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Of the London Missionary Society




With commentary by


Aaradhana, DEVERKOVIL 673508 India

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1. The work

2. This book and other books

3. What is happening to pristine England?

4. A question mark on the fabricated history doled to Indian students

5. Travancore and Malabar

6. British Malabar

7. Geographical dividing line (Cordon sanitaire) & Muthappan worship

8. Anthropological demeanour

9. Landscape

10. Languages

11. The word ‘European’

12. The term ‘Hindu’

13. A definition of pro-Christian book

14. The wider aspects

15. Nairs

16. Sexual morality and marriage

17. The real Social Reformers

18. Corruption

19. Summing up Date: 05 October 2014.



1 #The work

Designing this old book into a digital book version had its own travails and hard work. I took the text from various online sources. The text needed a lot of corrections, when it was converted into a MS Word file. Moreover, there were lots of pages missing. I think I have been able to get most of the pages intact by cross-referencing the sources, all of which had similar problems, but not in the same locations. I think I commenced the work on this project on the 20th of May 2014. Today it is June 26th 2014. The text of the book is ready and in the form of a digital book. Now I am commencing on my own commentary on this book.

2 #This book and other books

This is a great book indeed. Even though this book ostensibly speaks of the kingdom of Travancore, the core emotions that have been dealt out can be on various aspects of the geographical area known as the South Asian peninsula, and even of the Asian landmass. In my search for realistic historical writings on the peninsular region, Indian nation and on the antiquity of the land area currently known as Kerala, I had come across a few books of resounding quality. One was the Travancore State Manual, written by a native official (V. Nagam Aiya) of the Travancore kingdom. The second was the Omens and Superstitions of Southern India by Edgar Thurston. The third has been this book. There are others.

I had really being intrigued by the fact that no one seems keen to bring these books to the limelight again. There should be a real reason for this silence. On going through these books, I found that there are umpteen reasons for many persons to dislike these books coming back into the limelight from relative oblivion.

I will enumerate the reasons after a little while.

Generally the writings of the contemporary English or British writers, of the English rule period of the sub-continent, are qualitatively good, compared to the jingoist writings of the native ‘scholars’ of the peninsula. The latter fill their writings with their passionate loyalties to various local powers, claimed antiquities and caste aspirations.

3 #What is happening to pristine England?

England in those times was still a nation of native-English speakers. And hence the issue of being distressed by the emotions, triggers and taunt switches that spontaneously get activated with the forced presence of feudal language speakers had not yet affected the English mind. Now, England is cluttered with an immensity of languages. Most of them feudal languages. The unknown and un-understood ferocious triggers and switches that are getting activated all around England would naturally have affected the average national mental quality. And the writing quality.

This book contains a very rare insight into what were the realities of the social living conditions of the peoples of the geographical area known to the outside world as the Indian peninsular area, Indian peninsula or the Indian Sub Continent. It may be mentioned in passing that it is quite doubtful if any of the inhabitants of this Sub Continent were aware that they were living in ‘India’ or that they were ‘Indians’ before the advent of the English rule that created a nation here, extending from the edges of Afghanistan to the edges of Burma; and from the Himalayas to the tip of Cape Comorin. May be it was like mentioning that the earlier natives of the American area currently called the USA never knew that they were Americans, even though the Europeans identified the place as America.

4 #A question mark on the fabricated history doled to Indian students

From a dispassionate perspective, books like these can stand as powerful question marks on the veracity of the fabricated history that is being taught in Indian schools and colleges.

Of a great nation that existed from 7000 years back Vedic period, which is presumed to have existed outside the current geographical areas of modern nation India, to the modern times. Of a glorious antiquity, immersed in great spiritual knowledge. Of great scientific information and high grade moral standards, in the social antiquity of the place.

When I used to read stuff about the greatness of the social antiquity of the geographical area, I had to bear the insipidity of the ‘information’ in a bemused manner. For, I had not come across any such thing in this landmass, other than social disharmony, mutually suppressing or ennobling feudal-language usages, corruption, bribery, jealousy, insecurity about others improving, premeditated misleading of others to failure &c. Even affability was just a cloak for back-stabbing. As to married life, it transpires that such a thing was not the prevalent system as one understands it now. Yet, academic history proposes everything as the exact opposite.

5 #Travancore and Malabar

This book written by a Christian missionary from the London Missionary Service paints the real picture of the kingdom of Travancore. Most of the general themes mentioned about people behaviour and mental attitudes can be mentioned as the common attitude of the various societies of the subcontinent as well as of Asia. However, when one goes into the particularities, it should be mentioned that the specific items are about Travancore and Travancore only.

This last sentence of mine is due to a particular issue. In this book, the terms ‘Malabar’ and ‘Travancore’ are used in many places as sort of synonyms. I do not know how the word Malabar was used in historic times. It is possible that from afar, the word Malabar could have been used as a common name for the southern-west coastal areas of the subcontinent. However, when one reaches near, the word ‘Malabar’ refers to an area that is outside Travancore and Cochin areas. So using the word Malabar as a synonym for Travancore is erroneous.

In this book, in various places, the term Malabar is used when actually the accurate term would have been Travancore. In certain other places, the word Malabar is used to denote the difference of social experience between British-ruled-Malabar and King- ruled-Travancore. It is amply clear that the writer is having very little direct information on Malabar, other than from what some of his native associates tell him.

This is one shortcoming in this book. It should be a major one, when this book is used as a fabulous book for reference. I must say that the writer did not think that a few unwary sentences of his with regard to Malabar could come to contain words which could be used as an erroneous landmarks for certain questionable contentions for later day ‘scholars’.

6 #British Malabar

During the times of the English Empire, there was a district called Malabar which encompassed more or less the whole areas of Malabar. This district was part of the Madras Presidency and later Madras State.

Culturally, anthropologically, geographically as well as linguistically Malabar was different from Travancore as is ‘rubber’ from ‘robber’. However, after the state of Kerala was formed in 1957, this difference was scrubbed out, and a new monstrous entity was formed, carefully embedding the diabolical features in each of the components.

One of the cultural differences could be from the presence of a caste known as Thiyya. In this book they are mentioned as Tiyas. There are certain misconceptions about them mentioned in this book.

In the far south on both coasts they are known as Shanars; in Central Travancore as Ilavars; from Quilon to Paravoor, Chogans; in Malabar, as far as Calicut, they are called Teers, or Tiyars; and still farther north Billavars, which appears to be a slightly altered form of Ilavar.

Tiyas or Thiyyas (as the word is spelt in modern times) are not Ilavars or Ezhavas (as the word is spelt in modern times). This is a major error.


7 #Geographical dividing line (Cordon sanitaire) & Muthappan worship

The author mentions ‘as far as Calicut’. The fact is that there are actually two kinds of Thiyyas . How they became two and such things I do not know. One group of Thiyyas are beyond Calicut, towards the north. [I understand the southern border of this area then was the Korapuzha the flowed through Elathur, in Calicut district]. They can be mentioned currently as the Marumakkathya Thiyyas. The family system was matriarchal. That is, family rights move through the sisters’ or females and their children. The male members’ children do not come within the purview of the family name. Generally they are of a fairer skin complexion. They have a signature spiritual phenomenon called the ‘Muthappan’. This is a deity.

Muthappan phenomenon is something akin to what is known worldwide as Shamanism . There is a claim that the north Malabar Thiyyas came from location in ancient Greece. What is the basis of this claim, I do not know. However, if this is true, then Muthappan phenomenon could be connected to Oracle phenomenon in ancient Greece.

It is quite curious that there is absolutely no mention of Muthappan Vellattam and Thiruvappana in this book. So, it might be correct to mention that the writer’s knowledge of the locality is limited to Travancore. And slightly to the south Malabar areas. The use of the term Malabar can be incorrect.

I am not sure how much the East India Company’s officials were connected to Muthappan worship. However, the fact is that this worship is seen in close connection with many railway stations of North Malabar. I do not know how or why this came about. I did hear a story in Cannanore that seems to bring a connection. However, I had no means to check the veracity of the claim.

Though Thiyyas are generally classified as a low caste, it can be true that the north Malabar Thiyyas did not suffer from too terrible suppression. Or may be the matriarchal family system must have led to the total breach of the Thiyya family system by the higher caste males. To the extent that there was no ground for a united stand. For, there is not much history of any mass conversion either into Islam or into Christianity among this Thiyyas. It is quite curious that Rev. Mateer totally miss mentioning this group of people in his book. Even when the matriarchal family system is discussed, there is no mention of this huge group of people existing just north of Calicut.

Thurston in his Castes and Tribes of Southern India does mention eight illam of the North Malabar Thiyyas, all of which seems to have been socially powerful entities. (Or it might be a powerful aspiration to copycat the Brahmanical systems, which over the centuries, they were indoctrinated to accept as superior). However, it would also be true that there were a lot of underprivileged Thiyyas in the area.

The second group, also called Thiyyas, are traditionally found in the area starting a little north of Calicut and extending southwards. This area was known, I think, as the Valluvanad . This area is generally mentioned as the area between Calicut and Ponnani. However, I am not sure. I feel that their average skin complexion was generally less fair compared to the north Malabar Thiyyas. The Thiyyas here followed the Makkathaya (Patriarchal) family system. (There is some mention somewhere of there being some illams among them also). In this system, the children of the males had rights in the family. Even though many persons think that the Matriarchal system denoted a superior social level, it is really doubtful if it was so. The patriarchal family system could lay a more stronger foundation to the family system. It so happened that there was mass conversion into Islam in the Valluvanad area by the Makkathaya Thiyyas. May be due to the fact that the family system was stronger among them. And they could take a more sterner stand, in the newly emerging social freedom generated by the English rule in the district. Or it could also mean that they suffered more terrible suppression under their caste superiors, that they had to opt for conversion.

This was to provoke the terrible series of communal clashes between the Hindus upper castes and the converted-to-Islam lower castes. Even though the low calibre Indian academic historians mention this series of communal clashes as anti-British revolts, in actuality they were just triggered by the feudal language usages of the local vernacular. For instance, when the lower caste Makkathaya Thiyyas converted into Islam, they would very easily forego all pretentions of ‘respect’ to the upper castes. Just addressing, calling or even mentioning an upper caste male or female by name can be provocative to the extent of triggering a murderous rage. Usages such as Ijj, Oan, Oal, Ayittingal &c. which are all lower indicant words meaning for, You, Him/He, Her/She, Them respectively can lead to uncontrollable rage. It would be a thousand times more provocative and insulting than when an Indian sepoy (soldier) refuses to stand and salute his officer. Or equivalent to him addressing his officer as a Thoo (lower YOU). Moreover, the standard manner of acknowledging a social senior in those days was to uncover the bosom. When an erstwhile lower caste male or female dares to address a superior caste female by name, it could really involve the total pulling down of the superior female to Oal level, which is equivalent to socially pasting the superior with stinking dirt. Something like a lowly police shipai (constable) calling an IPS rank ‘officer’ by name.

See these quotes:

The proper salutation from a female to persons of rank was to uncover the bosom

In Malabar, the advent of the English rule more or less removed the higher castes from statutory superior administrative positions. The wider point is that in native-feudal languages, a government job is not a job, but a very dominant position of authority demanding huge ‘respect’ from the common man.

Another serious evil arising out of the idea of caste pollution is that the covering of the bosom with clothing is forbidden, in order to the easy recognition and avoidance of the lower castes by their masters. This rule of going uncovered above the waist as a mark of respect to superiors is carried through all grades of society, except the Brahmans. The highest subject uncovers in the presence of the Sovereign, and His Highness also before his god Patmanabhan. This was also the form of salutation even from females to any respectable person. Hence deadly offence was given by persons who had resided for some time in Tinnevelly and Ceylon, or by Christians who were taught in the churches to cover themselves in accordance with the claims of modesty and health.

In Malabar, the advent of the English rule more or less removed the statutory prohibition on lower castes females covering their breasts with a dress of their choice. Still social prohibition was quite strong in interior areas.

I remember an instance in my own life. When studying in the Kerala Education Board schools, under insipid teachers, ‘respect’ was a forced extraction. Once when I was in my 9th class, when the teacher entered the class, I did not notice it. And hence did not get up. For, I was engrossed in reading a book. He sat down and then called me by name. Thinking that he had something special to tell me, I quickly went over to him. I was terrifically slapped on the face. For, I had not extended the statutory salutation of respect. From an English point of view, there is no crime in my inaction. For, getting up when the teacher comes inside the class is not a right thing to do in English. It just denotes an inferiority of a weird kind.

I mention this incident to denote another thing also. The author of the book, The REV. SAMUEL MATTEER, F.L.S. does miss the huge social context of a feudal language in the Travancore nation as well as the whole of the Indian subcontinent. However, it is something almost all persons who had studied the region have missed. Not only here, but everywhere. Even when discussing the weirdness of certain social behaviours, MATEER misses the core issue that lies embedded in the social communication software, the language.

However, there is this quote from this book that may be revealing:

Malayalam Sudras are careful to pay much respect to aged relatives. Nephews will not sit down in the presence of their uncles, but stand with the left arm crossed on the breast and the right hand over the mouth; or, at least, sit on a lower seat or level Sudras meeting Brahmans adore them, folding both hands together; the Brahman, in return. confers his blessing by holding the left hand to the chest and closing the fingers.

This ‘respect’ to the seniors has deeper meanings and social and familial powers, than is understood by Rev. Matteer.

These two castes, North Malabar Thiyyas as well as South Malabar Thiyyas may not have had much representation in the Travancore Kingdom before the advent of the English rule in Malabar district. However, Thurston does mention in his book about the social aversion that the North Malabar Thiyyas showed to the Ezhavas. Yet, it is also a debatable point as to whether the Tiyas of South Malabar are a version of the Ezhavas. For, that is the way it is mentioned in this book. ‘in Malabar, as far as Calicut, they are called Teers, or Tiyars;”. The question should remain as to why Mateer was not aware of the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas who lived beyond Calicut and towards the northern tips of Malabar district.

In Thurston’s, Castes and Tribes of Southern India, it is mentioned that it was only in very rare cases that there was marital relationship between the North Malabar and South Malabar Thiyyas. For, both of them followed different social systems, and hierarchies. If a female from South Malabar Thiyyas married a North Malabar Thiyya, their children would not get any significant ancestral property. For in the south Malabar, the family system was Patriarchal, while in North Malabar it was matriarchal.

However, in the Malabar Courts of the English East India Company rule time, this rare event has been recorded.

For instance there is this from: [from MALABAR LAW AND CUSTOM by LEWIS MOORE of the Indian Civil Service]

In Chathunni v. Sankaran, the parties to which were Tiyans from North Malabar, it was held by the High Court (Turner, C. J., and Hutchins, J.) that, where a woman belonging to a Malabar tarwad governed by the Marumakkathayam Law has issue by a man who is governed by the Makkathayam Law, such issue are prima-facie entitled to their father’s property in accordance with the Makkathayam Law and to the property of their mother ’s tarwad in accordance with the Marumakkathayam Law (c). If a similar case was to come before the High Court in which Mappillas were concerned, the view taken would no doubt be the same.

In many ways, it is quite possible that North Malabar and South Malabar Thiyyas were quite different social groups, both of whom used the ‘Thiyya’ name for some deliberate purpose. Either one or the other tried to garner some social elevation by this method. It is amply reported in the writings of those times that people used to change their caste to gather higher social status.

See this quote from this book

Pretences are sometimes made by individuals to higher than their real caste. During a festival at Trevandrum, several goldsmiths putting on the dress and ornaments of a superior caste, walked boldly into the temple. We have known one or two apostates from Christianity, well educated in English, who assumed Sudra names, and passed in distant parts of the country as such.

SEE this QUOTE from Thurston’s, Castes and Tribes of Southern India,

The Tiyans are always styled Izhuvan in documents concerning land, in which the Zamorin, or some Brâhman or Nâyar grandee, appears as landlord. The Tiyans look down on the Izhuvans, and repudiate the relationship. Yet they cannot but submit to be called Izhuvan in their documents, for their Nâyar or Brâhman landlord will not let them have the land to cultivate, unless they do so. It is a custom of the country for a man of a superior caste to pretend complete ignorance of the caste of an individual lower in the social scale. Thus, in the Wynâd, where there are several jungle tribes, one is accustomed to hear a man of superior caste pretending that he does not know a Paniyan from a Kurumba, and deliberately miscalling one or the other, saying “This Paniyan,” when he knows perfectly well that he is a Kurumba. It is quite possible, therefore, that, though Tiyans are written down as Izhuvans, the two were not supposed to be identical. State regulations keep the Izhuvans of Cochin and Travancore in a position of marked social inferiority, and in Malabar they are altogether unlettered and uncultured. On the other hand, the Tiyans of Malabar provide Magistrates, Sub-Judges, and other officials to serve His Majesty’s Government. It may be noted that, in 1907, a Tiya lady matriculate was entertained as a clerk in the Tellicherry post-office.

Here the point that was missed was that Zamorin was the ruler of the place wherein the Thiyyas were similar to the Ezhavas with regard to family system. ie. South Malabar.

Castes and Tribes of Southern India (Vol VII) by EDGAR THURSTON: A few pages in this book do deal on the differences between Thiyyas and Ezhavas . And also about the differences between South Malabar Thiyyas and North Malabar Thiyyas. In fact, it does seem that these two groups are also quite different from each other. The Korah Puzha (River) was the line that divided the two geographical areas from each other. It is possible that it was the East India Company rule that brought the geographical area under the same rule and judicial systems. There are recorded instances when the judicial courts had to face confusion when delivering rulings in disputes involving both the Southern as well as Northern Thiyyas. For the whole social and family systems were totally different. In fact, dowry system in marriage was more or less totally unknown among the Northern Thiyyas, possibly due to the Matriarchal family system in force among them.

There is a slight possibility that the South Malabar Thiyyas were some version of Ezhavas who might have adopted the Thiyya name for sake of improving their social status. However, it is seen that their social problems did not improve much. For, during the English rule period in Malabar, in a similar manner to what happened in Travancore during the English interaction there, many individuals of the South Malabar Thiyyas went for conversion into Islam. In Travancore, the conversion to Christianity had the effect of powerful fights between the converted lower castes and the Sudras (Nairs). Especially on the issue of the erstwhile lower caste females wearing an upper garment. In South Malabar, the conversion to Islam created a series of communal fights between the lower caste Thiyyas (newly converted into Islam) and the Hindu higher castes . There has been mention that some of the major provocations had been the actions of the Nairs to pull out the upper garments of the newly converted to Islam Makkathaya Thiyyas. [The rank idiotism of the Indian academic, jingoist historians can be seen in their contention that the Mappilla lahala, or the communal fight between the erstwhile Makkathaya Thiyyas (converted to Islam) and Hindu Brahmanical castes and their henchmen was a revolt against the British rule].


8 #Anthropological demeanour

Second item is the anthropological aspect. People did look different. The Malabar people did have a lighter skin complexion, especially among the lower castes. The same kind of lighter or fair or very fair skin complexion was more common in the higher castes of Travancore.

However, it must be admitted the even William Logan, the administrator of Malabar district also seemed to have made the mistake of speaking without checking facts. He must have stood in Malabar and believed the contention of the Travancore classes. Thurston does mention the cause of this error.

9 #Landscape

Geographically speaking, even the coastal regions of Malabar were mountainous and full of sharp elevations and drops. Especially North Malabar. In many areas, one can find seaside areas sort of on cliffs. In modern times, tarred roads have more or less made this geographical aspect quite inconspicuous. Generally to move even two kilometres, where there is no road, was quite difficult. It was not like places in Karnataka, where the landscape was quite flat, and with clear landscape. As to the Travancore region, generally there is a more planar geographical layout towards the coast. Especially from Ernakulum, towards Alleppey and beyond. There are exceptions off course in both areas.

10 #Languages

As to language, Malayalam was the language of Travancore. In Malabar, there was another language (Malabari), with a series of dialects. Generally this language has not been mentioned as a language. There is a very specific reason for the non-admittance of the language of Malabar as a language separate from that of Malayalam. And this could be linked to two issues. One could be the entry of lower caste converts-to-Christianity spreading out to the Malabar area, and spearheading vernacular education in these areas, under the auspicious of the Christian church. I am not sure about this. It is just a gut feeling.

There does seem to have been a network of Christian organisations, with base in Travancore area which had spread to Malabar as well to Mangalore areas. The language inside these set ups might have been Travancore Malayalam. The fact that it was Gundert a Christian missionary who wrote the first dictionary of Malayalam might support this view. Apart from that, there is an English-Malayalam Dictionary by TOBIAS ZACHARIAS, Pleader, Tellicherry. This book was printed at the Basel Mission Press, Mangalore. The words ‘Tellicherry’, ‘Basel Mission Press’, ‘Mangalore’ &c. might give hint of this network.

I do not know if the dictionaries of Gundert as well as that of Tobias do contain words from the Malabar language. If the language of Malabar is Malayalam, then naturally the words from Malabar should be in them. A few of the Malabar words can be found on link. Many more are there.

The second is the support given to English education by the English rulers of Malabar. Administration in Malabar was in English. At least at the officer class level . Malabar was a part of the Madras Presidency. And as such the popular focus was towards Madras on the Bay of Bengal coast on the eastern side of the peninsula. Which was a Tamil speaking area. So, the local administration was not focused on improving the status of the local vernacular.

Most of the words and usages in the native language of Malabar cannot be understood by Malayalam speakers. See these sentences: ഓടെ കിമിറ് കണ്ട് ഓന് വെറ്പ്പ്പിടിച്ച്. ഓടെ മീട്ടത്ത് ഓൻ തച്ച്. അപ്പാടോള് ഊയ്യാരോം കൂക്കിയുംബെച്ച്. ബൈരംകേട്ട് എടേപോണോലെല്ലാം ആടെ പാഞ്ഞ് കാരി. അപ്പാടെ ഞാള് ഒരിയാനെ ഓനെ, ബൈയ്യാപ്പ്രത്തൂടെ കീച്ച് മീത്തലെ പെര്യയ്ലൂടെ പായിച്ച്..

There is this song from Malabar language: ഹക്കാന കോനമറാ മക്കാബ് കണ്ട് നബി...

I remember in the days of my infancy, the people of Tellicherry had a common language which was quite different from the official version Malayalam. However, in my own household, due to the eduation received in Christian schools by my parent side, and the propensity to read printed Malayalam books and newspaper, the spoken language was more of Malayalam. The general feeling was that the language taught in Christian schools was standard Malayalam of a superior quality Malayalees, while the local people’s language was an uneducated version.

However, the fact was the before the English intervention both in Malabar (direct) and in Travancore (indirect), both peoples were more or less equally uneducated . Yet, when the Travancoreans came to Malabar with the support of the Christian Church as a backing, there was a feeling that they were from a superior social set up. In my own mother’s family, one of these Travancore Christians who actually had the looks of a very under-privileged caste midget actually could elope with a female of much elevated looks. The English-educated Thiyya females had a new social issue. They were now aware of their elevation and couldn’t bear the lower indicant words used to them, by all and sundry when they moved outside their house.

They had two options usually. Either go in for seclusion from the social system, or go in for government employment or become a teacher. The latter option had the effect of changing them from Oal to Oar. And the Inhi would change into Ingal. The female in my mother’s family took another third route to escape the boredom of seclusion and eloped with a very lower caste person, who had appeared with the address of Christian faith. Currently the lower caste converts to Christianity do not bear any lower caste demeanour. In fact, in many areas, where they have improved, they definitely have superior looks and social standards. This is especially felt if one moves in areas where they have financial dominance.

Even though Malabar language (Malabari) had only two female definitions, that of Oal (ഓള്) and Oar (ഓര്), both on extremely opposite social locations, Malayalam had a number of words given a wider ambit of social movement. That of Aval അവൻ, Pulli പുള്ളി, Pullikkari പുള്ളിക്കാരി, Ayaal അയാൾ, Avar അവർ &c. And in the You word, (North) Malabar language had only two locations: That of Inhi ഇഞ്ഞി, and Ingal ഇങ്ങൾ. Malayalam had more. Nee (നീ), Eyaal ഇയാൾ, Thaan താൻ, Ningal നിങ്ങൾ, Saar സാർ (Persian: Headman), Angunnu അങ്ങുന്ന് etc. So, it was more easier for Malayalam-speaking females to move around; than it is for females speaking Malabar language (unless they are of the relatively higher social level).

However, in Malabar language, females exist in a terribly stunted location from where they act either subdued or cantankerous. However, a small change in status, like getting a teacher’s job or a government employment or something like a higher age, they change into Oar from Oal. In this location, they are generally more powerful than their men-folk, who are in a three word code social design. Avan അവൻ, Ayaal അയാൾ, and Oar ഓര്. Most of the men-folk reach only up-to the Ayaal level, while their wives may slowly or abruptly change from Oal, to Oar, which is right above Ayaal in social location.

In fact, in my childhood days, I did find a very quixotic situation. In which the local people in Malabar, had a feeling that the language of Malayalam was the language of a superior group who spoke good quality Malayalam, while their own language was that of a lower population. However, on the other side, I was aware of another item which was of the very opposite kind. English education had been received by only a few sections of the people in Malabar, and that too in such pockets like Tellicherry. However, this English was quite good. The pronunciations were quite good. For example, the words Work, Auto, Is, Was, Want, Wash, and almost all others were more or less of standard variety. However, a new group was arriving from Travancore with a terrible kind of English. In their educated English, Work was Vark, Auto was aato, Is was ees, Was was vaas &c. However, this information was available only to the English-educated sections of the Malabar folks, who viewed the situation with unconcealed horror. However, they were numerically insignificant. And in the new age of democracy, when quality was simply overridden by quantity, their words of caution had no meaning. Moreover, in an ambience of a feudal language social situation, everyone was quite envious of others who stood above, in any manner. Each group strove to see the lower section did not come up, and that the higher sections got pulled down.

Malayalam itself is not old. It is mentioned as a very recent linguistic development by the mixing of Sanskrit words and usages into Tamil. See these words from Travancore State Manual.

Another fact disclosed by the statements already given is that the language of most of the inscriptions is Tamil. The reason here is equally simple. Malayalam as a national language is not very old. Its resemblance to old Tamil is so patent that one could hardly help concluding that Malayalam is nothing more than old Tamil with a good admixture of Sanskrit words. There are some very old works in Tamil composed in Travancore and by Travancore kings. Besides, the invading Pandyas and Cholas were themselves Tamilians and their inscriptions form more than 70 per cent of the total in South Travancore. The Sanskrit inscriptions are very few and record ‘Dwaja Pratishtas’ and other ceremonies specially connected with Brahminical worship.

There is another quote from Travanocore State Manual:

The language spoken by the people at this period was probably Tamil. Dr. Caldwell holds that Malayalam is a recent language derived from Tamil. Dr. Gundert thinks that Malayalam and Tamil had a common source. But from the Stanzas from Nannul and Tolkapyam quoted above, it is clear that a large part of this country was Kodun Tamilnad (the tract of country where corrupt Tamil was spoken). Probably it was from this period that Sanskrit words began to be largely incorporated into the native tongue.

Travancore State Manual does mention a Tamil (Vattezhuthu) stone inscription dating 27th Medam, 410 M.E (Malayalam Era) at Manalikarai, a petty village near Padmanabhapuram in South Travancore, in which there is mention of Onachelavu. This information does carry an additional burden, in that the Onam the festival, which is more or less claimed by Malayalees, does seem to have non-Malayalee heritage links. However, the fact might only lead to the contention that Malayalam was just of recent origin.

In this present book, MATEER’s does mention thus:
As to the Keralolpathi, though said by some to be translated from the Sanscrit, such an original is nowhere to be found, and it is comparatively a recent composition, dating only from the 16th or 17th century, than which there is no earlier Malayalam literature .

In the ‘An English-Malayalam dictionary’ written by Tobias Zacharias, there is this statement in the preface:
............This is marked by the sign ‘¢’above the letter, an invention of the great Malayalam Scholar, Dr. Gundert, who may be rightly called, ‘ the father of Malayalam prose’.

The ‘father of Malayalam prose’ died in 1893. As to the ‘father of Malayalam poetry’, Ezhuthachan is mentioned as belonging to the 16th century. It might be a funny information to know that the current-day Malayalam academicians have managed to garner a Classical language status for Malayalam. Thereby sending an immensity of others such as the possible ancestors of many sections of people who lived in Malabar region into obscurity and oblivion forever. Their language doesn’t even seem to deserve even a mention. Many among the modern generation of Malabar find their own ancestral language as repulsive. That much is the effect of Malayalam education. Moreover some current day Malayalam ‘scholars’ mouth words to the effect that the assigning of the term ‘father of Malayalam poetry’ to Ezhuthachan was just a sort of consolation assignment, and does not really mean anything.

Mateer does not mention the existence of another language in Malabar. In fact, he does mention incomprehensible dialects inside Travancore in these quotes:

As a rule, the names of individuals among this hill tribe are not Hindu; they severally signify some peculiarity, as Kannan — “the eyed one; “Pottan — “the deaf one; “Thadian — “the fat one,” for men : and for females, Madura — “the sweet one; “Shangam, and also

Picture taken from Edgar Thurston’s: Castes and Tribes of Southern India

Ponna, “the golden one; “Chakra — “the sugar one.” Where the people are under the influence of the Nayars, there only we meet with names from the Shastras. The language is Malayalam, with several words, however, not known on the coast.

In this quote there is a very profound information. Even though people generally try to connect themselves to Vedic culture, Hindu puranas and such in modern times of mass indoctrination through compulsory education, the fact is that in the Malabar region, the names of people of lower castes were not popular Hindu names that are currently in vogue. Common names were Pokken, Pokki, Nanu, Nani, Chakki, Kelu, Pirikk, Chathu, Maani, Maatha, Chirutha, Chirutheyi, Cheeru, Koman (പൊക്കൻ, പൊക്കി, നാണു, നാണി, ചക്കി, കേളു, പിറുക്ക്, ചാത്തു, മാണി, മാത, ചിരുത, ചിറുതേയി, ചീരു, കോമൻ, ചന്തു, മാക്കം) &c. However, in current times, the names have totally changed to popular Hindu names, with connection to purported Vedic and Puranic antiquity. As to whether these people really had a direct lineage to such antiquity is doubtful, other than the huge web of links that emerge as one looks backwards. As to what was the reality in the Travancore region, I do not know. However, as seen in this book, claims of links to Vedic times and Puranas are not much in evidence other than the fabricated claims that appear in school and college textbooks.

Their barbarous mispronunciation of Malayalam is not readily understood by others: the ludicrous errors which are made are a source of amusement to other castes.

Even though one might quite easily mistake this information as an uneducated Malayalam being seen by educated Malayalee folks, the fact is that both sides were adequately uneducated.

For some four or five hundred miles along the coast northward from Cape Comorin, the mass of the population speak Malayalam,

This sentence simply shows that Mateer was not aware of the realities of Malabar. Actually Malabar was quite a far-off place. In the sense that even in the year 1966, most of the places in Malabar which currently are just short distances were quite inaccessible. With no proper roads, and the narrow pathways filled with stones, rocks, heights and much else.

See this State highway road to Wynad and beyond to Bangalore, just in front of the house I stay. In 1966, when I first came there as a young boy, the road was just a narrow lane, with no tarring. It did not extend beyond 1 kilometre. To go beyond that was a harrowing walk through stones, shrubs, thorn &c. in a pathway that extended through Ghats roads to Wynad. Jeeps could go all the way to Wynad through a rough pathway. However, during the rainy seasons, the small streams en-route couldn’t be crossed by the Jeeps. To imagine an Indian nation from many such locations could be like imagining the geography of Moon.


11 #The word ‘European’

The next error in this book is with regard to the word European. In many places, it is used as a synonym for England, Britain, and Englishman or for the British. It is a very grievous error. England and Britain do not really belong to the Continental European landmass. Historically as well as in social quality, England cannot be equated with Europe. In fact, it would be quite an error to equate any English historical endeavour with that of the Spanish, the Portuguese and such. In the American continent, it was the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors who created havoc on the local natives and suppressed them. Only in the areas currently called USA did the natives, after some 300 to 400 years of terrible suffering, get some respite, with the coming of the Englanders.

It is true that in English colonial areas other Europeans did enter. For example, it has been mentioned that in the African continent even the Germans had the habit of carrying a Union Jack, due to the powerful security it lend them everywhere. However, it was a mistake to identify the English with the Europeans to the extent that the difference in the experience went missing in the words. In fact England and Englanders were the exact antonym of the Continental Europe and Europeans.

See these quotes:

The total population was then found to be 2,311,379; of whom 1,702,805 are Hindus, 139,905 Muhammadans, 261 Europeans, 1,383 Eurasians, 151 Jews, and 466,874 Native Christians of various denominations — more than a fifth of the entire population — constituting Travancore the most Christian country in India.

And one European missionary remarked, “There is a good deal of heart amongst Pariahs and Pulayars, such as we do not often see in the Shanars.”

The labour of the previously enslaved castes, which had hitherto been almost valueless, being remunerated only by a few measures of rice daily, became of as great money value as that of others; caste was nothing in the eyes of the European planter. Accordingly, Pulayars, Pariahs, Vedars, and other low- castes began to obtain employment and good pay;

The native Christians educated by the Mission proved themselves of great service to the new industry, became overseers, confidential clerks, and managers, to European planters;

“The first ardent adventurers,” says Sir T. Emerson Tennent, “pioneered the way through pathless woods, and lived for months in log huts, while felling the forest and making their preliminary nurseries preparatory to planting; but within a few years the tracks by which they came were converted into highways, and their cabins replaced by bungalows, which, though rough, were picturesque, and replete with European comforts.

European push and activity have moved and guided the inert natives. Shops and markets have been opened to supply the workers, contractors, and artificers on the estates, with the rice, tobacco, cloth, arrack, and salt, which they consume.

European goods are also in due proportion imported. Products are thus exchanged, and commerce promoted.

European merchants and native agents are prepared to give a price for this fibre, and the price is steadily advancing.

Within the present century the Indian music has been investigated by several European scholars, and explained in various essays

All singing and playing are in unison : harmony and part-singing seem to be almost unknown in India, which causes their music to be generally uninteresting, if not repellent, to European ears.

Unfortunately, however, they attempt to combine Hindu caste with Christian teaching, and most pertinaciously and bigotedly refuse to partake of any food, at any time, along with, or prepared by, other Christians, or Europeans, for which reason some missionaries feel unable to avail themselves of their professional services as freely as they otherwise might.

The first introduction of intemperance into India, it will be obvious, is not by any means to be laid to the charge of the European nations. The manufacture and use of such liquors is quite indigenous, and native stimulants are probably more injurious than European drinks.

European Missionaries have been instrumental in gradually awakening the liberated bondman to a sense of freedom and self-reliance.”

It is difficult for Europeans to form any adequate conception of the sway of caste and the power of its traditions over the minds of each class of native society

that the European writers referred to in the volume before us, who have no personal interest in the discussion, and who are usually best able to reason upon the interesting facts supplied by native witnesses, and to form a broad and unbiassed opinion ab extra, and have also paid more attention to Hindu literature and ethnology than most of the natives themselves,
They correspond with Europeans quite in the style and tone of Englishmen, though with, perhaps, a little more attention to politeness and form.

Educated Hindus are always delighted to converse with cultivated Europeans, and to form even intimate friendships with them,

Because, probably, the husband, in reality, no more reigns supreme in the house of a native than in that of the European.

Everywhere Europeans in Travancore are regarded with the utmost confidence and respect.

The state of transition through which the mission is now passing, from its former almost entire dependence on foreign aid to a measure of vigour and maturity — from looking solely for direction to their European instructors, to the formation of independent character and opinion

In all these quotes, the same grievous error is seen repeated by Mateer. It is a fact that Englanders did go to various part of the globe, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand &c. Every part of the globe where the Englanders created a nation, the place has been quite attractive. Others barge in. First the Europeans, and then the rest. A feeling then comes that these fine nations are created by Europeans. It is a mistake. No European nation has created any good social system or nation in any place they arrived in. Good nations and social systems have been the creation of the English native-speakers. May be the Dutch also can make such a claim. However, other Europeans are just piggy riding on English endeavours.


12 #The term ‘Hindu’

Another error about this book is the usage of the term ‘Hindu’. I should not say that this was a mistake made by Mateer alone. For many English writers of those times might have used the same term. It is not correct to identify everything in this landscape with a word which signifies a religious aspiration or a religious partition. Even the word ‘Hindu’ might be a new one for the majority of the lower castes who have now improved.

A large amount of the jewels disappeared recently, when a Hindu quaintly remarked : “The Christian preachers have taken away from the hearts of the people the fear of their native gods. People now rob the gods of their gold and silver jewellery, and the gods are afraid of being stolen themselves !”

What a marvellous schedule this Hindu writer furnishes of gradations of hierarchy, nobility, gentry, artisans, cultivators, labourers, slaves, and outcasts!

