
property, that is property acquired by any junior member 
of the family through his own efforts outside the tara- 
vad,* lapses to the taravad at his death, unless he has 
disposed of it in his lifetime. This is the custom, which 
our law has not yet infringed. The taravad is the unit, 
and, as the senior male succeeds to the management, 
it may happen that a man's sons do not succeed directly 
as his heirs. The arrangement is an excellent one for 
the material prosperity of the family, for there is no 
dispersion. Every circumstance tends towards aggran- 
dizement, and the family is restricted to no more than 
a requisite number by one member only marrying, and 
producing children. Impartibility is the fundamental 
principle. It is seldom that a Nambutiri family comes to 
an end ; and such a thing as a Nambutiri's estate escheat- 
ing to Government has been said on eminent authority 
never to have been known. It happens sometimes that 
there is no male member to produce progeny, and in 
such a case the sarvasvadanam marriage is performed, 
by which a man of another family is brought into the 
family and married to a daughter of it, who, after the 
manner of the " appointed daughter " of old Hindu law, 
hands on the property through her children. 1 he man 
so brought in is henceforth a member of the family which 
he has joined, and as such he performs the sraddha or 

• Taravad or tarwad : a marumakkatayam family, consisting of all the 
descendants in the female line of one common female ancestor. 



ceremonies to the dead. An exception to the general 
rule of inheritance is that seventeen families of Pa)annur 
in North Malabar follow the marumakkattayam system 
of inheritance, through the female line. The other 
Nambutiris look askance at these, and neither marry nor 
dine with them. It is supposed that they are not pure 
bred, having Kshatriya blood in their veins. 

Adoption among the Nambutiris is stated by 
Mr. Subramani Aiyar to be of three kinds, called Pattu 
kaiyyal dattu, Chanchamata dattu, and Kutivazhichcha 
dattu. " The first is the orthodox form. Pattukai means 
ten hands, and indicates that five persons take part in the 
ceremony, the two natural parents, the two adopted 
parents, and the son to be adopted. The gdtra and sutra 
of the natural family have to be the same as those of the 
adoptive family. The son adopted may have had his 
upanayanam already performed by his natural ]:»arents. 
An adoption of this kind cannot be made without the 
permission of all the male members of the family, ot the 
Sapindas or Samanodakas who are distinct blood relations, 
though some degrees removed. In the second form, the 
adoption relieves the adopted son of all ceremonial 
duties towards the natural parents. Involving, as it 
does, a position contrary to the established ordinances 
of Sankaracharya, this kind of adoption is not in favour. 
The third form is still less orthodox. The adoption is 
made by a surviving widow, and mainly serves to keep 
up the lineage." 

Liquor and flesh are strictly forbidden to rhe 
Nambutiris. Their staple food is rice and curry. Upperi 
is a curry of chopped vegetables fried in ghi (clarified 
butter), cocoanut or gingelly oil, seasoned with gingelly 
{Sesamiitn indicwn), salt, and jaggery (crude sugar). 
Aviyal is another, composed of jak fruit mixed with some 



vegetables. Sweets are sometimes eaten. Candied 
cakes of wheat or rice, and rice boiled in milk with sugar 
and spices, are delicacies. Papadams (wafer-like cakes) 
are eaten at almost every meal. The Nambutiri must 
bathe, and pray to the deity before partaking of any meal. 
An offering of rice is then made to the household fire, 
some rice is thrown to the crows, and he sits down to eat. 
The food is served on a plantain leaf or a bell-metal plate. 
It should be served by the wife ; but, if a man has other 
Nambutiris dining with him, it is served by men or chil- 
dren. The sexes feed separately. Before a man rises 
from his meal, his wife must touch the leaf or plate on 
which the food has been served. The reason may lie 
in this. The remains of the food are called echchil, and 
cannot be eaten by any one. Just before finishing his 
meal and rising, the Nambutiri touches the plate or leaf 
with his left hand, and at the same time his wife touches 
it with her right hand. The food is then no longer 
echchil, and she may eat it. The Nambutiri householder 
is said to be allowed by the Sastras, which rule his life 
in every detail, to eat but one meal of rice a day — at 
midday. He should not, strictly speaking, eat rice in 
the evening, but he may do so without sinning heinously, 
and usually does. Fruit only should be eaten in the 
evening. Women and children eat two or three times 
in a day. A widow, however, is supposed to lead the 
life of a Sanyasi, and eats only once a day. A Nambutiri 
may eat food prepared by an east country Brahman 
(Pattar), or by an Embrantiri. In fact, in the large 
illams, where many people are fed every day, the cooks 
are generally Pattars in South Malabar. The Nambutiri 
woman is more scrupulous, and will not touch food pre- 
pared by any one of a caste inferior to her own, as the 
Pattar is considered to be. Tea and coffee are objected 


to. The Sastras do not permit their use. At the same 
time, they do not prohibit them, and some Nambutiris 
drink both, but not openly. Persons observing vows are 
not allowed an oil bath, to eat off bell-metal plates, or 
to eat certain articles of food. The gourd called chura- 
khai, palmyra fruit, and palmyra jaggery are taboo to the 
Nambutiri at all times. Water-melons are eaten regu- 
larly during the month Karkkataka, to promote health 
and prolong life. 

In connection with the Nambutiri's dietary, Mr. 
Subramani Aiyar states that " their food is extremely 
simple. As Camoens writes : * 

To crown their meal no meanest life expires. 
Pulse, fruit, and herb alone their food requires. 

" Ghi is not in a great requisition, Gingelly oil 
never enters the kitchen. Milk is not taken except as 
porridge, which goes by the name of prathaman (first). 
A bolus-like preparation of boiled rice-flour with cocoa- 
nut scrapings, called kozhakkatta, is in great favour, 
and is known as Parasu Rama's palaharam, or the 
light refreshment originally prescribed by Parasu Rama. 
Conji, or rice gruel, served up with the usual accessories, 
is the Nambutiri's favourite luncheon. Cold drinks are 
rarely taken. The drinking water is boiled, and flavoured 
with coriander, cummin seeds, etc., to form a pleasant 

The horse is a sacred animal, and cannot be kept. 
The cow, buffalo, dog, and cat are the animals ordinarily 
kept in domestication ; and it is said that a parrot is 
sometimes taught to repeat Sanskrit slokas. 

There are families, in which the business of the 
magician and sorcerer is hereditary, chiefly in South 

* The Liisiad. 
V-I2 E 


Malabar and among the Chela * Nambutiris, as those 
are termed who, in the turbulent period of Tippu's inva- 
sion, were made Muhammadans by force. True, these 
returned almost at once to their own religion, but a 
stigma attaches to them, and they are not looked on as 
true Nambutiris. 

It is extremely difficult to obtain reliable information 
regarding magic or anything allied to it among any people, 
and most difficult of all among the Nambutiris. They 
possess magic books, but they will neither produce nor 
expound them. Hara Mekhala is the name of one of 
these, which is most used. It is said that the sorcerer 
aims at the following : — 

(i) Destruction (marana). 

(2) Subjection of the will of another (vasikarana). 

(3) Exorcism (uchchatana). 

(4) Stupefaction (stambhana). 

(5) Separation of friends (vidveshana). 

(6) Enticement as for love (mohana). 

Of these, the first may be carried out in the following 
manner. A figure representing the enemy to be destroyed 
is drawn on a small sheet of metal (gold by preference), 
and to it some mystic diagrams are added. It is then 
addressed with a statement that bodily injury or the 
death of the person shall take place at a certain time. 
This little sheet is wrapped up in another metal sheet or 
leaf (of gold if possible), and buried in some place which 
the person to be injured or destroyed is in the habit of 
passing. Should he pass over the place, it is supposed 
that the charm will take effect at the time named. Instead 
of the sheet of metal, a live frog or lizard is sometimes 
buried within a cocoanut shell, after nails have been stuck 

* Chela, the cloth worn by Mappillas (Muhammadans in Malabar). Thare 
arc also Chela Nayars. The word is said to mean the rite of circumcision. 


into its eyes and stomach. The deaths of the animal 
and the person are supposed to take place simultaneously. 
For carrying out vasikarana, vidveshana, and mohana, 
betel leaves, such as are ordinarily used for chewing, or 
veofetables are somehow or other s^iven to the victim, 
who unknowingly takes them into his mouth. Exorcism 
may be treated as follows. If a young woman is suffering 
from hysteria, and is supposed to be possessed by an evil 
spirit, or by the discontented spirit of some deceased 
ancestor, nervousness is excited by beating drums, 
blowing conch-shells, and otherwise making a horrible 
noise close to her. When the supreme moment is 
believed to have arrived, water is sprinkled over the 
wretched woman, who is required to throw rice repeatedly 
on certain diagrams on the ground, woven into which is 
a representation of the goddess Durga, the ruler of evil 
spirits. An effigy of the evil spirit is then buried in a 
copper vessel. By means of certain mantrams, Hanuman 
or Kali is propitiated, and, with their aid, in some occult 
manner, the position of buried treasure may be found. 
It is said that the bones of a woman who has died imme- 
diately after childbirth, and the fur of a black cat, are 
useful to the magician. 

There are said to be two Nambutiris of good family, 
well known in South Malabar, who are expert mantra- 
vadis or dealers in magic, and who have complete control 
over Kuttichchattan, an evil mischievous spirit, whose 
name is a household word in Malabar. He it is who 
sets fire to houses, damages cattle, and teases inter- 
minably. Concerning Kuttichchattan, Mr. Subramani 
Aiyar writes as follows. " The most mischievous imp 
of Malabar demonology is an annoying, quip-loving little 
spirit, as black as night, and about the size and nature 
of a well-nourished twelve-year old boy. Some people 


say that they have seen him, vis-d-vis, having a forelock. 
The nature and extent of its capacity for evil almost 
beggar description. There are Nambutiris, to whom 
these are so many missiles, which they throw at anybody 
they choose. They are, like Ariel, little active things, 
and most willing slaves of the master under whom they 
happen to be placed. Their victim suffers from unbear- 
able agony. His clothes take fire, his food turns into 
ordure, his beverages become urine, stones fall in showers 
on all sides of him, but curiously not on him, and his bed 
becomes a literal bed of thorns. He feels like a lost 
man. In this way, with grim delight, the spirit continues 
to torment his victim by day as well as by night. But, 
with all this annoying mischief, Kuttichchattan, or Boy 
Satan, does no serious harm. He oppresses and harasses, 
but never injures. A celebrated Brahman of Changa- 
nacheri is said to own more than a hundred of these 
Chattans. Household articles and jewelry of value can 
be left on the premises of the homes guarded by Chattan, 
and no thief dares to lay his hands on them. The 
invisible sentry keeps diligent watch over his master's 
property, and has unchecked powers of movement in any 
medium. As remuneration for all these services, the 
Chattan demands nothing but food, but that on a large 
scale. If starved, the Chattans would not hesitate to 
remind the master of their power ; but, if ordinarily 
cared for, they would be his most willing drudges. By 
nature Chattan is more than a malevolent spirit. As a 
safeguard against the infinite power secured for the 
master by the Kuttichchattan, it is laid down that malign 
acts committed through his instrumentality recoil on the 
prompter, who either dies childless, or after frightful 
physical and mental agony. Another method of oppres- 
sing humanity, believed to be in the power of sorcerers. 


is to make men and women possessed by spirits ; women 
being more subject to their evil influence than men. 
Delayed puberty, sterility, and still-births are not 
uncommon ills of a woman possessed by a devil. Some- 
times the spirits sought to be exorcised refuse to leave 
the body of the victim, unless the sorcerer promises them 
a habitation in the compound of his own house, and 
arranges for daily offerings being given. This is agreed 
to as a matter of unavoidable necessity, and money and 
lands are conferred upon the Nambutiri mantravadi, to 
enable him to fulfil his promise." 

A Nambutiri is not permitted to swear, or take oath 
in any way. He may, however, declare so and so, 
holding the while his sacred thread between the thumb 
and forefi-nger of the right hand, by way of invoking the 
Gayatri in token of his sincerity. And he may call on 
the earth mother to bear witness to his words, for she 
may, should he speak falsely, relieve herself of him. 
The name of the Supreme Being is not used in oath. 
Nambutiris have been known to take oath before a 
shrine, in order to settle a point in a Civil Court, but it 
is not orthodox to do so. 

Something has been said already concerning vows. 
Those who desire offspring perform the vow called 
payasahavanam. Sacrifice is made through fire (homam) 
to the Supreme Being. Homam is also vowed to be done 
on a child's birthday, to ensure its longevity. Here we 
may observe a contrast between the Nambutiri and a 
man of one of the inferior castes. For, while the vow 
of the Nambutiri has assumed to some extent the nature 
of propitiatory prayer, of which those low down really 
know nothing, the other gives nothing until he has had 
the full satisfaction of his vow. Mrityunjayam, or that 
which conquers death, is another kind of homam in 


performance of a vow. A further one is concerned with 
cleansing from any specific sin. Liberal presents are 
made to Brahmans. when the vow is completed. In the 
vow called rudrabhisheka the god Siva is bathed in con- 
secrated water. It is performed by way of averting 
misfortune. Monday is the day for it, as it is supposed 
that on that day Siva amuses himself with Parvati by 
dancing on Kailasa. 

The custom observed by Nambutiris of letting the 
hair grow on the head, face, and body, untouched by the 
razor, when a wife is enceinte has been noticed already. 
A Nambutiri who has no male issue also lets his hair 
grow in the same way for a year after the death of his 
wife. Should there, however, be male issue, on the 
eldest son devolves the duty of performing the ceremonies 
connected with the funeral of his mother (or father), and 
it is he who remains unshaven for a year. In such a 
case, the husband of a woman remains unshaven for 
twelve days (and this seems to be usual), or until after 
the ceremony on the forty-first day after death. The 
period during which the hair is allowed to grow, whether 
for a death, a pregnant wife, or by reason of a vow, is 
called diksha. During diksha, as well as during the 
Brahmachari period, certain articles of food, such as the 
drumstick vegetable, milk, chillies, gram, dhal, papadams, 
etc., are prohibited. 

" Bathing, " Mr. Subramani Aiyar writes, " is one of 
the most important religious duties of all Hindus, and 
of Brahmans in particular. A Nambiitiri only wants 
an excuse for bathing. Every Nambutiri bathes twice 
a day at least, and sometimes oftener. It is prohibited 
to do so before sunrise, after which a bath ceases to be 
a religious rite on the other coast. The use of a waist- 
cloth, the languti excepted, during a bath in private 


or in public, is also prohibited. This injunction runs 
counter to that of the Sutrakaras, who say ' Na vivasanah 
snayat,' i.e., bathe not without clothing. The fastidious 
sense of bath purity occasionally takes the form of a 
regular mania, and receives the not inapt description of 
galappisachu or possession by a water-devil. Never, 
except under extreme physical incapacity, does a Nam- 
butiri fail to bathe at least once a day." Before 
concluding the bath, the cloth worn when it was begun, 
and for which another has been substituted, is wrung 
out in the water. From this practice, a patch of indu- 
rated skin between the thumb and first finger of the 
right hand, where the cloth is held while wringing 
it, is commonly to be seen. Almost every Nambutiri 
examined in North Malabar was marked in this way. 

The Nambiitiris observe sixty-four anacharams, or 
irregular customs, which are said to have been promul- 
gated by the great reformer Sankaracharya. These are 
as follows : — 

(i) You must not clean your teeth with sticks. 

(2) You must not bathe with cloths worn on your 

(3) You must not rub your body with the cloths 
worn on your person. 

(4) You must not bathe before sunrise. 

(5) You must not cook your food before you 

(6) Avoid the water kept aside during the night. 

(7) You must not have one particular object in 
view while you bathe. 

(8) The remainder of the water taken for one 
purpose must not be used for another ceremony. 

(9) You must bathe if you touch another, i.e., a 


(lo) Vou must bathe if you happen to be near 
another, i.e., a Chandala. 

(ii) You must bathe if you touch polluted wells 
or tanks. 

(12) You must not tread over a place that has 
been cleaned with a broom, unless it is sprinkled with 

(13) A ])articular mode of marking the forehead 
with ashes (otherwise described as putting three hori- 
zontal lines on the forehead with pure burnt cow-dung). 

(14) You must repeat charms yourself. (You 
must not allow someone else to do it.) 

(15) You must avoid cold rice, etc. (food cooked 
on the previous day). 

(16) You must avoid leavings of meals by children. 

(17) You must not eat anything that has been 
offered to Siva. 

(18) You must not serve out food with your hands. 

(19) You must not use the ghi of buffalo cows for 
burnt offerings. 

(20) You must not use buffalo milk or ghi for 
funeral offerings. 

(21) A particular mode of taking food (not to put 
too much in the mouth, because none must be taken 

(22) You must not chew betel while you are 

(23) You must observe the conclusion of the 
Brahmachari period (the samavarttanam ceremony). 
This should be done before consorting with Nayar 

(24) You must give presents to your guru or 
preceptor. (The Brahmachari must do so.) 

(25) You must not read the Vedas on the road. 


(26) You must not sell women (receive money for 
girls given in marriage). 

(27) You must not fast in order to obtain fulfil- 
ment of your desires. 

(28) Bathing is all that a woman should observe if 
she touches another in her menses. (A woman touching 
another who is in this state should, it is said, purify 
herself by bathing. A man should change his thread, 
and underq-o sacred ablution. Women, durinsf their 
periods, are not required to keep aloof, as is the custom 
among non-Malabar Brahmans.) 

(29) Brahmans should not spin cotton. 

(30) Brahmans should not wash cloths for them- 

(31) Kshatriyas should avoid worshipping the 

(32) Brahmans should not accept funeral gifts 
from Sudras. 

{^2>) Perform the anniversary ceremony of your 
father (father's father, mother's father ^md both grand- 

(34) Anniversary ceremonies should be performed 
on the day of the new moon (for the gratification of the 
spirits of the deceased). 

(35) The death ceremony should be performed at 
the end of the year, counting from the day of death. 

(36) The ceremony to be performed till the end of 
the year after death (Diksha is apparently referred to). 

{;^'/) Sraddhas should be performed with regard to 
the stars (according to the astronomical, not the lunar 

(38) The death ceremony should not be performed 
until after the pollution caused by childbirth has been 


(39) -^ particular mode of performing sraddha by 
an adopted son (who should do the ceremony for his 
adopted parents as well as for his natural parents. 
Among non- Malabar Brahmans, an adopted son has 
nothing to do with the ceremonies for his natural father, 
from whose family he has become entirely disconnected). 

(40) The corpse of a man should be burnt in his 
own compound. 

(41) Sanyasis should not look at (see) women. 

(42) Sanyasis should renounce all wordly 

(43) Sraddha should not be performed for deceased 

(44) Brahman women must not look at any other 
persons besides their own husbands. 

(45) Brahman women must not go out, unless 
accompanied by women servants. 

(46) They should wear only white clothing. 

(47) Noses should not be pierced. 

(48) Brahmans should be put out of their caste if 
they drink any liquor. 

(49) Brahmans should forfeit their caste, if they 
have intercourse with other Brahman women besides 
their wives. 

(50) The consecration of evil spirits should be 
avoided. (Otherwise said to be that worship of 
ancestors should not be done in temples.) 

(51) Sudras and others are not to touch an idol. 

(52) Anything offered to one god should not be 
offered to another. 

(53) Marriage, etc., should not be done without a 
burnt offering (hdmam). 

(54) Brahmans should not give blessings to each 

(55) They should not bow down to one another. 
(Among non- Malabar Brahmans, juniors receive bene- 
diction from seniors. The Nambutiris do not allow this.) 

(56) Cows should not be killed in sacrifice. 

(57) Do not cause distraction, some by observing 
the religious rites of Siva, and others those of Vishnu. 

(58) Brahmans should wear only one sacred thread. 

(59) The eldest son only is entitled to marriage. 

(60) The ceremony in honour of a deceased 
ancestor should be performed with boiled rice. 

(61) Kshatriyas, and those of other castes, should 
perform funeral ceremonies to their uncles. 

(62) The right of inheritance among Kshatriyas, 
etc., goes towards nephews. 

(63) Sati should be avoided. (This also includes 
directions to widows not to shave the head, as is the 
custom among non- Malabar Brahmans.) 

In connection with the foregoing, Mr. Subramani 
Aiyar writes that the manners and customs of the 
Nambutiris differ from those of the other communities in 
several marked particulars. They go by the specific 
name of Keralacharas, which, to the casual observer, 
are so many anac haras or mal -observances, but to the 
sympathetic student are not more perhaps than unique 
acharas. A verse runs to the effect that they are 
anacharas, because they are not acharas (observances) 
elsewhere. (Anyatracharanabhav^at anacharaitismritah.) 
Of these sixty-four acharas, about sixty will be found to 
be peculiar to Malabar. These may be grouped into the 
following six main classes : — 

(i) Personal hygiene. — Bathing. 

(2) Eating. — The rules about food, either regarding 
the cooking or eating of it. are very religiously observed. 
Absolute fasting is unknown in Malabar. 


(3) Worship of the Gods and juanes. — The anni- 
versary of a person's death is regulated not by the age 
of the moon at the time, but by the star, unlike on the 
other coast. Again, a birth pollution has priority over 
other observances, even death ceremonies. A son who 
has to perform the funeral ceremonies of his father 
is rendered unfit for that solemn function by an inter- 
vening birth pollution. An adopted son is not, as in 
other parts of India, relieved of the sraddha obligations 
to his natural parents. Sectarian controversies in regard 
to Siva and Vishnu are strictly tabooed. The establish- 
ment of Hinduism on a non-sectarian basis was the 
sacred mission of Sankaracharya's life. A single triple 
string (sacred thread) is worn irrespective of civil condition. 
This is contrary to the usage of the other coast, where 
married Brahmans wear two or three triplets. Sprinkling 
water is an essential purificatory act after the use of the 
broom. An isolated rule requires dead bodies to be 
burnt in private compounds, and not in consecrated 
communal sites, as among the east coast people. 

(4) Conduct in society. — Chastity is jealously 
guarded by the imposition of severe ostracism on 
adulterers. Formal salutation, and even namaskaras and 
anugrahas, or prostration before and blessing by seniors, 
are prescribed. This is a striking point of difference 
between Malabar and the rest of India, and is probably 
based on the esoteric teaching of universal oneness. 

(5) Asramas or stages of life. — It is distinctly 
prescribed that a Brahman should formally conclude the 
Brahmachari asrama, and that presents or dakshina to 
the gurus should be the crowning act. The asura or 
bride-sale form of marriage is prohibited— a prohibition 
which, in the case of the Nambutiris, is absolutely 
unnecessary as matters now stand. An injunction in the 


reverse direction against the ruinous tyranny of a bride- 
penalty would be an anxiously sought relief to the 
strugglings of many an indigent bride's father. The 
special law of Malabar, under which the eldest son is 
alone entitled to be married, has already been referred 
to. The anchorite stage comes in for regulation by the 
Manu of Kerala. The eyes of a Sanyasin should never 
rest on a woman even for a second. This rule, which, if 
it errs at all, only does so on the side of safety, is not 
observed elsewhere, as the stage of a Sanyasin is expected 
to be entered only after the complete subjugation of the 
passions. No iiradhana (worship) sraddhas are per- 
formed for them, as is done in other parts. The soul 
of the Sanyasin is freed from the bondage of Karma 
and the chance of recurring birth, and has only to be 
remembered and worshipped, unlike the ordinary Jivan 
or still enslaved soul, whose salvation interests have to 
be furthered by propitiatory Karmas on the part of its 
earthly beneficiaries. 

(6) Regulation of ivoinen s conduct. — Women are 
not to gaze on any face but that of their wedded lord, 
and never go out unattended. They are to wear only 
white clothes, and are never to pierce their noses for the 
wearing of jewelry. Death on the husband's funeral 
pyre is not to be the sacred duty of the Nambutiri widow, 
who is advised to seek in the life of a self-sacrificing 
Sanyasi a sure means of salvation. 

In affairs of the world, time is reckoned by the ordinary 
Malabar kollam or solar year, the era beginning from the 
date of the departure of the last Perumal, a sovereign of 
the western coast, to Arabia in 825. The months of the 
kollam year are Mesha (Metam), Vrishabha (Itavam), 
Mithuna, Karkkataka, Sihma (Chingga), Kanya (Kanni), 
Tula, Vrischika, Dhanu, Makara, Kumbha, Mina. In 


affairs of religion, time is reckoned bv the salivahana saka. 
or lunar year, the months of which are Chaitra, \'aisakha, 
Jeshta, Ashadha, Sravana. Bhadrapata, Asvavuja, Mar- 
gasirsha. Paushya, Magha, Phalguna. Every three years 
or thereabouts, there is added another month, called 

Some of the festivals kept by the Xambutiris are as 
follows : — 

(i) Sivardiri. — Worship of Siva on the last day of 
Magha. Fast and vigil at night, and puja. 

(2) Updkarma. — The regular day for putting on 
a new sacred thread, after having cleansed away the sins 
of the year through the prayaschittam, in which ceremony 
the five sacred products of the cow (milk, curds, ghi, 
urine, and dung) are partaken of. It is done on the 15th 
of Sravana. 

(3) Ndgara panchhni. — The serpent god is wor- 
shipped, and bathed in milk. On the 5th of Sravana. 
This festival is common in Southern India. 

{4) Gbkiddshtami. — Fast and vigil at night, to 
celebrate the birth of Krishna. Puja at night, on the 
eighth day of the latter half of Sravana. 

(5) Navardtri. — The first nine days of Asvavuja 
are devoted to this festival in honour of Durga. 

(6) Dipdvali. — Observed more particularly in 
North Malabar on the anniversary of the day on which 
Krishna slew the rakshasa Naraka. Everyone takes an 
oil bath. On the last day of Asvayuja. 

(7) Ashtkalam. — The pitris (ancestors) of the 
family are propitiated by offerings of pinda (balls of rice) 
and tarpana (libations of water). On the new moon day 
of Dhanu. 

(8) Vindyaka Chaturthi. — The elephant-headed 
god of learning is worshipped. At the end of the 

193 nambDtiri brahman 

ceremony, the idol is dropped into a well. On the 4th 
of Bhadrapada. 

(9) Pura?n. — The god of love, represented by a 
clay image, is propitiated by unmarried girls with offer- 
ings of flowers seven days successively. The image is 
finally given, together with some money, to a Brahman, 
who drops it into a well. The flowers which have been 
used to decorate the image are placed by the girls at the 
foot of a jak tree. Contrary to the custom of other 
Brahmans, Nambutiri girls are under no disgrace, should 
they attain puberty while unmarried. In the month of 

(10) dnam. — The great festival of Malabar, kept 
by everyone, high and low, with rejoicing. It is the time 
of o-eneral good-will, of games peculiar to the festival, and 
of distribution of new yellow cloths to relations and 
dependants. It is supposed to commemorate the descent 
of Maha Bali, or Mabali, to see his people happy. 

(11) Tiruvadira. — Fast and vigil in honour of Siva, 
observed by women only. In the month of Dhanu. 

(12) Vishu. — The solar new year's day. A very 
important festival in Malabar. It is the occasion for 
gifts, chiefly to superiors. The first thing seen by a 
Nambutiri on this day should be something auspicious. 
His fate during the year depends on whether the first 
object seen is auspicious, or the reverse. 

The following festivals are referred to by Mr. Subra- 
mani Aiyar : — 

(i) Trikkatta or Jyeshta star, — In the month of 
Chingam. Food is cooked, and eaten before sunrise 
by all the married male members, as well as by every 
female member of a family. Though not of the previous 
day, the food goes by the name of Trikkatta pazhayatu, 
or the old food of the Trikkatta day. The import of this 


festival, when the specific ordinance of Sankara against 
food cooked before sunrise is contravened, is not known. 

(2) Makam or Mag ha star. — In the month of Kanni. 
On this day, the cows of the house are decorated with 
sandal paste and flowers, and given various kinds of 
sweetmeats. The ladies of the house take ten or twelve 
grains of paddy (rice), anoint them with oil, and, after 
bathing in turmeric-water, consecrate the grains by the 
recitation of certain hymns, and deposit them in the ara 
or safe room of the house. If there are in the house any 
female members born under the Makam star, the duty of 
performing the ceremony devolves on them in particular. 
This is really a harvest festival, and has the securing 
of food -grains in abundance (dhanyasamriddhi) for its 
temporal object. 

(3) All the days in the month of Thulam. — In 
this month, young unmarried girls bathe every day 
before 4 a.m., and worship Ganapathi (Vignesvara), the 
elephant god. 

(4) Gauri pilja. — In the month of Vrischigam. 
This is done on any selected Monday in the month. The 
ceremony is known as ammiyum vilakkaum toduka, or 
touching the grinding-stone and lamp. The married 
women of the house clean the grinder and the grinding- 
stone, and place a bronze mirror by its side. They then 
proceed to worship Gauri, whose relation to Siva 
represents to the Hindu the ideal sw^eetness of wedded 

(5) Tiruvatira or Ardra star. — In the month of 
Dhanu. This is a day of universal festivity and rejoicing. 
For seven days previous to it, all the members of the 
house bathe in the early morning, and worship Siva. 
This bathing is generally called tutichchukuli or shiver- 
ing bath, as the mornings are usually cold and intensely 


dewy. On the day previous to TIruvatira, ettangnati, or 
eight articles of food purchased in the bazar, are partaken 
of. Such a repast is never indulged in on any other day. 
The Tiruvatira day is spent in the adoration of Siva, and 
the votaries take only a single meal (orikkal). Night 
vigils are kept both by the wife and husband seated 
before a lighted fire, which represents the sakshi (witness) 
of Karmas and contracts. (Hence the common term 
agnisakshi.) They then chew a bundle of betel leaves, 
not less than a hundred in number. This is called 
kettuvettila tinnuka. As the chewing of betel is taboo 
except in the married state, this function is believed to 
attest and seal their irrefragable mutual fidelity. 

(6) The new moon day in the month of Karkdta- 
kam. — On the evening of this day, various kinds of 
sweetmeats are cooked, and, before the family partakes 
of them, a portion of each is placed in the upper storey 
as an offering to rats, by which their divine master, 
Ganapathi, is believed to be propitiated. 

The Nambutiri's business, which he has in hand, will 
be concluded to his satisfaction, should he on starting 
hear or see vocal or instrumental music, a harlot, a 
dancing-girl, a virgin, a litter, an elephant, a horse, a 
bull or cow tethered, curds, raw rice of a reddish colour, 
sugar-cane, a water-pot, flowers, fruits, honey, or two 
Brahmans. Bad omens, which, if seen by a householder 
the first thing in the morning, mean trouble of some 
kind for the rest of the day, are a crow seen on the left 
hand, a kite on the right, a snake, a cat, a jackal, a hare, 
an empty vessel, a smoky fire, a bundle of sticks, a 
widow, a man with one eye, or a man with a big nose. 
A Nambutiri, seeing any of these things, when setting 
out on a journey, will turn back. Should he, however, 
at once see a lizard on the eastern wall of a house, he 

V-I3 B 


may proceed. To sneeze once is a good omen for the 
day ; to sneeze twice is a bad one. An evil spirit may 
enter the mouth while one is yawning, so, to avert such 
a catastrophe, the fingers are snapped, and kept snapping 
until the yawn is over, or the hand is held in front of the 
mouth. But this idea, and the custom of snapping the 
fingers, arc by no means peculiar to the Nambutiris. 

The Nambutiris look on a voyage across the sea 
with horror, and no Nambutiri has ever yet visited 

A Nayar should not come nearer than six paces to a 
Nambutiri, a man of the barber caste nearer than twelve 
paces, a Tiyan than thirty-six, a Malayan than sixty- 
four, and a Pulaiyan than ninety-six. Malabar is, indeed, 
the most conservative part of Southern India. The man 
of high caste shouts occasionally as he goes along, so that 
the low caste man may go off the road, and allow him to 
pass unpolluted. And those of the lowest castes shout 
as they go. to give notice of their pollution-bearing 
presence, and, learning the command of the man of high 
caste, move away from the road. It is common to see 
people of the inferior castes travelling parallel to the 
road, but not daring to go along it. They do not want 
to. It is not because they are forced off the road. 
Custom clings to them as to the Nayar or to the 
Nambutiri. But even this is undergoing modification. 

In connection with marriage, three chief rules are 
observed. The contracting parties must not be of the 
same gotra ; they must not be related to each other 
through father or mother ; and the bridegroom must 
be the eldest son of the family. It is said that there 
are seven original gotras, called after the sages Kamsha, 
Kasyapa, Bharadvaja, Vatsya, Kaundinya, Atri, and 
Tatri ; and that other gotras have grown out of these. 


Relationship is said by some to cease after the fourth 
generation, but this is disputed. The bride's dowry is 
always heavy. The wife joins her husband's gotra, 
forsaking her own altogether. Women may remain 
unmarried without prejudice. Needless to say, this has 
the reverse of favour with Brahmans outside Malabar. 
But the Nambutiri girl or woman, who has not been 
married, is not allowed to disappear altogether from the 
world without at least the semblance of marriage, for, 
at her death, some part of the marriage ceremony is 
performed on her person. The tali is tied. In like 
manner, a dead Toda girl is not allowed to go to her 
last rest unmarried. Infant marriage, which is the rule 
with other Brahmans, is said to be unknown among the 
Nambutiris. Mr. Justice K. Narayana Marar, however, 
writes * that he is " not prepared to assert that infant 
marriage is unknown among Nambudris, and that mar- 
riages are always celebrated before puberty. There 
are instances, though rare, of infant marriages among 
them." When a girl is ten years old, or a little more, 
her father thinks of finding a husband for her. Property 
alone is the real thing to be considered. Every detail 
bearing on advantage to the family through the alliance 
is carefully thought out. Among the Malayalis generally, 
the young man with University degrees has command 
of the marriage market, but to the Nambutiri these are 
of no account. When the girl's father has fixed on a 
likely young man, he gets his horoscope, and confers 
with a Vadhyar concerning the suitability or agreement 
of the young man's horoscope with that of his daughter. 
Should the decision of the Vadhyar be favourable, 
the young man's father is invited to the house on an 

• Malabar Quart. Review, I, i, 1902. 


auspicious day, and the two fathers, together with some 
friends, talk the matter over. In the presence of all, 
the Vadhyar announces the agreement of the horoscopes 
of the pair whose marriage is in prospect. The dowry 
of the bride is then fixed. Probably many days have 
been occu[)ied already, before the fathers can agree as 
to the settlement of the dowry. When this has been 
done, the Vadhyar consults the heavenly bodies, and 
appoints the day on which the marriage ceremonies 
should be begun. There is then a feast for all present. 
A Nambutiri would be in very bad circumstances if he 
did not give at least a thousand rupees with his daughter. 
He should give much more, and does, if he possibly can. 
The ceremonies connected with marriage are supposed 
to occupy a year, but they are practically completed 
within ten days. They open with a party leaving the 
bride's illam, to invite the bridegroom and his party 
to the wedding. At the house of the bridegroom, 
the Vadhyar is given about eight fanams * (money) by 
both parties. The return to the bride's illam is a sort 
of noisy procession composed of the bridegroom with 
his friends, Nayar women under big cadjan (palm leaf) 
umbrellas, a number of Nayars, some of whom indulge 
in sword play with swords and shields, and Nambutiris 
versed in the Sastras. The bridegroom, who is the 
chief figure in the crowd, has a string (the usual kan- 
kanam) tied round his right wrist to protect him from 
evil spirits, and carries a bamboo with sixteen joints 
symbolic of the married state, a mirror for good luck, 
an arrow to guard the bride against evil spirits, four 
cloths, and a tali. At the gate of the bride's illam, the 
procession is met by some Nayar women dressed as 

• In all ceremonies, and indeed in all arrangements connected with labour in 
rural Malabar, it is the rule to reckon in the old, and not in the existing, currency. 


Nambutiri women, who, being unable to come out and 
welcome the bridegroom, do so by proxy. These women 
wave a light in front of his face, and offer ashtaman- 
galyam — a plate on which are plantain, betel leaves, a 
cocoanut, and other articles. On this day, the aupasana 
agni, or sacred fire, is prepared in the courtyard of the 
bride's illam. A square pit is made, and fire is made 
with a piece of wood of the jak tree and of the pipal. 
This fire is rendered sacred by some mystic rites. It is 
kept burning throughout the marriage, and is preserved 
until the death of the future husband and wife in one of 
two ways : — 

(i) keeping a lamp lighted at the fire burning 
perpetually ; 

(2) heating in the fire a piece of wood (plasa or 
palasa) or dharba grass. The wood or grass is put away, 
and, when the aupasana agni is to be revived, is lighted 
in a fire of jak and pipal wood, while certain mantrams 
(consecrated formulae) are repeated. 

The body of the bridegroom (and, I think, of the 
bride should she die first) should be burnt in the 
aupasana agni prepared on the first day of the wedding. 
The aupasana agni is, as it were, a witness to the mar- 
riage. In the courtyard, the nandimukham ceremony is 
performed for propitiation of the minor deities and the 
pitris (spirits of deceased ancestors), A pot containing 
sacred or consecrated water, a piece of sandalwood, a 
piece of gold, flowers, raw rice, and some fruits are the 
apparent object of adoration. It is called kalas — the 
kalasam of the Tamil and Telugu countries — and is a 
common symbol of the deity. According to Monier 
Williams,* it should be worshipped thus. " In the 

• Brahmanism and Hinduism. 


mouth of the water-vessel abideth Vishnu, in its neck is 
Rudra, in its lower part is Brahma, while the whole 
company of the mothers are congregated in its middle 
part. O ! Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Nar- 
mada, Sindhu and Kaveri, be present in this water." 
A part of the aforesaid ceremony (nandimukham) is 
called the punyahavachana, for which the bridegroom 
repeats certain hymns after the Vadhyar, and is sprinkled 
with water from the kalas. While all this is being done 
in the courtyard, the very same ceremony is performed 
within the house in the presence of the bride, whose 
father does inside the house what the bridegroom is 
doing outside. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the 
tali is tied on the bride's neck. Then two of the cloths 
brought by the bridegroom are sent inside, and are 
touched by the bride. After she has touched them, they 
are again brought out, and the bridegroom puts them on. 
He touches the other two cloths, which are taken inside, 
and worn by the bride. A feast (ayanium) is the next 
item. The bride and bridegroom eat their share of it 
in separate rooms. Then comes the marriage proper. 
The bride's father washes the bridegroom's feet, while 
a Nayar woman waves a light (ayiram tiri or thousand 
lights) before his face, and conducts him to the hall 
prepared for the wedding. In this is a mantapam, or 
sort of raised seat, having four pillars and a covering 
roof. The pillars of the mantapam, and the ceiling of 
the hall, are covered with red cloth (red being an auspi- 
cious colour), and there are festoons of mango leaves. 
To one side of the mantapam is a screen, behind which 
stand the Nambutiri women of the household, looking 
at the scene in the hall through holes. The bride and 
bridegroom are led to the mantapam, the former follow- 
ing the latter screened from the general gaze by a big 


cadjan umbrella. She hands him a garland, and, in 
doing so, she should not touch his hand. He puts on 
the garland. Vedic hymns are chanted, and the pair 
are brought face to face for the first time. This is called 
mukhadarsanam, or seeing the face. The bridegroom 
leads the bride three times round the fire and water jar, 
moving round to the right, repeating a mantram, which 
is irendered as follows by Monier Williams.* " I am 
male, thou art female. Come, let us marry, let us possess 
offspring. United in affection, illustrious, well disposed 
towards each other, let us live for a hundred years." 
Each time the bridegroom leads the bride round, he 
causes her to mount a mill-stone, saying " Ascend thou 
this stone, and be thou firm as this rock.t " Then, at a 
moment supposed to be auspicious, water is poured on 
the hands of the bridegroom, signifying that the girl and 
her dowry have been handed over to him. The Nambu- 
tiri women behind the screen, and the Nayar women in 
the hall, utter a shrill cry "like that of the Vaikura." 
The fire here mentioned is probably taken from the 
original aupasana agni. Holding the bride by the hand, 
the bridegroom leads her seven steps — one for force, 
two for strength, three for wealth, four for well-being, 
five for offspring, six for the seasons, and seven as a 
friend. He tells her to be devoted to him, and to bear 
him many sons, who may live to a good old age. This 
ceremony is called the saptapadi (seven steps). A homam 
is then performed. It is said that the fire used on this 
occasion must be preserved until the death of the bride- 
groom, and used at the cremation of his body. A feast 
is the next thing. When it is over, the bride's father 
takes her on his lap, asks his son-in-law to treat her well, 

* op. cit. t Ibid. 


and formally hands her over to him. The bridegroom 
promises to do so, and takes his wife by the hand. Then 
there is a procession to the bridegroom's illam, the bride 
being carried in a litter, and the bridegroom walking 
and carrying the sacrificial fire. So ends the first day. 
It seems that the newly-married couple live apart for 
the next three days, during which the bride is initiated 
into household duties. The only daily ceremony is the 
homam, which is done by the pair after bathing, and 
before taking food. On the fourth day there is a cere- 
mony, in which the bride plants a jasmine cutting, by 
way of symbolising help to her husband in the per- 
formance of his religious duties. At night the couple 
are conducted to the bridal chamber by the Vadhyar. 
The bed is merely a grass mat, or a common country 
blanket, covered with a white sheet, and having a little 
ridge of rice and paddy, signifying plenty, round the 
edge. The Vadhyar withdraws, and the bridegroom 
shuts the door.* The Vadhyar outside cites appropriate 
passages from the sacred writings, which are repeated 
by the bridegroom. On the fifth day, the bride and 
bridegroom anoint each other with oil, and the latter 
combs the hair of the former. Then, before bathing, 
they catch some little fish called manatt kani (eyes look- 
ing up) which are found in pools, with a cloth used as a 
net. While this is being done, a Brahmachari asks the 
bridegroom " Did you see a cow and a son ? " Pointing 
to the fishes caught in the cloth, the bridegroom replies 
" Yes, they are here." This is said to be suggestive of 
progeny, fishes being emblematic of fertility. Homam 
is then done. At night, the bridegroom adorns the bride 
with flowers, and makes her look into a mirror, while he 

• The Nambiiliris lake objection to a statement of Mr. Logan, in the Manual 
of Malabar, that the Vadhyar shuts the door, and locks it. 


recites mantrams suitable to the occasion. From the 
sixth to the ninth day there is practically nothing in the 
way of ceremonial. And, as that proper to the tenth 
day is invariably done on the sixth day, the ceremony 
may be said to conclude on the night of the sixth day. 
A few Brahmans are fed to please the pitris, and the 
couple go to a jak tree, under which some rice, curds, 
and ghl are placed on kusa grass, and an offering is 
made of flowers and sandalwood or powder. The kanka- 
nam, bamboo staff, arrow, and mirror are given to the 
Vadhyar, and the wedding is over. 

Sir W. W. Hunter* speaks of the Nambutiris as 
"a despised class," they having had fishermen ancestors. 
The little ceremony of catching fish, which is a very 
important item in the marriage rites, may look like 
preservation in meaningless ceremonial of something real 
in the past, but it only shows that, in an endeavour to 
interpret ceremonial, we must be far from hasty. Among 
the Shivalli Brahmans of South Canara, the marriage 
mat is taken to a tank in procession. The bride and 
bridegroom make a pretence of catching fish, and, with 
linked fingers, touch their foreheads. It is recorded, in 
the Manual of South Canara, that " all Tulu chronicles 
agree in ascribing the creation of Malabar and Canara, 
or Kerala, Tuluva, and Haiga, to Parasu Rama, who 
reclaimed from the sea as much land as he could cover 
by hurling his battle-axe from the top of the western 
ghauts. According to l^ulu traditions, after a quarrel 
with Brahmans who used to come to him periodically 
from Ahi-Kshetra, Parasu Rama procured new Brahmans 
for the reclaimed tract by taking the nets of some fisher- 
men, and making a number of Brahmanical threads 

Orissa. Annals of Rural Bengal, 


with which he invested the fishermen, and thus turned 
them into Brahmans, and retired to the mountains to 
meditate, after informing them that, if they were in 
distress, and called on him, he would come to their aid. 
After the lapse of some time, during which they suffered 
no distress, they were curious to know if Parasu Rama 
would remember them, and called upon him in order to 
find out. He promptly appeared, but punished their thus 
mocking him by cursing them, and causing them to revert 
to their old status of Sudras." 

A more detailed account of the marriage ceremonial 
is given in the Gazetteer of Malabar, which may well be 
quoted. " The first preliminaries in arranging a Nambu- 
diri marriage are the inevitable comparison of horoscopes, 
and the settlement of the dowry. When these have been 
satisfactorily concluded, an auspicious day for the wedding 
is selected in consultation with the astrologer. On that 
day, the bridegroom, before he starts from his illam, 
partakes with his relatives and friends of a sumptuous 
repast called the ayani un. A similar feast is held 
simultaneously at the bride's house. On leaving the 
illam, as he crosses the threshold, and indeed on all 
occasions of importance, the bridegroom must be careful 
to put his right foot first. He also mutters mantrams of 
an auspicious nature, called mangala sutrangal. As he 
passes out of the gate, he is met by a bevy of Nayar ladies, 
carrying the eight lucky articles (ashtamangalyam). 
These are a grandha, a washed cloth, a chcppu or rouge- 
box, some rice, a val kannadi or metal hand-mirror, some 
kunkumam (crimson powder), chanthu (ointment of 
sandal, camphor, musk and saffron), and mashi (bdellium 
or any eye salve). On his journey to the bride's illam, 
he is preceded by a noisy procession of Nayars, armed 
with swords and lacquered shields, who constitute his 


agambadi or body-guard, and by Nambudri friends and 
relatives, one of whom carries a lighted lamp. At the 
gate of the bride's illam he is met by a band of Nayar 
women, dressed like antarjanams, and carrying the 
ashtamangalyam and lighted lamps. The bridegroom 
enters the inner court-yard (nadumittam), and takes his 
seat in the usual eastward position. The bride's father 
comes and sits opposite him, and, clasping his right hand, 
formally invites him to bathe and wed his daughter, an 
invitation which he formally accepts. After his bath, he 
returns clad in fresh clothes, and wearing a ring of dharba 
or kusa grass {Cy7todo7i Dactylon), and takes his seat 
in the room adjoining the porch (pumukham), called 
purattalam. He then makes an offering of a few fanams 
(money) to his family deities, performs Ganapathi puja 
(worship of the elephant god), and presents four or five 
Nambudris with a few fanams each, and with betel leaf 
and areca nut. This is called asramapischetha prayas- 
chittam, and is in expiation of any sins into which he 
may have been betrayed during his bachelor days. 
Similar pfifts are also made first to two Nambudris of 
any gotra considered as representing the deities called 
Visvadvas, and then to two others of different gotras 
representing the deceased ancestors or Pitris. The last 
gift is called Nandimukham. Meanwhile, within the 
house the bride is conducted to the vadakkini room, 
veiled in an old cloth, and carrying a piece of bell-metal 
shaped like a hand-mirror (val kannadi). Her father, 
after washing his feet and putting on a darbha ring, 
comes and performs Ganapathi puja, and repeats more or 
less the same ritual that has been performed without. 
The bride is then sprinkled with holy water by her father 
and four other Nambudiris. The tali or marriage 
symbol is brought in a brass vessel containing holy water, 


and laid near the idol to which the daily domestic worship 
is paid ; and, after further offerings to Ganapathi, the 
bridegroom is summoned to enter the illam. Before 
doing so he purifies himself, taking off the darbha ring, 
making the ' caste marks ' with holy ashes (bhasmam), 
washing his feet, replacing the ring, and being sprinkled 
with holy water by four Nambudiris--a form of ritual 
which recurs constantly in all ceremonies. He enters 
the nadumittam, preceded by a Nambudiri carrying 
a lighted lamp, and takes his seat on a wooden stool 
(pidam) in the middle of the court where the bride's 
father makes obeisance to him, and is given four double 
lengths of cloth (kaccha), which the bridegroom has 
brought with him. They are taken to the bride, who 
puts on two of them, and returns two for the bridegroom 
to wear. The bridegroom then goes to the kizhakkini, 
where he prepares what may be called the "altar." He 
smears part of the floor in front of him with cow-dung 
and then, with a piece of jack-wood {Artocarpus integri- 
folia), called sakalam, draws a line at the western side 
of the place so prepared, and at right angles to this line 
five more, one at each end, but not actually touching it, 
and three between these. He then places the pieces of 
jack-wood on the altar, and ignites it with fire brought 
from the hearth of the bride's illam. He feeds the flame 
with chips of plasu or chamatha [Butea frondosa). This 
fire is the aupasana agni, regarded as the witness to the 
marriage rite. It must be kept alight — not actually, but 
by a pious fiction* — till the parties to the marriage die, 
and their funeral pyre must be kindled from it. Three 
pieces of plasu called paridhi, and eighteen pieces called 
udhmam, tied together by a string of darbha, are placed 

• Ky keeping a lamp lighted at the fire perpetually alight, or by heating r piece 
of plasu or darbha grass in the fire, and putting it away carefully. 


on the northern side of the altar on two pieces of jack- 
wood ; and there are also brought and placed round the 
altar four blades of darbha grass, a small bell-metal 
vessel, an earthenware pot full of water, a pair of grind- 
stones (ammi and ammikuzha), a small winnowing fan 
containing parched paddy (malar), and a copper vessel 
of ghee (clarified butter) with a sacrificial ladle made of 
plasu. Meanwhile, the bride's father ties the tali round 
her neck in the vadakkini, and her mother gives her 
a garland of tulasi {Ocimum sanctum). She is conducted 
to the kizhakkini, preceded by a Nambutiri carrying a 
lamp called ayyira tiri (thousand wicks), and is made 
to stand facing the bridegroom on the north or north- 
east of the altar. This is called mukha-dharsanam 
(face-beholding). She gives the garland to the bride- 
groom. Now comes the central rite of this elaborate 
ceremonial, the udaga-purva-kannyaka-dhanam, or gift 
of a maiden with water. The bride and her father 
stand facing west, and the bridegroom facing them. 
All three stretch out their right hands, so that the 
bride's hand is between those of her father and the 
bridegroom, which are above and below hers respec- 
tively. A Nambutiri Othikan or ritual expert pours water 
thrice into the father's hand. The latter each time 
pours it into his daughter's hand, and then, grasping 
her hand, pours it into the bridegroom's hand. The 
dowry is then given to the bride, who hands it over to 
the bridegroom. She then passes between him and the 
fire, and sits on an amana palaga * on the east of the 
altar, while the bridegroom sits on another palaga on 
her left, and burns the udhmams (except one piece of 
plasu and the darbha string used to tie the bundle), and 

• An amana palaga or ama palaga, literally tortoise plank, is a low wooden 
seat of chamatha wood, supposed to be shaped like a tortoise in outline. 


makes an oblation of ghee called agharam. The next 
rite is called Panigrahanam. The bridegroom rises 
from his seat, turns to the right, and stands facing the 
bride, who remains seated, holding the mirror in her left 
hand. She stretches out her right hand palm upwards, 
with the fingers closed and bent upwards. He grasps 
it, and sits down again. A brother of the bride now 
comes and takes the mirror from the bride, puts it on a 
palaga, and professes to show her her own reflection in 
its surface. Then the bridegroom pours a little ghee into 
her joined hands, to which the bride's brother adds two 
handfuls of paddy from the winnowing basket, and the 
bridegroom then brushes the paddy from her hands into 
the fire. This is called the Lajahomam, At its con- 
clusion, bride and bridegroom perform a pradakshinam 
round the fire, passing outside the water-pot but not 
the grindstone and fan. Next comes the important 
piece of ceremonial called Asmarohanam, symbolising 
immutability. The bride and bridegroom stand west of 
the grindstones, and the bridegroom, taking her feet one 
by one, places them on the stones, and then grasps 
feet and stones with both hands. Lajahomam, pradhak- 
shinam, and asmarohanam are each repeated thrice. 
Then comes the rite called Saptapadi or seven paces. 
The bridegroom leads his bride seven steps towards the 
north-east, touching her right foot with his right hand 
as he does so. They then pass between the grindstones 
and the fire, and seat themselves on the west of the 
earthen pot facing east, the bride behind the bride- 
groom ; and the latter performs a somewhat acrobatic 
feat which it must be difficult to invest with any dignity. 
He bends backwards, supporting himself by placing the 
palms of his hands on the ground behind him, until he 
can touch with the top of his head that of the bride, who 


bends forward to facilitate the process. After this, the 
bridegroom sprinkles himself and the bride with water 
from the earthen pot. They then return to their seats 
west of the altar, and face north, ostensibly looking at 
the pole star (Druvan), the star Arundati, and the Seven 
Rishis (Ursa Major), which the bridegroom is supposed 
to point out to the bride, while he teaches her a short 
mantram invoking the blessing of long life on her 
husband. The bridegroom then makes two oblations, 
pouring ghee on the sacred fire, the first called Sishtakral- 
homam and the second Darmmihomam. He then 
places on the fire the paridhis, the remaining udhmams 
and dharba grass, and the rest of the ghee. A start is 
then made for the bridegroom's illam, the bridegroom 
carrying the chamatha branch used in making the 
aupasana agni in the bride's house. On arrival, an altar 
is prepared in much the same manner as before, the 
chamatha branch is igrnited, and darbha and o-hee are 
offered. The bride and bridegroom next spend a few 
moments closeted in the .same room, she lying on a skin 
spread over a new cloth on the floor, and he sitting on 
an amana palaga. In the evening, aupasana homam, or 
ofterings of chamatha in the sacred fire, and Vaisyadeva 
homam, or offerings of boiled rice, arc made. These, 
which are known as a second homam, may be postponed 
till next afternoon, if there is no time for them on the 
actual wedding day. They have to be performed daily 
for ten months. The first three days on which these 
homams are performed (viz., the wedding day and the 
two following it, or the three days after the wedding as 
the case may be) are regarded as days of mourning 
(diksha), and clothes are not changed. On the fourth 
day, the newly married couple have an oil-bath, and the 
diksha is considered to be at an end. After the usual 


homams and worship of Ganapathi, the bride is led to 
the bridcd chamber at an auspicious moment. Her 
husband joins her, carrying two garlands of jasmine, one 
of which he puts on the lamp placed in the south-east 
corner of the room, and one round his wife's neck. He 
then smears the upper part of her body with the ointment 
known as chanthu, and she herself smears the lower 
part. Turn vir penem suum fjeminae ad partes pudendas 
admovit, vestibus scilicet haud remotis. They then 
bathe and change their clothes, and sit near each other, 
the wife screened behind an umbrella. Her husband 
gives her water, and after some further rites they eat 
from the same plantain leaf. Actual cohabitation com- 
mences from that night. The pair are conducted to the 
bridal chamber by the Vadhiyar. The nuptial couch is 
but a grass mat or a common country blanket covered 
with a white sheet, with a little ridge of rice and paddy 
signifying plenty around the edges. The final ceremony 
is the homam called stalipagam. It is performed on 
the day after the first full moon day after the second 
homam. If the moon is at the full f nazhiga before sun- 
set or earlier, the ceremony may be performed on the full 
moon day itself." 

It will have been seen already that the Nambutiris 
are not strict monogamists. Some stated that a man 
may have four wives, and that the same ceremony 
as that described must be performed for wedding all 
four wives. Moreover, there is no restriction to the 
number of Nayar women, with whom a man may be 

Hamilton, writing concerning Malabar at the end of 
the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, 
says that " when the Zamorin marries, he must not 
cohabit with his bride till the Nambutiri or chief priest 


has enjoyed her, and, if he pleases, may have three 
nights of her company, because the first fruit of her 
nuptials must be an holy oblation to the god he worships : 
and some of the nobles are so complaisant as to allow 
the clergy the same tribute ; but the common people 
cannot have that compliment paid to them, but are forced 
to supply the priest's place themselves." 

Of ceremonies after marriage, and those performed 
during pregnancy and subsequent to the birth of a child, 
the following may be noted :— 

(i) Garbhadhanam, performed soon after marriage. 
There is a homam, and the husband puts the juice of 
some panic grass into his wife's nostrils. 

(2) Garbharakshana secures the unborn child from 
dangers. It is not considered important, and is not 
always done. 

(3) Pumsavana, performed in the third month of 
pregnancy for the purpose of securing male offspring. 
The desire of the Hindu for male rather than female 
children need not be dilated on. Putra (a son) is the 
one who saves from hell (put). It is by every religious 
text made clear that it is the duty of every man to 
produce a son. The Nambutiri may have practically 
any number of wives in succession, until he begets a son 
by one of them, and he may adopt a son through the 
sarvasvadanam form of marriage. On the day devoted 
to the pumsavana ceremony, the wife fasts until she is 
fed by her husband with one grain of corn, symbolising 
the eenerative organs of the male. 

(4) Simantonnayana is the next ceremony performed 
for the benefit of the unborn child. It is done between 
the sixth and eighth months of pregnancy, and consists 
in a burnt sacrifice to the deity, and the husband parting 
the hair of his wife's head with a porcupine quill, or with 

V-I4 E 


three blades of the sacred kusa grass, re]~)eatino; the 
while Vedic verses. 

(5) Jatakarma is the name of the birth ceremony, 
and is performed by the father of the child. Honey and 
ghi are introduced into the mouth of the infant with a 
golden spoon or rod, to symbolise good fortune. Then 
the cars and shoulders are touched with the spoon or 
rod, while Vedic texts are recited. 

(6) Medhajananam, rarely done, is for inducing 

(7) Ayusha, for prolonging life, is the next in 
order. The father gives the child a secret name, having 
an even number of syllables for a male and an uneven 
number for a female, which is never revealed to any one 
except the mother. 

(8) Namakarana is the ceremony, at which the 
child is named, and is said to be done on the tenth day 
after birth. The naming of a child is an important 
religious act, which is supposed to carry consequences 
throughout life. The parents, assisted by a Vadhyan, 
make a burnt sacrifice to the deity. 

(9) Annaprasana is the ceremony at which food 
other than that from nature's foimt is first given. It is 
done in the sixth month after birth. The father carries 
the child to a group of friends and relations. The 
Vadhyan or purohit is present and repeats Vedic texts, 
w^hile the father places a little rice and butter in the 
child's mouth. 

(10) Chaula is the ceremony w^hen the hair is cut 
for the first time in the Nambutiri fashion. 

(11) Kama vedha is the occasion on which the ears 
are bored. 

On the Vidyadasami day, the tenth of Asvayuja, 
when a male child is five years old, the father goes 


through the form of initiating him into the mysteries of 
the alphabet. 

The following details of some of the above ceremonies 
are given in the Gazetteer of Malabar. " The chief 
ceremonies connected with pregnancy are Pumsavanam 
or rite to secure male offspring, at which the husband 
puts a grain of barley and two beans, to represent the 
male organ, into his wife's hand, and pours some curds 
over them, which the wife then swallows, and also 
pours some juice of karuga grass into her right nostril ; 
and Simantham, a ceremony usually performed in the 
fourth month of pregnancy, at w^hich the husband parts 
the wife's hair four times from back to front w^ith a 
sprig of atti {Ficus glomerata), a porcupine quill which 
must have three w'hite marks on it, and three blades 
of darba grass, all tied together, after which mantrams 
are sung to the accompaniment of vinas. The first 
ceremony to be performed on the birth of a child is 
jathakarmam. A little gold dust is mingled with ghee 
and honey, and the father takes up some of the mixture 
with a piece of gold, and smears the child's lips with it, 
once with a mantram and once in silence. He next 
washes the gold, and touches the child's ears, shoulders 
and head with it, and finally makes a gift of the bit 
of gold and performs nandimukham. The ceremony 
of naming the child, or namakarmam, takes place on 
the twelfth day. The father ties a string round the 
child's waist, and marks its body with the sacred ash 
(bhasmam). Then, after the usual ' gifts ' he pronounces 
thrice in the child's right ear the words ' Devadatta 
Sarmmasi, ' or if the child be a girl, ' Nili dasi.' He 
then calls out the name thrice. Then, taking the child 
from its mother, he again calls out the name thrice, and 
finally gives the child back to its mother, who in turn 


calls out the name thrice. Gifts and nandimukham com- 
plete the ceremony. In the fourth month, the child is 
ceremonially taken out of doors (nishkramana or vittil 
purapattu) by the father, who carries it to a cocoanut, 
round which he makes three pradakshinams." 

The death ceremonies of the Nambutiris are com- 
menced shortly before death actually takes place. 
When death is believed to be unmistakably near, some 
verses from the Taittirya Upanishad arc spoken in the 
dying man's ears. These are called karna mantras, or 
ear hymns. A bed of kusa grass, called darbhasana, 
is prepared in the verandah or some convenient place 
outside the foundations of the house, and the dying man 
is placed on it. When life is extinct, the body is washed, 
dressed in a new white cloth, and placed on a bier made 
of bamboos covered with a new white cloth. The bier 
is then carried on the shoulders of four of the nearest 
relatives to the place of cremation within the com- 
pound of the illam, and laid on a pile of firewood, which 
must include some sandalwood. This should be done 
by brothers or sons if there are such ; if not, by more 
distant relatives or friends. The pyre need not of neces- 
sity be prepared by Nambutiris. Properly speaking, 
according to the sacred texts, which govern almost 
every act of the Nambutiri's life, relatives and friends, 
male and female, should accompany the bier to the place 
of cremation, but, as a rule, women do not join the little 
procession. The bier is laid on the pyre, and the corpse 
is uncovered. Rice is scattered over the face by the 
blood-relations present, and small pieces of gold are 
thrust into the nine openings of the body, while mantras 
are recited by the Vadhyayar or priest. The gold is said 
to be used on this occasion as part of the offering in the 
yagam — the last sacrifice, as the burning of the body 


is called — and not in any way to assist the deceased 
in his journey to "the undiscovered country." Soon 
after the bier is laid on the funeral pyre, a homam is 
made. Fire taken from it is placed on the chest of 
the deceased, and then the pyre is lighted in three places. 
The performer of the crematory rites carries an earthen 
pot round the pyre. The officiating priest punctures 
the pot with a knife, and receives the water in another 
pot. He throws this water on the pyre, and the pot 
is then smashed and (lung away. This part of the 
ceremony is said to symbolise that the deceased has had 
his ablution in the water of the Ganges, and the lire god, 
Agni, represented by the homam, was witness to the 
same. The fire god is supposed to witness every cere- 
mony enjoined by the Vedas. After the body is burnt, 
those who attended go away and bathe. The disem- 
bodied soul is supposed to enter a body called Sukshma 
Sarira, and eventually goes to heaven or hell as it 
deserves. But, before it can reach its destination, certain 
ceremonies must be performed. These consist chiefly of 
oblations on each of the ten days following death, for the 
purpose of causing the preta (spirit) to grow out of the 
Dhananjaya Vayu, which causes deformities and changes 
in the deceased after death. Each day's ceremony 
completes a limb or part of the preta, and the body 
is complete in ten days. On the third day after death, 
the ashes of the deceased are collected in an urn, and 
buried at the place of cremation or close to it. This is 
called ekoddishta. On the eleventh day, all the members 
of the family go through a purificatory ceremony, which 
consists in swallowing the panchagavya, and changing 
the sacred thread. They then perform a sraddha, offering- 
balls of rice, etc., to the deceased and three of his ances- 
tors, and give a dinner and presents of money and cloths 


to Rrahmans. Twelve sraddhas must be performed, one 
in each month following, when water and balls of rice 
(pindas) are offered to the spirit. The twelfth sraddha 
is the sapindi karana, which elevates the spirit of the 
deceased to the r;ink of an ancestor. Following this, 
there is only the annual sraddha, or anniversary of 
death, calculated according to the lunar or astronomical 
year, when not less than three Brahmans are fed, and 
receive presents of money and cloths. 