It is sometimes difficult to make the young truthful and honest in small things; but this is a defect observable in many Hindus, and it may be expected to take two or three generations to improve and establish their moral stamina

As a rule, the names of individuals among this hill tribe are not Hindu; they severally signify some peculiarity, as Kannan — “the eyed one; “Pottan — “the deaf one; “Thadian — “the fat one,” for men : and for females, Madura — “the sweet one; “Shangam, and also Ponna, “the golden one; “Chakra — “the sugar one.” Where the people are under the influence of the Nayars, there only we meet with names from the Shastras.

It has been observed that in cases of sickness sometimes Arayans will make offerings to a Hindu god, and that they attend the great feasts occasionally; but in no case do they believe that they are under any obligation to do so, their own spirits being considered fully equal to the Hindu gods.

There is an information in the quote above that the lower castes were not actually coming under the Hindu domain. Actually there is a wider issue connected to this. Ambedkar, who was the Chairman of the Indian constituent assembly called for a mass move of the lower castes to Buddhism. However, before he could go forward, he died (!). In the new nation India many persons have died in similar momentous moments.

but though their fights are sometimes desperate, the filthy language commonly used by Hindus is never heard.

This really connects to another issue. The totally rough and uncouth language usages of Travancore. Words such as Pundachimon, Thayoli, Purimol, Kuthichimol, Ammaye Panni Thayoli, Pariyan &c. (പുണ്ടച്ചിമോൻ, തായോളി, പൂറിമോൾ, കൂത്തിച്ചിമോൾ, അമ്മയെ പണിത്തായോളി, പറിയൻ) are common expletives and profanity in Travancore. Malabar language does not generally have equivalents. However, in current day English the equivalents of such words are in plenty, due to the barging into English by such populations.

Sir W. Ouseley, in his “Oriental Collections,” says:- “A considerable difficulty is found in setting to music the Hindu ragas as, as our system does not supply notes or signs sufficiently expressive of the almost imperceptible elevations and depressions of the voice in these melodies, of which the time is broken and irregular, and the modulations frequent and very wild.

Many of the Hindu melodies possess the plaintive simplicity of the Scotch and Irish, and others a wild originality pleasing beyond description.

“It should, however, be borne in mind that the term Hindu Music is very indefinite. Each nationality of India has its own peculiar style of music. There is little similarity between the tunes of Bengal and Madras, and those sung by the Marathas are still different.

The Ragas, or musical modes of the Hindus, are stated amongst the Tamils and Malayalis as thirty-two in number, and each is supposed to have a peculiar expression capable of moving some particular sentiment or affection

In the above quotes, even Music seems to have been given a religious identification. However, among the natives here, I do not think anyone speaks of Music in terms of Hindu Music. However, there is this Quote also from this book:

“It should, however, be borne in mind that the term Hindu Music is very indefinite. Each nationality of India has its own peculiar style of music. There is little similarity between the tunes of Bengal and Madras, and those sung by the Marathas are still different.”

No people, in fact, are more susceptible of the charms of music than the Hindus: it is most encouraging and cheering to hear the Christian converts singing at family worship in their houses or at their work in the fields, or the dear little children in the schools, with bright eyes and glowing countenances, singing their sweet hymns of praise.

There might be a slight mistake in this summarisation. The fact is that due to the highly feudal quality of the local vernaculars, music does give a minor chance for the highly suppressed individuals to feel a soaring of their spirits in a domain of freedom, which give a feel of mental exhilaration. This phenomenon has been amply used by all sorts of political groups including the highly feudal Communist parties. The cadre who are kept as sort of mental slaves by the use of such words as Inhi (nee) (\o), eda FSm, edi FSn,Oan Hm³ (avan), Oal Hmfv (aval) &c. feel an emotional high as they sing songs with powerful words strings. Yet, none care to understand that their very shackles are embedded in their language. And they are held of leash by their own leaders.

Hindu writers may not, as yet, be generally capable of reasoning or commenting accurately upon facts, or displaying them with impartiality and independence of judgment, for history never has been their forte.

..that the European writers referred to in the volume before us, who have no personal interest in the discussion, and who are usually best able to reason upon the interesting facts supplied by native witnesses, and to form a broad and unbiassed opinion ab extra, and have also paid more attention to Hindu literature and ethnology than most of the natives themselves,

Here again the various literatures in the various languages that exist and might have existed within and without the Indian peninsular region is given a religious identification. There is actually no need to connect a book to a religion. For example, the book by Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana cannot be mentioned as a Hindu book. In all probability almost 99.9% of the population of British- India never had an occasion to read this book till it was properly searched out and translated by the officials of the English East India Company.

The boasted tolerance of Christianity in Travancore took its rise from a long series of circumstances, rather than from any deliberate policy on the part of the Hindu rulers;

This geographical region had no history of tolerance, to, the adjective given anything. That is the truth. However to the ruler as ‘Hindu’ need not be an appropriate one.

Educated Hindus frequently indulge in fine talk about moral obligations — the importance of solid worth as compared with mere gold and social rank — the value of knowledge, and the grand mission which educated men have to perform in the world

The appropriate usage for the term ‘educated Hindus’ should have been ‘educated natives’. However, Mateer might have tried to make obvious the difference between educated persons who were not the converted Christians or the Muslims.

“I have found,” writes Rev. I. H. Hacker, “in Hindus who have been educated in the Government Colleges, much courtesy and kindly feeling, but a feeling of scepticism with respect to nearly all forms of religion.

Basically organised religion is not a spiritual enterprise. Rather it is a regimentation of human beings under the command of some particular command centre, command location, leadership or leader. Religion is just a tool for organising people. Especially in non-English social system. Mateer does not know how the communication structure is built in feudal languages. His total innate experience is from a planar language called English.

The self-same questions and mysteries puzzle inquiring Hindus, and similar difficulties retard from faith as operate amongst ourselves — the origin of evil,

Educated Hindus are always delighted to converse with cultivated Europeans, and to form even intimate friendships with them, as far as the unsociable system of caste will allow.

Here again the Mateer misses a larger perspective. Not Hindus, almost everywhere in Asian and African nations and in most European nations, people do like to be connected to the socially superior person. It is a relationship that will raise them up from the lower position that they innately are positioned in, in their feudal language systems. As to an affinity for the native English individual, it would be because he is from a planar language social system. However, if he were to go down to the depths of the feudal language codes of the Indian peninsular region, then he also would become repulsive. See the history of James Scurry.

13 #A definition of pro-Christian book

However the greatest defect this book has is none of the above. The book is great and contains information which it is quite difficult to find in the books of many native ‘scholars’ of the Indian peninsular area. Yet, the fact remains that this book is a writing of a Christian Missionary. This stands as a dark shadow over the resounding quality of the book. Everything good in English, the English, England, Englanders, Britain and the British are framed as the quality of Christianity.

When Mr. Mault went out he “could not find four Shanars able to read;” now the Christians themselves own and edit a newspaper in Tamil and English, and publish vernacular books.

This is a very silly statement. For, with the advent of the English rule, everywhere common man whose ancestors had been mere dirt under the dirty feudal classes of the Indian peninsular are were now showing signs of enterprise. In the areas around Tellichery and Cannanore in the Malabar district, under the English administration even the lower caste Thiyyas were showing signs of great intellectual and social progress. However, they lacked a powerful religious or social organisation behind them which was capable of aggregating information from all over the world and from all over the peninsula for their benefit. In fact, in the ultimate count, Christian religion was slowly changing into a particular mutant form in the peninsula. A new group which was for promoting the interests of their own membership against the interests of the vast number of others who were not within its domain.

Throughout Travancore, these Christian churches, emblems of true religion and instruments of vast moral and social improvement, frequently occur.

Which religion is true is a debatable point. All religions, the moment they stretch beyond the realm of individual spiritual aspirations, turn into powerful regimentations. However, in the case of English Christianity, due to the planar nature of the language, this effect wouldn’t come about. However, the Christianity that was to emerge in the peninsula was not English Christianity, but a very regimented, feudal quality vernacular language Christianity. This point never dawned in the mind of Matteer.

Nagercoil was not long since the merest hamlet, connected with the “Snake Temple,” which gives its name to the place ; but having been adopted as the head- quarters of the London Mission in these parts, it is now a clean, well built, and increasing Christian town.

Almost every place designed and maintained by the English did have superb looks and feel. Even Bombay, which is now for the majority people there, quite a civic nightmare, was once a very clean city with superb cleanliness and standards. People who went there used to come back speaking good English. Now, the reverse is the effect. English Christianity had the cosiness of English . Feudal language Christianity is feudal. Feudal language areas can also be neat. See the insides of the Indian army officer’s quarters. Or the townships in Tamilnadu. The road can have a clean look, yet there are areas where stink can be unbearable.

Christian women, once forbidden by caste law to cover the person, now dress handsomely and well, and manufacture valuable pillow-lace. There are two English missionaries, one in charge of the English Seminary, a busy Press, several schools, including some for female education,

Two English Missionaries? Well, it was two English individuals. In leadership. It is a grand management in which everyone in the lower ranks feel the liberation. This great feeling has nothing to do with Christianity.

Already some Pulayars, under the operation of Christian teaching and guidance, have become admirable characters — gentle, honourable, devout, and loving; and probably they will display a very beautiful type of character when fully Christianised.

It was a false hope. The lower caste Christians were in the earlier times viewed with disdain by the Syrian Christians, who themselves are not described in glowing terms in this book. They, in the mood of a new-found social freedom and with a common focus of leadership, spread out into the forests of Malabar and totally destroyed the forest areas when the British rule came to an end. Animals were killed and devoured. Such animals as elephants were trapped into big holes and left to rot to death. And the lower castes and the tribal people who lived in these areas bore the brunt of their brutal assault. Even their womenfolk were absolutely violated, to the extent of their pedigree going into hybridisation. The quality law and order system which was a hallmark of English rule was not there to protect the forest wealth, the forest people or the forest animals.

But some who have been converted to Christianity show wonderful and rapid improvement in moral character, civilisation, and diligence.

It is doubtful that they showed exemplary qualities. When the English leadership was there, they would have tried to emulate the Englishmen. However, when the leadership came into the natives of the peninsula, there was no way that they could be different. If Hindu, Muslim or lower caste bureaucrats have been suppressive, corrupt and cunning, there is nothing on record to suggest that Christian bureaucrat were any different. Christianity did not make any difference. However, English rule did make a difference.

Some of the priests now declare that it is in vain to curse Christians, or, as they call them, ‘the people that have books.’ Another lesson they have learnt is that Christianity is a civilizing and an elevating religion, and a good religion for this life generally

Christianity was also a religion that was born in Asia. When it reached Europe, it did transform into the social structure of Europe. However, European Christians were never known to have been benevolent anywhere. Not even in the American continent. It was only the Englanders who really created a difference. However, England threw out traditional Christianity and developed their own brand version of Christianity, called the English Church. Yet, Mateer misses this great difference, when he is in the Indian peninsula. In fact, he should have stressed this great difference, and invoked an apartheid on European Christians. Otherwise, there is no way for the natives of Travancore to understand that English Christianity had a difference.

The hillmen despise the Pariahs and Puliahs, but they see that our converts from these castes have wonderfully improved since becoming Christians — some of them even to become superior to themselves.

Basically there is a social code in English to improve others. In feudal languages, the code is to sneer, ridicule and jeer at others, who show of attempts to improve. When such Englishmen stands behind and give support, any population would improve, much beyond anything that can be imagined.

There are now about 2000 Arayan Christians in congregations, situated chiefly north of Puniattu and around Mundakayam, all within a radius of thirty-six miles from Cottayam — an imperishable memorial of Henry Baker and his indefatigable labours.

Basically what Henry Baker gave was not Christianity, but an experience in being under native-English teachers and leadership to the very lowly -placed persons of the area. Currently this type of experience is available only to the very rich in India.

Before the advent of the Crown rule in British-rule, the East India Company did interact directly with the lower classes to the exclusion of the higher classes in the Indian Peninsular region. At this period, a minute percentage of the lower castes as well as the lower classes did get to experience the fabulous quality of English educational ambience. In other places like current -day USA, Canada, Australia etc. the continental European migrants, the black slaves as well as the natives did get this experience. They all developed fabulously. However not even one of their descendants seem willing to acknowledge this. I have seen White folks in the USA claiming that USA’s pedigree is Roman. Such is the kind of indoctrination that the newer generations like to savour.

They fear also to go to the Sirkar hospitals, which, indeed, are scarcely for the low castes. Very few have learnt to read, and those only in Christian schools.

Even in Tellicherry the famous English educational institutions were Christian. However, England was a Christian nation. So all English endeavours get a Christian aura. However, it is not Christianity that gives the glow, but English. Vernacular Christianity is as feudal as vernacular Hinduism as well as Vernacular Islam.

What a fine child yours is, “for they think people must be envious of them, and that saying such things will bring bad luck — the very opposite of the Christian sentiment, “I am quite well, thank God.”

Basically this claim is false. Even in Continental Europe, the fear of the evil eye was there . However, English had a different code, by which there is no personal danger in complimenting or spurring others to greatness. In feudal languages, improving another person, especially a lower person, is quite a dangerous action. The other individual can improve from Avan to Adheham . While the person who lends the support might remain an Avan or go down from Adheham or Ayaal to Avan.

So in Cottayam, the venerable Mrs. Baker, Senior, has for over sixty years been spared and privileged to educate generation after generation of girls in her valuable schools, and other ladies have laboured for various periods.

Free British education. That is the truth. It is a great experience. But the greatness in this is not understood in England at the moment. The immigrant population over there want to teach the English kids the feudal languages, and slowly make them change into dirt.

The native Christians educated by the Mission proved themselves of great service to the new industry, became overseers, confidential clerks, and managers, to European planters;

There is a great information in this, which can be positive. However, this statement has a side which has been misinterpreted by the politicians, bureaucrats and rank idiot teaching classes of India. The positive side is that not only Christians, but everyone who learnt English more or less improved and existed beyond the powerful domain limits of the caste and class levels. However, the statement given by Mateer can easily be misinterpreted to: “English was taught to ‘Indians’ to make them slaves and clerks for the English rulers”. This is the way Indian historians and education policymakers indoctrinate the new generations. They very carefully avoid the information that people who had lived like dirt were being given English language speaking capability by the English rulers. In a nation where even the Nairs (Sudras)were not allowed to even to listen to Vedic text readings.[This last sentence should bring to the fore the question of what antiquity connecting to the Vedas is there for the majority populations of current day India]

The Pulayars and Pariahs who have been Christianised are being educated by the Missionary Societies, towards the secular instruction supplied by whom grants-in-aid are made by the Sirkar, rather than admit these low-castes into their schools.

It might be correct to say that the extremely lowest castes of the society were given a chance to improve by the English Missionaries. In British-India, the East India Company went for educating the population in a general manner without focusing on the caste levels.

In spite of opposition and persecution, open or concealed, in spite of natural defects of character and evil habits long cherished, Christianity has done much for those who have embraced it in Travancore. They have risen, not slowly, but with marvellous rapidity, as soon as the unnatural incubus of their superstitions was removed, and the light of intelligence and religion shed upon their hearts and upon their path in life.


The fact is that development doesn’t have to take generations to accomplish, even though that is the way the modern Indian governing class wishes to define development. Any lower caste man given a chance to interact in pristine English will immediately show rapid improvement within minutes . However, persons who have experiences such mental development rarely admit what gave them the improvement. People who go to England suddenly understand that they, who back home couldn’t even address a lowly constable by his name with or without a Mr. prefixed, can speak as an equal to even a high official or person in the English society. It is an experience that is quite divine. However, most people who get to establish their roots in England, next endeavours to show off their superior capacities in comparison to English society and plan to conquer the place and the local population. The native English populations do not know the terrible triggers that are there in feudal languages.

I saw the newly built house of a Christian, who was fifteen years ago a slave, and the whole of his property then did not exceed three rupees. Now his house itself is worth Rs. 1,000, and he has besides landed property and cattle worth more than Rs. 500.

There is a wealth of information and caution in this sentence. The higher positioned persons in the Indianpeninsular region as well as of the Indian nation are aware that the lower placed person is quite capable.Mateer and his other English compatriots are being foolish to imagine that this information is a new one.Every Indian householder knows that his or her servantshave to be mentioned as dirt and made to sit on the ground or kept in some kind of social shackles. They have to be addressed as Nee, and referred to as aval, aval, avattakal, ayittingal &c. And the lower placed personshave to wo rds and usages of ‘respect’ and homage to thehouseholder. And when they do it, they go down tolevels of humiliation and self-depreciation. Actually there is this QUOTE from this book: When the Valans converse with high caste people, they must use the old terms of humiliation and self-depreciation. [/quote].

The fact is that it is not just the Valans who have to use terms of humiliation and self-depreciation, but everyone who is lower positioned in feudal language social set up.Even in Indian schools, especially the vernacular one’s, the students are made to act out poses and postures ofhumiliation and self-depreciation. The students are addressed as Nee, and referred to as Avan ( Oan), Aval(Oal), Avattakal, Ayittingal &c.

However, the moment the lower positioned persons are given a platform of elevation, they simply use theplatform to use the suppressive words on the other side. Only the English people do not know the dangers ofimproving the suppressed classes . By this mighty gullibility their own nation is in the danger of being overwhelmed and the English native-speakers can even go into positions of subordination, unless someone with some sense comes to authority in England.

Reading and singing, which I have heard from a house while passing the jungle in the dark of the night, was a proof of what Christianity is spiritually doing among them.”

Reading and singing as been successfully used by all those who want to organise people. Yet, the EnglishMissionaries were working for the development andrecruitment of the lower castes. It was good for the lower castes. And a danger to all others who did not join. Thatis how it works out in feudal languages. For, the newly formed group becomes another highly regimented group with its own routes of command and levels. And this group develops its own codes for self-preservation and aggrandisement. The outsiders remain outsiders.

We acknowledge,” said she, “that Christianity is a good religion, because formerly the Pulayars and Pariahs were afraid of demons: they used to spend all their earnings in time of harvest for offerings to their terrible demons — but now a great change is seen. They also used to steal our property, but do not do so now; and we must acknowledge that it is your religion that has produced such good results.”

The word Demon might be inappropriate. I think the word is used to describe their gods. As to being honest, there is no further record of converted Christians alone being honest. When they went into disconnection with the English missionaries, they had to live and act as per the social codes of the region. That is of appropriating whatever can be appropriated, if no law is there to block them. Everyone, including persons who were Hindus, Muslims as well as Christians did steal forest wealth, after the departure of the British rule.

At one time when a small proportion of respectable Syrian Christians were admitted into the service of the Sirkar through the influence of Colonel Munro, it was quite ridiculous to see them standing at the appointed distance professedly superintending the measurement of grain and the writing of accounts, outside the gate of the sacred enclosure.

There is a wider information that has to be mentioned here. In Malabar district, there was no discrimination based on Castes for public appointment. However, to get into the higher echelons of the officialdom, I think, good English background was necessary. One Choorayi Kanaran of the Thiyya caste was one of the first persons to get into the officer class. However, he was not allowed to sit on a chair at the table to do his work by his seniors who were of the higher caste. For, giving him a higher location would amount lifting all his relatives to a higher location in the local feudal vernacular. It was the English District Collector of Malabar Henry Coonoly who found this going on. He ordered Kanaran to be given his due table and chair.

The further extension of the incident is that even though Kanaran got an elevation, it is quite doubtful if he would extent the same elevation to any of this own servants or other socially lower placed position in his own caste. Here replacing the English Collector by a native Collector wouldn’t help the other lower placed natives. This problem has been in the Christian church also. The native feudal language priest is quite a different entity compared to the English Missionary.

“Marvellous,” he says, “has been the effect of Christianity in the moral moulding and leavening of Europe.

This statement is quite a nonsense. Christianity, a religion born in Asia, got adapted into European culture. However, the moulding each nation had was directly connected to each nations language quality. Human social designs as well as culture is connected to the software that links human beings. Which is language. The quality of England cannot be found elsewhere in Europe, with the possible exception of some areas.

But I accept Christian ethics in their entirety. I have the highest admiration for them. Speaking, then, of Christianity as it concerns this world, I repeat that it has effected a wonderful moral revolution in Europe.

Again the same nonsense. In this case mentioned by a native of the Indian peninsula. Seeing English Christianity, it is believed to be the same as European Christianity. The fact that England threw out European Christianity is not mentioned.

The Christian Church should, therefore, be prepared for the intellectual crisis which is fast approaching in India, when the temples shall be forsaken, the national superstitions and religious beliefs abandoned, and society agitated and revolutionized to its very foundation, by the spread of secular knowledge, which may lead to the most disastrous issues of atheism in creed, licentiousness in life, and lawlessness in morals, if the Gospel of Jesus Christ be not in the meantime presented to enlighten and guide the popular mind to right principles of action and obedience to God. It is no longer a question whether the old systems of heathenism will fall, but whether the Christian Church will be able to take up the work in time to prevent the people falling into utter scepticism, atheism, and godlessness.

“intellectual crisis which is fast approaching in India,”? Well, this is a very debatable point. What are the problems in India? First could be that corruption has become ubiquitous phenomenon in the nation. Everyman who is a government employee is corrupt, brutal, suppressive, arrogant and cunning. However, the others are ideal persons.

Moreover, through the indirect as well as the direct influence of Christianity, which is at present so largely permeating the country, there is a good deal of inquiry and longing after certainty, and seeking for truth.

Christianity was not the real direct influence. The real influence was the English rule. In fact, it may be noted that nowhere in British India Christianity get to make any roots. For all the freedoms that is mentioned as the legacy of Christianity was given by the English rule. And much more, actually. Christianity could get to spread only in an area which the English rule left out.

The English East India Company did not takeover Travancore just because of the loyalty shown to them by Marthanda Varma. The English stood by their word. However, it is quite doubtful if Travancore really stood by its commitment over the generations. At times, Travancore kings and officials did want to act superior. Yet, if English supremacy and protection over Travancore had been withdrawn, Travancore would have ceased to exist from that very moment. In fact, Travancore kingdom got extinguished when a fool in England became the Prime Minister there and ditched everyone loyal to England in British-India.

See the last words of King Marthanda Varma to his nephew who was to be next king:

“That, above all, the friendship existing between the English East India Company and Travancore should be maintained at any risk, and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.” Quoted from Travancore State Manual by V Naga Aiya


A general conviction prevails amongst many of the people that Christianity is destined ultimately to conquer.

It was indeed a very wrong notion that Rev. Matteer derived due to his isolation from the realities of British- India. In British India, for anyone to experience the newfound freedom, there was no need to convert to Christianity. In fact, the converted Christians who now run the Christian Church have resorted to a population boom programme. It is seen mentioned that the Church leaders have commanded their regimented followers to have more children. At least three. This is the ultimate effect of a nonsense called democracy on populations who do not have the refinement to use such a great idea. The Muslims had been using this idea to ‘spread’ their religion. In fact, their programme of spreading the religion was to sponsor a baby boom. Now the Christian church has taken the same idea in India. Now, it is only a matter for the Hindus also to wake up to the situation. As it is in India, most urban areas have become civic nightmares for the lower financial class people. If all of these crazy, megalomaniac religious leaderships go in for a competition, then it will be a very dangerous world for the posterity to live in. Many will rush into English nations. As to the English nations, they in their total gullibility would sponsor the immigrants and end up with their own nations turning into squalor pools.

“To-day, when passing by your schoolroom, I heard the children sing their sweet and instructive lyrics with great delight. We Sudras, regarded as of high caste, are now becoming comparatively lower; while you, who were once so low, are being exalted through Christianity. I fear,” he added, “Sudra children in the rural districts will soon be fit for nothing better than feeding cattle.””

Actually it does not need a great deal of work to teach children good English and singing. However, it might require Englishmen to sponsor such a refinement.

Then, while at work and resident in the midst of the native population, it was scarcely possible for them, as Englishmen, to witness the cruel oppressions practised on the poor without indignantly exposing them to public reprehension, and occasionally even interfering by petition, publication, or other legal means, for the redress of grievances and the amelioration of the condition of the people, and more especially for the protection of those who placed themselves under their instruction, and sought liberty to observe Christian rules and worship and ordinances

This has nothing to do with Christianity. When the English were ruling India, all the terrible privations and sufferings were very much noted. And in fact, there were occasions when some visiting Englishmen from England really blamed the English rulers here for all this terribleness. There was one writer who expressed the shock that a geographical area with so much natural wealth and resources should have such poverty. He mentioned that there is some deep error in the administration. However, the fact is that the error was in the native languages of the place. The lower placed person is like dirt, and there is sympathy for him or her. In fact, his or her improvement is seen as a threat by the upper placed persons. When the lower placed persons improve, they try to suppress the others. This is the error here. However, when the Englishmen left and still the terrible poverty and privations continued, no one is concerned. People simple parrot that the ‘British looted India’ and are satisfied that they themselves are not responsible for the poverty. Government officials more or less loot the complete financial resources of the nation by means of unbelievable pay, pension and perks. Yet, not even one person is ready to take up this for questioning.

they witnessed Christianity elevating the first and each successive generation of converts in education, social status, and personal worth

In the ultimate count, it is just improving their own group. Not what the English rulers accomplished in British India. For instance, in Tellicherry the English rule bestowed English education to all. Yet, it had its own pitfalls. The upper castes simply had to keep away, from the despoiling effect of being placed along with the lower castes.

Our successes have thus created a caste prejudice against the native Christians.

Naturally in feudal languages, when one section goes up, the other sections go down. Neither Matteer nor any native-English speaker in current day England is aware of this terrible fact. When feudal language speakers go up, the native-Englishmen slowly would shift into squalor and dirt, in the feudal languages. Then the successes of the feudal language speakers would create some kind of ‘prejudice’ against them. Poor gullible England!

Along their whole course, from Quilon to Trevandrum, Pareychaley, Neyoor, and Nagercoil, they found Christian congregations scattered all over the country-fruitful oases in a spiritual desert-and were received with demonstrations of the utmost affection and gratitude from the native converts, who know how much they owe to the British churches who have sent them the Gospel with all its civilizing and elevating influences.

They addressed an eager and attentive audience of some two thousand persons in the great church at Nagercoil, where they also administered the holy communion to a thousand church members. To the address of welcome presented to them, there was appended a cheque for a hundred rupees for the purchase of a chair for the use of the chairman of the Board of Directors in London, that they might never forget the Christians of Travancore.

They laid the foundation of a new chapel to be built at native cost, opened a new reading-room and caste girls’ school, and greatly cheered and animated the people by their kind words and earnest exhortations to increased faithfulness, devotion, and activity in the service of our Lord and Master. It was a more than royal progress to these representatives of English Christianity, everywhere surrounded with prayerful and loving hearts.

The above mentioned three quotes reflect not just what happened in Travancore. It is rather the real spirit of appreciation that rang all over the Indian subcontinent as the English side went on tumbling down each and every feudal overlords and kings in the various places. No modern insipid Indian historian mentions that it was not the England army that overwhelmed the feudal ruling classes of the peninsula, but the lower classes of the place assembling under the leadership of the English.

Christian missions have certainly not failed in India, where there is now (exclusive of Burmah and Ceylon, and in addition to Roman Catholic and Syrian Christians) a Protestant Christian community of 417,373 souls, which may be expected at the present rate of increase to number nearly a million in another decade.

Retrospectively speaking, this endeavour only created a new group, with its own private aims. Not exactly what the English rule did elsewhere in the subcontinent.

to lay the foundations of a Christian Church in India, which shall be the admiration of the world a hundred years hence; to train the future teachers and preachers, the future fathers and mothers and citizens of India; to help the poor and needy; to rescue the perishing; to proclaim liberty to the captives of sin, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

Rev. Matteer’s aim was messed up by a very wrong understanding of the place. Poverty, low quality social system etc. were not the creations of any religion. Christianity cannot wipe it out in India. It has been able to create only one more selfish, self-centred group. Christian education was good to the extent that it was directly connected to England. Without this link, it was just another feudal language group with its own mediocre aims.

In my childhood I studied in a school which I think had Cambridge University Certification syllabus. The academic year was from January to December. English systems were slowly getting erased in the school ambience. I did experience the vanishing of the last of the quality English speaking priests. Then came a new breed of priests. They looked different and crude compared to the earlier persons. Even though they could speak English, they were basically crude local Travancore vernacular speaking persons. Words such as Nee \o, Eda FSm etc. which in the earlier period was only used by the menial classes of the school on the students, were now seen used by these new managers on the students.

There was a quality change. I heard them discussing changing the school curriculum to Kerala Board. For, they were at ease in that system. The other, refined, connected-to-England system was not within their mental ambience.


14 #The wider aspects

Now let us go into the wider aspects of the contents.

Apart from the Christians, this book does lend a lot of information on all the others here. Let us start with the Nairs.

15 #Nairs

There are items in this book and many other books like the Travancore State Manual, Castes and tribes of Southern India &c. which would not be liked by the members of the Nair caste. The issue springs from the word Sudra. In an age when the geographical area of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore was cut off from the other parts of the peninsula due to difficulties in travelling, this word seems to have been used with no qualms. Sudras are the lowest of the four layer Caste system, which is mentioned as Chaturvaryna of the Aryans. It was generally believed that the north Indians were Aryans and the south Indians Dravidians. The chocolate coloured Hindi film heroes did also help in this feeling that some kind of superior looking individuals were inhabiting the north Indian areas. This belief has slowly worn down with the fraud known as currency exchange value difference making some of the southern states become quite rich and leading to the destitution of the north Indian states. Now the rich folks in the south also can claim superior looks.

As to the word Aryan, it has its own confusion. The term Aryan was used as the defining identification of the Germans, and I think Hitler claimed Aryan racial superiority. If that claim is tenable, then there is no scope from the north Indian claim. It might be true that the German language might have some link with Sanskrit, for it also has feudal codes as found in Sanskrit. However, I do not know if the Germans do lay any claim on Vedic literature. With the formation of British-India, the East India Company officials did take a lot of interest in searching for ancient literature mentioned in the geographical region. This action directly led to the discovery of various literary works from various household libraries. For instance, I did find this quote in the preface to the English translation of Kama Sutra written by a person named Vatsyayana.

It may be interesting to some persons to learn how it came about that Vatsyayana was first brought to light and translated into the English language. It happened thus. While translating with the pundits the ‘Anunga runga, or the stage of love,’ reference was frequently found to be made to one Vatsya. The sage Vatsya was of this opinion, or of that opinion. The sage Vatsya said this, and so on. Naturally questions were asked who the sage was, and the pundits replied that Vatsya was the author of the standard work on love in Sanscrit literature, that no Sanscrit library was complete without his work, and that it was most difficult now to obtain in its entire state. The copy of the manuscript obtained in Bombay was defective, and so the pundits wrote to Benares, Calcutta and Jeypoor for copies of the manuscript from Sanscrit libraries in those places. Copies having been obtained, they were then compared with each other, and with the aid of a Commentary called ‘Jayamangla’ a revised copy of the entire manuscript as prepared, and from this copy the English translation was made.

Though no patriotic Indian would like this information, the truth is that it was the English officials of the East India Company who more or less brought out the various Sanskrit literatures including the Vedas into the proximity of the public. They searched out these books from various sources and had them translated. Otherwise in a geographical area where it was forbidden for even the lower ranks of the four castes to even hear the reading of the Vedas, it is quite inconceivable how it would come out. Basically the issue is that if the lower man in a feudal language social system improves, he would use his knowledge to bring down the stature of the upper placed man, and place him in the lower indicant positions. That is from Avar അവർ, Oar ഓര്, or Adheham അദ്ദേഹം or UNN ഉൻ to that of Avanഅവൻ, Oan ഓൻ or USS ഉസ്സ്. Only the English were stupid enough to give literatures kept hidden by the superior persons to the lower persons. Even now, all people take care to see that the information that they possess is not given to their lower ranks. Only in English nations does information get disseminated without concern of what the other side would do with it. And the results are also very clearly visible. Knowledge and information which were in the possession of England is now in the hands of the feudal classes of the feudal language nations. However, from the other side no information, other than useless ones get returned.

Now coming back to the Vedas, citizens of India have been taught to claim the Vedas as a creation of their own ancestors. This is also utter nonsense. In the sense that the real quality of the people who lived here are seen in this book. Most of them real slaves. Not the fake slaves of the USA. The rest of the people crude slaves masters at various social levels.

Vedas might contain huge and powerful mantras. Mantras, if true, might be powerful software codes that link to the codes of reality and life. However I do not know how many Indians has seen a Vedic text. How many can read it unless they take deliberate lessons to study it? Even Sanskrit is an unknown language to almost all people in India. [It is true that some states in India have now claimed Sanskrit as the state language, and there are universities teaching the language. These actions do not make it a natural language here.] Even though I have talked to one or two persons who claim to be Vedic scholars, I do not think that they know who wrote the Vedic texts or by what machine it was written. Or what is the exact machinery by which the mantras work. [CHECK my book: Software codes of mantra, tantra, witchcraft, black magic, evil eye, evil tongue &c.]

As to the history of the geographical area known as the Indian subcontinent, it is not one of an intelligent development of political systems. It was just a mess of social and political activity, with continuous political instability. Each king’s death in each kingdom created political upheavals. In England a very powerful system connected to primogeniture was set up. Such a thing was never seen in any of the kingdoms of Indian subcontinent. Even in Travancore, this was not done till the advent of the East India Company supremacy in the Subcontinent.

In spite of all this mediocrity, the people here now are indoctrinated by the national academicians to parrot everything good in the world as really connected to ‘India’.

“Not just ‘Zero’, but even democracy was discovered by us!” No one dares to ask what this zero that was discovered is, and how it was used. And how many people in this area knew about this great ‘zero’.

People whose ancestors were literally slaves who couldn’t dress properly, couldn’t sit on a chair, couldn’t address their master class by name, and who were addressed and referred to by the pejorative part of indicant words codes, and who probably are part of some populations from some part of the globe, all claim that their ancestry to the Vedic period, which is supposed to have existed some more than 7000 years back, in a geographical area which is beyond the frontiers of the India, the nation. As technology improves, it has become easy to appropriate anything and include it within one’s own claims. A direct link to the Vedic culture, if such a thing did really exist in the area beyond the north-western border of India, is quite difficult to find. For, even within a small period of 400 years, a person becomes directly linked to around 200000 people living at that time. If this be the case, imagine the number of persons he or she would be directly connected to some 7000 years back. The fact is that human looks has much to do with the language and social culture. Even an Englishman if brought up in Indian feudal language systems, at its pejorative (Inhi, Nee, Avan, Oan, Aval, Oal) level, would fast acquire an inferior Indian look within one or two generations. An example of this phenomenon can be seen in the life history of James Scurry.

Now coming back to the Sudra issue, it is like the police Shipai (Indian police constable). Most of them belong to the lowly English educated group. They are generally from the vernacular ‘education’ background. In vernacular ‘education’, which is not actually education, they have been addressed as Nee, and referred to as Avan, Aval, Avattakal, eda, edi, enthada F¥mSm, enthadi F¥mSoetc. or their equivalent words in the respective language. Before their equally uneducated teacher class, they cringe and look shy, show cumbersome respect and get up when the teachers enter the class. They teachers understand that they can literally treat the slap the students and also make them act like their servants. When these students become police constables, this is the typical way they behave to the public and expect the public to behave. The public also who have been trained in the same schooling system, cringe, cower, act shy, show cumbersome ‘respect’, stand up when they enter &c.

In any small time location, the police constables are small-time feudal lords, eking respect and grandeur in the local society, small-time shops, road corners &c. The constable can carry a lathi (beating stick) and at times guns. When one moves in the companionship of police constables, one becomes very much aware of the huge ‘respect’ he or she is able to garner. People show homage by handing over bribes and other articles of homage. One wouldn’t know of the smallness of the hierarchical status of a constable unless one comes across the other varying levels, above him or her, in the police hierarchy. Naturally, the police constables in Kerala state do have a very inflated feeling about their status. For, pay is good, and much above an ordinary man can earn. There other bribes and many other facilities.

If they are reminded that in the Indian police hierarchy, they are actually shipais, it might trigger a homicidal violence in their mood.

In most areas of Travancore and Malabar areas, this might be the exact status of the most Nairs, in the days before caste hierarchy was abolished statutorily. Not everyone. For there were solitary Nairs who occupied quite high official ranks, apart from their natural social hierarchy.

If the information that Nairs are Sudras is mentioned, there have been Nairs who went into a homicidal mood. However, this mood is also just a mistake. For, the feudalism of the Indian Subcontinent is not an elite feudalism, as one might mention the feudalism in England. [English feudalism can be quite different from European feudalism due to the planar nature of English language]. In this Subcontinent, the feudalism is a kind of making the lower man a piece of shit, kind of feudalism. A lower caste man moving along with the higher caste man would not get rubbed with any kind of higher quality, from the higher caste man. For example, a Thiyya individual of Tellicherry moving with a Nair man in the pre-British rule time, would not get any of a improvement in his information, personal quality or derive anything positive. He would be quite affably addressed as a Inhi ഇഞ്ഞി, and referred to an as Avan അവൻ, eda എടാ &c. and questioned by words like Enthada, and his family would be referred to as Ayittingal ഐറ്റിങ്ങൾ. He and his wife would be Thiyyan തീയ്യൻ and Thiyyathi തീയത്തി mentioned more in suppressive manner. He would have to sit on the floor and even the small children in the Nair household would give him commands using the lower indicant word of Inhi, ക്ട്ടാ, ഇഞ്ഞി ആട്ന്ന് രണ്ട് തേങ്ങ് ഉരിക്ക്. When seen from this social context, there is no such parallel in English feudalism.

It may be mentioned in passing that even though caste has been statutorily removed, the feudal system continues. The new higher feudal classes are the government employees, with the peons more or less acting as the Nair component. In many places, they stand at the access point to meeting a higher official (lord). The common man is now the lower castes, treated in the same manner as the lower castes of yore. In the typical manner of the lower castes of yore, the common man cannot unite, for they are kept in a position of disunity and mutually competing social levels by the officialdom using varying levels of indicant words.

Now, the fact remains that Nairs are Sudras. This the way Nairs have been defined in almost all pre-India formation time books. It is found that even Nairs did use the word Sudra to define themselves. For, it only defined them as a part of the Aryans, while others were outside the Aryan fold. However, with the formation of India, the word Sudra was found quite unacceptable. For, it connected them to the section of people who are identified as Sudras in the northern part of the peninsula. Moreover in school education, the Sudras are mentioned as the lowest castes, which is mistake. Sudras are not the lowest castes. They are just the lowest of the four level Aryan chathurvarnya systems. There are plenty of lower castes below them.

In Travancore State Manual, there is mention of one Ramunni Menon who was not given the Diwanship in Travancore kingdom, on account of his being a Sudra.

Now, there is no doubt that the Nairs would feel quite agitated by this kind of information. They sincerely do not like to be mentioned as Sudras in current days. As is usual with everyone in this peninsula, they also want a fabulous antiquity and caste link. They want to be identified as Kshatriayas. However, this Kshatriaya claim is quite terrible one, considering that even the claims of the royal families are in doubt as per the information in this book. It may be mentioned that Matteer has no partiality towards any caste here. So his contentions and observations are dependable to that extent.

I do remember two young research scholars from the USA doing a doctoral work on the Nairs here. They seemed to have found the Aryan address for Nair. This part of their research finding came as a series of articles in an English Newspaper. The moot point would why should a doctoral research work come out as a newspaper article, unless there is some vested interest in promoting an idea. Apart from the mistakes in their findings, one can also contemplate on the quality of the so-called PhD theses. Most of the doctoral degrees now been given out like cinema tickets are at best usage-able as tissue paper. In times of desperation. Quality-wise they have no more worth.

Yet, there is a silver lining in the midst of this dark shadow for them. I will come to this silver lining after giving quotes from this book about their Sudra lineage.


It is a remarkable fact that over one-fifth of the population are nominally Christian, while the Malayalam Sudras, who constitute the mass of the respectable population, the landowners and employers of labour, the agricultural and military classes, are quite outnumbered by the native Christians;

Actually there is no need to be surprised in this. In any feudal hierarchy, in the higher levels the number of persons usually go less. Like constables, head constables, Assistant Sub Inspectors, Inspectors, Deputy SP, SP, DIG, IG, DGP. In the higher levels, there are less persons.

Brahmans never attend these markets. When this liberty was given to the low castes, Sudra women and others refrained for a while from attending market, but they are now getting accustomed to the new state of things, though they hotly declare their dislike to it.

This issue is really connected to issue of the lower persons in a feudal language system, being able to despoil the higher persons if equality between lower and higher levels is enforced. The higher levels cannot despoil the lower classes. The reverse is possible. It is just like a higher man addressing the lower man as Nee, and the lower man also retorts with the same Nee in addressing back. The higher man stands in a stink, while the lower man has no qualms about being thus addressed.

This issue of people keeping out is happening even in England when feudal language speakers start residing in one locality in large numbers. They can despoil the native-English speakers, who do not have any means of defence against this attack at the verbal code level. Even though they might not understand the words, satanic effect can be felt by them. Their only option is to flee the place.

The Ilayathus are said to have once been Namburis and degraded in caste for the crime of having informed a Sudra what rites should be performed in favour of his deceased ancestors.

It might have been an act of treachery. Like what universities in GB and US, and businesses like the Microsoft did to the US and other English economies. That of standing as conduits for superior technical information to be spirited out to competing nations and business moguls.

A few may be seen fairer and with well-formed features from some slight intermixture of Muhammadan, possibly even Sudra parentage, or high-caste females in former times condemned to slavery.

Higher caste blood line is there in lower castes. At least through the handing over of females who have been punished. And when these lower castes converted into Christians, they would have brought in this bloodline to the Christians. In fact, one can see plenty of fair skin complexioned persons among the Christian settler populations of Malabar.

The Sudra masters give some medicines; and would sometimes on an emergency, visit their slaves, purifying themselves afterwards.

This was the reflection of the much acclaimed affection for the adiyaan ASnbm=that the Jenmi PSn had.

The people that live nearest the abodes of the Kanikars are Pariahs ]db= and Puliahs s]meb=, our converts from these castes, and their Sudra masters.

Sudras do not deem themselves polluted by contact with these respectable and independent people, while they keep Chogans at a distance for fear of defilement

Sudras meeting Brahmans adore them, folding both hands together ; the Brahman, in return. confers his blessing by holding the left hand to the chest and closing the fingers.

The codes of this adoration are embedded in the feudal language verbal codes. In fact every man who speaks these type of languages usually like to cringe and crawl in front of a superior, just to inform of his deep adoration. Currently people show such attitudes towards their teachers and to the officialdom. Caste is not the criterion of superiority now.

Sudras have no priests but Brahmans. Some, however, begin to entertain and to show great aversion to Brahmans on account of their profession of superiority, and probably really superior force of intellect. This dislike seems rather on the increase, amounting at times to bitterness and jealousy.

This feeling of dislike for being inferior is the real affect of the English rule. It was a terrible thing to come into this land, and make the lower persons dislike their servitude. However, this un-entangling of social relationship without an adequate input of quality English along with it, did create deep wounds in the upper castes. For persons who were their subordinates simply shifted from words of respect to words of insult. From Angunnu അങ്ങുന്ന് to Nee നീ. In fact, the conspiracy of the higher castes including those like Nehru, Gandhi etc. to somehow remove the English rule from the peninsula, can be traced to the terrible issue of the lower castes and classes moving upwards to position of disregard and disrespect to superior castes and classes. However, it can be seen that the lower castes and classes stood by the English rule, with full loyalty till the idiot became the prime minister in England, and more or less threw apart a great world government.

But, unlike other Sudra unions, the Ammachi, having once been married to a Rajah, is required to remain single all the remainder of her days ; and is shut UP and guarded in her own residence.

This is the tragedy that is there for the upper classes in all feudal language systems. They can’t move freely around. For the other can hurt them by simply using lower indicant words. The issue of respect is the terrible necessity.

The more intelligent Sudras are beginning to exclaim against this incessant feeding and feeing of idle and profitless Brahmans from public funds to which the Sudra taxpayers so largely contribute, to meet which feeling the present Maharajah thoughtfully included the Nair officials, subordinates, and pupils in his hospitalitya sensible arrangement unheard of before.

The depth of information in this paragraph is great. However, in modern times, a new kind of parasites have taken over the nation. They are the huge army of government employees. They do not consider themselves as workers. They feel that they are high position holders, whom the people should bestow respect. They partake huge salaries which is multiple times any other employee in this nation gets. Even the insipid English professor, whose teaching very rarely educates a student in quality English, get Rs. 75000 per month for 13 months a year. Apart from all this, he or she is eligible for a huge pension amount, which is also literally loot of the nation. Read more on this by clicking on this reading: Fence eating the Crops (

Caste rules are observed by them towards their inferiors, and applied to them by Sudras and Brahmans.

those of the Malayalam Sudras, or Nayars, both of which are inseparably connected and interdependent.

Rev. J. Abbs, in his “Twenty-two Years in Travancore,” gives the following narrative, related to him by a Sudran, which well illustrates the subject in hand : — “Being a tall, handsome man of respectable family, although poor, I was engaged several years ago by two rich men of my own caste to be the husband of their sister.

This bespeaks about the real family system of the place. It is quite funny that Indians do not really know what their actually family standards were. They go around the globe declaring great family systems in their antiquity.

But it is clear that they have endeavoured to make the Sudras not only in theory, but in fact, their social slaves, and wicked threats are used to some classes if they do not place their females at the disposal of the Brahmans.

In those times, Brahmins could get to use Nair females for sex. And naturally the Nair females would only enjoy the attention and the entertainment from superior class males. This actually did not stop at this point. The Nairs would make use of lower caste females. In Malabar, I have heard such stories from interior places, where modernity and roads took a long time to arrive. Only in areas where the law and order machinery of the English rulers arrived did the lower castes husbands have any claim over their wives. However, in this issue also in matriarchal family system, the uncles could decide whether a husband had the right to be with his wife. They could even decide whether their niece should be entertained by a superior caste male.


I have known a fine Sudra youth bitterly lament that his own father, a Brahman, cared nothing for him; and, in fact, the father could not under any circumstances, eat with him, nor touch him without ceremonial pollution.

It would like an IPS ‘officer’ having a child in a constable female. He can’t come and sit among the constables. Nor can he allow the child to arrive at his level of social interaction. For the child would bring forth his or her social and family connections to the higher levels. In which case, everyone in the higher levels would feel the discomfort, and possibly ditch the IPS ‘officer’ who stands as a link to lower strata.

The problem is basically the feudal language. Equality cannot be extended to persons who stand in a lower layer in the language code.

Individuals of some castes are allowed to form connections with Sudra females which are to them irregular, but which they attempt to justify by pleading the Nayar usages; and many cases of prostitution occur, even among the respectable classes.

The word prostitution might be too heavy. For, females sleeping with many other males of higher castes seems to have been the norm, than the exception in ‘God’s own country’ (some bloody fool has, without god’s acquiescence, made this claim for a place which reeks with corruption and other monstrous attributes).

Until the kudumi is worn, the Brahman child is but a Sudra, and every Shastri attests the religious character of this symbol; and this is as expressive today as it ever was.

“some of the Sudras collected mobs of men with whom they frequented the daily markets, watching both for the Christian men and women, examining the heads of the former to ascertain whether they had cut off the kudumi, or lock of hair which is a mark of heathenism, and to assault them if by its absence they were found to be professors of Christianity.”

The Sudra masters complained of the planters taking away their labourers. But this competition and demand for labour largely ameliorated the condition of the poor

These are actually the real effect of English colonialism in the subcontinent. However, the cunning Indian academic historians give a picture of a looting ruling group. Actually the looting rulers were the upper classes of this region. Even now the officialdom is literally looting the nation.

The poor slaves were to the Sudra landholders what the damsel of Philippi was to her masters.

“A Pariah got a piece of jungle as mortgage from a Sudra, cleared and planted the land, so that it became worth about a hundred rupees. Then the Sudra called the man and told him to bring his document, along with sixty fanams, for which, he assured him, he should get the land registered in the man’s name. The Sudra afterwards produced a new document, assuring the Pariah (who could not read) that it was the proper deed, and he received it with pleasure. But soon afterwards, the land he had cleared was registered in another person’s name, and taken from the poor man, who was unable to obtain any redress. The Sudras in these parts, being connected with the police clerks, can get anything they like done against these poor people, who are easily cheated and oppressed.”

A Sudra conversing with an Evangelist, said: — “Kuravars cannot learn anything — that is quite impossible.”

They have now cattle of their own, and lease lands from the Sudras for cultivation.

The other day a respectable Sudran came to one of our catechists, and said, “I want all my Pulayars taught Christianity, and I will help you to build a prayer-house for them.”

Pretences are sometimes made by individuals to higher than their real caste. .............................. We have known one or two apostates from Christianity, well educated in English, who assumed Sudra names, and passed in distant parts of the country as such

In 1878, a Sudra, a drunken and violent character, happening to pass by the road from the market, saw a Pariah Christian woman, fatigued and footsore, sitting down by the roadside to rest a while. The man assaulted and struck her with his stick on account of her not moving to a distance to avoid polluting him.

The expenditure, according to last published Report (M.E. 1056) on “Education, Science, and Art,” amounted to Rs. 183,696, but of this only Rs. 60,131 were for vernacular education, and this sum included the large District Schools, mostly for Brahman and Sudra boys.

The Malayalam Sudras, although they number rather less (440,932) than the native Christians in Travancore (466,874), yet, according to the census report, absorb no fewer than 8,647 Government posts in all grades of the service,

Our historian, for instance, says “We wonder how, and upon what authority, the authors of ‘ The Land of the Perumals,’ and ‘ The Land of Charity,’ and other learned writers, state that the Rajah of Travancore is a Sudra.

This contention can be disliked by the so-called ‘royal’ houses of this small-time area. However, the Nair/Sudras would find the information welcome. For their claim is that they belong to the royal classes. And here the contention is that the royal classes are actually from their class.

The Panars, or tailors of Travancore, pretend to be Sudras, but are repudiated by the latter.

It is similar to the claims of the English educated Thiyyas going to the Travancore areas after the formation of Kerala in 1957. They were deeply distressed to find a caste of which they had not been aware of, the Ezhavas, claiming that that Thiyyas were Ezhavas. It was met with deep repulsion and disgust. However, over the years, this has gone down, with the strengthening of the Kerala state, and the vanishing of the Malabar languages, and the spread of Malayalam in the Malabar region. Everything is viewed from the Travancore perspective. Even the official corruption which was more or less a rarity in English ruled Malabar has spread into Malabar from Travancore.

Chandragupta also was a Sudra. Such instances of Indian rulers, who are Sudras by caste, but by office kings and warriors, tend to introduce uncertainty into the historical question; and courtiers by their flatteries soon cause still greater confusion.

This information should be great for the Sudras (Nairs).

A considerable portion of the work before us is occupied with the subject of the descent and caste of the royal family of Travancore, who, it is repeatedly urged, are not Sudras but Kshatriyas

The small-time kings’ families want to distance themselves from Nairs/Sudras. Sudras/Nairs want to connect themselves to the kings. It is like the blacks in the US, wanting to connect with the Whites. Those whites who have English ancestry want to keep a distance from the other whites. The other whites want to disregard this distance. Most peoples around the world want to distance themselves from their own population address.


“The Keralolpathi does not say that the King of Travancore is a Sudra, nor is this stated in Sanscrit works.”

Sanskrit, Vedic literature and even the puranas are from the distant past, to which a visible link can only be seen through imagination. Even bloodline links will be quite impossible to find. So many populations have walked through this subcontinent. None could deliver any social quality improvement till the English rule came.

All, until recently, claimed descent and grant of authority from Cheraman Perumal, who is supposed to have been a Kshatriya, yet there is a tradition that the last of the Perumals was a Sudra

The facts that they can only marry Sudra ladies — that their children are simply Nayars according to the ordinary Malabar law, without any caste pre-eminence on account of their father’s rank — that the laws of nepotism prevail in the descent of the throne and inheritance — that all the chieftains of Malabar agree to a large extent in traditions and usages — and that the mass of the population of Malabar, over whom they exercise rule and with whom they are so intimately connected, are Sudras — all indubitably point to the original Nayar origin of those families.

This statement should be a great saving grace for the Nairs. That royalty is from their castes. However, the royalty would be distressed to know that they are from the Nair caste.

“To-day, when passing by your schoolroom, I heard the children sing their sweet and instructive lyrics with great delight. We Sudras, regarded as of high caste, are now becoming comparatively lower; while you, who were once so low, are being exalted through Christianity. I fear,” he added, “Sudra children in the rural districts will soon be fit for nothing better than feeding cattle.””

There is a terrible understanding that might be missed in this statement. That the non-formally educated persons are idiots. It need not be true. If such a contention is being made, the best way to assess its validity is open up the public services to open competition, without using limiting educational qualifications. Then one can really see who is actually better equipped mentally. Now let us see the silver lining in the dark aura that has covered the Nair folks. See these QUOTES:

The gulf which separates one caste from another is often very great, as great, almost, as between distinct species of animals; or as that which exists between mankind and their cattle or dogs. The cordon of division is strangely effective and complete in its operation. There are little hamlets of lowcaste people situated in secluded valleys and corners of the rice fields, near which one might pass for years without observing them; and there are Brahman agrahrams or closes, intentionally retired from public view, where the entrance of a stranger would be regarded with hostility, horror, and alarm, and would lead at once to personal attack upon him.

Actually only recently and that too after the formation of the English Empire was many populations considered as perfect human beings. In many places of the world, there were superior groups who considered others as mere superior animals. This generally changed after the Black slaves were brought the US, where after learning English language and systems, there was no way to consider them as inferior beings. The fact is that even now, there are places such as Sudan, where people are stolen for slavery and treated as mere animals, by the enslavers.

All dread the raising of the lower classes and their admission to the common rights of humanity. “The very essence of caste lies in the degradation of others.”

Actually there is an error in the second quote. Degradation of others is not the very essence of caste. It is actually one side of feudal language codes. The other side is the ennobling of certain selected persons. Caste is just the solidification of this separation of human beings, over the centuries.

..... the amount of research bestowed by each to discover local traditions, verbal derivations, analogies in ceremonies or usages, or anything whatever that might enable them to outvie rival castes — the contempt felt for the boasting of others — and the age-long memories of reported or imagined honours once enjoyed by them.

Nair / Sudra females: Picture taken from Caste & Tribes of Southern India by E. Thurston

The fact is that Nairs have struggled hard to remove the Sudra Tag on them. They have written that they are Kshatriyas in many websites, so that a simple search might give the impression that they are Kshatriayas. A similar attempt is done by the Ezhava leadership to spread the information that Thiyyas are their sub caste. Many Thiyyas do not bother about these things, as their mental focus is on mundane issues of daily survival and struggle to overtake others who might be competing with them in business and life. As to the Ezhava leadership, there is a goldmine in extending their sway to a huge geographical region of the erstwhile Malabar district. However, some Thiyyas feel the manipulation as too shrew for comfort. Currently they can’t do anything. As even Wikipedia India pages are in the control of certain vested group who share similar or disconnected political aims.

Now about the silver lining for the Nairs: First, the very contention in this book that the kings of Kerala are basically Sudras and not really Khastriyas can be converted into code of social elevation. However, the lower castes like the Ezhavas used to use the Sudra tag to despoil Nair claims to superiority. It is here that a major other contention can be used to claim back the superiority that is under dispute.

This is connected to the matriarchal system of the Nairs. It is seen mentioned that the Nair females do not really go through any formal married life with any male. What is practised is something akin to living together with males of the superior Brahmin castes, in the female’s household. Or with some Nair males. Nair males are believed to allow visiting Brahmin to be accommodated by his short-term wife. The female’s sexual consort at any moment is more or less decided by her uncles.

Even though this information could be a shocker for people who parrot about the great moral standards of ancient ‘India’, and hence an information of disrepute, the fact is that a strong and enduring family life seems to have been a remote possibility in this geographical area for all castes. However, for the nair females, the consorts are usually the higher castes. No lower castes are allowed even to cast their profane glance at Nair females. In most possibility, lower castes like the Ezhavas, Shanars, Chovvans etc. of Travancore, and Thiyyas of Malabar, especially the financially lower families would have had to lend their females to their higher caste, the Nairs, or at least all the Nair males to suitably seduce them on all sorts of occasions. Actually such stories were in vogue in many Malabar interiors some decades back. Now, such things must have vanished into oblivion.

As to having sex with very low caste females, in all possibility when there is a chance to get away with it without anyone knowing it, most higher castes males would have used the opportunity.


See these QUOTES:

They imitate the Nayar custom of marriage, that is, a mere temporary union, technically called “presenting a cloth and living together.”

............ by which relationship is traced obliquely, only through the female line, so that not one’s own but the sister’s children are regarded as the nearest heirs — can only be understood, and its origin investigated, by first examining the marriage and inheritance laws of the Malayalam Brahmans, or Namburis, and those of the Malayalam Sudras, or Nayars, both of which are inseparably connected and interdependent.

The females of a wealthy Nayar family, especially where there is but one sister, are visited at their own homes by Brahman paramours, or by persons of their own caste; and their children are reared up in the same house, and inherit from their mothers’ brothers, as the fathers have nothing of their own to give them.

Nayars, Ilavars, and others occasionally practise polyandry — that is, a woman will reside with two or more brothers who are unable or unwilling to support a wife for each, as concubine to all.

But it is clear that they have endeavoured to make the Sudras not only in theory, but in fact, their social slaves, and wicked threats are used to some classes if they do not place their females at the disposal of the Brahmans.

“Muttathus marry females of their own caste; but they only perform the customary ceremony, while Brahmans cohabit with them and beget children. Should men of their own caste dare to approach them, it is like incest with a mother — there is no atonement possible for them — and such progeny are sacrilegious !”

Such loose customs respecting marriage are only suited to semicivilised races, whose ideas of the sacred bond have not risen much above that of the association of the lower animals. These usages are not far dissevered from promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, or free love.

Friar Jordanus, who resided at Quilon, and wrote his description of the Wonders of the East some five centuries and a half ago, assigns as the reason for the nepotistic law the following : — “In this India, never do even the legitimate sons of great kings, or princes, or barons, inherit the goods of their parents, but only the sons of their sisters; for they say that they have no surety that those are their own sons; but ’tis not so with the sister, for whatever man may be the father, they are certain that the offspring is of their sister, and is consequently thus truly of their blood.”

It will be evident, from the preceding remarks, that under the Marumakkathyam system of law there is a marked absence of the peculiar advantages and benefits of true marriage, and of family privileges which men highly and justly prize. Virtuous love and the noblest affections, parental rights and domestic order, the obligation to protect wife and children as the weakest party, the right of men and women to domestic felicity, all are more or less ignored; and this violation of the Divine law carries with it its own punishment, in the promotion of family dissension and of sensuality in various forms.

The revolting system of polyandry is not rare among Sudras, Carpenters, Ilavars, and other Marumakkal castes,...........................Rarely is there ever felt such strong and elevated affection in these cases that the brothers quarrel, or are jealous about possession of the common partner;...

I have known a fine Sudra youth bitterly lament that his own father, a Brahman, cared nothing for him; and, in fact, the father could not under any circumstances, eat with him, nor touch him without ceremonial pollution.

Indeed, there is no recognized form of marriage by which a Nayar man and woman could bind one another, even if they wished, for life. A poor man engaged as husband by a wealthy family may be sent off at a moment’s notice, without wife or child, beggared in the domestic charities as well as in purse : sometimes for failing to send a present on festival days, or on other trivial pretexts, he is discarded.

.... the youngest sons of Brahmans being prohibited honourable marriage with persons of their own class, and forced to form illegitimate connections with strangers,...

A good deal of controversy has taken place on the subject in the public prints, and a society for the reform of the Malabar laws of marriage (and inheritance) has been formed at Calicut by the leaders of the Nayar community, especially those educated in English.
Some of the more enlightened and educated Nayars are now beginning to realise their degradation, and to rebel against the Brahmanical tyranny, and absurd and demoralising laws under which they are placed.

Now what is this great silver lining in this terribly dark information? The darkness is connected to fake claims of glorious family standards in Indian antiquity. It stands demolished. However the plus point for the Nair is quite obvious. That most of them do have solid Brahmin bloodline in them. If higher caste bloodline is what they aspire for, then what they have is the best.

However, there is a further extension to this. Just having a bloodline wouldn’t suffice. For, if a Brahmin child is brought up as a lower caste individual, in almost all cases, the child would be placed in the lower caste or class bracket and would have identifiable lower class inferiorities, on him or her, as imposed by the lower pejorative class indicant words. Chekkan ചെക്കൻ, Cherukkan ചെറുക്കൻ, Pennu പെണ്ണ്, Eda എടാ, Edi എടി and such words would do their intended despoiling and dehumanising effect on the Brahmin progeny born in lower caste circumstances.

The reverse would also be true. A lower caste child born and bred up as a higher caste or class individual would have divine aura of the higher class indicant words embedded in him or her.


There is the terrific tragedy of the higher caste females getting sold or given to lower caste males. As punishment for some seemingly great delinquency. There is the history the females in the household of the ettuvettill pillamar and the preceding king’s family being sold to the fishermen folks by Marthanda Varma. As punishment for their male folk conspiring against, and attacking him. See this QUOTE from Travancore State Manual:

Their women and children were to be sold to the fishermen of the coast as slaves.

To be slaves of Englishmen would have been like getting appointed as senior officials with ample freedom of articulation and rights. To be sold as slaves to lower positioned folks in the Indian subcontinent who would use the terrific lower indicant words would be equivalent to being pasted in stinking dirt.

When one thinks of such incidences, it would be quite apparent that among the socalled lowest castes of the place, there would be ample high caste bloodlines. See these quotes from this book:

Occasionally they do fall, and then are irrevocably expelled from family, friends, and society. In such case they must join the lower castes, to whom they were formerly sold as slaves and concubines, or go over to the Roman Catholic or Syrian Christians, uniting with some one in marriage.

The history brahmanical bloodline entangling with lowest caste bloodline.

“The rajah might sell into slavery persons of various castes who had committed any crime “by which they lost caste, or were liable to capital punishment.”

The lowest castes were slaves. Joining them, any caste individual turns into a lowest caste.

“If any woman of Nayar family should offend against the law of her sect, and the King know of it before her relations and brothers, he commands her to be taken and sold out of the kingdom to Moors or Christians, And if her male relations or sons know, of it first, they shut her up and kill her with dagger or spear wounds, saying that if they did not do so they would remain greatly dishonoured.”

This is honour killing indeed. No English native will understand the powerful requirement to cut off all links to lower classes. The indicant words that connect uncles to nephews and nieces go into dirt level. No niece or nephew or their parents would be able to bear them being address as Nee, and referred to as Avan, Aval, eda, edi etc. by lower class persons who come into positions of uncles/aunts, by such links. It would be understood that it is better to kill the person who brings in such links.

The Pariahs in North Travancore formerly kidnapped females of high caste, whom they were said to treat afterwards in a brutal manner. Their custom was to turn robbers in the month of February, just after the ingathering of the harvest, when they were free from field work, and at the same time excited by demon worship, dancing, and drink. They broke into the houses of Brahmans and Nayars, carrying away their children and property, in excuse for which they pretended motives of revenge rather than interest, urging a tradition that they were once a division of the Brahmans, but entrapped into a breach of caste rules by their enemies making them eat beef. These crimes were once committed almost with impunity in some parts, but have now disappeared. Once having lost caste, even by no fault of their own, restoration to home and friends is impossible to Hindus.

This would stand as powerful testimony that the lower castes were not to be considered as hopelessly powerless persons. They had all the capacities that the higher castes had. But were kept in the lower positions due to the fear that if given a chance to outgrow their lower layers, they would overtake and takeover.

Only the other day, also, a bride was kidnapped on the way to Mundakayam by a strong party.

Actually there was no law and order machinery in force anywhere in the subcontinent till the advent of the policing system set up by the East India Company. In fact, in the northern parts of the subcontinent, Thuggees ruled the main link roads.

The various castes met at fighting grounds at Pallam, Ochira, &c.; and at this season it was supposed that low-caste men were at liberty to seize high-caste women if they could manage it, and to retain them. ...........................A certain woman at Mundakayam, with fair Syrian features, is said to have been carried off thus. Hence arose a popular error that during the months of Kumbha and Meena (February and March), if a Pulayan meets a Sudra woman alone he may seize her, Unless she is accompanied by a Shanar boy. This time of year was called Pula pidi kalam, Gundert says that this time of terror was in “the month Karkadam (15th July to 15th August), during which high caste women may lose caste if a slave happen to throw a stone at them after sunset.”

I have heard of a similar occurrence in the northern part of the Indian peninsula in the Muslim ruled areas. It was known as Nauroz. Nine days of festivity, during which it was mentioned that the lords would take off with any female they fancied with no repercussion. However, now I cant find any mention of this, online. I do not know if what I heard was without any historical mention.


16 #Sexual morality and marriage

Now, we go into the sexual and marriage systems of the place. Generally the modern people here boast of a great and moral married life in this area, which got spoiled by the coming of the Westerners (meaning the Englanders). However, the fact is that England of those times had great moral standards. It was known as the Victorian Age. However, English social standards have come down. One of the most prominent reasons was the embedding of the Black slaves into the US English society without framing any barriers to the entry of African native social systems. Categorising the negro slaves as equals without clearly codifying the areas where they do have shortcoming in terms of social standards, more or less eroded the total social moral standards.

Another attack on this very same social system in the USA came from the populations of Continental Europe who also entered the society. Even though they were the exact opposite of the English speaking race, their white colour skins more or less camouflaged the difference, and made the exact English standards lose its platform.

The entry of the Asian and South American feudal languages speakers also into America more or less added to the problem.

The disintegration of quality was to spread out to all English nations.

Now let us see the exact sexual codes of Travancore as mentioned in this book. Most of what Rev. Matteer mentioned is authenticated by other books like the Travancore State Manual. There is a lot of hype about the great social systems in ‘India’. Since this book deals only with Travancore, let us look at that area only.

Every higher caste had family sexual and sleeping-with-males codes, which if looked from modern day standards would seem quite unacceptable. In so much that the people are taught in the school and colleges, and also indoctrinated by the media, the place has an highly desirable antiquity. It is not the truth.

Brahmin females couldn’t be allowed to come out the agrahams and other residential areas. Even though it is mentioned that they were being protected from the profane glances of the lower castes, the larger issue is much more tragic. If the lower caste males get a chance to view them, look at them, glance at their body features, grip the eyes in their eyes etc., the Thamburatti, Oar/Avar (Xºpcm´n/Hmcv/Ah¿) etc. would simply go down to Oal Hmfv or Aval Ahƒ. In the aval state, not only profane glances, but even profane thoughts would radiate quite fast. It would like a group of male police constables getting a chance to view the nudity of a female IPS officer. The whole hierarchy of command and discipline would melt in the drooling smiles of the constables.

In a way, the same is the case of nudity of native-English females being viewed and enjoyed by the various feudal language speaking populations of Asia, Africa, South America and even of certain European nations. There is an indignity that is enwrapping that cannot be explained in planar languages like English. Oar Hmcv or Avar Ahcv immediately metamorphosis into Oal Hmfv or Aval AhÄ. The tragedy is that the Brahmin females and their kinfolk are trying to save themselves from this. However, Rev. Matteer totally misses this reason.

As to the Brahmin males, only the elder can marry. The others have to encroach into the Nairs (Sudras) households, and sleep with the females there. Even though the system might look quite entertaining, the insecurity of not having a real base, and the need to continually seek newer pastures would be a tiresome botheration. The Nair household would love the patronage of the higher castes. However, among the Brahmins also there would be competition to get entry into a particular household and have fornication with a particular female. She has to allow it. Naturally her uncles or grand uncle (Karanavar) would have to force her, if she doesn’t allow. There is also the issue of her being the love of someone else. Even though, she might like the sex with a superior caste person, who comes occasionally, her lover would have to bear the pangs of someone else getting the repast.

As to the lower castes such as the Shanars, Ezhava, Chovvan etc. mentioned in this book, it is only natural to believe that their females, who generally are workers for the higher castes, would be seduced by the higher castes. The feudal languages act as real aphrodisiacs. In that, feudal power and glow is in the hands of the superior castes males. The females would find their own males as mere ‘Cherukkan sNdp°=’ and such things, while the superior males as Thamburan &c. Naturally, the hallo is with the superior caste male. Seduction is easy. In fact, the Kama Sutra by Vatsayan does mention the means of seducing females who are employees, by their feudal master class.

The seduction of a superior castes female from the Sudra (Nair) caste by a lower caste man might have been difficult due to the dirt associated with lower castes, in language codes. In fact, the chance to fornicate a superior caste female attained by a lower caste person would despoil her, in more ways than can be imagined in English. She would go down to Aval Ahă and she might be addressed as Nee \o. Once this happens, there is no more ‘higher caste attributes’ in her. Once this become known, she has to be ousted from the household. It is like an IAS or IPS female officer have been fornicated by an office peon or police constable.

In the case of the Brahman females, most of them wouldn’t get to experience sex. And live lives which are more or less life imprisonment in their house or in their agraharam. Even though they are the adored and ‘respected’ personages in the social system, at an intimate level they are also just females with the same sexual desires. At times, in some secluded area or occasion, the lower caste, if not the higher caste, males would get to seduce the female, in some mood of sexual frenzy. That is the social death of the female. For the lower castes (not all of them) are not of a very refined character, and might be very crude. They would publicise the fact of the sexual fact to their intimate circles. The reverence in the word codes would vaporise. I do not know what would be the exact Malayalam words used in those times. However, generally Malayalam (Travancore language) was much more crude at the profanity levels than Malabar language (Malabari).

During my college days, the broadcasting of the fornication would be such sentences: Avale njan panni. Kuthichimole njan panni. Polayadi mole njan panni (അവളെ ഞാൻ പണ്ണി, കൂത്തിച്ചിമോളെ ഞാൻ പണ്ണി, പൊലയാടിമോളെ ഞാൻ പണ്ണി) &c. Other body feature descriptions like Avalude Kundi അവളുടെ കുണ്ടി, Avalude Mula അവളുടെ മുല, Avalude pooru അവളുടെ പൂറ് etc. would be the standard words. These words do have a terrific pasting-dirt effect when in combination with the feudal codes of Malayalam. The female’s total dignity vanishes and she stands denudes by the lowest of the social system. The words have a dehumanising effect. In current day times, the effect can be understood if the same is extrapolated to an IAS officer female and a peon relationship scenario. If the respect is lost, then the former is just an Aval, and her body features just like what I have mentioned.


Now see the various quotes from this book.

They imitate the Nayar custom of marriage, that is, a mere temporary union, technically called “presenting a cloth and living together.”

Nair marriage was a mere temporary union! The situation of the other castes were also not much better.

Re-marriage of widows is conducted in the early morning before daylight, as a somewhat shameful thing. Hence the possibility of such a fraud as was committed by a priest about ten years ago, who substituted a niece of his own, a young widow with several children, instead of the bride promised to a certain man.

This incident seems quite modern.

They never intermarry with converts from inferior castes.

It took a long time for the various lower castes Christians of various domains to accept each other as human beings. However, distance made by time to their real ancestral castes helped.

Hindu marriage is monogamous; but Namburi Brahmans practise polygamy up to the number of seven wives; and Nayars, Ilavars, and others occasionally practise polyandry — that is, a woman will reside with two or more brothers who are unable or unwilling to support a wife for each, as concubine to all.

Polyandry though quite rare, was also possible. The stability of polyandry relationship could point to the power in the hierarchical relationship inside the family. Polyandry might have a wider social canvas, as it is seen mentioned in the Mahabharatha, as practised by the Pandava Princes.

Rev. J. Abbs, in his “Twenty-two Years in Travancore,” gives the following narrative, related to him by a Sudran, which well illustrates the subject in hand : — “Being a tall, handsome man of respectable family, although poor, I was engaged several years ago by two rich men of my own caste to be the husband of their sister. As they did not wish to give me a dowry, or to let their sister leave them, it was agreed that I should have a monthly allowance, go whenever I pleased to see my wife, and when at the house of her brothers, eat in common with the males of the family. This I expected would be permanent. But a few days ago, when I went to the house, I was told by the elder brother that I could not be admitted, as another husband had been chosen for his sister. Her brothers have taken the two children to train them up as the heirs of the family property.”

The power of the wife’s brothers and uncles in matriarchal family system is great.

The person who ‘married’ the mother is called by the children ‘appan’ the actual father ‘achan’

This might actually be news for most people now.

It is not now usual for a woman to enter into such concubinage with several men at one time, except she resides with several who are brothers. Nor can she ever associate with a man of lower caste. In no case can an inferior male have intercourse with a female of superior class.

Conceding to the superior personages is not a stigmatising experience in feudal languages. However, to be dominated by the lower castes can be equivalent to an officer being dominated by the office peon or menial worker. I did find a very strange naming system among the Nairs in the Travancore. That of adding the word Amma A½ to Nair girls’ names. Like ParuAmma, SarasAmma, SavitriAmma. In many ways, this might have been done to escape the issue of them being addressed by mere name by the emerging lower castes, starting from the Ezhava downwards.

I find it quite strange that the Nairs females of North Malabar do not seem to have used this cloak of protection. As to South Malabar, I have no information.

The females of a wealthy Nayar family, especially where there is but one sister, are visited at their own homes by Brahman paramours, or by persons of their own caste; and their children are reared up in the same house, and inherit from their mothers’ brothers, as the fathers have nothing of their own to give them. Females of poorer and less fashionable families go to reside with partners of their own caste, so long as they agree together, or permanently : the average duration of such unions happily is increasing through the spread of civilisation and enlightenment.

In spite of it seeming to be a free for all, the actual fact would be that sharing of females or partnering with males might have been routed through very strong pathways, that might include various social parameters, like linage on both family sides.

But it is clear that they have endeavoured to make the Sudras not only in theory, but in fact, their social slaves, and wicked threats are used to some classes if they do not place their females at the disposal of the Brahmans.