Concerning" the death ceremonies, Mr. Subramani 
Aiyar writes as follows. " After death, the blood rela- 
tions of the deceased bathe, and, with wet clothes on, 
place two pieces of the stem of the plantain tree, one at 
the head and the other at the feet of the corpse. The 
hair of the head and face is shaved a little, and the body 
is bathed with water in which turmeric and mailanchi, 
a red vegetable substance, are dissolved. The X'aishna- 
vite gopi mark is drawn vertically, as also are sandal 
paste marks on various parts of the body, and flowers and 
garlands are thrown over it. The corpse is then covered 
with an unbleached cloth, which is kept in position by 
a rope of kusa grass. It is carried to the pyre by 
Nambutiris who are not within the pollution circle of the 
deceased, the eldest son supporting the head and the 
younger ones the legs. A cremation pit is dug in the 
south-east portion of the compound, and a mango tree, 
which has been felled, is used as fuel. In all these cere- 
monies, the eldest son is the karta or chief mourner and 
responsible ritualist, with whom the younger ones have 
to keep up physical contact while the several rites are 
being gone through. When the body is almost reduced 
to ashes, the principal performer of the ceremonies and 
his brothers bathe, and, taking some earth from the 
adjoining stream or tank, make with it a representation 


of the deceased. Throughout the funeral ceremonies, 
the Maran is an indispensable factor. The handing of 
the kusa grass and gingelly {SesaNiiiiii) seeds for the 
oblation must be done by a member of that caste. 
Sanchayanam, or the collection and disposal of the burnt 
bones of the deceased, takes place on the fourth day. 
On the eleventh day the pollution ceases, and the daily 
sraddha begins. A term of diksha or special observance 
is kept u[) for three fortnights, but generally for a whole 
year. On the twelfth day is the sapinda karana sraddha, 
or ceremony of what may be called joining the fathers, 
after which the dead person passes from the stage of 
preta to join the manes or spirits. There are then the 
monthly ceremonies (masikas) and ashta sraddhas (eight 
sraddhas). The abdika or first anniversary, known in 
Malabar by the name of masam, is a very important 
ceremony, and one on which unstinted expenditure is 
the rule." 

A further account of the death ceremonies is given in 
the Gazetteer of Malabar. " When death is believed to 
be near, the dying man is taken to the west of the hearth 
of the sacred fire (aupasana agni), and laid with his head 
to the south on a bed of sand and darbha grass, while 
the ottu mantram is whispered in his ear. When life 
is extinct, the body is washed and covered with a plan- 
tain leaf. The mourners dress themselves in tattu fashion, 
and tear up a new cloth breadthwise into pieces called 
sesham, which they each wear round their waist. The 
body is then dressed in an undercloth ; the forehead is 
smeared with the pounded root of the creeper mettoni, 
and tulasi flowers are put on the head ; the kudumi 
(hair knot) is untied, and the punul (sacred thread) 
arranged to hang round the neck in front. The body 
is tied on to a bamboo ladder and covered with a new 


cloth, and then carried by four of the nearest relatives 
to the ])lace of cremation within the compound of the 
illam. A trench is dug on the north-east of the pyre, 
and some water put into it, which is sprinkled on the 
pyre with twigs of chamatha and darbha. The body is 
then laid on the pyre with the head to the south, and 
the fire is kindled. The ladder is thrown away, and a 
homam performed of ghee and darbha grass made to 
represent the deceased, while mantrams are recited. 
Then comes the ceremony called kumbhapradakshinam. 
The mourners go round the pyre three times, the eldest 
son leading the way, carrying an earthen pot of water 
on his left shoulder. The water should run through the 
bottom of the pot, one hole being made for the first 
round, two for the second, and three for the third, and 
other mourners should sprinkle it on the pyre. At the 
end of the third round the pot is thrown on to the pyre, 
and all the mourners come away, the eldest son leaving 
last, and being careful not to look back. After bathing 
and shaving, the sons and other persons entitled to cele- 
brate the obsequies, each perform an oblation of water 
(udagakriya) to a piece of karuga grass stuck up to re- 
present the spirit of the dead, concluding the ceremony 
by touching iron, granite, a firebrand, cow-dung, paddy 
and gold three times, throwing away the sesham, and 
receiving a clean cloth (mattu). They then return 
to the nadumittam, when they make offerings (bali or 
veli) of rice balls (pindams) to a piece of karuga grass. 
Both these ceremonies have to be repeated twice daily 
for ten days. On the fourth day after death, provided 
it is not a Tuesday or Friday, the ceremony of collecting 
the bones (sanchyanam) is performed. The eldest son 
goes to the pyre with a pala (pot made of the spathe of 
an areca palm) of milk, which he sprinkles on the pyre 


with a brush of chamatha tied with karuga grass. Three 
palas are placed on the west of the pyre parallel to the 
places where the feet, waist and head of the corpse rested, 
and bones are removed from the feet, waist and head 
with tongs of chamatha, and placed in the respective 
palas. The bones are then washed in milk, and all 
put into an earthen pot (kudam) with some karuga grass 
on the top. The pot is covered with a cloth, taken to a 
cocoanut tree and buried in a pit, the cloth being removed 
and the top filled with mud. A plantain is planted in 
the trench that was dug near the pyre. On the eleventh 
day, all the members of the family purify themselves, 
and perform oblations of water and balls of rice. This 
constitutes the first sraddha, which must be repeated on 
each anniversary of the eleventh day." 

" The funeral rites of women are similar ; but, if the 
woman is pregnant at the time of death, the body has 
first to be purified seven times with pounded kusa grass, 
cow-dung, cow's urine, ashes and gold, and to receive 
mattu. The belly is cut open four inches below the 
navel, and, if the child is found alive, it is taken out and 
brought up ; if dead, it is put back in the womb with a 
piece of gold and some ghee. Children not more than 
ten days old are buried with little ceremony, but all 
others are burnt." * 

When a Nambutiri is believed to have been guilty 
of an offence against the caste, or when there is a caste 
dispute in any gramam, the proper course is to represent 
the matter to the king (in Malabar the Zamorin), who 
refers it to the Smarta having jurisdiction over that 
particular gramam, ordering him to try the offender after 
holding a proper enquiry. Minor offences are punishable 

• The accounts of marriage and death ceremonies in the Gazelieer of Malabar 
are from a grandhavari. 


by inrtiction of penance, fasting, or doing special puja to 
the gods. Graver offences are dealt with by excommu- 
nication from the caste. Against the decision of the 
Smarta there is no appeal. Adultery between a Nam- 
butiri woman and a man of inferior caste is perhaps the 
most serious of all caste offences. 

The enquiry into cases of adultery is described as 
follows by Mr. Subramani Aiyar. " It is conducted by 
the Smarta, and hence arises the name (smartavicharam) 
by which it is known. Whenever a Nambutiri woman's 
chastity is suspected, she is at once handed over to 
society for enquiry, no considerations of personal 
affection or public policy intervening. The mother or 
brother may be the first and only spectator of a shady 
act, but feels no less bound to invite, and generally pay 
very heavily for a public enquiry by society accord- 
ing" to its recognised rules. The suspect is at once 
transferred to an isolation shed in the same compound, 
variously called by the name of anchampura or fifth 
room (outside the nalukettu or quadrangle), or the 
pachcholappura, a new shed with green thatch roofing 
put up for the occasion. She may be seen here by 
her husband, his father and uncles, her father, father's 
father, father's maternal grandfather, and their sons, but 
by none else. Once a prohibited member sees her, 
the brand of infamy indubitably settles on her, and the 
smartavicharam is considered foreclosed. For beginning 
a smartavicharam. the sanction of the ruling Raja has 
to be obtained. The matter is carried to his ears, after 
a preliminary enquiry, called dasivicharam, has been 
gone through. For this, the woman's male relations, 
in conjunction with the Brahmans of the neighbourhood, 
interrogate the Dasi or Nayar maid-servant attached to 
the suspected woman. Along with the application for 


royal sanction in Travancore, a fee of sixty-four fanams 
or nine rupees has to be sent in, and is credited to 
the treasury of Sri Padmanabha Svvami, as whose 
deputy the Maharaja is supposed to rule the country. 
The Maharaja then appoints a Smarta (judge), two 
Mimamsakas. an Akakkoyimma. and a Purakkoyimma. 
The office of Smarta is hereditary. If a family becomes 
extinct, the Yoga or village union nominates another in 
its place. The Mimamsakas are Nambutiris learned in 
the law, and their office is seldom hereditary. They 
are appointed to help the Smarta in his enquiries. 
The Akakkoyimma, or person whose business is to pre- 
serve order, holds his appointment by heredity. The 
Purakkoyimma is the proxy of the sovereign himself. 
In ancient days, and even so late as the time of the 
great Martanda Varma, the ruling sovereign himself was 
present during the trial, and preserved order. Now a 
deputy is sent by the Maharaja. He is generally the 
magistrate of the taluk, who, if he finds it inconvenient 
to attend the meeting, delegates the function to the 
chief village officer. The Smarta, when he receives the 
royal commission (neet) for holding the enquiry, receives 
from the woman's relations a small tribute of money 
(dakshina). The Mimamsakas, it may be observed, are 
selected by the Smarta. In Travancore alone is the 
Smarta's authority supreme, for no Vaidika lives in this 
territory, and none are generally invited. In other parts 
of Malabar, where Vaidikas live permanently, one of the 
six recognised Vaidikas has to accompany the Smarta 
to the place of the vicharana (enquiry), and the Smarta 
merely conducts the enquiry as the proxy of. and 
authorised and guided by the \'aidikas. Generally the 
council assembles at some neighbouring village temple. 
The suspected woman is placed within the anchampura, 


and her maid-servant stands at the door. All questions 
are addressed to her, as the gosha of the suspect has 
to be honoured in its entirety until the pronouncement 
of the final verdict. The procedure begins, not by 
the framing and reading out of a charge-sheet, but by 
arranging for the suspicion being brought to notice by 
the accused person herself. For this purpose, the 
Smarta makes a feint of entering the isolation shed, as 
if in ignorance of everything that has transpired. The 
maid-servant stops him, and informs him that her 
mistress is within. The Smarta, on hearing this, affects 
astonishment, and asks her the reason why her mistress 
should not be in the main building (antahpuram). 
With this question, the enquiry may be said to have 
actually begun. The next morning by eleven o'clock, 
the Smarta and his co-adjutors again go and stand beside 
the isolation hut, and, calling for the maid-servant, 
commence the regular enquiry. After about five o'clock 
in the afternoon, the Smarta, in the presence of the 
Akakkoyimma, relates the whole day's proceedings to 
the Mimamsakas, and takes their opinion as to the 
questions for the next day. The enquiry often lasts for 
months, and sometimes even for years. It is the most 
expensive undertaking possible, as the whole judica- 
tory staff has to be maintained by the family, unless the 
sadhanam or subject gives a circumstantial confession of 
her guilt. It is not enough to plead guilty ; she must 
point out all the persons who have been partakers in her 
guilt. Thus every day the Smarta asks " Are there any 
more ? " After the completion of the enquiry, the coun- 
cil re-assembles at the village temple. The guardian 
of the suspect presents himself before the assembled 
Brahmans, and makes the customary obeisance. The 
Smarta then recounts the details of the enquiry, ^and 


ultimately pronounces his verdict. If the woman is 
declared innocent, she is re-accepted amidst universal 
rejoicings, and the head of the family feels amply repaid 
for the expenditure he has incurred in the reputation for 
chastity secured for a member of his family under such 
a severe ordeal. If things do not end so well, all the 
Brahmans come out of the temple and re-assemble, when 
a Brahman, who is usually not a Nambutiri, as the Nam- 
butiris do not desire to condemn one of their own caste, 
stands up, and in a stentorian voice repeats the substance 
of the charge, and the judgment as given by the Smarta. 
The guardian of the woman then goes away, after she 
has been handed over by the Smarta to the custody of 
the Purakkoyimma. The guardian bathes, and performs 
all the funeral ceremonies for his ward, who from this 
moment is considered dead for all social and family 
purposes. The persons meanwhile, whose names have 
been given out by the woman as having been implicated 
in the offence, have to vindicate their character on pain 
of excommunication. 

In connection with a case of adultery, which was tried 
recently in Malabar, it is noted that the Purakkoyimma 
kept order in the court with sword in hand. Iswara 
puja (worship of Iswara) was performed in the local 
temple on all the days of the trial, and the suspected 
woman was given panchagavya (five products of the 
cow) so that she might tell the truth. 

I am informed that, in the course of an enquiry into 
a charge of adultery, "it sometimes happens that the 
woman names innocent men as her seducers. Two 
courses are then open to them, in order that they may 
exculpate themselves, viz., ordeal by boiling oil, and 
ordeal by weighing. The former of these ordeals is 
undergone, under the sanction of the Raja, by the 


accused person dipping his bare hand in ghi. which has 
been boiling from sunrise to midday, and taking out 
of it a bell-metal image. The hand is immediately 
bandaged, and if, on examination of it on the third day, 
it be found unharmed, the man is declared innocent. In 
the other ordeal, the man is made to sit for a certain 
time in one of a pair of scales, and is declared innocent 
or guilty, according as the scale ascends or descends. 
But these ]:)ractices do not now prevail." In former 
days, the ordeal of boiling ghi was undergone at the 
temple of Suchlndram in Travancore. This temple 
derives its name from Indra, who, according to the 
legend, had illicit intercourse with Ahalya, the wife of 
Gautama Rishi, and had to undergo a similar ordeal at 
this place. 

In connection with a case which came before the 
High Court of Madras, it is recorded * that " an enquiry 
was held into the conduct of a woman suspected. She 
confessed that the plaintiff had had illicit intercourse with 
her, and thereupon they were both declared out-casts, 
the plaintiff not having been charged, nor having had 
an opportunity to cross-examine the woman, or enter 
on his defence, and otherwise to vindicate his character. 
Held by the High Court that the declaration that the 
plaintiff was an outcast was illegal, and, it having been 
found that the defendants had not acted bona fide in 
making that declaration, the plaintiff was entitled to 
recover damages." 

In order to mitigate to some extent the suffering 
caused by turning adrift a woman proved guilty of 
adultery, who has hitherto lived in seclusion, provision 
has been made by the Raja of Cherakkal. A Tiyan named 

* Ind. Law Reports, Madras Series, XII, 1889. 


TalHparamba possesses a large extent of land granted 
by a former Raja of Cherakkal, on condition of his 
taking under his protection all excommunicated females, 
if they choose to go with him. He has special rank and 
privileges, and has the title of Mannanar. Whenever an 
inquiry takes place, Mannanar receives information of it, 
and his messengers are ready to take the woman away. 
It was the custom in former days for Mannanar's agents 
to lead the woman to near his house, and leave her at a 
certain place from which two roads lead to the house — 
one to the eastern gate, and the other to the northern. 
If the woman happened to enter the house by the eastern 
gate, she became Mannanar's wife, and, if she went in 
by the northern gate, she was considered to be his sister 
by adoption. This rule, however, is not strictly adhered 
to at the present day. 

The Nambutiris are stated by Mr. Subramani Aiyar 
to " belong to different sutras, gotras, or septs, and 
follow different Vedas. The most important of the 
sutras are Asvalayana, Baudhayana, Apastamba, and 
Kaushitaka. The best-known gotras are Kasyapa, 
Bhargava, Bharadvaga, Vasishta, and Kausika. There 
are a few Samavcdins belonging to the Kitangnur and 
Panchal gramams, but most of them are Rigvedic, and 
some belong to the Yajurveda. The Rigvedic Brahmans 
belong to two separate yogas or unions, namely, Trichur 
Yoga and Tirunavai Yoga. It appears that three of the 
most renowned of the disciples of Sankaracharya were 
Nambutiri Brahmans, who received their initiation into 
the sanyasasrama at the great sage's hands. They 
established three maths or monasteries, known as the 
tekkematham (southern), natuvile matham (middle), and 
vatakke matham (northern). Succession having fallen 
in default in regard to the last, the property that stood 


in its name lapsed to the Raja of Cochin. Out of the 
funds of this matham, a Vedic pathasala (boarding school) 
was established at Trichur. A certain number of 
villagers became in time recognised as being entitled 
to instruction at this institution, and formed a yoga. 
Trichur then became the centre of Brahmanical learning. 
Later on, when the relations of the Zamorin of Calicut 
with the Raja of Cochin became strained, he organised 
another yoga at Tirunavai for the Nambutiris who lived 
within his territory. Here there are two yogas for 
Rigvedic Brahmans. In these schools, religious instruc- 
tion has been imparted with sustained attention for 
several centuries. The heads of these schools are 
recruited from the houses of Changngavot and Erkara, 
respectively. To these two yogas two V'adhyars and 
six Vaidikas are attached. There are also six Smartas 
or judges attached to these bodies. The Vadhyars are 
purely religious instructors, and have nojudicial duties in 
respect of society. The Vaidikas and Smartas are very 
learned in the Smritis, and it is with them that the whole 
caste government of the Nambutiris absolutely rests." 

The names of the Nambutiris measured by Mr. 
Fawcett were as fbllows : — 




















In connection with the names of Nambutiris, Mr. 
Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. " A list of names 


not current or unusual now among other Brahman 
communities in Southern India may be interesting. 
These are — 

Vishnu. Kadaniban. 

Gayantan. Chitran. 

Devadattan. Gadavedan. 

Kiratan. Bhavadasan. 

Prabhakaran. Srikumaran. 

" The conspicuous absence of the names of the third 
son of Siva (Sasta), such as Hariharaputra and Budha- 
natha, may be noted. Nor are the names of Ganapathi 
much in favour with them. Sridevi and Savitri are the 
two most common names, by which Nambutiri females 
are known. There are also certain other names of a 
Prakrita or non-classic character, used to denote males 
and females, which sometimes border on the humorous. 
Among these are — 

Males. [ Females. 

Nampiyattan. Nangngaya. 

Ittiyattan. Nangngeli. 

Uzhutran. Pappi. 

Tuppan. Ittichchiii. 

Nampotta. Unnima. 


" Some names in this list are identifiable with the 
names of divinities and puranic personages. For exam- 
ple, Uzhutran is a corruption of Rudran. In the same 
manner, Tuppan is the Prakrit for Subramanya, and 
Chiruta for Sita. Unnima is another name for Uma or 
Parvati. Nambutiris grudge to grant the title of 
Nambutiri to each other. For instance, the Tamaras- 
seri Nambutiri calls the Mullappalli Nambutiri merely 
Mullapalli (house name). But, if the person addressed 
is an Adhya of one of the eight houses, or at least a 


Tantri Adhya, the title Nambiitiri is added to his name. 
Again, if there arc in a house two Nambutiris, one of 
them being the father and the other the son, the father, 
whenever he writes, subscribes himself as the Achchan 
Nambiitiri or father Nambutiri, while the son subscribes 
himself as the Makan or son Nambutiri. In Malabar 
there were two poets called Venmani Achchan Nambu- 
tiri and Venmani Makan Nambutiri, venmani signifying 
the name of the illam. It is only in documents and 
other serious papers that the proper name or sarman of 
the Nambutiri would be found mentioned." 

When addressing each other, Nambutiris use the 
names of their respective illams or manas. When a 
Nambutiri is talking with a Nayar, or indeed with one 
of any other caste, the manner in which the conver- 
sation must be carried on, strictly according to custom, 
is such that the Nambutiri's superiority is apparent at 
every turn. Thus, a Nayar, addressing a Nambutiri, 
must speak of himself as foot-servant. If he mentions 
his rice, he must not call it rice, but his gritty rice. 
Rupees must be called his copper coins, not his rupees. 
He must call his house his dung-pit. He must speak 
of the Nambutiri's rice as his raw rice, his coppers as 
rupees, and his house as his illam or mana. The Nayar 
must not call his cloth a cloth, but an old cloth or a 
spider's web. But the Nambutiri's cloth is to be called 
his daily white cloth, or his superior cloth. The Nayar, 
speaking of his bathing, says that he drenches himself 
with water, whereas the Nambutiri sports in the water 
when he bathes. Should he speak of eating or drinking, 
the Nayar must say of himself that he takes food, or 
treats himself to the water in which rice has been washed. 
But, should he speak of the Nambutiri eating, he must 
say that he tastes ambrosia. The Nayar calls his sleeping 


lying flat, and the Nambutiri's closing his eyes, or resting 
like a Raja. The Nayar must speak of his own death as 
the falling of a forest, but of the Nambutiri's as entering 
fire. The Nambutiri is not shaved by the barber ; his 
hairs are cut. He is not angry, but merely dissatisfied. 
He does not clean his teeth as the Nayar ; he cleans 
his superior pearls. Nor does he laugh ; he displays his 
superior pearls. 

Concerning the recreations and pastimes of the 
Nambutiris, Mr. Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. 
" During the intervals of Vedic or Puranic recitations, 
the Nambutiri engages himself in chaturangam or chess. 
When the players are equally matched, a game may last 
five, six, or even seven days. Another amusement, which 
the Nambutiris take a great interest in, is the Yatrakali, 
which is said to be a corruption of Sastrakali, a perform- 
ance relating to weapons. This is a unique institution, 
kept up by a section of the Nambutiris, who are believed 
to represent the Brahmanical army of Parasu Rama. 
When, at a ceremony in the Travancore royal household, 
a Yatrakali is performed, the parties have to be received 
at the entrance of the Maharaja's palace in state, sword 
in hand. The dress and songs are peculiar. In its 
import, the performance seems to combine the propi- 
tiation of Siva and Parvati in the manner indicated in 
a tradition at Trikkariyur with exorcism and skill in 
swordsmanship. It is generally believed that, in ancient 
days, the Brahmans themselves ruled Kerala. When 
they found it necessary to have a separate king, one Atta- 
kat Nambutiri was deputed, with a few other Brahmans, to 
go and obtain a ruler from the adjoining Chera territory. 
The only pass in those days, connecting Malabar and 
Coimbatore, was that which is now known as Neruman- 
galam. When the Nambutiris were returning through 


this pass with the ruler whom they had secured from the 
Chera King, a strange light was observed on the adjacent 
hills. Two young Brahmans of Chengngamanat village, 
on proceeding towards the hill to investigate the source 
thereof, found to their amazement that it was none 
other than Sri Bhagavati, the consort of Siva, who en- 
joined them to go, via Trikkariyur, to Kodungngnallur, 
the capital of the Perumals. Seeing that the sight of 
Bhagavati foretold prosperity, the king called the range 
of hills Nerumangalam or true bliss, and made an endow- 
ment of all the surrounding land to the Brahman village 
of Chengngamanat, the members of which had the good 
fortune to see the goddess face to face. When they 
entered the temple of Trikkariyur, a voice was heard to 
exclaim " Chera Perumal," which meant that into that 
town, where Parasu Rama was believed to be dwelling, 
no Perumal (king) should ever enter — a traditional 
injunction still respected by the Malabar Kshatriyas. 
At this place, the sixth Perumal who, according to a 
tradition, had a pronounced predilection for the Bouddha 
religion (Islamism or Buddhism, we cannot say), called 
a meeting of the Brahmans, and told them that a 
religious discussion should be held between them and 
the Bouddhas, in view to deciding their relative superi- 
ority. 'l*he presiding deity of the local Saiva shrine was 
then propitiated by the Brahmans, to enable them to 
come out victorious from the trial. A Gangama saint 
appeared before them, and taught them a hymn called 
nalupadam (four feet or parts of a sl5ka) which the 
Nambutiris say is extracted from the Samaveda. The 
saint further advised them to take out a lamp from 
within the temple, which according to tradition had 
existed from the time of Sri Rama, to a room built on the 
western ghat of the temple tank, and pray to Siva in 


terms of the hymn. While this was continued for forty- 
one days, six Brahmans, with Mayura Bhatta at their 
head, arrived from the east coast to the succour of 
the Nambutiris. With the help of these Brahmans, the 
Nambutiris kept up a protracted discussion with the 
Bouddhas. Wishing to bring it to a close, the Perumal 
thought of applying a practical test. He enclosed a 
snake within a pot, and asked the disputants to declare 
its contents. The Bouddhas came out first with the cor- 
rect answer, while the Brahmans followed by saying that 
it was a lotus flower. The Perumal was, of course, 
pleased with the Bouddhas ; but, when the pot was 
opened, it was found to contain a lotus flower instead of 
a snake. The Bouddhas felt themselves defeated, and 
ever afterwards the nalupadam hymn has been sung by 
the Nambutiris with a view to securing a variety of 
objects, every one of which they expect to obtain by 
this means. It is also said that, when the Brahmans 
were propitiating Siva at Trikkariyur, diverse spirits and 
angels were found amusing Parvati with their quips and 
cranks. A voice from heaven was then heard to say that 
such frolics should thereafter form part of the worship 
of Siva. 

" Engaged in these socio-religious performances are 
eighteen sanghas or associations. The chief office- 
bearers are the Vakyavritti who is the chief person, 
and must be an Ottu Nambutiri or a Numbutiri with 
full Vedic knowledge ; the Parishakkaran who holds 
charge of the Yatrakali paraphernalia ; and the guru or 
instructor. The chief household divinities of these soldier 
Nambutiris are Bhadrakali, Sasta, and Subrahmanya. 
On the evening of the Yatrakali day, these Brahmans 
assemble round the lamp, and recite the nalupadam and 
a few hymns in praise of their household divinities, and 

especially of Siva, the saviour who manifested himself 
at Trikkariyur. On the night of the performance they 
are entertained at supper, when they sing certain songs 
called Karisloka. They then move in slow procession 
to the kalam or hall, singing specially songs in the 
vallappattu metre, with the sacred thread hanging 
vertically round the neck (apiviti), and not diagonally as 
is the orthodox fashion. In the hall have been placed a 
burning lamp in the centre, a para (Malabar measure) 
filled with paddy, a number of bunches of cocoanuts, 
plantain fruits, and various kinds of flowers. The 
Brahmans sit in a circle round the lamp, and, after 
preliminary invocations to Ganapathi, sing songs in 
praise of Siva. After this various kinds of dumb-show 
are performed, and this is the time for exhibiting skill 
in swordsmanship. The exorcising, by the waving of a 
lighted torch before the face of the host, of any evil 
spirits that may have attached themselves is then 
gone through. The performance ends with a prayer 
to Bhagavati, that she will shower every prosperity. 
Following close upon this, a variety entertainment is 
sometimes given by the Yatrakali Nambutiris. This old 
institution is still in great favour in British Malabar, 
and, as it has a religious laspect intertwined with it, it 
is not likely to be swept away by the unsparing broom 
of the so-called parishkarakalam or reforming age of 
modern India. 

" The Kathakali, or national drama of Malabar, is 
held in great esteem and favour by the Nambutiris. 
Most of them are conversant with the songs and shows 
relating to it, and severely criticise the slightest fault or 
failure. The Kathakali is more than three centuries old 
in Malabar, and is said to have been first brought into 
existence by a member of the ancient ruling house of 

Kottarakkara. As the earliest theme represented was 
the Ramayana, the KathakaH is also known as Rama- 
nattam. A single play lasts for eight and even ten 
hours in the night. Kshatriyas, Asuras, Rakshasas, 
Kiratas (hunting tribes), monkeys,, birds, etc., each 
has an appropriate make-up. The play is in dumb- 
show, and no character is permitted to speak on the 
stage. The songs are sung by the Bhagavatar or 
songster, and the actors literally act, and do nothing 
more. The Nambutiris love this antiquated form of 
theatrical performance, and patronise it to a remarkable 

" There are a number of other recreations of an 
entirely non-religious character. The chief of these are 
called respectively seven dogs and the leopard, fifteen 
dogs and the leopard, and twenty-eight dogs and the 
leopard. Success in these games consists in so arranging 
the dogs as to form a thick phalanx, two abreast, round 
the leopard. Stones of two sizes are employed to repre- 
sent the dogs and leopards, and the field is drawn on 
the ground. 

"The ezahmattukali, or seventh amusement, is said 
to have been so called from the fact of its being intro- 
duced by the seventh Nambutiri gramam of Kerala. 
It is a miniature form of Yatrakali, but without its qtiasi- 
religious character, and is intended to serve merely as 
a social pastime. The players need not all be Brah- 
mans ; nor is fasting or any religious discipline part of 
the preliminary programme. Sitting round the lamp 
as at the Yatrakali, and reciting songs in praise of Siva, 
the players proceed to the characteristic portion of the 
recreation, which is a kind of competition in quick- 
wittedness and memory held between two yogas or 
parties. One among them calls himself the Kallur Nayar 


and is the presiding judge. There is interrogation and 
answering by two persons, and a third proclaims the mis- 
takes in the answers. There are two others, who serve 
as bailiffs to execute the judge's orders. Humorous 
scenes are then introduced, such as Ittikkantappan 
Niiyar, Prakkal, Mutti or old woman, Pattaror Paradesa 
Brahman, and other characters, who appear on the stage 
and amuse the assembly." 

The Nambutiris are Vedic Brahmans : their scrip- 
tures are the Vedas. It is safe to say that the Nambu- 
tiris are Shaivas, but not to the exclusion of Vishnu. 
The ordinary South Indian Vaishnava Brahman has 
nothing to do with the Shaiva temple over the way, 
and takes no part or interest in the Shaiva festivals. 
Siva is to the Nambutiri the supreme deity, but he 
has temples also to Vishnu, Krishna, Narasimha, Sri 
Raghava. Ganapathi, Subrahmanya, Bhagavati, etc. 
There are said to be temples to Sastavu and Sankar- 
narayanan — amalgamated forms of Siva and Vishnu. 
The lingam is the ordinary object of worship. 

Like all Brahmans, the Nambutiris believe that the 
eight directions or points of the compass, north, north- 
east, east, south-east, south, south-west, west,morth-west, 
arc presided over by eight deities, or Ashtadikpalakas, 
riding on various animals. Indra reigns in heaven and 
Yama in hell, and Surya is the sun god. All these and 
their wives are worshipped. Parvati shares adoration 
with Siva, Lakshmi with Vishnu, and so on. The 
Nambutiris believe in the existence of evil spirits which 
influence man, but they do not worship them. 

It is said that the Nambutiri has of late been 
influenced by Vedantism, that wonderful religious idea 
of the existence of one spirit or atman, the only reality, 
outside which the world and all besides is mere illusion, 


and whose doctrine is wrapped up in the three words 
" Ekam eva advitlyam ". (There is but one being 
without a second). 

The Nambutiris call themselves Arya Brahmanar. 
Their legendary transmigration to Malabar from 
Northern India is doubtless true. Theirs is by far 
the purest form of the Vedic Brahmanism to be met 
with in Southern India. A complete account of the 
religion of the Nambutiris cannot be given in these 
pages. The Nambutiri's life is a round of sacrifices, the 
last of which is the burning of his body on the funeral 
pyre. When the Nambutiri has no male issue, he 
performs the putra kameshti or karmavipakaprayas- 
chittam yagams or sacrifices to obtain it. Should he 
be unwell, he performs the mrittyunjaya santi yagam, 
so that he may be restored to good health. He per- 
forms the aja yagam, or goat sacrifice, in order to 
obtain salvation. Though animal food is strictly for- 
bidden, and the rule is strictly followed, the flesh of the 
goat, which remains after the offering has been made 
in this sacrifice, is eaten by the Nambutiris present 
as part of the solemn ceremonial. This is the only 
occasion on which animal food is eaten. Namaskaram, 
or prostration, is much done during prayers. By some 
it is done some hundreds of times daily, by others 
not so often. It amounts to physical exercise, and is 
calculated to strengthen the arms and the back. 

Reference has already been made to certain cere- 
monies connected with pregnancy, and the early life 
of a child. There are three further important cere- 
monies, called Upanayana, Samavartana and Upakarma, 
concerning which Mr. Subramani Aiyar writes as 
follows. " Upanayana may be called the Brahmanising 
ceremony. An oft-repeated Sanskrit verse runs to the 


effect that a Brahman is a Brahman by virtue of his 
karmas or actions in this life, or the lives preceding it. 
The meaning of the term Upanayana is a ceremony 
vvhicli leads one to god, i.e., to a realisation of the 
eternal self through the aid of a guru (preceptor). 
This ceremony takes place in the seventh, eighth, or 
ninth year of a boy's life. As ordinarily understood, 
it is a ceremony for males only, as they alone have 
to observe the four asramas. But, in ancient days, it 
seems to have been performed also by females. Marriage 
was not compulsory, and a girl might take to asceticism 
at once. Sita is said to have worn a yagnopavitam 
(sacred thread). A Brahman is not born, but made 
by the karmas. In other words, a Brahman boy is, at 
the time of his birth, only a Sudra, and it is by the 
performance of the necessary karmas — not merely the 
ceremonial rites, but the disciplinary and preparatory 
process in view to spiritual development — that he 
becomes a Dviga or twice-born. The word Upanayana 
is composed of upa, meaning near, and nayana, leading. 
What the youth is led to is, according to some, Brah- 
maggnana or the realisation of the eternal and universal 
self, and according to others only the teacher or guru. 
A Nambiitiri Upanayana begins with the presentation 
of a dakshina (consolidated fee) to the Ezhuttachchan, 
or the Nayar or Ambalavasi teacher, who has been 
instructing the youth in the vernacular. The boy stands 
on the western side of the sacrificial fire, facing the east, 
and the father stands beside him, facing the same way. 
The second cloth (uttariya) is thrown over the boy's 
head, and his right hand being held up, the sacred 
thread, to which a strap made from the skin of a Krishna- 
mriga (antelope) is attached, is thrown over his shoulders 
and under his right arm, while he stands reverently with 


closed eyes. The thread and skin arc wrapped up in 
the cloth, and are not to be seen by the boy. He is 
then taken to an o{)en place, where the priest introduces 
the new Brahmachari to the sun, and invokes him to 
cover his pupil with his rays. The boy next goes to the 
sacrificial altar, and himself offers certain sacrifices to the 
fire. Saluting his preceptor and obtaining his blessing, 
he requests that he may be initiated into the Savitriman- 
tram. After a few preliminary ceremonies, the guru 
utters in the right ear of his disciple the sacred syllable 
Om, and repeats the Gayatri mantram nine times. He 
then instructs him in certain maxims of conduct, which 
he is to cherish and revere throughout the Brahmacharya 
stage. Addressing the boy, the guru says, ' You have 
become entitled to the study of the Vedas ; perform all 
the duties which pertain to the asrama you are about to 
enter. Never sleep during the day. Study the Vedas 
by resigning yourself to the care of your spiritual in- 
structor.' These exhortations, though made in Sanskrit, 
are explained in Malayalam, in order that the boy may 
understand them — a feature unknown to Brahmans on 
the other coast. With his words of advice, the preceptor 
gives the youth a danda or stick made of pipal {^Ficus 
religiosd) wood, as if to keep him in perpetual memory 
of what would follow if any of the directions be dis- 
regarded. The boy then makes his obeisance to his 
parents and all his relations, and is given a brass vessel 
called bhikshapatra (alms pot), in which he collects, by 
house-to-house visits, food for his daily sustenance during 
the Brahmacharya stage. He proceeds to the kitchen 
of his own house with the vessel in one hand and the 
stick in the other. Making his obeisance in due form 
to his mother, who stands facing the east, he says ' Bhik- 
sham bhavati dadatu ' (May you be pleased to give me 


alms). The mother places five or seven handfuls of rice 
in the vessel. After receiving similar contributions from 
the assembled elders, the boy takes the vessel to his 
father, who is the first guru, saying ' Bhaikshmamidam ' 
(This is my alms collection). The father blesses it, and 
says ' May it be good.' After the Gayatrijapa, the cere- 
mony of Samidadhana is performed. This is the Brah- 
machari's daily worship of the sacred fire, corresponding 
to the aupasana of the Grihastha, and has to be per- 
formed twice daily. After another homam at night, the 
cloth covering the sacred thread and skin is removed, 
and the consecration of the food is done for the first time. 
In addition to the skin strap, the Brahmachari wears a 
mekhala or twisted string of kusa grass. It is doubtless 
of the youthful Nambutiri that Barbosa wrote as follows 
at the beginning of the sixteenth century. ' And when 
these are seven years old, they put round their necks a 
strap two fingers in width of an animal which they call 
cresnamergan, and they command him not to eat betel 
for seven years, and all this time he wears that strap 
round the neck, passing under the arm ; and, when he 
reaches fourteen years of age, they make him a Brahman, 
removing from him the leather strap round his neck, and 
putting on another three-thread, which he wears all his 
life as a mark of beinsc a Brahman.' The rules which 
were observed with such strictness centuries ago are still 
observed, and every Nambutiri boy goes through his 
period of Brahmacharya, which lasts at least for full five 
years. During the whole of this period, no sandal paste, 
no scents, and no flowers are to be used by him. He is 
not to take his meals at other houses on festive occasions. 
He must not sleep during the day. Nor may he wear a 
loin-cloth in the ordinary fashion. Shoes and umbrella 
are also prohibited. The completion of the Brahmachari 


asrama, or stage of pupilage, is called Samavartana. 
After a few religious ceremonies in the morning, the 
Brahmachari shaves for the first time since the Upana- 
yana ceremonies, casts off the skin strap and mekhala, and 
bathes. He puts on sandal paste marks, bedecks him- 
self with jasmine flowers, and puts on shoes. He then 
holds an umbrella, and wears a pearl necklace. After 
this, he puts on a head-dress, and a few other ceremonials 
conclude the Samavartana. For three days subsequent 
to this, the budding Grihastha is considered ceremonially 
impure, and the pollution is perhaps based on the death 
of the old asrama, and birth of the new. In the Upakarma 
ceremony, hymns are sung by the preceptor, and the 
pupil has merely to listen to them." 

In conclusion, something may be said concerning the 
general beliefs of the Nambutiris. All objects, animate 
or inanimate, organic or inorganic, are believed to be 
permeated by the divine spirit. Animals, trees, plants, 
and floM'-ers are animate, and therefore venerated. The 
sun, moon, and stars are revered on account of some 
inherent quality in each, such as utility or strength, or 
owing to their connection with some deity. A god can 
assume any form at any time, such as that of a man, bird, 
beast, or tree. The various forms in which a god has 
appeared are ever sacred. Some animals have been 
used as vehicles by the gods, and are therefore revered. 
Cows, horses, and snakes are worshipped. The cow is 
the most sacred of all animals. The Puranas tell of 
Kamadhenu, the cow of plenty, one of the fourteen useful 
things which turned up out of the ocean of milk when it 
was churned, and which is supposed to have yielded the 
gods all they desired. So Kamadhenu is one who gives 
anything which is desired. Every hair of the cow is 
sacred, its urine is the most holy water, and its dung the 


most purificatory substance. The horse is the favourite 
animal of Kubera, the treasure-god. The Uchchaisravas, 
the high-eared prototype of all horses, also came out of 
the churned ocean. Horse sacrifice, or Asvamedha, is the 
greatest of all sacrifices. Performance of a hundred of 
them would give the sacrificer power to displace Indra, 
in order to make room for him. Snakes are the fruitful 
progeny of the sage Kasyapa and Kadru. The Maha 
Sesha, their prince, is the couch and canopy of Vishnu, 
and supports the world on his thousand heads. But 
attention to snakes is probably more in the light of the 
harm, which they may do, and propitiatory in character. 
Among plants, the tulasi or sacred basil {^Ocimum 
sanctum) is the most sacred of all. It is supposed to be 
pervaded by the essence of both Vishnu and Lakshmi : 
according to some legends, it is a metamorphosis of Sita 
and Rukmini. The daily prayer offered to the tulasi is 
thus rendered by Monier Williams. " I adore that tulasi 
in whose roots are all the sacred places of pilgrimage, 
in whose centre are all the deities, and in whose upper 
branches arc all the Vedas." The udumbara {Ficus 
glome7'ata) is also sacred. Under this tree Dattatreya, 
the incarnation of the Trinity, performed his ascetic 
austerities. The Nambutiri says that, according to the 
sastras, there must be one of these trees in his compound, 
and, if it is not there, he imagines it is. The bilva {^gle 
Marmelos) is specially sacred to Siva all over Southern 
India. To the Nambutiri it is very sacred. Its leaves 
are supposed to represent the three attributes of Siva — 
Satva, Raja, and Tama— and also his three eyes and his 
trisulam (trident). They are used by the Nambutiri in 
propitiatory ceremonies to that god. An offering of a 
single leaf of this tree is believed to annihilate the sins 
done three births or existence. Kusa grass [Ei'agrosfis 


cynosuroides) is very sacred, and used in many ceremonies. 
At the churning of the ocean, the snakes are said to 
have been greedy enough to Hckthe nectar off the kusa 
grass, and got their tongues spHt in consequence. The 
asvaththa {Ficics religiosa) is also very sacred to the 
Nambutiris. It is supposed to be pervaded by the spirit 
of Brahma the Creator. 

From the sun (Surya, the sun-god) emanate light 
and heat, and to its powers all vegetation is due, so the 
Nambutiri worships it daily. He also offers puja to the 
sun and moon as belonging to the nine navagrahas 
(planets). The planets are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, 
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu. They 
influence the destinies of men, and therefore come in for 
some worship. The three last are sinister in their effects, 
and must be propitiated. 

Namdev. — A synonym of Rangari. 

Nanchi Kuruva. — A name for Kuruvas, who inhabit 
Nanchinad in Travancore. 

Nanchinad Vellala. — The Nanchinad Vellalas, to 
the number of 18,000, are found scattered all over 
Travancore, though their chief centre is Nanchinad, 
composed of the taluks of Tovala and Agastisvaram. 
Their manners and customs at the present day are so 
different to those of the Tamil Vellalas that they may be 
regarded as a separate caste indigenous to Travancore 
and Cochin. Like other Sudras of Travancore, they add 
the title Pillai to their name, which is often preceded by 
the title Kannaku. 

From a copper-plate grant in the possession of the 
Syrian Christians, dated A.D. 824, we learn that one 
family of carpenters, and four families of Vellalas, were 
entrusted with the growing of plants on the sea-coast, 
the latter being the Karalars or trustees. From this it 


appears that the Vellalas must have settled on the west 
coast in the ninth century at the latest. The Nanchinad 
Vellalas were not originally different from their Pandyan 
analogues, but settled in the taluks above mentioned, 
over which the Pandyans held sway during several 
periods in mediceval times. On one occasion, when 
there was a dispute about the territorial jurisdiction of 
Nanchinad between the Maharaja of Travancore and the 
Pandyan ruler, the leading Vellalas of these taluks went 
over in a body to the Travancore camj), and swore 
allegiance to the Travancore throne. They gradually 
renounced even the law of inheritance, which their 
brethren of the Tamil country followed, and adopted 
many novel customs, which they found prevalent in 
Kerala. From Nanchinad the caste spread in all 
directions, and, as most of them were respectable men 
with good education and mathematical training, their 
services were utilised for account-keeping in the civil 
and military departments of the State. They must, of 
course, be clearly distinguished from the Tamil makka- 
thayam Vellalas of Kuttamperur in Tiruvella, who have 
also become naturalised in Travancore. 

For the following note, I am indebted to Mr. 
N. Subramani Aiyar. 

Like the Tamil Vellalas, the Nanchinad Vellalas are 
divided into two classes, Saiva and Asaiva, of which the 
former abstain from flesh and fish, while the latter have 
no such scruple. Asaivas will take food in the houses of 
Saivas, but the Saivas cook their own food when they 
go to an Asaiva house. Again, though the Saivas marry 
girls from Asaiva families, they are taught the Saiva 
hymn by the Gurukal immediately afterwards, and 
prohibited from dining with their former relatives. This 
custom is, however, only known to prevail in the south. 


While the Vellalas in the south reside in streets, their 
brethren in the north Hve, lils:e Nayars, in isolated 
houses. In their dress and ornaments, too, the Nanchi- 
nad Vellalas living in North Travancore differ from those 
of the south, inasmuch as they adopt .the practice of the 
Nayars, while the latter are conservative, and true to 
their old traditions. 

The Nanchinad Vellalas are well known, throughout 
Travancore, for their thrift, industry, and mathematical 
acumen. Several families have dropped the designa- 
tion of Vellala, and adopted Nanchinad Nayar as their 

Their language is largely mixed up with Malayalam 
words and phrases. Madan Isakki (Yakshi) and Inan 
are their recognised tutelary deities, and were till recently 
worshipped in every household. V'illati-chanpattu is a 
common propitiatory song, sung by members of the 
goldsmith and oilmonger castes, in connection with the 
ceremonies of the Nanchinad Vellalas. It deals with 
the origin of these minor deities, and relates the circum- 
stances in which their images were set up in various 
shrines. Amman-kodai, or offering to the mother, is the 
most important religious festival. They also observe the 
Tye-pongal, Depavali, Trikkartikai, Onam and Vishu 
festivals. The anniversary of ancestors is celebrated, 
and the Pattukkai ceremony of the Tamil Vellalas, in 
propitiation of deceased female ancestors, is performed 
every year. Stories of Chitragupta, the accountant- 
general of Yama, the Indian Pluto, are recited on the 
new-moon day in the month of Chittiray (April-May) 
with great devotion. 

The Nanchinad Vellalas are chiefly an agricultural 
class, having their own village organisation, with office- 
bearers such as kariyasthan or secretary, mutalpiti or 

V-l6 B 


treasurer, and the pilla or accountant. Contributions 
towards village funds are made on certain ceremonial 
occasions. Their high priest belongs to the Umayoru- 
bhagam mutt of Kumbakonam,and the North Travancore 
Vcllalas recognise the Panantitta Gurukal as their 
spiritual adviser. East coast Brahmans often officiate 
as their priests, and perform the sacrificial and other 
rites at weddings. 

The usual rule is for girls to marry after puberty, but 
early marriage is not rare. The maternal uncle's or 
paternal aunt's daughter is regarded as the legitimate 
bride. The presents to the bridegroom include a mundu 
and neriyatu, the ordinary Malabar dress, and very 
often an iron writing-style and knife. This is said to 
be symbolical of the fact that the Vellalas formed the 
accountant caste of Travancore, and that several families 
of them were invited from Madura and Tinnevelly to 
settle down in Nanchinad for this purpose. A procession 
of the bridal couple in a palanquin through the streets is 
a necessary item of the marriage festivities. The Nan- 
chinad Vellalas contract temporary alliances with Nayar 
women from the Padamangalam section downwards. 
Divorce is permitted, provided a formal release-deed, or 
vidu-muri, is executed by the husband. After this, the 
woman may enter into sambandham (connection) with a 
Nanchinad or Pandi Vellala. 

The laws of inheritance are a curious blend of the 
makkathayam and marumakkathayam systems. Sons 
are entitled to a portion of the property, not exceeding 
a fourth, of the self-acquired property of the father, and 
also a fourth of what would have descended to him 
in a makkathayam family. This is called ukantutama, 
because it is property given out of love as opposed to 
right. It is a further rule that, in case of divorce, the 

245 nanchinAd VELLALA 

wife and children should be given this ukantutama, lest 
they should be left in utter destitution, only a tenth part 
of the ancestral property being allotted for this purpose, 
if her husband leaves no separate estate. If more than 
a fourth of the estate is to be given in this manner, the 
permission of the heirs in the female line has generally 
to be obtained. If a man dies without issue, and leaves 
his wife too old or unwilling to enter into a fresh 
matrimonial alliance, she is entitled to maintenance out 
of his estate. A divorced woman, if without issue, is 
similarly entitled to maintenance during the life of her 
former husband. The property to which she may thus 
lay claim is known as nankutama, meaning the property 
of the nanka or woman. The nankutama cannot be 
claimed by the widow, if, at the time of her husband's 
death, she does not live with, and make herself useful to 
him. When a widow enters into a sambandham alliance, 
the second husband has to execute a deed called etuppu, 
agreeing to pay her, either at the time of his death or 
divorce, a specified sum of money. The ukantutama 
from the family of her first husband does not go to the 
issue of a woman who is in possession of an etuppu 

The namakarana, or name-giving ceremony, is per- 
formed in early life. Many of the names are unknown 
among Nayars, e.g., Siva, Vishnu, Kuttalalingam, 
Subramanya, Ponnampalam among males, and Sivakami, 
Kantimati among females. The tonsure is performed 
before a boy is three years old. The right of performing 
the funeral ceremonies is vested in the son. or, failing 
one, the nephew. Pollution lasts for sixteen days. 
The karta (chief mourner) has to get himself completely 
shaved, and wears the sacred thread throughout the 
period of pollution, or at least on the sixteenth day. On 


that day oblations of cooked food, water and gingelly 
(Sesavuim) seeds are offered to the departed. If a 
daughter's son dies, her mother, and not the father, 
observes pollution. 

Nanchinad Vellala has been assumed by males of the 
Deva-dasi caste in Travancore. 

Nandikattu (bull's mouth). — An exogamous sept of 

Nandimandalam. — A sub-division of Razu. 

Nanga (naked). — A sub-division of Poroja. 

Nangudi Vellala.— The so-called Nangudi Vellalas, 
or Savalai Pillais, are found inhabiting several villages 
in the Tinnevelly district, and differ from other Vellalas 
in several important points. They say that they are 
Kottai (fort) Vellalas, who have given up the custom of 
living within a fort. Nangudi women are not allowed 
to enter the fort at Srivaiguntam, wherein the Kottai 
Vellalas live. Within the last few years, marriages are 
said to have taken place between members of the two 
communities. The Nangudis have exogamous septs or 
kilais, named for the most part after persons or deities, 
which, like the septs of the Maravans, run in the female 
line. The hereditary caste headman is called Pattaththu 
Pillai. In olden times, members who disobeyed him 
were made to run through the streets with a rotten 
tender cocoanut tied to the kudumi (hair knot), while 
a man ran behind, applying a tamarind switch to the 

The consent of a girl's maternal uncle and his wife is 
necessary, before she can marry. The aunt's consent is 
signified by touching the tali (marriage badge) on the 
wedding day. The uncle keeps a light, called ayira 
panthi, burning until the time for tying the tali. A 
quarter measure of rice is tied up in a cloth, and the 


knot converted into a wick, which is fed with gh'i 
(clarified butter). 

The news of a death in the community is conveyed 
by the barber. Before the removal of the corpse, all 
close relations, and at least one pair of Nangudis from 
every village, must come to the house. Absence on this 
occasion is considered as a very grave insult. On the 
second day after death, an Amarantits, called arakkirai, 
must be cooked. 

A special feature in connection with inheritance is 
that a man should give his daughters some property, 
and every daughter must be given a house. The 
husbands have to live in their wives' houses. The 
property which a woman receives from her father 
becomes eventually the property of her daughters, and 
her sons have no claim to it. Sons inherit the property 
of the father in the usual manner. 

Like the Kondaikatti Vellalas, the Nangudis claim 
that they had the right of placing the crown on the head 
of the Pandyan kings. In the village of Korkai, there 
is a tank (pond) called Kannimar Jonai, because celestial 
maidens used to bathe there. When one Agni Maha 
Rishi was doing penance, three of the celestial maidens 
are said to have come to bathe. The Rishi fell in love 
with them, and eventually three sons were born. These 
children were brought up by the Vellalas of Korkai at 
the request of the Rishi, who represented that they were 
likely to become kings. According to the legend, they 
became Chera, Chola, and Pandya kings. 

Nannuru (four hundred). — An exogamous sept of 

Nantunikkuruppu. — Recorded, in the Travancore 
Census Report, 1901, as a synonym of Vatti, a sub- 
division of Nayar. 


Nanukonda. — A sub-division of Lingayat Kapus, 
named after the village of Nanukonda in the Kurnool 

Naravidyavaru. — These are Vipravinodis, who are 
Jangams by caste. They style themselves Naravidyavaru 
when they perform acrobatic and other feats before 
ordinary people, and Vipravinodi when they perform 
before Brahmans. The name Naravidyavaru is said to 
be a contraction of Narulu-mechche-vidya-cheyu-varu, 
/.e\, those who receive the approbation of men. One 
of their most favourite feats is throwing three or four 
wooden or stone balls up into the air, and rolling them 
quickly in succession over various parts of the body — 
arms, chest, etc, 

Nariangal (nari, jackal). — An exogamous sept of 

Narikela (cocoanut). — An exogamous sept of Balija. 

Narollu (fibre). — An exogamous sept of Pedakanti 

Narpathu Katchi (forty-house section). — A sub- 
division of Valluvan. 

Nasrani Mappilla. — A name, in Malabar, applied to 

Nasuvan.— Nasivan or Nasuvan, said to mean 
unholy, one who should not be touched, or one sprung 
from the nose, is the name for Ambattans (Tamil 
barbers). The equivalents Nasiyan and Navidan occur 
as a name for Telugu barbers, and Malayali barbers who 
shave Nayars and higher castes. Navidan is further 
recorded as the occupational name of a sub-division of 
Tamil Paraiyans. and Vettuvans. 

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

Naththalu (snails). — An exogamous sept of Mala. 

249 nAttukottai chetti 

Natramiludaiyan. — A name, meaning the reposi- 
tory of chaste Tamil, returned by some Nattamans at 
times of census. 

Nattan. — At the Census, 1901, nearly 12,000 indi- 
viduals returned themselves as Nattan, which is stated 
by the Census Superintendent to be " a vague term 
meaning people of the country, reported by some to be a 
main caste, and by others to be a sub-caste of Vcllala. 
Nearly all of those who returned the name came from 
Salem and were cultivators, but some of them entered 
themselves as possessing the title of Servai, which usually 
denotes an Agamudaiyan " {see Servai, Servaikaran). 
Nattan also occurs as a title of the Tamil Sembadavan 
and Pattanavan fishing castes, and of the Vallambans. 
Portions of the Tamil country are divided into areas 
known as nadus, in each of which certain castes, known 
as Nattan or Nattar, are the predominant element. For 
example, the Vallambans and Kalians are called the 
Nattars of the Palaya Nadu in the Sivaganga zamindari 
of the Madura district. In dealing with the tribal affairs 
of the various castes inhabiting a particular nadu, the 
lead is taken by the Nattars. 

Nattati (the name of a village). — A sub-division of 

Nattu (sons of the soil). — Recorded as a sub-division 
of Kalian, and of the Malayans of Cochin. 

Nattukattada Nayanmar. — A class of mendicants 
attached to the Kaikolans ((/.v.). 

Nattukottai Chetti.—" Of all the Chettis," Mr. 
Francis writes,''- " perhaps the most distinctive and 
interesting are the Nattukottai Chettis, who are wealthy 
money-lenders with head-quarters in the Tiruppattur 

• Madras Census Report, 1901. 


and Devakottai divisions of the Sivaganga and Ramnad 
zamindaris in the Madura district. They are the most 
go-a-head of all the trading castes in the south, travelling 
freely to Burma, the Straits Settlements and Ceylon 
(also Saigon, Mauritius, and South Africa), and having 
in some cases correspondents in London and on the 
Continent. As long as their father is alive, the members 
of a Nattukottai Chetti family usually all live together. 
The caste is noted in the Madura district for the huge 
houses, to which this custom has given rise. Married 
sons have a certain number of rooms set aside for them, 
and are granted a carefully calculated yearly budget 
allotment of rice and other necessaries. On the father's 
death, contrary to all ordinary Hindu usage, the eldest 
son retains the house, and the youngest his mother's 
jewels and bed, while the rest of the property is equally 
divided among all the sons. When a male child is 
born, a certain sum is usually set aside, and in due time 
the accumulated interest upon it is spent on the boy's 
education. As soon as he has picked up business ways 
sufficiently, he begins life as the agent of some other 
members of the caste, being perhaps entrusted with a 
lakh of rupees, often on no better security than an 
unstamped acknowledgment scratched on a palmyra 
leaf, and sent off to Burma or Singapore to trade with 
it, and invest it. A percentage on the profits of this 
undertaking, and savings from his own salary, form a 
nucleus which he in turn invests on his own account. 
His wife will often help pay the house-keeping bills by 
making baskets and spinning thread, for the women are 
as thrifty as the men. As a caste they are open-handed 
and devout. In many houses, one pie in every rupee of 
profit is regularly set aside for charitable and religious 
expenditure, and a whip round for a caste-fellow in 


difficulties is readily responded to. By religion they are 
fervent Saivites, and many of the men proclaim the fact 
by wearing a rudraksham [E/crocaj'ptcs Ganib'tis) fruit, 
usually set in gold, round their necks. Of late years 
they have spent very large sums upon several of the 
famous Saivite shrines in the Madras Presidency, notably 
those at Chidambaram,* Madura, and Tiruvannamalai. 
Unfortunately, however, much of the work has been 
executed in the most lamentable modern taste, and it is 
saddening to contrast the pitiful outcome of their heavy 
outlay with the results which might have been attained 
under judicious guidance. The decoration in the new 
Kaliyana Mahal in the Madura temple is mainly inferior 
varnished wood-carving, looking-glasses, and coloured 
glass balls. The same style has been followed at 
Tiruvannamalai, although lying scattered about in the 
outer courts of the temple are enough of the old pierced 
granite pillars to make perhaps the finest mantapam 
in South India. Owing to their wealth and their money- 
lending, the Nattukottai Chettis have been called the 
Jews of South India, but their kindliness and charity 
deserve more recognition than this description accords." 

I am informed that the property of a woman (jewels, 
vessels, investments, etc.), on her decease, goes to her 
daughters. As among other Hindu castes, the eldest 
son may retain the personal effects of his father, and, 
with the consent of his brothers, may retain his house. 
But the value thereof is deducted from his share in the 

It is stated in the Madura Manual that the " Nattu- 
kottai Settis in particular are notorious for their greed, 
and most amusing stories are told about them. However 

* The proverb Chetli Chidambaram is well known. 


wealthy they may be, they usually live in the most 
penurious manner, and they will never by any chance 
show mercy to a debtor, so long as he shall have a penny 
left, or the chance of earning one. However, to make 
amends for their rapacity, they are in the habit of 
spending large sums now and then in works of charity. 
And, whatever faults there may be, they are most 
excellent men of business. Indeed, until quite lately, 
the good faith and honesty of a Nattukottai Setti were 
proverbial, and are even now conspicuous. The Nattu- 
kottai Settis claim to be a good caste, and asserted that 
they emigrated to this district thousands of years ago 
from a town called Kaveripattanam, in consequence of 
an intolerable persecution. But the other Settis will 
not admit the truth of their story, and affect to despise 
them greatly, alleging even that they are the bastard 
descendants of a Muhammadan man and a Kalla woman. 
The word Nattukottai is said to be a corruption of 
Nattarasangkottai, the name of a small village near 
Sivaganga. But this derivation appears to be doubtful." 
The name is usually said to be derived from Nattukottai, 
or country fort. 

It has been said that "the Nattukottai Chettis, in 
organisation, co-operation, and business methods, are as 
remarkable as the European merchants. Very few of 
them have yet received any English education. They 
regard education as at present given in public schools as 
worse than useless for professional men, as it makes men 
theoretical, and scarcely helps in practice. The simple 
but strict training which they give their boys, the long 
and tedious apprenticeship which even the sons of the 
richest among them have to undergo, make them very 
efficient in their profession, and methodical in whatever 
they undertake to do." 


Concerning the Nattukottai Chettis. Mr. P. R. 
Sundara Aiyar writes as follows.* " The first and 
chiefest aim of a Nattukottai Chetti is to make as much 
money as possible. He does not regard usury as a sin. 
As a little boy of ten or twelve, he begins to apply 
himself to business, learns accounts, and attends the shop 
of his father. As soon as he marries, his father gives 
him a separate home, or rather compels him to live 
separately, though often in the same house as his parents. 
This makes him self-reliant, and produces in him a 
desire to save as much money as possible. He is given 
a certain allowance out of the paternal estate, but, if 
he spends more, he is debited with the excess amount. 
Every one consequently tries to increase his stock of 
individual savings. Even the women earn money in a 
variety of ways. Every rupee saved is laid out at as 
high a rate of interest as possible. It is commonly 
stated that a rupee, laid out at the birth of a child at 
compound interest at 12 per cent., will amount to a lakh 
of rupees by the time he attains the age of a hundred. 
The habits of a Nattukottai Chetti are very simple, 
and his living is very cheap, even when he is rich. So 
strict are the Chettis in pecuniary matters that, if a rela- 
tion visits them, he gets only his first meal free, and if 
he stays longer, is quietly debited with the cost of 
his stay." 

The Nattukottai Chettis t are said to employ Kam- 
malans, Valaiyans, Kalians, and Vallambans as their 
cooks. They are permitted to enter the interior of 
Hindu temples, and approach near to the innermost 
doorway of the central shrine. This privilege is doubt- 
less accorded to them owing to the large sums of money 

* Malabar Quart : Review, 1905. 

t C. Hayavadana Rao, Indian Review, VIII, 8, 1907. 


which they spend on temples, and in endowing charitable 
institutions. It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Madura 
district, that " of the profits of their commercial trans- 
actions, a fixed percentage (called magamai) is usually 
set aside for charity. Some of the money so collected is 
spent on keeping up Sanskrit schools, but most of it has 
been laid out in the repair and restoration of the temples 
of the south, especial attention being paid to those shrines 
(padal petta sthalangal, as they are called), which were 
hymned by the four great poet-saints, Manikya Vachakar, 
Appar, Tirugnana Sambandhar, and Sundaramurti." 
" The Chettis," Mr. Sundara Aiyar writes, " are believed 
to be the most charitable class in Southern India, and 
undoubtedly they spend the largest amount of money on 
charity. They set apart a fraction of their profits for 
charity. They levy rates among themselves for local 
charities, wherever they go. The income obtained from 
the rates is generally spent on temples. In new places 
like Ceylon, Burma, and Singapore, they build new 
temples, generally dedicated to Subramanya Swami. In 
India itself, they establish festivals in existing temples, 
and undertake the repair of temples. Immense sums 
have been spent by them recently in the renovation and 
restoration of ancient temples. We should not be 
surprised to be told that the amount spent within the 
last thirty years alone amounts to a crore of rupees. 
Being Saivites, they do not generally care for Vaishnava 
temples. And, even among Saiva temples, only such 
as have special sanctity, and have been sung about by 
the Saiva Nainars or Bhaktas, are patronised by them. 
They have devoted large sums to the establishment 
of comfortable choultries (rest-houses), feeding houses, 
Vedic and recently also Sastraic pathasalas (schools). 
They have established schools for the education of 

255 nattukottAi chetti 

the Kurukal or the priestly class. And, in fact, every 
charity of the orthodox Hindu type finds generous 
support among them." 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, 
that the gopurams of the Madura temple " have been 
repaired of late years at great cost by the Nattukottai 
Chettis. The northern tower used to consist only of 
the brick and stone-work storeys, and was known in 
consequence as the mottai (literally bald) gopuram. 
Recently, however, a courageous Chetti, who cared 
nothing for the superstition that it is most unlucky to 
complete a building left unfinished, placed the usual 
plaster top upon it." 

In recent years, the temple at Chidambaram has 
been renovated by the Nattukottai Chettis, who " have 
formed for this and similar restorations a fund which is 
made up of a fee of four annas per cent, levied from their 
clients on all sums borrowed by the latter. The capital 
of this is invested, and the interest thereon devoted 
exclusively to such undertakings."* 

In 1906, the purificatory ceremony, or kumbabi- 
shekam, of the Sri Pasupathiswara Swami temple at 
KarDr was performed with great pomp. The old temple 
had been thoroughly overhauled and repaired by the 
Nattukottai Chettis. The ceremony cost about fifty thou- 
sand rupees. Many thousands were fed, and presents 
of money made to a large number of Vaidiki Brahmans. 
In the same year, at a public meeting held in Madras 
to concert measures for establishing a pinjrapole 
(hospital for animals), one of the resolutions was that 
early steps should be taken to collect public subscrip- 
tions from the Hindu community generally, and in 

* Gazetteer of the South Arcot district. 


particular from the Nattukottai Chettis, Gujaratis, and 
other mercantile classes. 

Still more recently, the kumbabishekam festival was 
celebrated at Tiruvanaikkaval, the seat of a celebrated 
temple near Trichinopoly, which was repaired by the 
Nattukottai Chettis at a cost of many lakhs of rupees. 

By a traditional custom, the Nattukottai Chettis live 
largely by money-lending. They never serve under any 
one outside their own community. They either trade on 
their own account, or are employed as agents or assistants. 
The pay of an assistant is always calculated for a period 
of three years, and a portion thereof is paid in advance 
after a month's service. This the assistant invests to the 
best advantage. At the end of a year, a portion of the 
balance of the pay is handed over to him, leaving a small 
sum to be paid at the end of the contract period. His 
expenses for board and lodging are met by his employer, 
and he may receive a small share of the profits of the 
business. A man, on receiving an agency, starts on an 
auspicious day, and proceeds to a temple of Ganesa, and 
to a matam (religious institution) containing figures of 
Ganesa and Natesa. After prostrating himself before 
the gods, he proceeds on his way. If he encounters an 
object of evil omen, he will not continue, and, if he has 
to journey to a distant spot,°he will throw up his appoint- 
ment. The accounts of the Nattukottai Chettis are 
audited triennially, an annual audit being inconvenient, 
as their business is carried on at various remote spots. 
The foreign business is said* to " be transacted by agents 
belonging to the caste, who receive a salary proportioned 
to the distance of the place, and also, usually, a percentage 
on the profits. They generally serve for three years, and 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 

NATrfKUlTAI CHEiri (HI 1.1 )Ki:X. 


then return, and give an account of their stewardship." 
The commencement of a fresh period of three years is 
made on an auspicious day called puthukanakkunal (fresh 
account day), which is observed as a hoHday. No busi- 
ness is transacted, and customers are, invited, and receive 
presents of fruits, sweets, etc. 

In connection with Nattukottai agencies, Mr. Haya- 
vadana Rao writes as follows. * " People of moderate 
means usually elect to go to distant places as agents of 
the different firms that have their head offices either at 
Madura or in the Zamindaris of Ramnad and Sivaganga. 
The pay of a local agent varies directly with the distance 
of the place to which he is posted. If he is kept at 
Madura, he gets Rs. loo per mensem ; if sent to Burma, 
he gets three times as much ; and, if to Natal, about 
twice the latter sum. I fan agent proves himself to be 
an industrious and energetic man, he is usually given a 
percentage on the profits. The tenure of office is for 
three years, six months before the expiry of which the 
next agent is sent over to work conjointly with the 
existing one, and study the local conditions. On relief, 
the agent returns directly to his head office, and delivers 
over his papers, and then goes to his own village. With 
this, his connection with his firm practically ceases. He 
enjoys his well-earned rest of three years, at the end of 
which he seeks re-employment either under his old firm, 
or under any other. The former he is bound to, if he 
has taken a percentage on the profits during his previous 
tenure of office. If the old firm rejects him when he so 
offers himself, then he is at liberty to enter service under 
others." It is said to be very rare for Nattukottai 
women to accompany their husbands to distant places. 

* Indian Review, VIII, 8, 1907. 


" In fact, the husbands have to visit their native places 
at long intervals, and make a felicitous sojourn in the 
company of their wives." 

The houses of the Niittukottai Chettis are spacious 
and substantial buildingrs all based on the same general 
plan. The front entrance opens into an oblong court- 
yard with a verandah all round, and rows of rooms at 
the two sides. At the farther end of the courtyard is an 
entrance leading into a backyard or set of apartments. 
Modern houses have imposing exteriors, and an upper 
storey. Married sons live in separate quarters, and 
every couple receive from their fathers a fixed yearly 
allowance, which may amount to twenty rupees and 
fifteen kalams of paddy. The sons may, if they choose, 
spend more, but the excess is debited to their account, 
and, at the time of partition of the estate, deducted, 
with interest, from their share. 

It is noted by Mr. Hayavadana Rao that "the 
remarkable custom prevails amongst them that obliges 
all married members to cook separately and eat their 
meals, though they live in the same house. Even the 
widowed mother is no exception to this rule. Unmarried 
members live with their parents until they are married. 
Allotments of rice and other necessaries are annually 
made to the several semi-independent members of the 
household. This custom has oriven rise to the com- 
modious houses in which members of this caste usually 

As concerning- the origin of the Nattukottai Chettis, 
the following story is told. In ancient days, the Vaisyas 
of the lunar race were living in the town of Santhyapuri 
in the Naganadu of the Jambudvii)a (India). They paid 
daily visits to the shrine of Vinayaka god made of 
emerald, and were traders in precious stones. They were 

2 59 NATTUKOTTAI chetti 

much respected, and led the Hfe of orthodox Saivites, 
wore rudraksha beads, and smeared themselves with 
sacred ashes. They were, however, much oppressed 
by a certain ruler, and emigrated in a body to Conjee- 
veram in the Tondamandalam country in the year 
204 of the Kaliyuga. The king of Conjeeveram gave 
them permission to settle in his territory, and made 
grants to them of land, temples and matams. They 
stayed there for a very long time, but, being troubled by 
heavy taxes and fines, left this part of the country about 
2312 Kaliyuga, and settled in the Chola country. The 
Chola king, being much impressed with them, bestowed 
on them the privilege of placing the crown on the head 
of a new ruler at his coronation. At this time, the town 
of Kaveripumpattanam is said to have been in a very 
flourishing state, and the north street was occupied by 
Vaisyas from other countries. Being unwilling to 
disturb them, the king made the new settlers occupy the 
east, west, and south streets. As a mark of respect, 
they were allowed to use flags with the figure of a lion 
on them, and use golden vessels (kalasam) in their 
houses. They all, at the instigation of the king, became 
disciples of one Isanya Sivachariar of Patanjalikshetra 
(Chidambaram). About 3775 Kaliyuga, Puvandi Chola 
Raja imprisoned several of the Vaisya women, whereon 
all the eight thousand Vaisya families destroyed them- 
selves, leaving their male children to be taken care of 
by a religious teacher named Atmanadhachariar. In all 
1,502 children were thus brought up, viz., 600 of six ways 
from the west street, 502 of seven ways from the east 
street, and 400 of four ways from the south street. 
Later on, Puvandi Chola fell ill, and, knowing his 
recovery to be impossible, sent for the Vaisya boys, and 
asked them to look after the coronation of his son 
V-17 1; 


Rajabhushana Chola. But they said that, as they were 
bachelors, they could not comply with his request. The 
king accordingly made them marry Vellala girls. Those 
of the west street took as wives girls of the Karkaththar 
section, those of the east street girls of the Sozhia section, 
and those of the south street girls of the Kaniyala section. 
The three groups became disciples of three different 
matams, viz., Tiruvarur, Kumbakonam, and Vanchium. 
In the year 3790, a dispute arose in connection with the 
right of priority in receiving sacred ashes between the 
Vaisya and true Vellala women, and the former were 
made to become the disciples of a new guru (religious 
preceptor). About 3808, a Pandya king, named Sundara 
Pandya, is said to have asked the Chola king to induce 
some of the Vaisyas to settle down in the Pandya 
territory. They accordingly once more emigrated in a 
body, and reached the village of Onkarakudi on a Friday 
(the constellation Astham being in the ascendant on that 
day). They were allowed to settle in the tract of country 
north of the river Vaigai, east of the Piranmalai, and 
south of V^ellar. Those from the east street settled at 
Ilayaththukudi, those from the west street at Ariyur, and 
those from the south street at Sundarapattanam. Thus 
the Chettis became divided into three endogamous 
sections, of which the Ilayaththukudi and Sundara- 
pattanam are found at the present day in the Madura 
district. The members of the Ariyur section migrated to 
the west coast on the destruction of their village. The 
members of the Ilayaththukudi section became the 
Nattukottais. They, not being satisfied with only one 
place of worship, requested the king to give them more 
temples. Accordingly, temples were provided for 
different groups at Maththur, Vairavanpatti, Iraniyur, 
Pillayarpatti, Nemam, Iluppaikudi, Suraikudi, and 

26 1 NATTUKOTTAI chetti 

Velangkudi. At the present day, the Nattukottai 
Chettis are divided into the following divisions (k5vils 
or temples) and exogamous sub-divisions : — 

1. llayaththukudi kovil — 








2. Maththiir kovil — 








3. Vairavan kovil — 




4. Iianiyiir kovil. 

5. Pillayarpatti kovil. 

6. Xemam kovil. 

7. Iluppaikudi kovil. 

8. Suraikudi kovil. 
g. Velangkudi kovil. 

When Nattukottai Chettis adopt children, they must 
belong to the same temple division. An adopted son 
is called Manjanir Puthiran, or turmeric-water son, 
because, at the ceremony of adoption, the lad has to 
drink turmeric-water.* In villages where their maia 
temples are situated, the temple manager is obliged to 

* Indian Law Reports, Madras Series, XXIX, 1906, 

nAttukottai CHETTI 262 

give food to stranger Chettis, and charge for it if they 
belong to another temple division. 

According to a variant of the story relating to the 
origin of the Nattukottai Chettis, "they were formerly 
merchants at the court of the Chola kings who ruled at 
Kaveripattanam, at one time a nourishing sea-port at 
the mouth of the Cauveri, from which they emigrated 
in a body on being persecuted by one of them, and first 
settled at Nattarasankottai, about three miles north-east 
of Sivaganga." 

By other castes, the Nattukottai Chettis are said to 
be the descendants of the offspring of unions between a 
Shanan and a Muhammadan and Uppu Korava women. 
Some of the peculiarities of the caste are pointed out 
in support of the story. Thus, Nattukottai men shave 
their heads like Muhammadans, and both men and 
women have the lobes of their ears dilated like the older 
Shanans. Their girls wear necklaces of shell beads like 
Korava women, and the women delight in making 
baskets for recreation, as the Korava women do for 
sale. The caste is sometimes spoken of as Uppu (salt) 
Maruhira Chetti. The arguments and illustrations are 
naturally much resented by the Nattukottai Chettis, 
who explain the obnoxious name by the story that 
they were formerly very poor, and made a living by 
selling salt. 

The Nattukottai Chettis have recourse to pancha- 
yats (councils) in matters affecting the community. They 
have, Mr. Sundara Aiyar writes, " been at any rate till 
recently remarkable for settling their differences out 
of court. The influence of the elders in })reventing 
litigation is very strong. They conciliate the disputants 
as far as possible and, after reducing the difference 
between them to a minimum, they often get their 

263 nAttukottai chetti 

signatures to an award, in which a blank is left to 
decide the still existing point of difference, the disputants 
agreeing, after putting in their signatures, to the media- 
tors' filling in the blank, and deciding the dispute as 
they choose. We are afraid that this spirit of give-and- 
take is now unfortunately diminishing, and the arbitra- 
ment of the courts is more often resorted to than before." 
There are, among the Nattukottai Chettis, two forms 
of panchayat, called madaththuvasal mariyal (matam 
panchayat) and kovilvasal mariyal (temple panchayat), of 
which, at the present day, only the latter is in vogue. 
For every temple there is a manager, an assistant, and 
a servant called Vairavi, who must be a Melakkaran. 
The aggrieved party lodges his complaint with the man- 
ager, who sends word to the leading men of the temple 
division concerned. The complainant and defendant 
are summoned to attend a council meeting, and the 
evidence is recorded by the temple manager. If the 
accused fails to put in an appearance, the Vairavi is sent 
to his house, to take therefrom adavu (security) in the 
shape of some article belonging to him. In a recent 
case, a wealthy Nattukottai Chetti promised his brother's 
widow that she should be allowed to adopt a boy. But, 
as the promise was not fulfilled, she complained to the 
temple ; and, as her brother-in-law did not attend the 
council meeting, the Vairavi went to his house, and, 
in his absence, abstracted the adavu. This was regarded 
as a great insult, and there was some talk of the case 
going into court. Matters such as the arrangement of 
marriage contracts, monetary disputes, family discussions, 
and the like, are referred to the temple council for 
settlement. Final decisions are never recorded in 
writing, but delivered by word of mouth. Those who 
fail to abide by the decision of the council do not receive 


a q;arland from the temple for their marriage, and 
without this garland a marriage cannot take place. 

It is noted by Mr. Hayavadana Rao that each of the 
kovils or temples " is managed by Karyakarans, who are 
nominated to the place by the local elders. These 
Karyakarans act as Panchayatdars, and decide all civil 
cases referred to them. If a case is first referred 
to them, it may, if necessary, be carried over again to 
the established courts of the country. But, if once 
a case is first taken to the courts, they would not 
entertain it before them.selves. They enforce their 
decrees (i) by refusing to give the garland of flowers 
at the marriage time, (2) by exert:ising the power of 

Every Nattukottai Chetti youth has to perform a 
ceremony called Suppidi before marriage. On the 
Karthika day, when the constellation Krithikai is in the 
ascendant, he is taken on horseback to a Pillayar (Ganesa) 
temple, where he worships, and whirls a bag of burning 
charcoal tied to a long string round his head. In front 
of the temple he burns a booth (chokkapane), which has 
been set up, and with the ashes his forehead is marked. 
On his return home, and at the entrance of Nattukottai 
houses which he passes, rice lamps are waved before him 
(alathi). In like manner, every girl has to go through 
a ceremony, called thiruvadhirai, before marriage. On 
the day of the Arudradarsanam festival, she is bathed 
and decorated. A necklace of gold beads is placed 
on her neck instead of the necklace of glass beads 
(pasimani), which she has hitherto worn. She proceeds, 
with a silver cup, to the houses where other girls are 
performing the ceremony, and bawls out : — 

I have come dancing ; give me avarakkai {Dolichos 
Lablab beans). 



I have come singing ; give me padavarangkai 
[Cyamopsis beans). 

I have come speaking ; give me sorakkai {Lagenaria 

Various kinds of vegetables are placed on the 
silver vessel, cooked, and distributed. Cakes, called 
dosai, are made in the house, and, during their prepa- 
ration, holes are made in them by married women 
with an iron style. These cakes are also distributed, 
and it is taken as an insult if any individual does not 
receive one. 

Every Nattukottai Chetti is said to have the invio- 
lable right to claim the hand of his paternal aunt's 
daughter. This being so, ill-assorted marriages are quite 
common, the putative father being often but a child.* 
The marriage ceremonies commence with the giving of 
gold for the bride's neck. On an auspicious day, the 
bridegroom's party give a gold coin to a goldsmith, who 
beats it into a thin sheet, and goes home after receiving 
betel, etc. On the first day of the marriage rites, a feast 
is given to the bridegroom's family, and female ancestors 
are worshipped. On the following day, the presentation 
of the dowry (sireduththal) takes place. The presents, 
which are often of considerable value, are laid out for 
inspection, and an inventory of them is made. Perish- 
able articles, such as rice, ghi (clarified butter), dhal 
{Cajan7(s indicns), and fruits are sold. The bride's 
presents are taken to the house of the bridegroom, those 
who carry them being rewarded with betel, a silk fan, 
scent bottle, silk handkerchief, bottle of chocolate, a 
tin of biscuits, and a brass vessel. On the third day, 
garlands are received from the temples to which the bride 

* C. Hayavadana Rao. Loc. cit. 


and bridegroom belong. The bride's party go to the 
house of the bridegroom, taking on a tray a silk handker- 
chief and cloth, and in a silver vessel fifty rupees, betel, 
etc. These are presented to the bridegroom. This 
ceremony is called mappillai ariyappothal, or going to 
examine the son-in-law. The next item on the pro- 
gramme is nalkuriththal, or fixing the day. The bride- 
groom's party proceed to the house of the bride, taking 
with them two cocoanuts wrapped up in a blanket, betel, 
turmeric, etc., as a present. The bride is bathed and 
decorated, and purangkaliththal is proceeded with. She 
stands by the side of her grandmother, and a Brahman 
purohit, taking up a few leafy margosa [Melia Azadi- 
rachta) twigs, touches the girl's shoulders, head, and 
knees with them, and throws them away. Her glass 
bead necklace is then removed. At the uppu-eduththal 
(salt carrying) ceremony, the bridegroom's party carry a 
basket containing salt, a bundle containing nine kinds of 
grains, and a palmyra scroll for writing the marriage 
contract on, to the bride's house. The sacred fire is 
lighted, and homam performed by the Brahman purohit. 
An old man, who has had a number of children, and 
belongs to a temple other than that of a bride, and 
the bridegroom's sister, then tie the tali string round 
her neck. This string bears a large tali, about seven 
inches long and four inches broad, and seventeen to 
twenty-three gold ornaments, often of considerable 
value. Some of them have very sharp points, so 
that accidents sometimes arise from the points sticking 
in the eyes of babies carried by women. For every day 
wear, the massive ornaments are replaced by a smaller 
set. Immediately after the tali has been tied, the mar- 
riage contract (isagudi manam) is written. Two copies 
are made, for the bride and bridegroom respectively. 

26; NATTUKOTTAI chetti 

As an example of a marriage contract, the following 
may be cited : " This is written for the marriage cele- 
brated on ... . between Subramanyan, the son of 
Okkurudaiyan Arunachelam Chetti Ramanadhan Chetti 
and Valliammai, the daughter of Arumbakurudaiyan 
K. Narayana Chetti, both formerly of Ilayaththukudi, at 
the village of . ... The value of jewels given 
to the girl is .... of gold ; his dowry amounts 
to .... ; money for female servant . . . . ; 
sirattuchukram money . . . . ; free gift of jewels . 
This esaikudimanam was written by me at 
. Signed Ramanadhan Chetti." The bride- 
groom goes on horseback to a Pillayar temple where 
he worships, and then proceeds in procession through 
various streets to the bride's house, accompanied by his 
sister carrying milk in a vessel, and a cooly bearing a 
bundle of seed rice. At every Chetti house the proces- 
sion halts, and coloured rice lights are waved before the 
bridegroom. At the entrance to the bride's house, he is 
met by the bride, whose sister-in-law pushes the couple 
against each other. Hence the ceremony is called 
mappillaikuidiththukattal, or showing the bride to the 
bridegroom by pushing her. The couple are then con- 
ducted to a dais within the house, and wristlets made 
of cotton cloth are tied on by the purohit. They 
exchange cocoanuts and garlands, and, amid the blowing 
of the conch shell (musical instrument) by women, the 
bride's mother touches the couple with turmeric, ashes, 
sandal, etc. On the fourth day, money called veththilai 
surul rupai (betel-roll money) is given to the newly- 
married couple by Chettis and the maternal uncles. A 
silver vessel, containing betel and two rupees, is given to 
the bridegroom by his father-in-law. The bridegroom 
usually carries on his shoulders a long purse of silk 

nAttukottai CHETTI 268 

or red cloth, called valluvaippai, into which he puts 
the betel and other things which are given to him. On 
the last day of the marriage ceremonies, toe-rings and 
wristlets are removed, and the bridal pair cat together. 

In connection with pregnancy, two ceremonies are 
performed, called respectively marunthidal (medicine 
giving) and thirthamkudiththal (drinking holy water). 
The former is celebrated at about the fifth month. On 
an auspicious day, the sister-in-law of the pregnant 
woman, amid the blowing of the conch-shell by females, 
extracts the juice from the leaves of five plants, and gives 
to the woman to drink. During the seventh month 
the woman is given consecrated water (thirtham) from 
the temple. All first-born children, both male and 
female, have to go through a ceremony called pudhumai 
(newness). When they are two years old, on an auspici- 
ous day, fixed by a Brahman purohit, the maternal uncle 
of the child ties on its neck strings of coral and glass 
beads, to which ornaments of pearls and precious stones 
are added in the case of the wealthy. The child is 
further decorated with other ornaments, and placed in 
an oval wooden tray, which is held by the mother and 
her sister-in-law. They go round three times with the 
tray, and the child's aunt, taking it up, carries it round to 
be blessed by those who have assembled. Presents of 
money are given to the child by relations and friends, 
and the maternal uncles have to give a larger sum than 
the others. On the second or third day the coral and bead 
ornaments are removed, and, on the fourth day, the child, 
if a male, is shaved, and must thenceforth have the head 
clean shaved throughout life. " The story goes that, 
when the Chola king of Kaveripattanam persecuted 
them, the members of this caste resolved not to shave 
their heads until they quitted his territories. When 

269 NATTUKOTTAI chetti 

they reached their new settlement they shaved their 
heads completely as a memorial of their stern resolution."* 
When a death occurs among the Nattukottai Chettis, 
news thereof is conveyed by the Thandakaran, or caste 
messenger. Those who come to condole with the be- 
reaved family arc received with outstretched hands (kai- 
nittikolludhal). The head of the corpse is shaved, and it 
is washed and decorated. In front of the house a pandal 
(booth), supported by four Thespesia popztlnea posts, 
and roofed with twigs o{ Eugenia J ambolana, is erected. 
Beneath this the corpse is laid, and all present go round 
it thrice. While the corpse is being got ready for 
conveyance to the burning ground, the daughters and 
sisters of the deceased husk paddy (unhusked rice). On 
the way to the burning ground, the son carries the fire. 
If the deceased is a young boy or girl, the pandal is 
removed after the funeral ; otherwise it is removed, on 
a Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday, within four days. The 
Nattukottais restrict the name pandal to the funeral 
booth, the marriage booth being called kavanam or 
kottagai. Even an ordinary shed set up in front of a 
house is not called a pandal, as the name is associated 
with funerals. On the day following the funeral, the 
bigger fragments of bones are collected by a barber, and 
given to the son, who places them in an earthen pot. A 
Pandaram offers fruit, food, etc., to the deceased. Eight 
days afterwards, a feast, at which meat is partaken of for 
the first time since the death, is given to the relations of 
the dead person, and their pollution is at an end. They 
may not, however, enter a temple for thirty days. On 
the sixteenth day after death, the final death ceremonies 
(karmandhiram) are performed, and liberal presents of 

* C. Hayavadana Rao. Loc. cit. 


money, religious books, such as the Ramayana, 
Mahabharata, and Periya Puranam, wooden spoons for 
domestic use, etc., are c^iven to Brahmans. 

There are three matams, whereat the Nattukottai 
Chettis are initiated into their religion, at Patharakkudi 
(or Padanakkudi) and Kila for males, and Tulavur for 
females. They are Saivites, but also, more especially the 
women, worshij) such minor deities as Aiyanar, Munes- 
wara, and Karuppan. They are also said to worship 
two village goddesses, called Sellattamman and Kannu- 
dayamman, at Nattarasankottai. 

Nattukottai men have the lobes of the ears artificially 
dilated, but seldom wear ornaments therein. They 
frequently have a gold chain round the loins, and wear 
finorer rinofs set with diamonds. The wives even of 
wealthy men wear a cheap body cloth, and do menial 
house work, such as cleaning the kitchen utensils. They 
plait baskets, and, in some houses, wheels for spinning 
cotton may be seen. 

Like other trading classes in Southern India, the 
Nattukottai Chettis have a trade language of their own, 
which varies according to locality. In the city of 
Madras they have three tables, for annas, rupees, and 
tens of rupees respectively. Each of these is formed 
out of the syllables of certain words. Thus, the anna 
table is composed of the syllables of Tiripurasundari, the 
goddess at Madura, which is a great centre for Nattu- 
kottai Chettis. The syllables (in the inverse order), and 
their money equivalent are as follows : — 

Ri ... .. ... ... .] anna. 



2 annas. 

3 M 




4 annas. 
8 „ 





















1 1 


The rupee table is composed of the word Vedagirls- 
vararthunai, meaning with the help of Vedagirlsvarar, 
the god at Tirukalikundram near Madras : — 











Nai .... 

The tens-of-rupees table is made up from the word 
TirukaHkundram : — 











An anna is sometimes called vanakkam 
known as velle (white). 

Nattupattan. — A section of Ambalavasis. (See 

Nattusamban. — Samban (a name of Siva) is a title 
of some Tamil Paraiyans. Nattusamban denotes a village 

10 rupees. 







•• 50 






80 , 


• 90 . 


100 , 


lakkam ; 

a rupee is 


Nattuvan.— Defined in the Madras Census Report, 
1901, as " an occupational term, meaning a dancing- 
master, which is applied to males of the dancing-girl 
castes, who teach dancing." At nautch parties, when 
the Deva-dasis dance, the Nattuvans play the accom- 
paniment on the drum, bag-pipe, flute, clarionet, cymbals, 
etc. At the initiation of a Kaikolan girl as a Deva-dasi, 
her dancing-master seats himself behind her, and, grasp- 
ing her legs, moves them up and down in time with the 
music. Some Occhans in the Tamily country, who teach 
dancing to Deva-dasis, are also called Nattuvan. 

Natuvili (middle). — A sub-division of Paraiyans in 

Navakdti (nine crores). — An exogamous sept of 
Desur Reddi. A crore is one hundred lakhs, i.e., 

Navalipitta (peacock). — A sept of Jatapu. 

Navayat. — The Navayats or Navayets are summed 
up, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as " a Musalman 
tribe, which appears to have originally settled at Bhatkal 
in North Canara, and is known on the west coast as 
Bhatkali. The derivation of the name is much disputed. 
There are five sub-divisions of the tribe, namely, Kureshi, 
Mehkeri, Chida, Gheas, and Mohagir. It takes a high 
place among Musalmans, and does not intermarry with 
other tribes." 

Of the Nevayets, the following account, based on the 
Saadut Nama, and conversations with members of the 
community, is given by Colonel Wilks.* '' Nevayet is 
generally supposed to be a corruption of the Hindustanee 
and Mahratta terms for new-comer. About the end of 
the first century of the Hejira, or the early part of the 

* Historical Sketches of the South of India, 1810. 


eighth century of the Christian era, Hejaj Bin Yusuf, 
Governor of Irak, on the part of the Khali f Abd-al- 
Melik-bin-Mervvan, a monster abhorred for his cruelties 
even among Musalmans, drove some respectable and 
opulent persons of the house of Hashem to the desperate 
resolution of abandoning for ever their native country. 
Aided by the good offices of the inhabitants of Kufa, a 
town of celebrity in those days, situated near to the tomb 
of Ali. west of the Euphrates, they departed with their 
families, dependents, and effects, and embarked on ships 
prepared for their reception in the Persian Gulf, Some 
of these landed on that part of the western coast of 
India called the Concan ; the others to the eastward of 
Cape Comorin ; the descendants of the former are the 
Nevayets ; of the latter the Lubbe, The Lubbe pretend 
to one common origin with the Nevayets, and attribute 
their black complexion to intermarriage with the natives ; 
but the Nevayets affirm that the Lubbe are the descend- 
ants of their domestic slaves ; and there is certainly, 
in the physiognomy of this very numerous class, and 
in their stature and form, a strono- resemblance to the 
natives of Abyssinia. The Nevayets of the western coast 
preserved the purity of their original blood by system- 
atically avoiding intermarriage with the Indians, and 
even with the highest Muhammadan families, for many 
centuries after the establishment of the Musalman dynas- 
ties of the Deckan. Even at this time there are some 
Nevayets whose complexions approach the European 
freshness. Their adherence to each other as members of 
the same family preserved their respectability ; and they 
were famed at the Muhammadan courts of the Deckan 
for uniting the rare qualities of the soldier, the scholar, 
and the gentleman." 

Navutiyan.— A synonym of Velakkattalavan. 

nayadi 274 

Nayadi. — In the Malabar Manual, the Nayadis are 
briefly summed up as follows. " Of the Nayadis, or 
lowest caste among the Hindus — the dog-eaters — 
nothing definite is known. They arc most persistent in 
their clamour for charity, and will follow at a respectful 
distance, for miles together, any person walking, driving, 
or boating. If anything is given to them, it must be 
laid down, and, after the person offering it has proceeded 
a sufficient distance, the recipient comes timidly forward, 
and removes it." 

The subjects, whom I examined and measured at 
Shoranur, though living only about three miles off, had, 
by reason of the pollution which they traditionally carry 
with them, to avoid walking over the long bridge which 
spans the river, and follow a circuitous route of many 
miles. Eventually they had to climb, or be ignomini- 
ously hoisted over the wall of the bungalow. Ignorant 
of the orthodox manner of using a chair, the first victim 
of the craniometer, who had to sit while his head was 
under examination, assumed the undignified position with 
which Eton boys who have been swished are familiar. 
Measurements concluded, men, women, and children sat 
down on the grass to an ample feast. And, before they 
departed homeward, copious blessings were invoked on 
me, to a chorus composed of the repetition of a single 
shrill note, not unlike that of the first note of a jackal 
cry. To quote the newspaper account of my doings, 
which refers to the ' monograms ' issued by me on 
matters ethnological : " In the evening the kind gentle- 
man gave them a sumptuous treat of canji and curry, 
and gave them also copper coins, toddy, and arrack. 
The poor people left the place immensely pleased, and 
were safely escorted to the British side of the river from 
the Cochin territory." 




When travelling on the public roads in Malabar or 
Cochin, one may observe a few ragged and dirty cloths 
spread near the road, with one or two copper coins on 
them ; and, at the same time, hear a chorus of monoto- 
nous stentorian voices at a distance of a hundred yards 
or more, emanating from a few miserable specimens of 
humanity, standing ghost-like with dishevelled hair, and 
a long strip of leaves tied round the waist, or clad in 
a dirty loin-cloth. The coins represent the alms given 
by the charitably disposed traveller, and the persons are 
Nayadis. I am told that, near Kollatur, there is a 
stone called the Nayadi parai, which is believed to be a 
man who was turned into stone for not giving alms to 
a Nayadi. 

The name Nayadi is equivalent to Nayattukar, i.e., 
hunter. The Nayadis are, in fact, professional hunters, 
and are excellent shots. The Nayars, and other higher 
classes, used formerly to take them with them on hunt- 
ing and shooting expeditions. But, since the Arms Act 
came into force, the Nayadis find this occupation gone. 
They are also good archers, and used to kill deer, 
pigs, hares, etc., and eat them. These animals are 
now difficult to get, as the forests are reserved by 
Government, and private forests are denuded of their 
trees for use as fuel, and for house-building by a 
growing population, and for consumption on the rail- 
way. The suggestion has been made that the name 
Nayadi is derived from the fact of their eating otters, 
which live in hill streams, and are called nir-nai 

The approach of a Nayadi within a distance of three 

hundred feet is said to contaminate a Brahman, who has 

to bathe and put on a new sacred thread, to cleanse 

himself of the pollution. The Nayadis, in fact, hold the 

v-i8 li 

nayAdi 276 

lowest position in the social scale, and consequently- 
labour under the greatest disadvantage. 

The Nayiidis live mostly in isolated huts on the tops 
of hills, and generally select a shola, or glade, where 
there is a pond or stream. Some families live on the 
land of their landlords, whose crops they watch by night, 
to guard them against the attacks of wild beasts. Some- 
times they are engaged in ploughing, sowing, weeding, 
transplanting, and reaping, the rice crop, or in plantain 
(banana) gardens. I take exception to the comparison 
by a recent author of the British Empire to the banana 
{Alusa) throwing out aerial roots. The banyan [Ficus 
bengalensis) must have been meant. 

The male members of the community are called 
Nayadis, and the females Nayadichis. The boys are 
called Molayans, and the young girls Manichis. Succes- 
sion is in the male line (makkathayam). 

A thatched shed with palm-leaf walls, a few earthen 
pots, and a chopper, constitute the Nayadi's property. 
He occasionally collects honey and bees-wax, and also 
the gum (matti pasai) from the mattipal tree {Ailantkus 
rnalabaricd), which, when burnt, is used as temple 
incense and for fumigating the bed-chamber. He 
receives toddy in exchange for the honey and wax, and 
copper coins for the gum, with which he purchases 
luxuries in the shape of salt, chillies, dried fish, tobacco, 
and liquor. He makes rough ropes from the malanar 
plant, and the bark of the kayyul tree (Baiikinia). The 
bark is soaked in water, sun-dried, and the fibre manu- 
factured into rope. He also makes slings of fibre, 
wherewith he knocks over birds, and mats from a species 
of Cyperus. 

According to custom, the Nayadi has to offer four 
ropes, each eight yards long, to every Nambutiri illam, 


and two ropes to every Nayar house near his settlement, 
on the occasion of the \'ishu and Onam festivals. In 
return he receives a fixed measure of paddy (rice). The 
ropes are used for tethering cattle, and for drawing 
water from the well. By a wise dispensation of the 
ancient local chieftains, to each Navadi is assio-ned a 
desom (portion of a parish), within which he enjoys 
certain privileges. And no Nayadi has any business to 
poach (^n his preserves. The privileges arc these. On 
birthdays, anniversaries, and festive occasions, the Nayadi 
receives his share of curry and rice, tied up in an old 
cloth. When a person is sick, a black country-made 
kambli (blanket), with gingelly {Sesa77ium), mustard, 
turmeric, and cocoanut tied up in the four corners, is 
passed three times over the patient and presented to a 
Nayadi, together with a palm umbrella, a stick, and a 
cucumber. This is called kala-dhanam, or offering to 
Yama, the god of death, whose attack has to be warded 
off by propitiatory offerings. The Nayadi accepts the 
gifts, and prays for the long life and prosperity of the 
giver. Placing them before his own family god, he 
prays that the life of the sick person may be spared, and 
that the disease may not be transferred to him. 

Like the Cherumans, the Nayadis drink, but they 
cannot afford to buy as much toddy as the former, for the 
Cheruman works regularly for a daily wage. Monkeys, 
which are very troublesome in gardens, are shot down 
by the higher classes, and given to the Nayadis to eat. 
Their dietary includes rats, mungooses, pigs, deer, 
paraquets, the koel (cuckoo), doves, quails, fowls, paddy- 
birds, hares, tortoises, V^aranus (lizard), crocodiles, and fish. 
They abstain from eating the flesh of dogs, cats, snakes, 
land-crabs, shell-fish, and beef. Among vegetables, the 
tubers of yams {Dioscorea) and Colocasia are included. 

nayAdi 278 

They produce fire by friction vvitK two sticks of Litscea 
sebifera, in the shorter of which a cavity is scooped out. 
They do not, hke the Todas, put powdered charcoal in 
the cavity, but ignite the ck)th rag by means of the 
red-hot wood dust produced by the friction. 

When a woman is pregnant, she craves for the llesh 
of a monkey or jungle squirrel during the sixth month. 
During the seventh month, a ceremony is performed, 
to relieve her of the influence of devils, who may be 
troubling her. It is called ozhinnukalayuka. Abortion 
is attributed to the malign influence of evil spirits. To 
ward off this, they tie round the neck a magic thread, and 
invoke the aid of their hill gods and the spirits of their 
ancestors. They erect a special hut for delivery, to which 
the woman retires. When she is in labour, her husband 
shampooes his own abdomen, while praying to the gods 
for her safe delivery — a custom which seems to suggest 
the couvade. As soon as his wife is delivered, he offers 
thanks to the gods " for having got the baby out." The 
woman observes pollution for ten days, during which her 
husband avoids seeing her. Any deformity in the child is 
attributed to the evil influence of the gods. On the twenty- 
eighth day after birth, the ceremony of naming the 
child takes place. The name given to the first-born son 
is that of the paternal grandfather, and to the first-born 
daughter that of the maternal grandmother. In the fifth 
year, the ear-boring ceremony takes place, and the opera- 
tion is performed by the child's uncle. A piece of brass 
wire takes the place of ear-rings. Girls wear a plug 
of wood in the lobes. The Nayadichis do not, like the 
Cheruman women, wear bracelets, but have many rows of 
beads round their necks, and hanging over their bosoms. 

When a girl reaches puberty, a Nayadichi leads 
her to a tank (pond), in which she bathes, after a 

2 79 NAYADI 

pandi, composed of severdl })ieces of plantain leaf tied 
together, has been carried three or four times round her. 
She must not touch any utensils, and must abstain 
from touching her head with the hand, and, if the 
skin itches, the body must be scratched with a small 

Concerning a very interesting form of marriage, Mr. 
T. K. Gopal Panikkar writes as follows.* "A large hut 
is constructed of ' holly ' and other leaves, inside which 
the girl is ensconced. Then all the young men and women 
of the village gather round the hut, and form a ring about 
it. The girl's father, or the nearest male relative, sits 
a short distance from the crowd, with a tom-tom in his 
hands. Then commences the music, and a chant is 
sung by the father, which has been freely translated as 
follows : — 

Take the stick, my sweetest daughter, 

Now seize the stick, my dearest love, 

Should you not capture the husband you wish for, 

Remember, 'tis fate decides whom you shall have. 

" All the young men, who are eligible for marriage, 
arm themselves with a stick each, and begin to dance 
round the hut, inside which the bride is seated. This 
goes on for close on an hour, when each of them 
thrusts his stick inside the hut through the leafy 
covering. The girl has then to take hold of one of these 
sticks from the inside, and the owner of the stick which 
she seizes becomes the husband of the concealed bride. 
This ceremony is followed up by feasting, after which the 
marriage is consummated." 

A photograph by Mr. F. Fawcett shows a young man 
with a ring hanging round his neck, as a sign that he was 

* Malabar and its Folk. 


still unattached. But he was soon about to part with it, 
for a present of a rupee enabled him to find a girl, and 
fix up a marriage, within two days. 

Adultery is regarded with abhorrence, and there is a 
belief that those who are guilty of it are liable to be 
attacked by wild beasts or demons. On the occasion of 
the marriage of a divorced woman's son or daughter, the 
mother attends the festivities, if she receives a cordial 
invitation from her children. But she does not look her 
former husband straight in the face, and returns to her 
home the same evening. 

When a man lies at the point of death, it is usual to 
distribute rice kanji to the people, who, after taking their 
fill, become possessed with the power of predicting the 
fate in store for the sick man. According as the taste of 
the kanji turns to that of a corpse, or remains unaltered, 
the death or recovery of the patient is foretold in their 
deep and loud voices.* The Nayadis either burn or bury 
their dead. Several layers of stones are placed within the 
grave, and its site is marked by three big stones, one in 
the middle, and one at each end. The burnt ashes of the 
bones are collected, and preserved in a pot, which is kept 
close to the hut of the deceased. Pollution is observed 
for ten days, during which the enangan (relations by 
marriage) cook for the mourners. On the tenth day, the 
sons of the deceased go, together with their relations, 
to the nearest stream, and bury the bones on the bank. 
The sons bathe, and perform beli, so that the soul of the 
departed may enter heaven, and ghosts may not trouble 
them. After the bath, a sand-heap, representing the 
deceased, is constructed, and on it are placed a piece 
of plantain leaf, some unboiled rice, and karuka grass 

* Malabar and its Folk. 



:. . . t ^, 



t— ( 


^*. , '■ 


, J /. 




V '* " 

1— 1 

J .,". 


■ 'Jr.' :'.\^ 


• ^Y ' ' 










28 1 NAYADI 

{Cynodon Dactylon). Over these water Is poured 
twelve times, and the sons reverently prostrate themselves 
before the heap. They then return home, and cow-dung, 
mixed with water, is sprinkled over them by their rela- 
tions, and poured over the floor of the hut. In this 
manner they are purified. Some time during the seventh 
month after death, according to another account, the 
grave, in which the corpse has been buried, is dug up, 
and the bones are carefully collected, and spread out on 
a layer of sticks arranged on four stones placed at the 
corners of a pit. The bones are then covered with more 
sticks, and the pile is lighted. The partially burnt bones 
are subsequently collected by the eldest son of the 
deceased, and carried to the hut in a new pot, which is 
tied to a branch of a neighbouring tree. This rite con- 
cluded, he bathes, and, on his return, the adiyanthiram 
(death ceremony) day is fixed. On this day, the eldest 
son removes the pot, and buries it by the side of a stream, 
near which a heap of sand is piled up. On this all the 
agnates pour water three times, prostrate themselves 
before it, and disperse. The ceremony is brought to a 
close with a square meal. Some time ago an old Nayadi, 
who had the reputation of being a good shot, died. 
His son obtained a handful of gunpowder from a gun- 
license holder, and set fire to it near the grave, with 
a view to satisfying the soul of the deceased. 

The chief gods of the Nayadis are Mallan, Malavazhi, 
and Parakutti, to whom offerings of toddy, rice, and the 
flesh of monkeys are made. Parakutti it is who aids them 
in their hunting expeditions, bringing the game to them, 
and protecting them from wild beasts. If they do not 
succeed in bagging the expected game, they abuse him. 

The Nayadis are also ancestor worshippers, and 
keep representations of the departed, to which offerings 


of rice and toddy are made during the Onam, Vishu, and 
other festivals. Beneath a mango tree in a paramba 
(garden) were forty-four stones set up in a circle round 
the tree. One of the stones was a beli-kal (beli stone), 
such as is placed round the inner shrines of temples. 
The remainder resembled survey stones, but were 
smaller in size. The stones represented forty-four 
Nayadis, who had left the world. On the ceremonial 
occasions referred to above, a sheep or fowl is killed, 
and the blood allowed to fall on them, puja (worship) is 
performed, and solemn prayers are offered that the souls 
of the de[)arted may protect them against wild beasts 
and snakes. A Nayadi asserted that, if he came across 
a tiger, he would invoke the aid of his ancestors, and 
the animal would be rendered harmless. 

Whenever the Nayadis labour under any calamity 
or disease, they consult the Parayan astrologer. And, 
when a woman is possessed by devils, the Parayan is 
summoned. He is furnished with a thread and some 
toddy. Muttering certain prayers to Parakutti and 
other deities, he ties the thread round the woman's 
neck, drinks the toddy, and the devil leaves her. When 
a person is believed to be under the influence of a devil 
or the evil eye, salt, chillies, tamarind, oil, mustard, 
cocoanut, and a few })ice (copper coins) in a vessel are 
waved thrice round the head of the affected individual, 
and given to a Nayadi, whose curse is asked for. 
There is this peculiarity about a Nayadi's curse, that it 
always has the opposite effect. So, when he is asked 
to curse one who has given him alms, he does so by 
invoking misery and evil upon him. By the Nayadi 
money is called chembu kasu (copper coin), food 
elamattam (exchange of leaves), and having no food 
nakkan ilia (nothing to lick on). As a protection against 

283 NAYAR 

snake-bite, the Nayadis wear a brass toe-ring. And, when 
engaged in catching rats in their holes, they wear round 
the wrist a snake-shaped metal ring, to render them safe 
against snakes which may be concealed in the hole. 

The Nayadis who live within the jurisdiction of the 
Kavalapara Nayar near Shoranurwear the kudumi (front 
lock of hair), as there are no Mappillas (Muhammadans) 
to molest them. The Kavalapara Nayar was at one time 
an important chief, and directed all Nambutiri jenmis 
(landlords) who held land within his jurisdiction to bind 
themselves not to let the land to Mappillas. Nayiidis of 
other parts are not allowed by the Mappillas to wear the 
kudumi, and, if they do so, they are taken for Parayans 
and professional sorcerers, and beaten. 

Some Nayadis have become converts to Christianity, 
others to Muhammadanism, and maintain themselves by 
begging for alms from Muhammadans. They are called 
Thoppyitta (cap-wearing) Nayadis. 

The priest of the Nayadis is called Muppan. His 
appointment is hereditary, and he enquires into all 
matters affecting the community, and can excommunicate 
a guilty person.* 

Average height, 155 cm. ; nasal index, 86. 

Nayar. — "The Nayars," Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,t 
" are a Dravidian caste, or rather a community, for we 
find several distinct elements with totally different occu- 
pations among the people who call themselves by this 
title. The original Nayars were undoubtedly a military 
body, holding lands and serving as a militia, but the 
present Nayar caste includes persons who, by hereditary 

* This note is based mainly on articles by Mr. S. Appadorai Aiyar and Mr. 
L. K. Anantha Krishna Aiyar. 
t Madras Census Report, 1891. 

nAyar 284 

occupation, are traders, artisans, oilmongers, palanquin- 
bearers, and cv^cn barbers and washermen. The fact 
seems to be that successive waves of immioration brought 
from the Canarese and Tamil countries different castes 
and different tribes ; and these, settling down in the 
country, adopted the customs and manners, and assumed 
the caste names of the more respectable of the commu- 
nity that surrounded them. This |)rocess of assimilation 
is goino- on even yet. Chettis of Coimbatore, for 
examj)le. who settled in Palghat and Valluvanad 
within living memory, have developed by this time into 
Nayars. In the census schedules we find instances in 
which the males of a house affix the term Nayar to their 
names, while the names of the females end in Chettichi. 
Gollas entering the country from the north have similarly, 
in course of time, assumed Nayar customs and manners, 
and are now styled Nayars. Again the rajahs and 
chieftains of the country sometimes raised individuals or 
classes who had rendered them meritorious service to 
the rank of Nayars, These men were thereafter styled 
Nayars, but formed a separate sub-division with little 
or no communion with the rest of the Nayar class, until 
at least, after the lapse of generations, when their origin 
was forgotten. Nayar may thus at present be considered 
to be a term almost as wide and general as Sudra," 

According to the Brahman tradition, the Nayar 
caste is the result of union between the Nambudris with 
Deva, Gandharva and Rakshasa women introduced by 
Parasurama ; and this tradition embodies the undoubted 
fact that the caste by its practice of hypergamy has had 
a very large infusion of Aryan blood. In origin the 
Nayars were probably a race of Dravidian immigrants, 
who were amongst the first invaders of Malabar, and as 
conquerors assumed the position of the governing and 

285 r NAYAR 

land-owning class. The large admixture of Aryan blood 
combined with the physical peculiarities of the country 
would go far to explain the very marked difference 
between the Nayar of the present day and what may be 
considered the corresponding Dravidian races in the rest 
of the Presidency.* 

In connection with the former position of the Nayars 
as protectors of the State, it is noted by Mr. Logan f that 
" in Johnston's ' Relations of the most famous Kingdom 
in the world' (161 1), there occurs the following quaintly 
written account of this protector guild. * It is strange to 
see how ready the Souldiour of this country is at his 
Weapons : they are all gentile men, and tearmed Naires. 
At seven Years of Age they are put to School to learn 
the Use of their Weapons, where, to make them nimble 
and active, their Sinnewes and Joints are stretched by 
skilful Fellows, and annointed with the Oyle Sesamus 
[gingelly : Sesamum indicum^ : By this annointing they 
become so light and nimble that they will winde and 
turn their Bodies as if they had no Bones, casting them 
forward, backward, high and low, even to the Astonish- 
ment of the Beholders. Their continual Delight is in their 
Weapon, perswading themselves that no Nation goeth 
beyond them in Skill and Dexterity.' And Jonathan 
Duncan, who visited Malabar more than once as one 
of the Commissioners from Bengal in 1792-93, and 
afterwards as Governor of Bombay, after quoting the 
following lines from Mickle's Camoens, Book VII — 
' Poliar the labouring lower clans are named : 
By the proud Nayrs the noble rank is claimed ; 
The toils of culture and of art they scorn : 
The shining faulchion brandish'd in the right — 
Their left arm wields the target in the fight ' — 

* Gazetteer of the Malabar district, f Manual of the Malabar district. 

NAYAR 286 

went on to observe : ' These lines, and especially the two 
last, contain a good description of a Nayr, w^ho walks 
along, holding up his naked sword with the same kind 
of unconcern as travellers in other countries carry in 
their hands a cane or walking staff. I have observed 
others of them have it fastened to their back, the hilt 
being stuck in their waist band, and the blade rising 
up and glittering between their shoulders' (Asiatic Re- 
searches, V. 10, 18). M. Mahe de la Bourdonnais, who 
had some experience of their fighting qualities in the field, 
thus described them : ' Les Nairs sont de grands hom- 
mes basanes, legers, et vigoureux : lis n'ont pas d'autre 
profession que celle des armes, et seraient de fort bons 
soldats, s'ils etiaent disciplines : mais ils combattent sans 
ordre, ils prennent la fuite des qu'on les serre de pres 
avec quelque superiorite ; pourtant, s'ils se voient presses 
avec vigueur et qu'ils se croient en danger, ils revien- 
nent a la charge, et ne se rendent jamais ' (M. Esquer, 
Essai sur les Castes dans I'lnde, page 181). Finally, 
the only British General of any note — Sir Hector 
Munro — who had ever to face the Nayars in the field, 
thus wrote of their modes of fighting : — 

' One may as well look for a needle in a Bottle of 
Hay as any of them in the daytime, they being lurking 
behind sand banks and bushes, except when we are 
marching towards the Fort, and then they appear like 
bees out in the month of June.' ' Besides which,' he 
continued, 'they point their guns well, and fire them 
well also' (Tcllicherry Factory Diary, March, 1761). 
They were, in short, brave light troops, excellent in 
skirmishing, but their organization into small bodies 
with discordant interests unfitted them to repel any 
serious invasion by an enemy even moderately well organ- 
ised. Among other strange Malayali customs, Sheikh 

287 NAYAR 

Zin-ud-din * noticed the fact that, if a chieftain was slain, 
his followers attacked and obstinately persevered in rava- 
ging the slayer's country, and killing his people till their 
vengeance w'as satisfied. This custom is doubtless that 
which was described so long ago as in the ninth century 
A.D. by two Muhammadans, whose work was translated 
by Renaudot (Lond., 1733). 'There are kings who, 
upon their accession, observe the following ceremony. 
A quantity of cooked rice was spread before the king, 
and some three or four hundred persons came of their 
own accord, and received each a small quantity of rice 
from the king's own hands after he himself had eaten 
some. By eating of this rice they all engage themselves 
to burn themselves on the day the king dies or is slain, 
and they punctually fulfil their promise.' Men, who 
devoted themselves to certain death on great occasions, 
were termed Amoucos by the Portuguese ; and Barbosa, 
one of the Portuguese writers, alluded to the practice 
as prevalent among the Nayars. Purchas has also the 
following : — ' The king of Cochin hath a great number 
of Gentlemen, which he calleth Amocchi, and some are 
called Nairi : these two sorts of men esteem not their 
lives anything, so that it may be for the honour of the 
king.' The proper Malayalam term for such men was 
Chaver, literally those who took up, or devoted them- 
selves to death. It was a custom of the Nayars, which 
was readily adopted by the Mappillas, who also at 
times — as at the great Mahamakkam, twelfth year feast, 
at Tirunavayi f — devoted themselves to death in the 

* The author of Tahafat-ul-Mujahidin or hints for persons seeking the way 
to God, as it is frequently translated, or more literally an offering to warriors who 
shall fight in defence of religion against infidels. Translated by Rowlandson. 
London, 1833. 

+ See Manual of the Malabar district, 164, sq., and Fawcett, Madras Museum 
Bull., 111,3, 1901. 

nAyar 288 

company of Nayars for the honour of the Valluvanad 
Raja. And probably the frantic fanatical rush of the 
Mappillas on British bayonets, which is not even yet 
a thing of the past, is the latest development of this 
ancient custom of the Nayars. The martial spirit of 
the Nayars in these piping times of peace has quite 
died out for want of exercise. The Nayar is more and 
more becoming a family man. Comparatively few of 
them now-a-days even engage in hunting." According 
to an inscription of the King Kulottunga I (A.D. 1083- 
84), he conquered Kudamalai-Nadu, i.e., the western hill 
country (Malabar), whose warriors, the ancestors of the 
Nayars of the present day, perished to the last man in 
defending their independence.* 

The following description of the Nayars at the 
beginning of the sixteenth century is given by Duarte 
Barbosa.t " The Nairs are the gentry, and have no 
other duty than to carry on war, and they continually 
carry their arms with them, which are swords, bows, 
arrows, bucklers, and lances. They all live with the 
kings, and some of them with other lords, relations of the 
kings, and lords of the country, and with the salaried 
governors, and with one another. They are very smart 
men, and much taken up with their nobility. 
These Nairs, besides being all of noble descent, have to 
be armed as knights by the hand of a king or lord with 
whom they live, and until they have been so equipped 
they cannot bear arms nor call themselves Nairs. 
In general, when they are seven years of age, they are 
immediately sent to school to learn all manner of feats 
of agility and gymnastics for the use of their w^eapons. 

♦ E. Hullzsch, South-Indian Inscriptions, III, 2, 1203. 

t Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar. Translation. 
Hakluyt Society, 1866. 

289 NAYAR 

First they learn to dance and then to tumble, and for 
that purpose they render supple all their limbs from their 
childhood, so that they can bend them in any direction. 
. . . These Nairs live outside the towns separate from 
other people on their estates which are fenced in. When 
they go anywhere, they shout to the peasants, that they 
may get out of the way where they have to pass ; and 
the peasants do so, and, if they did not do it, the Nairs 
might kill them without penalty. And, if a peasant were 
by misfortune to touch a Nair lady, her relations would 
immediately kill her, and likewise the man that touched 
her and all his relations. This, they say, is done to 
avoid all opportunity of mixing the blood with that 
of the peasants. . . . These are very clean and 
well-dressed women, and they hold it in great honour to 
know how to please men. They have a belief amongst 
them that the woman who dies a virgin does not go to 

Writing in the eighteenth century, Hamilton states * 
that " it was an ancient custom for the Samorin (Zamorin) 
to reign but twelve years, and no longer. If he died 
before his term was expired, it saved him a troublesome 
ceremony of cutting his own throat on a public scaffold 
erected for that purpose. He first made a feast for all 
his nobility and gentry, who were very numerous. After 
the feast he saluted his guests, went on the scaffold, and 
very neatly cut his own throat in the view of the assembly. 
His body was, a little while after, burned with great pomp 
and ceremony, and the grandees elected a new Samorin. 
W^hether that custom was a religious or a civil ceremony 
I know not, but it is now laid aside, and a new custom 
is followed by the modern Samorin, that a jubilee is 

* New Account of the East Indies, 1744. 

NAYAR 290 

proclaimed throughout his dominion at the end of twelve 
years, and a tent is pitched for him in a spacious plain, 
and a great feast is celebrated for ten or twelve days with 
mirth and jollity, guns firing night and day, so at the end 
of the feast any four of the guests that have a mind to 
gain a crown by a desperate action in fighting their way 
through thirty or forty thousand of his guards, and kill 
the Samorin in his tent, he that kills him succeeds him 
in his empire. In Anno 1695 one of these jubilees 
happened, and the tent pitched near Ponnany, a sea-port 
of his about fifteen leagues to the southward of Calicut. 
There were but three men that would venture on that 
desperate action, who fell on, with sword and target, 
among the guards, and, after they had killed and wounded 
many, were themselves killed. One of the desperadoes 
had a nephew of fifteen or sixteen years of age that kept 
close by his uncle in the attack on the guards, and, when 
he saw him fall, the youth got through the guards into 
the tent, and made a stroke at his Majesty's head, and 
had certainly dispatched him if a large brass lamp which 
was burning over his head had not marred the blow, 
but, before he could make another, he was killed by the 
guards, and I believe the same Samorin reigns yet." 

It is noted by Sonnerat * that the Nayars " are the 
warriors ; they have also the privilege of enjoying all the 
women of their caste. Their arms, which they constantly 
carry, distinguish them from the other tribes. They are 
besides known by their insolent haughtiness. When they 
perceive pariahs, they call out to them, even at a great 
distance, to get out of their way, and, if any one of these 
unfortunate people approaches too near a Nair, and 
through inadvertence touches him, the Nair has a right 

Voyage to the East Indies, 1774 and 1781. 



to murder him, which is looked upon as a very innocent 
action, and for which no complaint is ever made. It is 
true that the pariahs have one day in the year when all 
the Nairs they can touch become their slaves, but the 
Nairs take such precautions to keep out of the way at 
the time, that an accident of that kind seldom happens." 
It is further recorded by Buchanan '^ that " the whole of 
these Nairs formed the militia of Malayala, directed by 
the Namburis and governed by the Rajahs. Their chief 
delight is in arms, but they are more inclined to use them 
for assassination or surprise, than in the open field. 
Their submission to their superiors was great, but they 
exacted deference from those under them with a cruelty 
and arrogance, rarely practised but among Hindus in 
their state of independence. A Nair was expected to 
instantly cut down a Tiar or Mucuai, who presumed to 
defile him by touching his person; and a similar fate 
awaited a slave, who did not turn out of the road as a 
Nair passed." 

Nayar is commonly said to be derived from the Sans- 
krit Nayaka, a leader, and to be cognate with Naik, and 
Nayudu or Naidu. In this connection, Mr. L. Moore 
writes t that " if a reference is made to the Anglo-Indian 
Glossary (Hobson-Jobson) by Yule and Burnell, it 
will be found that the term Naik or Nayakan, and the 
word Nayar are derived from the same Sanskrit original, 
and there is a considerable amount of evidence to show 
that the Nayars of Malabar are closely connected by 
origin with the Nayakans of Vijayanagar. I Xavier, 
writing in 1542 to 1544, makes frequent references to 
men whom he calls Badages, who are said to have been 

* Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, 1S07. 
t Malabar Law and Custom, 3rd ed., 1905, 
X Vide R. Sewell, A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar), 1900. 
V-I9 B 

nAyar 292 

collectors of royal taxes, and to have grievously 
oppressed Xavier's converts among the fishermen of 
Travancore.* Dr. Caldwell, alluding to Xavier's letters, 
says t that these Badages were no doubt Vadages or men 
from the North, and is of opinion that a Jesuit writer of 
the time who called them Nayars was mistaken, and that 
they were really Nayakans from Madura. I believe, 
however, that the Jesuit rightly called them Nayars, for 
I find that Father Organtino. writing in 1568, speaks of 
these Badages as people from Narasinga (a kingdom 
north of Madura, lying close to Bishnaghur).J Bish- 
naghur is. of course, Vijayanagar, and the kingdom of 
Narasinga was the name frequently given by the 
Portuguese to X'^ijayanagar. Almost every page of Mr. 
Sewell's interesting book on Vijayanagar bears testimony 
to the close connection between Vijayanagar and the 
West Coast. Dr. A. C. Burnell tells us that the kings 
who ruled Vijayanagar during the latter half of the four- 
teenth century belonged to a low non-Aryan caste, 
namely, that of Canarese cow-herds. § They were there- 
fore closely akin to the Nayars, one of the leading Rajas 
among whom at the present time, although officially 
described as a Samanta. is in reality of the Eradi, i.e., 
cow-herd caste.|| It is remarkable that Colonel (after- 
wards Sir Thomas) Munro, in the memorandum written 
bv him in 1802 •[ on the Poligars of the Ceded Districts, 

* Father Coleridge's Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier. 

t History of Tinnevelly. % Coleridge's Xavier. 

§ Burnell. Translation of the Daya Vibhaga, Introduction. Vide also 
Elements of South Indian Palaeography (2nd ed.. p. 109), where Dr Burnell says 
that it is certain that the Vijayanagar kings were men of low caste. 

II Vide Glossary, Report of the Malabar Marriage Commission, p. 2, and 
Day's Land of the Permauls, p. 44. 

% Fifth Report of the Committee on the affairs of the East India Company, 
II> 499. 530- Reprint by Higginbotham, Madras. 