It might not be correct to understand that the whole social design of Brahmins having the right to over Nair females was a Brahmin conspiracy. Social systems are usually designed and created by the codes in the languages, along with the location of certain power centres inside the society. Even though it might look like a deliberate fraud, various social machineries work spontaneously and automatically to create powerful social codes. Most of the Brahmins had no means of getting sexual relationship otherwise. For their own family codes disallowed them from marrying. The Sudras (Nairs) depended on their proximity to the Brahmins to retain their superiority over the other castes. In most cases, it might have been a give and take system.

“Muttathus marry females of their own caste; but they only perform the customary ceremony, while Brahmans cohabit with them and beget children. Should men of their own caste dare to approach them, it is like incest with a mother — there is no atonement possible for them — and such progeny are sacrilegious !”

Incest had a more wider ambit then.


Dr. W. W. Hunter remarks that the Brahmans throughout India are of two classes — more ancient settlers, and aboriginal superior natives raised, as tradition generally asserts, to this rank. The Namburis, for example, are said to originate from fishermen : they follow different customs from the orthodox caste, allow only the eldest male to marry, practise polygamy, and their ideas of marriage closely resemble those of the aboriginal Nayars. But in spite of their descent from a low caste fisher-tribe and semi-aboriginal customs, they make high claims, and despise other Brahmans. (“Orissa,” vol. i. p. 254.)

Inside the superior castes also there would have been various kinds of repulsions, claims, refutations and such things. When one group claims some superior attributes, some other superior to them groups might be able to holes in their claims.

Virtuous love and the noblest affections, parental rights and domestic order, the obligation to protect wife and children as the weakest party, the right of men and women to domestic felicity, all are more or less ignored;

This summarisation stands in direct contrast to what Kerala and Indian jingoists claim about their antiquity. However, it is openly admitted that only during the times of King Mahabali did the people here speak honestly. After the periods, all claims were false, and all contentions, lies.

Rarely is there ever felt such strong and elevated affection in these cases that the brothers quarrel, or are jealous about possession of the common partner; on the contrary, we have known an elder brother offended because the younger, on becoming a Christian, very properly took a wife to himself.

It definitely was a far cry from the modern concept of married life, in which one reposes one’s faith in the loyalty of one devoted partner.

I have known a fine Sudra youth bitterly lament that his own father, a Brahman, cared nothing for him; and, in fact, the father could not under any circumstances, eat with him, nor touch him without ceremonial pollution.

The issue of ceremonial pollution has not been correctly understood by Rev. Matteer. Leave alone touching, just a mere calling by name, or addressing by name of a superior caste person by a lower caste person can reduce him to dirt and stink. In current day situations, it can be compared to an ordinary person going to a police station and addressing the police Inspector by his name with or without a ‘Mr.’ prefixed. In most probability, the common man who did this misdemeanour would be beaten to a pulp, either by the Inspector, or by the constables. Rev. Matteer had not much means to understand the tremulous codes that entangle and gnaw at the mind and mentality of the people who speak feudal languages.

Another example would be a peon addressing an IPS officer by his name, or a peon attempting to shake hands of an IAS officer. The latter would feel the distaste and repulsion, and a very much feel-able draining of energy. Especially if this scene is observed by others.

Indeed, there is no recognized form of marriage by which a Nayar man and woman could bind one another, even if they wished, for life. A poor man engaged as husband by a wealthy family may be sent off at a moment’s notice, without wife or child, beggared in the domestic charities as well as in purse : sometimes for failing to send a present on festival days, or on other trivial pretexts, he is discarded.

Relatives would use powerful word codes to insert a wedge into relationships. With no powerful statutory codes to enforce connubial rights, the relationship can falter fast.

Much misery and heart-burning are caused to the victims of this social tyranny, the youngest sons of Brahmans being prohibited honourable marriage with persons of their own class, and forced to form illegitimate connections with strangers, and the larger proportion of Brahman women mercilessly doomed, notwithstanding the high estimation in which the Hindus hold marriage, to perpetual celibacy, with all its risks and privations. Many of these females live and die unmarried : yet, strange to say, the corpse undergoes all the ceremonies of marriage. To prevent their falling into unchastity, they are closely shut up and guarded. Occasionally they do fall, and then are irrevocably expelled from family, friends, and society. In such case they must join the lower castes, to whom they were formerly sold as slaves and concubines, or go over to the Roman Catholic or Syrian Christians, uniting with some one in marriage.

An evidence that the lower castes are not pure bred. They also have enough and more of higher castes bloodline. However, neither caste nor bloodline can give quality, other than superior positioning, in a feudal language social ambience. Otherwise the social ambience should be pristine English.

Individuals of some castes are allowed to form connections with Sudra females which are to them irregular, but which they attempt to justify by pleading the Nayar usages; and many cases of prostitution occur, even among the respectable classes.

The word ‘prostitutions’ may be ill-fitting. It can damage the conceptualising of the social relationship. In the ultimate count, sex is an urge that is common. And to use acceptable social routes cannot be given dirty definitions. At that time, a comparison with Victorian age England would not be apt.

Females who will not obey their karanavan ImcWh= and who apostatise to other religions, lose all right both to subsistence and inheritance from the family property

This is ultimately the evidence that the Uncles (especially the Karanavar) can decide with whom the females can and should partner their bed. The power of the Karanavar has been heard mentioned in the case of the Thiyyas of North Malabar also. I do not think that this power centre was there among the Thiyyas of South Malabar, for they followed the Makkathaya system, similar to that of the Ezhavas of Travancore.


Some of the more enlightened and educated Nayars are now beginning to realise their degradation, and to rebel against the Brahmanical tyranny, and absurd and demoralising laws under which they are placed.

In the ultimate count it is like the police constables and peons revolting against the various privileges of the IPS officers. For what they concede to the higher ‘officers’, they demand and grab from the common man. They are part of a system. When the Brahmanical superiority vanished, along with that the various privileges of the Nair/Sudra classes also vanished.

A good deal of controversy has taken place on the subject in the public prints, and a society for the reform of the Malabar laws of marriage (and inheritance) has been formed at Calicut by the leaders of the Nayar community, especially those educated in English.

This statement should not have been mentioned in this book. For, it is about the happening in Malabar district, which was under the direct rule of the English East India Company. All caste hierarchies and social repulsions which were the hallmark of Travancore had been wiped off the statutory codes by the English administrators. So, it was quite natural that the Nairs of Malabar did not see any logic in them conceding to the demands of the Brahmins, who had no more statutory social privilege. Sharing their wives with Brahmins in this new scenario would be like sharing them with nonentities. There is no thrill in this to anyone concerned. Not to the Uncles, or the husbands, and not at all to the females themselves.

...and introducing the blessings of marriage and family order into domestic life, where polyandry, concubinage, and immorality prevailed, and were recognised by caste law
Even though Rev. Matteer mentions this as a blessing brought by Christianity, the actual fact was that English education under East India Company administration had created much social change all over the subcontinent.
The former salutation in Travancore was for a female to uncover the chest before a respectable man.

Even though people think that this kind of ‘respecting’ is over, the fact is that it is still in vogue powerfully. When a common man is in the presence of such government officers like the peons, or other ‘officers’ like the police inspector or clerks, or tahsildars or IAS ‘officers’ &c., or rank idiots like the government schoolteachers, they have to unfold their mundu. If they are seated, they have to get up. Otherwise, their inaction would be noted down and punishment meted out. If their file is being processed, it will move endlessly in a snail pace, till the common man’s patience wears out. There are other heavy action of ‘respect’ that are expected by the government officials, most of whom are actually fit only for menial work.

Another serious evil arising out of the idea of caste pollution is that the covering of the bosom with clothing is forbidden, in order to the easy recognition and avoidance of the lower castes by their masters. This rule of going uncovered above the waist as a mark of respect to superiors is carried through all grades of society, except the Brahmans. The highest subject uncovers in the presence of the Sovereign, and His Highness also before his god Patmanabhan. This was also the form of salutation even from females to any respectable person.

It is like that a police shipai (constable) has to be identified by the seniors. Apt words for You, He, Him, She, Her etc. has to be selected. In a feudal language social system, this kind of identifying ‘uniforms’ help. For instance, the thugges who are current day Motor Vehicle Department officials, want the commercial vehicle drivers to wear Khakhi, so that they can very easily designate them as the Avan, Nee, Eda group.

It helps the vehicle drivers also. For, it reserves their profession from being encroached by persons who may be of a mentality that cannot condone such addressing and social placement.

...if they hid themselves, as was natural, the women were caught, beaten, locked up, kept exposed to the sun and the pouring rain, and all sorts of indignities were inflicted.

Even though there is no mention of women being unsafe in official custody, there is a hint of this issue mentioned in Travancore State Manual. See this quote from that book:

When a female petitioner comes before the district cutcherry, her complaint shall be heard and settled at once and on no account and on no account shall a female be detained for a night.

“The women are guarded with more than Moslem jealousy : even brothers and sisters are separated at an early age. When the Nambdri lady goes to worship the village god or visit a neighbour, a Nair maid, who accompanies her, commands the retirement of all the males on the road, while the lady moves all shrouded in cloth, with a mighty umbrella, , which protects her from the gaze of profane eyes. At home they are simple in their habits, dressing, like Nair women, up to the waist.
This is one of the terrible results of feudal languages. Females and others like younger persons have to move out of the proximity of their own base areas, if the lower placed persons are not ready to extend ‘respect’, their status would go to stinking levels. When the lower caste Ezhavas, and the converted to Christianity Pulayars, Parayans &c. feel that they are equals, what happens is that the upper castes persons do not arrive at equality, but literally below the lower castes.

Basically this is not a caste problem. In fact, I have had the occasion to understand that in Tellicherry area, where the English rule had emancipated a minor section of the lower caste Thiyya community to good quality English education, what really happened was that they were compelled to arrive in high official posts, or go down the feudal word codes to stink levels, under the uneducated in English others. Even Thiyya females who had received good English education were quite fearful of being lowered by their own caste persons or lower castes or by the higher castes. This issue is currently creating problems in England also. In residential areas where people from feudal language nations like India cluster together for residential purposes, the native-English speaking populations flee the area. Even though they do not understand the feudal language of the others, the tremulous effect of lower indicant words is felt by them.

There is this quote also from this book:
Brahmans never attend these markets. When this liberty was given to the low castes, Sudra women and others refrained for a while from attending market, but they are now getting accustomed to the new state of things, though they hotly declare their dislike to it. “Since the Bible came here,”said one, “the slaves, and low-castes are allowed to walk near us on roads, and to approach us in the markets, and so pollute us. Better had a pestilence prevailed and swept those abominable people away.”

Basically the issue is something like this: Army “officers”’ wives are superior in indicant words in comparison to ordinary sepoy’s wife. The first is Aap, and the latter is Thoo. If equality is enforced, instead of the lower side improving to the higher levels, the officers’ wives are pulled down to Thoo levels by the Sepoy wives.

In fact, even the senior IAS and IPS officers stay inside the cabins, while the constables and peons roam around. If the ‘officers’ start roaming around and if the ordinary citizens cannot identify them, then they would be made equal to the peons. And it can even happen that the peons may use the lower indicant words to the ‘officers’.

Maintaining a cordon is a necessity in feudal language social systems. Neither Rev. Matter nor anyone else of the English administrators or writers seems to have understood the issue of feudal language codes present in the languages of the Indian peninsula.

Sudra women commonly wear a large waist-cloth, and a thin muslin “upper-cloth” over the shoulders and chest; while most of the poor habitually go uncovered from the waist upwards, the upper-cloth being formerly, and, perhaps, by the letter of the law, still forbidden to them.

Even the Nair females had to conform to subordination to the Brahmins. However, again it is only a part of the feudal language enforced uniform.

If the customary presents be not given on those days, sometimes the women of the Sudra, barber, washerman, carpenter, and other concubinage castes, will forsake their men and go with others.

This statement more or less denotes the utter frailty and fragility of the married life in this geographical area. This truth stands in direct contrast to the hyped claims of a very sacred marital relationship in this place. Most of the modern-day claims with regard to a great antiquity here is just figments of jingoistic imaginations.

This time of year was called Pula pidi kalam, Gundert says that this time of terror was in “the month Karkadam (15th July to 15th August), during which high caste women may lose caste if a slave happen to throw a stone at them after sunset.”

There had been many stories of higher castes females being entrapped into the hands of lower caste males. There is no need to overemphasis that it would be quite a traumatic experience. Like a female IPS officer being kidnapped by constables and peons, and made to heed to the dictates in the lower indicant words like Nee, Edi, Aval, Avade, Kundi, Pooru etc. which are the words they use on the common people of this geographical area.

The Pariahs in North Travancore formerly kidnapped females of high caste, whom they were said to treat afterwards in a brutal manner. Their custom was to turn robbers in the month of February, just after the ingathering of the harvest, when they were free from field work, and at the same time excited by demon worship, dancing, and drink. They broke into the houses of Brahmans and Nayars, carrying away their children and property, in excuse for which they pretended motives of revenge rather than interest, urging a tradition that they were once a division of the Brahmans, but entrapped into a breach of caste rules by their enemies making them eat beef. These crimes were once committed almost with impunity in some parts, but have now disappeared. Once having lost caste, even by no fault of their own, restoration to home and friends is impossible to Hindus.

Every individual in this geographical are does indulge in boasting and in alluding to links to great houses in the past. That is required in feudal languages. It helps. And in the case of the lower castes, their claims can be true also. For, there is no more great individual qualities in the higher castes than what is there in the lower castes. All qualities in feudal languages is connected the status one gets in the word codes. It is easily seen that lower caste converted Christians were able to pass public service exams without any reservations. And many of them have become political leaders and ministers, even in the central government. Even though it is true that the Christian Church must have stood as a mighty pillar of backing for them.


And what she most thinks of doing is to run to the house of some low people to hide herself, that her relations may not kill her as a remedy for what has happened, or sell her to some strangers, as they are accustomed to do.”

Well, one needs to understand the emotions of ‘honour’ killing in feudal languages. An IAS officer’s daughter being seduced into marrying a peon in government service is a near example of this. Feudal language words cannot allow such a thing to happen. This incident would bring the peon’s son into the very dominate position of Uncle to many youngsters in the IAS officer’s household. They would react when a lowly guy addresses them as Nee, riding on his position as their uncle.

..the Wattacherry Syrian Christian family have four slave women, who had been married, but were compelled to separate from their husbands and to take others chosen for them by their masters.”

Slavery that was there in the Indian subcontinent was the real slavery. The slavery in the US was just persons like this escaping into an English society and getting trained in English systems. Even now, Africans are trying hard to escape to English nations. Once they arrive there and get established, their next step would be to use the race card and to find fault with the native-English speakers. They have no remembrance of what was their real status and domain.

Now we meet a group of women of all ages, followed by an attendant with towels, dry cloths, &c., evidently on their way to the large tank, where they will enjoy their morning bath in a corner by themselves, but quite in sight of men performing their ablutions. They are slightly clothed when in the water, and appear quite unconscious of any impropriety in choosing so public a place. It is sacred, near the great pagoda, and close to the holy stones, before which lights are burned every night. What place then could be better for holy women, they would argue.

There would be much satiation that stands beyond the parameters of bathing and spiritual attributes, with both sides enjoying the irreverence that can be acted out in an affectation of coyness.

Indeed, one of the first signs of having entered Travancore territory is the sight of half-nude Chogan females watering trees, or otherwise engaged on the banks of the backwaters.

Christian women, once forbidden by caste law to cover the person, now dress handsomely and well,

Polygamy is common, as men are not required to provide for the support of their wives.

This is the truth about the antiquity of one lower caste that got converts into Christianity. Yet, even their present descendants claim a glorious and virtuous family system in this area.



Now let me speak about Slavery. It is generally believed that slavery was what took place in the USA. Actually what took place in the USA was not slavery, but a real liberation for populations that lived like stinking dirt under the various feudal lords of Africa. These lower classes were bought or snare or stolen by the Arab slave traders, who viewed them as mere higher level animals. They were sold to various geographical areas. Even people from the Indian Subcontinent may have been caught or bought and sold there. For there is this quote from this book:

Even in later days instances of traffic in slaves have occurred. The Muhammadans found in large towns are ever ready to prey upon orphans and enslave them. Complaints are still made of slaves being taken from Northern India to Persia; and a Mussulman has quite recently been convicted of importing girls as slaves for Bhopal, and detaining them in Bombay against their will. Some years ago, the Rev. H. Baker rescued a family of heathen Shinars from the hands of Muhammadan merchants, who would have carried them to Zanzibar, by paying Rs. 21 as their price. They had been sold by their parents; and after their rescue were educated and employed in various capacities. One girl of whom he knew was actually taken away to Zanzibar by a Muhammadan, who secured her in Travancore ostensibly as a wife, then sold her off in Zanzibar. Her release and return to her native country were procured by Dr. Kirk.

‘Slaves’ in the US, speak English, and enjoy rights which they never would have even imagined in their own native places then. Yet, as they improve, their descendants would never have any gratitude to anyone. Now, what they want is compensation for the work their forefathers did as ‘slaves’. Their slavery is just a big joke.

Real slavery was in the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere, where the lower castes were kept bound to the soil and made to work for generations. In the case of the US, within 75 years, the nation itself went to war to free the ‘slaves’ and let them loose, with no thoughts about what their cultural standards were. Naturally they improved.

However, one can really imagine the terror they must have created in a civilised society, which had given them the right to wear civilised clothing, sit on chairs, learn English, and address their master’s family members with a Mr., Mrs. or Miss. Prefixed. They were received into a society in which the language had no pejorative words for YOU, HE, SHE, HIS, HIM, HER, HERS &c. and not words like Chekkan, Cherkkan, Pennu, Avattakal, Oan, Avan, Oal, Aval, Avattakal, Aittingal etc. Yet, when the lower castes are let loose, they would have no qualms about using these same about the higher classes and castes. The despoiling effect and trauma would be more. Even to retort to a lower man who is disrespectful would be like touching abominable dirt, for the higher positioned man. That is how feudal languages are encoded.

See the quotes I am quotes pertaining to slaves from this book:

“Since the Bible came here,” said one, “the slaves, and low-castes are allowed to walk near us on roads, and to approach us in the markets, and so pollute us. Better had a pestilence prevailed and swept those abominable people away.”

There are two issues in this quote : The speaker is not aware that in the Malabar district of Madras Presidency, which was on the same seaside as Travancore, all statutory restrictions on the lower castes had automatically vanished with the advent of the English.

For, many of the restrictions had no written law that supported it. So the belief that it was the bible that has spurred this let-loosing of the lower castes was not actually correct. However that was the only way to understand it in Travancore where direct English supremacy had not been enforced.

Second was the issue of lower persons in a feudal language context being allowed to be free. It really had the affect of allowing the Indian constables, peons, clerks and such others the right to address the IAS, IPS and other seniors as equals. In a land where even the word Ningal \n§Ä was a profanity when used to such presumed ‘higher classes’, this type of let-loose had its own tragic sides. The softer higher classes would have to keep themselves in seclusion to avoid being connected powerfully to those who are maintained at the dirt level.

Actually in Tellicherry in North Malabar, when the English administrators allowed freedom for English education to all, it helped the Thiyyas. However, the higher castes generally kept away, to avoid the quality depreciation that would spread on to them when the Chekkan-Pennu ചെക്കൻ പെണ്ണ് classes became equals and thus superiors.

This opportunity was seized by some Muhammadans and others, to despoil the poor slavecastes of their fowls and other domestic animals, by telling them that the Sirkar was about to seize everything of the kind, and to exact a similar amount annually, so that they had better sell them off at once at any price than lose them altogether. The Sudras also sought to frighten them by the report that the Christians were to be carried off in ships to foreign parts, in which the missionaries and their native helpers would assist.

Each higher class would stand as a bully of the classes lower to them, with snubbing, dirtying, numbing & dehumanising vernacular words. Using these, they would try to install fear and terror in those below them. And at the end of this endeavour, they would enjoy the hilarity of the scene in which the lower classes acted as fools and buffoons. This was the part of the actual culture of the place. It still continues, in a mutated form. And is being slowly exported to English nations also, wherein these people have established domicile.

What a marvellous schedule this Hindu writer furnishes of gradations of hierarchy, nobility, gentry, artisans, cultivators, labourers, slaves, and outcasts

The term ‘Hindu writer’ may not be correct. And as to the hierarchy, in the geographical area mentioned, there were actually three different areas. The North Malabar, the South Malabar, and the Travancore (in close connection to the small principality Cochin), were totally disconnected culturally, geographically as well linguistically till the advent of the English rule. It is quite possible that if the English rulers had not made the mistake of thinking that the language of Malayalam was a common language throughout this place, the Malabar region would have developed as a separate state with a different language.


A few may be seen fairer and with well-formed features from some slight intermixture of Muhammadan, possibly even Sudra parentage, or high-caste females in former times condemned to slavery.

Even among the Christian settler populations in Malabar most of whom are the descendents of the lower caste converts to Christianity, it is possible to see persons and families which are quite fair in skin complexion. It is quite possible that they do belong to the section mentioned in the quote above.

The work of the Pulayars lies almost exclusively in the rice fields — pumping them dry, making up the embankments, hedging, digging, manuring, ploughing, weeding, transplanting, and reaping.......................Men, women, and children work together at harvest and other times; but hard work does not continue throughout the year, only about six or eight months. Sometimes after a hard day’s work they have to cook their own food at night. Their master’s fields also must be guarded at night from the encroachments of cattle or the depredations of wild animals, when the slaves must remain in the fields and keep awake all night, shouting to frighten away the trespassing cattle, deer, wild boars, or elephants.

People who have really being enslaved need to be imagined without the frill elements of indoctrinations. In the Indian subcontinent, slavery did not need any written codes. For the languages would hold them in slavery, along with the statutory supports it gets. In the US, even though slaves were brought, the moment the slaves learned English, there was no means to inform them that they were lower positioned persons.

Their enslaved condition also drove them to thievery. Serious crimes they have rarely committed, but are still addicted to petty robberies. Some kind masters were liberal, and permitted their slaves to take almost what they chose from their estates; but in general they were, no doubt, sorely tempted to theft by hunger and want.

One need not come up with the idea that the lower positioned persons were better quality persons. They were just the same kind of people who populated this geographical area, but were suppressed by the others. When these lower positioned persons go up, they are just the same as their erstwhile suppressors. They suppress those who come under them. That is how the feudal language codes are encoded.

Even the degraded Pulayars have some excellent qualities. From lengthened and intimate acquaintance, we have found them just like other men — under the power of many evils engrained in them through longcontinued ignorance, superstition, and oppression, but simple hearted, grateful for kindness, deeply attached to those who show themselves their friends, and improving with marked rapidity under instruction.

Here again Matteer is acting like a gullible person. In a feudal language society, even the master class knows that the lower positioned persons have intelligence and capacity. However to acknowledge it would be quite dangerous. For, if the lower classes go up, they would simply displace the earlier occupiers of the upper positions. In feudal languages, there is no position of equality. Either be up or go below.

As to them being kind, grateful and gracious, well, the fact is that in a feudal language, to acknowledged superiors, the persons who stand in the lower rungs are quite loyal and dedicated. It is an act of giving support, which gives them the right to occupy a lower position, which allows them to dominate others.

It is also a pose of pretension, in which they stand as loyal till the time comes when they feel that they can overtake their acknowledge superiors. In a feudal language, there is always the spur to overtake the upper classes. For everything is arranged in a ladder-like manner. The urge to climb, stepping over the higher class is over there.

These things are common knowledge to an upper class man in the Indian peninsular region. However, Rev. Matteer seems to have no knowledge of these rudimentary ideas. Actually it is this gullibility that has led to the gradual occupation of England by outsiders, who act simple and affable, but are programmed with a long-term aim of takeover of the nation.

The Sudra masters give some medicines; and would sometimes on an emergency, visit their slaves, purifying themselves afterwards. When physicians of other castes are applied to they charge very heavily, such as on account of tottukuli, “bathing after having touched” a patient of this class

The love and affection that was purported to have existed between the feudal class overlords and their terribly suppressed slave-serfs had once upon a time been extolled in many local writings of Kerala, with the purpose of praising the ancient culture here.

Even the Syrian Christians were sometimes most cruel in their treatment of their slaves. Rev. H. Baker, fils was acquainted with a case in which a slave ran away from his master, but afterwards returned with presents, begging forgiveness. He was beaten severely, covered with hot ashes, and starved till he died.

Actually this quote would be greeted with much satisfaction by the Syrian Christians. For it stands as a piece of evidence that they were not the enslaved classed of the place, but were superiors. I have heard the claims from both the Mappillas of Malabar (Muslims) as well as from the Mappillas of Travancore (Syrian Christians) that Mappilla means ‘Maha Pillai’, that is, Great Pillai. Pillai is suffix used by a particular kind of Nairs. As Nairs are supposed to be higher castes, they take this to mean that they were direct converts from higher caste Hindus.

However, facts are not quite so clear. In this book the Syrian Christians are not described as a high quality class of people, even though the writer is a Christian. There are words that mention them also as low class population. Not much higher in quality than the rest of the folks here. Beyond that it might seem quite silly that both the Malabar Muslims as well as the Christians are picking up the same logic claims of being descendants of Maha Pillais. For, in Malabar the Mappillas are basically two. One the North Malabar Mappillas who are generally mentioned as the descendants of Arab sailors who had a family on the Calicut side coastal areas, apart from one in their own native land.

The second group of Mappillas are the converts from the Makkathaya Thiyyas of South Malabar. Even though both these Mappillas are seen as one by many others, they are culturally different. Even though their religion and mixing of blood has erased a lot of differences.

Slaves were not only bought and sold outright, but also mortgaged like lands. Female slaves were valued at double price, on account of the “produce”— the children— half of which went to the seller and half to the purchaser.

It is quite improbable that the females slaves would be valued not only for their ‘produce’, but also as a source for free fornication. Even though such a thing is not seen mentioned, I have heard many stories of a similar vein from many households in interior areas of the Malabar. It is quite possible that such things were in vogue in Travancore also. As also elsewhere in the Subcontinent. Mixing of blood and genes would be there due to this also. Basically it points to the fact that caste elevations had no much connection to genes and chromosomes. It was more powerfully encoded in the languages codes, in the manner in which it affected persons in each location in the social hierarchy.

In 1852, before emancipation, the Rev. George Matthan wrote that the price of a slave was usually Rs. 6, but in Mallapalli, Rs. 18.

Most people in India do not know that England stands in a very unique position in the world in many ways. There is no history of any kingdom or Empire that declared that the slaves were free, and enforced it other than England, at the very height of its power as the headquarters of a world government. In many nations which were under the British rule, compensation was paid to the slave owners to free the slaves. However, there was no thought of returning the freed slaves to their homeland. For it is quite possible that no slaves would like to return to their native lands, where they would again arrive at slavish locations.

Emancipation of slaves in the Travancore kingdom was due to the insistence of the English rulers in Madras Presidency. However, the terror that the local society felt when the erstwhile slaves were being freed was not quite understood by the English rulers. In many cases, it had the effect of insisting that the domestic servant maid in a Malayalee household should be allowed to sit at the dinning table and eat the food along with the others in the household. Or to insist that the servant or peon should address the IAS officer by his name. Even now, no Malayalee, from any class or caste would condone such a situation.

Being inside the safe confines of a planar language called English, the English administrators really did not understand what it was that was irking the people in this subcontinent. Many of their mutual repulsions had no logic when viewed from English.

There is a slight fact that might miss the reader’s attention. Even socially ‘great’ personage, who move out outside their domain can be treated like dirt, in areas where their prominence is not acknowledged. That is a ‘Sar’ or ‘Adheham’ can become can a Nee and Avan among people who are do not chance to get a proper introduction of this person, or are not ready to accept the introduction of this person’s superiority.

These kinds of things are happening even now in India. There is a huge market for stolen females in Bombay, which runs with full support of the Bombay Civic and police authorities. No one dares to catch these officials and hang them. All talk is about the ‘evil British rulers’ who stole our riches. Children parrot such nonsense.

These kinds of information would be quite repulsive to the modern day Keralite, both from the original castes as well as from the converted to Christian groups. Everyone hides behind a fake fable of a great antiquity of theirs, when their forefathers were great Vedic scholars and Aryans.

Lower classes use the tool of rudeness, loudness and repulsive manners to achieve equality with the senior classes. These would give a little respite from their suppression, and chance to arrive at an equality. However, in modern day government schools, the teachers train their wards in these techniques as a shortcut to higher social status.

This is the actually the social design in the local feudal vernacular.

There is actually a technique to escape social degradation. It is by assigning respect to each other, and on insisting respect for their own fellowmen from others. However, it is not easy to arrange this. For the others would put a wedge among them, so that instead of assigning respect to each other, they would hasten to disparage each other. This a technical code available in feudal languages. In fact, the evil effect of this social splitting has been seen in the Arabian nations. It is slowly arriving in English nations also, as feudal language speakers also set up their beachheads inside the geography and start targeting the local natives there.

Basically the last line is a terrible indoctrination used by the Indian social leaders who fear that if the common man learns English, they would step above their suppressed locations. So, students in vernacular schools are told not to learn English. It is dangerous and ‘you will become enslaved’. The crude, age-old cunning of the new master class, (the feudal language speaking teachers), who places the student at the level of the lower castes, and themselves at the level of the ‘thumburans’.

In feudal language systems, it is not an enjoyable thing to work for others. Even though, in many cases, it is much better than sitting in isolation. However, to get people to work in such repulsive locations of the language, there has to be populations kept forcibly in such confines.

Learning to read, and that too English, is a great tool for social functioning. However, even this idea has been manipulated to mean an education system which gives jobs for totally unfit persons to waste around 20 years of the youthful generations. To enhance the value of this useless education, in which even proper English is not learned, the teaching classes have prevailed upon the government to make such useless education as the minimum qualification for most jobs. Even to go abroad and work this nonsensical certification is required. It has become like the old reservation of government jobs only for the higher castes. Now a person with adequate knowledge and calibre, including in English cannot opt for government job, unless he or she has wasted some 15 to 20 years under a totally idiotic education system.

Actually Rev. Metteer missed the comprehensive point. The fact is that in feudal languages, the lower person has to compulsorily exhibit a pose of humiliation and self-depreciation. However, the effect is more when persons of higher refinement are forced to display it to lower refinement. For instance, in the modern day Kerala, the officials are of the lower quality persons, generally. It is terrible to see people who are definitely of higher social standards stand in a obsequious pose in front of them to get their official papers from them. A pose of dignity would be taken as an insult by the menial class government peons, clerks and ‘officers’.

There is no need to think of national or state interest in a feudal language society. Every man is for himself and his family. What is required is the suppression of others. Whether the nation or state improves is never a point for contemplation.

A single word of address by the superior persons on the man, his wife and children as Nee or Inhi (Malabar language) will breech all rights to dignity and private zones, that are there in a lower placed person. When the henchmen of the superior castes also use it, it is real damnation.

For higher classes females in a feudal language social set up, it is a choice between seclusion, equivalent to imprisonment or the other terror, being sold to the lower castes or being within their ambit of lower indicant word definitions. However, in modern days, every female desperately tries to arrive at higher professional qualification like that of a doctor, wherein ‘respect’ is assured. However, the seclusion remains.

In feudal language ambience, when a person is assigned the lowest indicant words, in the sense of deprecation, there is no sympathy for him or her. Only when a higher indicant word person (honoured person) is seen to be suffering does anyone feel bad about it.


Squalor is part of being on the lower indicant words. In fact in any place in the world, where feudal language speakers assemble to form a society, a particular percentage of the population has to necessarily be in the squalor part of the society. These things are encoded in the language codes.

Well, I have heard people mention the lower classes, not necessarily the lowest castes, as some kind of superior animals. In fact, I have heard something similar from the mouth of one Christian setter in Malabar, when he mentioned the lower castes of Malabar as Negritos, who according to him were bereft of common intelligence. It was quite obvious that he was quite unaware of his own family roots, back in Travancore of some 100 years back. This is also a simple proof that caste based looks as such are not connected to genetic codes, but simply the designs enforced by the feudal language.

Even now, there are around 80% of the Indian population is living in dire needs and squalor. I have personally seen the terrible living conditions of people in the northern Hindi belt areas. Yet, they do not evoke any sympathy in the higher classes, other than contempt and repulsion. As to the lower classes themselves, they are crude and mostly repulsive in behaviour and civic standards. Their salvation will never arrive through any Indian agency. For, whoever ostensibly tries to improve them, they are still kept in the dirt part of the languages. There is always a terror in the Indian social reformers that the lower classes would improve to the level of addressing them by name and using the words of equality with them. Equality with them would be equivalent to social death to the social reformers. For all of them is just another version of the fake known as Gandhi. Only the English rulers could really make any difference. Yet, they are vilified by the current day cunning rulers of India.

No great Indian academic ‘genius’ historian would has the calibre to see this type of information, as they busy themselves drawing their huge salaries and conspiring for more.

Slaves! And there is not an iota of mention of slaves in the Indian subcontinent. All talk is about the fake slaves of the US.

Slavery in its clearest form!

The dirty sounding vernacular words and names were kept for the lower classes. In earlier times, the lower classes were the lower castes. Now almost all persons with low financial status and has no connection to the officialdom is a lower class man. They are the Avattakal or Aiyittingal ഐറ്റിങ്ങൾ of Kerala. For the officialdom, they are the Kuppathotti കുപ്പത്തൊട്ടി, whom they mention as the Avan/Oan, Aval/Oal etc. Kuppa കുപ്പ¸ mean garbage.

Even the Taj Mahal, apart from the innumerable forts and memorials and palaces in this subcontinent were built upon the labour of people who were not statutorily slaves, but actually slaves.

Not just Malabar, but in most places in the world till the advent of the English rule. Even in the US, it was the coming of the Englanders that saved the Red Indians in that area from around 300 to 400 years of terrible slavery under the Portuguese and Spanish Conquistadors.

The American slaves was getting free British education, good dresses, English language ambience, right to sit on a chair, right to address his or her master class by their name with a Mr., Mrs., or Miss prefixed, and an communication ambience in which pejorative indicant codes were not there. An equality with their master class that cannot even be imagined in the Indian Subcontinent.

There is much evidence found in other books that mention that human sacrifice was prevalent in this geographical area. In the utter nonsensical claim of a Vedic heritage, there is no time for jingoistic persons to think about these terrible antiquities.


Syrian Christians will be quite happy to hear that they were the slave-masters, and not the slaves. Actually in this geography, it is doubtful with there was really any demarking line between the two as generation of mixing of blood went on happening. Either due to selling as slaves, or by various other onslaughts of time and vicissitudes. Everyman thinks of his own narrow escape from the trauma, rather than taking steps to remove it. For in feudal languages, each individual is actually a puny being, with no real individual capacity other than what his or her social position bestows.

Here again Rev. Matter is using the word ‘Malabar’ to denote Travancore. However, his observation can be correct with regard to the social set up among the Muslims. There is the basic tenet in Islam that human beings are equal. May be the slightly planar nature of the Arabic language also support this. However when viewed from this perspective, no Muslim who speaks feudal languages can be defined as perfectly an Islam.

Generally the lower placed persons, even a peon, knows the power he or she hold. All he or she has to do to paste dirt on a higher placed person is not to acknowledge the other. When he or she is supposed to stand up in a pose of reverence, if he or she doesn’t do that, other person stands insulted. If he or she refers to the higher person as an Avan/Oan or Aval/Oal, then the insult is beyond words. Once bracketed into a lower indicant word by the lower person, it is literally like being placed below the lower person. For instance, I have heard of police Inspectors in near Nadapuram (Calicut district) mentioning youthful IPS ‘officers‘ from outside the state, as Oan ഓൻ. Like: Oanokke yenthariyaam? ഓനൊക്കെയെന്തറിയാം? The degradation is not directly felt because it is mentioned from afar, and the rigidity of the police hierarchy does not allow the dismantling of the hierarchy. Yet, there is a qualitative spoiling of the system.

The fact is that to be in the hands of the lower castes also was a terrible experience. Naturally they would have no qualms on using such words as Nee, Edi, Mole etc. on the females. Their side of the terror would be the terrible crudeness of barbarianism. As a sort of retribution.

Naturally, she saves herself by running off to the side where she will be bring in mixing of blood in the newer generations.

The unmentioned fact of slave trade in the Indian Subcontinent. If the slaves were lucky, they would somehow have reached the US coast. Where they and their descendants would have improved over the year. If they were not so lucky, they would end up in the hands of some persons of Asian/African or Continental European slave masters.

Colonel Munro was the Diwan only for a brief period. He made the Travancore administration efficient and reduced corruption. Gave freedom to the lower castes.

Slavery was rampant everywhere in the subcontinent. The only lesson to be learnt from all this is to take care not to allow oneself or one’s nation to be under the thraldom of feudal language speakers.