293 NAyAR 

when dealing with the cases of a number of Poligars 
who were direct descendants of men who had been chiefs 
under the kings of Vijayanagar, calls them throughout 
his report Naique or Nair, using the two names as if 
they were identical. Further investigation as to the 
connection of the Nayars of Malabar with the kingdom 
of Vijayanagar would, I believe, lead to interesting- 
results." In the Journal of the Hon. John Lindsay 
(1783) it is recorded* that "we received information 
that our arms were still successful on the Malabar coast, 
and that our army was now advancing into the inland 
country ; whilst the Nayars and Polygars that occupy the 
jungles and mountains near Seringapatam, thinking this 
a favourable opportunity to regain their former inde- 
pendence, destroyed the open country, and committed as 
many acts of barbarity as Hyder's army had done in the 

" Some, " Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes in a note 
on the Nayars of Travancore, " believe that Nayar is 
derived from Naga (serpents), as the Aryans so termed 
the earlier settlers of Malabar on account of the special 
adoration which they paid to snakes. The Travancore 
Nayars are popularly known as Malayala Sudras — a 
term which contrasts them sharply with the Pandi or 
foreign Sudras, of whom a large number immigrated into 
Travancore in later times. Another name by which 
Nayars are sometimes known is Malayali, but other 
castes, which have long inhabited the Malayalam country, 
can lay claim to this designation with equal propriety. 
The most general title of the Nayars is Pillai (child), 
which was once added to the names of the Brahman 
dwellers in the south. It must, in all probability, have 

* Li\es of the Lindsays. By Lord Lindsay, 1849. 



been after the Brahmans changed their title to Aiyar 
(father), by which name the non- Brahman people invari- 
ably referred to them, that Sudras began to be termed 
Pillai. We find that the Vcllalas of the Tamil country 
and the Nayars of Travancore called themselves 
Pillai from very early times. The formal ceremony of 
paying down a sum of money, and obtaining a distinction 
direct from the Sovereign was known as tirumukham 
pitikkuka, or catching the face of the king, and enabled 
the recipients to add, besides the honorary suffix Pillai, 
the distinctive prefix Kanakku, or accountant, to their 
name. So important were the privileges conferred by 
it that even Sanku Annavi, a Brahman Dalava, obtained 
it at the hand of the reigning Maharaja, and his 
posterity at Vempannur have enjoyed the distinction 
until the present day. The titles Pillai and Kanakku 
are never used together. The name of an individual 
would be, for example, either Krishna Pillai or Kanakku 
Raman Krishnan, Raman being the name of the 
Karanavan or the maternal uncle. A higher title, 
Chempakaraman, corresponds to the knighthood of 
mediaeval times, and was first instituted by Maharaja 
Marthanda Varma in memory, it is said, of his great 
Prime Minister Rama Aiyyan Dalawa. The individual, 
whom it was the king's pleasure to honour, was taken in 
procession on the back of an elephant through the four 
main streets of the fort, and received by the Prime 
Minister, seated by his side, and presented with pan- 
supari (betel). Rare as this investiture is in modern 
times, there are many ancient houses, to which this title of 
distinction is attached in perpetuity. The title Kanakku 
is often enjoyed with it, the maternal uncle's name being 
dropped, e.g., Kanakku Chempakaraman Krishnan. 
Tambi (younger brother) is another title prevalent in 



Travancore. It is a distinctive suffix to the names of 
Nayar sons of Travancore Sovereigns. But, in ancient 
times, this title was conferred on others also, in recogni- 
tion of merit. Tambis alone proceed in palanquins, and 
appear before the Maharaja without a head-dress. The 
consorts of Maharajas are selected from these families. 
If a lady from outside is to be accepted as consort, she is 
generally adopted into one of these families. The title 
Karta, or doer, appeeirs also to have been used as a 
titular name by some of the rulers of Madura. [At the 
Madras census, 1901, Kartakkal was returned by Balijas 
claiming to be descendants of the Nayak kings of Madura 
and Tanjore.] The Tekkumkur and Vadakkumkur 
Rajas in Malabar are said to have first conferred the 
title Karta on certain influential Nayar families. In 
social matters the authority of the Karta was supreme, 
and it was only on important points that higher author- 
ities were called on to intercede. All the Kartas belong 
to the I Ham sub-division of the Nayar caste. The title 
Kuruppu, though assumed by other castes than Nayars, 
really denotes an ancient section of the Nayars, charged 
with various functions. Some were, for instance, instruc- 
tors in the use of arms, while others w^ere superintendents 
of maid-servants in the royal household. Writing con- 
cerning the Zamorin of Calicut about 1500 A.D., Barbosa 
states that " the king has a thousand waiting women, to 
whom he gives regular pay, and they are always at the 
court to sweep the palaces and houses of the king, and he 
does this for the State, because fifty would be enough to 
sweep." When a Maharaja of Travancore enters into a 
matrimonial alliance, it is a Kuruppu who has to call 
out the full title of the royal consort, Panappillai Amma, 
after the presentation of silk and cloth has been per- 
formed. The title Panikkar: is derived from pani, work. 

nAyar 296 

It was the Panikkars who kept kalaris, or gymnastic and 
military schools, but in modern times many Panikkars 
have taken to the teaching of letters. Some are entirely 
devoted to temple service, and are consequently regarded 
as belonging to a division of Marans, rather than of 
Nayars. The title Kaimal is derived from kai, hand, 
signifying power. In former times, some Kaimals were 
recognised chieftains, e.g., the Kaimal of Vaikkattillam 
in North Travancore. Others were in charge of the 
royal treasury, which, according to custom, could not 
be seen even by the kings except in their presence. 
"Neither could thev," Barbosa writes, "take anvthinsf 
out of the treasury without a great necessity, and by the 
counsel of this person and certain others." The titles 
Unnithan and Valiyathan were owned by certain families 
in Central Travancore, which were wealthy and powerful. 
They were to some extent self-constituted justices of the 
peace, and settled all ordinary disputes arising in the kara 
where they dwelt. The title Menavan, or Menon, means 
a superior person, and is derived from mel, above, and 
avan he. The recipient of the title held it for his life- 
time, or it was bestowed in perpetuity on his family, 
according to the amount of money paid down as atiyara. 
As soon as an individual was made a Menon, he was 
presented with an ola (palmyra leaf for writing on) and 
an iron style as symbols of the office of accountant, which 
he was expected to fill. In British I\Ialabar even now 
every amsam or revenue village has an accountant or 
writer called Menon. The title Menokki, meaning one 
who looks over or superintends, is found only in British 
Malabar, as it was exclusively a creation of the 
Zamorin. [They are, I gather, accountants in temples.] 
" There are numerous sub-divisions comprised under 
the general head Nayar, of which the most important. 



mentioned in vernacular books, are Kiriyam, 1 11am, 
Svarupam, Itacheri or Idacheri, Pallichan, Ashtikkurich- 
chi. Vattakatan, Otatu, Pulikkal, X^apari, Vilakkitalavan, 
and Veluthetan. Of these Ashtikkurichchi and Pulikkal 
are divisions of Maran, Vyapari is a division of Chettis, 
and Vilakkitalavan and Veluthetan are barbers and 
washermen respectively. 

" The chief divisions of Nayars, as now recognised, 
are as follows : — 

1. Kiriyam, a name said to be a corruption of the 
Sanskrit griha, meaning house. This represents the 
hiofhest class, the members of which were, in former 
times, not obliged to serve Brahmans and Kshatriyas. 

2. Illakkar. — The word illam indicates a Nambutiri 
Brahman's house, and tradition has it that every illam 
family once served an illam. But, in mediaeval times, any 
Nayar could get himself recognised as belonging to the 
Illam division, provided that a certain sum of money, 
called adiyara, was paid to the Government. The 
Illakkar are prohibited from the use of fish, flesh, and 
liquor, but the prohibition is not at the present day 
universally respected. In some parts of Malabar, they 
have moulded many of their habits in the truly 
Brahmanical style. 

3. Svarupakkar. — Adherents of the Kshatriya 
families of Travancore. The members of the highest 
group, Parur Svarupam, have their purificatory rites 
performed by Marans. It is stated that they were once 
the Illakkar servants of one Karuttetathu Nambutiri, who 
was the feudal lord of Parur, and afterwards became 
attached to the royal household which succeeded to that 
estate, thus becoming Parur Svarupakkar. 

4. Padamangalam and Tamil Padam were not 
originally Nayars, but immigrants from the Tamil 

nAyar 298 

country. They are confined to a few localities in 
Travancore, and until recently there was a distinctive 
difference in regard to dress and ornaments between the 
Tamil Padam and the ordinary Nayars. The occupation 
of the Padamangalakkar is temple service, such as 
sweeping, carrying lamps during processions, etc. The 
Tamil Padakkar are believed to have taken to various 
kinds of occupation, and, for this reason, to have become 
merged with other sections. 

5. Vathi or Vatti. — This name is not found in the 
Jatinirnaya, probably because it had not been differen- 
tiated from Maran. The word is a corruption of vazhti, 
meaning praying for happiness, and refers to their 
traditional occupation. They use a peculiar drum, 
called nantuni. Some call themselves Daivampatis, or 
wards of God, and follow the makkathayam system of 
inheritance (in the male line). 

6. Itacheri or Idacheri, also called Pantaris in 
South Travancore. They are herdsmen, and vendors of 
milk, butter and curds. The name suggests a relation 
of some kind to the Idaiyan caste of the Tamil country. 

7. Karuvelam, known also by other names, such as 
Kappiyara and Tiruvattar. Their occupation is service 
in the palace of the Maharaja, and they are the custo- 
dians of his treasury and valuables. Fifty-two families 
are believed to have been originally brought from 
Kolathanad, when a member thereof was adopted into 
the Travancore royal family. 

8. Arikuravan. — A name, meaning those who 
reduced the quantity of rice out of the paddy given to them 
to husk at the temple of Kazhayakkuttam near Trlvan- 
drum, by which they were accosted by the local chieftain. 

9. Pallichchan. — Bearers of palanquins for Brah- 
mans and Malabar chieftains. They are also employed 



as their attendants, to carry their sword and shield 
before them. 

10. Vandikkaran. — A name, meaning cartmen, for 
those who supply fuel to temples, and cleanse the vessels 
belonging thereto. 

11. Kuttina. — The only heiress of a Svarupam 
tarwad is said to have been a maid-servant in the 
Vadakketam Brahman's house, and her daughter's tali- 
kettu ceremony to have been celebrated in her master's 
newly-built cowshed. The bride was called kuttilachchi, 
or bride in a cowshed, and her descendants were named 
Kuttina Nayars. They intermarry among themselves, 
and, having no priests of their own, obtain purified water 
from Brahmans to remove the effects of pollution. 

12. Matavar. — Also known as Puliyattu, Veliyattu, 
and Kallur Nayars. They are believed to have been 
good archers in former times. 

13. Otatu, also called Kusa. Their occupation is 
to tile or thatch temples and Brahman houses. 

14. Mantalayi. — A tract of land in the Kalkulam 
taluk, called Mantalachchi Konam, was granted to them 
by the State. They are paid mourners, and attend at 
the Trivandrum palace when a death occurs in the royal 

15. Manigramam. — Believed to represent Hindu 
recoveries from early conversion to Christianity. 
Manigramam was a portion of Cranganore, where early 
Christian immigrants settled. 

16. Vattaykkatan, better known in Travancore as 
Chakala Nayars, form in many respects the lowest 
sub-division. They are obliged to stand outside the 
sacrificial stones (balikallu) of a sanctuary, and are not 
allowed to take the title Pillai. Pulva is a title of 
distinction among them. One section of them is engaged 

NAYAR 300 

in the hereditary occupation of oil-pressing, and occupies 
a lower position in the social scale than the other." 

The following list of " clans" among the Nayars of 
Malabar whom he examined anthropomctrically is given 
by I\Ir. F. Fawcett * :— 








Akattu Charna. 

Purattu Charna. 






Viyapari or Eavari. 






" The Kurup, Nambiyar Viyyur, Manavalan, Ven- 
golan, Nellioden, Adungadi, Kitavu, Adiodi, Amayen- 
golam, all superior clans, belong, properly speaking, to 
North Malabar. The Kiriyattil, or Kiriyam, is the 
highest of all the clans in South Malabar, and is supposed 
to comprise, or correspond with the group of clans first 
named from North Malabar. The Akattu Charna clan 
is divided into two sub-clans, one of which looks to the 
Zamorin as their lord, and the other owns lordship to 
minor lordlings, as the Tirumulpad of Nilambur. The 
former are superior, and a woman of the latter may mate 
with a man of the former, but not vice versa. In the old 
days, every Nayar chief had his Charnavar, or adherents. 
The Purattu Charna are the outside adherents, or fighters 
and so on, and the Akattu Charna are the inside 
adherents — clerks and domestics. The clan from which 
the former were drawn is superior to the latter. The Uralis 
arc said to have bee^i masons; the Pallichans manchil 

* Madras Museum Bull., HI, 3, 190I. 


bearers.*^ The Sudra clan supplies female servants in the 
houses of Nambudiris. The X'attakkad (or Chakkingal : 
chakku, oil press) clan, whose proper nidiier is producing 
gingelly or cocoanut oil with the oil-mill, is the lowest 
of all, excepting, I think, the Pallichan. Indeed, in 
North Malabar, I have frequently been told by Nayars of 
the superior clans that they do not admit the Yattakkad 
to be Nayars, and say that they have adopted the 
honorary affix Nayar to their names quite recently. 
There is some obscurity as regards the sub-divisions 
of the Vattakkad clan. To the north of Calicut, in 
Kurumbranad, they are divided into the Undiatuna, or 
those who pull (to work the oil-machine by hand), and 
the Murivechchu-atune, or those who tie or fasten 
bullocks, to work the oil-machine. Yet further north, 
at Tellichcrry and thereabouts, there are no known 
sub-divisions, while in Ernad, to the eastward, the clan 
is divided into the Veluttatu (white) and Karuttatu 
(black). The white have nothing to do with the 
expression and preparation of oil, which is the hereditary 
occupation of the black. The white may eat with 
Nayars of any clan ; the black can eat with no others 
outside their own clan. The black sub-clan is strictly 
endogamous ; the other, the superior sub-clan, is not. 
Their women may marry men of any other clan, the 
Pallichchan excepted. Union by marriage, or whatever 
the function may be named, is permissible between most 
of the other clans, the rule by which a woman may 
never unite herself with her inferior being always 
observed. She may unite herself with a man of her 
own clan, or with a man of any superior clan, or with 
a Nambutiri, an Embrantiri, or any other Brahman, 

• A manchil is a conveyance carried on men's shoulders, and more like a 
hammock slung on a pole, with a flat coverinjj over it, than a palanquin. 

NAYAR 302 

or with one of the small sects coming between the 
Brahmans and the Nayars. But she cannot under any 
circumstances unite herself with a man of a clan, which 
is inferior to hers. Nor can she eat with those of a clan 
inferior to her ; a man may, and does without restriction. 
Her children by an equal in race and not only in mere 
social standing, but nev^er those by one who is racially 
inferior, belong to her taravad.* The children of the 
inferior mothers are never brought into the taravad of 
the superior flithers, i.e., they are- never brought into it 
to belong to it, but they may live there. And, where 
they do so, they cannot enter the taravad kitchen, or 
touch the women while they are eating. Nor are they 
allowed to touch their father's corpse. They may live 
in the taravad under these and other disabilities, but 
are never of it. The custom, which permits a man 
to cohabit with a woman lower in the social scale than 
himself, and prohibits a woman from exercising the 
same liberty, is called the rule of anulomam and prati- 
lomam. Dr. Gundert derives anulomam from anu, with 
lomam (romam), hair, or going with the hair or grain. 
So pratilomam means going against the hair or grain. 
According to this usage, a Nayar woman, consorting 
with a man of a higher caste, follows the hair, purifies 
the blood, and raises the progeny in social estimation. 
By cohabitation with a man of a lower division (clan) 
or caste, she is guilty of pratilomam, and, if the 
difference of caste were admittedly great, she would 
be turned out of her family, to prevent the whole 
family being- boycotted. A corollary of this custom 
is that a Nambutiri Brahman father cannot touch his 
own children by his Nayar consort without bathing 

* Tarwad or taravad, a marumakkathayam family, consisting of all the 
descendants in the female line of one common female ancestor. 

303 NAYAR 

afterwards to remove pollution. The children in the 
marumakkatayam family belong, of course, to their 
mother's family, clan, and caste. They are Nayars, not 
Nambutiris. The Nayars of North Malabar are held to 
be superior all along the line, clan for clan, to those 
of South Malabar, which is divided from the north by the 
river Korapuzha, seven miles north of Calicut, so that a 
woman of North Malabar would not unite herself to a 
man of her own clan name of South Malabar. A Nayar 
woman of North Malabar cannot pass northward beyond 
the frontier ; she cannot pass the hills to the eastward ; 
and she cannot cross the Korapuzha to the south. It is 
tabu. The women of South Malabar are similarly con- 
fined by custom, breach of which involves forfeiture of 
caste. To this rule there is an exception, and of late 
years the world has come in touch with the Malayali, 
who nowadays goes to the University, studies medicine 
and law in the Presidency town (Madras), or even in far 
off England. Women of the relatively inferior Akattu 
Charna clan are not under quite the same restrictions as 
regards residence as are those of most of the other clans ; 
so, in these days of free communications, when Malayalis 
travel, and frequently reside far from their own country, 
they often prefer to select wives from this Akattu Charna 
clan. But the old order changeth everywhere, and now- 
adays Malayalis who are in the Government service, and 
obliged to reside far away from Malabar, and a few who 
have taken up their abode in the Presidency town, have 
wrenched themselves free of the bonds of custom, and 
taken with them their wives who are of clans other than 
the Akattu Charna. The interdiction to travel, and the 
possible exception to it in the case of Akattu Charna 
women, has been explained to me in this way. The 
Nayar woman observes pollution for three days during 

NAVAR 304 

menstruation. While in her period, she may not eat or 
drink with any other member of the taravad, and on the 
fourth day she must be purified. Purification is known 
as mattu (change), and it is eftected by the washerwoman, 
wlio, in some parts of South Malabar, is of the Mannan 
or Vannan caste, whose 7nHier is to wash for the Nayars 
and Nambutiris, but who is, as a rule the washerwoman 
of the Tiyan caste, giving her, after her bath, one of her 
own cloths to wear (mattu, change of raiment) instead of 
the soiled cloth, which she takes away to wash. Pollu- 
tion, which may come through a death in the family, 
through child-birth, or menstruation, must be removed 
by mattu. Until it is done, the woman is out of caste. 
It must be done in the right way at the right moment, 
under pain of the most unpleasant social consequences. 
How that the influential rural local magnate wreaks 
vengeance on a taravad by preventing the right person 
giving mattu to the women is well known in Malabar. 
He could not. with all the sections of the Penal Code at 
his disposal, inflict greater injury. Now the Nayar 
woman is said to feel compelled to remain in Malabar, 
or within her own part of it. in order to be within reach 
of mattu. My informant tells me that, the Vannan 
caste being peculiar to Malabar, the Nayar women 
cannot go where these are not to be found, and that 
mattu must be done by one of that caste. But I know, 
from my own observation in the most truly conservative 
localities, in Kurumbranad for example, where the Nayar 
has a relative superiority, that the washerman is as a 
rule a Tiyan ; and I cannot but think that the interdiction 
has other roots than those involved in mattu. It does 
not account for the superstition against crossing water, 
which has its counterparts elsewhere in the world. The 
origin of the interdiction to cross the river southwards 

A K A'l 1 r C ■ H A R X A N A \' A R. 

305 nAyar 

has been explained to me as emanating from a command 
of the Kolatirri Rajah in days gone by, when, the Arabs 
having come to the country about CaHcut, there was a 
chance of the women being seized and taken as wives. 
The explanation is somewhat fanciful. The prohibition 
to cross the river to the northwards is supposed to have 
originated in much the same way. As bearing on this 
point, I may mention that the Nayar women living to 
the east of Calicut cannot cross the river backwater, and 
come into the town." It may be noted in this connection 
that the Paikara river on the Nilgiri hills is sacred to the 
Todas, and, for fear of mishap from arousing the wrath 
of the river-god, a pregnant Toda woman will not venture 
to cross it. No Toda will use the river water for any 
purpose, and they do not touch it, unless they have to 
ford it. They then walk through it, and, on reaching 
the opposite bank, bow their heads. Even when they 
walk over the Paikara bridge, they take their hands out 
of the putkuli (body-cloth) as a mark of respect. 

The complexity of the sub-divisions among the 
Nayars in North Malabar is made manifest by the 
following account thereof in the Gazetteer of Malabar. 
" There are exogamous sub-divisions (perhaps corre- 
sponding to original tarwads) called kulams, and these 
are grouped to form the sub-castes which are usually 
endogamous. It is quite impossible to attempt a com- 
plete account of the scheme, but to give some idea of its 
nature one example may be taken, and dealt with in some 
detail ; and for this purpose the portion of Kurumbranad 
known as Payyanad will serve. This is the country 
between the Kottapuzha and Porapuzha rivers, and is 
said to have been given by a Raja of Kurumbranad to a 
certain Ambadi Kovilagam Tamburatti (the stanam or 
title of the senior lady of the Zamorin Raja's family). In 


nAyar 306 

this tract or nad there were originally six stanis or chief- 
tains, who ruled, under the Raja, with the assistance, or 
subject to the constitutional control, of four assemblies of 
Nayars called Kuttams. Each kiittam had its hereditary 
president. In this tract there are seven groups of 
kulams. The highest includes twelve kulams, Vengalat, 
Pattillat, \'iy)'ur, Nelliot, Atunkudi, Amayangalat, 
Nelloli, Nilancheri, Rendillat, Pulliyani, Orakattcri, and 
Yenmeri. Of these, the Pattillat and Rendillat (members 
of the ten and members of the two illams or houses) affix 
the title Adiyodi to their names, the last three affix the 
title Nambiyar, and the rest affix Nayar. Of the six 
stanis already mentioned, three, with the title of Adiyodi, 
belong to the V^engalat kulam, while two of the presi- 
dents of kuttams belonged to the Pattillat kulam. The 
younger members of the stani houses are called kidavu. 
It is the duty of women of Viyyur and Nelliot kulams to 
join in the bridal procession of members of the \^en- 
galat kulam, the former carrying lamps, and the latter 
salvers containing flowers, while the Rendillat Adiyodis 
furnish cooks to the same class. Pattillat Adiyodis 
and Orakatteri Nambiyars observe twelve days' pollu- 
tion, while all the other kulams observe fifteen. The 
second group consists of six kulams, Eravattur, Ara- 
Eravattur (or half Eravattur), and Attikodan Nayars, 
Tonderi Kidavus, Punnan Nambiyars, and Menokkis. 
All these observe fifteen days' pollution. The third 
group consists of three kulams, Taccholi to which the 
remaining three stanis belong, Kotholi, and Kuruvattan- 
cheri. All afifix Nayar to their names, and observe 
fifteen days' pollution. The fourth group consists of 
three kulams, Peruvanian Nambiyars, Chelladan Nayars, 
and Vennapalan Nayars. All three observe fifteen 
days' pollution. The name Peruvanian means great or 

307 nAyar 

principal oil-man ; and it is the duty of this caste to 
present the Kurumbranad Raja with oil on the occasion 
of his formal installation. The fifth group consists of the 
three kulams, Mannangazhi, Paramchela, and Pallikara 
Nayars, all observing fifteen days' pollution. A member 
of the first-named class has to place an amanapalaga 
(the traditional seat of NambCidiris and other high castes) 
for the Kurumbranad Raja to sit on at the time of 
his installation, while a member of the second has to 
present him with a cloth on the same occasion. The 
sixth group consists of four kiriyams named Patam, 
Tulu, Manan, and Ottu respectively, and has the col- 
lective name of Ravari. The seventh group consists 
of six kulams, Kandon, Kannankodan, Kotta, Karumba, 
Kundakollavan, and Panakadan Nayars. All observe 
fifteen days' pollution, and the women of these six 
kulams have certain duties to perform in connection with 
the purification of women of the Vengalat, Pattillat, and 
Orakatteri kulams. Besides these seven groups, there 
are a few other classes without internal sub-divisions. 
One such class is known as Pappini Nayar. A woman 
of this class takes the part of the Brahmini woman 
(Nambissan) at the tali-kettu kalyanam of girls belonging 
to the kulams included in the third group. Another 
class called Palattavan takes the place of the Attikurissi 
Nayar at the funeral ceremonies of the same three 

In illustration of the custom of polyandry among the 
Nayars of Malabar in by-gone days, the following 
extracts may be quoted. "On the continent of India," 
it is recorded in Ellis' edition of the Rural, " polyandry 
is still said to be practiced in Orissa, and among particular 
tribes in other parts. In Malayalam, as is well known, 
the vision of Plato in his ideal republic is more completely 

V-20 B 


realised, the women among the Nayars not being 
restricted to family or number, but, after she has been 
consecrated by the usual rites before the nuptial fire, in 
which ceremony any indifferent person may officiate 
as the representative of her husband, being in her 
intercourse with the other sex only restrained by her 
inclinations ; provided that the male with whom she 
associates be of an equal or superior tribe. But it must 
be stated, for the glory of the female character, that, 
notwithstanding the latitude thus given to the Nayattis, 
and that they are thus left to the guidance of their own 
free will and the play of their own fancy (which in other 
countries has not always been found the most efficient 
check on the conduct of either sex), it rarely happens 
that they cohabit with more than one person at the same 
time. Whenever the existing connexion is broken, 
whether from incompatibility of temper, disgust, caprice, 
or any of the thousand vexations by which from the 
frailty of nature domestic happiness is liable to be 
disturbed, the woman seeks another lover, the man 
another mistress. But it mostly happens that the bond 
of paternity is here, as elsewhere, too strong to be shaken 
off, and that the uninfluenced and uninterested union 
of love, when formed in youth, continues even in the 
decline of age." 

In a note on the Nayars in the sixteenth century, 
Caesar Fredericke writes as follows.* " These Nairi 
having their wives common amongst themselves, and 
when any of them goe into the house of any of these 
women, he leaveth his sworde and target at the door, 
and the time that he is there, there dare not be any so 

* The Voyage and Travell of M. Caesar Fredericke, Merchant of Venice, into 
the East Indies and beyond the Indies (1563). Translation. Hakluyt Voyages, 
V, 394- 

309 NAyaR 

hardie as to come into that house. The king's children 
shall not inherite the kingdom after their father, because 
they hold this opinion, that perchance they were not 
begotten of the king their father, but of some other 
man, therefore they accept for their king one of the 
sonnes of the king's sisters, or of some other woman 
of the blood roiall, for that they be sure that they are of 
the blood roiall." 

In his " New Account of the East Indies, (1727)" 
Hamilton wrote : " The husbands," of whom, he said, 
there might be twelve, but no more at one time, "agree 
very well, for they cohabit with her in their turns, 
according to their priority of marriage, ten days more 
or less according as they can fix a term among them- 
selves, and he that cohabits with her maintains her in 
all things necessary for his time, so that she is plenti- 
fully provided for by a constant circulation. When 
the man that cohabits with her goes into her house 
he leaves his arms at the door, and none dare remove 
them or enter the house on pain of death. When she 
proves with child, she nominates its father, who takes 
care of his education after she has suckled it, and 
brought it to walk or speak, but the children are never 
heirs to their father's estate, but the father's sister's 
children are." 

Writing in the latter half of the eighteenth century, 
Grose says * that " it is among the Nairsthat principally 
prevails the strange custom of one wife being common 
to a number ; in which point the great power of custom 
is seen from its rarely or never producing any jealousies 
or quarrels among the co-tenants of the same woman. 
Their number is not so much limited by any specific 

* Travels to the East Indies. 

nayar 310 

law as by a kind of tacit convention, it scarcely ever 
happening that it exceeds six or seven. The woman, 
however, is under no obligation to admit above a single 
attachment, though not less respected for using her 
privilege to its utmost extent. If one of the husbands 
happens to come to the house when she is employed 
with another, he knows that circumstance by certain 
signals left at the door that his turn is not come, and 
departs very resignedly." Writing about the same time, 
Sonnerat * says that " these Brahmans do not marry, 
but have the privilege of enjoying all the Nairesses. 
This privilege the Portuguese who were esteemed as a 
great caste, obtained and preserved, till their drunken- 
ness and debauchery betrayed them into a commerce 
with all sorts of women. The follow'ing right is estab- 
lished by the customs of the country. A woman without 
shame may abandon herself to all men wdio are not of an 
inferior caste to her own, because the children (notwith- 
standing what Mr. de \'oltaire says) do not belong to 
the father, but to the mother's brother ; they become 
his legitimate heirs at their birth, even of the crown if he 
is king." In his ' Voyages and Travels ', Kerr writes 
as follows, t " By the laws of their country these Nayres 
cannot marry, so that no one has any certain or acknowl- 
edged son or father ; all their children being born of 
mistresses, with each of whom three or four Nayres 
cohabit by agreement among themselves. Each one of 
this cofraternity dwells a day in his turn with the joint 
mistress, counting from noon of one day to the same 
time of the next, after which he departs, and another 

* Voyage to the Easl Indies, 1774 and 1781. 

t R. Kerr. General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, iSil, 
History of the Discovery and Conquest of India by the Portuguese between the 
years 1497 and 1525, from the original Portuguese of Herman Lopes dc Caslaneda. 

311 NAYAR 

comes for the like time. Thus they spend their time 
without the care or trouble of wives and children, yet 
maintain their mistresses well according to their rank. 
Any one may forsake his mistress at his pleasure ; and, 
in like manner, the mistress may refuse admittance to 
any one of her lovers when she pleases. These mistresses 
are all gentlewomen of the Nayrc caste, and the Nayres, 
besides being prohibited from marrying, must not attach 
themselves to any woman of a different rank. Consider- 
ing that there are always several men attached to one 
woman, the Nayres never look upon any of the children 
born of their mistresses as belonging to them, however 
strong a resemblance may subsist, and all inheritances 
among the Nayres go to their brothers, or the sons of 
their sisters, born of the same mothers, all relationship 
being counted only by female consanguinity and descent. 
This strange law prohibiting marriage was established 
that they might have neither wives nor children on 
whom to fix their love and attachment ; and that, being 
free from all family cares, they might more willingly 
devote themselves entirely to warlike service." The 
term son of ten fathers is used as a term of abuse 
among Nayars to this day.* Tipu Sultan is said to 
have issued the following proclamation to the Nayars, 
on the occasion of his visit to Calicut in 1788. "And, 
since it is a practice with you for one woman to 
associate with ten men, and you leave your mothers 
and sisters unconstrained in their obscene practices, and 
are thence all born in adultery, and are more shame- 
less in your connections than the beasts of the field ; I 
hereby require you to forsake these sinful practices, and 
live like the rest of mankind." f 

* ^\ igram, Malabar Law and Custom, Ed. 1900. 

t T. A. Kalyanakrishna Ai}ar, Malabar Quart. Review, II, l903. 

NAYAR 312 

As to the present existence or non-existence of 
polyandry I must c;ill recent writers into the witness-box. 
The Rev. S. Mateer, Mr. Fawcett writes,* " informed me 
ten years ago — he was speaking of polyandry among the 
Nayars of Travancore — that he had ' known an Instance 
of six brothers keeping two women, four husbands to one, 
and two to the other. In a case where two brothers 
cohabited with one woman, and one was converted to 
Christianity, the other brother was indignant at the 
Christian's refusal to live any longer in this condition.' 
I have not known an admitted instance of polyandry 
amongst the Nayars of Malabar at the present day, but 
there is no doubt that, if it does not exist now (and I 
think it docs here and there), it certainly did not long 
ago." Mr. Gopal Panikkar says t that " to enforce this 
social edict upon the Nairs, the Brahmans made use 
of the powerful weapon of their aristocratic ascendancy 
in the country, and the Nairs readily submitted to 
the Brahman supremacy. Thus it came about that the 
custom of concubinage, so freely indulged in by the 
Brahmans with Nair women, obtained such firm hold upon 
the country that it has only been strengthened by the 
lapse of time. At the present day there are families, 
especially in the interior of the district, who look upon it 
as an honour to be thus united with Brahmans. But a 
reaction has begun to take place against this feelings 
and Brahman alliances are invariably looked down upon 
in respectable Nair tarwads. This reactionary feeling 
took shape in the Malabar Marriage Act." Mr. Justice 
K. Narayana Marar says : " There is nothing strange 
or to be ashamed of in the fact that the Nayars were 
originally of a stock that practiced polyandry, nor if the 

op cil. f Malabar and its Folk, 1900. 


313 NAYAR 

practice continued till recently. Hamilton and Buchanan 
say that, among the Nayars of Malabar, a woman 
has several husbands, but these are not brothers. 
These travellers came to Malabar in the eighteenth 
and the beginning of the nineteenth century. There is 
no reason whatever to suppose that they were not just 
recording what they saw. For I am not quite sure 
whether, even now, the practice is not lurking in some 
remote nooks and corners of the country." Lastly, 
Mr, Wigram writes as follows.* " Polyandry may now 
be said to be dead, and, although the issue of a Nayar 
marriaore are still children of their mother rather than 
of their father, marriage may be defined as a contract 
based on mutual consent, and dissoluble at will. It 
has been well said (by Mr, Logan) that nowhere is the 
marriage tie, albeit informal, more rigidly observed 
or respected than it is in Malabar : nowhere is it 
more jealously guarded, or its neglect more savagely 

In connection with the tali-kattu kalyanam, or tali- 
tying marriage, Mr, Fawcett writes that " the details of 
this ceremony vary in different parts of Malabar, but the 
ceremony in some form is essential, and must be per- 
formed for every Nayar girl before she attains puberty." 
For an account of this ceremony, I must resort, to the 
evidence of Mr. K. R. Krishna Menon before the 
Malabar Marriage Commission.! 

" The tali-kattu kalyanam is somewhat analogous 
to what a deva-dasi (dancing-girl) of other countries 
(districts) undergoes before she begins her profession. 
Among royal families, and those of certain Edaprabhus, 
a Kshatriya, and among the Charna sect a Nedungadi is 

* Malabar Law and Custom, 1882. 

t Report of the Malabar Marriage Commission, 1894. 

NAYAi 314 

invited to the girl's house at an auspicious hour appointed 
for the purpose, and, in the presence of friends and 
castemen. ties a tah (marriage badge) round her neck, 
and goes away after receiving a certain fee for his trouble. 
Among the other sects, the horoscope of the girl is 
examined along with those of her enangan (a recognised 
member of one's own class) families, and the boy whose 
horoscope is found to agree with hers is marked out as a 
fit person to tie the tali, and a day is fixed for the tali- 
tying ceremony by the astrologer, and information given 
to the Karanavan * (senior male in a tarwad) of the boy's 
family. The feast is called ayaniOnu, and the boy is 
thenceforth called Manavalan or Pillai (bridegroom). 
From the house in which the Manavalan is entertained a 
procession is formed, preceded by men with swords, and 
shields shouting a kind of war-cry. In the meantime 
a procession starts from the girl's house, with similar 
men and cries, and headed by a member of her tarwad, 
to meet the other procession, and, after meeting the 
Manavalan, he escorts him to the girl's house. After 
entering the booth erected for the purpose, he is con- 
ducted to a seat of honour, and his feet are washed by the 
brother of the girl, who receives a pair of cloths. The 
Manavalan is then taken to the centre of the booth, where 
bamboo mats, carpets and white cloths are spread, and 
seated there. The brother of the girl then carries 
her from inside the house, and, after going round the 
booth three times, places her at the left side of the 
Manavalan. The father of the girl then presents new 
cloths tied inakambli (blanket) to the pair, and with this 
new cloth (called manthravadi) they change their dress. 
The wife of the Karanavan of the girl's tarwad, if she be 

* The rights and obligations of Karanavans are fully dcall with by Moore, 
Malabar Law and Custom, 3rd edition, 1905. 

315 NAYAR 

of the same caste, then decorates the girl by putting 
on anklets, etc. The purohit (officiating priest) called 
Elayath (a low class of Brahmans) then gives the tali 
to the Manavalan, and the family astrologer shouts 
muhurtham (auspicious hour), and the Manavalan, 
putting his sword on the lap, ties the tali round the 
neck of the girl, who is then required to hold an 
arrow and a lookina--o;lass in her hand. In rich families 
a Brahmani sings certain songs intended to bless the 
couple. In ordinary families who cannot procure her 
presence, a Nayar, versed in songs, performs the office. 
The boy and girl are then carried by enangans to 
a decorated apartment in the inner part of the house, 
where they are required to remain under a sort of pollu- 
tion for three days. On the fourth day they bathe in 
some neighbouring tank (pond) or river, holding each 
other's hands. After changing their clothes they come 
home, preceded by a procession. Tom-toms (native 
drums) and elephants usually form part of the proces- 
sion, and turmeric water is sprinkled. When they come 
home, all doors of the house are shut, and the Manavalan is 
required to force them open. He then enters the house, 
and takes his seat in the northern wing thereof. The aunt 
and female friends of the girl then approach, and give 
sweetmeats to the couple. The girl then serves food to the 
boy, and, after taking their meal together from the same 
leaf, they proceed to the booth, where a cloth is severed 
into two parts, and each part given to the Manavalan 
and girl separately in the presence of enangans and 
friends. The severing of the cloth is supposed to 
constitute a divorce." " The tearing of the cloth," 
Mr. Fawcett writes, " is confined to South Malabar. 
These are the essentials of the ceremony, an adjunct to 
which is that, in spite of the divorce, the girl observes 

nAyar 316 

death pollution when her Manavalan dies. The same 
Manavalan may tie the tali on any number of girls, 
during the same ceremony or at any other time, and he 
may be old or young. He is often an elderly holy Brah- 
man, who receives a small present for his services. The 
girl may remove the tali, if she likes, after the fourth day. 
In some parts of Malabar there is no doubt that the 
man who performs the role of Manavalan is considered 
to have some right to the girl, but in such case it has 
been already considered that he is a proper man to enter 
into sambandham with her. ' 

Of the tali-kattu kalyanam in Malabar, the following 
detailed account, mainly furnished by an Urali Nayar of 
Calicut, is given in the Gazetteer of Malabar. " An 
auspicious time has to be selected for the purpose, and 
the preliminary consultation of the astrologer is in itself 
the occasion of a family gathering. The Manavalan or 
quasi-bridegroom is chosen at the same time. For the 
actual kalyanam, two pandals (booths), a small one 
inside a large one, are erected in front of the padinhatta 
macchu or central room of the western wing. They are 
decorated with cloth, garlands, lamps and palm leaves, 
and the pillars should be of areca palm cut by an Asari 
on Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday. The first day's 
ceremonies open with a morning visit to the temple, 
where the officiating Brahman pours water sanctified by 
mantrams (religious formulae), and the addition of leaves 
of mango, peepul and darbha, over the girl's head. This 
rite is called kalasam maduga. The girl then goes home, 
and is taken to the macchu, where a hanging lamp 
with five wicks is lighted. This should be kept alight 
during all the days of the kalyanam. The girl sits on a 
piece of pala [Alstonia scholaris) wood, which is called 
a mana. She is elaborately adorned, and some castes 

317 NAYAR 

consider a coral necklace an essential In her right 
hand she holds a valkannadi (brass hand mirror), and in 
her left a charakkal (a highly ornate arrow). In front of 
the girl are placed, in addition to the five-wicked lamp 
and nirachaveppu, a metal dish or talam of parched 
rice, and the eight lucky things known as ashtaman- 
galyam. A woman, termed Brahmini or Pushpini, 
usually of the Nambissan caste, sits facing her on a 
three-legged stool (pidam), and renders appropriate and 
lengthy songs, at the close of which she scatters rice 
over her. About midday there is a feast, and in the 
evening songs in the macchu are repeated. Next morn- 
ing, the ceremonial in the macchu is repeated for the third 
time, after which the paraphernalia are removed to the 
nearest tank or to the east of the household well, where 
the Pushpini sings once more, goes through the form of 
making the girl's toilet, and ties a cocoanut frond round 
each of her wrists (kappola). The girl has then to rise 
and jump over a kindi (vessel) of water with an unhusked 
cocoanut placed on the top, overturning it the third time. 
The party then proceed to the pandal, two men holding 
a scarlet cloth over the girl as a canopy, and a Chaliyan 
(weaver) brings two cloths (kodi vastiram), which the 
girl puts on. In the evening, the previous day's cere- 
monial is repeated in the macchu. The third day is 
the most important, and it is then that the central act of 
the ceremony is performed. For this the girl sits in 
the inner pandal richly adorned. In some cases she is 
carried from the house to the pandal by her karnavan or 
brother, who makes a number of pradakshinams round 
the pandal (usually 3 or 7) before he places her in her 
seat. Before the girl are the various objects already 
specified, and the hymeneal ditties of the Pushpini 
open the proceedings. At the auspicious moment the 

nAyar 318 

Manavalan arrives in rich attire. He is often preceded 
by a sort of body guard with sword and shield who utter 
a curious kind of cry, and is met at the gate of the girl's 
house by a bevy of matrons with lamps and salvers 
decorated with flowers and lights, called talams. A man 
of the girl's family washes his feet, and he takes his seat 
in the pandal on the girl's right. Sometimes the girl's 
father at this stage presents new cloths (mantravadi or 
mantrokodi) to the pair, who at once don them. The 
girl's father takes the tali, a small round plate of gold 
about the size of a two-anna bit, with a hole at the top, 
from the goldsmith who is in waiting, pays him for it, 
and gives it to the Manavalan. The karnavan or father 
of the girl asks the astrologer thrice if the moment has 
arrived, and, as he signifies his assent the third time, the 
Manavalan ties the tali round the girl's neck amidst the 
shouts of those present. The Manavalan carries the girl 
indoors to the macchu, and feasting brings the day to 
a close. Tom-toming and other music are of course 
incessant accompaniments throughout as on other festal 
occasions, and the women in attendance keep up a 
curious kind of whistling, called kurava, beating their 
lips with their fingers. On the fourth day, girl and 
Manavalan go in procession to the temple richly dressed. 
The boy, carrying some sort of sword and shield, heads 
the party. If the family be one of position, he and the 
girl must be mounted on an elephant. Offerings are made 
to the deity, and presents to the Brahmans. They then 
return home, and, as they enter the house, the Manavalan 
who brings up the rear is pelted by the boys of the party 
with plantains, which he wards off with his shield. In 
other cases, he is expected to make a pretence of forcing 
the door open. These two usages are no doubt to be 
classed with those marriage ceremonies which take the 

319 NAyaR 

form of a contest between the bridegroom and the bride's 
relatives, and which are symbolic survivals of marriage 
by capture. The Manavalan and the girl next partake 
of food together in the inner pandal — a proceeding which 
obviously corresponds to the ceremonious first meal of a 
newly-married couple. The assembled guests are lavishly 
entertained. The chief Kovilagans and big Nayar 
houses will feed 1,000 Brahmans as well as their own 
relations, and spend anything up to ten or fifteen 
thousand rupees on the ceremony." 

Concerning the tali-kettu ceremony in Travancore 
Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. " After the 
age of eleven, a Nayar girl becomes too old for this 
ceremony, though, in some rare instances, it is celebrated 
after a girl attains her age. As among other castes, ages 
represented by an odd number, e.g., seven, nine, and 
eleven, have a peculiar auspiciousness attached to them. 
Any number of girls, even up to a dozen, may go through 
the ceremony at one time, and they may include infants 
under one year — an arrangement prompted by consi- 
derations of economy, and rendered possible by the fact 
that no civil or religious right or liability is contracted as 
between the parties. The duty of getting the girls ot 
the tarwad ' married ' de\'olvcs on the karanavan, or in 
his default on the eldest brother, the father's obligation 
being discharged by informing him that the time for the 
ceremony has arrived. The masters of the ceremonies at 
a Nayar tali-kettu in Travancore are called Machcham- 
pikkar, i.e., men in the village, whose social status is equal 
to that of the tarwad in which the ceremony is to be 
celebrated. At a preliminary meeting of the Machcham- 
pikkar, the number of girls for whom the ceremony is to 
be performed, the bridegrooms, and other details are 
settled. The horoscopes are examined by the village 

NAYAR 320 

astrologer, and those youths in the tarwads who have 
passed the age of eighteen, and whose horoscopes agree 
with those of the girls, are declared to be eligible. The 
ola (palm-leaf) on which the Kaniyan (astrologer) writes 
his decision is called the muhurta charutu, and the 
individual who receives it from him is obliged to see that 
the ceremony is performed on an auspicious day in the 
near future. The next important item is the fixing of a 
wooden post in the south-west corner or kannimula of the 
courtyard. At the construction of the pandal (booth) 
the Pidakakkar or villagers render substantial aid. The 
mandapa is decorated with ears of corn, and hence called 
katirmandapa. It is also called mullapandal. On the 
night of the previous day the kalati or Brahman's song is 
sung. A sumptuous banquet, called ayaniunnu, is given 
at the girl's house to the party of the young man. The 
ceremony commences with the bridegroom washing his 
feet, and taking his seat within the pandal. The girl 
meanwhile bathes, worships the household deity, and is 
dressed in new cloths and adorned with costly ornaments. 
A Brahman woman ties a thread round the girl's left 
wrist, and sings a song called Subhadraveli, which deals 
with the marriage by capture of Subhadra by Arjuna. 
Then, on the invitation of the girl's mother, who throws 
a garland round his neck, the bridegroom goes in pro- 
cession, riding on an elephant, or on foot. The girl's 
brother is waiting to receive him at the pandal. A 
leading villager is presented with some money, as if 
to recompense him for the permission granted by him 
to commence the ceremony. The girl sits within the 
mandapa, facing the east, with her eyes closed. The 
bridegroom, on his arrival, sits on her right. He then 
receives the minnu (ornament) from the Ilayatu priest, and 
ties it round the girl's neck. A song is sung called 


321 NAYAR 

ammachampattu, or the song of the maternal uncle. If 
there are several brides, they sit in a row, each holding 
in her hand an arrow and a looking-glass, and the 
ornaments are tied on their necks in the order of their 
ages. Unless enangans are employed, there is usually 
only one tali-tier, whatever may be the number of girls. 
In cases where, owing to poverty, the expenses of the 
ceremony cannot be borne, it is simply performed in 
front of a Brahman temple, or in the pandaramatam, or 
house of the village chieftain. In many North Travan- 
core taluks the girl removes her tali as soon as she hears 
of the tali-tier's death." It is noted by the Rev. S. 
Mateer * that " a Nair girl of Travancore must get 
married with the tali before the age of eleven to avoid 
reproach from friends and neighbours. In case of 
need a sword may even be made to represent a bride- 
groom." Sometimes, when a family is poor, the girl's 
mother makes an idol of clay, adorns it with flowers, 
and invests her daughter with the tali in the presence of 
the idol. 

In an account of the tali-kettu ceremony, in the 
Cochin Census Report, 1901, it is stated that " the celebra- 
tion of the ceremony is costly, and advantage is therefore 
taken of a single occasion in the course of ten or twelve 
years, at which all girls in a family, irrespective of their 
ages, and, when parties agree, all girls belonging to 
families that observe death pollution between one another 
go through the ceremony. The ceremony opens with 
the fixing of a post for the construction of a pandal 01 
shed, which is beautifully decorated with cloth, pictures 
and festoons. The male members of the village are 
invited, and treated to a feast followed by the distribution 

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst,, XII, 1883, 


^2 2 

of pan-supari. Every time that a marriage ceremony is 
celebrated, a member of the family visits His Highness 
the Raja with presents, and solicits his permission for 
the celebration. Such presents are often made to the 
Nambudri Jenmis (landlords), by their tenants, and by 
castes attached to illams. It may be noted that certain 
privileges, such as sitting on a grass mat, having an 
elephant procession, drumming, firing of pop-guns, etc., 
have often to be obtained from the Ruler of the State. 
The marriage itself begins with the procession to the 
marriage pandal with the eight auspicious things 
(ashtamangalyam) and pattiniruththal (seating for song), 
at the latter of which a Brahmini or Pushpini sings certain 
songs based upon suitable Puranic texts. The girls and 
other female members of the family, dressed in gay attire 
and decked with costly ornaments, come out in pro- 
cession to the pandal, where the Pushpini sings, with 
tom-toms and the firing of pop-guns at intervals. After 
three, five, or seven rounds of this, a cutting of the 
jasmine placed in a brass pot is carried on an elephant 
by the Elayad or family priest to the nearest Bhagavati 
temple, where it is planted on the night previous to the 
ceremonial day with tom-toms, fireworks, and joyous 
shouts of men and women. A few hours before the 
auspicious moment for the ceremony, this cutting is 
brought back. Before the tali is tied, the girls are 
brought out of the room, and, either from the ground 
itself or from a raised platform, beautifully decorated 
with festoons, etc., are made to worship the sun. The 
bridegroom, a Tirumulpad or an enangan, is then 
brought into the house with sword in hand, with tom- 
toms, firing of pop-guns, and shouts of joy. At the gate 
he is received by a few female members with ashta- 
mangalyam in their hands, and seated on a bench or 

323 NAYAR 

stool in the pandal. A male member of the family, 
generally a brother or maternal uncle of the girl, washes 
the feet of the bridegroom. The girls are covered with 
new cloths of cotton or silk, and brought into the pandal, 
and seated screened off from one another. After the 
distribution of money presents to the Brahmans and the 
Elayad, the latter hands over the tali, or thin plate of 
gold shaped like the leaf of aswatha {Fiats religiosa), 
and tacked on to a string, to the Tirumulpad, who ties it 
round the neck of the girl. A single Tirumulpad often 
ties the tali round the neck of two, three, or four girls. 
He is given one to eight rupees per girl for so doing. 
Sometimes the tali is tied by the mother of the girl. 
The retention of the tali is not at all obligatory, nay it is 
seldom worn or taken care of after the ceremony. These 
circumstances clearly show the purely ceremonial 
character of this form of marriage. The Karamel Asan, 
or headman of the village, is an important factor on this 
occasion. In a conspicuous part of the marriage pandal, 
he is provided with a seat on a cot, on which a grass 
mat, a black blanket, and white cloth are spread one 
over the other. Before the tali is tied, his permission 
is solicited for the performance of the ceremony. He is 
paid 4, 8, i6, 32 or 64 puthans (a puthan = 10 pies) per 
girl, according to the means of the family. He is also 
given rice, curry stuff, and pan-supari. Rose-water is 
sprinkled at intervals on the males and females 
assembled on the occasion. With the distribution of 
pan-supari, scented sandal paste and jasmine flowers to 
the females of the village and wives of relatives and 
friends, who are invited for the occasion, these guests 
return to their homes. The male members, one or two 
from each family in the village, are then treated to a 
sumptuous feast. In some places, where the Enangu 

V-21 B 

nAyar 324 

system prevails, all members of such families, both male 
and female, are also provided with meals. On the third 
day, the villagers are again entertained to a luncheon of 
rice and milk pudding, and on the fourth day the girls 
are taken out in procession for worship at the nearest 
temple amidst tom-toms and shouting. After this a 
feast is held, at which friends, relatives, and villagers 
are eiven a rich meal. With the usual distribution of 
pan-supari, sandal and flowers, the invited guests depart. 
Presents, chiefly in money, are made to the eldest male 
member of the family by friends and relatives and 
villagers, and with this the ceremony closes. From the 
time of fixing the first pole for the pandal to the tying 
of the tali, the village astrologer is in attendance on all 
ceremonial occasions, as he has to pronounce the auspi- 
cious moment for the performance of each item. During 
the four days of the marriage, entertainments, such as 
Kathakali drama or Ottan Tullal, are very common. 
When a family can ill-aff"ord to celebrate the ceremony 
on any grand scale, the girls are taken to the nearest 
temple, or to the illam of a Nambudri, if they happen to 
belong to sub-divisions attached to illams, and the tali 
Is tied with little or no feasting and merriment. In the 
northern taluks, the very poor people sometimes tie 
the tali before the Trikkakkarappan on the Tiruvonam 

An interesting account of the tali-kettu ceremony 
is given by Duarte Barbosa, who writes as follows.* 
" After they are ten or twelve years old or more, their 
mothers perform a marriage ceremony for them in this 
manner. They advise the relations and friends that 
they may come to do honour to their daughters, and they 

* op, cii. 

325 nAyar 

beg some of their relations and friends to marry these 
daughters, and they do so. It must be said that they 
have some gold jewel made, which will contain half a 
ducat of gold, a little shorter than the tag of lace, with a 
hole in the middle passing through it, and they string 
it on a thread of white silk ; and the mother of the girl 
stands with her daughter very much dressed out, and 
entertaining her with music and singing, and a number 
of people. And this relation or friend of hers comes 
with much earnestness, and there performs the ceremony 
of marriage, as though he married her, and they throw a 
gold chain round the necks of both of them together, 
and he puts the above mentioned jewel round her neck, 
which she always has to wear as a sign that she may 
now do what she pleases. And the bridegroom leaves 
her and goes away without touching her nor more to say 
to her on account of being her relation ; and, if he is 
not so, he may remain with her if he wish it, but he is 
not bound to do so if he do not desire it. And from 
that time forward the mother goes begging some young 
men to deflower the girl, for among themselves they hold 
it an unclean thing and almost a disgrace to deflower 

The tali-kettu ceremony is referred to by Kerr, who, 
in his translation of Castaneda, states that " these sisters 
of the Zamorin, and other kings of Malabar, have 
handsome allowances to live upon ; and, when any of them 
reaches the age of ten, their kindred send for a young 
man of the Nayar caste out of the kingdom, and give him 
presents to induce him to initiate the young virgin ; after 
which he hangs a jewel round her neck, which she wears 
all the rest of her life, as a token that she is now at 
liberty to dispose of herself to anyone she pleases as long 
as she lives." 

NAYAR ;26 

The opinion was expressed by Mr. (now Sir Henry) 
Winterbotham, one of the Malabar Marriage Commis- 
sioners, that the Brahman tah-tier was a relic of the time 
when the Nambutiris were entitled to the first fruits, 
and it was considered the high privilege of every Nayar 
maid to be introduced by them to womanhood. In this 
connection, reference may be made to Hamilton's ' New 
Account of the East Indies', where it is stated that 
"when the Zamorin marries, he must not cohabit with 
his bride till the Nambudri, or chief priest, has enjoyed 
her, and he, if he pleases, may have three nights of her 
company, because the first fruits of her nuptials must be 
an holy oblation to the god she worships. And some of 
the nobles are so complaisant as to allow the clergy the 
same tribute, but the common people cannot have that 
compliment paid to them, but are forced to supply the 
priests' places themselves," 

Of those who gave evidence before the Malabar 
Commission, some thought the tali-kettu was a marriage, 
some not. Others called it a mock marriage, a formal 
marriage, a sham marriage, a fictitious marriage, a 
marriage sacrament, the preliminary part of marriage, a 
meaningless ceremony, an empty form, a ridiculous farce, 
an incongruous custom, a waste of money, and a device for 
becoming involved in debt. "While," the report states, 
'* a small minority of strict conservatives still maintain 
that the tali-kettu is a real marriage intended to confer 
on the bridegroom a right to cohabit with the bride, an 
immense majority describe it as a fictitious marriage, the 
origin of which they are at a loss to explain. And 
another large section tender the explanation accepted by 
our President (Sir T. Muttusami Aiyar) that, in some way 
or other, it is an essential caste observance preliminary 
to the forming of sexual relations." 

32 7 NAYAR 

In a recent note, Mr. K. Kannan Nayar writes * : 
"Almost every Nayar officer in Government employ, 
when applying for leave on account of the kettukallianam 
of his daughter or niece, states in his application that he 
has to attend to the * marriage ' of the girl. The ceremony 
is generally mentioned as marriage even in the letters 
of invitation sent by Nayar gentlemen in these days. . . 
. This ceremony is not intended even for the betrothal 
of the girl to a particular man, but is one instituted 
under Brahman influence as an important kriya (sacra- 
ment) antecedent to marriage, and intended, as the 
popular saying indicates, for dubbing the girl with the 
status of Amma, a woman fit to be married. The saying 
is Tali-kettiu Amma ayi, which means a woman has 
become an Amma when her tali-tying ceremony is over." 

In summing up the evidence collected by him, Mr. 
L. Moore states t that it seems to prove beyond all reason- 
able doubt that " from the sixteenth century at all events, 
and up to the early portion of the nineteenth century, 
the relations between the sexes in families governed by 
marumakkattayam were of as loose a description as it is 
possible to imagine. The tali-kettu kalyanam, introduced 
by the Brahmans, brought about no improvement, and 
indeed in all probability made matters much worse by 
giving a quasi-religious sanction to a fictitious marriage, 
which bears an unpleasant resemblance to the sham 
marriage ceremonies performed among certain inferior 
castes elsewhere as a cloak for prostitution. As years 
passed, some time about the opening of the nineteenth 
century, the Kerala Mahatmyam and Keralolpathi were 
concocted, probably by Nambudris, and false and 
pernicious doctrines as to the obligations laid on the 

* Malabar Quart. Review, VII, 3, 190b. t Op. cit. 

nAyar 328 

Nayars by divine law to administer to the lust of the 
Nambudris were disseminated abroad. The better 
classes among the Nayars revolted against the degrad- 
ing custom thus established, and a custom sprang up, 
especially in North Malabar, of making sambandham a 
more or less formal contract, approved and sanctioned 
by the karnavan (senior male) of the tarwad to which 
the lady belonged, and celebrated with elaborate 
ceremony under the pudamuri form. That there was 
nothing analogous to the pudamuri prevalent in Malabar 
from A.D. 1550 to 1800 may, I think, be fairly presumed 
from the absence of all allusion to it in the works of 
the various European writers." According to Act IV, 
Madras, 1896, sambandham means an alliance between 
a man and a woman, by reason of which they in accord- 
ance with the custom of the community to which they 
belong, or either of them belongs, cohabit or intend to 
cohabit as husband and wife. 

Of sambandham the following account was given by 
Mr. Chandu Menon to the Malabar Marriage Com- 
mission. " The variations of the sambandham are the 
pudamuri, vastradanam, uzhamporukkuka, vitaram kaya- 
ruka, etc., which are local expressions hardly understood 
beyond the localities in which they are used, but there 
would be hardly a Malaiyali who would not readily 
understand what is meant by sambandham tudanguga (to 
begin sambandham). The meaning of this phrase, which 
means to * marry,' is understood throughout Keralam in 
the same way, and there can be no ambiguity or mistake 
about it. It is thus found that sambandham is the prin- 
cipal word denoting marriage among marumakkatayam 
Nayars. [Sambandhakaran is now the common term for 
husband.] It will also be found, on a close and careful 
examination of facts, that the principal features of this 

329 NAYAR 

sambandham ceremony all over Keralam are in the main 
the same. As there are different local names denoting 
marriage, so there may be found local variations in the 
performance of the ceremony. But the general features 
are more or less the same. For instance, the examina- 
tion, prior to the betrothal, of the horoscopes of the 
bride and bridegroom to ascertain whether their stars 
agree astrologically ; the appointment of an auspicious 
day for the celebration of the ceremony ; the usual hour 
at which the ceremony takes place ; the presentation 
of danam (gifts) to Brahmans ; sumptuous banquet ; the 
meeting of the bride and bridegroom, are features 
which are invariably found in all well-conducted sam- 
bandhams in all parts of Keralam alike. But here I 
would state that I should not be understood as saying 
that each and every one of the formalities above re- 
ferred to are gone through at all sambandhams among 
respectable Nayars ; and I would further state that they 
ought to be gone through at every sambandham, if the 
parties wish to marry according to the custom of the 
country. I would now briefly refer to the local varia- 
tions to be found in the ceremony of the sambandham, 
and also the particular incidents attached to certain 
forms of sambandham in South Malabar. I shall de- 
scribe the pudamuri or vastradanam as celebrated in 
North Malabar, and then show how the other forms of 
sambandham differ from it. Of all the forms of sam- 
bandham, I consider the pudamuri the most solemn and 
the most fashionable in North Malabar. The prelimi- 
nary ceremony in every pudamuri is the examination 
of the horoscopes of the bride and bridegroom by an 
astrologer. This takes place in the house of the bride, 
in the presence of the relations of the bride and bride- 
groom. The astrologer, after examination, writes down 

NAYAR 330 

the results of his ceilculations on a piece of palmyra leaf, 
with his opinion as to the fitness or otherwise of the match, 
and hands it over to the bridegroom's relations. If the 
horoscopes agree, a day is then and there fixed for the 
celebration of the marriage. This date is also written 
down on two pieces ofcadjan (palm leaf), one of which is 
handed over to the bride's Karanavan, and the other 
to the bridegroom's relations. The astrologer and the 
bridegroom's party are then feasted in the bride's house, 
and the former also receives presents in the shape of 
money or cloth. This preliminary ceremony, which 
is invariably performed at all pudamuris in North 
Malabar, is called pudamuri kurikkal, but is unknown 
in South Malabar. Some three or four days prior to 
the date fixed for the celebration of the pudamuri, the 
bridegroom visits his Karanavans and elders in caste, 
to obtain formal leave to marry. The bridegroom on 
such occasion presents his elders with betel and nuts, 
and obtains their formal sanction to the wedding. On 
the day appointed, the bridegroom proceeds after sunset 
to the house of the bride, accompanied by a number of 
his friends. He goes in procession, and is received at 
the gate of the house by the bride's party, and con- 
ducted with his friends to seats provided in the tekkini 
or southern hall of the house. There the bridegroom 
distributes presents (danam) or money gifts to the 
Brahmans assembled. After this, the whole party is 
treated to a sumptuous banquet. It is now time for the 
astrologer to appear, and announce the auspicious hour 
fixed. He does it accordingly, and receives his dues. 
The bridegroom is then taken by one of his friends to the 
padinhatta or principal room of the house. The bride- 
groom's party has, of course, brought with them a 
quantity of new cloths, and betel leaves and nuts. The 

33^ NAYAR 

cloths are placed in the western room of the house 
(padinhatta), in which all religious and other important 
household ceremonies are usually performed. This room 
will be decorated, and turned into a bed-room for the 
occasion. There will be placed in the room a number of 
lighted lamps, and ashtamangalyam, which consists of 
eight articles symbolical of mangalyam or marriage. 
These are rice, paddy (unhusked rice), the tender leaves 
of cocoanut trees, an arrow, a looking-glass, a well- 
washed cloth, burning fire, and a small round box called 
cheppu. These will be found placed on the floor of the 
room as the bridegroom enters it. The bridegroom 
with his groomsman enters the room through the 
eastern door. The bride, dressed in rich cloths and 
bedecked with jewels, enters the room through the 
western door, accompanied by her aunt or some other 
elderly lady of her family. The bride stands facing 
east, with the ashtamangalyam and lit-up lamps in front 
of her. The groomsman then hands over to the bride- 
groom a few pieces of new cloth, and the bridegroom 
puts them into the hands of the bride. This being done, 
the elderly lady who accompanied the bride sprinkles 
rice over the lamps and the head and shoulders of the 
bride and bridegroom, who immediately leaves the room, 
as he has to perform another duty. At the tekkini or 
southern hall, he now presents his elders and friends with 
cakes, and betel leaf and nuts. Betel and nuts are also 
given to all the persons assembled at the place. After 
the departure of the guests, the bridegroom retires to the 
bed-room with the bride. Next morning, the vettilakettu 
or salkaram ceremony follows, and the bridegroom's 
female relations take the bride to the husband's house, 
where there is feasting in honour of the occasion. 
Uzhamporukkuka or vidaram kayaral is a peculiar form 

nAyar 332 

of marriage in North Malabar. It will be seen from the 
description given above that the pudamuri is necessarily 
a costly ceremony, and many people resort to the less 
costly ceremony of uzhamporukkuka or vidaram kayaral. 
The features of this ceremony are to a certain extent the 
same as pudamuri, but it is celebrated on a smaller scale. 
There is no cloth-giving ceremony. The feasting is 
confined to the relations of the couple. The particular 
incident of this form of marriage is that the husband 
should visit the wife in her house, and is not permitted to 
take her to his house, unless and until he celebrates the 
regular pudamuri ceremony. This rule is strictly adhered 
to in North Malabar, and instances in which the 
husband and wife joined by the uzhamporukkuka cere- 
mony, and with grown-up children as the issue of such 
marriage, undergo the pudamuri ceremony some fifteen 
or twenty years after uzhamporukkuka, in order to enable 
the husband to take the wife to his house, are known 
to me personally. The sambandham of South Malabar, 
and the kidakkora kalyanam of Palghat have all or most 
of the incidents of pudamuri, except the presenting of 
cloths. Here money is substituted for cloths, and the 
other ceremonies are more or less the same. There is 
also salkaram ceremony wanting in South Malabar, as 
the wives are not at once taken to the husband's house 
after marriage." 

In connection with the following note by Mr. C. P. 
Raman Menon on sambandham among the Akattu 
Charna or Akathithaparisha (inside clan), Mr. Fawcett 
states that " my informant says in the first place that the 
man should not enter into sambandham with a woman 
until he is thirty. Now-a-days, when change is running 
wild, the man is often much less. In North Malabar, 
which is much more conservative than the south, it was, 

335 NAYAR 

however, my experience that sambandham was rare 
on the side of the man before twenty-seven." "The 
Karanavan," Mr. Raman Menon writes, "and the women 
of his household choose the bride, and communicate their 
choice to the intending bridegroom through a third 
party ; they may not, dare not speak personally to him 
in the matter. He approves. The bride's people are 
informally consulted, and, if they agree, the astrologer is 
sent for, and examines the horoscopes of both parties 
to the intended union. As a matter of course these are 
found to agree, and the astrologer fixes a day for the 
sambandham ceremony. A few days before this takes 
place, two or three women of the bridegroom's house visit 
the bride, intimating beforehand that they are coming. 
There they are well treated with food and sweetmeats, 
and, when on the point of leaving, they inform the 
senior female that the bridegroom (naming him) wishes 
to have sambandham with .... (naming her), and 
such and such a day is auspicious for the ceremony. 
The proposal is accepted with pleasure, and the party 
from the bridegroom's house returns home. Prepara- 
tions for feasting are made in the house of the bride, as 
well as in that of the bridegroom on the appointed day. 
To the former all relations are invited for the evening, 
and to the latter a few friends who are much of the same 
age as the bridegroom are invited to partake of food at 
7 or 8 P.M., and accompany him to the bride's house. 
After eating they escort him, servants carrying betel 
leaves (one or two hundred according to the means of the 
taravad), areca nuts and tobacco, to be given to the bride's 
household, and which are distributed to the guests. 
When the bride's house is far away, the bridegroom 
makes his procession thither from a neighbouring house. 
Arrived at the bride's house, they sit awhile, and are again 

NAYAR 334 

served with food, after which they are conducted to a 
room, where betel and other chewinor stuff is placed on 
brass or silver plates called thalam. The chewing over, 
sweetmeats are served, and then all go to the bridal 
chamber, where the women of the house and others are 
assembled with the bride, who, overcome with shyness, 
hides herself behind the others. Here again the bride- 
groom and his party go through more chewing, while they 
chat with the women. After a while the men withdraw, 
wishing the couple all happiness, and then the women, 
departing one by one, leave the couple alone, one of 
them shutting the door from the outside. The Pattar 
Brahmans always collect on these occasions, and receive 
small presents (dakshina) of two to four annas each, with 
betel leaves and areca nuts from the bridegroom, and 
sometimes from the bride. A few who are invited receive 
their dakshina in the bridal chamber, the others outside. 
Those of the bridegroom's party who live far away are 
given sleeping accommodation at the bride's house [in a 
Nayar house the sleeping rooms of the men and women 
are at different ends of the house]. About daybreak 
next morning the bridegroom leaves the house with his 
party, leaving under his pillow 8, i6, 32, or 64 rupees, 
according to his means, which are intended to cover 
the expenses of the wife's household in connection 
with the ceremony. The sambandham is now complete. 
The girl remains in her own taravad house, and her 
husband visits her there, coming in the evening and 
leaving next morning. A few days after the com- 
pletion of the ceremony, the senior woman of the 
bridegroom's house sends some cloths, including pavu 
mundu (superior cloths) and thorthu mundu (towels), 
and some oil to the bride for her use for six months. 
Every six months she does the same, and, at the Onam, 

335 NAyar 

Vishu, and Thiruvathira festivals, she sends besides a 
little money, areca nuts, betel and tobacco. The money 
sent should be ^^, 8, 1 6, 32, or 64 rupees. Higher sums 
are very rarely sent. Before long, the women of the 
husband's house express a longing for the girl-wife to be 
brought to their house, for they have not seen her yet. 
Again the astrologer is requisitioned, and, on the day 
he fixes, two or three of the women go to the house of 
the girl, or, as they call her, Ammayi (uncle's wife). 
They are well treated, and presently bring away the girl 
with them. As she is about to enter the gate-house of 
her husband's taravad, the stile of which she crosses right 
leg first, two or three of the women meet her, bearing a 
burning lamp and a brass plate (thalam), and precede 
her to the nalukattu of the house. There she is seated 
on a mat, and a burning lamp, a nazhi (measure) of rice, 
and some plantains are placed before her. One of the 
younger women takes up a plantain, and puts a piece 
of it in the Ammayi's mouth ; a little ceremony called 
madhuram tital, or giving the sweets for eating. She 
lives in her husband's house for a few days, and is then 
sent back to her own with presents, bracelets, rings or 
cloths, which are gifts of the senior woman of the house. 
After this she is at liberty to visit her husband's house 
on any day, auspicious or inauspicious. In a big taravad, 
where there are many women, the Ammayi does not, as 
a rule, get much sympathy and good-will in the house- 
hold, and, if she happens to live temporarily in her 
husband's house, as is sometimes, though very rarely 
the case in South Malabar, and to be the wife of the 
Karanavan, it is observed that she gets more than her 
share of whatever good things may be going. Hence 
the proverb, ' Place Ammayi Amma on a stone, and grind 
her with another stone.' A sambandham ceremony at 

nAyar 336 

Calicut is recorded by Mr. Fawcett, at which there were 
cake and wine for the guests, and a ring for the bride. 

In connection with sambandham, Mr. N. Subramani 
Aiyar writes from Travancore that " it is known in 
different localities as gunadosham (union through good 
or evil), vastradanam or putavakota (giving of cloth), 
and uzhamporukkal (waiting one's turn). It may be 
performed without any formal ceremony whatever, and 
is actually a private transaction confidentially gone 
through in some families. The bridegroom and his 
friends assemble at the house of the bride on the 
appointed night, and, before the assembled guests, the 
bridegroom presents the bride with a few unbleached 
cloths. Custom enjoins that four pieces of cloth should 
be presented, and the occasion is availed of to present 
cloths to the relatives and servants of the bride also. 
The girl asks permission of her mother and maternal 
uncle, before she receives the cloths. After supper, and 
the distribution of pan-supari, the party disperses. 
Another day is fixed for the consummation ceremony. 
On that day the bridegroom, accompanied by a few 
friends, goes to the bride's house with betel leaves and 
nuts. After a feast, the friends retire." 

It is noted in the Cochin Census Report, 1901, that 
one name for the sambandham rite is kitakkora, meaning 
bed-chamber ceremony. In the same report, the following 
account of a puberty ceremony is given. "The tirandu- 
kuli ceremony is practically a public declaration that a 
girl has reached the age of maturity. When a girl 
attains puberty, she is seated in a separate room, where 
a lamp is lit, and a brass pot with a bunch of cocoanut 
flowers is kept. She has to keep with her a circular 
plate of brass called valkannadi, literally a looking-glass 
with a handle. The event is proclaimed by korava 


2>37 NAyar 

(shouts of joy by females). The females of the 
neighbouring houses, and of the families of friends and 
relatives, visit her. New cloths are presented to the girl 
by her near relatives. On the third day the villagers, 
friends and relatives are treated to a luncheon of rice and 
milk pudding. Early in the morning on the fourth day, 
the Mannans or Velans appear. The girl is anointed 
with oil, and tender leaves of the cocoanut palm are tied 
round the head and waist. In the company of maidens 
she is brouorht out of the room, and the Velans sinof 
certain songs. Thence the party move on to the tank, 
where the girl wears a cloth washed by a Velan, and 
takes a bath. After the bath the Velans again sing 
songs. In the afternoon, the girl is taken out by 
the females invited for the occasion to an ornamental 
pandal, and the Velans, standing at a distance, once more 
sing. With the usual distribution of pan-supari, sandal 
and jasmine flowers, the ceremony closes. In the midst 
of the song, the female guests of the village, the wives 
of friends and relatives, and most of the members of 
the family itself, present each a small cloth to the 
Velans. They are also given a small amount of money, 
rice, betel leaf, etc. The guests are then entertained at 
a feast. In some places, the girl is taken to a separate 
house for the bath on the fourth day, whence she returns 
to her house in procession, accompanied by tom-toms 
and shouting. In the northern taluks, the Velan's song 
is in the night, and the performance of the ceremony 
on the fourth day is compulsory. In the southern taluks, 
it is often put off to some convenient day. Before the 
completion of this song ceremony, the girl is prohibited 
from going out of the house or entering temples." 

It is provided, by the Malabar Marriage Act, 1 896, that, 
" when a sambandham has been registered in the manner 



therein laid down, it shall have the incidence of a legal 
marriage ; that is to say, the wife and children shall 
be entitled to maintenance by the husband or father, 
respectively, and to succeed to half his self-acquired 
property, if he dies intestate ; while the parties to such 
a sambandham cannot register a second sambandham 
during its continuance, that is, until it is terminated by 
death or by a formal application for divorce in the Civil 
Courts. The total number of sambandhams registered 
under the Act has, however, been infinitesimal, and the 
reason for this is, admittedly, the reluctance of the 
men to fetter their liberty to terminate sambandham at 
will by such restrictions as the necessity for formal 
divorce, or to undertake the burdensome responsibility 
of a legal obligation to maintain their wife and offspring. 
If, as the evidence recorded by the Malabar Marriage 
Commission tended to show, ' a marriage law in North 
Malabar, and throughout the greater part of South 
Malabar, would merely legalise what is the prevailing 
custom,' it is hard to see why there has been such a 
disinclination to lend to that custom the dignity of legal 
sanction." * The following applications to register 
sambandhams under the Act were received from 1897 to 

































Total ... 




♦ Gazetteer of Malabar. 

339 NAYAR 

In a recent account of a Nayar wedding in high life 
in Travancore, the host is said to have distributed flowers, 
attar, etc., to all his Hindu guests, while the European, 
Eurasian, and other Christian guests, partook of cake 
and wine, and other refreshments, in a separate tent. 
The Chief Secretary to Government proposed the toast 
of the bride and bridegroom. 

The following note on Nayar pregnancy ceremonies 
was supplied to Mr. Fawcett by Mr. U. Balakrishnan 
Nayar. " A woman has to observe certain ceremonies 
during pregnancy. First, during and after the seventh 
month, she (at least among the well-to-do classes) bathes, 
and worships in the temple every morning, and eats before 
her morning meal a small quantity of butter, over, which 
mantrams (consecrated formulae) have been said by 
the temple priest, or by Nambutiris. This is generally 
done till delivery. Another, and even more important 
ceremony, is the puli-kuti (drinking tamarind juice). 
This is an indispensable ceremony, performed by rich 
and poor alike, on a particular day in the ninth month. 
The day and hour are fixed by the local astrologer. 
The ceremony begins with the planting of a twig of 
the ampasham tree on the morning of the day of the 
ceremony in the principal courtyard (natu-muttam) of 
the taravad. At the appointed hour or muhurtam, 
the pregnant woman, after having bathed, and properly 
attired, is conducted to a particular portion of the house 
(vatakini or northern wing), where she is seated, facing 
eastward. The ammayi, or uncle's wife, whose presence 
on the occasion is necessary, goes to the courtyard, and, 
plucking a few leaves of the planted twig, squeezes a few 
drops of its juice into a cup. This she hands over to 
the brother, if any, of the pregnant woman. It is neces- 
sary that the brother should wear a gold ring on his 

V-22 B 

nAyar 340 

right ring finger. Holding a country knife (pissan 
kathi) in his left hand, which he directs towards the 
mouth, he pours the tamarind juice over the knife with 
his right hand three times, and it dribbles down the knife 
into the woman's mouth, and she drinks it. In the 
absence of a brother, some other near relation officiates. 
After she has swallowed the tamarind juice, the woman is 
asked to pick out one of several packets of different grains 
placed before her. The grain in the packet she happens 
to select is supposed to declare the sex of the child in 
her womb. The ceremony winds up with a sumptuous 
feast to all the relatives and friends of the family." 
In connection with pregnancy ceremonies, Mr. N. 
Subramani Aiyar writes that " the puli-kuti ceremony 
is performed at the seventh, or sometimes the ninth 
month. The husband has to contribute the rice, cocoanut, 
and plantains, and present seven vessels containing sweet- 
meats. In the absence of a brother, a Maran pours the 
juice into the mouth of the woman." It is noted in the 
Cochin Census Report, 1901, that "the puli-kudi cere- 
mony consists in administering to the woman with child 
a few pills of tamarind and other acid substances. The 
pills are placed at the end of a knife-blade, and pushed 
into the mouth of the woman by means of a gold ring. 
The ceremony, which in a way corresponds to the 
pumsavana of the Brahmans, is performed either by a 
brother or uncle of the woman, and, in the absence 
of both, by the husband himself. Unlike Brahmans, the 
ceremony is performed only at the time of the first 
pregnancy," In the eighth month, a ceremony, called 
garbha veli uzhiyal, is performed by the Kaniyan 
(astrologer) to remove the effects of the evil eye. 

The ceremonies observed in connection with preg- 
nancy are described as follows in the Gazetteer of 

341 NAyaR 

Malabar. "The first regular ceremony performed 
during pregnancy is known as pulikudi or drinking 
tamarind, which corresponds to the Pumsavanam of 
the Brahmans. But there are other observances of 
less importance, which commonly, if not invariably, 
precede this, and may be considered as corresponding 
to the Garbharakshana (embryo or womb protection) 
ceremony sometimes performed by Brahmans, though 
not one of the obligatory sacraments. Sometimes the 
pregnant woman is made to consume daily a little 
ghee (clarified butter), which has been consecrated by 
a Nambudiri with appropriate mantrams. Sometimes 
exorcists of the lower castes, such as Panans, are 
called in, and ])crtorm a ceremony called Balikkala, in 
which they draw magic patterns on the ground, into 
which the girl throws lighted wicks, and sing rude songs 
to avert from the unborn babe the unwelcome attentions 
of evil spirits, accompanying them on a small drum 
called tudi, or with bell-metal cymbals. The ceremony 
concludes with tlie sacrifice of a cock, if the woman is 
badly affected by the singing. The pulikudi is variously 
performed in the fifth, seventh, or ninth month. An 
auspicious hour has to be selected by the village 
astrologer for this as for most ceremonies. A branch 
of a tamarind tree should be plucked by the pregnant 
woman's brother, who should go to the tree with a kindi 
(bell-metal vessel) of water, followed by an Enangatti * 
carrying a hanging lamp with five wicks (tukkuvilakku), 
and, before plucking it, perform three pradakshinams 
round it. In the room in which the ceremony is to be 

* An Enangan or Inangan is a man of the same casle and sub-division or 
marriage group. It is usually translated "kinsman," but is at once wider and 
narrower in its connotation. My Enangans are all who can marry the same 
people that 1 can. An Enangatti is a female member of an Enangan's family. 

NAYAR 542 

performed, usually the vadakkini, there is arranged a 
mat, the usual lamp (nilavilakku) with five wicks, and a 
para measure of rice (niracchaveppu), also the materials 
necessary for the performance of Ganapathi puja (wor- 
ship of the god Ganesa), consisting of plantains, brown 
sugar, leaves of the sacred basil or tulasi (Ocimiim 
sanctmn), sandal paste, and the eight spices called 
ashtagantham. The woman's brother performs Ganapathi 
puja, and then gives some of the tamarind leaves to the 
Enangatti, who expresses their juice, and mixes it with 
that of four other plants.* The mixture is boiled with 
a little rice, and the brother takes a little of it in a jack 
{Artocarpus integi^ifolia) leaf folded like a spoon, and 
lets it run down the blade of a knife into his sister's 
mouth. He does this three times. Then the mixture 
is administered in the same manner by some woman of 
the husband's family, and then by an Ammayi (wife of 
one of the members of the girl's tarwad). The branch 
is then planted in the nadumittam, and feasting brings 
the ceremony to a close. The above description was 
obtained from an Urali Nayar of Calicut taluk. In 
other localities and castes, the details vary considerably. 
Sometimes the mixture is simply poured into the 
woman's mouth, instead of being dripped off a knife. 
Some castes use a small spoon of gold or silver instead 
of the jack leaves. In South Malabar there is not as 
a rule any procession to the tamarind tree. Among 
Agathu Charna Nayars of South Malabar, the ceremony 
takes place in the nadumittam, whither the tamarind 
branch is brought by a Tiyan. The girl carries a 
valkannadi or bell-metal mirror, a charakkol or arrow, 
and a pisankatti (knife). An Enangatti pours some oil 

* The aimpuli or " five tamarinds " are Tamariiidiis indica, Gardnia Cambogia, 
Spondias tnangifera, Bauhinia tacemosa, and Hibiscus hirtus. 

343 NAyar 

on her head, and lets it trickle down two or three hairs 
to her navel, where it is caught in a plate. Then the 
girl and her brother, holding hands, dig a hole with 
the charakkol and pisankatti, and plant the tamarind 
branch in the nadumittam, and water it. Then the 
juice is administered. Until she is confined, the girl 
waters the tamarind branch, and offers rice, flowers, 
and lighted wicks to it three times a day. When labour 
begins, she uproots the branch." 

" At delivery," Mr. Balakrishnan Nayar writes, 
"women of the barber caste officiate as midwives. In 
some localities, this is performed by Velan caste women. 
Pollution is observed for fifteen days, and every day the 
mother wears cloths washed and presented by a woman 
of the Vannan [or Tiyan] caste. On the fifteenth day is 
the purificatory ceremony. As in the case of death pol- 
lution, a man of the Attikurissi clan sprinkles on the 
woman a liquid mixture of oil and the five products of 
the cow (panchagavya), with gingelly [Sesamiim) seeds. 
Then the woman takes a plunge-bath, and sits on the 
ground near the tank or river. Some woman of the 
family, with a copper vessel in her hands, takes water 
from the tank or river, and pours it on the mother's 
head as many as twenty-one times. This done, she 
again plunges in the water, from which she emerges 
thoroughly purified. It may be noted that, before the 
mother proceeds to purify herself, the new-born babe has 
also to undergo a rite of purification. It is placed on 
the bare floor, and its father or uncle sprinkles a few 
drops of cold water on it, and takes it in his hands. The 
superstitious believe that the temperament of the child 
is determined by that of the person who thus sprinkles 
the water. All the members of the taravad observe 
pollution for fifteen days following the delivery, during 

NAYAR 344 

which they are prohibited from entering temples and 
holy places." It is noted by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar 
that the first act done, when a male child is born, is to 
beat the earth with a cocoanut leaf, and, if the issue is a 
female, to grind some turmeric in a mortar, with the 
object, it is said, of removing the child's fear. 

In connection with post-natal ceremonies, Mr. Bala- 
krishnan Nayar writes further that " the twenty-seventh 
day after the child's birth, or the first recurring day of 
the star under which it was born, marks the next impor- 
tant event. On this day, the Karanavan of the family 
gives to the child a spoonful or two of milk mixed with 
sugar and slices of plantain. Then he names the child, 
and calls it in the ear by the name three times. This 
is followed by a feast to all friends and relatives, the 
expenses of which are met by the father of the child. 
With the Nayar, every event is introduced by a cere- 
monial. The first meal of rice (chorun) partaken of 
by the child forms no exception to the rule. It must be 
remembered that the child is not fed on rice for some 
time after birth, the practice being to give it flour of 
dried plantain boiled with jaggery (crude sugar). There 
is a particular variety of plantain, called kunnan, used for 
this purpose. Rice is given to the child for the first 
time generally during the sixth month. The astrologer 
fixes the day, and, at the auspicious hour, the child, 
bathed and adorned with ornaments (which it is the 
duty of the father to provide) is brought, and laid on a 
plank. A plantain leaf is spread in front of it, and a 
lighted brass lamp placed near. On the leaf are served 
a small quantity of cooked rice — generally a portion of 
the rice offered to some temple divinity — some tamarind, 
salt, chillies, and sugar. [In some places all the curries, 
etc., prepared for the attendant feast, are also served.] 

345 NAyar 

Then the Karanavan, or the father, ceremoniously 
approaches, and sits down facing the child. First he 
puts in the mouth of the child a mixture of the tamarind, 
chillies and salt, then some rice, and lastly a little sugar. 
Thenceforward the ordinary food of the child is rice. 
It is usual on this occasion for relatives (and especially 
the bandhus, such as the ammayi, or 'uncle's wife') 
to adorn the child with gold bangles, rings and other 
ornaments. The rice-giving ceremony is, in some cases, 
preferably performed at some famous temple, that at 
Guruvayur being a favourite one for this purpose." It 
is noted by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar that the rice- 
giving ceremony is usually performed by taking the 
child to a neighbouring temple, and feeding it with the 
meal offered to the deity as nivadiyam. In some places, 
the child is named on the chorun day. 

Of ceremonies which take place in infancy and child- 
hood, the following account is given in the Gazetteer of 
Malabar. " On the fifth day after birth, a woman of the 
Attikurissi or Marayan caste among Nayars, or of the 
barber caste in the lower classes, is called in, and purifies 
the mother, the other women of the household, and the 
room in which the child was born, by lustration with milk 
and gingelly oil, using karuga {Cynodon Dactylon) as a 
sprinkler. Her perquisites are the usual niracchaveppu 
(i edangazhi of paddy and i nazhi of uncooked rice) 
placed together with a lamp of five wicks in the room 
to be cleansed, and a small sum in cash. A similar 
purification ceremony on the 15th day concludes the 
pollution period. In some cases, milk and cow's urine 
are sprinkled over the woman, and, after she has bathed, 
the Marayan or Attikurissi waves over her and the 
child two vessels, one containing water stained red 
with turmeric and lime, and one water blackened with 

NAYAR 346 

powdered charcoal. During this and other periods, a 
characteristic service called mattu (change) has to be 
rendered by people of the Mannan caste to Nayars, and 
to other castes by their proper washermen, who may or 
may not be Mannans. On the day of birth, the Mannatti 
brings a clean tuni (cloth) of her own, and a mundu 
(cloth), which she places in the yard, in which she finds 
the accustomed perquisites of grain set out, and a lamp. 
An Attikurissi Nayar woman takes the clean clothes, and 
the Mannatti removes those previously worn by the 
mother. Every subsequent day during the pollution 
period, the Mannatti brings a change of raiment, but it 
is only on the 7th and 1 5th days that any ceremonial is 
observed, and that the Attikurissi woman is required. 
On those days, a Mannan man attends with the Mannatti. 
He makes three pradakshinams round the clean clothes, 
the lamp, and the niracchaveppu, and scatters a little of 
the grain formino^ the latter on the oround near it, with an 
obeisance, before the Attikurissi woman takes the clothes 
indoors. This rite of mattu has far reaching importance. 
It affords a weapon, by means of which the local tyrant 
can readily coerce his neighbours, whom he can subject 
to the disabilities of excommunication by forbidding the 
washerman to render them this service ; while it con- 
tributes in no small degree to the reluctance of Malayali 
women to leave Kerala, since it is essential that the mattu 
should be furnished by the appropriate caste and no other. 
" On the tw^enty-eighth day (including the day of 
birth) comes the Palu-kudi (milk-drinking) ceremony, at 
which some women of the father's family must attend. 
Amongst castes in which the wife lives with the husband, 
the ceremony takes place in the husband's house, to 
which the wife and child return for the first time on this 
day. The usual lamp, niracchaveppu and kindi of water, 

347 NAyar 

are set forth with a plate, if possible of silver, containing 
milk, honey, and bits of a sort of plantain called kunnan, 
together with three jack leaves folded to serve as spoons. 
The mother brings the child newly bathed, and places it 
in his Karnavan's lap. The goldsmith is in attendance 
with a string of five beads (mani or kuzhal) made of the 
panchaloham or five metals, gold, silver, iron, copper 
and lead, which the father ties round the baby's waist. 
The Karnavan, or the mother, then administers a spoon- 
ful of the contents of the plate to the child with each of 
the jack leaves in turn. The father's sister, or other 
female relative, also administers some, and the Karnavan 
then whispers the child's name thrice in its right ear. 

"The name is not publicly announced till the Chor- 
unnu or Annaprasanam (rice giving), which takes place 
generally in the sixth month, and must be performed at 
an auspicious moment prescribed by an astrologer. The 
paraphernalia required are, besides the five-wicked lamp, 
some plantain leaves on which are served rice and four 
kinds of curry called kalan, olan, avil, and ericchakari, 
some pappadams (wafers of flour and other ingredients), 
plantains and sweetmeats called upperi (plantains fried 
in cocoanut oil). The mother brings the child newly 
bathed, and wearing a cloth for the first time, and places 
it in the Karnavan's lap. The father then ties round the 
child's neck a gold ring, known as muhurta mothiram 
(auspicious moment ring), and the relatives present give 
the child other ornaments of gold or silver according to 
their means, usually a nul or neck-thread adorned with 
one or more pendants, an arannal or girdle, a pair of 
bangles, and a pair of anklets. The Karnavan then, 
after an oblation to Ganapathi, gives the child some 
of the curry, and whispers its name in its right ear three 
times. He then carries the child to a cocoanut tree 

NAYAR 348 

near the house, round which he makes three pradakshi- 
nams, pouring water from a kindi round the foot of the 
tree as he does so. The procession then returns to the 
house, and on the way an old woman of the family 
proclaims the baby's name aloud for the first time in the 
form of a question, asking- it ' Krishnan ' (for instance), 
*dost thou see the sky?' In some cases, the father 
simply calls out the name twice. 

"The Vidyarambham ceremony to celebrate the 
beginning of the child's education takes place in the fifth 
or seventh year. In some places, the child is first taken 
to the temple, where some water sanctified by mantrams 
is poured over his head by the Shantikaran (officiating 
priest). The ceremony at the house is opened by Gana- 
pathi pijja performed by an Ezhuttacchan, or by a 
Nambijdri, or another Nayar. The Ezhuttacchan writes 
on the child's tongue with a gold fanam (coin) the invo- 
cation to Ganapathi (Hari Sri Ganapathayi nama), or 
sometimes the fifty-one letters of the Malayalam alphabet, 
and then grasps the middle finger of the child's right 
hand, and with it traces the same letters in parched rice. 
He also gives the child an ola (strip of palm leaf) 
inscribed with them, and receives in return a small fee 
in cash. Next the child thrice touches first the 
Ezhuttacchan's feet, and then his own forehead with his 
right hand, in token of that reverent submission to the 
teacher, which seems to have been the key-note of the old 
Hindu system of education. 

"The Kathukuttu or ear-boring is performed either 
at the same time as the Pala-kudi or the Choulam, or at 
any time in the fifth or seventh year. The operator, who 
may be any one possessing the necessary skill, pierces 
first the right and then the left ear with two gold or 
silver wires brought by the goldsmith, or with karamullu 

349 NAYAR 

thorns. The wires or thorns are left in the cars. In 
the case of girls, the hole is subsequently gradually 
distended by the insertion of nine different kinds of 
thorns or plugs in succession, the last of which is a 
bamboo plug, till it is large enough to. admit the charac- 
teristic Malayali car ornament, the boss-shaped toda." 

Of the death ceremonies among the Nayars of Malabar, 
the following detailed account is given by Mr. Fawcett. 
" When the dying person is about to embark for that 
bourne from which no traveller returns, and the breath is 
about to leave his body, the members of the household, and 
all friends who may be present, one by one, pour a little 
water, a few drops from a tiny cup made of a leaf or two 
of the tulsi {Ocimum sanctum), into his mouth, holding in 
the hand a piece of gold or a gold ring, the idea being 
that the person should touch gold ere it enters the mouth 
of the person who is dying. If the taravad is rich 
enough to afford it, a small gold coin (a rasi fanam, if one 
can be procured) is placed in the mouth, and the lips are 
closed. As soon as death has taken place, the corpse is 
removed from the cot or bed and carried to the vatakkini 
(a room in the northern end of the house), where it is 
placed on long plantain leaves spread out on the floor ; 
and, while it is in the room, whether by day or night, a 
lamp is kept burning, and one member of the taravad 
holds the head in his lap, and another the feet in the 
same way ; and here the neighbours come to take a 
farewell look at the dead. As the Malayalis believe 
that disposal of a corpse by cremation or burial as soon 
as possible after death is conducive to the happiness 
of the spirit of the departed, no time is lost in setting 
about the funeral. The bodies of senior members of 
the taravad, male or female, are burned, those of 
children under two are buried ; so too are the bodies of all 

nayar 350 

persons who have died of cholera or small-pox. When 
preparations for the funeral have been made, the corpse 
is removed to the natumuttam or central yard of the 
house, if there is one (there always is in the larger 
houses) ; and, if there is not, is taken to the front yard, 
where it is again laid on plantain leaves. It is washed 
and anointed, the usual marks are made with sandal paste 
and ashes as in life, and it is neatly clothed. There is 
then done what is called the potavekkuka ceremony, 
or placing new cotton cloths (koti mundu) over the 
corpse by the senior member of the deceased's taravad 
followed by all the other members, and also the sons-in-law 
and dauo"hters-in-law, and all relatives. These cloths are 
used for tying up the corpse, when being taken to 
the place of burial or cremation. In some parts of 
Malabar, the corpse is carried on a bier made of fresh 
bamboos, tied up in these cloths, while in others it is 
carried, well covered in the cloths, by hand. In either 
case it is carried by the relatives. Before the corpse 
is removed, there is done another ceremony called para- 
virakkuka, or filling up paras. (A para is a measure 
nearly as big as a gallon.) All adult male members 
of the taravad take part in it under the direction 
of a man of the Attikkurissi clan who occupies the 
position of director of the ceremonies during the next 
fifteen days, receiving as his perquisites all the rice 
and other offerings made to the deceased's spirit. It 
consists in filling up three para measures with paddy 
(unhusked rice), and one edangali (^ of a para) with raw 
rice. These offerings of paddy and rice are placed very 
near the corpse, together with a burning lamp of the 
kind commonly used in Malabar, called nela vilaku. If 
the taravad is rich enough to afford one, a silk cloth is 
placed over the corpse before its removal for cremation. 

351 nAyar 

As much fuel as is necessary having been got ready at 
the place of cremation, a small pit about the size of 
the corpse is dug, and across this are placed three long 
stumps of plantain tree, one at each end, and one in the 
middle, on which as a foundation the pyre is laid. The 
whole, or at least a part of the wood used, should be 
that of the mango tree. As the corpse is being removed 
to the pyre, the senior Anandravan * who is next in age 
(junior) to the deceased tears from one of the new cloths 
laid on the corpse a piece sufficient to go round his 
waist, ties it round his waist and holds in his hand, or 
tucks into his cloth at the waist, a piece of iron, generally 
a long key. This individual is throughout chief among 
the offerers of pindam (balls of rice) to the deceased. The 
corpse is laid on the bier with the head to the south, 
with the fuel laid over it, and a little camphor, sandal- 
wood and ghi (clarified butter), if these things are 
within the means of the taravad. Here must be stated 
the invariable rule that no member of the taravad, male 
or female, who is older than the deceased, shall take any 
part whatever in the ceremony, or in any subsequent 
ceremony following on the cremation or burial. All 
adult males junior to the deceased should be present 
when the pyre is lighted. The deceased's younger 
brother, or, if there is none surviving, his nephew (his 
sister's eldest son) sets fire to the pyre at the head of the 
corpse. If the deceased left a son, this son sets fire at 
the same time to the pyre at the feet of the corpse. In 
the case of the deceased being a woman, her son sets fire 
to the pyre ; failing a son, the next junior in age to her 
has the right to do it. It is a matter of greatest 

* The eldest male member of the taravad is called the Karanavan. All male 
members, brothers, nephews, and so on, who are junior to him, are called 
Anandravans of the taravad. 

nayar 352 

importance that the whole pyre burns at once. The 
greatest care is taken that it burns as a whole, consumino- 
every part of the corpse. While the corpse is being 
consumed, all the members of the deceased's taravad who 
carried it to the pyre go and bathe in a tank (there is 
always one in the compound or grounds round every 
Nayar's house). The eldest, he who bears the piece of 
torn cloth and iron (the key), carries an earthen pot of 
water, and all return together to the place of cremation. 
It should be said that, on the news of a death, the 
neighbours assemble, assisting in digging the grave, 
preparing the pyre, and so on, and, while the members 
of the taravad go and bathe, they remain near the 
corpse. By the time the relatives return it is almost 
consumed by the fire, and the senior Anandravan carries 
the pot of water thrice round the pyre, letting the water 
leak out by making holes in the pot as he walks round. 
On completing the third round, he dashes the pot on 
the ground close by where the head of the dead body has 
been placed. A small image representing the deceased 
is then made out of raw rice, and to this imaofe a few 
grains of rice and gingelly seeds are offered. When this 
has been done, the relatives go home and the neighbours 
depart, bathing before entering their houses. When the 
cremation has been done by night, the duty of seshakriya 
(making offerings to the deceased's spirit) must be begun 
the next day between 10 and 11 a.m., and is done on 
seven consecutive days. In any case the time for this 
ceremony is after 10 and before 11, and it continues for 
seven days. It is performed as follows. All male 
members of the taravad younger than the deceased go 
together to a tank and bathe, i.e., they souse themselves 
in the water, and return to the house. The eldest of 
them, the man who tore off the strip of cloth from 

353 NAYAR 

the corpse, has with him the same strip of cloth and 
the piece of iron, and all assemble in the central 
courtyard of the house, where there have been placed 
ready by an enangan some rice which has been half 
boiled, a few grains of gingelly, a few leaves of the cherula 
{yE7'ua lanata), some curds, a smaller measure of paddy, 
and a smaller measure of raw rice. These are placed in 
the north-east corner with a lamp of the ordinary Malabar 
pattern. A piece of palmyra leaf, about a foot or so in 
length and the width of a finger, is taken, and one end of 
it is knotted. The knotted end is placed in the ground, 
and the long end is left sticking up. This represents 
the deceased. The rice and other things are offered to 
it. The belief concerning this piece of palmyra leaf is 
explained thus. There are in the human body ten 
humours : — Vayus, Pranan, Apanan, Samanan, Udanan, 
Vyanan, Nagan, Kurman, Krikalan, Devadattan, Dha- 
nanjayan. These are called Dasavayu, i.e., ten airs. 
When cremation was done for the first time, all these, 
excepting the last, were destroyed by the fire. The 
last one flew up, and settled on a palmyra leaf. Its 
existence was discovered by some Brahman sages, who, 
by means of mantrams, forced it down to a piece of 
palmyra leaf on the earth. So it is thought that, by 
making offerings to this Dhananjayan leaf for seven 
days, the spirit of the deceased will be mollified, should 
he have any anger to vent on the living members of the 
taravad. The place where the piece of leaf is to be fixed 
has been carefully cleaned, and the leaf is fixed in the 
centre of the prepared surface. The offerings made to 
it go direct to the spirit of the deceased, and the peace 
of the taravad is assured. The men who have bathed 
and returned have brought with them some grass 
(karuka pulla), plucked on their way back to the house. 

NAyar 354 

They kneel in front of the piece of palmyra, with the right 
knee on the ground. Some of the grass is spread on 
the ground near the piece of leaf, and rings made with 
it are placed on the ring finger of the right hand by each 
one present. The first offerings consist of water, sandal 
paste, and leaves of the cherula, the eldest of the Anandra- 
vans leading the way. Boys need not go through the 
actual performance of offerings ; it suffices for them to 
touch the eldest as he is making the offerings. The 
half boiled rice is made into balls (pindam), and each one 
present takes one of these in his right hand, and places 
it on the grass near the piece of palmyra leaf. Some 
gingelly seeds are put into the curd, which is poured so 
as to make three rings round the pindams. It is poured 
out of a small cup made with the leaf on which the 
half-boiled rice had been placed. It should not be 
poured from any other kind of vessel. The whole is 
then covered with this same plantain leaf, a lighted wick 
is waved, and some milk is put under the leaf. It is 
undisturbed for some moments, and leaf is gently tapped 
with the back of the fingers of the right hand. The leaf 
is then removed, and torn in two at its midrib, one 
piece being placed on either side of the pindams. The 
ceremony is then over for the day. The performers 
rise, and remove the wet clothing they have been wear- 
ing. The eldest of the Anandravans should, it was 
omitted to mention, be kept somewhat separated from the 
other Anandravans v/hile in the courtyard, and before 
the corpse is removed for cremation ; a son-in-law or 
daughter-in-law, or some such kind of relation remain- 
ing, as it were, between him and them. He has had the 
piece of cloth torn from the covering of the corpse tied 
round his waist, and the piece of iron in the folds 
of his cloth, or stuck in his waist during the ceremony 

355 nAyar 

which has just been described. Now, when it has been 
completed, he ties the piece of cloth to the pillar of the 
house nearest to the piece of palmyra leaf which has 
been stuck in the ground, and puts the piece of iron in a 
safe place. The piece of palmyra leaf is covered with 
a basket. It is uncovered every day for seven days at 
the same hour, while the same ceremony is repeated. 
The balls of rice are removed by women and girls of the 
taravad who are junior to the deceased. They place 
them in the bell-metal vessel in which the rice was 
boiled. The senior places the vessel on her head, and 
leads the way to a tank, on the bank of which the rice 
is thrown. It is hoped that crows will come and eat 
it ; for, if they do, the impression is received that the 
deceased's spirit is pleased with the offering. But, if 
somehow it is thought that the crows will not come and 
eat it, the rice is thrown into the tank. Dogs are not to 
be allowed to eat it. The women bathe after the rice 
has been thrown away. When the ceremony which has 
been described has been performed for the seventh time, 
i.e.^ on the seventh day after death, the piece of palmyra 
leaf is removed from the ground, and thrown on the 
ashes of the deceased at the place of cremation. During 
these seven days, no member of the taravad goes to any 
other house. The house of the dead, and all its inmates 
are under pollution. No outsider enters it but under 
ban of pollution, which is, however, removable by bath- 
ing. A visitor entering the house of the dead during 
these seven days must bathe before he can enter his own 
house. During these seven days, the Karanavan of the 
family receives visits of condolence from relatives and 
friends to whom he is "at home" on Monday, Wednes- 
day or Saturday. They sit and chat, chew betel, and go 
home, bathing ere they enter their houses. It is said 

V-23 B 

NAYAR 356 

that, in some parts of Malabar, the visitors bring with 
them small presents in money or kind to help the 
Karanavan through the expenditure to which the funeral 
rites necessarily j^ut him. To hark back a little, it must 
not be omitted that, on the third day after the death, all 
those who are related by marriage to the taraviid of the 
deceased combine, and give a good feast to the inmates 
of the house and to the neighbours who are invited, one 
man or woman from each house. The person so invited 
is expected to come. 7"his feast is called patni karigi. 
On the seventh day, a return feast will be given by the 
taravad of the deceased to all relatives and neighbours. 
Between the seventh and fourteenth day after death no 
ceremony is observed, but the members of the taravad 
remain under death pollution. On the fourteenth day 
comes the sanchayanam. It is the disposal of the cal- 
cined remains ; the ashes of the deceased. The male 
members of the taravad go to the place of cremation, 
and, picking up the pieces of unburnt bones which they 
find there, place these in an earthen pot which has been 
sun-dried (not burnt by fire in the usual way), cover 
up the mouth of this pot with a piece of new cloth, and, 
all following the eldest who carries it, proceed to the 
nearest river (it must be running water), which receives 
the remains of the dead. The men then bathe, and return 
home. In some parts of Malabar the bones are collected 
on the seventh day, but it is not orthodox to do so. Better 
by far than taking the remains to the nearest river is it to 
take them to some specially sacred place, Benares, Gaya, 
Rameswaram, or even to some place of sanctity much 
nearer home, as to Tirunelli in Wynaad, and there 
dispose of them in the same manner. The bones or 
ashes of any one having been taken to Gaya and there 
deposited in the river, the survivors of the taravad have 

357 NAYAR 

no need to continue the annual ceremony for that person. 
This is called ashtagaya sradh. It puts an end to the 
need for all earthly ceremonial. It is believed that the 
collection and careful disposal of the ashes of the dead 
gives peace to his spirit, and, what is more important, 
the pacified spirit will not thereafter injure the living 
members of the taravad, cause miscarriage to the women, 
possess the men (as with an evil spirit), and so on. On 
the fifteenth day after death is the purificatory ceremony. 
Until this has been done, any one touched by any 
member of the taravad should bathe before he enters 
his house, or partakes of any food. A man of the 
Athikurisi clan officiates. He sprinkles milk oil, in 
which some gingelly seeds have been put, over the 
persons of those under pollution. This sprinkling, and 
the bath which follows it, remove the death pollution. 
The purifier receives a fixed remuneration for his offices 
on this occasion, as well as when there is a birth in the 
taravad. In the case of death of a senior member of a 
taravad, well-to-do and recognised as of some importance, 
there is the feast called pinda atiyantaram on the 
sixteenth day after death, given to the neighbours and 
friends. With the observance of this feast of pindams 
there is involved the diksha, or leaving the entire body 
unshaved for forty-one days, or for a year. There is no 
variable limit between forty-one days or a year. The 
forty-one-day period is the rule in North Malabar. I 
have seen many who were under the diksha for a year. 
He who lets his hair grow may be a son or nephew of 
the deceased. One member only of the taravad bears 
the mark of mourning by his growth of hair. He who 
is under the diksha offers half-boiled rice and gingelly 
seeds to the spirits of the deceased every morning after 
his bath, and he is under restriction from women, from 

nAyar 358 

alcoholic drinks, and from chewing betel, also from 
tobacco. When the diksha is observed, the ashes of the 
dead are not deposited as described already (in the sun- 
dried vessel) until its last day — the forty-first or a year 
after death. When it is carried on for a year, there is 
observed every month a ceremony called bali. It is 
noteworthy ithat, in this monthly ceremony and for the 
conclusion of the diksha, it is not the thirtieth or three 
hundred and sixty-fifth day which marks the date for the 
ceremonies, but it is the day (of the month) of the star 
which was presiding when the deceased met his death : 
the returning day on which the star presides.* For the 
ball, a man of the Elayatu caste officiates. The Elayatus 
are priests for the Nayars. They wear the Brahmin's 
thread, but they are not Brahmins. They are not 
permitted to study the Vedas, but to the Nayars they 
stand in the place of the ordinary purohit. The officiat- 
ing Elayatu prepares the rice for the bali, when to 
the deceased, represented by karuka grass, are offered 
boiled rice, curds, gingelly seeds, and some other 
things. The Elayatu should be paid a rupee for his 
services, which are considered necessary even when 
the man under diksha is himself familiar with the 
required ceremonial. The last day of the diksha is one of 
festivity. After the bali, the man under diksha is shaved. 
All this over, the only thing to be done for the deceased 
is the annual sradh or yearly funeral commemorative rite. 
Rice-balls are made, and given to crows. Clapping of 
hands announces to these birds that the rice is being 
thrown for them, and, should they not come at once and 
eat, it is evident that the spirit is displeased, and the 
taravad had better look out. The spirits of those who 

* All caslc Hindus who perform the sradh ceremonies calculate the day of 
death, not by the day of the month, but by the thithis (day after full or new moon). 

359 nAyar 

have committed suicide, or met death by any violent 
means, are always particularly vicious and troublesome 
to the taravad, their spirits possessing and rendering 
miserable some unfortunate member of it. Unless they 
are pacified, they will ruin the taravad, so Brahman 
priests are called in, and appease them by means of 
tilahomam, a rite in which sacrificial fire is raised, and 
ghi, gingelly, and other things are offered through it." 

** There are," Mr. Fawcett writes, " many interesting 
features in the death ceremonies as performed by the 
Kiriattil class. Those who carry the corpse to the pyre 
are dressed as women, their cloths being wet, and each 
carries a knife on his person. Two junior male members 
of the taravad thrust pieces of mango wood into the 
southern end of the burning pyre, and, when they are 
lighted, throw them over their shoulders to the south- 
wards without looking round. Close to the northern 
end of the pyre, two small sticks are fixed in the ground, 
and tied together with a cloth, over which water is 
poured thrice. All members of the taravad prostrate to 
the ground before the pyre. They follow the enangu 
carrying the pot of water round the pyre, and go home 
without looking round. They pass to the northern side 
of the house under an arch made by two men standing 
east and west, holding at arms length, and touching at 
the points, the spade that was used to dig the pit under 
the pyre, and the axe with which the wood for the 
pyre was cut or felled. After this is done the kodali 
ceremony, using the spade, axe, and big knife. These 
are placed on the leaves where the corpse had lain. 
Then follows circumambulation and prostration by all, 
and the leaves are committed to the burning pyre." 

In connection with the death ceremonies, it is noted 
in the Cochin Census Report, 1901, that "the last 

NAYAR 360 

moments of a dying person are really very trying. All 
members (male and female), junior to the dying person, 
pour into his or her mouth drops of Ganges or other 
holy water or conjee (rice) water in token of their last 
tribute of regard. Before the person breathes his last, 
he or she is removed to the bare floor, as it is considered 
sacrilegious to allow the last breath to escape while 
lying on the bed, and in a room with a ceiling, which 
last is supposed to obstruct the free passage of the 
breath. The names of gods, or sacred texts are loudly 
dinned into his or her ears, so that the person may quit 
this world with the recollections of God serving as a 
passport to heaven. The forehead, breast, and the 
joints especially are besmeared with holy ashes, so as 
to prevent the messengers of death from tightly tying 
those parts when they carry away the person. Soon 
after the last breath, the dead body is removed to some 
open place in the house, covered from top to toe with 
a washed cloth, and deposited on the bare floor with the 
head towards the south, the region of the God of death. 
A lighted lamp is placed near the head, and other lights 
are placed all round the corpse. A mango tree is cut, 
or other firewood is collected, and a funeral pyre is con- 
structed in the south-eastern corner of a compound or 
garden known as the corner of Agni, which is always re- 
served as a cemetery for the burning or burial of the dead. 
All male members, generally junior, bathe, and, without 
wiping their head or body, they remove the corpse to the 
yard in front of the house, and place it on a plantain leaf. 
It is nominally anointed with oil, and bathed in water. 
Ashes and sandal are again smeared on the forehead and 
joints. The old cloth is removed, and the body is 
covered with a new unwashed cloth or a piece of silk. 
A little gold or silver, or small coins are put into the 




6 I N Avar 

mouth. With the breaking of a cocoanut, and the offering 
of some powdered rice, betel leaf, areca nut, etc., the 
body is taken to the pyre. The members junior to the 
deceased go round the pyre three, five, or seven times, 
throw paddy and rice over the dead body, put scantlings 
of sandal wood, prostrate at the feet of the corpse, and 
then set fire to the pyre. When the body is almost 
wholly consumed, one of the male members carries a pot 
of water, and, after making three rounds, the pot is 
broken and thrown into the pyre. The death of an 
elderly male member of a family is marked by udakakriya 
and sanchayanam, and the daily bali performed at the 
ball kutti (altar) planted in front of the house, or in the 
courtyard in the centre of the house, where there is one. 
The Ashtikurissi Nayar officiates as priest at all such 
obsequies. On the morning of the fifteenth day, the 
members of the family wear cloths washed by a Velan, 
and assemble together for purification by the Nayar 
priest, both before and after bathing, who throws on them 
paddy and rice, and sprinkles the holy mixture. The 
Elayad or family purohit then performs another punnaya- 
ham or purification, and on the sixteenth day he takes 
the place of the priest. On the evening of the fifteenth 
day, and the morning of the sixteenth day, the purohits 
and villagers are sumptuously feasted, and presents of 
cloths and money are made to the Elayads. In the 
Chittur taluk, the Tamil Brahman sometimes performs 
priestly functions in place of the Elayad. Diksha is 
performed for forty-one days, or for a whole year, for the 
benefit of the departed soul. This last ceremony is 
invariably performed on the death of the mother, maternal 
uncle, and elder brother." 

In connection with the habitations of the Nayars, Mr. 
Fawcett writes as follows. " A house may face east or 



west, never north or south ; as a rule, it faces the east. 
Every garden is enclosed by a bank, a hedge, or a fencing 
of some kind, and entrance is to be made at one point 
only, the east, where there is a gate-house, or, in the case 
of the poorest houses, a small portico or open doorway 
roofed over. One never walks straight through this ; 
there is always a kind of stile to surmount. It is the 
same everywhere in Malabar, and not only amongst the 
Nayars. The following is a plan of a nalapura or four- 
sided house, which may be taken as representative of 
the houses of the rich : — 




Verandah all round. 

Kitchen store 

Dining hall. 




Numbers 6 and 7 are rooms, which are generally 
used for storing grain. At A is a staircase leading 
to the room of the upper storey occupied by the female 
members of the family. At B is another staircase lead- 
ing to the rooms of the upper storey occupied by the 
male members. There is no connection between the 
portions allotted to the men and women. No. 8 is for 
the family gods. The Karanavans and old women of 
the family are perpetuated in images of gold or silver, 
or, more commonly, brass. Poor people, who cannot 



afford to have these images made, substitute a stone. 
Offerings are made to these images, or to the stones at 
every full moon. The throat of a fowl will be cut outside, 
and the bird is then taken inside and offered. The 
entrance is at C. 






E E 


* * 

* * 

* » 




Tekkini. A large hall occupied by the men. 

There are windows at * * *. E are rooms occupied 
by women and children. It may be noticed that the 
apartment where the men sleep has no windows on 
the side of the house which is occupied by women. The 
latter are relatively free from control by the men as to 
who may visit them. We saw, when speaking of funeral 
ceremonies, that a house is supposed to have a court- 
yard, and, of course, it has this only when there are 
four sides to the house. The nalapura is the proper 
form of house, for in this alone can all ceremonial be 
observed in orthodox fashion. But it is not the 
ordinary Nayar's house that one sees all over Malabar. 
The ordinary house is roughly of the 
shape here indicated. Invariably there 
is an upper storey. There are no doors, 
and only a few tiny windows opening to 
the west. Men sleep at one end, women 
at the other, each having their own 
staircase. Around the house there is 


NAYAR 3^4 

always shade from the many trees and palms. Every 
house is in its own seclusion." 

Concerning Nayar dwellings, Mr. N. Subramani 
Aiyar writes that " the houses of the Nayar, standing 
in a separate compound, have been by many writers 
supposed to have been designed with special reference 
to the requirements of offence and defence, and Major 
Welsh states that the saying that every man's house is 
his castle is well verified here. The higher ambition of 
the Nayar is, as has frequently been said, to possess 
a garden, wherein he can grow, without trouble or 
expense, the few necessaries of his existence. The 
garden surrounding the house is surrounded by a hedge 
or strong fence. At the entrance is an out-house, or 
patipura, which must have served as a kind of guard- 
room in mediaeval times. In poorer houses its place is 
taken by a roofed door, generally provided with a stile 
to keep out cattle. The courtyard is washed with cow- 
dung, and diverse figures are drawn with white chalk 
on the fence. Usually there are three out-houses, a 
vadakkettu on the north side serving as a kitchen, a 
cattle-shed, and a tekketu on the southern side, where 
some family spirit is located. These are generally those 
of Maruta, i.e., some member of the family who has died 
of small-pox. A sword or other weapon, and a seat or 
other emblem is located within this out-house, which is 
also known by the names of gurusala (the house of a 
saint), kalari (military training-ground), and daivappura 
(house of a deity). The tekketu is lighted up every 
evening, and periodical offerings are made to propitiate 
the deities enshrined within. In the south-west corner 
is the serpent kavu (grove), and by its side a tank for 
bathing purposes. Various useful trees are grown in the 
garden, such as the jack, areca palm, cocoanut, plantain, 

365 NAYAR 

tamarind, and mango. The whole house is known as 
vitu. The houses are built on various models, such as 
pattayappura, nalukettu, ettukettu, and kuttikettu." 

Concerning the dress of the Nayars, Mr. N. 
Subramani Aiyar writes that *' the males dress themselves 
in a mundu (cloth), a loose lower garment, and a towel. 
A neriyatu, or light cloth of fine texture with coloured 
border, is sometimes worn round the mundu on festive 
occasions. Coats and caps are recent introductions, 
but are eschewed by the orthodox as unnational. It is 
noted by Mr. Logan that 'the women clothe themselves 
in a single white cloth of fine texture, reaching from the 
waist to the knees, and occasionally, when abroad, they 
throw over the shoulder and bosom another similar cloth. 
But by custom the Nayar women go uncovered from 
the waist. Upper garments indicate lower caste, or 
sometimes, by a strange reversal of Western notions, 
immodesty.' Edward Ives, who came to Anjengo about 
1 740, observes that * the groves on each bank of the river 
are chiefly planted with cocoanut trees, and have been 
inhabited by men and women in almost a pure state of 
nature, for they go with their breasts and bellies entirely 
naked. This custom prevails universally throughout 
every caste from the poorest planter of rice to the 
daughter or consort of the king upon the throne.' " 
[According to ancient custom, Nayar women in Travan- 
core used to remove their body-cloth in the presence of 
the Royal Family. But, since 1856, this custom has 
been abolished, by a proclamation during the reign of 
H.H. Vanchi Bala Rama Varma Kulasakhara Perumal 
Bhagiodya Rama Varma. In a critique on the Indian 
Census Report, 1901, Mr. J. D. Rees observes* that 

* Nineteenth Century, 1904. 

NAYAR 366 

" if the Census Commissioner had enjoyed the privilege 
of living among the Nayars, he would not have accused 
them of an * excess of females.' The most beautiful 
women in India, if numerous, could never be excessive." 
Concerning Nayar females, Pierre Loti writes * that 
" les femmes ont presque toutes les traits dune finesse 
particuliere. Elles se font des bandeaux a la Vierge, et, 
avec le reste de leurs cheveux, tres noirs et tres lisses, 
composent une espece de galette ronde qui se porte au 
sommet de la tete, en avant et de cote, retombant un 
peu \ers le front comme une petite toque cavalierement 
posee, en contraste sur I'ensemble de leur personne qui 
demeure toujours grave et hieratique."] The Nayars are 
particularly cleanly. Buchanan writes that " the higher 
ranks of the people of Malayala use very little clothing, 
but are remarkably clean in their persons. Cutaneous 
disorders are never observed except among slaves and 
the lowest orders, and the Nayar women are remarkably 
careful, repeatedly washing with various saponaceous 
plants to keep their hair and skins from every impurity." 
The washerman is constantly in requisition. No dirty 
cloths are ever worn. When going for temple worship, 
the Nayar women dress themselves in the tattu form by 
drawing the right corner of the hind fold of the cloth 
between the thighs, and fastening it at the back. The 
cloth is about ten cubits long and three broad, and worn 
in two folds. The oldest ornament of the Nayar women 
is the necklace called nagapatam, the pendants of 
which resemble a cobra's hood. The Nayar women 
wear no ornament on the head, but decorate the hair 
with flowers. The nagapatam, and several other forms 
of neck ornament, such as kazhultila, nalupanti, puttali, 

* L'Inde (sans les Anglais), 

36; nAyar 

chelakkamotiram, amatali, arumpumani, and kumilatali 
are fast vanishing. The kuttu-minnu is worn on the 
neck for the first time by a girl when her tali-kettu is 
celebrated. This ornament is also called gnali. Prior 
to the tali-kettu ceremony, the girls wear a kasu or 
sovereign. The inseparable neck ornament of a Nayar 
woman in modern days is the addiyal, to which a 
patakkam is attached. The only ornament for the ears 
is the takka or toda. After the lobes have been dilated 
at the karnavedha ceremony, and dilated, a big leaden 
ring is inserted in them. The nose ornament of women 
is called mukkuthi, from which is suspended a gold wire 
called gnattu. No ornament is worn in the right nostril. 
The wearing of gold bangles on the wrists has been 
long the fashion among South Indian Hindu fem.ales of 
almost all high castes. Round the waist Nayar women 
wear chains of gold and silver, and, by the wealthy, gold 
belts called kachchapuram are worn. Anklets were not 
worn in former times, but at the present day the kolusu 
and padasaram of the Tamilians have been adopted. So, 
too, the time-honoured toda is sometimes set aside in 
favour of the Tamil kammal, an ornament of much smaller 
size. Canter Visscher (who was Chaplain at Cochin in 
the eighteenth century) must have been much struck by 
the expenditure of the Nayar women on their dress, for 
he wrote * ' there is not one of any fortune who does 
not own as many as twenty or thirty chests full of 
robes made of silver and other valuable materials, for 
it would be a disgrace in their case to wear the same 
dress two or three days in succession '." 

It is noted by Mr. Fawcett that " the Venetian sequin, 
which probably first found its way to Malabar in the days 

* Letters from Malabar. 

NAYAR 3^^ 

of Vascoda Gama and Albuquerque, is one of diosc coins 
which, having found favour with a people, is used per- 
sistently in ornamentation long after it has passed out of 
currency. So fond are the Malayalis of the sequin that to 
this day there is quite a large trade in imitations of the 
coin for purposes of ornament. Such is the persistence 
of its use that the trade extends to brass and even copper 
imitation of the sequins. The former are often seen to 
bear the legend ' Made in Austria.' The Nayars wear 
none but the gold sequins. The brass imitations are 
worn by the women of the inferior races. If one asks the 
ordinary Malayali, say a Nayar, what persons are repre- 
sented on the sequin, one gets for answer that they are 
Rama and Sita ; between them a cocoanut tree." 

In connection with the wearing of charms by Nayars 
Mr. Fawcett writes as follows. " One individual (a 
Kiriattil Nayar) wore two rings made of an amalgamation 
of gold and copper, called tambak, on the ring finger of 
the right hand for good luck. Tambak rings are lucky 
rings. It is a good thing to wash the face with the hand, 
on which is a tambak ring. Another wore two rings of 
the pattern called triloham (lit. metals) on the ring finger 
of each hand. Each of these was made during an eclipse. 
Yet another wore a silver ring as a vow, which was to be 
given up at the next festival at Kottiur, a famous festival 
in North Malabar. The right nostril of a Sudra Nayar 
was slit vertically as if for the insertion of a jewel. His 
mother miscarried in her first pregnancy, so, according 
to custom, he, the child of her second pregnancy, had 
his nose slit. Another wore a silver bangle. He had a 
wound in his arm which was long in healing, so he made 
a vow to the god at Tirupati (in the North Arcot dis- 
trict), that, if his arm was healed, he would give up the 
bangle at the Tirupati temple. He intended to send the 

369 NAYAR 

bangle there by a messenger. An Akattu Charna Nayar 
wore an amulet to keep off the spirit of a Brahman who 
died by drowning. Another had a silver ring, on which 
a piece of a bristle from an elephant's tail was arranged." 

Tattooing is said by Mr. Subramani Aiyar not to be 
favoured by North Travancore Nayars, and to be only 
practiced by Nayar women living to the south of Quilon. 
Certain accounts trace it to the invasion of Travancore 
by a Moghul Sirdar in 1680 A.D. In modern times it 
has become rare. The operation is performed by women 
of the Odda or Kurava caste before a girl reaches the 
twelfth year. 

Concerning the religious worship of the Nayars, Mr. 
Subramani Aiyar writes that " Buchanan notes that the 
proper deity of the Nayars is Vishnu, though they wear 
the mark of Siva on their foreheads. By this is merely 
meant that they pay equal reverence to both Siva and 
Vishnu, being Smartas converted to the tenets of Sanka- 
racharya. Besides worshipping the higher Hindu deities, 
the Nayars also manifest their adoration for several 
minor ones, such as Matan, Utayam, Yakshi, Chattan, 
Chantakarnan, Murti, Maruta, and Arukula. Most of 
these have granite representations, or at least such 
emblems as a sword or a cane, and are provided with 
a local habitation. Besides these, persons who have met 
with accidental death, and girls who have died before 
their tali-tying ceremony, are specially worshipped 
under the designations of Kazhichchavu and Kannich- 
chavu. Magicians are held in some fear, and talismanic 
amulets are attached to the waist by members of both 
sexes. Kuttichattan, the mischievous imp of Malabar, 
is supposed to cause much misery. Various spirits 
are worshipped on the Tiruvonam day in the month of 
Avani (August-September), on the Uchcharam or 28th 

NAYAR 370 

day of Makarom (January- February), and on some 
Tuesdays and Fridays. Kolam-tullal, Velan-pravarti, 
Ayiramaniyam-tullel, Chavuttu, Tila-homam, and a host 
of other ceremonies are performed with a view to 
propitiate spirits, and the assistance of the Kaniyans 
and Velans is largely sought. Serpents, too, whose 
images arc located on the north-western side of most 
gardens in Central and North Travancore, receive a 
large share of adoration. The sun is an object of 
universal worship. Though the Gayatri cannot be 
studied, or the Sandhyavandanam of the Brahmans 
performed, an offering of water to the sun after a bath, 
to the accompaniment of some hymn, is made by almost 
every pious Nayar. The Panchakshara is learnt from 
an Ilayatu, and repeated daily. A large portion of the 
time of an old Nayar is spent in reading the Ramayana, 
Bhagavata and Mahabharata, rendered into Makiyalam 
by Tunchattu Ezhuttachhan, the greatest poet of the 
Malabar coast. Many places in Travancore are pointed 
out as the scene of mem.orable incidents in the Ramayana 
and Mahabharata. There are many temples, tanks, 
and mountains connected with Rama's march to the 
capital of Ravana. Equally important are the singular 
feats said to have been performed by the five Pandavas 
during the time of their wanderings in the jungles before 
the battle of Kurukshetra. Bhima especially has built 
temples, raised up huge mountains, and performed 
many other gigantic tasks in the country. There are 
some village temples owned exclusively by the Nayars, 
where all the karakkars (villagers) assemble on special 
occasions. A very peculiar socio-religious ceremony per- 
formed here is the kuttam. This is a village council, 
held at the beginning of every month for the adminis- 
tration of the communal affairs of the caste, though, at 

371 nAyar 

the present clay, a sumptuous feast at the cost of each 
villager in rotation, and partaken of by all assembled, 
and a small offering to the temple, are all that remains 
to commemorate it. Astrology is believed in, and some 
of its votaries are spoken of as Trikalagnas, or those 
who know the past, present, and future. It is due 
to a curse of Siva on the science of his son, who made 
bold by its means to predict even the future of his 
father, that occasional mistakes are said to occur in 
astrological calculations. Sorcery and witchcraft are 
believed to be potent powers for evil. To make a 
person imbecile, to paralyse his limbs, to cause him 
to lavish all his wealth upon another, to make him deaf 
and dumb, and, if need be, even to make an end of him, 
are not supposed to be beyond the powers of the 
ordinary wizard. Next to wizardry and astrology, 
palmistry, omens, and the lizard science are generally 
believed in. In the category of good omens are placed 
the elephant, a pot full of water, sweetmeats, fruit, fish 
and flesh, images of gods, kings, a cow with its calf, 
married women, tied bullocks, gold lamps, ghee, milk, and 
so on. Under the head of bad omens come the donkey, 
a broom, buffalo, untied bullock, barber, widow, patient, 
cat, washerman, etc. The worst of all omens is 
beyond question to allow a cat to cross one's path. An 
odd number of Nayars, and an even number of Brahmans, 
are good omens, the reverse being particularly bad. 
On the Vinayaka-chaturthi day in the month of Avani, 
no man is permitted to look at the rising moon under 
penalty of incurring unmerited obloquy. 