Again the truth that Muslim social system was much better than the hierarchy ridden local systems. However, that does not mean that the Hindu lower castes or higher castes would get preferential treatment in a Muslim society. Islamic system is good only for those who belong to it. In that sense, comparing a slave from both systems, the better positioned would be the one in the Islamic system. Yet, Arabic Muslims are globally known as slave traders. It is quite possible, as mentioned in this book, that the Muslims on the Malabar and Travancore coasts would have acted in collision with them to gather slaves from here for selling elsewhere. Even now, India is not really a safe place for people who are from the lower financial classes.

One has to note the word ‘also’.


They have the right to treat them like Cattle and to flog them! How come no one dares to find out how the upper feudal classes of South Africa treated their own lower classes before the advent of the English-Dutch rule? It is quite possible that the return to Black native rule there would be the beginning of another period of social slavery of the majority blacks of the nation. They would all love to run off to the US, and not to stay in their own nation, where they claim to have achieved freedom.

The dialogues above are not just about the slaves of yore in the Indian Subcontinent, but of the reality of the social situation of majority people of India now. All economic resources are for the officialdom class, starting from the government peon to the ‘IAS officers’.

Even now, this is the state of around 80% of Indian population. Yet, academic textbooks teach of British looting.

The typical indifference to other people woes that is a part of the common culture of all feudal language social systems. In India, it is part and parcel of the social code.

Well, some of the lower castes do look quite frightening. Well, they will improve under correct guidance and control. However, the other side has no great guarantee that once they are let-loose, it will be safe for them. The core issue is one of communication. Like communicating with a wide creature. It can cause harm. But will it cause harm? There is the issue of how to communicate with it. In feudal languages codes of the subcontinent, it is not wise to mingle and talk to everyone who looks quite weird and unconnected, unless the other side is ready to be ‘respectable’.

This is one of the reliable evidences that the government of Travancore did make use of forced labour. It would be quite difficult to find forced labour usage by English East India Company in Malabar district.

This is one of the reliable evidences that the English East India Company administrators did take an active interest in emancipating the slaves of the subcontinent. It is an action the higher classes of the subcontinent wouldn’t condone. The enslaved populations are there for them enjoy. Who is this East India Company to save them? The likes of Nehru and Gandhi used their looted from the nation wealth to move to England and proclaim their leadership over the subcontinent, when in actuality a might majority of the newly liberated people had nothing to do with them.

Generally it is very difficult to spread the liberation. For, in each communication link, the issue of big man versus small man would be there. Even now, people do not like to see another human being enjoying liberty. If they feel that he or she is enjoying some liberty which they can’t enjoy, due to their own social inhibitions, they would round him or her up and bash him or her up.

The words: is very powerful. That the same class of individuals who were slaves in Travancore, were free citizens in East India Company ruled Malabar district of Madras Presidency. Yet, no ‘high’ calibre Indian academic historian has noticed these things.

It is quite difficult to move the officialdom, whether it is high caste or low caste or mixed caste. For, it itself is another high caste, which do not want the common man to exhibit dignity and stature.

In the ultimate count, it is not a competition between castes, but between those who are defined as lower indicant versus those who are defined as higher indicant in the feudal language codes. It is not like English. Every change in physical, social and mental stature causes changes in the word codes. It can be terrifying to allow a lower indicant person to use a lower indicant word on or about a higher place person of refinement. Rev. Matteer as well as all other English writers have missed this great point.

Even though Rev. Matteer does seem to think that giving the lower castes the liberty to improve slowly would improve matters, the fact is that it did not improve the social system. They improved. At the cost of others. The Christian Church became a powerful tool of aggrandisement for them, as it moved with a very discernible location of power and centre. When the English rule departed from Malabar, tens of thousand of forest lands were simply wiped out by the newly emerged converted to Christianity folks. They simply proved that once they get an avenue to escape and grow, they would. However, it is quite doubtful if this was the development that Rev. Matteer had in mind.

For, it was worse than the land reforms that the Kerala government enacted. In that case, the serfs became the landlords and the landlords perished into penury. In a feudal language nation, in many households, it must have been an occasion of ‘respectful’ locations simply eroding away one fine morning. Like an IPS officer suddenly told that he or she is nothing, other than a common person. Communication routes simply would go haywire.

In the case of the settler Christian folks, they entered the Malabar forest lands with some formal or informal evangelical leadership to guide them. Yet, the other forest folks who were living inside the forests, who were also actually of their kinds, but without any organised support, were molested in all ways.

Rev. Matteer did not really understand the repulsions that feudal languages evoke. In fact, currently in England there are many places where the native English folks simply flee the area when they feel they would be forced to be part of a society where feudal language speaker are going to be in significant numbers.


This was actually only a temporary situation. Once the feeling that they can get away with it, the lower castes would lowly start asserting themselves.

Even after statutory proclamations banning slavery was there, slavery was in force. These are facts that cannot be wiped out of historical references, by cunning Indian academic ‘geniuses’.

Repulsion for people who do work or do business which are marked as lower quality is still there in the public mind. Persons who are doing vegetable selling, being real estate agents, vendors, and such, and those doing various kinds of works are generally Avan or Aval, while those who work in government and are corrupt to the core, are Adheham, Saar, Maadam etc. These words are sieving the society into different levels which may slowly turn out to be new castes. If the government employees can somehow make their work hereditary. There is hectic conspiracy going on to somehow manage it.

Actually there is no written law that the people of Kerala should use the word Saar to a government official. In fact, it is the public servants who have show ‘respect’ and deference to the public. However, unwritten codes are there powerfully encrypted in Malayalam languages. Actually the Indian judicial apparatus is a foolish one. Everyone knows that the Constitution of India protects the dignity of the citizen. Yet, the courts which are perfectly aware that the people are dehumanised by lower indicant words in the Indian feudal languages, do not have the least daring to mention it. What is the use of such donkey courts in this nation?

It is like corruption and bribes. Both are outlawed. Yet bribes and corruption are part and parcel of all official work. Recently my own mother who had retired as the Inspector General of Registration many years ago, wanted to register around five documents of very minor stamp duty. She was informed by the document writer that for each document, Rs. 500 per document was the minimum to be paid as bribe to the Sub Registrar’s office. However, since she and they were of the same feather, in the sense to the official in the office, she was from their own hierarchy, nothing was paid.

Apart from that, again Rev. Matteer mentions European Missionaries, when it is English Missionaries who need mention. Other European Missionaries simply were piggy ridding on English endeavours.

Rev. Matteer has mentioned a great truth about the deceit that is there in the common mood of this land. And it has no link with caste as such. Everyone is wary of others improving. They go out of the way to help, and to misguide and to lead to doom and failure. May be it is a mood that the Thuggees of the northern areas of the Subcontinent also had.

The fact is that even the lowest caste in the subcontinent, if given, pristine English education by Englanders, will show remarkable social development.

Now the slave had literally become a slave owner. There is basically no change in the social design. Only a replacement of persons.
o envisage a future in which their slaves would become the slave owners and they themselves the slaves, in a feudal language environment would be quite terrifying.

The reference to the ‘cruel Brahman’ is quite interesting. For, in feudal languages, there is no specific quality to a man. It depends on whom he is dealing with. The same ‘cruel’ man would be a very gracious and loyal confident of someone above him.

There is real tragedy in the lines above. A tragedy which the gullible mind of an Englishman cannot sense. When positions get reversed, the very language of communication changes. In fact, it is like looking at the same place from two different sides of the places. ‘You’ which had been ‘respectful’ would become ‘derogative’. The same is the case with other words such as He, She, Him, Her, Hers, His etc. It is a satanic change of location. Even now, Englanders are not aware of these evil codes. Which more or less have been let loose in their own nation.

Both Hindus as well as Syrian Christians were alarmed to see their slaves classes improving. Actually it was the repulsion shown to these converted Christians by the Syrian Christians that must have been one of the reasons that the converts moved to the forest lands of Malabar. They who had been tied to the soil for years were quite able to clear the forest lands. However, it was an act that the erstwhile English administration had prohibited. The destruction of virgin forests.

One need to understand the terror in which the higher castes held the lower castes. They who wouldn’t kill or harm a poisonous snake in their own household couldn’t bear the sight of a lower caste man. Actually there is need for more comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon.

Even though modern Keralites may find it difficult to imagine such usages, I must admit that I have seen females of the lower castes walking around with a bare thorth on their chest, in the 1960s. That is about a 100 years after this book was written.


Another thing to be noted is that even though a Nair female wouldn’t have much concern about displaying her nude breast to a Brahmin male, she wouldn’t be able to bear it if an Ezhava male or female were to address her by name. The terror is more. As to an Ezhava or lower caste male casting profane glances at the nudity, the despoilment would be more terrible. For, she is becoming an aval in his profane mental work. Actually this theme has more powerful substance in these current days. For, when the nudity of females from English nations are being processed by the profane minds of feudal language speakers, there is a indignity happening which cannot be sensed in English.

Basically the Travancore areas do have a lot street violence, most of which are spontaneous.

Corruption was and is rampant in Travancore. English ruled Malabar district did not have much corruption. I can vouch for this statement. However, after Travancore and Cochin was joined with Malabar to form Kerala in 1957, Malabar also went corrupt. Many other things also went from bad to worse.

The actual fact is that almost all the nations and places which were given removed from the English Empires, known as the British Empires went into deep social and administrative problems. Currently all the spokesmen for these places are the corrupt officialdom and their children, or the traditional feudal classes. The only difference is that the many traditional lower classes have also joined the above classes. However, due to the inflow of technology, there is a general feeling that things have improved, when actually every system has gone corrupt. During the English rule period, there was a movement towards quality and refinement. Now, both these attributes have no premium value. Rudeness and allegiance to corrupt officialdom are aimed for by those who want to arrive on top of the social system.

Caste system Now, let us go into the theme of caste system and associated social restrictions as mentioned in this book. This theme lies in close connection to the subject of slavery, slave classes, enslavement and slave master class. It may be noted that even though everyone does blame the Brahmin for acting as the superiors, and suppressing the others, the fact is that every one of the castes suppresses the castes that are below it. And views them with repulsion. The other only difference in the Brahmins is that they do not have any caste superior to them. However there are hierarchies among the various sub-castes inside the Brahmins. The second point is that there is a wrong feeling that the spirit that spurs caste division has vanished. The fact is that due to written laws that forbid caste based division of human beings, the old divisions are slowly vanishing. However, the codes that creates the hierarchy is still there in the feudal languages.

For instance, if one were to examine the hierarchy among the female students in a vernacular school in Kerala, one can find a Cheehi ചേച്ചി (elder sister) – Nee \നീ relationship at every age difference relationship. This starts from class one and continues indefinitely upward to whatever senior age available. The issue of a Nee \നീ level girl trying to act equal to a senior Cheechiചേച്ചചി will be snubbed, and that too brutally in words. It would even be violently if it is possible.

Among the boys, in a vernacular school, the Chettan ചേട്ടൻ - Nee \നീ hierarchy can be seen.

Now, the fact is that this segmentation of human beings is there in all relationship, including that of professions. There are professions that need to be ‘respected’, like that of government peon or officer, and those that need to be snubbed by them, like that of taxi driver, shop boy, labourer etc. There are specific words in both Malayalam as well as in the erstwhile Malabar language, which signify ennoblement or dirt.

Even though Rev. Matteer does blame the higher castes, the fact is that no one can be blamed as such. It is like the computer that has a virus inside it. The virus software will make the computer behave maliciously. Similarly if Rev. Matteer speaks Malayalam or the Malabar language, he will also become infected. However since he is from England, his superiority to the local systems will make his mind not much affected. And others would usually lend him the ‘respect’ side of the language. If he is being extended the snubbing or dirtying side of the words, he also would be affected. Especially if the lower castes were to use lower indicant words.

Actually this is now happening in England, wherein immigrants from feudal language nations and societies have barged in. They are not keen of giving the ‘respect’ part of their language to the native-English. The native-English persons are naturally perturbed. Especially those who are seen as inferior in the feudal languages. That is children, ordinary class employees &c. At times, these affected persons react violently. The psychologists and psychiatrist who do not know anything about feudal languages and their effect on human mind, speaks utter nonsense about what went wrong and try to explain the violent reaction as some mental problem in the affected person. Actually the problem is in the feudal languages of the immigrants. But that information is not there in their insipid psychology textbooks. READ: MARCH of the EVIL EMPIRES

Inside the vernacular schools, teachers are the new Brahmins. They address the students with the same words earlier used for the lower castes. Words such as Nee നീ (Inhi) ഇഞ്ഞി, Avan അവൻ (Oan) ഓൻ, Aval അവൾ(Oal) ഓൾ, Avattakal അവറ്റകൾ (Aittingal) ഐറ്റിങ്ങൾ, Eda എടാ, Edi എടി, Enthada എന്താടാ, Enthadi എന്താടി &c. The teachers have to be addressed with suffixes of ‘respect’ such as Saar km¿ (Persian word for Head person), Teacher (English word for teacher). Ex: Govindansaar, Radhateacher &c. When the teachers come inside the class, students have to get up, in the same manner the lower castes had to show ‘respect’. Even though, uncovering the bosom by the females is not in vogue now, if the system continues like this, a time will arrive, when the female student will have to uncover the bosom when male teachers come in. For ultimately the patriotism is calling for all to copy the traditional systems of the land.

Now, it is the higher official classes who cannot bear the proximity of the common man. That much improvement or change is there. I have had the occasion of seeing people being pushed away by peons when the Cannanore district collector, was coming up the stairway in the collectorate. During the English rule times, the Collectors were not trained to see the common man as repulsive objects. Now it is the standard norm. The official class more or less gets a kings ransom as pay and pension. It cannot be otherwise. For the language is feudal. The ordinary man has to be made dirt in every sense of the word.

The Brahmin females, like the IAS officials, cannot come out unless there are people to ‘respect’ them. A mere reference as ‘AvalAhÄ’ by a dirt level person, can bring them down. In a way, the dress codes in the society were to identify the social levels, so that proper respect can be assured. For instance, if an IPS ‘officer’ female is mistaken for a female constable, it can be of grievous problems. The tragedy can even lead to the suicide of the ‘officer’. Feudal languages are of such terrible stuff.

During English rule times, IP officers (predecessors of current day IPS) used to go for inspections in various police establishments including constable quarters without pre-warning. Now, if an officer has to do such a thing, there should be a team of constables ready for a very resounding welcome salute. Otherwise, the entry of the ‘officer’ might not evoke the necessary ‘respect’.

What a wonderful landmark!


It is just because of their information that they do not have superiors in their hierarchy. However, that would not be perfectly true, for within a short time, the Christian Church also became totally vernacular. Qualitywise it slowly transformed into a Christian version of local feudal content.

There is truth in this. For, there are castes that do not allow the superiority of certain other caste. And there are instance of repulsion mentioned when certain castes claim sameness. For instance, the claim of the Ezhavas that the Thiyyas of Malabar are Ezhavas, was traditionally vehemently opposed by the Thiyyas of North Malabar. However, the other side wouldn’t let go.

Revealing or sharing knowledge with others and that to people of the lower grade competing for superiority is a foolish thing in feudal languages. However, in recent years it has become clear that England also was quite foolish in giving knowledge and English to everyone all around the world. For once they cut their connection with England and went under their own feudal native leaderships, their aim was for competing and defeating England. No one seems to remember their benefactors. Even the Christains of Kerala have no such concern. In fact, books like this one which reveals who their forefathers were developed from dirt level slavishness to higher civic standards would be seen as totally unacceptable. In fact, there is not much mention of all this in the Christian websites of Kerala of these information. In Wikipedia, there is an active professional group whitewashing all information that are too are not to be revealed. This is not only for the Christian groups, but for the Hindu groups also.

Basically the language codes do have powerful effect on human being looks and physical design. In feudal languages, the level or location of the individual in the virtual arena as per the language codes has great effect on his looks and stature.

Native-English speakers have not been able to imagine languages which have powerful design affects on a human being. For English is a very planar languages, and its speakers cannot understand the effect of indicant codes. For instance, what is the effect on a human being, on being variously addressed as Nee, Ningal, Thaangal/ Saar by persons of varying social levels. That is, is there is an effect difference in being addressed as Nee by an IAS officer and then by his menial worker also? These are code level questions which cannot be even imagined by speakers of planar languages.

I have found that even a totally uneducated youngster can be made to be good in English if the right guidance is given. However, in local vernacular society, the natural tendency is to mislead a person from improving.

Basically the lowest persons are more loyal to those whom they perceive as superior. However to those they do not perceive as superior, they can be competitive.

There have been groups inside the forest areas who do have a pride of superiority. However, after the departure of the English rule, the state and central police shipai level constables and forest guards, enter the forests and use lower indicant words like Nee, Eda, Edi to them. They generally move inwards. There are places inside Kerala forests where the forest folks do not allow Indians to enter. More or less fearing degrading words and usages from the Indians, who would treat them like dirt.

Though reckoned amongst the low castes in the Census and in vernacular works, the Kanikars are somewhat superior in several respects, and are by no means regarded with the abhorrence felt towards the Pulayars and others. .

When governmental records define a population as low castes, it becomes quite defining. Now, a huge section of the population are defined as BPL

Though rude, hardy, and courageous, they are inoffensive, and are regarded as somewhat truthful, honest, chaste, and hospitable. Men may stay in their villages as long as they like, but must be very reserved and careful respecting the women.

In stable family life, what can disturb its stability is the use of lower indicant words of dominance by rank outsiders. It more or less means an encroachment inside the system and a route of control.

The people that live nearest the abodes of the Kanikars are Pariahs ]db•mcpw and Puliahs ]peb•mcpw, our converts from these castes, and their Sudra masters. The hillmen despise the Pariahs and Puliahs, but they see that our converts from these castes have wonderfully improved since becoming Christians

It is possible that any united group of population under a focused leadership can be powerful and a threat to other unorganised populations.

Sudras do not deem themselves polluted by contact with these respectable and independent people, while they keep Chogans at a distance for fear of defilement The Chogans, however, consider themselves superior to the Arayans. The more degraded Malei Arasars in the south, who speak Tamil, are not allowed by them to be of the same race.

Each group can find despicable elements in other groups, which in most cases might be true. However to mention these things in England would be ‘racist’.

Nayars often deprecate in no measured terms prognostics of evil uttered by a hill-man, without reference to his caste or tribe. Doubtless the defenceless low castes have found it tend to shield them from worse oppression to make pretensions to spiritual powers of this kind.

To find some defences against degradation using lower indicant words is not usually possible. However some reputation of having possession of voodoo powers might help.

It has been observed that in cases of sickness sometimes Arayans will make offerings to a Hindu god, and that they attend the great feasts occasionally; but in no case do they believe that they are under any obligation to do so, their own spirits being considered fully equal to the Hindu gods

This quote more or less discredits the idea that all indigenous peoples of the subcontinent are from a religion called Hindu. In fact, it would be quite difficult find out what this religion is. For, there are so many religious practises here, which can be generally termed as Shamanism. Is Shamanism also a part of Hinduism? If so, Hinduism is not the religion of the Indian Subcontinent. Instead the Hinduism in the subcontinent is just a small part of a global religion, spreading across Central Asia, Africa, Australia and South America.

but though their fights are sometimes desperate, the filthy language commonly used by Hindus is never heard.

It is not the Hindu language that is filthy, but the language of Travancore. Actually in terms of profanity, the Malabar languages come much behind Malayalam. In Malabar language (Malabari), the greatest profanity was Nayinte Mon നായിന്റെമോൻ. However, in Malayalam, there is a whole array of terrible sounding profanities. The Malabar language profanity Nayinte Mon is not there in Malayalam. It should have been Pattiyude Mon. But it is not there. Instead, the profanities in Malayalam are: Thayolimon തായോളിമോൻ, Pundachimon പുണ്ടച്ചിമോൻ, Kuthichimol കൂത്തിച്ചിമോൾ, Pariyan പറിയൻ, Kunnanakki കുണ്ണനക്കി, Oombatheda Thayoli ഊമ്പെടാ തായോളി etc. Most of these words cannot be understood in Malabari.

men being seized by the officials to carry cardamoms from the hills to the boats without pay; and if they hid themselves, as was natural, the women were caught, beaten, locked up, kept exposed to the sun and the pouring rain, and all sorts of indignities were inflicted.

The officials would say that they have no other option. Just like the modern police officers in India. They say that beating up the suspects to a pulp is the only way to find out the truth. They have no other way.

The inquirers were beaten by some of the Rajah’s servants, made to stand in water up to their very necks “in order to wash Christianity out of them;” kept in stocks for days, chillies rubbed in their eyes, and their heads tied up in bags and in loosened head cloths filled with the large black ground-ants and red tree-ants.

Basically it is not Christianity that was being removed. But the link to another leadership. There is no need to understand that the lower castes joined Christianity due to an spiritual reason. What prompted them to join was the freedom that had come their way, and the close proximity to English Missionaries.


The Christians still suffer persecution from rich Muhammadans and Nayars in the neighbourhood, who fear the loss of their gains if the hillmen are taught to read, and from the Sirkar’s underlings, who try to obtain money on false pretences.

Again it is an issue of lower classes becoming intelligent, beyond their levels. Even in Indian schools, children who show too much individuality are terribly punished by the teacher folks. They want children who are ‘respectful’ and not children who seem to have a superiority beyond their age and stature levels.

or the caste-men decide what is fair for her support; and the husband’s heir takes the remainder

This idea of caste-men deciding is actually a very regimenting code. They would not allow anything that would give her more independence than is absolutely necessary. For, they know that if she is allowed more capacities, she would become uncontrollable. It is basically the fear that runs top to bottom of a feudal language social system.

But Kumaraswami, they say, married one wife of the Kuravan, and another of the Pariah caste. He is, therefore, supposed to have lost caste, and is not allowed entrance into the pagoda of Patmanabhan, but made to reside in a temple outside the fort, called Ariya Chaley, and taken for the Puja Eduppu to a Mandapam, or Stone Pillared Hall at Pujapura, in the suburbs of Trevandrum. They also say that his two wives are on bad terms with one another, and ready to proceed to blows. Yet Kuravars, and other low castes, are driven out of the road on the procession day lest they should pollute the god who married into their castes

Basically the reality that marrying into a lower group is like a millstone on the neck. It pulls a person down, by the weight of the indicant word equality with the lower groups. For instance, if an IPS officer marries a Indian constable’s daughter, her father can literally address the IPS officer as Nee നീ, and refer to him as Avan അവൻ. These are issues of which the English speakers do not have any idea about. Actually to speak to them about this problem is like speaking about something that does not exist in the world. Here, the god is being protected from the equalisation that leads to subordination to the Kuravans.

Even the poor Pulayars come out in clean or yellow-stained cloths, but have great difficulty in getting along without touching any others in the crowd, where the roads are narrow and enclosed with walls on either side.

Naturally, in the melee they wouldn’t care to keep their hands of the other folks, male as well as female. It would be basically not a free social liberation that is being acted out.

The Mussulmans are divided into two classes, whom they call merchants and marakkans or Lubbays — the last inferior. These two do not intermarry, but they attend the mosque together, and are buried alike, close by the mosque..... They are probably pure native proselytes from the Mukkuvar and other castes. None however, have recently been converted to Islam here.

Muslims also bear the same codes of the region. That of repulsion to others deemed inferior. Yet, it must be admitted that the codes of repulsion can be discerned if one can observe what it is that repulses. The mood of Rev. Matteer to see such emotions as mere traditional inputs might be wrong. Even now the same codes of repulsion are there in all classes in the local society.

They never intermarry with converts from inferior castes.

In current days, this might not matter. However, I have heard of certain Christian Churches disallowing marriage into other Christian groups. Basically it is an issue of leadership loosing followers. Rev. Matter in the typical gullibility that has haunted the English races, ponders on social issue from an English mental framework. There are more complications in feudal language social systems, than what the English language can even define with its entire vocabulary.

Caste rules are observed by them towards their inferiors, and applied to them by Sudras and Brahmans.

Basically Christanity was only a tool for their escape to a higher social platform. The spiritual passions were only secondary.

Nor can she ever associate with a man of lower caste. In no case can an inferior male have intercourse with a female of superior class.

It is part of the social hierarchy. A lower placed male cannot try to marry a higher placed female. Feudal language words would play the spoilsport, unless the male is able to redeem himself by cutting off from his social level and place himself at a higher platform. However, in recent times, in Kerala, with the national fraud called Currency exchange rate difference, being used by the foreign earners, many lower stature males who are in lowly jobs in the Middle East, get to find themselves quite rich back home in Kerala. They marry above their local levels. Some of them improve themselves much beyond their traditional stature. Due to the continuous use of the currency exchange value fraud, and by the local support of his wife’s family.

The Namburis, for example, are said to originate from fishermen : they follow different customs from the orthodox caste, allow only the eldest male to marry, practise polygamy, and their ideas of marriage closely resemble those of the aboriginal Nayars. But in spite of their descent from a low caste fisher-tribe and semiaboriginal customs, they make high claims, and despise other Brahmans. (“Orissa,” vol. i. p. 254.)

This bit of information would be disliked by Nambudhiris. In fact, in this land, everyone has to boast. Not just the Namabudhiris. It helps in finding a higher indicant word attached.

and only incessant training from infancy would enable one to understand the manners, mode of speech, and of acting in the most minute particulars, and on all occasions, great or small, appropriate to, and required of each caste. Even the most uncivilised and barbarous have their own code of etiquette to which they punctiliously and unswervingly adhere.

It is not quite difficult. It is just like a student in a vernacular school. He or she would spontaneously learn who are teachers and who menial servants are. To be treated with snub words by the teachers is acceptable. To be treated with snub, degrading words by the menial workers may be distressing, depending on the student’s own family background. For instance, a senior government official’s son or daughter may not like being addressed as Nee \o or Inhi Cªn by a road cleaner or bus cleaner. In fact, if they can, they would use these words on the toilet and other menial workers.

In former times, caste regulations required lowcaste females to carry the waterpot only on the head, not on the hip or side, as in the illustration. Wells belonging to Brahmans and other high castes are not open to those of inferior caste.

The reason for Indian female workers carrying heavy objects on their head seems to have a social code reason.

Very recently, at a school examination, a Bible woman who would have been classed as low-caste according to the Hindu system, brought with her about forty caste girls, whom she teaches in their houses, all respectable and well dressed, but diligently learning, and willing to sit down amongst Christian and low-caste children. Such a thing had never been seen there before.

There is an actually a duplicity in the issue. Being a teacher is the shortest method to attain ‘respect’ in this land. Every one, even the persons with the lowest intellect aims to become a teacher. For, he or she immediately gets a suffix tag. That of Saar സാറ് in Malabar language, it is Mash മാഷ്, or a Teacher. This would improve everything about him or her. Avan അവൻ and Aval അവൾ would change into Adheham അദ്ദേഹം and Avar അവർ. Yet, placing children under low social standard persons more or less brings them into the lower Nee, Ada, Edi, Aval, Avan levels below low class persons. It is for this very reason that the higher castes rarely allowed their children to learn carpentry, even though a traditional carpenters talent and skills may have been much higher than a formally educated engineer.

In Travancore and South India, the Vina is the instrument which is learnt by ladies of high caste in the seclusion of their zenanas, and some of them play very prettily on it, accompanying their voices in songs.

There tragedy and pathos in this information. The higher caste females had not much area to go out other than their own ground. For allowing themselves to be in the profane eyesight of the lower castes would really bring their stature down, to lower indicant words and associated vulgar comments. Moving into locations where the lower castes held sway should only be with adequate ‘respect’ protection. This again is a tragedy created by the feudal language.

But, of course, the low castes were not taken into account in these matters; they had no rights, and could make no claims.

Lower castes were generally seen as lower level humans who had no need for higher liberties. In fact, till the advent of the English rule, most of the lower castes’ intellectual domain was quite low. In the Malabar district where the English rule established good quality English schools, the low caste Thiyyas suddenly found themselves in possession of knowledge of the English classics.

The heads of the respective castes also paid an annual sum for their dignity.

It is just like payment made by the businessmen to officials of the sales tax, police etc. departments. Pay a ritualistic bribe, and they would be extended a dignity above their staff members. Don’t pay it, and then they would be treated as equal to their subordinate staff. This can be dangerous, for if the staff members feel that their bosses are of their own levels, it can disturb staff discipline. In feudal languages, each level needs a distinguishing level for the proper selection of words. It is an idea which native-English speakers may find quite difficult to understand.

The caste difficulty also crops up here, as everywhere. Shanar Christians consider it degrading to play these instruments, and hire a lower caste to do it for them

Some who have had much to do with these outcaste races testify that the converts are, as a rule, persons of excellent natural abilities, as I myself have frequently found them. They are quite capable of rapid improvement.

Some may eat together, but individuals belonging to distinct castes never intermarry. People of any caste coming from a neighbouring country are usually treated as distinct by their fellows here, their customs and social consideration often being, in some respects, different.

“Caste,” says Barth in his ‘Religions of India,’ “is the express badge of Hinduism. Caste is not merely the symbol of Hinduism; but, according to the testimony of all who have studied it on the spot, it is its stronghold. It is, therefore, a religious fact of the first order.”

Pretences are sometimes made by individuals to higher than their real caste.

A typical case occurred in Calicut. A Brahman had been confined in the jail there, and bathed in the common well; but after his release asserted that he had eaten no cooked food, only fruits, which do not convey pollution, and drank only the water of the cocoanut. The Ranee of Calicut charged him with polluting the temple, of which she is manager, by entering it, he being now impure and out-caste, and his daily prayers without efficacy.


But the idea of ceremonial caste pollution sadly hinders the people from social intercourse with one another and from improving intimacy with other nations

This is not the full truth. Even now, feudal content in the languages do hinder soical intercourse beyond certain specific paths.

Some intelligent natives, however, are beginning to feel weary of these absurd and tiresome regulations, and express the wish that they were rid of them.

Only to the limit it effects them negatively. As to the others being suppressed, they are not bothered.

Brahman temples, therefore, are not for the use of all classes. The low castes have their own temples and deities of an inferior kind, and dare not touch even the outer walls of a Hindu temple.

Again a slight hint from those times, that the lower castes might not be Hindus. All dread the raising of the lower classes and their admission to the common rights of humanity. “The very essence of caste lies in the degradation of others.”

All this superstitious punctiliousness is fraught with serious inconvenience to the unenlightened high castes themselves. They are unable to travel by sea unless they could land daily to cook and eat their food, that prepared with the water on board ship being ceremonially unclean.

It is most painful to see a poor and inoffensive woman, with a load on her back, or burdened with an infant, compelled to scramble up the steep sides of the road and retire into the jungle, to allow a high-caste man to pass; or seeking for a favourable chance to cross the highway, or go along it. She waits till one party has gone on — then makes a dash — but perhaps is balked by meeting another party in the opposite direction. What discomfort, misery, and waste of time all over the country, and that for no rational purpose or appreciable advantage to any one !

‘Poor inoffensive’ woman can also degrade, if she refuses to use higher indicant words to her social superiors.

If the Pulayar did not speedily move out of the way, instant death was the penalty : the low- caste man in former times would be at once cut down by the sword of the Nair. Now-a-days respectable passengers, when polluted by accident or by the obstinacy of inferiors, sometimes, on the principle that they “may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb,” join in giving a good thrashing to the disrespectful low-caste passengers.

These are things that do not come in modern Indian history. The mediocre Indian academic historian writes about British suppression, when actually it was the advent of the British rule that lend liberty here to the lower castes.

There are, again, cases in which high-caste people are glad, for the moment, quietly to ignore these rules, and a Chogan or Ilavan gets a good thrashing for his overanxiety to keep a Brahman pure by informing the latter that he was defiled by too near approach, when he would have passed on unconsciously and without further disturbance.

To inform a person that he has not be ‘respected’ is a great crime.

At one period I was quite surprised to see all Pulayars get far out of my way when driving along the roads, as most of them should know that a missionary cared nothing for their approach. After being puzzled for some time as to the cause of this, I detected my horsekeeper, an Ilavan Cugh³, behind me making threatening signs and gestures to Pulayars approaching, that they might run off, in order to save his caste dignity !

Yet Ilavars ഈഴവർ and Chogans ചൊവ്വന്മാർ were, and still are in most parts, similarly driven out of the way by Brahmans. Missionaries have pleaded the cause of all classes alike, and to a large extent succeeded in procuring the emancipation of Shanars and Ilavars from such bonds, but as soon as one caste has somewhat risen from their degradation they inflict similar indignities upon their inferiors, unless restrained by the fear of God, or a sense of justice to their fellow-men. A most cruel and selfish thing is Hindu caste !

The missionaries missed the issues of degrading hierarchy in the local vernaculars.

In 1878, a Sudra, a drunken and violent character, happening to pass by the road from the market, saw a Pariah Christian woman, fatigued and footsore, sitting down by the roadside to rest a while. The man assaulted and struck her with his stick on account of her not moving to a distance to avoid polluting him

The man assaulted and struck her with his stick on account of her not moving to a distance to avoid polluting him. Her son, who was present, defended his mother, giving the assailant two strokes in return, with a stick he had in his hand. This was supposed by the judge, who afterwards dealt with the case, to be “natural enough, though it may be a grievous offence for a low-caste man, especially a Pariah, to strike one of the higher caste, according to the Dharma Sastram. But it must be remembered that the prisoner was a catechumen of the Mission, and that the necessary results of education and civilisation are a feeling of self-worthiness, and a yearning after independent thought and action. With these, one’s rights as recognized, or not recognized, by Society and by political Government are felt and dwelt upon

The Dewan decided that this liberty should not be granted, and an order was issued on the occasion of a recent convert, an Ilavan, passing near a temple in the neighbourhood of the Mission House, asserting that “though an Illowan Cugh= becomes a Christian, he still remained an Illowan,” and directing that converts to the Christian religion should not pass through the public highway, but must pass through the field road, that is the road the jackals go! ................ And after much delay the adverse decision, happily, was overruled by the Madras Government.

In 1870, again, the Madras Government, urged by a case which had occurred some time previously, in which an Englishman was assaulted for passing through a Brahman village, and his assailants were only punished by a trifling fine, passed a censure on the Sirkar for permitting numerous caste disabilities, urged their removal, and expressed surprise that any class of the public should be excluded from public thoroughfares. They recommended the adoption of the principle that “the public high streets of all towns are the property, not of any particular caste, but of the whole community; and that every man, be his caste or religion what it may, has a right to the full use of them, provided that he does not obstruct or molest others in the use of them; and must be supported in the exercise of that right.”

The social reforms brought in by the East India Company will not be liked to be mentioned by both the SNDP as well as the communist party. For, they want to claim all social developments and reforms from their side. It is doubtful if both the organisations do have the quality to bring in human refinement, being immersed as they are in feudal Malayalam. Compared to the contributions of the English East India Company, what they did is next to nothing, other than bringing in heirarchy of human levels.


Even Syrians are accustomed to bathe after touching a Pulayan, and will not admit converts from this class.

Pulayars meeting me, cried po, po (“go”) പോ, പോ, and stood still, till I assured them they need not fear me.
The problem is that if anyone, even the lower caste man, comes up, then this po, po, can change into poda പോടാ!
Another serious evil arising out of the idea of caste pollution is that the covering of the bosom with clothing is forbidden, in order to the easy recognition and avoidance of the lower castes by their masters. This rule of going uncovered above the waist as a mark of respect to superiors is carried through all grades of society, except the Brahmans. The highest subject uncovers in the presence of the Sovereign, and His Highness also before his god Patmanabhan. This was also the form of salutation even from females to any respectable person. Hence deadly offence was given by persons who had resided for some time in Tinnevelly and Ceylon, or by Christians who were taught in the churches to cover themselves in accordance with the claims of modesty and health.

Even to wear the ornaments customary to each caste it was supposed that special permission was required from the Sirkar, showing how the officers kept back the humblest rights of the people; and a notification was published by the Ranee when General Munro was Dewan, and again republished inM.E. 1040 (1864) by Sir Madava Row, that ornaments such as they have been in the habit of wearing according to the custom of each caste might be worn without asking special permission of the Sirkar, or paying a fee for the privilege.

The effect of British benovelonce is seen here.

It will now be seen that the free access of the lower classes of the population to Courts of Justice, Government officials, and fairs and markets, however essential to the public peace, security, and prosperity, is still more difficult of attainment.

The low-caste people who wish to present petitions are thus kept away from the court, and are made to stand day after day in the hot sun, their heads not being permitted to be covered, or they are exposed to merciless rain until by some chance they come to be discovered, or the Tahsildar is pleased to call for the petition.

The fact is that even now, the lower financial classes are made subject to such humiliations by the officialdom.

The low-caste people who wish to present petitions are thus kept away from the court, and are made to stand day after day in the hot sun, their heads not being permitted to be covered, or they are exposed to merciless rain until by some chance they come to be discovered, or the Tahsildar is pleased to call for the petition. This procedure is diametrically opposite to the distinct orders of the British Resident conveyed upon the subject several years ago, abolishing the barbarous practice in the local courts, and we hope, therefore, that the Dewan will take the necessary steps to put a stop to the invidious distinction of caste prejudice and pollution so rampant in public places of business.”*

Typical Indian official behaviour to the people of this nation.

At Karundgapally there is a new cutcherry; but the officials are mostly Brahmans, so that low castes, and even Chogan Christians, must stand at a distance. The Cottayam cutcherry is an old building and very inconvenient, Chogans being unable to enter, or Pulayans to approach very near. The distance required is about sixty yards. Changanacherry standing close to a temple, is worst of all, as Pulayars are not allowed to approach within about 200 yards, and cannot give their evidence with convenience.

One kindly official whom I saw there took great credit to himself for having ventured to propose that witnesses or suitors of low caste should be allowed to come up quite close to the window on the outside, and that a verandah should even be erected for their protection from sun and rain.

Such reforms, though continually pressed on the Sirkar by the British Government and by enlightened public opinion, and from time to time promised and even begun, are carried on slowly and grudgingly, and are still very incomplete.

The continuous stress made by the English governing class for the social reforms here finds no mention in standard low quality academic textbooks.

Some of the very same classes in Malabar now creditably fill most important appointments.

It is not the same class or caste, but similar castes and classes. In fact, the English education in Tellichery gave the historical oppurtunity for the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas to enter the higher levels of the British-Indian bureaucracy. However, they do not have any gratitude for that. Their attitude is same as what the blacks of the US have. Only complaints.

and that the most oppressive and degrading of caste rules should still be in force, the lower orders being compelled to leave the public roads and retire to the jungle to allow high caste men to pass unmolested.

Over and above the religious aspect of this question there is of course, a strong conservative feeling among high castes, that if a man of low-caste birth were admitted to positions of authority, high-caste men would, on occcasions, have to stand before him, a situation very repugnant to caste prejudice. But this does not present any practical difficulty in British India.

The objection urged against granting to the lower castes admission into the public schools is the trite and futile one that, if they were admitted, the higher castes would at once leave the school. Even so able an administrator and scholar as Sir Madava Row was led astray by this notion.

It is true that if the lower classes are given entry the higher classes would keep away. Even now, it is the truth, in all kinds of social interactions. In fact, the government officials and teachers cannot bear to be placed on par with the people of the nation. They would find it quite degrading.

But the experiment has been made over and over again in the railways, government service, army, and schools of British India. So long, indeed, as but a few schools are open to all, we may expect the high-castes to hold aloof from them as inferior and stigmatized by the presence of the despised children, and to hold out the threat in other schools, that if the low-castes are admitted they will leave

But at present the excuse is available to them that they are not yet admitted into the Sirkar schools. Were the low-caste population permitted fully to share in the advantages of government education, the utter helplessness, arising from ignorance, which places them at the mercy of the high-caste employers, inferior officials, and writers of legal documents, would be removed;

The education of the lower castes would also tend largely to develop the industrial and agricultural resources of the State

In proportion as we thus show the example native rulers will follow it; and so will the higher castes among the Hindus, who are as much separated from the low-castes as Europeans are from Indians, or more; as much afraid of their rise, and as unwilling to concede liberty and social rights to them as the most intolerant and selfish individuals that can be found amongst Europeans.

The present Minister also, Hon. V. Ramiengar, is generally admitted to be an honest man, firm, prudent, and of great ability, noted for absence of caste prejudices, doing his best to benefit the country, spite of opposition from parties who intrigue against every British-trained administrator. His aim appears to be the public weal, the removal of oppression, and the attainment of efficiency amongst the members of the public service. Officials are sharply looked after; and, of course, those who are set aside through re-arrangement, or dismissed for incompetence, or otherwise disappointed, bitterly complain.

The exclusive caste schools, supported at the public expense, should be opened to all, and a larger proportion spent on primary education for the classes who need it most. In fact, the most serious real difficulty in the way of practical reform consists in the abject condition of the lower castes, who have been kept under and oppressed by the powerful official and landed classes so long, that they are now often content with their degradation, and rarely lay claim to the commonest rights of humanity.

What is being advocated is social engineering. However, social engineering requires more inputs and maturity than mere mixing of populations. The more refined groups will simply suffer. Social engineering has to be done after understanding the issues in their perfect depth. Abe Lincoln made a mess of US social standards with this kind of social engineering without insight.

As Mr. Porter of Cumbaconam remarked, “A strong official class side by side with a timid and ignorant cultivating class — here is a combination full of temptation to an unscrupulous man, and requiring to be watched with peculiar care.”

It is not that they are timid, but that the languages has only slot for such existence.

A badly written petition is sometimes rejected by an official on the pretence that “he cannot read it.”

This is the typical attitude of the modern Indian official also, in his haste to garner ‘respect’ from the harrassed public.


By receiving a little education the people will become able to understand the precise nature and extent of their rights, and to claim them.

Actually even after around 65 years after setting up the nation of India, the people still have not much rights. Or may be giving them more rights can be downright dangerous also. English training under Englishmen would have done wonders here. Instead a joker who came from a very rich family and who had the fortune to study in England, tried to fool the people by some tomfoolery, calling upon them to use loincloth. His name is mentioned as the Father of the Nation by the media and the school textbooks. At the same time, there is no such mention in any statutory books, as to him being a father of the nation.

The privilege of using palankeens in travelling, or at marriages, has long been claimed by some castes regarded as inferior; and a curious case occurred some years ago, in which a wealthy Shanar from Tinnevelly was severely fined for this by some officious subordinates, though the fine was afterwards remitted by the Dewan. In all British India the palankeen is freely used;

Quite recently, too, it is said, a practice has sprung up in a Court at Nagercoil of insisting upon Christians declaring their former caste, and threatening any who may hesitate to do so with committal for contempt of court.

Actually in these times, if the Christians can dare to mention their original caste names, they would be entitled to lower caste reservations in jobs and professional college seats. However, it is quite doubtful if they will avail of this. For, a link to a lower caste can be a great disaster for anyone, in the current day to mention only great ancestral links.

Many boats beyond what are required for public necessities are seized, and kept waiting for days. Numbers of coolies are impressed, and sometimes kept,as on the occasion of the visit of the last Governor of Madras, locked up till required to carry His Grace’s luggage, so that they may not run away in the meantime.

but the question discussed by Mr. Shungoonny Menon is, whether they are descended by birth from the ancient Aryan Kshatriyas, who are reckoned as the royal or military caste of India.

It is difficult for Europeans to form any adequate conception of the sway of caste and the power of its traditions over the minds of each class of native society — the amount of research bestowed by each to discover local traditions, verbal derivations, analogies in ceremonies or usages, or anything whatever that might enable them to outvie rival castes — the contempt felt for the boasting of others — and the age-long memories of reported or imagined honours once enjoyed by them.

It is a wonderful deliniation of the local habit that still persists. Of ‘us’ being the greatest in everything.

Some Shanars, who ought to have regarded themselves as simply “Christians,” without claiming any merit on the ground of heathen caste, published a pamphlet in 1871, seeking to prove by a variety of farfetched and ridiculous arguments that they once belonged to the Chetry or kingly caste; and in the census of that year some thousands of them in Tinnevelly described themselves as Kshatriyas, in so far falsifying and invalidating the enumeration. And now English writers, unacquainted with this circumstance, are quoting the supposed fact that the converts to Christianity in Tinnevelly comprise some thousands of Kshatriyas

A curious instance of a kind of fiction, which probably was in more common use in the earlier ages of Hinduism, is seen in the conversion of the border tribes of Manipuri, about a century ago, by a wandering Sanyasi, who prescribed a suitable expiation for their neglect of orthodox faith and practice; and then declared that the whole people were received back into the Kshatriya caste, to which they had formerly belonged.

Now the Zamorin is admitted by all to be simply a Nayar chieftain and decidedly inferior to Cochin. The males consort only with Nayar women : the princes are called Erattu or cow-herd, and they have no ceremony to raise them to caste rank. But Travancore also is admitted by almost every native to be beneath Cochin in caste; and this has, at times, caused some little difficulties as to the forms of courtesy to be observed on public occasions.

The Royalites of the place also have ancestry problems.

and Cochin, mainly by paying Namburi Brahmans to consort with their females, has won an admitted superiority of caste.

Men are not rarely raised in caste, or restored to its privileges, by penances for expiation, or by largesses to Brahmans; just as some sink by marrying their inferiors, or in other ways. Cheaper and easier methods than bestowing one’s weight in gold have been invented by the Brahmans.

The whole case is put in a nutshell by the learned Bishop Caldwell — “The Aryan immigrants to the South appear to have been generally Brahmanical priests and instructors, rather than Kshatriya soldiers, and the Kings of the Pandyas, Cholas, Kalingas, and other Dravidians, appear to have been simply Dravidian chieftains, whom their Brahmanical preceptors and spiritual directors dignified with Aryan titles, and taught to imitate and emulate the grandeur and cultivated tastes of the Solar, Lunar, and Agni-Kula races of Kings.

Such cruelties operated as an effectual warning, so that conversions from the Sudra caste have since been very few.

“The idea,” writes Mr. Hacker, “of what were called low-caste people teaching divine truth, which at one time was such an abomination to the orthodox Hindu, is now becoming familiar. It is not an unfrequent sight now to see one of our Christian teachers talking about the highest truths to members of the so-called higher castes.”

Mr. Hacker has no idea of what power the words Saar, Mash, Aashaan, Guru etc. holds in Malalayalam. Teaching is a technique to become a leader of others. It is tried by almost everyone here to acquire a Sar, Mash, Aashaan, or Guru suffix to their names.

The man who, using the superior knowledge with which he is gifted, would wish to accomplish a deed contrary to caste prejudice, would not so much fear the resistance of his fellow castemen as that of his female relatives.

Owing to the comminuting and insulating action of Caste, the conversion of large numbers of the lower classes in some of our missions, though it will ultimately, through the beneficent action of the Gospel, so raise them in character and social position (as it is already doing) that they will become the really higher classes;

It happened that, in the early stage of the mission, the lower castes joined first, and in large numbers; and this circumstance of itself proved a hindrance to the higher castes coming in and mixing with them. “Where conversions are made from the lower strata of the Hindu polity in large numbers, great difficulties will arise in getting the better classes to join such rising churches

Off course, since the church is identified with the converted lower castes, it would be terrible imposition to join them. It will be come a social burden as the lower indicant words in the feudal language will diffuse into the others also, from the lower castes social attribute.


17 #The real Social Reformers

The next issue that should be taken up for discussion can be of a perilous kind. The case of social revoluation in Travancore and Kerala are generally claimed by SNDP and the communist party. However, no one seems to mention the fact that centuries old social slavey and caste based rigidity was not removed by either of them. Actually in North Malabar, this social revolution was ignited by the English education given to the lower castes such as the Marumakkathya Thiyyas. The main area in this area can be mentioned as Tellicherry. From the Thiyya caste, many joined the British-Indian administrative service. Some of them got into the ICS and there was one man who got into the British Airforce as a fighter pilot. Before that there was one Cherayi Kanarkan who reached up to the level of Deputy Collector.

The nairs, who were the immediate higher caste, had to bear the anguish to face this uprooting of the social discipline. As to the Thiyyas themselves, it is quite possible that many of the Thiyya elders were not quite happy with the turn of events. In that individuals who should have been below them went ahead using English education. As to Cherayi Kanaran, he must have faced a lot of problems inside the officialdom wherein he was a lower caste person. However, he himself would have had the other problem of individuals from his own lower castes improving. Instead of showing them the exact route to improvement, which was to learn English, he would also take pain to contain the upstarts outsmarting issuing. The Thiyya females, who lived with Englishmen in a live-in-together style and had children from them, actually were treated with ‘respect’ by the other Thiyyas, in their presence. However, in their absence they would be mentioned with scorn. This much I have got mentioned by a person who had seen this.

There would naturally be a concerted effort to contain this Thiyya development by the Thiyya leaders themselves. It is from this background that one might be to discern the real reason that an SNDP wing was started in Tellichery and an SNDP temple set up. SNDP was connected to Sri Narayana Guru, who was a Ezhava individual having followers in Travancore kingdom. It is mentioned by the SNDP that Sri Nayarana Guru was fighting for Ezhava social development including the right to public eduction and public service employment, both of which had been denied to the lower castes in Travancore.

Actually these issues were not in existence in Malabar which was under British rule. At the same time, the Thiyyas of South Malabar did have a social equation with the Ezhavas of Travancore in terms of family system. This setting up of a Ezhava Temple in Tellicherry had the affect of submerging the qualitative stamina of most Thiyyas in North Malabar. And this temple remains as beachhead for Ezhava leadership to assert claims of leadership over North Malabar Thiyyas. The temple more or less promotes a shady kind of idol worship, wherein Sree Naraya Guru’s idol is positioned for the worshippers to come and pay obeisance and prayer.

Now going back to the Travancore kingdom, the fact is that social change came with the insistence of social correction by the East India Company administration based in Madras. And later by the British Crown rule that succeeded it. All the rights that the lower castes got in terms of dressing standards were more or less the legacies of this intervention by the English administrators. However, since Travancore was an independant kingdom, it was not possible for the English administrators to do more. And this situation continued till 1947, when Travancore lost its independence and was forced to join the new nation of India, under the threat of military intervention.

When both the SNDP as well the communist party makes claims, they forget to mention the British administrators who were the real bringers of social change in both Malabar as well as in Travancore Kingdom. Col. Munro is a very much mentionable name. There are others. Henry Coonoly the Collector of Malabar district is another such person. However, by a great paradox he was cut into pieces by the South Malaba Thiyya converts to Islam, during the Mappilla Lahala.

In fact, if the British supremacy had not been in existence in the Indian peninsula, it is quite doubtful if any lower caste man would have been allowed to do any kind of social revolution in his own caste. In fact, Guru Sri Narayana’s life was secured because of British supervision on Travancore.

As to the Communist party, Sri. CP Ramaswamy, the later day Diwan of Travancore did make a desperate attempt to change the nation into an ‘American’ style nation. Even though it is not clear as to what was his aim in this regard, the fact is that this can be conceptualised only by changing the national language into English. In fact, Sir CP was quite good in English. Somerset Maugham has mentioned these words with regard to him, in reference to the occasion he met him:

“He had the geniality of the politician who for years has gone out of his way to be cordial with everyone he meets. He talked very good English, fluently, with a copious choice of words, and he put what he had to say plainly, and with logical sequence. He had a resonant voice and an easy manner. He did not agree with a good deal that I said and corrected me with decision, but with courtesy that took it for granted I was too intelligent to be affronted by contradiction.

This Diwan was treated as a direct enemy by the communist party, in that they must have feared that he would improve the working class and other suppressed classes. If this happens, then communist party and its leaders lose their relevance. However, in recent times, at least one ‘great’ leader of the communist party in Kerala has his family in the USA. He visited the US, and saw the wonderful ambience. It was only a matter of time, before his son moved into the US.

Other communist leaders’ family members are sure to follow.

Sir CP had incurred the enmity of ruling congress leadership, i.e. Nehru by mentioning very bad opinion about Gandhi to Lord Mountbatten. It is now not possible to say for sure how much this contributed to the killing of Gandhi and also to the murderous attack on Sir CP Ramaswamy.


18 #Corruption

The next item to mention is the rich heritage of corruption, bribery and official harassment of the common populations of the Subcontinent by the native officialdom. The fabulous difference between British ruled Malabar and the king ruled Travancore was the more or less wiping out of corruption at the higher levels of administration in Malabar. In Travancore, corruption was always a way of life.

See these quotes:

So also a distinguished native clergyman, the Rev. George Matthan, in 1856, relating a case of cruel beating of a slave by his master for keeping the Sabbath day, says, “I thought it would be of no use to complain to the authorities; for I despair of justice being obtained, from the general corruption of the courts of law in this country, and from the jealous eye with which any attempt to raise the slaves would be viewed by the officials.”

Still, there is no doubt that progress is being made, and that in the right direction. The present Maharajah before coming to the musnud at a mature age, enjoyed and fully availed himself of ample opportunity for study and travel in India, intercourse with the people, and familiarity with current affairs, and with the corruption which previously prevailed, and is certainly the most enlightened of all the princes of India.

Officials occupying the very position of our author received bribes with both hands, and administered the country with shameless and unblushing corruption, as every native knows; and yet, except in so far as Mr. Shungoonny Menon incidentally, or by implication, reveals the true state of things, these facts are concealed, misrepresented, or extenuated.

Not long since two young men of gentle birth and liberal education, being disgusted with the world, and the corrupt state of society around them, became ascetics, and wandered away from the sphere of duty, instead of setting themselves manfully and prayerfully to fight in the name of the Lord against the prevailing evils

The rowers often complain of suffering from impressment for travellers, the Beach Superintendent, one of their own class appointed by the Sirkar, taking bribes from those who are better off and strong in body, and often seizing the poor, the aged, or boys, beating those who attempt to flee to avoid the inconvenience.

The subordinate governors and officials as in all Oriental despotisms, ground down all beneath them. Paying for their appointments and giving also annual “presents,” they were obliged to squeeze the necessary amounts from the unfortunate people. The heads of the respective castes also paid an annual sum for their dignity. Bribes and pecuniary gratifications were everywhere expected, and nowhere forbidden. The ruling power and subordinate officials were ever ready to snatch from the people as much as possible. When a cruel ruler was on the throne, the country suffered much; when a benevolent one, it gained little.

It seems evident that we shall never, in all probability, in such a country, obtain complete information as to the history of court intrigues, immoralities, and follies, as well as of reforms and political progress — the sale of offices, bribery, and interference with the course of justice — factions and cabals in favour of the sovereign, or of the heir, or of rival ministers — secret executions and assassinations, and other events that would reveal the actual state of things in the past or at present, and prove a warning beacon for the future.

On the other hand, nothing is more common than to ridicule men of truth and honesty as fools. Again, when two young and intimate friends meet, the staple subject of conversation is — the beauties of the locality, their paramours, their intrigues, their successes, disappointments and revenges — spiced with the needful scandal. Or, the subject is bribes, bribe-givers, bribebrokers, and bribe- takers.”

19 #Summing up Date: 05 October 2014.

This is a great book. I wanted to write a much longer commentary. However, for the past so many months, I could get no time to pursue this work. So, I am winding up the commentary here. However, I must mention here that British rule, especially the English rule of this sub continent was a wonderful historical event. So much lies are being taught to in academic textbooks and mentioned in the news-media about the evil deeds of the British rule. None of them do have any correctness when viewed from a larger perspective of the realties of a subcontinent that around 650 significant rulers, and around a few thousand other minor rulers. All of these native rulers as well as native officialdom were quite horrible to the people here, who existed under them as slaves.

Policing behaviour of the officialdom was also terrible. Unbearable profanities were in common use. The abusive words such as Nee, Eda, Edi, Avattakal &c. that are there in local vernaculars more or less allowed the communication to move to more horrible standards.

Slavery in the subcontinent was a hundred times more horrible, in that it was not legal slavery, but something enforced through the feudal languages of the subcontinent.

The amalgamation of Travancore to Malabar actually led to the wiping out of a fabulous incorruptible British formed officialdom from Malabar, and to the spread of Travancore culture into Malabar. The language that was there in Malabar, which can be identified as Malabar Language, was also wiped out. However, Malabar language was also equally feudal. Currently both Malabar as well as Travancore has the negative sides of both cultures. There was no one of quaint quality to lead the direction to collection of the better sides of both cultures.

It may be noted that almost all the good quality buildings, public library and much else now seen in Trivandrum from the times of the Travancore kingdom times are due to the English link.

Everyone wants to mention a contrived history about themselves. All castes make claims that aim to show off themselves as higher than so other group whom they view with repulsion. The Ezhavas mention the Thiyyas of North Malabar as their sub sect, while the latter view this attachment as nauseating. The North Malabar Thiyyas have their own claims, which might not be tenable to others. The Nairs would go homicidal if their real caste categorisation as Sudras is mentioned. The Kshatria castes, which are called Varmas in Travancore, would find the contention that they are Sudras who used monetary presents to the Brahmins to upgrade them, as totally unacceptable. The Syrian Christians are not mentioned as of fantastic heritage in this book, even though they themselves sell out such a claim. The Christian settler folks. who flocked into the Malabar forests in the wake of the breakdown of perfect law & order machinery in the wake of the British departure from the subcontinent, would like this book. For, it claims that they were the very low castes, including the Pariyas, Pulayas and much else of the Travancore kingdom, who were developed painstakingly by the English Missionaries from the London Missionary Society.

All these above mentioned populations who improved tremendously from a semibarbarian state with the advent of the British East India Company supremacy in the peninsula, teach and learn the utter nonsense the English rulers were thieves and looters. The terrible ingratitude in this attitude is beyond mention.

As to the native populations of England, they stand fooled by their own academicians who dish out utter nonsensical ideas of British colonial history. Rev. Matters has this hope about his work in Travancore:

to lay the foundations of a Christian Church in India, which shall be the admiration of the world a hundred years hence; to train the future teachers and preachers, the future fathers and mothers and citizens of India; to help the poor and needy; to rescue the perishing; to proclaim liberty to the captives of sin, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

However, he was a fool in this sense. Christian church does not stand for the betterment of the common population of the land. It also aims for domination through a population explosion in its own congregations. Even though it does manage a lot of English schools, for the rich, for the common populations, the vernacular language is what is being doled out. Indian Christian churches are just another feudal language created institutions with the same feudal, suppressive ideologies of the Subcontinent.

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The book

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Of the London Missionary Society


First publishing details

W. H. ALLEN & CO.,


Principal works referred to, in addition to those named in “Land of Charity” :-
Barbosa’s Description of East Africa and Malabar. Hakluyt Society. London, 1866.
Standing Information of Madras Government. Maclean. Madras, 1879.
Canter Visscher’s Letters from Malabar. Drury. Madras, 1862.
Missionary Enterprise in the East. Collins. London, 1873.
Lingerings of Light in a Dark Land. Whitehouse. London, 1873.
Indian Caste. Dr. John Wilson. Edinburgh, 1877.
Political History of Tinnevelly. Caldwell. Madras, 1881.
The Vedic Religion. Macdonald. Calcutta, 1882
Wilson’s Glossary of Indian Terms. Allen. London, 1855.
Asiatic Studies. Lyall. London, 1882.
Hindoo Music. Ghose. Calcutta, 1874.
Six Principal Ragas. Tagore. Calcutta.
Mal. History of Travancore. Pichu Muttathu. Trevandrum, M.E. I043
Maroomakatayum ; or, Law of Inheritance among the Sudras of Malabar. P. Moothookristna Naidoo. Cottayam, 1871.
Keralavagasa Kramam. G. K. Varmman. Tirumulpad. Trevandrum M E. 1052.
Asiatic Researches.
Indian Antiquary.
Western Star, Cochin; and Travancore Times, Nagercoil
Indian Evangelical Review.
Madras C. M. Record ; and Travancore Diocesan Gazette.

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c2 #









































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p #


THIS work has been written, mainly, during a period of restriction, on account of weak health, from the more active duties of the ministry ; and the hope is indulged that it may prove quite as useful, in its own way, by treasuring and presenting for general reference information regarding Travancore, as, perhaps, more direct labours in travelling and lecturing on the subject might have been.

For the last twenty-five years, I have been studying that country with reference to the prosecution of missionary labour, culling facts of every kind, and accumulating notes respecting its people, history, and literature; collecting a library, English, Tamil, and Malayalam, with complete sets of Reports, some of which are now almost inaccessible to the public, and enjoying friendly intercourse with Europeans and natives of all classes. And at home, while engaged in the preparation of this book, free access has also been given, through the courtesy of the librarians, to the splendid library at the India House.

The valuable materials and knowledge thus acquired for personal use are now placed at the disposal of others ; arranged, digested, and condensed so as to give, if it were possible, a whole library in a single volume-providing re- liable matter for future investigation and practical application- throwing light especially on those points affecting the social and moral condition of the people on which the statesman or philanthropist would wish to be informed-furnishing materials for a true history of the countryand giving a photograph of strange manners and usages that are rapidly passing away under the influence of modern enlightenment and the spread of Christianity. The history of the past increases our intellectual wealth in each generation, and should be handed on to the next.

No pains have been spared in the careful collation of facts and records; and much care has been taken to ensure accuracy, and avoid a mere surface view of things, as well as to simplify and elucidate every topic discussed, and give a true reflection of the present state of native society. Still, in such a mass of detail, minor errors may exist, arising from varying or incomplete accounts supplied by native helpers and friends. Any mistakes have only to be pointed out for rectification in a second edition, if called for.

I have still much material on hand which it was found impossible to include in this volume-further particulars of Castes and Ceremonies, and chapters on the more abstract and statistical topics of Legislation and Judicial Administration, Land Tenures, Taxation and Revenue, &c. On such a diversified population, an exhaustive work in a single volume is impracticable ; and a great and expensive book is not wanted. Only a few typical castes, therefore, have been selected for detailed description, and a few cardinal topics discussed.

In some sense it may be said that the same ground is gone over as in a former work- “The Land of Charity“ (Snow & Co., London). But while either book is complete in itself, the matter in each is quite distinct, as I have endeavoured to put nothing in this volume that is in the former one; and the two works should go together, each being the complement of the other. The one discusses chiefly the religious, the other the social and moral aspect of Travancore. The former book was intended chiefly for the friends of missions in England ; the present one for readers in India, interested in the welfare of the native population, and desirous to have a correct view of their actual condition, and to use any influence they may possess for the furtherance of solid progress and reform.

Though speaking plainly and frankly of the evils which prevail and of the need of a speedy remedy, I am conscious of having written throughout with the desire and aim to be fair to all parties, and with affection and sympathy for all classes in Travancore, whither I hope shortly to return to continue my labours as life and health may be afforded.

Brief quotations and sentences taken from innumerable books and papers which have been freely consulted, abstracted, or utilized for the advantage of the reader, have not been specially marked, as this appeared to be mere waste of labour, and an encumbrance of the printed page.

Special acknowledgments, however, are due to the Government of Travancore for copies of the Administration Reports and the Census Report as each was issued-and to my missionary brethren and other friends, both English and native, for reports and papers keeping me au cottrant with the state of affairs during my absence on leave in England.

Also to Rev. W. J. Richards for valuable notes on the Pulayars, &c., in North Travancore-to Rev. R. Collins, M.A., and Rev. R. H.Maddox, B.D., for the loan of photographs for engraving, mostly taken by the former gentleman-and to the Secretaries of the London Missionary Society for twelve illustrations ; the Church Missionary Society for five illustrations; the Wesleyan Missionary Society for engraving of Oil Mill ; and the Religious Tract Society for engraving of Krishna, kindly permitted by them to be used in this work. The other illustrations have been specially engraved for it.

Indian words and technical terms used in the Travancore official reports are mostly printed in italics, and the exact meaning will readily be found on reference to the Glossary at the end of the volume. The long a is pronounced like a in father, and the short a like u in drum; i like a in fate; i as it is pronounced in pique; and u generally like oo in food.

This work is sent forth now in humble reliance on God’s gracious guidance, and in the hope that it may prove really helpful to all who desire accurate and recent information on the subject of it, and may thus ultimately tend to raise the social condition and advance the moral and spiritual welfare of the native population of Travancore.

London, 9th August, 1883.


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The small but picturesque country of Travancore in South India, though little known in England and even in some distant parts of India, from which it is distinguished by its humid climate, perpetual verdure, and rich vegetable productions, its ancient Hindu Government, and a population of surprising variety, is full of deepest interest to those who have had occasion to reside there, or who have directed their regards closely to the subject. The exhaustive study of the physical features of the country — its multifarious population, with their languages and literature, their strange customs and religions — its flourishing Christian missions and rising civilisation — would be the work of a lifetime, and could not fail, so far as it is prosecuted, to draw out the profoundest moral sympathy with the people of all classes and with those on whom devolves the duty of governing them.

Travancore abounds with attractions to the student of nature, of religion, and of mankind. The sportsman and the naturalist will find an endless variety in the fauna — elephants and tigers, for instance, so numerous in some parts that the hillmen are obliged to build their huts in the tops of trees — wild oxen and deer, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, birds, fishes, and insects.

The botanist will find much to interest and delight in the flora : the frequent tropical rains make most of the country a sea of verdure and luxuriant vegetation; and gardening is a pastime uninterrupted by any dreary fall of the leaf or inclemency of winter.

The land is crowded with graceful palms, and is one of the head-quarters of the ginger and pepper tribes. It was to procure these spices and other valuable products that the servants of King Solomon visited Malabar in the golden age of the Jewish nation; and it was these that, in the Providence of God, attracted Europeans first to the Western Coast of India, induced persevering efforts to open more direct communication with the Indies, led to the discovery of the Cape route as well as America and the West Indies, and ultimately to the establishment of the great Indian Empire of the British Crown. Dense forests of teak, blackwood, and other useful timbers clothe the hill regions — fruit-trees, some of them bearing fruits of enormous size, or in extraordinary abundance, are grown in every garden — the medicinal plants deserve fuller investigation and trial— and economic products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and chinchona are now being largely introduced and developed by enterprising English planters.

The historian and the antiquarian have yet, it may be said, to begin their labours in Travancore, examining ancient but hitherto inaccessible temples, with their undeciphered inscriptions, and investigating records and usages which may throw light upon the origin of its strange laws. The ethnologist will have a wide sphere for study in the varied and mutually contrasting manners and customs of the four hundred and twenty Hindu castes of the population, besides the mixed descendants of the Portuguese, Dutch, and other nations — quite a museum of races — and in the comparison of these with customs prevailing in other parts of the world. Some of these castes are, from their exclusive habits and insulation, inaccessible to the European, and nearly so to their own countrymen of other classes.

The merchant and the manufacturer may find here a market for their commodities as civilisation and comfort spread, and an opening for new and varied forms of industry; and the statesman will be interested in the social and political condition of a country where the great problem is to decide how far, and by what successive steps, the people shall be freed from barbarous and unequal laws, endowed with civil liberty, and ultimately entrusted with some share in the government of their country.

Above all, the Christian philanthropist cannot but mourn over the gross idolatry and demon worship, and the miserable superstitions which corrupt and darken all that is otherwise fair and pleasant — the dense popular ignorance, oppressions, and abject wretchedness of the lower castes, and the debasement of females amongst most classes of society; and he will rejoice over the incipient enlightenment, the spread of education, and the establishment of living and active Christian churches throughout the land.


The religions of Travancore are strangely diverse, comprising both popular Hinduism, and demon, ancestral, serpent, and sun worship — Muhammadanism of a low and imperfect type — Jews, the history of whose settlement in India dates back to, perhaps, the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, or even earlier — Roman Catholics of three centuries’ standing —the Malabar Syrian Church, very much resembling in rites and ecclesiastical government the Greek Church, and whose founders and ancestors came to Malabar fully fifteen hundred years ago — and last, but not least in importance for the future welfare of the country, Protestant Christians connected with the London Missionary Society in the South, and with the Church Mission in the North, brought under the influence of the Gospel within the last sixty or seventy years.

It is a remarkable fact that over one-fifth of the population are nominally Christian, while the Malayalam Sudras, who constitute the mass of the respectable population, the landowners and employers of labour, the agricultural and military classes, are quite outnumbered by the native Christians; and the Brahmans, who enjoy immense power and prestige in social and political matters, and almost divine honours as the representatives of the deity and the sole competent priestly celebrants of religious rites, number only forty thousand in a total population of nearly two millions and a half. Travancore is thus an Oriental microcosm, a representative land, a country of striking contrasts. In its scenery, sea-coast and mountain range, wood and water, hill and dale, river and lake are all combined in comparatively small compass.

The primeval forests, where the elephant, tiger, and wild ox roam unchecked, lie not many miles distant from the capital, with its public offices, English college, and museum; and the almost savage denizen of the woods and hills, clad in green leaves or fringes of long grass, is found not far from the Brahman official or Sudra noble, who lectures on modem science, and writes the English language as well as any of us.

To introduce and to illustrate particulars of the manners and customs, the social and civil condition of the people, some descriptive account of the country seems required. Let us enter it from the north, and travel right through by the main and most frequented route, parallel with the coast, to the southernmost extremity at Cape Comorin, observing the physical features which it presents to our notice as we pass along.

The nearest railway station on the way from Madras is at Shoranoor in the extreme north of Cochin, where we cross the Beypore river over a long bridge, which, it is hoped, will some day be utilized for the extension of the railroad to Cochin : thence we proceed by bullock cart southwards some twenty miles to Trichoor. The road passes in places through dense forest, and is in parts adorned and sheltered by avenues of magnificent over-arching trees, especially banyans, forming natural Gothic arches draped and festooned with epiphytal ferns and orchids, and gorgeous flowering creepers depending from the branches.

At Trichoor, “the key of Cochin,”we enter upon the “backwater”communication by lagoons, canals, and rivers to Trevandrum, separated generally by but a narrow strip of land from the sea — a very cheap and convenient mode of travelling, though rather slow. In stormy weather, when winds and waves rock the shallow canoe and threaten to overturn it, or beat hard upon the cabin-boat, this mode of travel is unpleasant or even unsafe; but nothing could be more delightful in favourable weather, in the rich glow of the golden sunset, in the bright moonlight, or the cool dawn of day.

In the daytime we meet or pass numerous freight and passenger-boats, large and small, going in various directions; and stop for a short time at convenient places of call to procure provisions, or to allow the boatmen to cook their food. Pretty little mullet fish, silvery and glistening, may be seen leaping out of the water, sometimes in shoals; and occasional specimens leap into the boat. At night all is calm and still, except the conversation of passengers in boats gliding past, or the salutations of boatmen one to another, the sound of drumming and play in distant villages, the croaking of great frogs close by, not unlike the cawing of crows, and the shrill ceaseless stridulation of the Cicada in the trees.

Passing the ruins of the fort of Cranganore, once the scene of European warfare and diplomacy, and a settlement of the Jews and Syrian Christians, but now desolate, except for a noted temple, which is the annual resort of multitudes to offer sacrifices of cocks to the goddess Bhagavathi, we enjoy a pretty view of the backwater, studded with low islands covered with grass and sedges, the banks carefully cultivated, or over-grown with fine jungle containing handsome convolvulus or other creepers, rattans, and flowering shrubs, and the mountains in the distance. On the other side of the backwater we see the Travancore military “lines” or defensive hedge running inland, which was some obstacle to the Mysore forces on the invasion of Tippu Saib about a century ago, but now presents the appearance simply of a raised roadway with a few small bambus growing upon it. The Travancore territory extends to about this parallel of latitude, some dozen miles north of the town of Cochin; but a narrow strip along the coast belonging to the Cochin Rajah runs into the Travancore State.

Boats and boatmen can readily be changed or procured at the busy and flourishing port and commercial emporium of British Cochin, the history of whose vicissitudes and conflicts under native rule and under the Portuguese and the Dutch, is full of interest. Here European vessels lie in the roads, or in the harbour formed by the estuary where the inland waters meet the sea. Coasting steamers call weekly, and crowds of native craft lie at anchor in the backwater, which is here about two miles in width, the banks very low and covered with palms and other vegetation. Were the shores higher, this sheet of water would be a magnificent sight. The Cochin Rajah’s public offices and schoolhouse, and several Roman Catholic churches show well at Ernaculam on the eastern bank of the backwater.

Native huts and villages nestle under the shade of the trees; mangroves send their curious arched roots into the mud : overhead, flocks of green parrokeets scream as they fly across; and gorgeous kingfishers sit perched on the branches, attentively watching for fish in the water beneath. Great flocks of cranes settle in the rice-fields around. The native town of Cochin extends southwards for a mile or two to the remarkable settlements of white and black Jews, to which most travellers endeavour to pay a visit in passing.

South of Cochin, the water communication varies in width, but, on the whole, gradually expands into a considerable lake, called the Vembanad backwater, on the eastern side of which lies the important mission station of Cottayam, with its English college and vernacular Seminary, its numerous congregations and Protestant bishop — the head-quarters also of the Syrian Christian church; and on the western side the busy town of Alleppy with its fine lighthouse, coir factories, shipping, and population of 30,000, largely Muhammadan. This sheet of water is about thirteen miles long and nine in breadth, almost an inland sea.

Here, and in other waters of sufficient expanse, sails may be set when the wind is favourable, and a speed of some six or eight miles an hour may be attained. Along the banks of the lake, and on the sea-beach, the dense forest of cocoanut trees is surprising, in some places not a spot of earth to be seen unoccupied, nor scarcely a house visible through the crowded plantations. There seems no end of cocoanut palms, until ultimately one gets rather tired of the monotony, valuable as are the trees to the inhabitants. In the monsoon floods, some of these places look like large sheets of water studded with small islands full of cocoanut trees and human habitations.


Rice-fields are formed by reclaiming the swamps by the side of the backwater, so that a season of unusual drought, which injuriously affects the crops in the south, is helpful in drying up the low-lying lands in the north of Travancore, which are covered with several feet deep of water in the rainy season. In some places these are a couple of feet lower than the level of the canal, the water being kept out by mud banks, and irrigation wheels, turned by the feet of men sitting on the frames, are at work in many places. Where necessary, the water is carried up through a sloping trough, half the distance by one wheel, and the other half by a second. The field serfs are often seen working up to the neck in water deepening the canals, or lifting up mud from the bottom to repair the banks at the sides.