" The chief religious festival of the Nayars is Onam, 
which takes place in the last week of August, or first 
week of September. It is a time of rejoicing and merri- 
ment. Father Paulinus, writing in the latter half of the 

V-24 B 

nAyar z^i 

eighteenth century, observes that about the tenth of 
September the rain ceases in Malabar. All nature 
seems then as if renovated ; the flowers again shoot up, 
and the trees bloom. In a word, this season is the 
same as that which Europeans call spring. The Onam 
festival is said, therefore, to have been instituted for the 
purpose of soliciting from the gods a happy and fruitful 
year. It continues for eight days, and during that time 
the Indians are accustomed to adorn their houses with 
flowers, and to daub them over with cow-dung, because 
the cow is a sacred animal, dedicated to the Goddess 
Lakshmi, the Ceres of India. On this occasion they also 
put on new clothes, throw away all their old earthenware, 
and replace it by new. Onam is, according to some, the 
annual celebration of the Malabar new year, which first 
began with Cheraman Perumal's departure for Mecca. 
But, with the majority of orthodox Hindus, it is the day 
of the annual visit of Mahabali to his country, which he 
used to govern so wisely and well before his overthrow. 
There is also a belief that it is Maha- Vishnu who, on 
Onam day, pays a visit to this mundane universe, for the 
just and proper maintenance of which he is specially 
responsible. In some North Malabar title-deeds and 
horoscopes, Mr. Logan says, the year is taken as ending 
with the day previous to Onam. This fact, he notes, is 
quite reconcileable with the other explanation, which 
alleges that the commencement of the era coincides 
with Perumal's departure for Arabia, if it is assumed, 
as is not improbable, that the day on which he sailed 
was Thiruvonam day, on which acknowledgment of fealty 
should have been made. Onam, it may be observed, is 
a contraction of Thiruvonam which is the asterism 
of the second day of the festival. Throughout the 
festival, boys from five to fifteen years of age go out 

Z7?> nayar 

early in the morning to gather flowers, of which the 
kadaH is the most important. On their return, they sit 
in front of the tulasi (sacred basil) mandapam, make a 
carpet-like bed of the blossoms which they have collected, 
and place a clay image of Ganapati in the centre. A 
writer in the Calcutta Review * describes how having 
set out at dawn to gather blossoms, the children return 
with their beautiful spoils by 9 or 10 a.m., and then the 
daily decoration begins. The chief decoration consists 
of a carpet made out of the gathered blossoms, the 
smaller ones being used in their entirety, while the large 
flowers, and one or two varieties of foliage of different 
tints, are pinched up into little pieces to serve the 
decorator's purpose. This flower carpet is invariably 
made in the centre of the clean strip of yard in front 
of the neat house. Often it is a beautiful work of 
art, accomplished with a delicate touch and a highly 
artistic sense of tone and blending. The carpet 
completed, a miniature pandal (booth), hung with little 
festoons, is erected over it, and at all hours of the day 
neighbours look in, to admire and criticise the beautiful 

" Various field sports, of which foot-ball is the chief, 
are indulged in during the Onam festival. To quote 
Paulinus once more, the men, particularly those who 
are young, form themselves into parties, and shoot at 
each other with arrows. These arrows are blunted, but 
exceedingly strong, and are discharged with such force 
that a considerable number are generally wounded on 
both sides. These games have a great likeness to the 
Ceralia and Juvenalia of the ancient Greeks and 

* January, 1S99. 

NAYAR 374 

In connection with bows and arrows, Mr. Fawcett 
writes that " I once witnessed a very interesting game 
called eitu (eiththu), played by the Nayars in the south- 
ern portion of Kurumbranad during the ten days 
preceding Onam. There is a semi-circular stop-butt, 
about two feet in the highest part, the centre, and sloping 
to the ground at each side. The players stand 25 to 
30 yards before the concave side of it, one side of the 
players to the right, the other to the left. There is no 
restriction of numbers as to sides. Each player is armed 
with a little bow made of bamboo, about 18 inches in 
length, and arrows, or what answer for arrows, these 
being no more than pieces of the midrib of the cocoanut 
palm leaf, roughly broken off, leaving a little bit of the 
end to take the place of the feather. In the centre of the 
stop-butt, on the ground, is placed the target, a piece of 
the heart of the plantain tree, about 3 inches in diameter, 
pointed at the top, in which is stuck a small stick 
convenient for lifting the cheppu, as the mark which is 
the immediate objective of the players is called. They 
shoot indiscriminately at the mark, and he who hits it 
(the little arrows shoot straight, and stick in readily) 
carries off all the arrows lying on the ground. Each side 
strives to secure all the arrows, and to deprive the other 
side of theirs — a sort of 'beggar my neighbour.' He 
who hits the mark last takes all the arrows ; that is, he 
who hits it, and runs and touches the mark before any 
one else hits it. As I stood watching, it happened 
several times that as many as four arrows hit the mark, 
while the youth who had hit first was running the 25 
yards to touch the cheppu. Before he could touch it, as 
many as four other arrows had struck it, and, of course, 
he who hit it last and touched the mark secured all the 
arrows for his side. The game is accompanied by much 

375 nAyar 

shouting, gesticulation and laughter. Those returning, 
after securing a large number of arrows, turned somer- 
saults, and expressed their joy in saltatory motions." In 
a note on this game with bows and arrows in Kurum- 
branad, Mr, E. F. Thomas writes that " the players 
form themselves into two sides, which shoot alternately 
at the mark. Beside the mark stand representatives of 
the two sides. When the mark is hit by a member of 
either side, on his representative shouting ' Run, man,' 
he runs up the lists. His object is to seize the mark 
before it is hit by any one belonging to the other side. If 
he can do this, his side takes all the arrows which have been 
shot, and are sticking in the stop -butt. If, on the other 
hand, the mark is hit by the other side before he reaches 
it, he may not seize the mark. A member of the other side 
runs up in his turn to seize the mark if possible before 
it is hit again by the first side. If he can do this, he 
takes out, not all the arrows, but only the two which are 
sticking in the mark. If, while number two is running, 
the mark is hit a third time, a member of the first side 
runs up, to seize the mark if possible. The rule is that 
one or three hits take all the arrows in the stop-butt, 
two or four only the arrows sticking in the mark. Great 
excitement is shown by all who take part in the game, 
which attracts a number of spectators. The game is 
played every fortnight by Nayars, Tiyans, Mappillas, and 
others. I am told that it is a very old one, and is dying 
out. I saw it at Naduvanur." 

The Onam games in the south-east of Malabar, in 
the neighbourhood of Palghat, are said by Mr, Fawcett 
to be of a rough character, " the tenants of certain jenmis 
(landlords) turning out each under their own leader, and 
engaging in sham fights, in which there is much rough 
play. Here, too, is to be seen a kind of boxing, which 

NAYAR 376 

would seem to be a relic of the days of the Roman 
pugiles using the cestus in combat. The position taken 
up by the combatants is much the same as that of the 
pugiles. The Romans were familiar with Malabar from 
about 30 B.C. to the decline of their power.* We may 
safely assume that the 3,000 lbs. of pepper, which Alaric 
demanded as part of the ransom of Rome when he 
besieged the city in the fifth century, came from 
Malabar." Swinging on the uzhinjal, and dancing to the 
accompaniment of merry songs, are said to be charac- 
teristic amusements of the womankind during Onam 
festival, and, on the Patinaram Makam, or sixteenth day 
after Thiruvonam. This amusement is indulged in by 
both sexes. It is noted by Mr. Fawcett that " the cloths 
given as Onam presents are yellow, or some part of them 
is yellow. There must be at least a yellow stripe or a 
small patch of yellow in a corner, which suggests a relic 
of sun-worship in a form more pronounced than that 
which obtains at present. It is a harvest festival, about 
the time when the first crop of paddy (rice) is harvested." 
Concerning another important festival in Malabar, 
the Thiruvathira, Mr. T. K. Gopal Panikkar writes as 
follows. t " Thiruvathira is one of the three great 
national occasions of Malabar. It generally comes off 
in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December or Janu- 
ary) on the day called the Thiruvathira day. It is 
essentially a festival in which females are almost exclu- 
sively concerned, and lasts for but a single day. The 
popular conception of it is that it is in commemoration 
of the death of Kamadevan, the Cupid of our national 
mythology. As recorded in the old Puranas, Kamadevan 

• See Thurston. Catalogue of Roman, etc., Coins, Madras Government 
Museum, 2nd cd., 1894. 

t Malabar and its P'olk, 1900. 



377 nAyar 

was destroyed in the burning fire of the third eye of Siva, 
one of the chief members of our divine Trinity. Hence 
he is now supposed to have only an ideal or rather 
spiritual existence, and thus he exerts a powerful 
influence upon the lower passions of human nature. 
The memory of this unhappy tragedy is still kept 
alive among us, particularly the female section, by 
means of the annual celebration of this important 
festival. About a week before the day, the festival 
practically opens. At about four in the morning, every 
young female of Nair families with pretensions to 
decency gets out of bed, and takes her bath in a 
tank. Usually a fairly large number of these young 
ladies collect at the tank for the purpose. Then all, or 
almost all of them, plunge in the water, and begin to 
take part in the singing that is presently to follow. One 
of them then leads off by means of a peculiar rhythmic 
song, chiefly pertaining to Cupid. This singing is simul- 
taneously accompanied by a curious sound produced 
with her hand on the water. The palm of the left hand 
is closed, and kept immediately underneath the surface 
of the water. Then the palm of the other is forcibly 
brought down in a slanting direction, and struck against 
its surface, so that the water is completely ruffled, and is 
splashed in all directions, producing a loud deep noise. 
This process is continuously prolonged, together with 
the singing. One stanza is now over along with the 
sound, and then the leader stops awhile for the others to 
follow in her wake. This being likewise over, she caps 
her first stanza with another, at the same time beating 
on the water, and so on until the conclusion of the song. 
All of them make a long pause, and then begin another. 
The process goes on until the peep of dawn, when 
they rub themselves dry, and come home to dress 

nAyar z7^ 

themselves in the neatest and grandest possible attire. 
They also darken the fringes of their eyelids with a 
sticky preparation of soot mixed up with a little oil or 
ghee, and sometimes with a superficial coating of 
antimony powder. They also wear white, black, or red 
marks down the middle of their foreheads. They also 
chew betel, and thus redden their mouths and lips. 
They then proceed to the enjoyment of another 
prominent item of pleasure, viz., swinging to and fro on 
what is usually known as an uzhinjal, or swing made 
of bamboo. On the festival day, after the morning bath 
is over, they take a light meal, and in the noon the 
family dinner is voraciously attacked, the essential and 
almost universal ingredients being ordinary ripe plantain 
fruits, and a delicious preparation of arrowroot powder 
purified and mixed with jaggery (crude sugar) or sugar, 
and also cocoanut. Then, till evening, dancing and 
merry-making are ceaselessly indulged in. The husband 
population are inexcusably required to be present in the 
wives' houses before evening, as they are bound to do on 
the Onam and Vishu occasions. Failure to do this is 
looked upon as a step, or rather the first step, on the 
part of the defaulting husband towards a final separa- 
tion or divorce from the wife. Despite the rigour of 
the bleak December season during which the festival 
commonly falls, heightened inevitably by the constant 
blowing of the cold east wind upon their moistened 
frames, these lusty maidens derive considerable pleasure 
from their early baths, and their frolics in the water. 
The biting cold of the season, which makes their persons 
shiver and quiver, becomes to them in the midst of all 
their ecstatic frolics an additional source of pleasure. 
The two items described above, viz., the swinging and 
beating of the water, have each their own distinctive 

379 NAYAR 

significance. The former typifies the attempt which 
these maidens make in order to hang- themselves on 
these instruments, and destroy their Hves in consequence 
of the lamented demise of their sexual deity Kamadevan. 
The beating on the water symbolises their beating their 
chests in expression of their deep-felt sorrow caused by 
their Cupid's death." 

Yet another important festival, Vishu, is thus 
described by Mr. Gopal Panikkar. " Vishu, like the 
Onam and Thiruvathira festivals, is a remarkable event 
among us. Its duration is limited to one day. The ist 
of Metam (some day in April) is the unchangeable day, 
on which it falls. It is practically the astronomical new 
year's day. This was one of the periods when, in olden 
days, the subjects of ruling princes or authorities in 
Malabar, under whom their lots were cast, were expected 
to bring their new year's offerings to such princes. 
Failure to comply with the customary and time- 
consecrated demands was visited with royal displeasure, 
resulting in manifold varieties of oppression. The 
British Government, finding this was a great burden, 
pressing rather heavily upon the people, obtained as 
far back as 1790 a binding promise from those Native 
Princes that such exactions of presents from the people 
should be discontinued thereafter. Consequently the 
festival is now^ shorn of much of its ancient sanctity and 
splendour. But suggestive survivals of the same are 
still to be found in the presents, which tenants and 
dependents bring to leading families on the day previous 
to the Vishu. Being the commencement of a new year, 
native superstition surrounds it with a peculiar solemn 
importance. It is believed that a man's whole prosperity 
in life depends upon the nature, auspicious or otherwise, 
of the first things that he happens to fix his eyes upon 

NAYAR 380 

on this particLilcir morning. According to Nair, and 
even general Hindu mythology, there are certain objects 
which possess an inherent inauspicious character. For 
instance, ashes, firewood, oil, and a lot of similar 
objects are inauspicious ones, which will render him who 
chances to notice them first fare badly in life for the 
whole year, and their obnoxious effects will be removed 
only on his seeing holy things, such as reigning princes, 
oxen, cows, gold, and such like, on the morning of the 
next new year. The effects of the sight of these various 
materials are said to apply even to the attainment of 
objects by a man starting on a special errand, who 
happens for the first time to look at them after starting. 
However, with this view, almost every family religiously 
takes care to prepare the most sightworthy objects on 
the new year morning. Therefore, on the previous 
night they prepare what is known as a kani. A small 
circular bell-metal vessel is taken, and some holy objects 
are systematically arranged inside it. A grandha or old 
book made of palmyra leaves, a gold ornament, a new- 
washed cloth, some * unprofitably gay ' flowers of the 
konna tree [Cassia Fistula), a measure of rice, a so-called 
looking-glass made of bell-metal, and a few other things, 
are all tastefully arranged in the vessel, and placed in 
a prominent room inside the house. On either side 
of this vessel two brass or bell-metal lamps, filled 
with cocoanut oil clear as diamond sparks, are kept 
burning, and a small plank of wood, or some other 
seat, is placed in front of it. At about 5 o'clock in the 
morning of the day, some one who has got up first 
wakes up the inmates, both male and female, of the 
house, and takes them blindfolded, so that they may 
not gaze at anything else, to the seat near the kani. The 
members are seated, one after another, in the seat, and 

381 NAYAR 

are then, and not till then, asked to open their eyes, and 
carefully look at the kani. Then each is made to look 
at some venerable member of the house, or sometimes 
a stranger even. This over, the little playful urchins 
of the house begin to fire small crackers, which they 
have bought and stored for the occasion. The kani 
is then taken round the place from house to house for 
the benefit of the poor families, which cannot afford to 
prepare such a costly adornment. With the close of the 
noise of the crackers, the morning breaks, and prepa- 
rations are begun for the morning meal. This meal is 
in some parts confined to rice kanji (gruel) with a grand 
appendage of other eatable substances, and in others to 
ordinary rice and its accompaniments, but in either case 
on a grand scale. Immediately the day dawns, the heads 
of the families give to almost all the junior members and 
servants of the household, and to wives and children, 
money presents to serve as their pocket-money. In the 
more numerically large families, similar presents are 
also made by the heads of particular branches of the 
same family to their juniors, children, wives and servants. 
One other item connected with the festival deserves 
mention. On the evening of the previous day, about 
four or five o'clock, most well-to-do families distribute 
paddy or rice, as the case may be, in varying quantities, 
and some other accessories to the family workmen, 
whether they live on the family estates or not. In 
return for this, these labourers bring with them for 
presentation the fruits of their own labours, such as 
vegetables of divers sorts, cocoanut oil, jaggery, plan- 
tains, pumpkins, cucumbers, brinjals (fruit of Solanum 
Melongena), etc., according as their respective circum- 
stances permit. With the close of the midday meal 
the festival practically concludes. In some families, after 


the meal is over, dancing and games of various kinds 
are carried on, which contribute to the enhancement of 
the pleasantries incidental to the festival. As on other 
prominent occasions, card-playing and other games are 
also resorted to.'' 

On the subject of religion, Mr. Fawcett writes as 
follows. " No Nayar, unless one utterly degraded by 
the exigencies of a Government office, would eat his 
food without having bathed and changed his cloth. It 
is a rule seldom broken that every Nayar goes to the 
temple to pray at least once a day after having bathed ; 
generally twice a day. The mere approach anywhere 
near his vicinity of a Cheruman, a Pulayan, or any 
inferior being, even a Tiyan, as he walks to his house 
from the temple, cleansed in body and mind, his marks 
newly set on his forehead with sandal-wood paste, is 
pollution, and he must turn and bathe again ere he 
can enter his house and eat. Buchanan tells us that in 
his time, about a century ago, the man of inferior caste 
thus approaching a Nayar would be cut down instantly 
with a sword ; there would be no words. Now that 
the people of India are inconvenienced with an Arms 
Act which inhibits sword play of this kind, and with a 
law system under which high and low are rated alike, 
the Nayar has to content himself with an imperious 
grunt-like shout for the way to be cleared for him 
as he stalks on imperturbed. His arrogance is not 
diminished, but he cannot now show it in quite the 
same way. 

" I will attempt a description of the ceremonial 
observed at the Pishari kavu — the Pishari temple near 
Quilandy on the coast 15 miles north of Calicut, where 
Bhagavati is supposed in vague legend to have slain 
an Asura or gigantic ogre, in commemoration of which 

3^3 nAyar 

event the festival is held yearly to Bhagavati and her 
followers. The festival lasts for seven days. When I 
visited it in 1895, the last day was on the 31st of March. 
Before daybreak of the first day, the ordinary temple 
priest, a Mussad, will leave the temple after having 
swept it and made it clean ; and (also before daybreak) 
five Nambutiris will enter it, bearing with them sudhi 
kalasam. The kalasam is on this occasion made of the 
five products of the cow (panchagavyam), together with 
some water, a few leaves of the banyan tree, and darbha 
grass, all in one vessel. Before being brought to the 
temple, mantrams or magic verses will have been said 
over it. The contents of the vessel are sprinkled all 
about the temple, and a little is put in the well, thus 
purifying the temple and the well. The Nambutiris 
will then perform the usual morning worship, and, either 
immediately after it or very soon afterwards, they leave 
the temple, and the Mussad returns and resumes his 
office. The temple belongs to four taravads, and no 
sooner has it been purified than the Karanavans of 
these four taravads, virtually the joint-owners of the 
temple (known as Uralas) present to the temple servant 
(Pisharodi) the silver flag of the temple, which has been 
in the custody of one of them since the last festival. 
The Pisharodi receives it, and hoists it in front of the 
temple (to the east), thus signifying that the festival has 
begun. While this is being done, emphasis and grandeur 
is given to the occasion by the firing off of miniature 
mortars such as are common at all South Indian festivals. 
After the flag is hoisted, there are hoisted all round the 
temple small flags of coloured cloth. For the next 
few days there is nothing particular to be done beyond 
the procession morning, noon, and night ; the image of 
Bhagavati being carried on an elephant to an orchestra 

NAYAR 384 

of drums, and cannonade of the little mortars. All those 
who are present are supposed to be fed from the temple. 
There is a large crowd. On the morning of the fifth 
day, a man of the washerman (Vannan) caste will 
announce to the neighbours by beat of tom-tom that 
there will be a procession of Bhagavati issuing from the 
gates of the temple, and passing round about. Like all 
those who are in any way connected with the temple, 
this man's office is hereditary, and he lives to a small 
extent on the bounty of the temple, i.e., he holds a little 
land on nominal terms from the temple property, in 
consideration for which he must fulfil certain require- 
ments for the temple, as on occasions of festivals. His 
office also invests him with certain rights in the com- 
munity. In the afternoon of the fifth day, the Vannan 
and a Manutan, the one following the other, bring two 
umbrellas to the temple ; the former bringing one of 
cloth, and the latter one of cadjan (palm leaves). I 
am not sure whether the cloth umbrella has been in 
the possession of the Vannan, but think it has. At all 
events, when he brings it to the temple, it is in thorough 
repair — a condition for which he is responsible. The 
cadjan umbrella is a new one. Following these two as 
they walk solemnly, each with his umbrella, is a large 
crowd. There are processions of Bhagavati on the 
elephant encircling the temple thrice in the morning, at 
noon, and at night. Early on the sixth day, the head- 
man of the Mukkuvans (fishermen), who by virtue of 
his headship is called the Arayan, together with the 
blacksmith and the goldsmith, comes to the temple 
followed by a crowd, but accompanied by no orchestra of 
drums. To the Arayan is given half a sack of rice for 
himself and his followers. A silver umbrella belonging 
to the temple is handed over to him, to be used when 

^^- w 



385 NAYAR 

he comes to the temple again in the evening. To the 
blacksmith is given the temple sword. The goldsmith 
receives the silver umbrella from the Arayan, and 
executes any repairs that may be needful, and, in like 
manner, the blacksmith looks to the sword. In the 
afternoon, the headman of the Tiyans, called the Tandan, 
comes to the temple followed by two of his castemen 
carrying slung on a pole over their shoulders three 
bunches of young cocoanuts — an appropriate offering, the 
Tiyans being those whose ordinary profession is climb- 
ing the cocoanut palm, drawing the toddy, securing the 
cocoanuts, etc. This time there will be loud drumming, 
and a large crowd with the Tandan, and in front of him 
are men dancing, imitating sword play with sticks and 
shields, clanging the shields, pulling at bows as if firing 
off imaginary arrows, the while shouting and yelling 
madly. Then come the blacksmith and the goldsmith 
with the sword. Following comes the Arayan with the 
silver umbrella to the accompaniment of very noisy 
drumming, in great state under a canopy of red cloth held 
lengthways by two men, one before, the other behind. 
The procession of Bhagavati continues throughout the 
night, and ceases at daybreak. These six days of the 
festival are called Vilakku. A word about the drumming. 
The number of instrumentalists increases as the festival 
goes on, and on the last day I counted fifty, all Nayars. 
The instruments were the ordinary tom-tom, a skin 
stretched tight over one side of a circular wooden band, 
about ij feet in diameter and 2 or 3 inches in width, 
and the common long drum much narrower at the ends 
than in the middle ; and there were (I think) a few of 
those narrow in the middle, something like an hour- 
glass cut short at both ends. They are beaten with 
curved drum sticks, thicker at the end held in the hand. 

NAYAR 386 

The accuracy with which they were played on, never a 
wrong note although the rhythm was changed per- 
petually, was truly amazing. And the crescendo and 
diminuendo, from a perfect fury of wildness to the 
gentlest pianissimo, was equally astonishing, especially 
when we consider the fact that there was no visible 
leader of this strange orchestra. Early on the seventh 
and last day, when the morning procession is over, there 
comes to the temple a man of the Panan caste (umbrella- 
makers and devil-dancers). He carries a small cadjan 
umbrella which he has made himself, adorned all round 
the edges with a fringe of the young leaves of the 
cocoanut palm. His approach is heralded and noised 
just as in the case of the others on the previous day. 
The umbrella should have a long handle, and, with it in 
his hand, he performs a dance before the temple. The 
temple is situated within a hollow square enclosure, 
which none in caste below the Nayar is permitted to 
enter. To the north, south, east, and west, there is a 
level entrance into the hollow square, and beyond this 
entrance no man of inferior caste may go. The Panan 
receives about 10 lbs. of raw rice for his performance. 
In the afternoon, a small crowd of Vettuvars come to 
the temple, carrying with them swords, and about ten 
small baskets made of cocoanut palm leaves, containing 
salt. These baskets are carried slung on a pole. The 
use of salt here is obscure.'* I remember a case of a 
Nayar's house having been plundered, the idol knocked 
down, and salt put in the place where it should have 
stood. The act was looked on as most insultine. The 
Vettuvans dance and shout in much excitement, cutting 
their heads with their own swords in their frenzy. Some 

* The Vettuvans were once salt-makers. 

3^7 NAYAR 

of them represent devils or some kind of inferior evil 
spirits, and dance madly under the influence of the 
spirits which they represent. Then comes the Arayan 
as on the previous day with his little procession, and 
lastly comes the blacksmith with the sword. The pro- 
cession in the evening is a great affair. Eight elephants, 
which kept line beautifully, took part in it when I wit- 
nessed it. One of them, very handsomely caparisoned, 
had on its back a priest (Mussad) carrying a sword 
smothered in garlands of red flowers representing the 
goddess. The elephant bearing the priest is bedizened 
on the forehead with two golden discs, one on each 
side of the forehead, and over the centre of the forehead 
hangs a long golden ornament. These discs on the 
elephant's forehead are common in Malabar in affairs of 
ceremony. The Mappilla poets are very fond of com- 
paring a beautiful girl's breasts to these cup-like discs. 
The elephant bears other jewels, and over his back is a 
large canopy- like red cloth richly wrought. Before the 
elephant walked a Nayar carrying in his right hand 
in front of him a sword of the kind called nandakam 
smeared with white (probably sandal) paste. To its 
edge, at intervals of a few inches, are fastened tiny bells, 
so that, when it is shaken, there is a general jingle. 
Just before the procession begins, there is something 
for the Tiyans to do. Four men of this caste having 
with them pukalasams (flower kalasams), and five 
having jannakalasams, run along the west, north, and 
east sides of the temple outside the enclosure, shouting 
and making a noise more like the barking of dogs than 
anything else. The kalasams contain arrack (liquor), 
which is given to the temple to be used in the cere- 
monies. Members of certain families only are allowed 
to perform in this business, and for what they do each 
v-25 B 

NAYAR 3^^ 

man receives five edangalis of rice from the temple, and 
a small piece of the ilesh of the goat which is sacrificed 
later. These nine men eat only once a day during the 
festival ; they do no work, remaining quietly at home 
unless when at the temple ; they cannot approach any one 
of caste lower than their own ; they cannot cohabit with 
women ; and they cannot see a woman in menstruation 
during these days. A crowd of Tiyans join more or 
less in this, rushing about and barking like dogs, making 
a hideous noise. They too have kalasams, and, when 
they are tired of rushing and barking, they drink the 
arrack in them. These men are always under a vow. 
In doing what they do, they fulfil their vow for the 
benefit they have already received from the goddess — 
cure from sickness as a rule. To the west of the 
temple is a circular pit — it was called the fire-pit, but 
there was no fire in it — and this pit all the Tiyan women 
of the neighbourhood circumambulate, passing from 
west round by north, three times, holding on the head 
a pewter plate, on which are a little rice, bits of plantain 
leaves and cocoanut, and a burning wick. As each 
woman completes her third round, she stands for a 
moment at the western side, facing east, and throws the 
contents of the plate into the pit. She then goes to the 
western gate of the enclosure, and puts down her plate 
for an instant while she makes profound salaam to the 
goddess ere going away. Now the procession starts 
out from the temple, issuing from the northern gate, 
and for a moment confronts a being so strange that he 
demands description. Of the many familiar demons of 
the Malayfdis, the two most intimate are Kuttichchattan 
and Gulikan, who are supposed to have assisted Kali 
(who is scarcely the Kali of Brahmanism) in overcom- 
ing the Asura, and on the occasion of this festival these 

389 NAYAR 

demons dance before her. Gulikan is represented by 
the Vannan and Kuttichchattan by the Manutan who 
have been already mentioned, and who are under Hke 
restrictions with the nine Tiyans. I saw poor Guhkan 
being made up, the operation occupying five or six 
hours or more before his appearance. I asked who 
he was, and was told he was a devil. He looked mild 
enough, but then his make-up had just begun. He was 
lying fiat on the ground close by the north-east entrance 
of the enclosure, where presently he was to dance, a man 
painting his face to make it hideous and frightful. This 
done, the hair was dressed ; large bangles were put 
on his arms, covering them almost completely from the 
shoulder to the wrist ; and his head and neck were 
swathed and decorated. A wooden platform arrange- 
ment, from which hung a red ornamented skirt, was 
fastened to his hips. There was fastened to his back 
an elongated Prince of Wales' feathers arrangement, 
the top of which reached five feet above his head, and 
he was made to look like nothing human. Kuttich- 
chattan was treated in much the same manner. As the 
procession issues from the northern gate of the temple, 
where it is joined by the elephants, Gulikan stands 
in the northern entrance of the enclosure (which he 
cannot enter), facing it, and a halt is made for three 
minutes, while Gulikan dances. The poor old man who 
represented this fearful being, grotesquely terrible in his 
wonderful metamorphosis, must have been extremely 
glad when his dance was concluded, for the mere weight 
and uncomfortable arrangement of his paraphernalia 
must have been extremely exhausting. It was with 
difficulty that he could move at all, let alone dance. 
The procession passes round by east, where, at the 
entrance of the enclosure, Kuttichchattan gives his 

nAyar 390 

dance, round by south to the westward, and, leaving 
the enclosure, proceeds to a certain banyan tree, under 
which is a high raised platform built up with earth 
and stones. Preceding the procession at a distance of 
fifty yards are the nine men of the Tiyan caste men- 
tioned already, carrying kalasams on their heads, and a 
crowd of women of the same caste, each one carrying 
a pewter plate, larger than the plates used when encir- 
cling the fire pit, on which are rice, etc., and the burning 
wick as before. The plate and its contents are on 
this occasion, as well as before, called talapoli. I could 
not make out that anything in particular is done at the 
banyan tree, and the procession soon returns to the 
temple, the nine men and the Tiyan women following, 
carrying their kalasams and talapoli. On the way, a 
number of cocks are given in sacrifice by people under a 
vow. In the procession are a number of devil-dancers, 
garlanded with white Mowers of the pagoda tree mixed 
with red, jumping, gesticulating, and shouting, in an 
avenue of the crowd in front of the elephant bearing the 
sword. The person under a vow holds the cock towards 
one of these devil-dancers, who, never ceasing his gyra- 
tions and contortions, presently seizes its head, wrings 
it off, and flings it high in the air. The vows which 
are fulfilled by this rude decapitation of cocks have been 
made in order to bring about cure for some ailment. 
The procession passes through the temple yard from west 
to east, and proceeds half a mile to a banyan tree, under 
which, like the other, there is a high raised platform. 
When passing by the temple, the Tiyan women empty the 
contents of their plates in the fire pit as before, and the 
nine men hand over the arrack in their kalasams to 
the temple servants. Let me note here the curious dis- 
tribution of the rice which is heaped in the fire pit. 

391 NAYAR 

Two-thirds of it go to the four Tiyans who carried the 
pukalasams, and one-third to the five who carried the 
jannakalasams. Returning to the procession, we find 
it at the raised platform to the east of the temple. On 
this platform have been placed already an ordinary bam- 
boo quart-like measure of paddy (unhusked rice), and 
one of rice, each covered with a plantain leaf. The princi- 
pal devil-dancer takes a handful of rice and paddy, and 
flings it all around. The procession then visits in turn the 
gates of the gardens of the four owners of the temple. 
At each is a measure of rice and a measure of paddy 
covered with plantain leaves, with a small lamp or 
burning wick beside them, and the devil-dancer throws 
a handful towards the house. The procession then finds 
its way to a tree to the west, under which, on the 
platform, is now a measure of paddy and a lamp. Some 
Brahmans repeat mantrams, and the elephant, the priest 
on his back and the sword in his hand, all three are 
supposed to tremble violently. Up to this time the 
procession has moved leisurely at a very slow march. 
Now, starting suddenly, it proceeds at a run to the 
temple, where the priest descends quickly from the 
elephant, and is taken inside the temple by the Mussad 
priests. He, who has been carrying the sword all this 
time, places it on the sill of the door of the room in which 
it is kept for worship, and prostrates before it. The 
sword then shakes itself for fifteen minutes, until the 
chief priest stays its agitation by sprinkling on it some 
tirtam fluid made sacred by having been used for anointing 
the image of the goddess. This done, the chief amongst 
the devil-dancers will, with much internal tumult as well 
as outward convolutions, say in the way of oracle whether 
the devi has been pleased with the festival in her honour, 
or not. As he pronounces this oracular utterance, he falls 

nAyar 392 

in a sort of swoon, and everyone, excepting only the 
priests and temple servants, leaves the place as quickly 
as possible. The sheds which have been erected for 
temporary habitation around the temple will be quickly 
demolished, and search will be made round about to 
make sure that no one remains near while the mystic rite 
of sacrifice is about to be done. When the whole place 
has been cleared, the four owners of the temple, who 
have stayed, hand over each a goat with a rope tied 
round its neck to the chief priest, and, as soon as they 
have done so, they depart. There will remain now in the 
temple three Mussads, one drummer (Marayar), and two 
temple servants. The reason for all this secrecy seems 
to lie in objection to let it be known generally that any 
sacrifice is done. I was told again and again that there 
was no such thing. It is a mystic secret. The Mussad 
priests repeat mantrams over the goats for an hour as a 
preliminary to the sacrifice. Then the chief priest dons 
a red silk cloth, and takes in his hand a chopper-like 
sword in shape something like a small bill-hook, while 
the goats are taken to a certain room within the temple. 
This room is rather a passage than a room, as there are 
to it but two walls running north and south. The goats 
are made to stand in turn in the middle of this room, 
facing to the south. The chief priest stands to the east 
of the goat, facing west, as he cuts off its head with the 
chopper. He never ceases his mantrams, and the goats 
never flinch — the effect of the mantrams. Several cocks 
are then sacrificed in the same place, and over the 
carcasses of goats and cocks there is sprinkled charcoal 
powder mixed in water (karutta gurusi) and saffron 
(turmeric) powder and lime-water (chukanna gurusi), the 
flow of mantrams never ceasing the while. The three 
Mussads only see the sacrifice — a part of the rite which 






393 NAYAR 

is supremely secret. Equally so is that which follows. 
The carcass of one goat will be taken out of the temple 
by the northern door to the north side of the temple, 
and from this place one of the temple servants, who is 
blindfolded, drags it three times round the temple, the 
Mussads following closely, repeating their mantrams, the 
drummer in front beating his drum softly with his fingers. 
The drummer dare not look behind him, anddoes not know 
what is being done. After the third round, the drummer 
and the temple servant go away, and the three Mussads 
cook some of the (lesh of the goats and one or two of 
the cocks (or a part of one) with rice. This rice, when 
cooked, is taken to the kavu (grove) to the north of the 
temple, and there the Mussads again ply their mantrams. 
As each mantram is ended, a handful of saffron (turmeric) 
powder is flung on the rice, and all the time the drummer, 
who by this time has returned, keeps up an obligato 
pianissimo with his drum, using his fingers. He faces 
the north, and the priests face the south. Presently the 
priests run (not walk) once round the temple, carrying 
the cooked rice, and scattering it wide as they go, repeat- 
ing mantrams. They enter the temple, and remain 
within until daybreak. No one can leave the temple 
until morning comes. Before daybreak, the temple is 
thoroughly swept and cleaned, and then the Mussads go 
out, and the five Nambutiris again enter before sunrise, 
and perform the ordinary worship thrice in the day, for 
this day only. The next morning, the Mussad priests 
return and resume their duties. Beyond noting that the 
weirdness of the human tumult, busy in its religious 
effusion, is on the last night enhanced by fireworks, 
mere description of the scene of the festival will not be 
attempted, and such charming adjuncts of it as the 
gallery of pretty Nayar women looking on from the 

NAYAR 394 

garden fence at the seething procession in the lane below 
must be left to the imagination. It will have been 
noticed that the Nambutiris hold aloof from the festival ; 
they purify the temple before and after, but no more. 
The importance attached to the various offices of those 
who are attached to the temple by however slender 
a thread, was illustrated by a rather amusing squabble 
between two of the Mukkuvans, an uncle and nephew, 
as to which of them should receive the silver umbrella 
from the temple, and bear it to the house of the goldsmith 
to be repaired. During the festival, one of them made a 
rapid journey to the Zamorin (about fifty miles distant), 
paid some fees, and established himself as the senior who 
had the right to carry the umbrella. 

" An important local festival is that held near Palghat, 
in November, in the little suburb Kalpati inhabited 
entirely by Pattar Brahmans from the east. But it is not 
a true Malayali festival, and it suffices to mention its 
existence, for it in no way represents the religion of the 
Nayar. The dragging of cars, on which are placed the 
images of deities, common everywhere from the temple 
of Jagganath at Puri in Orissa to Cape Comorin, is quite 
unknown in Malabar, excepting only at Kalpati, which 
is close to the eastern frontier of Malabar. 

" Near Chowghat (Chavagat), about 30 miles to the 
southward of Calicut, on the backwater, at a place called 
Guruvayur, is a very important temple, the property of 
the Zamorin, yielding a very handsome revenue. I visited 
the festival on one occasion, and purchase was made of 
a few offerings such as are made to the temple in satis- 
faction of vows — a very rude representation of an infant 
in silver, a hand, a leg, an ulcer, a pair of eyes, and, most 
curious of all, a silver string which represents a man, the 
giver. Symbolization of the offering of self is made by 

395 nAyar 

a silver string as long as the giver is tall. Goldsmiths 
working in silver and gold are to be seen just outside the 
gate of the temple, ready to provide at a moment's notice 
the object any person intends to offer, in case he is not 
already in possession of his votive offering. 7'he subject 
of vows can be touched on but incidentally here. A vow 
is made by one desiring offspring, to have his hand or leg 
cured, to have an ulcer cured, to fulfil any desire what- 
soever, and he decides in solemn affirmation to himself 
to give a silver image of a child, a silver leg, and so on, 
in the event of his having fulfilment of his desire. 

" A true Malayali festival is that held at Kottiyur in 
North Malabar, in the forest at the foot of the Wynad 
hills rising 3,000 to 5,000 feet from the sides of the little 
glade where it is situated. It is held in July during the 
height of the monsoon rain. Though it is a festival for 
high and low, these do not mix at Kottiyur. The Nayars 
go first, and after a few days, the Nayars having done, 
the Tiyans, and so on. A curious feature of it is that the 
people going to attend it are distinctly rowdy, feeling 
that they have a right to abuse in the vilest and filthiest 
terms everyone they see on the way — perhaps a few days' 
march. And not only do they abuse to their hearts' 
content in their exuberant excitement, but they use 
personal violence to person and property all along the 
road. They return like lambs. At Kottiyur one sees 
a temple of Isvara, there called Perumal (or Perumal 
Isvara) by the people, a low thatched building forming 
a hollow square, in the centre of which is the shrine, 
which I was not permitted to see. There were some 
Nambutiri priests, who came out, and entered into 
conversation. The festival is not held at the temple, but 
in the forest about a quarter of a mile distant. This spot 
is deemed extremely sacred and dreadful. There was, 

nAyar 396 

however, no objection to myself and my companions 
visiting it ; we were simply begged not to go. There 
were with us a Nayar and a Kurichchan, and the faces 
of these men, when we proceeded to wade through the 
little river, knee-deep and about thirty yards wide, in 
order to reach the sacred spot, expressed anxious wonder. 
They dared not acompany us across. No one (excepting, 
of course, a Muhammadan) would go near the place, 
unless during the few days of the festival, when it was 
safe ; at all other times any man going to the place is 
destroyed instantly. Nothing on earth would have 
persuaded the Nayar or the Kurichchiyan to cross that 
river. Orpheus proceeding to find his Eurydice, Dante 
about to enter the Inferno, had not embarked on so 
fearful a journey. About a hundred yards beyond the 
stream, we came upon the sacred spot, a little glade in 
the forest. In the centre of the glade is a circle of 
piled up stones, 12 feet in diameter. In the middle of 
the pile of stones is a rude lingam. Running east from 
the circle of the lingam is a long shed, in the middle of 
which is a long raised platform of brick, used apparently 
as a place for cooking. Around the lingam there were 
also thatched sheds, in which the people had lodged 
during the festival. Pilgrims going to this festival 
carry with them offerings of some kind. Tiyans take 
young cocoanuts. Every one who returns brings with 

him a swish made of split young leaves of the cocoanut 

1 " 

Of the Kottiyur festival, the following account is 

given in the Gazetteer of Malabar. "The Nambudiri 

priests live in a little wayside temple at Kottiyur, but 

the true shrine is a quarter of a mile away in the forest 

across one of the feeder streams of the Valarpattanam 

river. For eleven months in the year, the scene is 


397 NAyar 

inconceivably desolate and dreary ; but during the month 
Edavam (May- June) upwards of 50,000 Nayars and 
Tiyans from all parts of Malabar throng the shrine for 
the twenty-eight days of the annual festival. During the 
rest of the year, the temple is given up to the revels of 
Siva and Parvati, and the impious Hindu who dares to 
intrude is consumed instantly to ashes. The two great 
ceremonies are the Neyyattam and the Elanirattam, the 
pouring of ghee (clarified butter) and the pouring of the 
milk of the green cocoanut. The former is performed 
by the Nayars, who attend the festival first, and the 
latter by Tiyans. In May, all roads lead to Kottiyur, 
and towards the middle of the month the ghee pourers, 
as the Nayar pilgrims are called, who have spent the 
previous four weeks in fasting and purificatory rites, 
assemble in small shrines subordinate to the Kottiyur 
temple. Thence, clad in white, and bearing each 
upon his head a pc^ of ghee, they set forth in large 
bodies headed by a Itader. At Manattana the pilgrims 
from all parts of Malabar meet, and thence to Kottiyur 
the procession is unbroken. However long their jour- 
ney, the pilgrims must eat only once, and the more filthy 
their language, the more orthodox is their conduct. 
As many as five thousand pots of ghee are poured over 
the lingam every year. After the Neyyattam ceremony, 
the Nayars depart, and it is the turn of the Tiyans. 
Their preparations are similar to those of the Nayars, 
and their language en route is even more startling. 
Eruvatti near Kadirur is the pla^e where most of them 
assemble for their pilgrimage, and their green cocoanuts 
are presented gratis by the country people as an offering 
to the temple. The Elanirattam ceremony begins at 
midnight, and the pilgrims heap up their cocoanuts in 
front of the shrine continuously till the evening of the 

nAyar 398 

same day. Each Tiyan then marches thrice round the 
heap, and falls prostrate before the lingam ; and a certain 
Nayar sub-caste removes the husks preparatory to the 
spilling of the milk. The festival finally closes with a 
mysterious ceremony, in which ghee and mantrams play 
a great part, performed for two days consecutively by 
the presiding Nambiidiri, and Kottiyur is then deserted 
for another year." 

" A shrine," Mr. Fawcett continues, " to which the 
Malayalis, Nayars included, resort is that of Subramania 
at Palni in the north-west corner of the Madura district 
about a week's march from the confines of Malabar near 
Palghat. Not only are vows paid to this shrine, but men, 
letting their hair grow for a year after their father's 
death, proceed to have it cut there. The plate shows 
an ordinary Palni pilgrim. The arrangement which he 
is carrying is called a kavadi. There are two kinds of 
kavadi, a milk kavadi containing milk, and a fish kavadi 
containing fish, in a pot. The vow^ may be made in 
respect of either, each being appropriate to certain 
circumstances. When the time comes near for the 
pilgrim to start for Palni, he dresses in reddish orange 
cloths, shoulders his kavadi, and starts out. Together 
with a man ringing a bell, and perhaps one with a 
tom-tom, with ashes on his face, he assumes the role 
of a begraar. The well-to-do are inclined to reduce 
the beggar period to the minimum ; but a beggar every 
votary must be, and as a beggar he goes to Palni in all 
humbleness and humiliation, and there he fulfils his 
vow, leaves his kavadi and his hair, and a small sum of 
money. Though the individuals about to be noticed 
were not Nayars, their cases illustrate very well the 
religious idea of the Nayar as expressed under certain 
circumstances, for between the Nayars and these there 

399 NAYAR 

is in this respect little if any difference. It was at Guru- 
vayur in November, 1895. On a high raised platform 
under a peepul tree were a number of people under 
vows, bound for Palni. A boy of 14 had suffered as a 
child from epilepsy, and seven years ago his father vowed 
on his behalf that, if he were cured, he would make the 
pilgrimage to Palni. He wore a string of beads round 
his neck, and a like string on his right arm. These 
were in some way connected with the vow. His head 
was bent, and he sat motionless under his kavadi, 
leaning on the bar, which, when he carried it, rested on 
his shoulder. He could not go to Palni until it was 
revealed to him in a dream when he was to start. He 
had waited for this dream seven years, subsisting on 
roots (yams, etc.), and milk — no rice. Now he had 
had the long-looked -for dream, and was about to start. 
Another pilgrim was a man wearing an oval band of 
silver over the lower portion of the forehead, almost 
covering his eyes ; his tongue protruding beyond the 
teeth, and kept in position by a silver skewer through it. 
The skewer was put in the day before, and was to be 
left in for forty days. He had been fasting for two years. 
He was much under the influence of his S'od, and 
whacking incessantly at a drum in delirious excitement. 
Several of the pilgrims had a handkerchief tied over 
the mouth, they being under a vow of silence. One 
poor man wore the regular instrument of silence, the 
mouth-lock — a wide silver band over the mouth, and a 
skewer piercing both cheeks. He sat patiently in a 
nice tent-like affair, about three feet high. People fed 
him with milk, etc., and he made no effort to procure 
food, relying merely on what was given him. The use 
of the mouth-lock is common with the Nayars when 
they assume the pilgrim's robes and set out for Palni ; 

nAyar 400 

and I have often seen many of them garbed and mouth- 
locked, going off on a pilgrimage to that place. 
Pilgrims generally go in crowds under charge of a 
priestly guide, one who, having made a certain number 
of journeys to the shrine, wears a peculiar sash and 
other gear. They call themselves pujaris, and are quite 
mi fait with all the ceremonial prior to the journey, as 
well as with the exigencies of the road. As I stood 
there, one of these pujaris stood up amidst the 
recumbent crowd. He raised his hands towards the 
temple a little to the we?.t, and then spread out his 
hands as if invoking a blessing on the people around 
him. Full of religious fervour, he was (apparently at 
any rate) unconscious of all but the spiritual need of 
his flock. 

" Brief mention must be made of the festival held 
at Kodungallur near Cranganore in the northernmost 
corner of the Cochin State, as it possesses some strange 
features peculiar to Malabar, and is much frequented 
by the Nayars. I have been disappointed in obtaining 
particulars of the festival, so make the following excerpt 
from Logan's Manual of Malabar. ' It takes the people 
in great crowds from their homes. The whole country 
near the lines of march rings with the shouts " Nada- 
a Nada-a " of the pilgrims to the favourite shrine. Of 
what takes place when the pilgrims reach this spot per- 
haps the less said the better. In their passage up to 
the shrine, the cry of " Nada-a Nada-a" (march, march 
away) is varied by terms of unmeasured abuse levelled 
at the goddess (a Bhagavati) of the shrine. This abu- 
sive language is supposed to be acceptable to her. 
On arrival at the shrine, they desecrate it in every 
conceivable way, believing that this too is acceptable ; 
they throw stones and filth, howling volleys of 


opprobrium at her house. The chief of the fisherman 
caste, styled KuH Muttatta Arayan, has the privilege of 
being the first to begin the work of polluting the Bhoot 
or shrine. Into other particulars it is unnecessary 
to enter. Cocks are slaughtered and sacrificed. The 
worshipper gets flowers only, and no holy water after 
paying his vows. Instead of water, he proceeds outside 
and drinks arrack or toddy, which an attendant Nayar 
serves out. All castes are free to go, including Tiyars 
and low caste people. The temple was originally only 
a Bhoot or holy tree with a platform. The image in 
the temple is said to have been introduced only of 
recent years.' It is a pity Mr. Logan is so reticent. 
My information is that the headman of the Mukkuvans 
opens the festival by solemnly making a faecal deposit 
on the image. Here again there is the same strange 
union of everything that is filthy, abusive, foul and 
irreverent, with every mode of expressing the deepest 
religious feeling." 

Of the cock festival at Cranganore, the following 
account is given by Mr. T. K. Gopal Panikkar * in his 
interesting little book on Malabar and its folk. " In 
the midst of its native charms is situated a temple 
dedicated to Kali, the goddess who presides over the 
infectious diseases, cholera and small-pox. She is a 
virgin goddess, whom no quantity of blood will satisfy. 
The temple is an old-fashioned one, presenting no 
striking architectural peculiarities, l^he priestly classes 
attached to it are not, as usual, Brahmins, but a peculiar 
sect called Adigals, of whom there are but three families 
in the whole of Malabar. The Brahmins are purposely 
excluded from participation in the poojah ceremonies, 

* Malabar and its Folk, Madras, 1900. 

nAyar 402 

lest their extreme sanctity might increase the powers 
of the goddess to a dangerous extent. Poojahs are 
daily offered to her. An annual festival known as the 
Bharani, connected with this goddess, plays a most 
important part in the religious history of Malabar. It 
comes off in the Malayalam month of Meenam (about 
March or April). Pilgrimages undertaken to the temple 
on this occasion are potent enough to safeguard the 
pilgrims, and their friends and relations, from the 
perilous attacks of cholera and small-pox. Hence people 
resort thither annually by thousands from almost all 
parts of Malabar ; and, the more north you go, the 
stronger will you find the hold which the goddess has 
upon the popular imagination. The chief propitia- 
tory offering on the occasion is the sacrifice of 
cocks. In fact, every family makes a point of under- 
taking this sacred mission. People arrange to start 
on it at an auspicious moment, on a fixed day in 
small isolated bodies. Preparations are made for the 
journey. Rice, salt, chillies, curry-stuffs, betel leaves 
and nuts, a little turmeric powder and pepper, and, 
above all, a number of cocks form an almost com- 
plete paraphernalia of the pilgrimage. These are all 
gathered and preserved in separate bundles inside a large 
bag. When the appointed hour comes, they throw this 
bag on their shoulders, conceal their money in their 
girdles, and, with a native-fashioned umbrella in the one 
hand and a walking-stick in the other, they start, each 
from his own house, to meet the brother pilgrims at 
the rendezvous. Here a foreman is selected practically 
by common consent. Then commences the vociferous 
recitation of that series of obscene songs and ballads, 
which characterises the pilgrimage all along. The fore- 
man it is that opens the ball. He is caught up by others 

403 NAYAR 

in equally loud and profuse strains. This is continued 
right up till the beginning of their homeward journey. 
Nobody whom they come across on the way can success- 
fully escape the coarse Billingsgate of these religious 
zealots. Even women are not spared. Perhaps it is in 
their case that the pilgrims wax all the more eloquently 
vulgar. A number of cock's feathers are stuck or tied 
upon the tip of a stick, and with this as a wand they 
begin to dance and pipe in a set style, which is extremely 
revolting to every sense of decency. Some of the pilgrims 
walk all the distance to the temple, while others go by 
boat or other conveyance ; but in neither case do they 
spare any passer-by. Hundreds of gallons of arrack and 
toddy are consumed during the festival. The pilgrims 
reach the temple in their dirty attire. The temple 
premises are crowded to overflowing. The worship of 
the goddess is then commenced. The offerings consist 
of the sacrifice of cocks at the temple altar, turmeric 
powder, but principally of pepper, as also some other 
objects of lesser importance. A particular spot inside 
the temple is set apart for the distribution of what is 
called manjal prasadam (turmeric powder on which 
divine blessings have been invoked). The work of 
doling it out is done by young maidens, who are during 
the process subjected to ceaseless volleys of vile and 
vulgar abuse. Now, leaving out of account the minor 
ceremonies, we come to the principal one, viz., the 
sacrifice of cocks. The popular idea is that the greater 
the number of cocks sacrificed, the greater is the efficacy 
of the pilgrimage. Hence men vie with one another in 
the number of cocks that they carry on the journey. 
The sacrifice is begun, and then there takes place a 
regular scramble for the sanctified spot reserved for this 
butchering ceremony. One man holds a cock by the 
v-26 B 

nAyar 404 

trunk, and another pulls out its neck by the head, and, in 
the twinkling of an eye, by the intervention of a shar- 
pened knife, the head is severed from the trunk. The 
blood then gushes forth in forceful and continuous jets, 
and is poured on a piece of granite specially reserved. 
Then another is similarly slaughtered, and then as many 
as each of the pilgrims can bring. In no length of 
time, the whole of the temple yard is converted into one 
horrible expanse of blood, rendering it too slippery to be 
safely walked over. The piteous cries and death throes of 
the poor devoted creatures greatly intensify the horror of 
the scene. The stench emanating from the blood mixing 
with the nauseating smell of arrack renders the occasion 
all the more revolting. One other higher and more 
acceptable kind of offering requires more than a passing 
mention. When a man is taken ill of any infectious 
disease, his relations generally pray to this goddess for 
his recovery, solemnly covenanting to perform what 
goes by the name of a thulabharum ceremony. This 
consists in placing the patient in one of the scale-pans 
of a huge balance, and weighing him against gold, or 
more generally pepper (and sometimes other substances 
as well), deposited in the other scale-pan. Then this 
weight of the substance is offered to the goddess. This 
is to be performed right in front of the goddess in 
the temple yard. The usual offerings being over, the 
homeward journey of the pilgrims is begun. Though 
the festival is called Bharani, yet all the pilgrims must 
vacate the temple on the day previous to the Bharani 
day. For, from that day onwards, the temple doors are 
all shut up, and, for the next seven days, the whole place 
is given over to the worst depredations of the countless 
demons over whom this blood-thirsty goddess holds 
sway. No human beings can safely remain there, lest 

405 NAYAR 

they might become a prey to these ravenous demons. 
In short, the Bharani day inaugurates a reign of terror 
in the locality, lasting for these seven days. Afterwards, 
all the dirt is removed. The temple is cleansed and 
sanctified, and again left open to public worship. The 
pilgrims return, but not in the same manner in which 
they repaired thither. During the backward journey, 
no obscene songs or expressions are indulged in. 
They are to come back quietly and calmly, without any 
kind of demonstrations. They get back to their respec- 
tive homes, and distribute the sandals and other pujah 
substances to their relations and friends who have 
elected to remain at home ; and the year's pilgrimage 
is brought to a close." 

" The month Karkkatakam," Mr. Fawcett writes, 
" when the Malayalis say the body is cool, is the time 
when, according to custom, the Nayar youths practice 
physical exercises. At Payoli in North Malabar, when 
I was there in 1895, the local instructor of athletics was 
a Paravan, a mason by caste. As he had the adjunct 
Kurup to his name, it took some time to discover the 
fact. Teachers of his ilk are invariably of the Paravan 
caste, and, when they are believed to be properly 
accomplished, they are given the honorific Kurup. So 
carefully are things regulated that no other person was 
permitted to teach athletics within the amsham (a local 
area, a small county), and his womenfolk had privileges, 
they only being the midwives who could attend on the 
Nayar women of the amsham. His fee for a course 
of exercises for the month was ten rupees. He, and 
some of his pupils, gave an exhibition of their quality. 
Besides bodily contortions and somersaults, practiced in 
a long low-roofed shed having a sandy floor, there is 
play with the following instruments : — watta ; cheruvadi, 

nAyar 406 

a short stick ; and a stick like a quarter-staff called a 
sariravadi, or stick the length of one's body. The watta 
is held in the right hand as a dagger ; it is used to stab 
or strike and, in some ingenious way, turn over an oppo- 
nent. The total length of the watta is two feet, and of 
the cheruvadi about three feet. The latter is squared 
at the ends, and is but a short staff. It is held in the 
right hand a few inches from the end, and is used for 
striking and guarding only. The sariravadi is held at 
or near one end by one or by both hands. The distance 
between the hands is altered constantly, and so is the 
end of the stick, which is grasped now by one, now by 
another end by either hand, as occasion may require ; 
sometimes it is grasped in the middle. The performance 
with these simple things was astonishing. I should say 
the watta and the cheruvadi represented swords, or 
rather that they were used for initiation or practice in 
swordmanship, when the Nayars were the military 
element in Malabar. The opponents, who faced each 
other with the sariravadi or quarter-staff, stood thirty 
feet apart, and, as if under the same stimulus, each 
kicked one leg high in the air, gave several lively 
bounds in the air, held their staff horizontally in front 
with out-stretched arms, came down slowly on the 
haunches, placed the staff on the ground, bent over, 
and touched it with the forehead. With a sudden 
bound they were again on their feet, and, after some 
preliminary pirouetting, went for each other tooth and 
nail. The sword play, which one sees during festive 
ceremonies, such as a marriage or the like, is done by 
the hereditary retainers, who fight imaginary foes, and 
destroy and vanquish opponents with much contortion 
of body, and always indulge in much of this preliminary 
overture to their performance. There is always, by 

407 NAyaR 

way of preliminary, a high kick in the air, followed by 
squatting on the haunches, bounding high, turning, 
twisting, pirouetting, and all the time swinging the 
sword unceasingly above, below, behind the back, under 
the arm or legs, in ever so many impossible ways. 
Nayar shields are made of wood, covered with leather, 
usually coloured bright red. Within the boss are some 
hard seeds, or metal balls loose in a small space, so that 
there is a jingling sound like that of the small bells on 
the ankles of the dancer, when the shield is oscillated or 
shaken in the hand. The swords are those which were 
used ordinarily for fighting. There are also swords of 
many patterns for processional and other purposes, more 
or less ornamented about the handle, and half way up 
the blade." 

" The Nayars," Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes, 
"have a distinct feudal organisation, and the division of ^i 
their territories had an unmistakeable reference to it. 
The territorial unit was the desam, presided over by a 
Dasavazhi. A number of desams adjoining one another 
constituted a nadu, which was under the jurisdiction of 
a chieftain called the Naduvazhi. Above the Naduvazhis 
was the Rajah, the highest suzerain in the country. In 
course of time, each nadu split itself up into a certain 
number of taras, over the affairs of which a Karanavan, 
or elder, presided. An assembly of these Karanavans 
constituted the six hundred — an old socio-military 
organisation of the Nayars in mediaeval times. These 
six hundred are referred to in two places in the second 
Syrian Christian document, which bears the date 925 
A.D. In a South Travancore inscription, dated 371 
M.E., the same organisation is referred to as Venat- 
tarunuru, or the six hundred of Venad, and one of 
their duties evidently related to the supervision of the 

nAyar 408 

working of temples and charitable institutions connected 
therewith. As Venad was divided into eighteen districts 
ill ancient days, there might have been altogether 
eighteen six hundred in the country. The Naduvazhis 
possessed considerable authority in all social matters, 
and possessed enough lands to be cultivated by their 
Kudiyans. A feudal basis was laid for the whole organi- 
sation. Large numbers served as soldiers in times of 
war, and cultivated their lands when the country was 
quiet. In modern times, none of them take to military 
service in Travancore, except those employed as sepoys 
in the Nayar Brigade." 

Concerning the organisation of the Nayars, Mr. 
Logan writes that they were, " until the British occupied 
the country, the militia of the district (Malabar). This 
name implies that they were the * leaders ' of the people. 
Originally they seem to have been organised into six 
hundreds, and each six hundred seems to have had 
assigned to it the protection of all the people in a nad 
or country. The nad was in turn split up into taras, a 
Dravidian word signifying originally a foundation, the 
foundation of a house, hence applied collectively to a 
street, as in Tamil teru, in Telugu teruvu, and in 
Cemarese and Tulu teravu. The tara was the Nayar 
territorial unit of organisation for civil purposes, and 
was governed by representatives of the caste, who were 
styled Karanavar or elders. The six hundred was 
probably composed exclusively of those Karanavar or 
elders, who were in some parts called Mukhyastans 
(chief men) or Madhyastans (mediators), or Pramanis 
(chief men), and there seem to have been four families 
of them to each tara, so that the nad must have originally 
consisted of one hundred and fifty taras. This tara orga- 
nisation of the protector caste played a most important 

409 nAyar 

part in the political history of the country, for it was 
the great bulwark against the tyranny and oppression 
of the Rajas. The evidence of the Honourable East 
India Company's linguist (interpreter, agent) at Calicut, 
which appears in the diary of the Tellicherry Factory 
under date 28th May, 1746, deserves to be here repro- 
duced. He wrote as follows: 'These Nayars, being 
heads of the Calicut people, resemble the parliament, and 
do not obey the king's dictates in all things, but chastise 
his ministers when they do unwarrantable acts.' The 
parliament referred to must have been the kuttam 
(assembly) of the nad. The kuttam answered many 
purposes when combined action on the part of the 
community was necessary. The Nayars assembled in 
their kuttams whenever hunting, or war, or arbitration, 
or what not was in hand, and this organisation does not 
seem to have been confined to Malabar, for the koot 
organisation of the people of South Canara gave the 
British officers much trouble in 1832-33. In so far as 
Malabar was concerned, the system seems to have 
remained in an efficient state down to the time of the 
British occupation, and the power of the Rajas was 
strictly limited. Mr. Murdoch Brown, of Anjarakandi, 
who knew the country well, thus wrote to Mr. Francis 
Buchanan in the earliest years of the present (nineteenth) 
century regarding the despotic action of the Rajas when 
constituted, after the Mysorean conquest, the revenue 
agents of the Government of Haidar AH. ' By this new 
order of things, these latter (the Rajas) were vested 
with despotic authority over the other inhabitants, 
instead of the very limited prerogatives that they had 
enjoyed by the feudal system, under which they could 
neither exact revenue from the lands of their vassals, nor 
exercise any, direct authority in their districts.' And 

nAyar 410 

again, * The Raja was no longer what he had been, 
the head of a feudal aristocracy with limited authority, 
but the all-powerful deputy of a despotic prince, whose 
military force was always at his command to curb or 
chastise any of the chieftains who were inclined to 
dispute or disobey his mandates.' * From the earliest 
times, therefore, down to the end of the eighteenth 
century, the Nayar tara and nad organization kept the 
country from oppression and tyranny on the part of the 
rulers, and to this fact more than to any other is due 
the comparative prosperity, which the Malayali country 
so long enjoyed, and which made Calicut at one time 
the great emporium of trade between the East and 
the West. But, besides protection, the Nayars had 
originally another most important function in the body 
politic. Besides being protectors, they were also 
supervisors or overseers, a duty which, as a very ancient 
deed testifies, was styled kanam — a Dravidian word 
derived from the verb kanuka (to see, etc.). Parasu 
Raman (so the tradition preserved in the Keralolpatti 
runs) separated the Nayars into taras, and ordered that 
to them belonged the duty of supervision {lit. kan = 
the eye), the executive power (lit. kei = the hand, as the 
emblem of power), and the giving of orders {lit. kalpana, 
order, command), so as to prevent the rights from being 
curtailed, or suffered to fall into disuse. The Nayars 
were originally the overseers or supervisors of the 
nad, and they seem to have been employed in this capa- 
city as the collectors of the share of produce of the 
land originally reserved for Government purposes. As 
remuneration for this service, and for their other func- 
tion as protectors, another share of the produce of the soil 

* Buchanan, Mysore, Canara and Malabar. 

411 NAyar 

seems to have been reserved specially for them. It 
would be well worth the study of persons acquainted 
with other districts of the Presidency to ascertain 
whether somewhat similar functions to these (protection 
and supervision) did not originally appertain to the 
Kavalgars of Tamil districts and the Kapus in the 
Telugu country, for. both of these words seem to have 
come from the same root as the Malayalam kanam. 
And it is significant that the Tamil word now used for 
proprietorship in the soil is kani-yatchi, to which word 
the late Mr. F. W. Ellis in his paper on Mirasi Rights 
assigned a similar derivation." 

The occupation of the Nayars is described by Mr. N. 
Subramani Aiyar as " comprising all kinds of worldly 
pursuits. So late as the end of the eighteenth century, 
there were with the then Maharaja of Travancore a 
hundred thousand soldiers, consisting of Nayars and 
Chovas, armed with arrows, spears, swords and battle- 
axes. The chief occupation of the Nayars is agriculture. 
Cultivation of a slipshod, time-honoured type is the 
forte of the Nayar, for which he has always found time 
from times of old, though engaged in other occupations 
as well. In the Velakali, a kind of mock fight, which 
is one of the items of the utasom programme in every 
important temple in Malabar, the dress worn by the 
Nayars is supposed to be their ancient military costume. 
Even now, among the Nayars who form the Maharaja's 
own Brigade, agriculture, to which they are enabled to 
attend during all their off-duty days, goes largely to 
supplement their monthly pay. Various other occu- 
pations, all equally necessary for society, have been, 
according to the Keralavakasakrama, assigned to the 
Nayars, and would seem to have determined their original 
sub-divisions. They are domestic servants in Brahman 

NAYAR 412 

and Kshatriya houses and temples, and deal in dairy 
produce, as well as being engaged in copper-sheet 
roofing, tile-making, pottery, palanquin-bearing, and so 
on. But these traditional occupations are fast ceasing 
under the ferment of a new civilisation. In the matter 
of education, the Nayars occupy a prominent position. 
Almost every Nayar girl is sent to the village school 
to learn the three R's, quite as much as a matter of 
course as the schooling of boys. This constitutes a 
feature of Malabar life that makes it the most literate 
country in all India, especially in respect of the female 
sex. After Ramanujam Ezhuttachchan developed and 
enriched the Malayalam language, numerous Asans or 
village teachers cam.e into existence in different parts of 
Malabar. After a preliminary study of Malayalam, such 
as desired higher, i.e., Sanskrit education, got discipled 
to an Ambalavasi or a Sastri. Even to-day the 
estimable desire to study Sanskrit is seen in some 
Nayar youths, who have readily availed themselves of 
the benefit of the local Sanskrit college. In respect 
of English education, the Nayars occupy a prominent 
position. The facility afforded by the Government of 
Travancore for the study of English is being largely 
availed of by Nayars, and it is a matter deserving to 
be prominently recorded that, in recent years, several 
Nayar girls have passed the Matriculation examination 
of the University of Madras." 

It is noted, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that " the 
Nayars as a class are the best educated and the most 
advanced of the communities in Malabar (excepting 
perhaps the Pattar Brahmans, who are not strictly a 
Malayalam class), and are intellectually the equals of 
the Brahmans of the East Coast. Many of them have 
risen to the highest posts in Government, and the caste 

413 NELLU 

has supplied many of the leading members of the 
learned professions." 

Nayi (dog). — An exogamous sept of Kuruba. 
Nayinar.^Nayinar, Nayanar, or Nainar, has been 
recorded as a section of Vellalas, who are thought to be 
descended from Jains who were converted to Hinduism, 
and as a title of Jains, Kaikolans, Pallis, and Udaiyans. 
Nayanikulam occurs as a synonym of Boya. The word 
Nayinar is the same as Nayaka, meaning lord or master, 
and the Saivite saints, being religious teachers, arc so 
called, e.^s^., Sundara Murti Nayanar. 

Nayinda. — Recorded, in the Mysore Census Report, 
1901, as the name of a caste,which follows the hereditary 
occupation of barber, and also of agriculture. " They 
are," it is there said, " members of the village hierarchy. 
They are paid, like the Agasa (washerman), in kind for 
their services. They are also fiddlers, and have the 
exclusive right of wind instruments. They are known 
as Kelasiga or Hajam. They are both Saivites and 
Vaishnavites. A section of them wear the lingam, and 
follow Lingayetism. They are known as Silavanta. 
These people are largely in requisition at feasts, mar- 
riages, etc., when they form the music band." Kelasi is 
the name of a Canarese barber caste, and Hajam is a 
Hindustani word for barber. 

Nedungadi. — This name, denoting a settlement 
in Nedunganad in the Walluvanad taluk of Malabar, 
has been returned as a sub-caste of Nayars and 

Nekkara.— A small class of washermen in South 
Canara. The women only are said to do the washing, 
while the men are employed as devil-dancers. 

\^^\\\]^2i{Pkyllantkus Einblica). — An illam ofTiyan. 
Nellu (paddy, unhusked rice). — A gotra of Kurni. 


Nemilli (peacock). — An exogamous sept of Boya 
and Balija. 

Nerali (Eugenia Jambolana). — An exogamous sept 
of G;ino-adikara Holeya. 

Nerati. — Ncrati or Neravati is a sub-division of 

Nese. — An occupational term, meaning weaver 
applied to several of the weaving castes, but more 
especially to the Kurnis. It is noted, in the Madras 
Census Report, 1901, that "in the inscriptions of Raja 
Raja the Chola king, about the beginning of the 
eleventh century, the Paraiyan caste is called by its 
present name. It had then two sub-divisions, Nesavu 
(the weavers) and Ulavu (the ploughman)." 

Netpanivandlu (neyyuta, to weave). — Recorded by 
the Rev. J. Cain * as a name for Mala weavers. 

Nettikotala.^In a note on the Nettikotalas or 
Neththikotalasi, Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao writes that 
they correspond to the Kalladi Siddhans of the Tamil 
country. The name means those who cut their fore- 
heads. They are mendicants who beg from Gavara 
Komatis, whom they are said to have assisted in days of 
old by delaying the progress of Raja Vishnu Vardhana. 
(See Kcmati.) When their dues are not promptly paid, 
they make cuts in their foreheads and other parts of the 
body, and make blood flow. 

Neyige. — The silk and cotton hand-loom weavers of 
the Mysore Province are, in the Census Report, 1891, 
dealt with collectively under the occupational name 
Neyige (weaving), which includes Bilimagga, Devanga, 
Khatri, Patvegar, Sale, Saurashtra (Patnulkaran), Seniga 
and Togata. 

* Ind. Ant., VlII, 1879. 

415 NILI 

Neytikkar.— Weavers of coir (cocoanut fibre) mats 
in Malabar, 

Neyyala.— 'The Neyyala are a Telugu fishing caste 
found chielly in Yizagapatam andGanjam, for the follow- 
ing note on whom I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana 
Rao. The name is derived from the Telugu neyyalu, 
meaning fried rice or cholam {Sorghum vulgare), which 
is made by female members of the caste, especially during 
the harvest season, into balls with jaggery (crude sugar). 
These are carried about the country by the men for sale 
to those engaged in reaping the crop and others. As 
payment, they receive from the reapers a portion of the 
grain which they are cutting. A further occupation of 
the caste is fishing with konti vala, or koyyala vala i.e., 
nets supported on a row of bamboo sticks, which are 
placed in shallow water, and dragged by two men. 

The Naga (cobra) is reverenced by the caste. A 
Brahman officiates at marriages, during which the 
sacred thread is worn. The remarriage of widows is 
permitted, provided that the woman has no children by 
her first husband. Divorce is not allowed. The dead 
are burnt, and the chinna (little) and pedda rozu (big 
day) death ceremonies are observed. 

As a caste, the Neyyalas do not drink intoxicatino- 
liquor, and eat only in Brahman houses. Their usual 
title is Ay)^a. 

Neyye (clarified butter). — An occupational sub- 
division of Komati. 

Nila (blue). — An exogamous sept of Medara. 

Nilagara (indigo people). — The name of a class of 
dyers, who are, in the Mysore Census Report, 1901, 
included in the Kumbara or potter caste. 

Nili (indigo). — An exogamous sept of Padma Sale 
and Togata. 


Nirganti.— Recorded, in the Mysore and Coorg 
Gazetteer, as a regulator and distributor of water to 
irrigated lands. He is usually a Holeya by caste. 

Nirpusi (wearers of sacred ashes). — Recorded, at 
times of census, as a sub-division of Piindya Vellalas. 
Nirpusi Vellala is described, in the Gazetteer of the South 
Arcot district, as a name current in the South Arcot 
district meaning Vellalas who put on holy ash, in 
reference to certain Jains, who formerly became Saivites, 
taking off their sacred threads, and putting holy ashes 
on their foreheads. 

Nityadasu. — Nityadasu, or Nityulu, meaning im- 
mortal slaves, is a name by which some Mala Dasaris 
style themselves. 

Nodha.— Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 
1901, as a very small caste of hill cultivators and 
earth-workers in the Oriya country. 

Nokkan. — The Nokkans, who often go by the name 
of Jadipillais (children of the caste), are a class of 
mendicants, who beg from members of the Palli caste. 
The word N5kkan is said to mean * he who looks'. 
The Nokkans make periodical visits to villages where 
Pallis live, and receive from them a small fee in money. 
They attend at Palli marriages, and, during processions, 
carry flags (palempores) bearing devices of Hanuman, 
tigers, Agni, etc., which are made at Kalahasti. 

The Nokkans claim fees from the Pallis, because one 
of their ancestors helped them. The legend runs as 
follows. During the reign of a Palli king at Conjee- 
veram, a car, bearing the idol of the god, stood still, 
and could not be moved. A human sacrifice was 
considered necessary, but no one would offer himself 
as a victim. A Nokkan came forward, and allowed his 
only daughter, who was pregnant, to be sacrificed 


Pleased at his behaviour, the king ordered that the 
Pallis should in future treat the Nokkans as their 
Jadipillais. Some Nokkans say that they were presented 
with copper-grants, one of which is reputed to be in 
the possession of one Nokka Ramaswami of Mulavayal 
village in the Ponneri taluk of the Chingleput district. 

In the course of their rounds, the Nokkans repeat the 
story of the origin of the Pallis, one version of which runs 
as follows. Two Asuras, Vathapi and Enadhapi, who 
were ruling at Ratnagiripatnam, obtained at the hands of 
Siva, by means of severe tapas (penance), the following- 
boon. No child should die within their dominions, and 
the Asuras should be invincible, and not meet their death 
at the hands of uterine-born beings. The Devatas and 
others, unable to bear the tyranny of the Asuras, prayed 
to Brahma for rescue. He directed them to the Rishi 
Jambuvamuni, who was doing penance on the banks of 
the river Jumna. This Rishi is said to have married a 
woman named Asendi, who was born from the cheeks of 
Parvati. Hearing the request of the Devatas, the Rishi 
lighted the sacred fire, and therefrom arose a being 
called Rudra Vanniyan, and forty other warriors, includ- 
ing Nilakanta, Gangabala, and Vajrabahu. The Pallis 
are descended from these fire-born heroes. {See Palli.) 

Nokkans wear the sacred thread, and carry with 
them a big drum and a gourd pipe like that used by 

Noliya.— A synonym used by Oriya castes for the 
Telugu Jalaris. 

Nonaba.— A territorial sub-division of Vakkaliora. 
The name is derived from Nonambavadi, one of the 
former great divisions of the Tanjore country. 

Nottakaran. — The office of village Nottakaran, or 
tester, has been abolished in modern times. It was 


generally held by a goldsmith, whose duty was to test 
the rupees when the land revenue was being gathered 
in, and see that they were not counterfeit. 

Nuchchu (broken rice). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Nukala (coarse grain powder). — An exogamous 
sept of Padma Sale. 

Nulayan. — In the Madras Census Report, 1901, 
ninety-six individuals are recorded as belonging to a 
small caste of Malayalam fishermen and boatmen. The 
Nulayans are found in Travancore, and were returned 
in the census of Malabar, as the two small British 
settlements of Anjengo and Tangacheri in Travancore 
are under the jurisdiction of the Collector of Malabar. 

Nune (oil). — An occupational sub-division of 

Nunia (nuno, salt). — A sub-division of Odiya. 

Nurankurup.— An occupational name for Paravans 
settled in Malabar, whose employment is that of lime- 
burners (nuru, lime). 

Nurbash. — Recorded, at the census, 1901, as a 
synonym of Dudekula. A corruption of nurbaf( weaving). 

Nuvvala (gingelly : Scsamimi indictmt). — An exoga- 
mous sept of Kamma and Medara. Gingelly seeds, from 
which an oil is extracted, "form an essential article of 
certain religious ceremonies of the Hindus, and have there- 
fore received the names of homa-dhanya or the sacrificial 
grain, and pitri-tarpana or the grain that is offered as an 
oblation to deceased ancestors." {U.C.Dutt.) During 
the death ceremonies of some Brahmans, libations of 
water mixed with gingelly seeds, called tilothakam, and a 
ball of rice, are offered daily to two stones representing 
the spirit of the deceased. 

Nyayam (justice). — An exogamous sept of Padma 


Occhan.^The Occhans are a class of temple priests, 
who usually officiate as pujaris at Pidari and other 
Amman (Grama Devata) temples. They are for the 
most part Saivltes, but some belong to the Vadagalai or 
Tengalal Vaishnava sects. Some of the pujaris wear the 
sacred thread when within the temple. Their insignia 
are the udukkai, or hour-glass shaped drum, and the 
silambu, or hollow brass ring filled with bits of brass, 
which rattle when it is shaken. In the Chingleput dis- 
trict, some Occhans act as dancing-masters to Devadasis, 
and are sometimes called Nattuvan. 

The name Occhan is derived from the Tamil ochai, 
meaning sound, in reference to the usual mode of 
invoking the Grama Devatas (village deities) by beating 
on a drum and singing their praises. It has been 
suggested that Occhan is a contracted form of Uvacchan, 
which occurs in certain old inscriptions.* Of these, the 
oldest is dated Sakha 1180 (A.D. 1258), and refers to 
the tax on Uvacchas. Another inscription, in which 
the same tax is referred to, is dated Sakha 1328 (A.D. 
1406). In both these inscriptions, Uvacchan has been 
interpreted as referring to Jonakas, who are a class of 
Muhammadans. This is one of the meanings given 
by Winslow, t who also gives " a caste of drummers at 
temples, Occhan." 

In the northern districts, the Occhans are divided 
into five sections, called Marayan, Pandi, Kandappan, 
Periya or Pallavarayan, and Pulavan. Marayan is also 
the name of temple priests in Travancore, on whom 
the title Occhan is bestowed as a mark of royal favour 
by the Travancore sovereigns. | The Occhans have 

* E. Hultzsch. South Indian Inscriptions, I. 82, 108, 1890. 
t Comprehensive Tamil and English Dictionary. 
X Travancore Census Report, 1901. 
V-27 B 


many titles, e.g., Archaka or Umai Archaka, Dcvar, 
Parasaivan, Mudaliar, Vallabarayan, Pusali, Pulavar, and 
Kamban. Of these, the kist two are said to be derived 
from the Tamil epic poet Kamban, who is traditionally 
believed to have belonged to the Occhan caste. There 
is a legend that Kamban was on his way to the 
residence of a king, when he heard an oil-monger, who 
was driving his bulls, remonstrate with them, saying 
" Should you kick against each other because the poet 
Kamban, like the Occhan he is, hums his verse ? " On 
hearing this, Kamban approached the oil-monger, and 
went with him to the king, to whom he reported that 
he had been insulted. By order of the king, the oil- 
monger burst forth into verse, and explained how his 
bulls had taken fright on hearing Kamban's impromptu 
singing. Kamban was greatly pleased with the poet 
oil-monger, and begged the king to let him go with 
honours heaped on him. 

In the southern districts, more especially in Madura 
and Tinnevelly, it is usual for an Occhan to claim his 
paternal aunt's daughter in marriage. In the northern 
districts, a man may also marry his maternal uncle's 
or sister's daughter. Brahman Gurukkals officiate at 
marriages. In their puberty, marriage, and death 
ceremonies, the Occhans closely follow the Pallis or 
Vanniyans. The dead are burnt, and Brahmans officiate 
at the funeral ceremonies. 

The caste is an organised one, and there is usually 
a headman, called Periyathanakaran, at places where 
Occhans occur. 

Oda vandlu (boatmen). — A synonym of Mila, a 
fishing caste in Ganjam and Vizagapatam. Some pros- 
perous Milas have adopted Oda Balija as their caste 
name. {^See Vilda.) 

421 ODARI 

Odan.^An occupational name of a class of Nayars, 
who are tile-makers. 

Oclari.— The Odaris or Vodaris are Tulu-speaking 
potters in the South Canara district. Those who have 
abandoned the profession of potter call themselves 
Mulia, as also do some potters, and those who are 
employed as pujaris (priests) at bhuthasthanas (devil 
shrines). In many cases, the headman combines the 
duties of that office with those of pujari, and is called 
Mulia. Otherwise his title is Gurikara. 

The Canarese potters in South Canara, in making 
pots, use the ordinary wheel, which is rotated by means 
of a long stick. The wheel of the Odaris is more prim- 
itive, consisting of a small disc, concave above, made of 
unburnt clay, fitting by means of a pebble pivot into a 
pebble socket, which is rotated by hand. 

Like other Tulu castes, the Odaris worship bhuthas, 
but also reverence Venkataramana. 

In their marriage ceremonial, the Odaris follow the 
Bant type. At the betrothal, the headmen or fathers of 
the contracting couple exchange betel, and the party of 
the future bridegroom give a ring to the people of the 
bride-elect. The marriage rites are completed in a 
single day. A bench is placed within the marriage 
pandal (booth), and covered with clothes brought by the 
Madivali (washerman caste). The bridegroom is con- 
ducted thither by the bride's brother, and, after going 
round three times, takes his seat. He is generally 
preceded by women carrying lights, rice and fruits 
before him. The lamp is hung up, and the other 
articles are deposited on the ground. One by one, the 
women throw a grain of rice, first over the lamp, and 
then a few grains over the head of the bridegroom, 
Then the barber comes, and, after throwing rice, shaves 

ODDE 422 

the face of the bridegroom, using milk instead of water. 
The bride is also shaved by a barber woman. The pair 
are decorated, and brought to the pandal, where those 
assembled throw rice over their heads, and make 
presents of money. Their hands are then united by the 
headman, and the dhare water poured over them by the 
maternal uncle of the bride. 

An interesting rite in connection with pregnancy is 
the presentation of a fowl or two to the pregnant 
woman by her maternal uncle. The fowls are tended 
with great care, and, if they lay eggs abundantly, it is a 
sign that the pregnant woman will be prolific. 

The dead are either buried or cremated. If 
cremation is resorted to, the final death ceremonies 
(bojja) must be celebrated on the eleventh or thirteenth 
day. If the corpse has been buried, these ceremonies 
must not take place before the lapse of at least a month. 

Odde. — The Oddes or Voddas, who are commonly 
called Wudders, are summed up by Mr. H. A. Stuart * 
as being " the navvies of the country, quarrying stone, 
sinking wells, constructing tank bunds, and executing 
other kinds of earthwork more rapidly than any other 
class, so that they have got almost a monopoly of the 
trade. They are Telugu people, who came originally from 
Orissa, whence their name. Were they more temperate, 
they might be in very good circumstances, but, as soon 
as they have earned a small sum, they strike work and 
have a merry-making, in which all get much intoxicated, 
and the carouse continues as long as funds last. They 
are very ignorant, not being able even to calculate how 
much work they have done, and trusting altogether to 
their employer's honesty. They are an open-hearted, 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 

423 ODDE 

good-natured lot, with loose morals, and no restrictions 
regarding food, but they are proud, and will only eat in 
the houses of the higher castes, though most Sudras 
look down upon them. Polygamy and divorce are freely 
allowed to men, and women are only restricted from 
changing partners after having had eighteen. Even 
this limit is not set to the men." 

Women who have had seven husbands are said to be 
much respected, and their blessing on a bridal pair is 
greatly praised. There is a common saying that a 
widow mav mount the marriage dais seven times. 

In the Census Report, 1871, the Oddes are described 
as being "the tank-diggers, well-sinkers, and road- 
makers of the country who live in detached settlements, 
building their huts in conical or bee-hive form, with 
only a low door of entrance. They work in gangs on 
contract, and every one, except very old and very young, 
takes a share in the work. The women carry the earth 
in baskets, while the men use the pick and spade. The 
babies are usually tied up in cloths, which are suspended, 
hammock fashion, from the boughs of trees. They are 
employed largely in the Public Works Department, and 
in the construction and maintenante of railways. They 
are rather a fine-looking race, and all that I have come 
across are Vaishnavites in theory, wearing the trident 
prominently on their foreheads, arms, and breasts. The 
women are tall and straight. They eat every description 
of animal food, and especially pork and field-rats, and all 
drink spirituous liquors." 

Of the Oddes, the following brief accounts are given 
in the Nellore, Coimbatore, and Madura Manuals : — 

Nello7'e. — " These people are the tank-diggers. 
They sometimes engage in the carrying trade, but 
beyond this, they only move about from place to place 

ODDE 424 

as they have work. The word Vodde or Odde is said 
to be a corruption of the Sanskrit Odhra, the name 
for the country now called Orissa, and the people are 
ordinarily supposed to have emigrated from the Uriya 
country. Besides Telugu, they are said to speak a 
peculiar dialect among themselves ; and, if this should 
turn out to be Uriya, the question might be regarded 
as settled. The laborious occupation of the men tends 
to develop their muscles. I have seen some very fine 
men among the tribe." 

CoUnbatore. — " Numerous, owing to the hard 
nature of the subsoil and the immense and increasing 
number of irrigation wells, which demand the labour 
of strong men accustomed to the use of the crowbar, 
pick-axe, and pow^der. They are black, strong, and of 
good physique, highly paid, and live on strong meat and 

Madttra. — "An itinerant caste of tank-diggers and 
earth-workers. They are Telugus, and are supposed to 
have come southward in the time of the Nayyakkans. 
Possibly Tirumala sent for them to dig out his great 
teppakulam, and assist in raising gopuras. They are a 
strong, hard-working class, but also drunken, gluttonous, 
and vicious. And but little faith can be placed in their 
most solemn promises. They will take advances from 
half a dozen employers within a week, and work for 
none of them, if they can possibly help it." 

In Mysore numbers of Oddes are now permanently 
settled in the outskirts of large towns, where both sexes 
find employment as sweepers, etc., in connection with 
sanitation and conservancy. Some Oddes are, at the 
present time (1908), employed at the Mysore manganese 
mines. The tribe is often found concerting with the 
Korachas, Koramas, and other predatory classes in 



425 ODDE 

committing dacoities and robberies, and it has passed 
into a proverb that they would rather bear any amount 
of bodily torture than confess or disclose the truth 
regfardino- the crimes attributed to them. Some Oddes 
have settled down as agriculturists and contractors, and 
some are very prosperous. For example, there are a 
few Oddes near Kuppam in the North Arcot district, 
whose credit is so good that any rich merchant would 
advance them large sums of money. A wealthy Odde, 
worth nearly a lakh of rupees, worried my assistant for 
half an anna, wherewith to purchase some betel leaf. It 
is recorded by Bishop Whitehead,* in the diary of a 
tour in the Nizam's Dominions, that, at Khammamett, 
" the Waddas who have become Christians have for some 
time past possessed land and cattle of their own, and 
are well-to-do people. One of the headmen, who was 
presented to me after service, said that he had 80 acres 
of land of his own." 

Some of the timber work in the Nallamalai hills, in 
the Kurnool district, is done by Oddes, who fell trees, 
and keep bulls for dragging the timber out of the forests. 
Under the heading " Uppara and Vadde Vandlu," the 
Rev. J. Cain gives t the following account of the 
distribution of wages. " The tank-diggers had been 
paid for their work, and, in apportioning the share of 
each labourer, a bitter dispute arose because one of the 
women had not received what she deemed her fair 
amount. On enquiry it turned out that she was in an 
interesting condition, and therefore could claim not only 
her own, but also a share for the expected child." 

A legend is current to the effect that, long ago, the 
Oddes were ordered to dig a tank, to enable the Devatas 

* Madras Dioc. Magazine, April, 190S. t Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 

ODDE 426 

and men to obtain water. This was done, and they 
demanded payment, which was made in the form of a 
pinch of the sacred ashes of Siva to each workman, in 
Heu of money. When they reached home, the ashes 
turned into money, but they were not satisfied with the 
amount, and clamoured for more. The god, growing 
angry, cursed them thus : " What you obtain in the forests 
by digging shall be lost as soon as you reach high 
ground." Parvati, taking pity on them, asked Siva to 
give them large sums of money. Whereon Siva, hollow- 
ing out a measuring-rod, filled it with varahans (gold 
coins), and gave it to the maistry. He also filled a large 
pumpkin with money, and buried it in a field, where the 
Oddes were working. The measuring-rod was pawned 
by the maistry for toddy. The Oddes, noticing the 
raised mound caused by the burying of the pumpkin, 
left it untouched to show the depth that they had 
dug. A buffalo, which was grazing in a field close by, 
exposed the pumpkin, which the Oddes, not suspecting 
its contents, sold to a Komati. 

According to another legend, the Oddes were 
employed by God, who had assumed a human form, and 
was living amongst them. On one occasion, God had 
to perform a certain ceremony, so he gave the Oddes an 
advance of three days' pay, and ordered them not to 
worry him. This they failed to do, and were accordingly 
laid under a curse to remain poor for ever. 

A further legend is current among the Oddes to the 
effect that, when Siva and Parvati were walking one 
sultry day upon the earth, they got very hot and thirsty. 
The drops of perspiration which fell from Siva were 
changed by him into a man with a pick and crowbar, 
while those falling from Parvati turned into a woman 
carrying a basket. The man and woman quickly sunk 

427 ODDE 

a well, with the cooling waters of which the god and 
goddess refreshed themselves, and in gratitude promised 
the labourers certain gifts, the nature of which is not now 
known, but neither was satisfied, and both grumbled, 
which so incensed Siva that he cursed them, and vowed 
that they and their descendants should live by the sweat 
of their brows. 

Among the Oddcs, the following sayings are 
current : — 

The Oddes live with their huts on their heads 
{i.e., low huts), with light made from gathered sticks, on 
thin conji (gruel), blessing those who give, and cursing 
those who do not. 

Cobras have poison in their fangs, and Oddes in 
their tongues. 

Though wealth accumulates like a mountain, it 
soon disappears like mist. 

At recent times of census, the following occupa- 
tional sub-divisions were returned : — Kallu or Rati (stone- 
workers) and Mannu (earth- workers), Manti or Bailu 
(open space), between which there is said to be no 
intermarriage. The endogamous sub-divisions Nata- 
puram and Uru (village men), Bidaru (wanderers), and 
Konga (territorial) were also returned. Beri was given 
as a sub-caste, and Odderazu as a synonym for the caste 
name. In Ganjam, Bolasi is said to be a sub-division of 
the Oddes. The caste titles are Nayakan and Boyan. 
The similarity of the latter word to Boer was fatal, for, at 
the time of my visit to the Oddes, the South African war 
was just over, and they were afraid that I was going to 
get them transported, to replace the Boers w^ho had been 
exterminated. Being afraid, too, of my evil eye, they 
refused to fire a new kiln of bricks for the new club 
chambers at Coimbatore until I had taken my departure. 

ODDl!: 428 

It is noted, in the Mysore Census Report, 1891, that 
" the caste divides itself into two main branches, the Kallu 
and Mannu Vaddas, between whom there is no social 
intercourse of any kind, or intermarriage. The former 
are stone-workers and builders, and more robust than 
the latter, and are very dexterous in moving large masses 
of stone by rude and elementary mechanical appliances. 
They are hardy, and capable of great exertion and 
endurance. The Kallu Vaddas consider themselves 
superior to the Mannu Vaddas (earth diggers). Unlike 
the Kallu Vaddas, the Mannu Vaddas or Bailu Vaddas 
are a nomadic tribe, squatting wherever they can find 
any large earthwork, such as deepening and repairing 
tanks, throwing up embankments, and the like. They 
are expert navvies, turning out within a given time more 
hard work than any other labouring class." The Mannu 
Oddes eat rats, porcupines, and scaly ant-eaters or 
pangolins i^Manis pentadactyla). 

Of exogamous septs, the following may be cited : — 

Bandollu, rock. 
Bochchollu, hairs. 
Cheruku, sugarcane. 
Enumala, buffalo. 
Goddali, axe. 
Gampa, basket. 
Idakottu, break-down. 
Jambu {Euge7iia Jambo- 

Komali, buffoon. 
Santha, a fair. 
Sivaratri, a festival. 
Manchala, cot. 

Sampangi {Michelia Chani- 

Thatichettu, palmyra palm- 
Bandari {Dodonoeaviscosa). 
Devala, belonging to god. 
Donga, thief. 
Malle, jasmine. 
Panthipattu, pig-catcher. 
Panthikottu, pig-killer. 
Upputholuvaru, salt-carrier. 
Pitakala, dais on which a 

priest sits. 
Thappata, drum. 

At the Mysore census, 1901, a few returned gotras, 
such as arashina (turmeric), huvvina (flowers), honna 
(gold), and akshantala (rice grain). 

429 ODDE 

" The women of the Vaddevandlu section of the tank- 
digger caste," the Rev. J. Cain writes,* " only wear the 
glass bracelets on the left arm, as, in years gone by 
(according to their own account), a seller of these 
bracelets was one day persuading them to buy, and, 
leaving the bracelets on their left arms, went away, 
promising to return with a fresh supply for their right 
arms. As yet he has not re-appeared." But an old 
woman explained that they have to use their right arm 
when at work, and if they wore bangles on it, they would 
frequently get broken. 

In some places, tattooing on the forehead with a 
central vertical line, dots, etc., is universally practiced, 
because, according to the Odde, they should bear tattoo 
marks as a proof of their life on earth (bhulokam) when 
they die. Oddes, calling themselves Pachcha Botlu, are 
itinerant tattooers in the Ganjam, Vizagapatam and 
Godavari districts. While engaged in performing the 
operation, they sing Telugu songs, to divert the attention 
of those who are being operated on. 

The office of headman, who is known as Yejamanadu, 
Samayagadu, or Pedda (big) Boyadu, is hereditary, and 
disputes, which cannot be settled at a council meeting, 
are referred to a Balija Desai Chetti, whose decision is 
final. In some cases, the headman is assisted by officers 
called Chinna (little) Boyadu, Sankuthi, and Banthari. 
An Odde, coming to a place where people are assembled 
with shoes on, is fined, and described as gurram ekki 
vachchinavu (having come on a horse). The Oddes are 
very particular about touching leather, and beating with 
shoes brings pollution. Both the beater and the person 
beaten have to undergo a purificatory ceremony, and 

* Ind. Ant., V, 1876. 

ODDE 430 

pay a fine. When in camp at Dimbhum, in the Coimba- 
tore district, I caught hold of a ladle, to show my friend 
Dr. Rivers what were the fragrant contents of a pot, in 
which an Odde woman was cooking the evening meal. 
On returning from a walk, we heard a great noise pro- 
ceeding from the Odde men who had meanwhile returned 
from work, and found the woman seated apart on a rock, 
and sobbing. She had been excommunicated, not because 
I touched the ladle, but because she had afterwards 
touched the pot. After much arbitration, I paid up the 
necessary fine, and she was received back into her caste. 

When a girl reaches puberty, she is confined in a 
special hut, in which a piece of iron, margosa leaves 
{JMelia Azadirachta), sticks of Strychnos Ntix-vomica, 
and the arka plant {Caloh^opis gigantea) are placed, to 
ward off evil S})irits. For fear of these spirits she is not 
allowed to eat meat, though eggs are permitted. On 
the seventh day, a fowl is killed, waved in front of the 
girl, and thrown away. At the end of the period of 
pollution, the hut is burnt down. Sometimes, when the 
girl bathes on the first day, a sieve is held over her head, 
and water poured through it. In some places, on the 
eleventh day, chicken broth, mixed with arrack (liquor), 
is administered, in order to make the girl's back and 
waist strong. The hen, from which the broth is made, 
must be a black one, and she must have laid eggs for 
the first time. The flesh is placed in a mortar, pounded 
to a pulp, and boiled, with the addition of condiments, 
and finally the arrack. 

Both infant and adult marriages are practiced. The 
marriage ceremony, in its simplest form, is, according to 
Mr. F. S. Mullaly,* not a tedious one, the bride and 

* Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency. 

431 0DD£ 

bridegroom walking three times round a stake placed 
in the ground. In the more elaborate ritual, on the 
betrothal day, the bride-price, etc., are fixed, and an 
adjournment is made to the toddy shop. The marriage 
rites are, as a rule, very simple, but, in some places, the 
Oddes have begun to imitate the marriage ceremonies 
of the Balijas. On the third day, the contracting couple 
go in procession to a tank, where the bridegroom digs 
up some mud, and the bride carries three basketfuls 
thereof to a distance. The following story is narrated 
in connection with their marriage ceremonies. A certain 
king wanted an Odde to dig a tank, which was subse- 
quently called Nidimamidi Koththacheruvu, and promised 
to pay him in varahalu (gold coins). When the work 
was completed, the Odde went to the king for his money, 
but the kino- had no measure for measuring" out the coins. 
A person was sent to fetch one, and on his way met a 
shepherd, who had on his shoulders a small bamboo 
stick, which could easily be converted into a measure. 
Taking this stick, he returned to the king, who measured 
out the coins, which fell short of the amount expected 
by the Oddes, who could not pay the debts, which they 
had contracted. So they threw the money into the 
tank, saying " Let the tank leak, and the land lie fallow 
for ever." All were crying on account of their misery 
and indebtedness. A Balija, coming across them, took 
pity on them, and gave them half the amount required 
to discharge their debts. After a time they wanted to 
marry, and men were sent to bring the bottu (marriage 
badge), milk-post, musicians, etc. But they did not 
return, and the Balija suggested the employment of a 
pestle for the milk-post, a string of black beads for 
the bottu, and betel leaves and areca nuts instead of 
gold coins for the oli (bride-price). 

ODDE 432 

The Oddes arc in some places Vaishnavites, in others 
Saivites, but they also worship minor deities, such as 
Ellamma, Ankamma, etc., to whom goats and sheep are 
sacrificed, not with a sword or knife, but by piercing 
them with a spear or crowbar. Writing at the com- 
mencement of the nineteenth century, Buchanan states * 
that "although the Woddaru pray to Vishnu, and offer 
sacrifices to Marima, Gungama, Durgama, Putalima, and 
Mutialima, yet the proper object of worship belonging 
to the caste is a goddess called Yellama, one of the 
destroying spirits. The image is carried constantly 
with their baggage ; and in her honour there is an 
annual feast, which lasts three days. On this occasion 
they build a shed, under which they place the image, 
and one of the tribe officiates as priest or pujari. For 
these three days offerings of brandy, palm wine, rice, and 
flowers are made to the idol, and bloody sacrifices are 
performed before the shed. The VVoddas abstain from 
eating the bodies of the animals sacrificed to their own 
deity, but eat those which they sacrifice to the other 

The dead are generally buried. By some Oddes the 
corpse is carried to the burial-ground wrapped up in a 
new cloth, and carried in a dhubati (thick coarse cloth) 
by four men. On the way to the grave, the corpse is 
laid on the ground, and rice thrown over its eyes. It is 
then washed, and the namam (Vaishnavite sect mark) 
painted, or vibuthi (sacred ashes) smeared on the fore- 
head of a man, and kunkumam (coloured powder) on 
that of a female. Earth is thrown by those assembled 
into the grave before it is filled in. On the karman- 
dhiram day, or last day of the death ceremonies, the 

* Journey through Mysore, Cunara, and Mahibar. 


433 ODDE 

relations repair to a tank or well outside the village. 
An effigy is made with mud, to which cooked rice, etc., 
is offered. Some rice is cooked, and placed on an arka 
{Calotropis) leaf as an offering to the crows. If a 
married w^oman has died, the widow'er cuts through his 
waist thread, whereas a widow is taken to the water's 
edge, and sits on a winnow. Her bangles are broken, 
and the bottu is snapped by her brother. Water is then 
poured over her head three times through the winnow. 
After bathing, she goes home, and sits in a room with 
a lamp, and may see no one till the following morning. 
She is then taken to one or more temples, and made 
to pull the tail of a cow three times. The Oddes of 
Coimbatore, in the Tamil country, have elaborated both 
the marriage and funeral ceremonies, and copy those of 
the Balijas and Vellalas. But they do not call in the 
assistance of a Brahman purohit. 

A woman, found guilty of immorality, is said to have 
to carry a basketful of earth from house to house, before 
she is re-admitted to the caste. 

The following note on a reputed cure for snake 
poisoning used by Oddes was communicated to me by 
Mr. Gustav Haller. "A young boy, who belonged to a 
gang of Oddes, was catching rats, and put his hand into 
a bamboo bush, when a cobra bit him, and clung to his 
finger when he was drawing his hand out of the bush. 
I saw the dead snake, which was undoubtedly a cobra. I 
was told that the boy was in a dying condition, when a 
man of the same gang said that he would cure him. He 
applied a brown pill to the wound, to which it stuck with- 
out being tied. The man dipped a root into water, and 
rubbed it on the lad's arm from the shoulder downwards. 
The arm, which was benumbed, gradually became sensi- 
tive, and at last the fingers could move, and the pill 

ODDE 434 

dropped off. The moist root was rubbed on to the boy's 
tongue and into the corner of the eye before commencing 
operations. The man said that a used pill is quite 
efficacious, but should be well washed to get rid of the 
poison. In the manufacture of the pill, five leaves of 
a creeper arc dried, and ground to powder. The pill 
must be inserted for nine days between the bark and 
cambium of a margosa tree {Melia Azadirachta) during 
the new moon, when the sap ascends." The creeper is 
Tinospora coi'difolia (gul bel) and the roots are appa- 
rently those of the same climbing shrub. There is a 
widespread belief that gul bel growing on a margosa 
tree is more efficacious as a medicine than that which is 
found on other kinds of trees. 

The insigne of the caste at Conjeeveram is a spade. * 
'* In the Ceded Districts," Mr. F. S. Mullaly writes, f 
" some of the Wudders are known as Donga Wuddi- 
wars, or thieving Wudders, from the fact of their having 
taken to crime as a profession. Those of the tribe who 
have adopted criminal habits are skilful burglars and 
inveterate robbers. They are chiefly to be found among 
the stone Wudder class, who, besides their occupation 
of building walls, are also skilful stone-cutters. By 
going about under the pretence of mending grindstones, 
they obtain much useful information as to the houses to 
be looted, or parties of travellers to be attacked. In 
committing a highway robbery or dacoity, they are 
always armed with stout sticks. Burglary by Wudders 
may usually be traced to them, if careful observations 
are made of the breach in the wall. The implement is 
ordinarily the crowbar used by them in their profession 
as stone-workers, and the blunt marks of the crowbar 

J. S. F. Mackenzie. Ind. Ant., IV, 1875. t Op. cit. 

435 ODDE 

are, as a rule, noticeable. They will never confess, or 
implicate another of their fraternity, and, should one of 
them be accused of a crime, the women are most 
clamorous, and inflict personal injuries on themselves 
and their children, to deter the police from doing their 
duty, and then accuse them of torture. Women and 
children belonging to criminal gangs are experts in 
committing grain thefts from kalams or threshing-floors, 
where they are engaged in harvest time, and also in 
purloining their neighbours' poultry. Stolen property 
is seldom found with Wudders. Their receivers are 
legion, but they especially favour liquor shopkeepers in 
the vicinity of their encampment. Instances have been 
known of valuable jewellery being exchanged for a few 
drams of arrack. In each Wudder community, there is 
a headman called the Ganga Raja, and, in the case of 
criminal gangs of these people, he receives two shares 
of spoil. Identifiable property is altered at once, many 
of the Wudders being themselves able to melt gold 
and silver jewellery, which they dispose of for about 
one-tenth of the value." 

It has been said of the navvies in England that 
" many persons are quite unaware that the migratory 
tribe of navvies numbers about 100,000, and moves 
about from point to point, wherever construction works 
are going forward, such as railways, harbour, canals, 
reservoirs and drainage works. Generally the existence 
of these works is unknown to the public until their 
completion. They then come into use, but the men 
who risked their lives to make them are gone nobody 
knows where. They are public servants, upon whose 
labours the facilities jf modern civilised life largely 
depend, and surely, therefore, their claim on our 
sympathies is universal." And these remarks apply 
v-28 B 


witji equal force to the Oddes, who numbered 498,388 
in the Madras Presidency at the census, 1901. 

In the Census Report, 1901, Odderazulu is given as 
a synonym of Odde. One of the sections of the Yeru- 
kalas is also called Odde. Vadde (Odde) Cakali 
(Tsakala) is recorded, in the Vizagapatam Manual, as 
the name for those who wash clothes, and carry torches 
and palanquins. 

Oddilu.— The Oddilu are described * by the Rev. 
J. Cain as principally raftsmen on the Godavari river, 
who have raised themselves in life, and call themselves 
Sishti Karanamalu. He states further that they are 
Kois (or Koyis) who are regarded as more honourable 
than any of the others, and have charge of the principal 
velpu (tribal gods). 

Odhuvar (reader or reciter). — A name for Pandarams, 
who recite hymns in temples. 

Odisi.^A sub-division of Bhondari. 

Odiya. — It is noted, in the Madras Census Report, 
1891, that " this is the principal Uriya caste of farmers 
in Ganjam. Odia and Uriya are different forms of one 
and the same word, and this caste name simply means a 
native of the Odia or Uriya country, as Telaga means a 
man of the Telugu country. In both cases, therefore, 
we find a number of persons included, who are in reality 
members of some other caste. The total number of sub- 
divisions of Odia, according to the census schedules, is 
146, but a number of these are names of various Uriya 
castes, and not true sub-divisions. The largest sub- 
division is Benaito, which is returned by 62,391 persons. 
The Nunia sub-division, the next largest, was returned 
by 9,356 individuals." It is further recorded, in the 

♦Ind. Ant., VIII, 1S79. 

437 ODIYA 

Census Report, 1901, that Odiya, Orlya, or Uriya'"is 
one of the vaguest terms in the whole of Table XIII 
(Caste and Tribe). The Odiyas are a race by themselves, 
split up into many castes. ' Odiya ' also often means 
merely a man who speaks Oriya. The term is, however, 
so constantly returned by itself without qualification, 
that Odiya has perforce figured in the tables of all the 
censuses as a caste. The Odiyas of the hills differ, 
however, from the Odiyas of the plains, the Odiyas of 
Ganjam from those of Vizagapatam, and the customs of 
one muttah (settlement) from those of the next," Mr. 
Narasing Doss writes to me that "Odiya literally means 
an inhabitant of Odissa or Orissa. There is a separate 
caste called Odiya, with several sub-divisions. They are 
cultivators by profession. Marriage is infant or adult. 
They employ Brahmans at ceremonials. Widows and 
divorcees are remarried. They eat fish and meat, but 
not fowls or beef, and do not drink liquor. They burn 
the dead. Members of the Nagabonso se{)t claim to be 
descendants of Nagamuni, the serpent rishi." 

I gather that there are three main sections among 
the Odiyas, viz., Benaito, Nuniya, and Baraghoria, of 
which the first-named rank above the others in the social 
scale. From them Oriya Brahmans and Koronos will 
accept water. The Benaitos and Nuniyas are found all 
over Ganjam, whereas the Baraghorias are apparently 
confined to villages round about Aska and PurushothapiJr. 
There are numerous exogamous gotras within the caste, 
among which are Nagasira (cobra), Gonda (rhinoceros), 
Kochipo (tortoise), and Baraha (boar). The gods of the 
gotra should be worshipped at the commencement of any 
auspicious ceremony. The Odiyas also worship Jagan- 
natha, and Takuranis (village deities). A number of 
titles occur in the caste, e.g., Bissoyi, Podhano, Jenna, 


Bariko, Sahu, Swayi, Gaudo, Pulleyi, Chando, Dolei, and 

When an unmarried girl is ill, a vow is taken that, if 
she recovers, she shall be married to the dharma devata 
(sun), which is represented by a brass vessel. 

People of mixed origin sometimes call themselves 
Odiyas, and pass as members of this caste. Some 
Bhayipuos, for example, who correspond to the Telugu 
Adapiipas, call themselves Odiyas or Beniya Odiyas. 

Odiya Toti. — A Tamil synonym for Oriya Haddis 
employed as scavengers in municipalities in the Tamil 

Ojali.— The Ojali, Vojali, or Ozolu are summed up, 
in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as being "Telugu 
blacksmiths in the Vizagapatam Agency. They eat 
beef, but are somewhat superior to the Paidis and Malas 
in social position. They are also called Mettu Kamsali." 
It is stated in the Vizagapatam Manual that, during 
the reign of Chola Chakravati, the Kamsalas (artisans) 
claimed to be equal to Brahmans. This offended the 
sovereign, and he ordered their destruction. Some only 
escaped death by taking shelter with people of the ' Ozu ' 
caste. As an acknowledgment of their gratitude many of 
the Kamsalas have ozu affixed to their house-name, e.g., 
Kattozu, Lakkozu. 

Okkiliyan. — Okkiliyan is the Tamil synonym for 
Vakkaliga, the large caste of Canarese cultivators, and 
the name is derived from okkalu, meaning cultivation 
or agriculture. In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the 
Vakkaligas or Okkiliyans are described as " Canarese 
cultivators, who originally belonged to Mysore, and are 
found mainly in Madura and Coimbatore. The caste 
is split up into several sub-divisions, the names of two 
of which, Nonaba and Gangadikara, are derived from 


former divisions of the Mysore country. Each of these 
is again split up into totemistic exogamous sections or 
kulas, some of which are Chinnada (gold), Belli (silver), 
Khajjaya (cake), Yemme (buffalo), Alagi (pot), Jola 
(cholum : a millet)." The Vakkaligas say they are 
descendants of the Ballal Rajah of Anegundi, and that 
they left their homes in pursuit of more suitable occupa- 
tion, and settled themselves in Konganad (Coimbatore). 
The Okkiliyans, whom I have investigated, were settled 
in the Tamil country in the Coimbatore district, where 
they were engaged as cultivators, bakers, milk-vendors, 
bricklayers, merchants, cart-drivers, tailors, cigar manu- 
facturers, and coolies. They returned the following 
eight endogamous sub-divisions : — 

(i) Gangadikara, or those who lived on the banks 
of the Ganges. 

(2) Gudi, temple. 

(3) Kire [Amaranhts), which is largerly cultivated 
by them. 

(4) Kunchu, a tassel or bunch. 

(5) Kamati, foolish. Said to have abandoned 
their original occupation of cultivating the land, and 
adopted the profession of bricklayer. 

(6) Gauri, Siva's consort. 

(7) Bai. 

(8) Sanu. 

Like other Canarese castes, the Okkiliyans have 
exogamous septs (kuttam or kutta), such as Belli (silver), 
Kasturi (musk), Pattegara (headman), Aruva, Hattianna, 
etc. By religion they are both Saivites and Vaishnavites. 
Those of the Aruva sept are all Saivites, and the Hatti 
sept are Vaishnavites. Intermarriage between Saivites 
and Vaishnavites is permitted, even though the former 
be Lingayats. The Okkiliyans also worship village 


deities, and sacrifice goats and fowls to Magaliamma 
and Koniamma. 

The Kiraikkiirans of Coimbatore, whose main occu- 
pation is cultivating kirai (^Amarantus) and other 
vegetables, are said to be Kempati Okkiliyans, i.e.^ 
Okkiliyans who emigrated from Kempampatti in Mysore. 

The hereditary headman of the caste, at Coimbatore, 
is called Pattakaran, who has under him a Chinna (little) 
Pattakaran. The headman presides over the caste 
council meetings, settles disputes, and inflicts fines and 
other forms of punishment. If a person is accused of 
using coarse language, he is slapped on the cheek by 
the Chinna Pattakaran. If, during a quarrel, one person 
beats the other with shoes, he has to purify himself and 
his house, and feed some of his fellow castemen. The 
man who has been slippered also has to undergo purifi- 
catory ceremony, but has not to stand a feast. In cases 
of adultery, the guilty persons have to carry a basket 
of sand on the head round the quarters of the community, 
accompanied by the Chinna Pattakaran, who beats them 
with a tamarind switch. In some places, I am informed, 
there is a headman for the village, called Uru Goundan, 
who is subject to the authority of the Nattu Goundan. 
Several nadus, each composed of a number of villages, 
are subject to a Pattakar, who is assisted by a Bandari. 
All these offices are hereditary. 

When a Gangadikara girl reaches puberty, her 
maternal uncle, or his son, constructs a hut of stems of 
cocoanut leaves, reeds and branches of Pongamia glabra. 
Every day her relations bring her a cloth, fruits, and 
flowers. On alternate days she is bathed, and dressed 
in a cloth supplied by the washerwoman. The hut is 
broken up, and a new one constructed on the third, fifth, 
and seventh days. During the marriage ceremony, the 



bridegroom carries a dagger (katar) with a lime stuck 
on its tip, and partly covered with a cloth, when he 
proceeds to the bride's house with a bamboo, new 
clothes, the tali (marriage badge), jewels, wrist-thread 
(kankanam), fruits, cocoanuts, rice, and a new mat, 
camphor, etc. He must have the dagger with him till 
the wrist-threads are untied. The barber cuts the nails 
of the bridegroom. The Pattakaran, or a Brahman 
priest, takes round the tali to be blessed by those assem- 
bled, and gives it to the bridegroom, who ties it on the 
bride's neck. The ends of the cloths of the contracting 
couple, with betel leaves and areca nuts in them, are tied 
together, and they link together the little finger of their 
right hands. They then look at the sky, to see the pole- 
star, Arundati, who was the wife of the ascetic Vasishta, 
and the emblem of chastity. The marriage booth has 
four posts, and the milk-post is made of the milk hedge 
{^Etiphorbia Tirucalli), to which are tied mango leaves 
and a wrist-thread. At some Okkiliyan marriages, the 
caste priest, called Kanigara (soothsayer), officiates at 
the tali-tying ceremony. Very great importance is 
attached to the linking of the fingers of the bridal couple 
by the Kanigara or maternal uncle. Tke dowry is not 
given at the time of marriage, but only after the birth of 
a child. For her first confinement, the woman is taken 
to her parents' home, and, after delivery, is sent back to 
her husband with the dowry. This is not given before 
the birth of a child, as, in the event of failure of issue or 
death of his wife, the husband might claim the property, 
which might pass to a new family. 

Among some Okkiliyans the custom is maintained by 
which the father of a young boy married to a grown-up 
girl cohabits with his daughter-in-law until her husband 
has reached maturity. 


A dead person, I was informed at Coimbatore, is 
buried in a sitting posture, or, if young and unmarried, 
in a recumbent position. As the funeral procession 
proceeds on its way to the burial-ground, the relations 
and friends throw coins, fruits, cakes, cooked rice, etc., 
on the road, to be picked up by poor people. If the 
funeral is in high life, they may even throw flowers made 
of gold or silver, but not images, as some of the higher 
classes do. At the south end of the grave, a hollow 
is scooped out for the head and back to rest in. A 
small quantity of salt is placed on the abdomen, and the 
grave is filled in. Leaves of the arka })lant [Calotropis 
gigantea), or tangedu (Cassia aiiriculatd), are placed 
in three corners, and a stone is set up over the head. 
The son, having gone round the grave with a pot of 
water and a fire-brand, breaks the pot on the stone 
before he retires. The widow of the deceased breaks 
her bangles, and throws them on the grave. The 
son and other mourners bathe, and return home, where 
they worship a lighted lamp. On the third day, dried 
twigs of several species of Ficus and jak tree (Arto- 
carp7is integrifolia)^ milk, a new cloth, plantains, tender 
cocoanuts, cheroots, raw rice, betel, etc., required for 
worship, are taken to the grave. The twigs are burnt, 
and reduced to ashes, with which, mixed with water, 
the fiofure of a human beino- is made. It is covered 
with a new cloth, and flowers are thrown on it. Puja is 
done to plantains, cocoanut, etc., placed on a plantain 
leaf, and milk is poured over the figure by relations 
and friends. The widow breaks her tali string, and 
throws it on the figure. The son, and the four bearers 
who carried the corpse to the grave, are shaved. Each 
of the bearers is made to stand up. holding a pestle. 
The barber touches their shoulders with holy grass 



dipped in gingelly [Sesajinun) oil. Raw rice, and other 
eatables, are sent to the houses of the bearers by the 
son of the deceased. At night the cloths, turban, and 
other personal effects of the dead man are worshipped. 
Pollution is removed on the eleventh day by a Brahman 
sprinkling holy water, and the caste people are fed. 
They perform sradh. By some Okkiliyans, the corpse 
is, like that of a Lingayat Badaga, etc., carried to the 
burial-ground in a structure called teru kattu, made of 
a bamboo framework surmounted by a canopy, whereon 
are placed five brass vessels (kalasam). The structure 
is decorated with cloths, flags, and plantain trees. 

The Morasu Vakkaligas, who sacrifice their fingers, 
are dealt with separately (see Morasu). 

Olai. — A sub-division of Palli, the members of 
which wear a ear ornament called olai. 

Olaro. — A sub-division of Gadaba. 

Olekara. — See Vilyakara. 

Olikala (pyre and ashes). — An exogamous sept of 

Omanaito. — The Omanaitos or Omaitos are an 
Oriya cultivating caste, for the following account of 
which I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. 
According to a tradition, the ancestor of the caste was 
one Amatya, a minister of Sri Rama at Ayodhya. After 
Rama had gone to heaven, there was no one to take care 
of them, and they took to agriculture. The caste is 
divided into two endogamous sections, called Bodo (big) 
and Sanno (little). The latter are regarded as illegiti- 
mate children of the former by a Bottada, Gaudo, or 
other woman. The Bodo section is divided into septs, 
called Sva (parrot), Bhag (tiger), Kochchimo (tortoise), 
Naga (cobra), Sila (stone), Dhiidho (milk), Kumda 
(Cucurbita maxima), and Kukru (dog). 


The caste headman is called Bhatha Nayak, whose 
office is hereditary. He arranges council meetings for 
settling social questions, and takes a leading part in 
excommunicating members of the caste. Like the Gonds, 
the Omanaitos cannot tolerate a man suffering from sores, 
and he is formally excommunicated. To be received 
back into the caste, he has to give a caste feast, of which 
the Bhatha Nayak is the first to partake. 

Girls are married before or after puberty. A man 
claims his paternal aunt's daughter in marriage. As 
soon as a young man's parents think it is time that he 
should get married, they set out, with some sweets and 
jaggery (crude sugar), for the house of the paternal aunt, 
where the hand of her daughter is asked for. A second 
visit of a similar nature is made later on, when the mar- 
riage is decided on. An auspicious day is fixed by the 
Desari. A messenger is sent to the house of the bride- 
elect with some rice, three rupees, a sheep, and a new 
cloth, which are presented to her parents, who invite the 
bridegroom and his party to come on the appointed day. 
On that day, the bridegroom is conducted in procession, 
sometimes on horseback, to the bride's village. There, 
in front of her hut, a pandal (booth) has been constructed 
of eight posts of the sal tree i^Shorea robicsta), and a 
central post of the ippa {Bassia) tree, to which seven 
pieces of turmeric and seven mango leaves are tied. At 
the auspicious moment, the bridegroom is conducted in 
procession to the booth, and the messenger says aloud to 
the paternal aunt " The bridegroom has come. Bring 
the bride quickly," She stands by the side of the bride- 
groom, and the Desari links together their little fingers, 
while the women throw rice coloured with turmeric over 
them. Water, which has been brought from the village 
stream at early morn, and coloured with turmeric, is 


poured over the couple from five pots. They then dress 
themselves in new cloths presented by their fathers- 
in-law. A feast is given by the bride's party. On the 
following day, the bride is conducted to the home of the 
bridegroom, at the entrance to which they are met by 
the bridegroom's mother, who sprinkles rice coloured 
with turmeric over them, and washes their feet with 
turmeric-water. Liquor is then distributed, and a meal 
partaken of. The Desari takes seven grains of rice and 
seven areca nuts and ties them up in the ends of the 
cloths of the contracting couple. On the following day, 
a feast is held, and, next day, the parties of the bride 
and bridegroom throw turmeric-water over each other. 
All then repair to the stream, and bathe. A feast 
follows, for which a sheep is killed. 

It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam 
District, that in the course of an Omanaito wedding 
there is a free fight, with mud for missiles. 

The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a younger 
brother may marry the widow of his elder brother. 
Divorce is allowed, and divorcees may marry again. 

The Omanaitos worship Takurani and Chamariya 
Devata, as priest of whom a member of the caste 
officiates. An annual festival is held in the month of 

The dead are burnt. Pollution on account of a death 
in a family lasts for ten days, during which the caste 
occupation is not carried out, and the mourners are fed 
by people of another sept. On the eleventh day a feast 
is held, at which liquor is forbidden. 

The caste title is usually Nayako, but the more 
prosperous take the title Patro. 

Ondipuli.— Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 
190 1, as Telugu-speaking cultivators and cattle-breeders 


in the Salem district. The name is sometimes applied 
to the beggars attached to the Palli caste. 

Onnam Parisha (first party). — A section of Elayad. 

Onne {Plerocarpus Marsupm^n). — An exogamous 

sept of Toreyas, who are not allowed to mark their 

foreheads with the juice which exudes from the trunk of 

this tree. 

Onteddu. — Onteddu or Onti-eddu is the name of a 
sub-division of Ganigas or Gandlas, who only use one 
bullock for their oil-mills. 

Opoto. — Opoto or Apoto is the name of the 
palanquin-bearing section of Gaudos. 

Oppamtara. — A title conferred by the Raja of 
Cochin on some Nayars. 

Oppanakkaran (trader). — Telugu traders and agri- 
culturists. Recorded as a sub-division of Balija. 

OppomarangO {Achyranthes asperd). — An exoga- 
mous sept of Bhondari, the members of which may not 
use the root as a tooth-brush. 

Ore. — An honorific title of Nayars. 

Origabhakthudu (saluting devotee). — A class of 
mendicants, who are said to beg only from Perikes. 

Oriya. — Oriya, or Uriya, is a general term for those 
who speak the Oriya language. At times of census, it has 
been recorded as a sub-division of various castes, e.g., 
Sondi and Dhobi. 

Oruganti. — A sub-division of Kapu and Mutracha. 

Orunul (one string). — A sub-division of Marans, 
whose widows do not remarry. 

Oshtama. — A corrupt form of the word Vaishnava, 
applied to Satanis, who are called by illiterate folk 
Oishnamaru or Oshtamaru. 

Osta. — Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 
1 90 1, as the name of a caste of barbers for Muhammadans. 

447 pAdam 

Otattu (tile-makers). — An occupational name for 
Nayars, who tile or thatch temples and Brahman 

Ottaisekkan.— The name, indicating those who work 
their oil-mill with a single bullock, of a sub-division of 

Ottikunda (empty pot). — An exogamous sept of 

Paccha (green). — An exogamous sept of Kamma. 
The equivalent Pacchai is a sub-division of Tamil Parai- 
yans, and of Malaiyalis who have settled on the- Pacchai- 
malais (green hills). Pace hi powaku (green tobacco) 
occurs as an exogamous sept of Devanga. Pacchai 
Kutti is the name given to Koravas who travel about 
the country as professional tattooers, the operation of 
tattooing being known as pricking with green. In like 
manner, Pacchai Botlu is the name for Oddes, who are 
itinerant tattooers in the Ganjam, Vizagapatam, and 
Godavari districts. 

Pachilia.— A sub-division of Oriya Gaudos. 

Pada (hghting). — A sub-division of Nayar. 

Padaharu Madala (sixteen madalas). — The name, 
indicating the amount of the bride-price, of a section of 
Upparas. A madala is equal to two rupees. Some say 
that the name has reference to the modas, or heaps of 
earth, in which salt was formerly made. 

Padaiyachi. — A synonym or title of Palli or Vanni- 
yan, and Savalakkaran. 

Padal. — A title of headmen of the Bagatas. 

Padam.— Recorded, in the Travancore Census Re- 
port, 1 90 1, as a sub-division of Nayar. Padamangalam 


or Padamangalakkar is also recorded as a sub-division 
of Niiyars, who escort processions in temples. Mr. 
N. Subramani Aiyar writes that " Padamangalam and the 
Tamil Padam are recorded as a division of Nayars, but 
they are said to be immigrants to Travancore from the 
Tamil country." Padam also occurs as an exogamous 
sept of Moosu Kamma. 

Padarti. — A title of pujaris (priests) in South 
Canara, and a name by which Stanikas are called. 

Padavala (boat). — An exogamous sept of De- 

Padiga Raju. — Recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, as the same as Bhatrazu. The Padiga Rajulu 
are, however, beggars attached to the Padma Sales, 
and apparently distinct from Rhatrazus. The name is 
probably derived from padiga, a kind of vessel, and 
may bear reference to the vessel which they carry with 
them on their begging expeditions. 

Padma (lotus). — A sub-division of Velama. 

Padma Sale. — The Padma (lotus) Sales are a 
Telugu-speaking caste of weavers, who are scattered all 
over the Madras Presidency. The majority are engaged 
in their hereditary occupation, but only the minority 
possess looms of their own, and they work, for the most 
part, for the more prosperous owners of hand-looms. 
As a class they are poor, being addicted to strong drinks, 
and in the hands of the money-lenders, who take care 
that their customers always remain in debt to them. 
Like the Kaikolans, the Padma Sales weave the coarser 
kinds of cotton cloths, and cannot compete with the 
Patnulkarans and Khatres in the manufacture of the 
finer kinds. 