Here and there vicious looking crocodiles lie on the low banks in the sun, with the mouth wide open, “to catch flies,” say the natives. They are rarely over ten feet in length, not being permitted now-a-days to live so long as in former times when these formidable reptiles were used in ordeals, and human life was less valued.

The distance from Cochin to Quilon, ninety miles, is done at a stretch in twenty-four hours, or less, by cabin boat, and in a couple of days by canoe. On the way we pass near to various populous towns — which might be visited if time permits — many hamlets, farm-houses, and shops where betel-leaf, tobacco, arrack, fruits, and cooked rice are purchased by the boatmen and passengers who are not of high caste; and after some miles of narrow canal, uniting the Kayenkulam Lake with that at Quilon, we enter this beautiful piece of water, with arms reaching in various directions, high red cliffs of laterite; and near Quilon, several handsome houses belonging to the native gentry and English officers.

From the landing-place at Quilon an avenue of pretty feathery-foliaged casuarina trees leads to the British Cantonment, a wide sandy plain intersected by roads and surrounded by the bungalows of the sepoy officers, the barracks, English church, hospital, mosque, &c. The market is held in an open square in the town, adorned and sheltered by several noble banyan trees in the centre. Crowds of large bats hang on these trees, fighting for the best places, and incessantly squeaking towards evening. At night they take flight in search of fruits and other food. Thence three or four streets branch off, one leading down through long rows of shops to the native town. Here and there are little pyramids of clay for demon-worship, and temples of Ganesha and other Hindoo deities, to which the British sepoys stationed here, or the inhabitants make their offerings. Tall, military-looking men strut about, and a sepoy guard is stationed in the principal street. The native town proper contains a palace, public offices, and temple, with a population of some fifteen thousand.

Leaving Quilon by a narrow canal with high sandy banks near the town, on the inland side of which are situated several large bungalows, we proceed parallel with the sea-coast, and after two or three miles come again into an open lake, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of beach covered with cocoanut plantations. At Paravur there is another outlet for the backwater into the turbulent sea, and the lake is very deep, so that the poles used to push along the canoes do not reach to the bottom. At such places boats are sometimes overturned by the irresistible current when the waters are swollen by the rush of torrents from the hills during the long-continued rains of the monsoon. Here again we have a fine display of tropical vegetation of diverse foliage and hue, the beautiful green flowing foliage of the cocoanut intermingling with the glossy laurel nut {Calophylluni) and mango, the cerbera and pandanus, with lilies, great acrostichum ferns and masses of sedge (Cyperus) at the edge of the water and within it — a lovely country, to which Nature has been bountiful; would that it were filled with a truly Christian people !

Up to 1881, a hilly barrier of four miles existed at Wurkally to the water navigation, that seemed to be insurmountable; and it has in fact been overcome only by a heavy expenditure of over sixteen lacs of rupees by the State. Passengers and goods had to be carried across the portage and transhipped. After many years of surveying, consultation, criticism, and labour, the canal has been taken for two or three miles by a circuitous route through the valleys at either end, and two portions of hill intervening have been pierced with tunnels, one over a thousand feet, and the other over two thousand feet in length, furnishing a clear water way five feet deep and sixteen broad. The open cuttings through the laterite are in some parts no less than sixty or seventy feet in depth.

A curious deposit of lignite or primeval forest was found here under thirty feet of earth and below the present sea-level, some of it only of the consistence of clay, but a few stumps of huge trees in fair preservation and capable of being worked into furniture. This tunnel is the first of the kind that has been attempted in India, and its cost has been thought to be disproportionate, but certainly the relief to commerce and travel, and the admission of better boats from the north into the Trevandrum Canal has been a benefit impossible to estimate in money value. By this tunnel the line of water communication is completed from Trevandrum northwards to the ports of Alleppey and Cochin, and the whole of the northern districts of Travancore and the railway station at Tiroor, a distance of 228 miles. Small steamboats of light draught are also running on the backwater between Cochin and Alleppy.

A few miles beyond the tunnel we pass close to the old British fort and town of Anjengo, now quite decayed, but still owned by the British Government. The first political and commercial relation of Travancore with the East India Company was in 1673, when the Company established a factory at Anjengo. The old tombs of former English officials and their families. are interesting, and were repaired and enclosed through the efforts of Mr. G. A. Ballard when Resident. Further on, quantities of cocoanut husks may be seen steeping in the water, enclosed in nets— or rather they may be smelt, giving forth a horrible stench. Poor people sit under the shade of the trees beating out the coir fibre, or twist it into yarn.

The last ten miles of the journey to Trevandrum are through a canal, the sandy banks of which are prettily covered with the pandanus or screw-pine, with masses of odorous flowers and large scarlet fruit, exactly resembling the pineapple, but utterly useless; the Cerbera odallam with its long leaves, large white fragrant flowers and green fruit, just like the mango, but poisonous; the Barringtonia, with pendulous strings of pink tassel-like flowers; the cashew, with its fragrant blossoms and nuts growing on the outside’ of the apple, and other trees, often covered with convolvulus and other creepers, and with climbing ferns as the Drymoglossum and Stenochlaenum, and the long grass-like Vittaria fern. The whiteflowered crinum and the water-lily abound along with various aquatic and floating plants, and a pretty fine-leaved fern, Ceratopteris thalictroides perhaps the only fern which grows in the water.

To give some idea of the external aspect of Trevandrum and its people, we cannot do better than quote freely from a vivid description, evidently written by a lady, in “India’s Women,” July, 1881 : —

“The first thing that strikes a new-comer is that the streets are shut in on each side by walls. Now these walls are very varied, the better kind being made of red brick with a white stone coping at the top; the next in grade, of laterite from our quarries, plastered, whitewashed, and generally thatched with plaited palm leaves to protect them from the rain; while the third are simply made of lumps of the reddishbrown soil for which Travancore, like Devonshire, is famous, and are also thatched at the top. These latter, though not very durable in monsoon time, are to my mind much more picturesque than either of the others, especially when contrasted with the strip of bright green grass bordering the roads during the rains, or adorned, as they often are, by tiny ferns and moss. Not only have we no pavements, but there is no visible line between the carriage road and that for foot passengers; this appears, however, to cause them no anxiety; they move leisurely along, apparently quite indifferent whether they are run over or not.


The houses behind these walls are built in very irregular fashion. Some are pretentious-looking two-storied buildings with balconies and verandahs, tiled roofs and brilliant whitewashed fronts, while near them may be seen an old-fashioned hut, with its deep roof of palmleaf, one small window and door, and surrounded by the inevitable plantain tree. Next we may come to a large compound with no house visible, though there probably is one buried among the trees, but screened from view by a thick plantation of coffee bushes, their branches laden with snow-white blossom in the early part of the year.

A little further on are some shops; in one, sacks of grain of different kinds, rice, grain for horses, and cotton seed for bullocks. The sacks are arranged in a row at the edge of the narrow verandah, upright and open-mouthed to show their contents, while their owner generally reclines among them waiting for customers, with no great anxiety to secure them. The vegetable shops with their large bunches of red, green, or golden plantains, their mounds of bright scarlet or green chillies, their huge pumpkins, yams, gourds, and brinjals, are worth more than a passing glance, and they are commonly surrounded by a crowd of eager buyers, bargaining in loud voices to effect as cheap a sale as possible. Some vendors of English tinned meats, wines, &c., make no show, but are content to hang a black board with the word Shop printed on it, outside what looks like a private house with the front door open.

Now a break in the street will occur, and we come to a large compound shut in by handsome iron-railings, containing a fine block of buildings designed by an English engineer, and used as Government offices. Opposite, at some little distance from the road, is the telegraphoffice, and a little higher up a small whitewashed building with ‘Post- Office’ in large letters on the front. In between the houses are groups of palms, the feathery cocoanut, the slender areca with its small graceful head, and the broad-leaved fan palm tamarind trees, which are both ornamental and useful, the scarlet flowering Poinsettia, the Bougainvillea, and other gay shrubs adorn our streets; while some of them are hedged in, instead of being walled, by the orange lantana, and bordered by rows of casuarina and other trees, affording grateful shade to all, but especially prized by the poor cooly toiling at noon under his heavy load. For his convenience, too, rests are erected, consisting of a horizontal slab of granite, supported by two upright blocks; on the top his burden is often to be seen, while he sits placidly down in the shade close at hand.

Sacred trees, remnants of the most ancient worship known in this land, are to be met with in the roads here and there. They are generally large banyans (Ficus Bengalensis or F.religiosa) and have a platform, often raised from the ground by several steps built of stone and carefully whitewashed, at their roots.

On festival nights, at the four corners lights are placed, and a crowd of poor deluded worshippers gather there. Great daubs of red ochre are put on the tree, and the spirit further propitiated with fireworks. Besides these trees, there are roadside temples, mere sheds with pictures of gods drawn in red and blue by the most primitive of artists on their outer walls, and two or three pointed stones with red ochre on the top inside.

The most interesting of all our streets are those within the walls of the fort, where reside Brahman and other high-caste families. You enter by a gate, wide open, though guarded by a sepoy with fixed bayonet, and pass into a road swept every morning as carefully as a drawing-room. To your right and left are the quaint dwellings of the Brahmans, with a row of small windows above, just large enough for one head to peep out, but so high as to ensure that no passer-by can look in. Tiny verandahs raised to some height above the road are painted in stripes of red and white, while before each door on the passengers’ foot-way is a square of black, which has been rubbed with a mixture of cow-dung and charcoal, and when dry adorned with a neat geometrical pattern in white; the appearance is that of a drawing on a slate, and very even and straight the lines usually are. On festival days these ornaments are most elaborate, and a little red is often added to improve the effect.

There seems to be a pleasant rivalry amongst the women of the neighbourhood as to who shall produce the best and most studied designs. They are rubbed away by night, but are carefully renewed every morning.

The verandah is always occupied by men in various attitudes, one muttering prayers from a book, but ready to look off every minute at what is going forward, another cleaning his teeth most vigorously, or perhaps a bright-faced schoolboy learning his lesson aloud. In and out among the grown people, looking as happy as any bird, are boys and girls unencumbered by any clothing, except a string or perhaps a chain round their fat little bodies.

We go a little further and see the street well, with a group of graceful women, dressed in clothes of shaded brown and yellow jewels red, or plain dark blue, and amongst them, we can always distinguish the widow by her having one end of her cloth drawn round her shaven head, as a kind of veil. They have but one meal a day, and are despised for having brought disgrace into their families by some sin committed in a former state of being. Now we meet a group of women of all ages, followed by an attendant with towels, dry cloths, &c., evidently on their way to the large tank, where they will enjoy their morning bath in a corner by themselves, but quite in sight of men performing their ablutions. They are slightly clothed when in the water, and appear quite unconscious of any impropriety in choosing so public a place. It is sacred, near the great pagoda, and close to the holy stones, before which lights are burned every night.

What place then could be better for holy women, they would argue. At the tank during the bathing hour incessant noise is heard, talking, laughing, muttering of mantrams or prayers, and the monotonous sound of beating their clothes against stones for the purpose of washing them, for the Brahman could not wear a garment washed by a man of lower caste than himself; he, therefore, goes through the performance every morning while bathing.

Passing on from the tank we come to a large walled-in garden, with grand bunches of plantains hanging over the road, and a bread-fruit tree with its large handsome leaves and solid looking green fruit; and are made aware by a heap of white stars on the road of the presence of jessamine, so largely cultivated for garlands.

The guard-house for sepoys, opposite to the Dewan’s residence, is open, and about a dozen men of the Nayar Brigade, in red coats and black trousers, but no boots, are lounging about They do not look very warlike, but doubtless, if occasion offered, would fight bravely to defend their fields and homes.

Now a mendicant Brahman passes by, and we note the copper vessel slung round his neck to contain the rice he is sure to get from house to house. He carries two little brass cups in his hands, which he strikes together to give notice of his approach, that the people may get their offerings ready. Street vendors there are, too, hawking their wares-a woman with a large pot of buttermilk, which she ladles out to all who call her to their doors; a boy with Iucifer matches; and a man with a round basket on his shoulder containing bread, which he announces by lusty cries.

The streets of the fort are delightful in the early morning; the sky is blue, but not cloudless; the merry grey palm-squirrels (Sciurus palmarum), favoured by Raman, and bearing the impress of his fingers in the black stripes on their backs, chase one another over the tiled roofs of the houses, and play at hide-and-seek in their curiously-carved gables; the black and white robin stops in his search for food to trill forth a note of gladness and praise; and contented-looking cows and calves walk about where they please, with an air of proprietorship which only a cow in an Oriental city knows how to assume.”

Proceeding from Trevandrum southwards by bullock cart, we cross the strong and handsome bridge over the Karamana river, built by a native architect, the view from which up the river and downwards is very agreeable. The banks are well-wooded, people wash clothes in the stream far beneath us, and many Brahmans are bathing at the flight of stone steps connected with the Temple, the buildings of which peep out above the luxuriant vegetation by which they are surrounded.

Avenues of umbrageous trees planted on either side shade the road, among which the most common and conspicuous are banyans, with their rootlets hanging from the branches and stems, often covered with Vanda, Cymbidium, and other epiphytal orchids and clumps of the Drynaria fern, the Thespesia or puvarasu tree, covered with beautiful yellow tulip-like flowers, tamarinds, mangoes, terminalia, &c. Some single specimens are remarkable for size. Here is a noble mango-tree for instance, some fifty feet in height, straight and symmetrical, with long lance-shaped leaves, quite covered with greenish flowers, sweetly fragrant in the blossoming season. Tamarinds also occur, with trunks from twelve to fifteen feet in circumference.


One curious tree, Holigarna longifolia, is greatly dreaded by the people, as it causes the skin and flesh to swell when incautiously handled. In August and September the beautiful Gloriosa superba creeper abounds amongst the smaller jungle by the roadside, displaying its orange lilies in the bright sunshine. Another beautiful creeper, Ipomoea vitifolia, with bright sulphur-coloured flowers, twines through the hedgerows.

The highway or “king’s path,”southward from Trevandrum, being of a fair width and kept in good condition, with the exception of some annoying bits in long-continued rainy weather, our bullock cart goes along pleasantly and makes steady, if slow, progress. In wet weather, however, when the mat covering of the cart is leaking, or in the height of the hot season, when the red dust of the roads comes pouring in, bandy travelling is far from pleasant. Telegraph posts by the road-side mark the advance of civilization, and most of the land on either hand is reclaimed from waste and cultivated with tapioca roots, yams, and other vegetables, plantains, fruit-trees, and other products of domestic utility. The country, generally, is undulating, and in the valleys the road runs on a raisedbank through rice fields, which look like lakes of lovely verdure.

On our left, a conical hill called Nemam Hill, perhaps a thousand feet in height, is noted as a landmark for passing vessels. From it, a low range of knolls, partly cleared and cultivated, runs along for a few miles parallel with the main road. We pass through various straggling villages with their little shops and dwellings; and notice here and there idol shrines and temples, as well as open ambalams, or resthouses and shelters for travellers, and wells with an attendant to dispense the cooling and refreshing liquid to all applicants.

About nine miles from Trevandrum, the view is exceedingly beautiful, a wide prospect of the whole south country being visible from a high part of the road, beyond which the land seems to sink, and is spread out before us covered with rich groves of palms, verdant rice-fields, and productive gardens. The extreme south of Travancore is nearly level, drier in climate, and in several respects bearing a closer likeness to the eastern coast.

Here it may be instructive, and amusing as well, to notice the stream of passengers of various castes and classes whom we meet going to the capital. Bullock carts travel in company, if possible, in long strings, laden with provisions, cloth, and other commodities, some of them with broad green plantain leaves to be used as plates for the high castes when eating : the drivers are singing, abusing their bullocks, or perhaps half asleep. Coolies carry loads of pottery, cocoa nuts, rice, oil-jars, fowls, firewood, and other necessaries for the city. Women are returning from market with piles of baskets on their heads, balanced with wonderful nicety. Girls bring water from the nearest well. Farmers are driving their cattle homewards.

Brahman families in bright dresses, except some one unfortunate enough to be a widow, and who is, therefore, deprived of every ornament, clothed in white, and her hair shaven off, go to enjoy the feasting at Trevandrum; and travellers, young and aged, men, women, and children, with their umbrellas and fans of palm-leaf, brass drinking vessels, and bundles of clothing, arrayed in various styles of dress or undress, trudge along. Notice how useful one’s toes are, if people did but make use of them. There is a woman who has dropped her cloth and picks it up with her toes without the labour of stooping to lift it. Practice, indeed, makes perfect I And here and there, to remind us of the suffering masses, a wretched Pulayan man or woman, skulks along the road, afraid of approaching too near the high caste man, or of being so unmannerly as to come “betwixt the wind and his nobility.”

Just beyond the Nayar town of Neyattankara, with its palace, magistrate’s cutcherry, school-house and temple, the “Butter River”is crossed by a bridge of three arches and embankment, like that at Karamana, and by the same architect, erected about twenty-five years ago. We may be said to cross at the same time, the boundary of the Malayalam language, Tamil being the vernacular of South Travancore; and here we usually change from the one tongue to the other. Farther on, a neat Mission Church stands by the roadside, with a little rest-house at the gate for travellers. Throughout Travancore, these Christian churches, emblems of true religion and instruments of vast moral and social improvement, frequently occur. Formerly we were not allowed to erect them close to the road, lest the Brahmans should be polluted by the near approach of Christians of humble birth.

A curious little temple of Ganesha, a deity more worshipped in the Tamil than in the Malayalam country, stands near the road, quite circular in form, with conical roof, an unusual model in Travancore.

Kaliakavilei may be taken as an average specimen of a village in the south. A row of small houses, including a number of shops for retail of provisions, runs along the road on either side; and in the centre of the village is an open square, where the market is held. The public buildings, such as they are, comprise a police-station, a stone ambalam or travellers’ rest- house, a small temple of the demon Kali, just like a cage with wooden bars, a Roman Catholic Church for the fisher people, and the Protestant Mission Church at the far end of the village. In front of the shops tobacco, cocoa-nut kernel, and rice, are spread out on mats to dry. The inhabitants are chiefly Muhammadan and Christian, and low caste Hindus, the Brahmans always residing in separate and secluded hamlets called Agraharams.

The market, or fair as we might call it, is held twice a week, as in many other parts of the country, when crowds of people, especially women, troop in from the surrounding neighbourhood to sell their produce and lay in a small store of provisions. The hubbub and gabble of tongues is heard afar off. The people fill the open area, while a few low sheds are occupied by the cloth dealers. The supplies are various, and sufficient for the ordinary demand, comprising rice and other grain, peas, vegetables, fruits, spices, oil, salt, palm-sugar, sweetmeats, fish, cheap ornaments, and cloth. Formerly, and still in some parts of the south, and in the whole of North Travancore, Pulayars and Pariahs were obliged to stand at a distance apart from the crowd, but in some places they mix with other common people.

Brahmans never attend these markets. When this liberty was given to the low castes, Sudra women and others refrained for a while from attending market, but they are now getting accustomed to the new state of things, though they hotly declare their dislike to it. “Since the Bible came here,”said one, “the slaves, and low-castes are allowed to walk near us on roads, and to approach us in the markets, and so pollute us. Better had a pestilence prevailed and swept those abominable people away.”

Children perfectly naked are playing about in the blazing sun, and from hence southward one sees great numbers of women going about in nature’s garb from the waist upwards. Indeed, one of the first signs of having entered Travancore territory is the sight of half-nude Chogan females watering trees, or otherwise engaged on the banks of the backwaters. Muhammadan women, on the contrary, seem rather cumbered with clothing, wearing both jacket and upper-cloth, often black with filth, or the greater portion dirty, then partly covered with one clean white cloth, making the others appear but the worse by contrast.

The Brahman women are always nicely dressed. The inelegant but decent dress of the Roman Catholic fisher-women appears to be the result of a curious compromise between barbarous laws and female modesty-they cover the bosom straight across with a cloth which runs under each arm. But we are struck with the fact that the Christian jacket seems to occur but too rarely in proportion to the number of converts, and are obliged to hope that this mark of propriety and refinement is not getting forgotten in these days of peace and prosperity. The Christians seem to prefer the respectable “upper cloth,” but it is insufficient as a garment for females.

Here and there barren rocky eminences occur, and the road at times passes over high ground strewn with huge blocks of granite. Towards Nagercoil these form considerable hills of some- what conical form, as if a great heap of black granite, rounded rocks, and stones had been poured upon the plain. At Vannur, near Pareychaley, a Brahman temple is picturesquely perched on a solid rock, such as Hindus like to build upon.

This is also the region of diminished rainfall, and some corresponding change in the vegetation appears. The hedges are formed of aloe and prickly pear; and euphorbias and palmyra palms increase in numbers on to Cape Comorin. A curious sight is a grove of palmyras, with their black stems and their round tops many feet high in the air. As there are no branches, it looks strange to see the distant background in some places clearly through the forest of mast-like stems.

At Kulitory, twenty-one miles from Trevandrum, we come to another Sudra town, with its palace, temple, and other buildings, and a magnificent iron-girder bridge-by far the finest in Travancore-which cost some thirteen lacs of rupees. It stands thirty feet high over the bed of the river, and is protected by iron railings, and lighted by lamps on either side. The total length is nearly 700 feet in eleven spans of sixty feet each; the abutments and piers of admirable granite work, and the approaches level and well metalled. In the dry season a scanty stream wanders over a broad expanse of sand in the bed of the river; but in the monsoon the flood from the hills formerly rose over the neighbouring country to a great width, and the irresistible current was impassable by the flat-bottomed canoes of the country.

As we go southwards, and the distance between the coast and the hills diminishes, the mighty wall of the Ghauts, nearly parallel with the coast, becomes more distinctly visible, and one spur, Vely Malei, comes close to the high road. From here the prospect includes the termination of the Ghauts, and several isolated hills near Cape Comorin. Up in the hills a new Sanitarium, for Europeans and others, has recently been opened by the Maharajah, from the pleasant climate and delightful scenery of which, almost vying with Coonoor, much benefit may be anticipated by visitors from South Travancore and Tinnevelly in search of health.


A fine elevated plateau, several miles in extent, situated at some distance north of Asambu, within thirty miles of Nagercoil and fifty of Trevandrum, was discovered here a few years ago, and is occasionally visited by sportsmen. It is called Muttu-kuli-vayal, “pearl pit field,’’ from a tradition of some bright shining pebbles having been formerly dug there. Several excavations like diamond pits are observable.

A stream of firstrate water runs through the plateau, surrounded by undulating knolls covered with grass and scrub. The stream has been traced descending into Travancore, to which State the land is now adjudged to belong, as the water-shed of the hills is the fixed boundary between Travancore and Tinnevelly territory. The height is about 4,000 feet above the sea level, and the view magnificent: some of the planters’ bungalows and estates appear to be far beneath, and the whole country is visible as far as the Cape. “The scenery is a combination of grandeur and beauty, with its lofty adjacent peaks and magnificent valleys, open and undulating grassy slopes, from which may be seen, on the one hand, vast stretches of forest-clad hills, and, on the other, at various points, a long unbroken line of sea-shore.”

Nowhere south of the Peermade Hills does there seem to be anything equal to this place. In the hottest season the air is deliciously cool, the temperature ranging from 64 to 71 degrees Fahr.; in October the average is 570 to 600 Being open all round and high, there seems no reason to dread the malarious fevers so common on the lower hills. The ascent is made by an easy zigzag road, and roads are being made all about, so that every facility will be afforded for pedestrian exercise.

Bison and other game abound in the neighbourhood, and the magnificent evergreen forests and splendid waterfalls of Papanasam at the head of the Tambraparni river are within easy reach. Already several houses have been built and occupied.

About thirty miles south of Trevandrum a group of three places close together and near to the road, and interesting in the history of Travancore, seem worthy of a visit. The first is Palpanabhapuram fort and town, an ancient residence of the Rajahs, now containing about 4.000 inhabitants. It lies about a mile from the main road. The walls are high, not unlike those of Trevandrum fort The old palace is a good specimen of the Malabar style, a very extensive gallery-like building, two stories high, and with tiled roof; the Durbar Hall somewhat resembling the old one at the capital, with fine polished chunam pillars, and ground floor open to the courtyard on the inside.

Some of the corridors are very narrow and low-roofed, built without any regard to ventilation, the windows long and low, nearly closed with beautiful panels of carved lattice work; some bow windows are supported without on sloping brackets finely carved with grotesque figures, and are furnished inside with seats, so as to afford a convenient view to the female inmates of all public processions and visitors. The uppermost rooms are more cool and airy for sleeping in, having no walls, but open lattice work all round. There is much good solid stone-work of carved or polished granite-baths, pillars square and round, magnificent slabs of black granite, &c. In this fort there are various temples, a large tank, and houses of entertainment for Brahmans. The accompanying engraving of buildings at Mavelikara, between Alleppy and Quilon, will give a good idea of the usual style of native architecture.

Oodayagerry is a large irregular fort nearly three miles in circumference, with a hill in the centre. The bare walls only remain, and ruins of the barracks, gunfoundry, magazine, and church. The enclosure is now grown over with jungle and palmyra trees. The monuments in the old church are deeply interesting, and should be carefully preserved. Here lie the remains of D’Lanoy, with his wife and son, who was the architect of the fort, and greatly enlarged the kingdom of Travancore for Rajah Vanji Martanda Vurmah by his courage and arms, and skilful conduct of the native troops. This fort must have cost an immense sum, and much forced labour from the poor, yet proved of no value when the British forces entered Travancore in 1809, and both Oodayagerry and Palpanabhapuram forts were at once abandoned by the Travancoreans.

Outside the fort we see the rock in which a Christian martyr of the last century is now pretended to have opened a spring of water by striking the rock with his elbow. A memorial church has been erected by the Roman Catholics over the small spring (if it is a spring), and it is now being made the source of a new superstition, discrediting the cause of Christian truth just where it should be presented in its clearest and purest form. It is visited by pilgrims from various parts, who make contributions to the shrine and drink the sacred water as a cure for disease; the water is carried to various parts of South India.

Kottar is a very ancient town forty-two miles south of Trevandrum, situated in the centre of the level tract of country called the Nanjinad or”district of Nanji.”The population of Kottar is about 7,000, to which should be added another 7,000 for Nagercoil, which may be regarded as virtually one with it. The bazaar is extensive, and trade with Tinnevelly and Travancore considerable : silk cloths and cotton checks are manufactured here and at the neighbouring Chaliyar village of Vadaseri. Temples of Pilleiyar or Ganesha abound as in the Tamil country, usually small buildings, but of solid stone work : these are the commonest places of worship, except demon altars.

There is a handsome cathedral-like church of St. Xavier, with good stone porch, which is visited annually in December in commemoration of the saint by many thousands, and where Hindus also sometimes offer vows and supplications. The London Mission has here a readingroom, visited by thousands of readers yearly, and a neat chapel erected at the sole cost of a remarkable convert, a manufacturer of silk cloth, which the family supplied to the palace till their conversion to Christianity, when the trade was taken from them.

Nagercoil was not long since the merest hamlet, connected with the “Snake Temple,” which gives its name to the place; but having been adopted as the head-quarters of the London Mission in these parts, it is now a clean, well-built, and increasing Christian town. By their intelligence and industry in various ways, and especially of late years in the coffee-planting enterprise, the native Christians are becoming wealthy, and a wonderful change has taken place. When Mr. Mault went out he “could not find four Shanars able to read;”now the Christians themselves own and edit a newspaper in Tamil and English, and publish vernacular books.

Some twenty years ago, when Mr. P. D. Dewasagaim built his neat two-story house, it was a wonder in these parts; but now there are many such, some even larger, with good rooms, upper story, and reception hall. Christian women, once forbidden by caste law to cover the person, now dress handsomely and well, and manufacture valuable pillow-lace. There are two English missionaries, one in charge of the English Seminary, a busy Press, several schools, including some for female education, which receives devoted attention and is the foundation of all the good visible, and one of the largest churches in South India, “the Exeter Hall of Travancore,”in which many a noble speech and sermon have been delivered.

The native congregation worshipping here is entirely self-supporting, chooses and provides for its own pastor, has not for twenty years received any pecuniary aid from the Society, and now aids a native preacher at the capital. This church was lately presided over by a remarkable and devoted Brahman pastor, and now by an eloquent Tamil preacher and writer-Rev. J. Joshua. It has long been a custom in native partnerships to insert in the deed as one of the conditions the devotal of one-tenth of the profits to religious and charitable purposes. In this and similar ways funds are freely provided for self-support and the extension of Christian truth.

Here we are in the centre of the Nanjinad-a tract of flat country, comprising about 218 square miles, shut in by hills on nearly all sides excepting the seacoast on the south, occupying the southernmost corner of Travancore, and presenting distinctive characteristics of its own. Very little rain falls at Cape Comorin, but a small river from the hills, and several large irrigation tanks and channels supply water for numerous rice-fields. The most densely peopled and richest part of the State, and purely Tamil in language and population, it is dotted over with villages quite of the style of those on the Eastern Coast, often badly thatched or repaired, as the drier climate allows of greater carelessness in this respect. Strong winds and tracts of dry barren sand eastwards form obstacles to profitable cultivation, yet the people seem larger and better fed than those further north.

The flora naturally differs from that of the more humid Western Coast. The Ixora, Mussenda, and other shrubs are absent, except on the banks of canals, abundance of Barleria and other plants filling their place. The Colocynth spreads over the sandy wastes, and the Aloe and Sanseviera abound on the shore. Amongst trees, the acacia, margosa, laurel-nut, terminalia and umbrella tree abound.

Extraordinary legends are told of some ancient ruler of Nanjinad of the Kuravan caste, they say, called Pandi Kuravan-how he got this territory as a present for piercing the ears of the Pandian Rajah’s daughter; or according to the more common story, how this caste obtained power by the discovery of an oil-well which possessed virtue to transmute iron into gold; how they only asked as tax the shares of the old ploughs, which they at once converted into gold; how a king of this tribe desired a daughter of one of the neighbouring Vellala Muthaliars as his wife, but was got rid of by being crushed under a stone pandal for the marriage ceremony, so contrived as to be capable of being thrown down in an instant, and so forth. It does appear that the Kuravars held power at times, and there may be some basis of fact on which these traditions are founded. W. Taylor considers that they were superseded by the Vellalars, and these by the English or Travancore authorities.

From Kottar the road to the Cape passes along a high embankment of earth, which protects the rice-fields from the small backwater at Managoody, and through Suchindram, an ancient and sacred town. Near Suchindram are several magnificent trees of terminalia, some six or seven feet in diameter. The town is surrounded by rice-fields and groves of cocoanut trees and palmyras. The “Paraya Aur,”or “old river,” is crossed by a curious ancient stone bridge, formed of large granite slabs, which appears to have stood long, and to be very solid work. When was it built ? There are about twenty piers of long heavy stones laid on one another in the direction of the current: these are crossed by similar stones in a line with the road. A somewhat similar stone bridge, but with the centre piers higher than those at the side, crosses the river at one place between Kayenkulam and Mavelikara, and is in good condition. Several others are found in various parts of the country. The Post Bridge at Dartmoor is very similar in style.

The temple of Suchindram is of prime importance, the Maharajah being expected to fast on the day of the idol car-drawing in December till the operation is completed. A good tank, and the usual Brahman feeding-house and subsidiary buildings are attached to the temple, and it is adorned with sculptures of the ten avatars. The town has recently been rebuilt by the Sirkar at the cost of nearly a lac of rupees. The god is almost hidden under the mass of golden ornaments presented by his votaries, but these offer too great a temptation to the cupidity of the priests and attendants. A large amount of the jewels disappeared recently, when a Hindu quaintly remarked : “The Christian preachers have taken away from the hearts of the people the fear of their native gods. People now rob the gods of their gold and silver jewellery, and the gods are afraid of being stolen themselves !

“ Nearer the Cape lies another remarkable village, Agasteeswaram, one of the head-quarters of demon worship in these parts, and where the Shanar caste had once a nominal chieftain or headman. The soil is sandy and barren, the hedges are of Euphorbia; the principal produce the Acacia latronum or umbrella tree, curiously like an umbrella in its growth, with terrible thorns two inches in length; goats, it is said, eat the young shoots. The water here is very bad.

Before reaching the Cape we pass through the Travancore “lines“ or fortified wall similar to that on the northern frontier. All is now in ruins — a mere bank of earth thinly grown over with acacia, margosa, banyan, and other trees — with, here and there, portions of walls and ruins of gates and bastions. These southern lines were described when in their best condition, in the following terms by Colonel Welsh, who took them in 1809: —

“The lines by which the entrance into Travancore through the pass was defended, were about two miles in length, stretching across the gap from one range of mountains to another. They included a rugged hill to the southward, strongly fortified, and a strong rock about halfway, called the northern redoubt. The works consisted of small well-built bastions for two or three guns, joined at intervals by strong curtains, the whole cannon-proof, and protected by a thick hedge of thorn-bushes, the approach to which was difficult from the wildness of the country.”


The last isolated mountain in Travancore is called by the people “Medicine Hill,” being supposed to be the very hill which the monkey god Hanuman brought, as related in the Ramayana, from a distance of fifteen hundred miles further north, and threw down here. He had been sent to it for medicinal herbs to restore the dead and wounded of Rama’s army, and not being able, in his haste, to recognize and gather the particular plants, he pulled up the mountain itself, and brought it on his shoulders. It seems, however, that in hurriedly depositing his burden he turned it upside down !

Cape Comorin being low and not discernible a great way off, this isolated hill is better visible to navigators, and is therefore sometimes called Comorin by them. The southern termination of the range of the Western Ghauts, a bold conspicuous summit and magnificent mass of solid rock, with a clear fall of many hundred feet towards the Tinnevelly side, has also been erroneously taken for the Cape, though several miles distant from it.

The road to the Cape is broad, and pleasantly shaded for some miles with banyan trees, which in many parts stretch quite across the road. Cape Comorin is supposed, along with several other noted places in India, to be very sacred, and is visited by pilgrims from all parts, though those residing near it do not share in the enchantment. In the immediate neighbourhood the whole country is a mass of palmyras, as the coast is of cocoanut palms. The land is not high, and slopes gently down into the sea. At the north end of the village stands a large Roman Catholic Church, and a village of fisher people, just such as Xavier laboured amongst so successfully three centuries ago. Several low enclosures with pyramidal stones, or demon altars, may be noticed in the vicinity.

A street of Brahman houses leads down to the travellers’ rest-house, where Gosamis and other religious mendicants and pilgrims from Northern India abide, and may be heard chanting their orisons, and to the Pagoda and the bathingplaces on the shore. The total population is about 2,300. Various buildings are scattered about, and minor shrines of Pilleiyar and other deities. The great temple is dedicated to Bhagavathi, or Durga, the patron goddess of the place, which is named after her Kumari, “the virgin;” and who appears to have been worshipped here as early as the time of Pliny, for he mentions the place by this name. The monthly bathing in honour of the goddess is still continued, but is not practised to the same extent as in former times. The annual expenditure of the temple is about Rs. 11,000. From without, little of it is visible except the high walls adorned with perpendicular streaks of red, and the flat terraced roofs; of course, it cannot be entered by strangers or low caste people for close inspection.

In front are four remarkable stone monoliths rising into the air to the height of twenty feet, as if intended to support a portico, but left unfinished, as in Madura and Tanjore, which, it is said, is always done to neutralise the “evil eye.” The festival is held for five days in the year, when the place is “wholly given to idolatry.”

The passage between the Brahman Street and the Temple and Choultry has once been paved with large stones, and the pillars at the sides well carved, but these have now mostly fallen in the dust. The great stone Choultry is more accessible, and a really artistic production. It consists of a corniced roof, say eighteen feet in height, resting upon twelve carved pillars.

The sides are closed in with walls, and the front partly closed with cross bars or beams of stone, leaving but a small opening for entrance. Within are two rows of dark granite pillars on each side, with good sculptures, some of them large and spirited representations of Vishnu, Brahma, Hanuman, Krishna, and other Hindu gods; figures holding a lamp in outstretched hands — a good design for an ornamental lamp — and the pillars covered on all sides with scrolls and figures. Two striking grotesque sculptures represent the fabulous Yali, with face and body of a lion, and trunk of an elephant; underneath a smaller elephant raises his trunk, which intertwines with the proboscis of the upper one; and this elephant itself rests upon a human figure. In the mouths of the yalis are stone balls which will turn round, but not come out, the whole being cleverly carved out of the solid block.

On the shore are several small bathing-places for the use of the Maharajah and Brahmans bathing in the sacred waters in honour of the goddess — small, square buildings like the ordinary roadside rest-houses, supported on stone pillars. Here may be gathered specimens of remarkable sands, one bright reddish in colour formed of rolled fragments of garnet and ruby, such as are found in larger pieces in Ceylon — another black sand formed from titaniferous iron-ore, not magnetic — and the celebrated “rice sand“ with strangely worn grains of chalcedonic quartz, partly tinted with a little oxide of iron and bearing a close resemblance to rice, respecting which the priests relate some foolish legends.