The Padma Sales have only one gotra, Markandeya. 
But, like other Telugu castes, they have a number of 



exogamous septs or intiperus, of which the following are 
examples : — 

Bandari, treasurer. 

Bomnia, an idol. 

Canji, gruel. 

Chinthaginjala, tamarind seeds. 

Gorantla, Lawsonia alba. 

Jinka, gazelle. 

Kalava, ditch. 

Kasulu, copper coins. 

Kongara, crane. 

Kadavala, pots. 

Manchi, good. 

Nili, indigo. 

Nukalu, flour of grain or pulse. 

Nyayam, justice. 

tJtla, rope for hanging pots. 

Pothu, male. 

Paththi, cotton. 

Putta, ant-hill. 

Thelu, scorpion. 

Tangedla, Cassia anriculata. 

Tumma, Acacia arabica. 

Avari, indigo plant. 

Chinnam, gold ? 

Gurram, horse. 

Geddam, beard. 

Kota, fort. 

Meda, raised mound. 

Middala, storeyed house, 

Alamidla, mango. 

Narala, nerves. 

PiJla, flowers. 

Sadhu, quiet or meek. 

The Padma Sales profess to be Vaishnavites, but 
some are Saivites. All the families of the exogamous 
sept Sadhu are said to be lingam-wearing Saivites. In 
addition to their house-god Venkateswara, they worship 
Pulikondla Rangaswami, Maremma, Durgamma, Nara- 
sappa, Sunkalamma, Urukundhi Viranna, Gangamma, 
Kinkiniamma, Mutyalamma, Kalelamma, Ankamma, and 
Padvetiamma. Their caste deity is Bhavana Rishi, to 
whom, in some places, a special temple is dedicated. A 
festival in honour of this deity is celebrated annually, 
during which the god and goddess are represented by 
two decorated pots placed on a model of a tiger (vyagra 
vahanam), to which, on the last day of the ceremonial, 
large quantities of rice and vegetables are offered, which 
are distributed among the loom-owners, pujari, headman, 
fasting celebrants, etc. 

The Padma Sales belong to the right-hand, and the 
Devangas to the left-hand faction, and the latter aver 


that the Padma Sales took away the body of the goddess 
Chaudcswari, leaving them the head. 

Three kinds of beggars are attached to the Padma 
Sales, viz., Sadhana Surulu, Padiga Rajulu or Koona- 
pilli vandlu, and Inaka-mukku Bhatrazus. Concerning 
the Sadhana Surulu, Buchanan writes as follows.* " The 
Vaishnavite section of the Samay Sale is called Padma 
Srdc. The whole Shalay formerly wore the linga, but, 
a house having been possessed by a devil, and this sect 
having been called on to cast him out, all their prayers 
were of no avail. At length ten persons, having thrown 
aside their linga, and offered up their supplications to 
Vishnu, they succeeded in expelling the enemy, and 
ever afterwards they followed the worship of this god, 
in which they have been initiated by their brethren. 
The descendants of these men, who are called Sadana 
Asholu (Sadana Sijrulu), or the celebrated heroes, never 
work, and, having dedicated themselves to god, live upon 
the charity of the industrious part of the caste, with whom 
they disdain to marry." 

The Padiga Rajulu are supposed to be the descend- 
ants of three persons, Adigadu, Padigadu and Baludu, 
who sprang from the sweat of Bhavana Rishi, and the 
following legend is current concerning the origin of 
the Padma Sales and Padiga Rajulu. At the creation of 
the world, men were naked, and one Markandeya, who 
was sixteen years old, was asked to weave cloths. To 
enable him to do so, he did thapas (penance), and from 
the sacred fire arose Bhavana Rishi, bearing a bundle 
of thread obtained from the lotus which sprang from Vish- 
nu's navel. Bhavana Rishi made cloths, and presented 
them to the Devatas, and offered a cloth to Bhairava also. 

* Journey through Mysore, Canara and Mahxbar, 1807. 


This he refused to accept, as it was the last, and not the 
first, which is usually rolled up, and kept on the loom. 
Finding- it unsuitable for wearing, Bhairava uttered a 
curse that the cloths made should wear out in six months. 
Accordingly, Siva asked Bhavana to procure him a 
tiger's skin for wearing. Narada came to the assistance 
of Bhavana, and told him to go to Udayagiri, where 
Bhadravati, the daughter of Surya, was doing penance 
to secure Bhavana as her husband. She promised to 
secure a skin, if he would marry her. To this he con- 
sented, and, in due course, received the tiger's skin. 
Making the tiger his vahanam (vehicle), he proceeded 
to the abode of Siva (Kailasam), and on his way thither 
met a Rakshasa, whom he killed in a fight, in the course 
of which he sweated profusely. From the sweat pro- 
ceeded Adigadu, Padigadu, and Baludu. When he 
eventually reached Siva, the tiger, on the sacred ashes 
being thrown over it, cast its skin, which Siva appro- 
priated. In consequence of this legend, tigers arc held 
in reverence by the Padma Sales, who believe that they 
will not molest them. 

The legendary origin of the Padma Sales is given as 
follows in the Baramahal Records.* "In former days, 
the other sects of weavers used annually to present a 
piece of cloth to a rishi or saint, named Markandeyulu. 
One year they omitted to make their offering at the 
customary period, which neglect enraged the rishi, 
who performed a yaga or sacrifice of fire, and, by the 
power of mantras or prayers, he caused a man to 
spring up out of the fire of the sacrifice, and called 
him Padma Saliwarlu, and directed him to weave a 
piece of cloth for his use. This he did, and presented 

* Section III. Inhabitants. Madras Government Press, 1907. 
V-29 B 


it to the rishi, saying ' Oh ! Swami, who is thy servant 
to worship, and how is he to obtain moksham or admit- 
tance to the presence of the Supreme ? ' The rishi 
answered ' Pay adoration to me, and thou wilt obtain 
moksham.' " 

The office of headman (Setti or Gaudu) is hereditary. 
The headman has under him an assistant, called Ummidi 
Setti or Ganumukhi, who is the caste messenger, and 
is exempt from the various subscriptions for temple 
festivals, etc. 

When a girl reaches puberty, she is forbidden to 
eat meat or Amaranttis during the period of ceremonial 
pollution. In settling the preliminaries of a marriage, a 
Brahman purohit takes part. With some Padma Sales 
it is etiquette not to give direct answers when a marriage 
is being fixed up. For example, those who have come 
to seek the hand of a girl say " We have come for a 
sumptuous meal, " to which the girl's parents, if consent- 
ing to the match, will reply " We are ready to feed you. 
You are our near relations." The marriage rites are a 
blend of the Canarese and Telugu types. In the Ceded 
districts, the bride is conveyed to the house of the bride- 
groom, seated on a bull, after worship has been done to 
Hanuman. As she enters the house, a cocoanut is waved, 
and thrown on the ground. She then bathes in an 
enclosure with four posts, round which cotton thread 
has been wound nine times. Wrist-threads of cotton and 
wool are tied on the bride and brideoroom. The bottu 
(marriage badge) is tied round the bride's neck, and she 
stands on a pile of cholum {SorgJuim vulgare : millet) on 
the floor or in a basket. The bridegroom stands on a 
mill-stone. While the bottu is being tied, a screen is 
interposed between the contracting couple. The bride's 
nose-screw ornament is dropped into a plate of milk. 

453 PAGADAla 

from which she has to pick it out five times. Towards 
evening, the bridal couple go in procession through the 
streets, and to the temple, if there is one. On their 
return to the house, the bridegroom picks up the bride, 
and dances for a short time before entering. This cere- 
mony is called dega-ata, and is performed by several 
Telugu castes. 

Some Padma Sales bury their dead in the usual 
manner, others, like the Lingayats, in a sitting posture. 
It is customary, in some places, to offer up a fowl to the 
corpse before it is removed from the house, and, if a 
death occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, a fowl is tied to 
the bier, and burnt with the corpse. This is done in the 
belief that otherwise another death would very soon take 
place. The Tamilians, in like manner, have a proverb 
" A Saturday corpse will not go alone." On the way to 
the burial-ground, the corpse is laid down, and water 
poured into the mouth. The son takes a pot of water 
round the grave, and holes are made in it by the 
Ummidi Setti, through which the water trickles out. 
On the fifth day, a sheep is killed, and eaten. During 
the evening the Satani comes, and, after doing puja 
(worship), gives the relatives of the deceased sacred 
arrack (liquor) in lieu of holy water (thirtham) and 
meat, for which he receives payment. On the last day 
of the death ceremonies (karmandiram), the Satani again 
comes with arrack, and, according to a note before me, 
all get drunk. {See Sale.) 

Pagadala (trader in coral). — A sub-division or 
exogamous sept of Balija and Kavarai. The Pagadala 
Balijas of the Vizagapatam district are described as 
dealing in coral and pearls. Pagada Mukara (coral 
nose-ring) has been returned as a sub-division of 


Pagati Vesham. — A class of Telugu beggars, who 
put on disguises (vesham) while begging.* At the 
annual festival at Tirupati in honour of the goddess 
Gangamma, custom requires the people to appear in a 
different disguise every morning and evening. These 
disguises include those of a Bairagi, serpent, etc.t 

Paguththan. — A title of Sembadavan. 

Paida (gold or money). — An exogamous sept of 
Mala. The equivalent Paidam occurs as an exogamous 
sept of Devanga. 

Paidi. — The Paidis are summed up, in the Madras 
Census Report, 1891, as " a class of agricultural labourers 
and weavers, found in the Vizagapatam district. Some 
of them are employed as servants and village watchmen. 
They are closely akin to the Panos and Dombos of the 
hills, and Malas of the plains. They speak a corrupt 
dialect of Uriya." In the Census Report, 1901, Kangara 
(servant) is recorded as a synonym for Paidi. 

For the following note on the Paidis of the Vizaga- 
patam district, I am mainly indebted to Mr. C. Hayava- 
dana Rao. There is a great deal of confusion concerning 
this caste, and the general impression seems to be that 
it is the same as Domb and Pano. I am informed that 
the same man would be called Paidi by Telugus, Domb 
by the Savaras, and Pano by the Konds. In the interior 
of the Jeypore Agency tracts the Dombs and Paidis both 
repudiate the suggestion that they are connected with 
each other. The Paidis, in some places, claim to belong 
to the Valmiki kulam, and to be descended from Valmiki, 
the author of the Ramayana. A similar descent, it may 
be noted, is claimed by the Boyas. In the Vizagapatam 
Manual, the Paidimalalu or Paidi Malas (hill Malas) are 

* Madras Census Report, igoi. 

t See Manual of ihc Norih Arcol dislricl, I, 1S7. 

455 VAim 

described as cultivating land, serving as servants and 
village watchmen, and spinning cotton. It is said that 
they will not eat food, which has been seen by Komatis. 
The Paidis stoutly deny their connection with the Malas. 

When a Paidi girl reaches puberty, she is kept under 
pollution for a varying number of days, and, on the last 
day, a Madiga is summoned, who cuts her finger and 
toe nails, after which she bathes. Girls are married 
either before or after puberty. The menarikam custom 
is in force, according to which a man should marry his 
maternal uncle's daughter. If he does so, the bride- 
price (voli) is fixed at five rupees ; otherwise it is ten 
rupees. The marriage ceremonies last over four days, 
and are of the low-country Telugu type. The remarriage 
of widows and divorce are permitted. 

The Paidis are Vaishnavites, and sing songs in praise 
of Rama during the month Karthika (November- 
December). Each family feeds a few of the castemen 
at least once during that month. They also observe the 
Sankramanam festival, at which they usually wear new 
clothes. The dead are either burnt or buried, and the 
chinna (small) and pedda rozu (big day) death ceremonies 
are observed. 

Some Paidis are cultivators, but a large number are 
prosperous traders, buying up the hill produce, and 
bringing it to the low-country, where it is sold at 
markets. Their children study English in the hill 
schools. The caste titles are Anna and Ayya. 

Some time ago some prisoners, who called themselves 
Billaikavu (cat-eaters), were confined in the Vizagapatam 
jail. I am informed that these people are Mala Paidis, 
who eat cat flesh. 

The following note refers to the Paidis who live in 
the southern part of Ganjam. Some have settled as 

PAIDI 456 

watchmen, or in other capacities, among the Savaras, 
whose language they speak in addition to tlieir own. 
In their marriage ceremonies, they conform to the 
Telugu type, with certain variations adopted from the 
Oriya ceremonial. On the first day, a pandal (booth) is 
set up, and supported on twelve posts. A feast is given 
to males during the day, and to females at night. Like 
the Oriya Dandasis, they bring water from seven houses 
of members of castes superior to their own. The 
auspicious time for tying the pushte (gold marriage 
badge) on the following day is fixed so as to fall during 
the night. At the appointed time, the bridegroom rushes 
into the house of the bride, and the contracting couple 
throw rice over each other. Taking the bride by the 
hand, the bridegroom conducts her to the pandal, 
wherein they take their seats on the dais. The bride 
should be seated before the bridegroom, and there is a 
mock struggle to prevent this, and to secure first place 
for the bridegroom. He then ties a mokkuto (chaplet) 
on the bride's forehead, a thread on her wrist, and the 
pushte on her neck. After this has been done, the couple 
bathe with the water already referred to, and once more 
come to the dais, where a small quantity of rice, sufficient 
to fill a measure called adda, is placed before them. 
Some amusement is derived from the bride abstracting 
a portion of the rice, so that, when the bridegroom 
measures it, there is less than there should be. The 
marriage ceremonies conclude on the third day with 
offerings to ancestors, and distribution of presents to the 
newly married couple. 

The death ceremonies are based on the Oriya type. 
On the day after death, the funeral pyre is extinguished, 
and the ashes are thrown on to a tree or an ant-hill. 
As they are being borne thither, the priest asks the man 

457 PAIDI 

who carries them what has become of the dead person, 
and he is expected to reply that he has gone to Kasi 
(Benares) or Jagannatham. A cloth is spread on the 
spot where the corpse was burnt, and offerings of food 
are placed on it. On the fourth day, a pig is killed and 
cooked. Before beino- cooked, one of the lesfs is hune 
up near the spot where the deceased breathed his last. 
Death pollution is got rid of by touching oil and turmeric, 
and the ceremonies conclude with a feast. An annual 
offering of food is made, in the month of November, to 
ancestors, unless a death takes place in the family during 
this month. 

The Ganjam Paidis worship the Takuranis (village 
deities), and sacrifice goats and sheep at local temples. 
As they are a polluting caste, they stand at a distance 
opposite the entrance to the temple, and, before they 
retire, take a pinch or two of earth. This, on their 
return home, they place on a cloth spread on a spot 
which has been cleansed, and set before it the various 
articles which have been prepared as offerings to the 
Takurani. When a Paidi is seriously ill, a male or 
female sorcerer (Bejjo or Bejjano) is consulted. A 
square, divided into sixteen compartments, is drawn 
on the floor with rice-flour. In each compartment are 
placed a leaf, cup oi Buteafrondosa^ a quarter-anna piece, 
and some food. Seven small bows and arrows are set 
up in front thereof in two lines. On one side of the 
square a big cup, filled with food, is placed. A fowl is 
sacrificed, and its blood poured thrice round this cup. 
Then, placing water in a vessel near the cup, the sorcerer 
or sorceress throw^s into It a grain of rice, giving out at 
the same time the name of some god or goddess. If the 
rice sinks, it is believed that the illness is caused by the 
anger of the deity, whose name has been mentioned. 

PAIK 45 8 

If the rice floats, the names of various deities are called 
out, until a grain sinks. 

It is recorded * that, in the Parvatipur country of the 
Vizagapatam district, "the Paidis (Paidi Malas) do most 
of the crime, and often commit dacoities on the roads. 
Like the Konda Doras, they have induced some of the 
people to employ watchmen 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." 

Paik. — It is noted by Yule and Burnell,t under the 
heading Pyke or Paik, that "Wilson gives only one 
original of the termx so expressed in Anglo-Indian speech. 
He writes ' Paik or Payik, corruptly Pyke, Hind., etc. 
(from S. padatika), Paik or Payak, Mar., a footman, an 
armed attendant, an inferior police and revenue officer, 
a messenger, a courier, a village watchman. In Cuttack 
the Paiks formerly constituted a local militia, holding 
land of the Zamindars or Rajas by the tenure of military 
service.' But it seems clear to us that there are here 
two terms rolled together : (a) Pers. Paik, a foot-runner 
or courier ; [d) Hind, paik and payik (also Mahr.) from 
Skt. padatika, and padika, a foot-soldier." 

In the Madras Census Report, 1891, Paiko is defined 
as " rather an occupational than a caste name. It means 
a foot-soldier, and is used to denote the retainers of the 
Uriya Chiefs of Ganjam and Vizagapatam. These men 
were granted lands on feudal tenure, and belonged to 
various castes. They are now ordinary agriculturists. 
Some are employed in the police, and as peons in the 
various public departments." In the records relating 
to human sacrifice and infanticide, 1854, the Paiks are 

* Gazellecr of ihe Vizagapatam district. t Hobson-Jobson. 


referred to as matchlock men, by whom the Konds and 
Gonds are kept in abject servitude. In the Vizagapatam 
Manual, 1869, various castes are referred to as being 
" all paiks or fighting men. Formerly they were a very 
numerous body, but their numbers are much diminished 
now, that is as fighting men, for the old army used to be 
paid, some in money, and some in grants of land. Now 
there are very few paiks kept up as fighting men ; those 
discharged from service have taken to trading with the 
coast, and to cultivating their pieces of land. The fort 
at Kotapad on the Bustar frontier always had a standing 
garrison of several hundred paiks. They are gradually 
being disbanded since we have put police there. The 
men are a fine race, brave, and capital shots with the 
matchlock." Paiko has been recorded, at times of census, 
as a synonym or sub-division of Rona. And Paikarayi 
occurs as a title of Badhoyis. 

Paiki. — A division of Toda. 

Pailman. — Pailman or Pailwan has been described * 
as "an occupational term meaning a wrestler, used by 
all classes following the occupation, whether they are 
Hindus or Musalmans. The Hindus among them are 
usually Gollas or Jettis." In the Telugu country, the 
Pailmans wrestle, and perform various mountebank, 
conjuring, and juggling feats. A wandering troupe of 
Maratha Pailwans performed before me various stick- 
exercises, acrobatic and contortionist feats, and balancing 
feats on a bamboo pole supported in the kamerband 
(belly-band) of a veteran member of the troupe. The 
performance wound up with gymnastics on a lofty pole 
kept erect by means of ropes tied to casual trees and tent- 
pegs, and surmounted by a pliant bamboo, on which the 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 


performer swung and balanced himself while playing a 
drum, or supporting a pile of earthen pots surmounted 
by a brass vessel on his head. The entertainment 
took }:)lace amid the music of drum and clarionet, and 
the patter of one of the troupe, the performers playing 
the drum in the waits between their turns. 

Painda. — A synonym of Paidi. 

Pakanati (eastern territory). — A sub-division of 
various Telugu classes, e.g.^ Balija, Golla, Kamsala, 
Kapu, Mala, and Tsakala. 

Paki. — Recorded by the Rev. J. Cain * as a sweeper 
caste in the Godavari district, members of which have 
come from the neighbourhood of Vizagapatam, and are 
great sticklers for their caste rules. 

Pakinadu.— -=A territorial sub-division of Kamsalas 
and other Telugu castes, corresponding to Pakanati. 

Pakirithi. — Pakirithi or Parigiri, meaning Vaishna- 
vite, is a sub-division of Besthas, who, on ceremonial 
occasions, wear the Vaishnava sect mark. 

Pal (milk). — Pal or Pilla has been recorded as a sub- 
division of Idaiyan and Kurumba, and an exogamous 
sept of Mala. {^Sce Halu.) 

Palakala (planks). — An exogamous sept of Kamma. 

Palamala. — Palama is recorded as a sub-division of 
the Kanikars of Travancore and Palamalathillom, said to 
denote the mountain with trees with milky juice, as an 
exogamous sept of the same tribe. 

Palavili. — A gotra ofGollas, who are not allowed to 
erect palavili, or sniall booths inside the house for the 
purpose of worship. 

Palayakkaran. — See Mutracha. 

Paligiri.— A sub-division of Mutracha. 

* Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 


Palissa (shield) Kollan. — A class of Kollans in 
Malabar, who make leather shields. It is recorded, in 
the Gazetteer of Malabar, that, at the tali-kettu ceremony, 
" the girl and manavalan (bridegroom) go to the tank 
on the last day of the ceremony. The girl, standing in 
the tank, ducks her whole body under water thrice. As 
she does so for the third time, a pandibali or triangular 
platter made of cocoanut fronds and pieces of plantain 
stem and leaf plaited together and adorned with five 
lighted wicks, is thrown over her into the water, and cut 
in half as it Boats by an enangan, who sings a song called 
Kalikkakam. Lastly, the girl chops in two a cocoanut 
placed on the bank. She aims two blows at it, and 
failure to sever It with a third Is considered inauspicious. 
Among Palissa Kollans and some other castes, the lucky 
dip ceremony is performed on the last day (called nalam 
kalyanam or fourth marriage). An enangan, drawing 
out the packets at random, distributes them to the 
manavalan, the girl, and himself in turn. It is lucky 
for the manavalan to get the gold, and the girl the silver. 
A significant finish to the ceremony in the form of a 
symbolical divorce is not infrequent in South Malabar 
at all events. Thus, among the Palissa Kollans the 
manavalan takes a piece of thread from his mundu (cloth), 
and gives it, saying ' Here is your sister's accharam ' to 
the girl's brother, who breaks it In two and puffs It 
towards him. In other cases, the manavalan gives the 
girl a cloth on the first day, and cuts It in two, giving 
her one half on the last ; or the manavalan and an enangan 
of the girl hold opposite ends of a cloth, which the 
manavalan cuts and tears in two, and then gives both 
pieces to the girl." 

Paliyans of Madura and Tinnevelly. In a note 
on the Malai (hill) Paliyans of the Madura district, the 


Rev. J. E. Tracy writes as follows. " I went to their 
village at the foot of the Periyar hills, and can testify to 
their being the most abject, hopeless, and unpromising 
specimens of humanity that I have ever seen. There 
were about forty of them in the little settlement, which 
was situated in a lovely spot. A stream of pure water 
was flowing within a few feet of their huts, and yet they 
were as foul and filthy in their personal appearance as if 
they were mere animals, and very unclean ones. Rich 
land that produced a luxuriant crop of rank reeds was 
all around them, and, with a little exertion on their part, 
might have been abundantly irrigated, and produced 
continuous crops of grain. Yet they lived entirely on 
nuts and roots, and various kinds of gum that they 
gathered in the forest on the slopes of the hills above 
their settlement. Only two of the community had ever 
been more than seven miles away from their village into 
the open country below them. Their huts were built 
entirely of grass, and consisted of only one room each, 
and that open at the ends. The chief man of the com- 
munity was an old man with white hair. His distinctive 
privilege was that he was allowed to sleep between two 
fires at night, while no one else was allowed to have 
but one — a distinction that they were very complaisant 
about, perhaps because with the distinction was the 
accompanying obligation to see that the community's 
fire never went out. As he was also the only man in 
the community who was allowed to have two wives, I 
inferred that he delegated to them the privilege of look- 
ing after the fires, while he did the sleeping, whereas, in 
other families, the man and wife had to take turn and 
turn about to see that the fire had not to be re-lighted 
in the morning. They were as ignorant as they were 
filthy. They had no place of worship, but seemed to 


aoree that the demons of the forest around them were 
the only beings that they had to fear besides the Forest 
Department. They were barely clothed, their rags 
being held about them, in one or two cases, with girdles 
of twisted grass. They had much the same appearance 
that many a famine subject presented in the famine of 
1877, but they seemed to have had no better times to 
look back upon, and hence took their condition as a 
matter of course. The forest had been their home from 
time immemorial. Yet the forest seemed to have taught 
them nothing more than it might have been supposed to 
have taught the prowling jackal or the laughing hyaena. 
There were no domesticated animals about their place : 
strange to say, not even a pariah dog. They appeared 
to have no idea of hunting, any more than they had of 
agriculture. And, as for any ideas of the beauty or 
solemnity of the place that they had selected as their 
village site, they were as innocent of such things as they 
were of the beauties of Robert Browning's verse." 

In a note written in 181 7, Mr. T. Turnbull states 
that the Madura Pulliers " are never seen unless when 
they come down to travellers to crave a piece of tobacco 
or a rag of cloth, for which they have a great predilec- 
tion. The women are said to lay their infants on warm 
ashes after delivery, as a substitute for warm clothing 
and beds." 

The Palayans, or Pulleer, are described by General 
Burton* as "good trackers, and many of them carried 
bows and arrows, and a few even possessed matchlocks. 
I met one of these villagers going out on a sporting 
excursion. He had on his head a great chatty (earthen 
pot) full of water, and an old brass-bound matchlock. 

* An Indian Olio. 


It was the height of the dry season. He was taking 
water to a hollow in a rock, which he kept carefully- 
replenished, and then ensconced himself in a clump of 
bushes hard by, and waited all day, if necessary, with 
true native patience, for hog, deer, or pea-fowl to 
approach his ambush." 

In the Madura Manual, it is noted that " the Polei- 
yans have always been the praedial slaves of the Kunu- 
vans. According to the survey account, they are the 
aborigines of the Palni hills. The marriage ceremony 
consists merely of a declaration of consent made by both 
parties at a feast, to which all their relatives are invited. 
As soon as a case of small-pox occurs in one of their 
villages, a cordon is drawn round it, and access to other 
villages is denied to all the inhabitants of the infected 
locality, who at once desert their homes, and camp out 
for a sufficiently long period. The individual attacked 
is left to his fate, and no medicine is exhibited to 
him, as it is supposed that the malady is brought on 
solely by the just displeasure of the gods. They bury 
their dead." 

The Paliyans are described, in the Gazetteer of the 
Madura district, as a " very backward caste, who reside 
in small scattered parties amid the jungles of the Upper 
Palnis and the Varushanad valley. They speak Tamil 
with a peculiar intonation, which renders it scarcely 
intelligible. They are much less civilised than the 
Pulaiyans, but do not eat beef, and consequently carry 
no pollution. They sometimes build themselves grass 
huts, but often they live on platforms up trees, in caves, 
or under rocks. Their clothes are of the scantiest and 
dirtiest, and are sometimes eked out with grass or leaves. 
They live upon roots (yams), leaves, and honey. They 
cook the roots by putting them into a pit in the ground, 



heaping wood upon them, and lighting it. The fire is 
usually kept burning all night as a protection against 
wild beasts, and it is often the only sign of the presence 
of the Paliyans in a jungle, for they are shy folk, who 
avoid other people. They make fire with quartz and 
steel, using the tioss of the silk-cotton tree as tinder. 
Weddings are conducted without ceremonies, the under- 
standing being that the man shall collect food, and the 
woman cook it. When one of them dies, the rest leave 
the body as it is, and avoid the spot for some months." 

A detailed account of the Paliyans of the Palni hills 
by the Rev. F. Dahmen has recently been published, "^ 
to which I am indebted for the following information. 
" The Paliyans are a nomadic tribe, who for the most 
part rove in small parties through the jungle-clad gorges 
that fringe the Upper Palnis plateau. There they main- 
tain themselves mostly on the products of the chase and 
on roots (yams, etc.), leaves and wild fruits (e.£-., of the 
wild date tree), at times also by hiring their labour to 
the Kunnuvan or Mannadi villagers. The find of a bee- 
hive in the hollow of some tree is a veritable feast for 
them. No sooner have they smoked the bees out than 
they greedily snatch at the combs, and ravenously devour 
them on the spot, with wax, grubs, and all. Against 
ailments the Paliyans have their own remedies : in fact, 
some Paliyans have made a name for themselves by 
their knowledge of the medicinal properties of herbs and 
roots. Thus, for instance, they make from certain roots 
(periya uri katti ver) a white powder known as a very 
effective purgative. Against snake-bite they always 
carry with them certain leavx-s (naru valli ver), which 
they hold to be a very efficient antidote. As soon as 

* Anthropos, III, 1908. 


one of them is bitten, he chews these, and also applies 
them to the wound. Patience and cunning above all 
are required in their hunting-methods. One of their 
devices, used for big game, e.g., against the sambar (deer), 
or against the boar, consists in digging pitfalls, carefully- 
covered up with twigs and leaves. On the animal being 
entrapped, it is dispatched with clubs or the aruval 
(sickle). Another means consists in arranging a heap 
of big stones on a kind of platform, one end of which 
is made to rest on higher ground, the other skilfully- 
equipoised by a stick resting on a fork, where it remains 
fixed by means of strong twine so disposed that the 
least movement makes the lever-like stick on the fork 
fly off, while the platform and the stones come rapidly 
down with a crash. The string which secures the lever 
is so arranged as to unloose itself at the least touch, and 
the intended victim can hardly taste the food that serves 
for bait without bringing the platform with all its weight 
down upon itself. Similar traps, but on a smaller scale, 
are used to catch smaller animals : hares, wild fowl, etc. 
Flying squirrels are smoked out of the hollows of trees, 
and porcupines out of their burrows, and then captured or 
clubbed to death on their coming out. The first drops 
of blood of any animal the Paliyans kill are offered to 
their god. A good catch is a great boon for the famished 
Paliyan. The meat obtained therefrom must be divided 
between all the families of the settlement. The skins, 
if valuable, are preserved to barter for the little commo- 
dities they may stand in need of, or to give as a tribute 
to their chief One of their methods for procuring fish 
consists in throwing the leaves of a creeper called in Tamil 
karungakodi, after rubbing them, into the water. Soon 
the fish is seen floating on the surface. Rough fashioned 
hooks are also used. When not enoag^ed on some 


expedition, or not working for hire, the Paliyans at times 
occupy themselves in the fabrication of small bird-cages, 
or in weaving a rough kind of mat, or in basket-making. 
The small nicknacks they turn out are made according 
to rather ingenious patterns, and partly coloured with 
red and green vegetable dyes. These, with the skins of 
animals, and the odoriferous resin collected from the 
dammer tree, are about the only articles which they 
barter or sell to the inhabitants of the plains, or to the 

Concerning the religion and superstitions of the 
Paliyans, the Rev. F. Dahmen writes as follows. "The 
principal religious ceremony takes place about the 
beginning of March. Mayandi (the god) is usually 
represented by a stone, preferably one to which nature 
has given some curious shape, the serpent form being 
especially valued. I said ' represented,' for, according 
to our Paliyans, the stone itself is not the god, who is 
supposed to live somewhere, they do not exactly know 
where. The stone that represents him has its shrine at 
the foot of a tree, or is simply sheltered by a small thatched 
covering. There, on the appointed day, the Paliyans 
gather before sunrise. Fire is made in a hole in front 
of the sacred stone, a fine cock brought in, decapitated 
amidst the music of horn and drum and the blood made 
to drip on the fire. The head of the fowl ought to be 
severed at one blow, as this is a sign of the satisfaction 
of the god for the past, and of further protection for the 
future. Should the head still hang, this would be held 
a bad omen, foreboding calamities for the year ensuing. 
The instrument used in this sacred operation is the 
aruval, but the sacrificial aruval cannot be used but for 
this holy purpose. Powers of witchcraft and magic are 
attributed to the Paliyans by other castes, and probably 


believed in by themselves. The following device adopted 
by them to protect themselves from the attacks of wild 
animals, the panther in particular, may be given as an 
illustration. Four jackals' tails are planted in four 
different spots, chosen so as to include the area within 
which they wish to be safe from the claws of the brute. 
This is deemed protection enough : though panthers 
should enter the magic square, they could do the Paliyans 
no harm ; their mouths are locked." It is noted by the 
Rev. F. Dahmen that Paliyans sometimes go on a pilgrim- 
age to the Hindu shrine of Subrahmaniyam at Palni. 

Writing concerning the Paliyans who live on the 
Travancore frontier near Shenkotta, Mr. G. ¥. DTenha 
states * that they account for their origin by saying 
that, at some very remote period, an Eluvan took refuge 
during a famine in the hills, and there took to wife a 
Palliyar woman, and that the Palliyars are descended 
from these two. " The Palliyar," he continues, " is just 
a shade lower than the Eluvan. He is permitted to 
enter the houses of Eluvans, Elavanians (betel-growers), 
and even of Maravars, and in the hills, where the rigour 
of the social code is relaxed to suit circumstances, the 
higher castes mentioned will even drink water given by 
Palliyars, and eat roots cooked by them. The Palliyars 
regard sylvan deities with great veneration. Kurupu- 
swami is the tribe's tutelary god, and, when a great 
haul of wild honey is made, offerings are given at some 
shrine. They pretend to be followers of Siva, and always 
attend the Adi Amavasai ceremonies at Courtallum. 
The Palliyar cultivates nothing, not even a sweet potato. 
He keeps no animal, except a stray dog or two. An axe, 
a knife, and a pot are all the impedimenta he carries. An 

* Ind. Ant., XXX, 1902. 







expert honey-hunter, he will risk his neck climbing lofty 
precipices or precipitous cliffs. A species of sago-palm 
furnishes him with a glairy glutinous lluid on which he 
thrives, and such small animals as the iguana {Varanus), 
the tortoise, and the larvae of hives are never-failing 

The Paliyans, whom I investigated in North Tinne- 
velly, were living in the jungles near the base of the 
mountains, in small isolated communities separated from 
each other by a distance of several miles. They speak 
Tamil with a peculiar intonation, which recalls to mind 
the Irulas. They are wholly illiterate, and only a few 
can count up to ten. A woman has been known to 
forget her own name. At a marriage, the father, taking 
the hand of the bride, and putting it into that of the 
bridegroom, says " I give this girl to you. Give her 
roots and leaves, and protect her." The value of a 
bride or bridegroom depends very much on the quantity 
of roots, etc., which he or she can collect. When a 
widow does not remarry, the males of the community 
supply her with roots and other products of the jungle. 
Marriages are, as a rule, contracted within the settle- 
ment, and complications occasionally occur owing to the 
absence of a girl of suitable age for a young man. 
Indeed, in one settlement I came across two brothers, 
who had for this reason resorted to the adelphous form 
of polyandry. It would be interesting to note hereafter 
if this custom, thus casually introduced, becomes estab- 
lished in the tribe. As an exception to the rule of 
marriage within the settlement, it was noted that a party 
of Paliyans had wandered from the Gandamanaikanur 
forests to the jungle of Ayanarkoil, and there inter- 
married with the members of the local tribe, with which 
they became incorporated. The Paliyans admit members 


of other castes into their ranks. A case was narrated to 
me, in which a Maravan cohabited for some time with a 
PaHya woman, who bore children by him. In this way 
is the purity of tyj)e amono- the jungle tribes lost as the 
result of civilisation, and their nasal index reduced from 
platyrhine to mesorhine dimensions. 

The Tiimevclly Paliyans say that Valli, the wife of 
the 2^od Subramaniya, was a Paliyan woman. As they 
carry no pollution, they are sometimes employed, in 
return for food, as night watchmen at the Vaishnavite 
temple known as Azhagar Koil at the base of the hills. 
They collect for the Forest Department minor produce 
in the form of root-bark of Ventilago madraspatana and 
Anisochilits cm-nosiis, the fruit of Temninalia Chebula 
(myrabolams), honey, bees- wax, etc., which are handed 
over to a contractor in exchange for rice, tobacco, betel 
leaves and nuts, chillies, tamarinds and salt. The food 
thus earned as wages is supplemented by yams (tubers 
of Dioscorea) and roots, which are dug up with a 
digging-stick, and forest fruits. They implicitly obey 
the contractor, and it was mainly through his influence 
that I was enabled to interview them, and measure their 
bodies, in return for a banquet, whereof they partook 
seated on the grass in two semicircles, the men in front 
and women in the rear, and eating off teak leaf plates 
piled high with rice and vegetables. Though the 
prodigious mass of food provided was greedily devoured 
till considerable abdominal distension was visible, dis- 
satisfaction was expressed because it included no meat 
(mutton), and I had not brought new loin-cloths for them. 
They laughed, however, when I expressed a hope that 
they would abandon their dirty cloths, turkey-red turbans 
and European bead necklaces, and revert to the primitive 
leafy garment of their forbears. A struggle ensued for 


the limited supply of sandal paste, with which a group 
of men smeared their bodies, in imitation of the hicrher 
classes, before they were photographed. A feast given 
to the Paliyans by sonic missionaries was marred at the 
outset by the unfortunate circumstance that betel and 
tobacco were placed by the side of the food, these 
articles being of evil omen as they are placed in the 
grave with the dead. A question whether they eat beef 
produced marked displeasure, and even roused an 
apathetic old woman to grunt " Your other questions are 
fair. You have no right to ask that." If a Paliyan 
happens to come across the carcase of a cow or buffalo 
near a stream, it is abandoned, and not approached for a 
long time. Leather they absolutely refuse to touch, and 
one of them declined to carry my camera box, because he 
detected that it had a leather strap. 

They make fire with a quartz strike-a-light and steel 
and the floss of the silk-cotton tree (Bombax mala- 
bariaini). They have no means of catching or killing 
animals, birds, or fish with nets, traps, or weapons, but. 
if they come across the carcase of a goat or deer in the 
forest, they will roast and eat it. They catch " vermin " 
(presumably field rats) by smoking them out of their 
holes, or diorainor them out with their dioorinsf-sticks. 
Crabs are caught for eating by children, by letting a 
string with a piece of cloth tied to the end down the 
hole, and lifting it out thereof when the crab seizes hold 
of the cloth with its claws. Of wild beasts they are nox. 
afraid, and scare them away by screaming, clapping the 
hands, and rolling down stones into the valleys. I saw 
one man, who had been badly mauled by a tiger on 
the buttock and thigh when he was asleep with his wife 
and child in a cave. During the dry season they live 
in natural caves and crevices in rocks, but, if these leak 


during the rains, they erect a rough shed with the floor 
raised on poles off the ground, and sloping grass roof, 
beneath which a fire is kept burning at night, not only for 
warmth, but also to keep off wild beasts. They are 
expert at making rapidly improvised shelters at the base 
of hollow trees by cutting away the wood on one side with 
a bill-hook. Thus protected, they were quite snug and 
happy during a heavy shower, while we were miserable 
amid the drippings from an umbrella and a mango tree. 

Savari is a common name among the Tinnevelly 
Paliyans as among other Tamils. It is said to be a 
corruption of Xavier, but Savari or Sabari are recog- 
nised names of Siva and Parvati, There is a temple called 
Savari malayan on the Travancore boundary, whereat the 
festival takes place at the same time as the festival in 
honour of St. Xavier among Roman Catholics. The 
women are very timid in the presence of Europeans, and 
suffer further from hippophobia ; the sight of a horse, 
which they say is as tall as a mountain, like an elephant, 
producing a regular stampede into the depths of the 
jungle. They carry their babies slung in a cloth on the 
back, and not astride the hips according to the common 
practice of the plains. The position, in confinement, is 
to sit on a rock with legs dependent. Many of these 
Paliyans suffer from jungle fever, as a protection against 
which they wear a piece of turmeric tied round the neck. 
The dead are buried, and a stone is placed on the grave, 
which is never re-visited. 

Like other primitive tribes, the Paliyans are short of 
stature and dolichocephalic, and the archaic type of nose 
persists in some individuals. 

Average height i50'9 cm. Nasal index S^ (max. 100). 

Pallan. — The Pallans are " a class of agricultural 
labourers found chiefly in Tanjore, Trichinopoly, Madura 

i' ALLAN. 


and Tinnevelly. They are also fairly numerous in parts 
of Salem and Coimbatore, but in the rcmaininof Tamil 
districts they are found only in very small numbers." * 

The name is said to be derived from pallam, a pit, as 
they were standing on low ground when the castes were 
originally formed. It is further suggested that the name 
may be connected with the wet cultivation, at which they 
are experts, and which is always carried out on low 
ground. In the Manual of the Madura district (1868), 
the Pallans are described as "a very numerous, but a 
most abject and despised race, little, if indeed at all, 
superior to the Paraiyas. Their principal occupation 
is ploughing the lands of more fortunate Tamils, and, 
though nominally free, they are usually slaves in almost 
every sense of the word, earning by the ceaseless sweat 
of their brow a bare handful of grain to stay the pangs of 
hunger, and a rag with which to partly cover their 
nakedness. They are to be found in almost every village, 
toiling and moiling for the benefit of Yellalans and 
others, and with the Paraiyas doing patiently nearly all 
the hard and dirty work that has to be done. Personal 
contact with them is avoided by all respectable men, and 
they are never permitted to dwell within the limits of a 
village nattam. Their huts form a small detached hamlet, 
the Pallacheri, removed from a considerable distance 
from the houses of the respectable inhabitants, and barely 
separated from that of the Paraiyas, the Parei-cheri. 
The Pallans are said by some to have sprung from the 
intercourse of a Sudra and a Brahman woman. Others 
say Devendra created them for the purpose of labouring 
in behalf of Vellalans. Whatever may have been their 
origin, it seems to be tolerably certain that in ancient 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 


times they were the slaves of the Vellalans, and regarded 
by them merely as chattels, and that they were brought 
by the Vellalans into the Pandya-mandala." Some 
Pallans say that they are, like the Kalians, of the lineage 
of Indra, and that their brides wear a wreath of flowers 
in token thereof. They consider themselves superior to 
Paraiyans and Chakkiliyans, as they do not eat beef 

It is stated in the Manual of Tanjore (1S83) that the 
" Pallan and Paraiya are rival castes, each claiming 
superiority over the other ; and a deadly and never-ending 
conflict in the matter of caste privileges exists between 
them. They are prsedial labourers, and arc employed 
exclusively in the cultivation of paddy (rice) lands. 
Their women are considered to be particularly skilled in 
planting and weeding, and, in most parts of the delta, 
they alone are employed in those operations. The Palla 
women expose their body above the waist — a distinctive 
mark of their primitive condition of slavery, of which, 
however, no trace now exists." It is noted by Mr. G. T. 
Mackenzie * that " in the first quarter of the nineteenth 
century, the female converts to Christianity in the 
extreme south ventured, contrary to the old rules for the 
lower castes, to clothe themselves above the waist. This 
innovation was made the occasion for threats, violence, 
and a series of disturbances. Similar disturbances arose 
from the same cause nearly thirty years later, and, 
in 1859, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Governor of Madras, 
interfered, and granted permission to the women of 
lower caste to wear a cloth over the breasts and 

In connection with disputes between the right-hand 
and left-hand factions, it is stated t that "whatever the 

* Christianity in Travancore, 1901. 

t Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly district. 


origin of the factions, feeling still runs very high, espe- 
cially between the Pallans and the Paraiyans. The 
violent scenes which occurred in days gone by * no longer 
occur, but quarrels occur when questions of precedence 
arise (as when holy food is distributed at festivals to 
the village goddesses), or if a man of one faction takes a 
procession down a street inhabited chiefly by members 
of the other. In former times, members of the opposite 
faction would not live in the same street, and traces of 
this feeling are still observable. Formerly also the 
members of one faction would not salute those of the 
other, however much their superiors in station ; and the 
menials employed at funerals (Paraiyans, etc.) would not 
salute the funeral party if it belonged to the rival faction." 

In the Coimbatore Manual it is noted that " the 
Pallan has in all times been a serf, labouring in the low 
wet lands (pal lam) for his masters, the Brahmans and 
Goundans. The Pallan is a stout, shortish black man, 
sturdy, a meat-eater, and not over clean in person or 
habit ; very industrious in his favourite wet lands. He 
is no longer a serf." The occupations of the Pallans, 
whom I examined at Coimbatore, were cultivator, 
gardener, cooly, blacksmith, railway porter, tandal (tax- 
collector, etc.), and masalchi (office peon, who looks 
after lamps, ink-bottles, etc.). Some Pallans are mani- 
yagarans (village munsifs or magistrates). 

In some places a Pallan family is attached to a 
land-holder, for whom they work, and, under ordinary 
conditions, they do not change masters. The attach- 
ment of the Pallan to a particular individual is maintained 
by the master paying a sum of money as an advance, 
which the Pallan is unable to repay. 

• See Nelson, the Madura Country, II, 4—7, and Coimbatore District 
Manual, 477. 

V-31 B 


The Pallans are the Jati Pillais of the Pandya Kam- 
malans, or Kammalans of the Madura country. The 
story goes that a long while ago the headman of the 
Pallans came begging to the Kollan section of the 
Pandya Kammalans, which was employed in the manu- 
facture of ploughs and other agricultural implements, and 
said " Worshipful sirs, we are destitute to the last degree. 
If you would but take pity on us, we would become 
your slaves. Give us ploughs and other implements, 
and we shall ever afterwards obey you." The Kollans, 
taking pity on them, gave them the implements and 
they commenced an agricultural life. When the harvest 
was over, they brought the best portion of the crop, and 
gave it to the Kollans. From that time, the Pallans 
became the "sons" of the Pandya Kammrdans, to whom 
even now they make offerings in gratitude for a bumper 

At times of census the Pallans return a number of 
sub-divisions, and there is a proverb that one can count 
the number of varieties of rice, but it is impossible to 
count the divisions of the Pallans. As examples of the 
sub-divisions, the following may be quoted : — 

Aiya, father. 

Amma, mother. 

Anja, father. 

Atta, mother. 

Devendra. — The sweat of Devendra, the king of 
gods, is said to have fallen on a plant growing in water 
from which arose a child, who is said to have been the 
original ancestor of the Pallans. 

Kadaiyan, lowest or last. 

Konga. — The Kongas of Coimbatore wear a big 
marriage tali, said to be the emblem of Sakti, while the 
other sections wear a small tali. 


477 P ALLAN 

Mcinganadu, territorial. 
Sozhia, territorial. 
Tondaman, territorial. 

These sub-divisions are endogamous, and Aiya and 
Amma Pallans of the Sivaganga zemindari and adjacent 
parts of the Madura district possess exogamous septs 
or kilais, which, Hke those of the Maravans, Kalians, 
and some other castes, run in the female line. Children 
belong to the same kilai as that of their mother and 
maternal uncle, and not of their father. 

The headman of the Pallans is, in the Madura 
country, called Kudumban, and he is assisted by a 
Kaladi, and, in large settlements, by a caste messenger 
entitled Variyan, who summons people to attend council- 
meetings, festivals, marriages and funerals. The offices 
of Kudumban and Kaladi are hereditary. When a family 
is under a ban of excommunication, pending enquiry, 
the caste people refuse to give them fire, and otherwise 
help them, and even the barber and washerman are 
not permitted to work for them. As a sign of excommu- 
nication, a bunch of leafy twigs of margosa [Melia 
Azadirachta) is stuck in the roof over the entrance to the 
house. Restoration to caste necessitates a purificatory 
ceremony, in which cow's urine is sprinkled by the 
Variyan. When a woman is charged with adultery, the 
offending man is brought into the midst of the assembly, 
and tied to a harrow or hoeing plank. The woman has 
to carry a basket of earth or rubbish, with her cloth tied 
so as to reach above her knees. She is sometimes, in 
addition, beaten on the back with tamarind switches. 
If she confesses her guilt, and promises not to misconduct 
herself again, the Variyan cuts the waist-thread of her 
paramour, who ties it round her neck as if it was a tali 
(marriage badge). On the following day, the man and 


woman are taken early in the morning to a tank (pond) 
or well, near which seven small pits are made, and filled 
with water. The Varlyan sprinkles some of the water 
over their heads, and has subsequently to be fed at their 
expense. If the pair are in prosperous circumstances, a 
general feast is insisted on. 

At Coimbatore, the headman is called Pattakaran^ 
and he is assisted by various subordinate officers and a 
caste messenger called Odumpillai. In cases of theft, the 
guilty person has to carry a man on his back round the 
assembly, while two persons hang on to his back-hair. 
He is beaten on the cheeks, and the Odumpillai may be 
ordered to spit in his face. A somewhat similar form of 
punishment is inflicted on a man proved guilty of having 
intercourse with a married woman. 

In connection with the caste organisation of the Pallans 
in the Trichinopoly district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes 
as follows. " They generally have three or more head- 
men for each village, over whom is the Nattu Muppan. 
Each village also has a peon called Odumpillai (the runner). 
The main body of the caste, when attending council- 
meetings, is called ilam katchi (the inexperienced). The 
village councils are attended by the Muppans and the 
Nattu Muppan. Between the Nattu Muppan and the 
ordinary Muppans, there is, in the Karur taluk, a Pulli 
Muppan. All these offices are hereditary. In this taluk 
a rather different organisation is in force, to regulate 
the supply of labour to the landholders. Each of the 
village Muppans has a number of karais or sections of 
the wet-land of the village under him, and he is bound 
to supply labourers for all the land in his karai, and is 
remunerated by the landowner with ij marakkals of 
grain for every 20 kalams harvested. The Muppans do 
not work themselves, but maintain discipline among their 


479 P ALLAN 

men by flogging or expulsion from the caste. In the 
Karur taluk, the ordinary Pallans are called Manvettai- 
karans (mamoty or digging-tool men)." 

The Pallans have their own washermen and barbers, 
who are said to be mainly recruited from the Sozhia 
section, which, in consequence, holds aii inferior position ; 
and a Pallan belonging to another section would feel 
insulted if he was called a Sozhian. 

When a Pallan girl, at Coimbatore, attains puberty, 
she is bathed, dressed in a cloth brought by a washer- 
woman, and presented with flowers and fruits by her 
relations. She occupies a hut constructed of cocoanut 
leaves, branches of Pongamia glabra, and wild sugar- 
cane {Saccharum aj'undinace^tvi). Her dietary includes 
jaggery (crude sugar) and milk and plantains. On the 
seventh day she is again bathed, and presented with 
another cloth. The hut is burnt down, and for three 
days she occupies a corner of the pial of her home. On 
the eleventh day she is once more bathed, presented 
with new cloths by her relations, and permitted to enter 
the house. 

It is stated by Dr. G. Oppert *^ that "at a Pallar 
wedding, before the wedding is actually performed, the 
bridegroom suddenly leaves his house and starts for 
some distant place, as if he had suddenly abandoned his 
intention of marrying, in spite of the preparations that 
had been made for the wedding. His intended father- 
in-law intercepts the young man on his way, and 
persuades him to return, promising to give his daughter 
as a wife. To this the bridegroom consents." I have 
not met with this custom in the localities in which the 
Pallans have been examined. 

* Orio-inal Inhabilanls of Bharatavarsa or India. 


In one form of marriage among the Pallans of the 
Madura district, the bridegroom's sister goes to the 
house of the bride on an auspicious day, taking with her 
the taH string, a new cloth, betel, fruits and flowers. She 
ties the tali round the neck of the bride, who, if a milk- 
post has been set up, goes round it. The bride is then 
conducted to the house of the bridegroom, where the 
couple sit together on the marriage dais, and coloured 
water, or coloured rice balls with lighted wicks, are waved 
round them. They then go, with linked fingers, thrice 
round the dais. In a more complicated form of marriage 
ceremonial, the parents and maternal uncle of the bride- 
groom, proceed, on the occasion of the betrothal, to 
the bride's house with rice, fruit, plantains, a cocoanut, 
sandal paste, and turmeric. These articles are handed 
over, with the bride's money, to the Kudumban or 
Kaladi of her village. Early in the morning of the wed- 
ding day, a pandal (booth) is erected, and the milk-post, 
made of Thespesia populnea or Miimtsops kexandra, is 
set up by the maternal uncles of the contracting couple. 
The bride and bridegroom bring some earth, with 
which the marriage dais is made. These preliminaries 
concluded, they are anointed by their maternal uncles, 
and, after bathing, the wrist-threads (kankanam) are 
tied to the bridegroom's wrist by his brother-in-law, 
and to that of the bride by her sister-in-law. Four 
betel leaves and areca nuts are placed at each corner of 
the dais, and the pair go round it three times, saluting 
the betel as they pass. They then take their place 
on the dais, and two men stretch a cloth over their 
heads. They hold out their hands, into the palms of 
which the Kudumban or Kaladi pours a little water 
from a vessel, some of which is sprinkled over their 
heads. The vessel is then waved before them, and they 


are garlanded by the maternal uncles, headmen, and 
others. The bride is taken into the house, and her 
maternal uncle sits at the entrance, and measures a new 
cloth, which he gives to her. She clads herself in it, 
and her uncle, lifting her in his arms, carries her to the 
dais, where she is placed by the side of the bridegroom. 
The fingers of the contracting couple are linked together 
beneath a cloth held by the maternal uncles. The tali 
is taken up by the bridegroom, and placed by him 
round the bride's neck, to be tightly tied thereon by his 
sister. Just before the tali is tied, the headman bawls 
out " May I look into the bride's money and presents " ? 
and, on receiving permission to do so, says thrice 
" Seven bags of nuts, seven bags of rice, etc., have been 

At a marriage among the Konga Pallans of Coim- 
batore, the bridegroom's wrist-thread is tied on at his 
home, after a lamp has been worshipped. He and his 
party proceed to the house of the bride, taking with 
them a new cloth, a garland of flowers, and the tali. The 
milk-post of the pandal is made of milk-hedge {^Euphorbia 
Tirucalli). The bride and bridegroom sit side by side 
and close together on planks within the pandal. The 
bridegroom ties the wrist-thread on the bride's wrist, and 
the caste barber receives betel from their mouths in a 
metal vessel. In front of them are placed a Pillayar (figure 
of Ganesa) made of cow-dung, two plantains, seven 
cocoanuts, a measure of paddy, a stalk of Andropogon 
Sorghum with a betel leaf stuck on it, and seven sets of 
betel leaves and areca nuts. Camphor is burnt, and two 
cocoanuts are broken, and placed before the Pillayar, 
The tali is taken round to be blessed in a piece of one of 
the cocoanuts. The Mannadi (assistant headman) hands 
over the tali to the bridegroom, who ties it round the 


bride's neck. Another cocoanut is then broken. Three 
vessels containing, respectively, raw rice, turmeric water 
and milk, each with pieces of betel leaf, are brought. 
The hands of the contracting couple are then linked 
together beneath a cloth, and the fourth cocoanut is 
broken. The Mannadi, taking up a little of the rice, 
turmeric water, milk, and betel leaves, waves them before 
the bride and bridegroom, and throws them over their 
heads. This is likewise done by five other individuals, 
and the fifth cocoanut is broken. The bride and bride- 
groom go round the plank, and again seat tliemselves. 
Their hands are unlinked, the wrist-threads are untied, 
and thrown into a vessel of milk. The sixth cocoanut 
is then broken. Cooked rice with plantains and ghl 
(clarified butter) is offered to Alii Arasani, the wife of 
Arjuna, who was famed for her virtue. The rice is 
offered three times to the contracting couple, who do not 
eat it. The caste barber brings water, with which they 
cleanse their mouths. They exchange garlands, and the 
seventh cocoanut is broken. They are then taken within 
the house, and sit on a new mat. The bridegroom is 
again conducted to the pandal, where cooked rice and 
other articles are served to him on a tripod stool. They 
are handed over to the Odumpillai as a perquisite, and 
all the guests are fed. In the evening a single cloth is 
tied to the newly married couple, who bathe, and pour 
water over each other's heads. The Pillayar, lamp, 
paddy, Andropogon stalk, and two trays with betel, are 
placed before the guests. The Mannadi receives four 
annas from the bridegroom's father, and, after mentioning 
the names of the bridegroom, his father and grandfather, 
places it in one of the trays, which belongs to the bride's 
party. He then receives four annas from the bride's 
father, and mentions the names of the bride, her father 


and grandfather, before placing the money in the tray 
which belongs to the bridegrooni's party. The relations 
then make presents of money to the bride and bridegroom. 
When a widow remarries, her new husband gives her a 
white cloth, and ties a yellow string round her neck in 
the presence of some of the castemen. 

At a marriage among the Kadaiya Pallans of Coim- 
batore, the wrist-thread of the bride is tied on by the 
Mannadi. She goes to a Pillayar shrine, and brings 
back three trays full of sand from the courtyard thereof, 
which is heaped up in the marriage pandal. Three 
painted earthen pots, and seven small earthen trays, are 
brought in procession from the Mannadi's house by the 
bridegroom, and placed in the pandal. To each of the 
two larger pots a piece of turmeric and betel leaf are 
tied, and nine kinds of grain are placed in them. The 
bridegroom has brought with him the tali tied to a 
cocoanut, seven rolls of betel, seven plantains, seven 
pieces of turmeric, a garland, a new cloth for the bride, 
etc. The linked fingers of the contracting couple are 
placed on a tray containing salt and a ring. They go 
thrice round a lamp and the plank within the pandal, and 
retire within the house where the bridegroom is served 
with food on a leaf. What remains after he has partaken 
thereof is given to the bride on the same leaf. The 
wrist-threads are untied on the third day, and a Pillayar 
made of cow-dung is carried to a river, whence the bride 
brings back a pot of water. 

In some places, the bridegroom is required to steal 
something from the bride's house when they return home 
after the marriage, and the other party has to repay the 
compliment on some future occasion. 

When a death occurs among the Konga Pallans of 
Coimbatore, the big toes and thumbs of the corpse arc 


tied together. A lighted lamp, a metal vessel with raw 
rice, jaggery, and a broken cocoanut are placed near its 
head, l^hree pieces of firewood, arranged in the form 
of a triangle, are lighted, and a small pot is placed on 
them, wherein some rice is cooked in turmeric water. 
Tiie corpse is bathed, and placed in a pandal made of 
four plantain trees, and four green leafy branches. The 
nearest relations place a new cloth over it. If the 
deceased has left a widow, she is presented with a new 
cloth by her brother. The corpse is laid on a bier, the 
widow washes its feet, anc' drinks some of the water. 
She then throws her tali-string on the corpse. Her face 
is covered with a cloth, and she is taken into the house. 
The corpse is then removed to the burial-ground, where 
the son is shaved, and the relations place rice and water 
in the mouth of the corpse. It is then laid in the grave, 
which is filled in, and a stone and some thorny twigs are 
placed over it. An earthen pot full of water is placed on 
the right shoulder of the son, who carries it three times 
round the grave. Each time that he reaches the head 
end thereof, a hole is made in the pot with a knife by 
one of the elders. The pot is then thrown down, and 
broken near the spot beneath which the head lies. Near 
this spot the son places a lighted firebrand, and goes 
away without looking back. He bathes and returns to 
the house, where he touches a little cow-dung placed 
at the entrance with his right foot, and worships a lamp. 
On the third day, three handfuls of rice, a brinjal 
[Solanuut Melongena) fruit cut into three pieces, and 
leaves of Sesbania grandiflora are cooked in a pot, and 
carried to the grave together with a tender cocoanut, 
cigar, betel, and other things. The son [)laccs three 
leaves on the grave, and spreads the various articles 
thereon. Crows are attracted by clapping the hands. 

485 PALI.AN 

and it is considered a good omen if they come and eat. 
On the fourth day the son bathes, and sits on a mat. 
He then bites, and spits out some roasted salt fish 
three times into a pot of water. This is supposed to 
show that mourning has been cast away, or at the end. 
He is then presented with new cloths by his uncle and 
other relations. On the ninth or eleventh day, cooked 
rice, betel, etc., are placed near a babul {Acacia arabica) 
or other thorny tree, which is made to represent the 
deceased. Seven small stones, representing the seven 
Hindu sages, are set up. A cocoanut is broken, and 
puja performed. The rice is served on a leaf, and eaten 
by the son and other near relations. 

The Pallans are nominally Saivites, but in reality 
devil worshippers, and do puja to the Grama Devata (vil- 
lage deities), especially those whose worship requires 
the consumption of flesh and liquor. 

It is recorded, * in connection with a biennial festival 
in honour of the local goddess at Attur in the Madura 
district, that " some time before the feast begins, the 
Pallans of the place go round to the adjoining villages, 
and collect the many buffaloes, which have been 
dedicated to the goddess during the last two years, and 
have been allowed to graze unmolested, and where they 
willed, in the fields. These are brought in to Attur, and 
one of them is selected, garlanded, and placed in the 
temple. On the day of the festival, this animal is 
brought out, led round the village in state, and then, in 
front of the temple, is given three cuts with a knife by a 
Chakkiliyan, who has fasted that day, to purify himself 
for the rite. The privilege of actually killing the animal 
belongs by immemorial usage to the head of the family 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 


of the former poligar of Nilakkottai, but he deputes 
certain Pallans to take his place, and they fall upon the 
animal and slay it." 

It is noted by Mr. Hemingway * that the Valaiyans 
and the class of Pallans known as Kaladis who live in 
the south-western portion of the Pudukkottai State are 
professional cattle-lifters. They occasionally take to 
burglary for a change. 

The common titles of the Pallans are saidf to be 
" Muppan and Kudumban, and some style themselves 
Mannadi. Kudumban is probably a form of Kurumban, 
and Mannadi is a corruption of Manradi, a title borne 
by the Pallava (Kurumban) people. It thus seems not 
improbable that the Pallas are representatives of the old 
Pallavas or Kurumbas." 

Pallavarayan. — The title, meaning chief of the 
Pallavas, of the leader of the Krishnavakakkar in 
Travancore. Also a sub-division of Occhans. 

Palle.— In the Telugu country, there are two classes 
of Palles, which are employed respectively in sea-fishing 
and agriculture. The former, who are the Min (fish) 
Palles of previous writers, are also known as Palle 
Kariyalu, and do not mingle or intermarry with the latter. 
They claim for themselves a higher position than that 
which is accorded to them by other castes, and call 
themselves Agnikula Kshatriyas. Their title is, in some 
places, Reddi. All belong to one gotra called Ravikula. 

The caste headman is entitled Pedda Kapu, and he is 
assisted by an Oomadi. 

In puberty, marriage, and death ceremonies, the 
Palles follow the Telugu form of ceremonial. There 
is, however, one rite in the marriage ceremonies, which 

op cit, t Madras Census Report, 1891. 


is said to be peculiar to the fishing section. On the 
fifth day after marriage, a Golla perantalu (married 
woman) is brought to the house in procession, walking 
on cloths spread on the ground (nadapavada). She 
anoints the bridal couple with ghl (clarified butter), and 
after receiving a cloth as a present, goes away. 

The fishing class worship the Akka Devatalu (sister 
gods) periodically by fioating on the surface of the 
water a fiat framework made of sticks tied together, 
on which the various articles used in the worship are 

Printed by thr Superintendent, 

Government Tress, 





DS Thurston, Edgar 

^30 Castes and tribes- of southern 

T6 India