One version has already been recorded. (Land of Charity, p. 178.) Another is to the effect that when the god Siva was going on a certain night privately to marry the goddess, the morning unexpectedly broke, its dawn being heralded by the crowing of a cock, which compelled him to retrace his steps; and all the rice which had been prepared for the wedding was petrified and thrown on the shore. A couple of low, black rocky islets a little way out in the sea, in the centre of one of which a fresh water well is said to exist, with one or two smaller rocks, on which the sea breaks, form the last points of solid land in India.

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The report on the Census of Travancore, taken on May 18,1875, supplies valuable details respecting the population of the State, and their social and religious condition. The enumeration itself caused considerable commotion amongst the people, especially the lower castes. For some months previously the rural population were in a state of complete ferment, dreading that advantage would be taken of the occasion to impose some new tax or to exercise some bitter oppression, as was often done on various occasions in the old times of cruelty and injustice.

This opportunity was seized by some Muhammadans and others, to despoil the poor slave-castes of their fowls and other domestic animals, by telling them that the Sirkar was about to seize everything of the kind, and to exact a similar amount annually, so that they had better sell them off at once at any price than lose them altogether. The Sudras also sought to frighten them by the report that the Christians were to be carried off in ships to foreign parts, in which the missionaries and their native helpers would assist. When numbers were stamped upon all the houses, people thought that soon they themselves would be branded and seized by the Sirkar. Absurd reports were raised.

Some said the Maharajah had promised to supply inhabitants for a country which had been desolated by famine. Others said that a certain number were to be shipped off on the 18th May. Till that date the people were whispering “Today or to-morrow we shall be caught.” For example, an old woman having shut up her grandson in her house for safety, went to call her son, weeping all the way and beating her breast.

One who met her comforted her and went back with her to the house, where the child was found half-dead with fright. Many of the people left their gardens uncultivated during the panic, ate up the seed corn, sold their cattle and sheep. One man had ten fowls, and, taking them to a river, he cut off their heads, and threw them away. So dreadful is the ignorance of the people through want of education. It was even reported that the missionaries had prepared a building on the sea-coast, where a great meeting was to be held, immediately after which the people would be caught and shipped off. Many of the uneducated Sudras also in distant localities were much afraid.

The Native Government did all that was possible at the moment by issuing reassuring proclamations to satisfy the minds of the people, but this was so far rendered nugatory by the wiles of the former slave-owners, who still hold most Government appointments, and by the amazing ignorance of the Pariahs and Pulayars, who can neither read proclamations themselves, nor ordinarily approach the places of public resort where Government notices are proclaimed. Handbills were also prepared and published by the mission in Tamil and Malayalam; and the catechists went round with the enumerators to assist them. After the final day, the excitement speedily quieted down, and the people learned a lesson as to the folly of regarding false reports of sinister designs on the part of the Government or the Christian missionaries. The foolish alarm illustrates the evils arising from caste divisions, popular ignorance, and the absence of the simplest elements of education amongst the lowest classes.

The total population was then found to be 2,311,379; of whom 1,702,805 are Hindus, 139,905 Muhammadans, 261 Europeans, 1,383 Eurasians, 151 Jews, and 466,874 Native Christians of various denominations — more than a fifth of the entire population — constituting Travancore the most Christian country in India.

Another enumeration was made, to fit in with the general census of British India, on 17th February, 1881, according to which the population consisted of 1,197,134 males and 1,204,024 females — total 2,401,158; but as no special report of this Census has yet been published, the previous census of 1875 must be quoted in the ensuing chapters, for statistics of particular castes, education, and other matters.

The average density of population for the whole country (comprising 6,731 square miles) is 343 to a square mile; but the different districts vary in this respect, from 1,280 near the coast, to as low as 37 to the square mile in the interior. There are no women to every 100 men; amongst children 85 girls to 100 boys.

Of the entire population 5.74 per cent, can read and write, but the proportion greatly varies in different classes and districts. Amongst Muhammadans it is 4.72, Hindus 5.57, and Native Christians 6.56 per cent, respectively. In the capital — the centre of government, learning and civilisation — the percentage of educated persons is 15, while in the wild and neglected districts of Muvattupura, Todupura and Shencotta, and in Pattanapuram, Chenganur, and Sherttala, where large numbers of the low castes reside, the proportion of the entire population educated even slightly, is between three and four per cent; in Cunnattur, where the population numbers 60,000, it falls so low as 2.79 per cent, revealing a fearful state of backwardness in this respect.


Roman Catholic Christians were put down as 109,820, and Syrian Christians 295,770; but probably some Syro-Romanists were reckoned as Syrians because of their birth, when they should have been classed as Roman Catholics in religion.

Native Christian educated females were given as 1,593 in number. But the London Mission alone could at that time have supplied lists of the names of 1,559, and the Church Mission of 627 adult females able to read and write, not to speak of Roman Catholics and Syrian Christian women. The proportion of educated women (aged 15 and upwards) amongst the Protestant Christians was, therefore, 1,243 in every ten thousand, not 78 as in the Census Report ! The percentage of educated females over fifteen years of age in the London Mission is now 16.86, and in the Church Mission it is probably not much different. And this is but what might have been expected from the interest which missionaries have always taken in education.

The Native Christians (of all sects), it was said, “have 12.42 per cent, of their male population educated;“ but the true ratio of educated males in the two Protestant Missions was then about 29 or 30 per cent.; in the London Mission it is now 38 per cent., besides boys under fifteen.

Of the population of Travancore, 1,902,533 speak Malayalam, and 387,909 Tamil. The total number of Hindu castes is 420, many of which are peculiar to this Coast. The number of castes which comprise more than a thousand souls in each is 49, according to the following list; these, therefore, are numerically the principal castes. One more is added which is close upon this figure : —

In the spelling of these names of castes note that the ordinary masculine singular affix is a«— feminine, atti, ichi etc. The plural is generally marked by r for n, as Ilavan — Ilavar sometimes mar or kal. It seems impracticable to reduce all to uniformity in an English work, as an exact transliteration from the Indian tongues would disguise several terms already familiar with a certain established orthography, as Shanars, Pariahs, Sudras, and others. Writers in English commonly add our plural s to the Dravidian plural in r, as Ilavar but Ilavans is also used — especially for those that form the plural in mar.


Travancore thus contains a collection of living specimens of various types of humanity — a piecemeal and patchwork distribution of mankind of the most singularly complicated pattern — so that this small population of two millions and a half affords an inexhaustible field for ethnological research, and no complete account of even the whole of the principal castes is here possible. A few typical specimens only can be given in this volume, in which we seek especially to illustrate the condition of the lower castes, and of those that are peculiar to the Malayalam country.

To attempt to arrange the castes in the order of social precedence and respectability would, in the face of caste quarrels and jealousies, be as difficult as to draw up an exact lineal natural classification of all the species of plants; and its accuracy would be disputed by all but those at the head of the list.

Mr. G. Kerala Varmman Tirumulpad, however, in his vernacular work on ‘Malabar Laws of Inheritance,’ gives a curious and interesting classification of the castes, which furnishes us with such a list, showing the comparative estimate in which the respective castes are held by learned natives of high caste and of the old school. His arrangement is highly conventional, embodying some absurd prejudices and traditions, and making the number of castes to accord with theory rather than historical facts and existing circumstances.

This author discusses 72 castes, which he arranges as follows. Brahmanical castes, 8; Defective castes, 2; Intermediate castes, 12; Sudra castes, 18; Artisan castes, 6; Degraded (pathitha) castes, 10; Mean (nicha) castes, 8; in all, 64; besides other Ancient castes in Malabar, 8; total, 72.

The names of the eight Brahman castes, he says, are these —

1. Tamburan, Brahman rulers and high priests, as the Alvancheri high priest.

2. A’dhyans of the Eight Houses, leaders of the aristocracy of Malabar. These are called Namburipads or head Namburis, and are sacrificers and expounders of the Vedas.

3. Visishta, “distinguished,” noted for rank, learning, or sanctity. These have other titles according to function and dignity, as Adutiri, Chomatiri, Akkitira, and Bhattatiri — offerers of burnt sacrifice, ascetics, and so forth.

4. Samanya, “ordinary “ Brahmans, who conduct ceremonies, serve in temples, profess magical arts, exorcism, &c.

5. Jathi Matran, “barely in the caste,” also called Namburi, Mussu, Nambi, &c. A lower division comprising physicians, warriors, government servants, theatrical performers. Though considered inferior to the rest of the community, they are still admitted to bathe at the same place and to meals in company with others.

6. Sangethigan or Embran, traditionally said to have left Malabar for a while, and returned retaining some foreign usages. This division includes the Tiruvalla Desis, the Canarese and Tulu Brahmans. They are Santhis, or officiating priests in temples, repeat the Vedas, &c.

7. Sapagrastan, “accursed,” because they doubted Parasu Rama. Commonly called Namburis, but not allowed to study the Vedas, officiate as temple priests, nor associate with other Brahmans in meals or ceremonial observances.

8. Papishtan, “delighters in sin,” various faults being traditionally alleged against them, as insulting idols, murder, and performing sacred rites for Sudras (which seems to be thought as bad as murder) ! They are in low estimation as to Brahmanhood; and not allowed to perform divine service.


The first to the third of these divisions are usually spoken of under the general name of Namburis. Some of the fourth and fifth are called Pottis: some of the last, and the fifth classes, Pandarattillam. All these eight kinds are not found in Travancore. Pattars are foreign Brahmans, generally from Coimbatore.

Kshatriyas of the Lunar race alone exist in this age. There are three royal families — Tiruppappur, Travancore; Perumpadappu, Cochin; and Kola, Colattiri. Kshatriyas are Rajahs, Koil Pandarams and Tirumulpads, not high enough to associate with the Brahmans, nor so low as to be put on a level with Sudras.

The two Defective Castes are Ilayathu, “junior,” or Nambiyatiri, chiefly priests to Sudras; and Mutthathu, “senior,”or Agriman, who carry idols in procession, clean the courts of temples, &c. Among these property descends from father to son. The Ilayathus are said to have once been Namburis and degraded in caste for the crime of having informed a Sudra what rites should be performed in favour of his deceased ancestors.

The twelve Antarala, “intermediate” castes between Brahmans and Sudras, generally called Ambalavasi, “temple dwellers,” officiate as Levites or temple servants. They mostly follow the nepotistic law.

They are —

1. Adi, “slaves,”appointed to offer Siva worship in the groves of Bhadrakali, and exorcise devils, who have therefore lost Brahmanhood and become Ambalavasis. Very few in number.

2. Pushpagan “florist,”or Unni, brings flowers and garlands for temple worship. The next two classes are sometimes included with these, viz.:

3. Nambisan, teachers, &c.

4. Pupalli.

5. Pisharodi, tie garlands in temples of Vishnu. They do not wear the sacred thread or the kudumi, and their bodies are, after death, buried with salt.

6. Variyan, perform the same service as Pushpagan.

7. Chaikkiyar recite poems and dramas before gods and Brahmans, sometimes also representing the personages themselves.

8. Nambiyar, play the drum and assist the preceding.

9. Tiyattunni, “fire-dancer; “degraded from Brahmans because they jump through fire in honour of Bhadrakali.

10. Pidaran or Mussen, resembling Adis above mentioned, make offerings of flesh, spirits, &c., to Bhadrakdli.

11. Kuru or Guru, provide milk and ghee for temples, and sweep and cleanse them. Most numerous in the South.

12. Nattu Pattan or Unni, tie garlands and sweep temples. All Ambalavasis abstain from animal food of every kind.

The eighteen Sudra castes are—
1. Kiriyattil Nayar, called also Kuruppu, Keimmal, and Menon — the offspring of temple women by Brahmans. Though now generally poor they are said to be descendants of statesmen, accountants, generals, &c. They occupy the foremost place and need not serve the Brahmans.

2. Illakar, servants in Brahman houses; and,

3. Swarupakar, in Kshatriya houses; and,

4. Padamangalam, in temples.

5. Tamil Padakar.

6. Idacheri Nayar, shepherds and dairymen.

7. Maran, drummers and musicians in temples, attendants at ceremonies of Brahmans and Kshatriyas. They abstain from flesh-meat, and are,
therefore, considered superior to other Sudras, yet are not allowed to eat with the higher classes of Sudras.

8. Chembukotti, copper utensil makers; and,

9. Odatta Nayar, tile makers for temples.

10. Madavan or Puliyatta Nayar, servants of Brahmans and others down to Ambalavasi.

11. Kalamkotti, potters, and

12. Chakkala, oil-mongers for temples.

13. Pallichan, palankeen bearers for Rajahs and Brahmans.

14. Asthikurichi, subordinate to Maran, perform funeral rites for Sudras.

The next four, our author says, are Sudras, but inferior to the preceding, and cause pollution to those Sudras who approach them, viz. : —
15. Chetti, merchants, selling curry stuffs and other goods.

16. Chaliyan, weaver.

17. Veluttedan, washerman; happily the cloths washed and handled by them are not prohibited as unclean, and may be received into pagodas and worn by all !

18. Kshourakar, barbers for all down to Sudras.


Outside the sixty-four regular castes are the following “extra” castes:—
1. Ammoman, villagers of Payanur.

2. Nambadi or Nambidi wearing the thread; and

3. Nambidi, without the sacred cord, a little below Ambalavasis and above Sudras — assist in sacrifices. These are not found in Travancore.

4. Pothuval, storekeepers in temples. Sometimes numbered with the Mutthathus.

5. Pilapalli, reduced from Brahmanhood by their ancestors accidentally receiving a fish as a present ! Only a few families residing at Ambalapula and without the privileges of the Ambalavasis.

6. Samantran, as the Zamorin and other rulers; those without rule are called Unittiri, Unyatiri, Eradi, Vellodi, Nedungadi, &c. Sometimes numbered with the Ambalavasis.

7. Karuvelam Nayar, resembling Illakar — treasury and palace guards. Said to have been brought from Kolatnad.

8. Naujinad Vellalan, agricultural settlers in Travancore.

The Kammalar, or “artisan”castes are —
1. Asari, carpenter,

2. Kallan or Kallasari, stonecutter.

3. Kannan or Musari, brazier.

4. Tattan, goldsmith and jeweller.

5. Kollan, blacksmith.

6. Tachan, sawyer.

Of these, only goldsmiths and braziers can approach the Sudras without polluting them.

The Pathita or “degraded”castes, fabled to have arisen from the unlawful intercourse of persons of differing and higher castes are ten, viz. —
1. Kaniyan, astrologer.

2. Vil Kuruppu, bowmaker and painter.

3. Velan or Mannan, sorcerer, removes rubbish from Brahman houses.

4. Kuruppu.

5. Tol Kuruppu, make shields and other articles of leather.

6. Panan, tailor.

7. Paravan, limeburner.

8. Ilavan, cocoa-nut tree cultivator and distiller; and

9. Shannan, the same for the palmyra tree.

10. Valan, boatmen; some are called Arayan and Kanakkan.

The Nicha, or “polluted” castes are — Of the plains, four :

1. Parayan, or Pariah, labourers and basket-makers.

2. Pulayan, slave labourers.

3. Nayadi, beggars.

4. Ulladan, woodcutters.

And of the hills four:
1. Vedan.

2. Kaniyan, hunters.

3. Kuruban, or Kuravan or Kurumban.

4. Mala Arayan, hill cultivators.

The Kurubans sometimes work for the Arayans. What a marvellous schedule this Hindu writer furnishes of gradations of hierarchy, nobility, gentry, artisans, cultivators, labourers, slaves, and outcasts!

Last edited by VED on Sat Nov 25, 2023 8:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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[anchorb]3[/anchor]. THE PULAYARS


The Pulayar, or Pooliar, caste of Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar appear to be identical with those who are called Holiers in Coorg and Canara. The term is derived from pula “ceremonial pollution,” taint or defilement, especially by a case of birth, or by touching a dead body.

In Cochin these form the largest part of the Cherumar, or former slave population, which, according to the census of 1875, numbers over 52,000 in a total population of 601,000.

In Travancore this caste numbers 188,916, which is one-twelfth of the entire population. They are next in number to the Ilavars. “They are distributed over the whole land, north of Nanjinad. Their number is greatest in the Tiruvella district, where they muster 15,399; in Moovattupuley they number 15,124; in Cunnattur 14,592; the lowest number is four in Shencotta. They are a Malayalam speaking race, and are, therefore, sparse in the Tamil Talooks of Nanjinad and Shencotta.”

Besides the above, there are some ten or twelve thousands of the same race under the instruction of the Church and London Missionary Societies, who are classed in the census under the head of “Protestant Christians.”

The Pulayars are peculiar to the Western Coast, and unknown in the British provinces on the East. They belong to the very lowest grades in caste, having been formerly slaves and still deeply degraded, as education and civilisation have not yet largely affected them, and their former masters do not wish them to rise to independence or full liberty. Their customs and usages are full of the deepest interest to the ethnologist, while their social condition calls for the profoundest sympathy of the philanthropist.

Origin. — Bishop Caldwell rightly regards the Pulayars as representatives of the same class as the Pariahs and Pallars of Tinnevelly. He remarks, “Perhaps the best representatives at present of the earliest race of inhabitants are those long-oppressed tribes, now considered the lowest in the social scale. It is a noticeable circumstance that there is no tradition whatever of the arrival in the country at any time of the Pallas and Paraiyas.”

And again, “I consider the black, low caste races of Southern India not Turanians or immigrants of any sort, but aborigines like the negroid aborigines of the Eastern Islands and Australia.”

About Trevandrum, their own tradition, evidently impressed upon them by their masters, is expressed in words uttered by one of this class. “We are content to remain in our present circumstances for Bhagavan (God), after having created the higher castes, considered what to do with the surplus earth, when Parvathi advised him to create therewith a low class to serve the higher ones.”

Another account is given in one of the Mackenzie MSS, as held by the Pulayars residing near Kanjerapalli. When Parasu Raman had made slaughter in his wars, the widows lamented their being without husbands, and besought him to supply others, which he effected by calling in strangers, from which origin the Pulayars are derived.


The Pulayars of Malabar are in a far lower condition than the Pariahs of the Tamil country. The reason seems to be the same as produced the extreme conservatism and bigoted retention of Hindu caste and primitive customs of the inhabitants of the Western Coast — the physical conformation of the country shutting them off from intercourse with their neighbours.

While in the Carnatic serfs could run away from one king to another (as some Pariahs are known to have come seven generations ago to Nanjinad for greater freedom and safety); here in Malabar they were hemmed in by impassable mountains and forests and by the sea — deep rivers to cross, Nairs everywhere on the watch, and no possibility of escape. So they sank from generation to generation. And of this tribe the lowest and most debased are now found on the strip of land between Alleppy and Cochin, where they are entirely isolated between the sea and the backwater.

G. K. Vurma classes the Pulayars as one of eight Nicha or polluted castes. They were brought, he says, into Malabar by Parasu Raman for the service of Brahmans and others. The law of inheritance of Pariahs and Ulladars is by sons — that of Pulayars, Nayadis, and the four jungle tribes, part by sons, part by sisters’ sons.

In the neighbourhood of Trevandrum, Pulayars are accustomed to boast of having once had a chieftain or rajah of their own, who resided in a fort not far off. There certainly are some remains on the summit of a hill near Vely of a mud wall and ditch, some 60 or 70 feet square, enclosing a small level plot of ground now overgrown with scrub and having a deep well inside. This is commonly called Pulayanar Kotta, and a Sudra family in the neighbourhood are called by their fellows “the Pulayan’s Accountants,” and freely admit that their ancestors did hold that office.

Perhaps this was the nick-name of some ancient chieftain, as has been suggested in explanation of such names as Chakkilian (shoemaker’s) Fort in North Arcot, and others in the Tamil country. Or, as Head Pulayars were appointed by the Travancore Government to be responsible for the others in all matters of business, there may have been one chief head of all near the capital, to whom, as a politic means of ruling the others, some special privileges, and a small mud walled fort might have been allowed, as it was to the head of the Shanars at Agatiswaram, But it seems impossible to believe that any of this unfortunate race could have been within the last few centuries in possession of independent authority.

Sub-divisions. — The caste is divided into several sections and local clans, varying in different parts of the country.

For instance, a few miles south and east of Trevandrum, a class numbering a few hundreds, are called Ina (real or first-class) Pulayars. They consider themselves superior to the others, whom they call Vada or Northern Pulayars; but the latter assert that the Ina people are the inferiors, and that their name should properly be Hina — base. The Ina Pulayars will not eat or intermarry with the others. Such is pride amongst some of the lowest of the human family !

Near Alleppy a remarkable section of the caste is found, of whom an interesting description is given by Rev. W. J. Richards in the “Indian Antiquary.” He says : —

“The men of the Tandu Pulayans (who wear the tandu grass) wear the ordinary lower cloth of the kind worn in this country, but the distinctive name of the tribe comes from the women’s dress, which is a very primitive article indeed. The leaves of a certain water plant {Isolepis articulate, Nees) are cut into lengths of a foot long, and tied round the waist in such a fashion that the strings unwoven hang in a bushy tail behind, and present the same appearance in front, reaching nearly to the knees. This dress is accounted for by a tradition that in former days a certain high caste man of that region had been sowing grains and planting vegetables in his fields, but found that his daily work was in some unknown way frustrated; for whatever he planted or sowed in the day was carefully picked up and taken ‘when men slept.’

So he set a watch, and one night he saw coming out of a hole hitherto unknown to him certain beings like men, but quite naked, who set to work destroying his hopes of a crop. Pursuing them, he succeeded in catching a man and a woman; and he was so impressed with shame at their condition that he gave the man his own uppercloth, which was hanging on his shoulder, and made him put it on, but not having one to spare for the woman, she made herself an apron of grass as above described.

These were the progenitors of the numerous slaves who are found there at this day. They are also called Kuri or ‘Pit’ Pulayans, from having originated as above said.


“Their language is Malayalam. They worship the sun and heavenly bodies, and I have seen among them a little temple, about the size of a large rabbithutch, in which was a plank for the spirits of their deceased ancestors to come and rest upon. The spirits are also supposed to fish in the backwater, and the phosphorescent appearance seen sometimes on the surface of the water, is taken as an indication of their presence.

“The food of these Pulayans is fish, often cooked with arrack and with the liliaceous roots of certain water plants. When visited about eleven to one o’clock in the day, they are found intoxicated, especially the men.

“They live south of Cochin, between the backwater and the sea. Another division of them is found more south than Alleppy, who are called Kanna Pulayans. These wear rather better and more artistically-made ‘aprons.’ When a girl of the Tandu Pulayans puts on this garment — a sigh of maturity — for the first time, there is a ceremony called the Tandu marriage. The state of these poor people is still virtually that of slavery, though some of them possess property.”

These people remind us of the Juangs or Patnas (leaf-wearers) of Orissa, whose women also wear no clothes — only a few strings of beads round the waist with a bunch of leaves tied before and behind. But the British Government took the trouble to provide a cotton cloth for each of the women to put on; then they gathered the bunches of leaves into a heap and set fire to it. Oddly enough, the Tandu Pulayan women are much opposed to the change of “grass“ for cloth : they appear to think they might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion!

Further information respecting these Pulayars, also called Kanna or Cunna Pulayars (kannan, barbarian), is given by the Rev. W. Johnson to the following effect : —

The Cunnar Pulayars live only four miles north of Alleppy, yet they are about the most uncivilized people that one could meet with in any part of India. The very appearance of a European in their midst causes a fearful alarm. The men are dressed as the lowest class of natives usually are; but the women dress in long grass split to the texture of horsehair, which hangs gracefully over their bodies, and these, with a few red glass beads, form their whole attire. Their houses are of the simplest nature; and at night they rest on the bosom of mother earth, and have but few comforts. They speak in a dialect peculiar to themselves, and which cannot be well understood even by natives of Alleppy. Yet they are proud and consider their grass dress the acme of perfection for the fashionable world.

They are perfectly ignorant as to how they came to their present settlement, so also as to another world after death. They number about 150 souls in the neighbourhood above referred to, and about the same number twelve miles off.

They have a headman or ruler who is also looked upon as high-priest. It is remarkable that they have no graven or molten image, whatever. Unhewn blocks of white granite form the object of their worship. These unsightly blocks are placed under little sheds close to where their relations are buried, near to their own huts. The barber of the tribe acts as sexton and gave-digger.

They acknowledge an author of good, whom they reverence, and an author of evil, whose fury they constantly strive to appease by votive offerings of poultry, afterwards eating the bodies of the birds which they have offered in sacrifice. They have a traditional reverence for the seventh day, which corresponds with our Sunday. On this day they stay in their own settlements as much as possible, and will not set out on journeys.

On the twenty-eighth day after the birth of a child, it is brought to the house and named. Up to this day both mother and child are kept in a small shed, in which one would hardly like to trust a good-bred dog during the rainy season. One good feature about this race is, that they give their women ample opportunities of gaining their livelihood, for they make their whole grass attire, which takes them ten whole days with close application; and then they have their time taken up in making mats, which they sell, or barter for rice and tobacco, and thus aid their husbands, to whom they are not indebted for a single cash towards their wardrobe or their food.

When a youth of the tribe wishes to enter wedlock, he delegates his powers to a friend of about the same age, or younger than himself. The delegate has then to make all necessary arrangements, and to pay from his own hands the sum of fifty-one chuckrams, or about one rupee and three-quarters, to the father of the bride, which, being paid, the bride is by her friends conducted to the bridegroom’s house; the bridegroom promising his successful delegate that should he ever be in want of a person to act for him in the same way, he will do so, and also pay the required sum.

They are a happy and cheerful-looking set of persons on the whole, naturally very intelligent, and both boys and girls, when brought to the mission school, most anxious to learn to read and write. They are very proud of their origin, which they consider as perfectly unique among Hindus, regard themselves as far superior to all others who bear the designation of Pulayars; and practice ablutions whenever they come in contact with any persons whom they consider lower than themselves. The members of their caste intermarry very much among themselves. Their masters are Sudras.

The two great divisions of this caste, however, are the Eastern and Western Pulayars. The former are found principally about Changanacheri and at Mallapalli, and other hilly parts. Their customs seem to point them out as virtually Pariahs, as the Pallar colonies in Travancore are often called Pulayars; and in Cochin the highest class of Pulayars is said to be called Vallava, which is wellknown to be a title belonging to the Pariah caste. The term “eastern” also perhaps implies that they came more recently from the eastern side of South India, unless it means simply eastward towards the hills of Travancore. There seem to be some traces also of Tamil forms in their language, as vandu for vannu. Yet a marked difference exists between them and the recognized Pariahs of the country.

These Eastern Pulayars are still more degraded than the “Western” Pulayars and the Pariahs, who would consider themselves polluted by coming in contact with them. Most went about in former days, and some do still, without any other clothing than a string of large thick leaves round the loins; or if they got a cotton cloth, they wore it over this, or as a headcloth. They hang a large quantity of strings of beads or cowries round the neck. The kudumi is not worn.

The Eastern Pulayars eat beef and such refuse as the Pariahs eat. In fact many Pulayars from about Quilon northwards generally eat beef, and appear to be rather a kind of Pariahs. Eastern and Western Pulayars will not eat together, but the Easterns will eat what is cooked by the others.

The Eastern Pulayars celebrate marriage with the pandal or Hindu festive bower, and with tying of the minnu or tali marriage-badge, not the Malayalam mundu or “cloth” given to a concubine. They always give so many rasis (=ten chuckrams each) for the girl. Their devil-dancers, or priests, have idols, bells, swords, belts, crowns made of peacock’s feathers, &c. These are considered better servants than other Pulayars, and consequently are valued at a higher rate.

Their own tradition is that they were the slaves of Suyodhana and his brothers, while the Western Pulayars belonged to the Pandus — the two rival parties in the great war of the Mahabharata — and the defeat of Suyodhana is alleged to be the cause of the greater degradation of the former.


The Western Pulayars prevail near Cottyam. They do not eat beef, nor wear so many beads as the Eastern. They “give Cloth” for concubinage, and were formerly nepotists as to the law of inheritance, but are now adopting “makkatayam “usages.

The whole caste is divided into Illams, “houses,” or lineage, as we say, “the house of Devonshire,” &c. These illams are very numerous. Their denominations are such as Brahmakotta — Velli (silver) — Pallikkutachan (carpenter of the temple), and so forth. Men and women belonging to the same illam cannot intermarry; they are considered to be the descendants of one family, therefore brethren, and such marriages are regarded as incestuous. “Others would laugh at them.” So it is with the Ilavars also.

General Description. — The Pulayars are inferior to Pariahs in appearance, strength and courage, perhaps from not eating flesh meat; or from having been more oppressed. The men are small, and short in stature, their complexion dark from exposure in field-work. “The forehead is low, the cheek-bones high, the mouth large, the nose rather broad, the lips thick, and the hair in some cases, slightly woolly. There is much difference between them, however, in these respects.”

A few may be seen fairer and with well-formed features from some slight intermixture of Muhammadan, possibly even Sudra parentage, or high-caste females in former times condemned to slavery. Aged persons appear to be comparatively few amongst this people, as their hardships are great The women are smaller still, mostly quite diminutive and very plain-looking, but a few of them are passable looking when young.

Bunches and strings of beads being worn around the women’s neck and hanging on the breast, there is a demand for beads as amongst the negroes of Africa. Gold and silver ornaments are not allowed them, only brass or lead : thin flat plates of brass about an inch in diameter, with a small dot pattern, are strung round the neck. They purchase bangles, beads, shells, rings, &c., of trifling value, which are crowded on their fingers, arms, necks, and ears, in such quantity as to be almost a burden. The front teeth are filed sharp like canine teeth.

Their dress and habits are extremely filthy, as no one is willing to wash for them, and they have no washermen of their own, like other castes. Difficulty has been experienced even in getting the ordinary washing of cloths done for Christian boys in the Mission Boarding School, “on account of the disgrace of the thing” said the washermen. And even some of the degraded Pulayars had their foolish pride touched, and thought it a still deeper degradation to learn this useful employment : some who were perforce trained to it went off to other labour, being unable to bear the jeers and contempt of their fellows.

As to the admirable habit of daily bathing, they are the very opposite of the Brahmans. Each washed his own cloth slightly at times, or wore it as it was till it fell off in filthy rags. This, again, was a mark of their belonging to the “great unwashed” castes, and served to point them out as polluted, besides preventing the approach of decent people on the ground of common cleanliness.

Their dwellings are miserable huts formed of sticks cut out of the woods, with walls, of reed or mud, and thatched with grass or cocoa-leaf, situated by the sides of the rice swamps, or on mounds in their centre, to be out of the way of polluting respectable people. They were discouraged from having comfortable huts, in order that they might be willing to move about as required for the work of cultivation. Denied admission to the markets, they must stand apart at some distance, and make purchases or sales as well as they could.

The work of the Pulayars lies almost exclusively in the rice fields — pumping them dry, making up the embankments, hedging, digging, manuring, ploughing, weeding, transplanting, and reaping. Yet the grain is not considered as polluted, but used by the Brahmans and nobles, offered in temples, and carried into the most exclusive kitchens. Men, women, and children work together at harvest and other times; but hard work does not continue throughout the year, only about six or eight months. Sometimes after a hard day’s work they have to cook their own food at night. Their master’s fields also must be guarded at night from the encroachments of cattle or the depredations of wild animals, when the slaves must remain in the fields and keep awake all night, shouting to frighten away the trespassing cattle, deer, wild boars, or elephants.

Their food is chiefly rice, as they are employed in its cultivation, to which they add vegetables and fruits grown in the small plots usually allotted them by their masters. The rice is boiled and eaten with coarse curry, or only pepper and salt.

It is also parched, or beaten flat, but they have no skill in baking or cookery. Even when milk and eggs are produced, they are sold rather than consumed in the household. The children consequently suffer much from diarrhoea, debility, and intestinal worms, arising from innutritious food.

A considerable proportion of children die from want of proper care and attention. Adults also suffer much from disease. They pride themselves on not eating beef, and despise the Pariahs, who have the advantage in greater strength and courage. Other kinds of flesh or fish are sought — small fish, snails and shell-fish in the tanks and channels which irrigate the rice fields, crabs, rats, and so forth. In the hot season the children are often faint with hunger, and are obliged to wander into the jungles in search of wild roots and fruits.

From lack of sufficient and palatable food, it is no wonder that they have a longing for strong drink, and indulge in it too freely. Some, on being cautioned on this point, urged that their owners gave them so little food that they were obliged to dispose of a part to purchase liquor, in order to satisfy the cravings of the stomach. But of course this injures the health, and is no real remedy for their miseries. They also chew tobacco, especially the women, who then suffer from dyspepsia, headache, and convulsions. Chewing this narcotic is a more dangerous habit than smoking, and is specially injurious to a badly-fed constitution.

They possess no weapons, and have no manufactures, save that of palm-leaf umbrellas and reed baskets. The slaves about Cottayam make large mats of the beesha reed, also mats and baskets of pandanus leaf. At Mallapalli they make very good native canvas from the fibre of some tree : bags of this cloth are used by high castes.

Few have ever travelled beyond a few miles from their homes, as they had no occasion or permission to do so. They have never been able to migrate, like the Shanars, to Ceylon or elsewhere. Their barbarous mispronunciation of Malayalam is not readily understood by others: the ludicrous errors which are made are a source of amusement to other castes. Of the total number of 188,916 Pulayars in Travancore, the census gives only 183 males and no females as able to read and write.


Yet these poor people are fairly intelligent,, and readily capable of instruction. They are sharp enough in comprehension, and heartily enjoy any good thing that is said. Some of them are entrusted with the management of cattle and agricultural details by their masters, and are set over their fellows. Others are priests, singers after a rude fashion, or natural leaders of their fellow-men.

Their improvidence, like that of most slaves and uncivilized peoples, has often been remarked, especially in their religious offerings of first fruits, powdered rice, &c., to the Five Virgins, which are merely feasts for themselves; and in eating up at once a stock of grain, which might be made to last, with economy, for months. There is a proverb that in harvest time the slave goes about, asking, “Can you sell me an elephant ?” but when hard times begin he drives even his dog out of the hut The people illustrate this by a story which they relate, or rather a parable, of a Pulayan, who went to buy an elephant. The owner told him to go and pound and eat some rice first. He did so, and stayed till all his rice was finished : then he had nothing in hand wherewith to make the purchase ! It is no great wonder, however, that such half-starved people take a good feed when they can get it.

Their enslaved condition also drove them to thievery. Serious crimes they have rarely committed, but are still addicted to petty robberies. Some kind masters were liberal, and permitted their slaves to take almost what they chose from their estates; but in general they were, no doubt, sorely tempted to theft by hunger and want.

Even the degraded Pulayars have some excellent qualities. From lengthened and intimate acquaintance, we have found them just like other men — under the power of many evils engrained in them through long-continued ignorance, superstition, and oppression, but simple hearted, grateful for kindness, deeply attached to those who show themselves their friends, and improving with marked rapidity under instruction.

It is sometimes difficult to make the young truthful and honest in small things; but this is a defect observable in many Hindus, and it may be expected to take two or three generations to improve and establish their moral stamina. Already some Pulayars, under the operation of Christian teaching and guidance, have become admirable characters — gentle, honourable, devout, and loving; and probably they will display a very beautiful type of character when fully Christianised. A remarkable testimony is borne to them in the Census Report, p. 206: — “They are an extremely useful and hardworking race, and are sometimes distinguished by a rare character for truth and honour, which their superiors in the caste scale might well emulate.”

Some of the masters appear to appreciate individuals of this tribe as valuable servants; and the mission teachers like them very much. One expressed the opinion that “the Pariahs have more worldly cunning and intelligence, but the Pulayars are more frequently truly pious.”

A native missionary wrote, “The Pulayar Christians are earnest in learning to read, and in giving contributions for benevolent objects. Their desire to learn and repeat their lessons is remarkable, and they complain if instruction is not duly supplied to them. Some children glean and sell scattered stalks of rice to purchase the Scriptures. The elders sell plantains and fowls in order to be able to contribute for religious purposes.”

And one European missionary remarked, “There is a good deal of heart amongst Pariahs and Pulayars, such as we do not often see in the Shanars.”

Birth and Childhood. — The woman is taken to a shed at some distance, put up for the particular occasion, where she is assisted by her mother-in-law or some female friend. Any delay or unusual suffering is attributed to the malice of demons. This shed is erected because the mother is regarded as polluted during confinement. Should she not be thus set apart “others will laugh at them, and will not touch them, nor join in marriage feasts with them.” It is often erected of wretched materials, exposing the unfortunate woman on all sides to the weather, so that this unfeeling custom is dropped by Christians. Men are not allowed to enter the shed.

The mother remains six or seven days in it, then it is burnt. When recovered, the mother rubs the body with oil and turmeric, afterwards washes in water and re-enters her house. The husband also goes to the sea or river for a bath to cleanse from pollution. The woman returns to her work in such time as may be necessary.

As soon as an infant is born, a little cocoanut water is given to supply the deficiency of the mother’s milk, which she usually gives on the third day. The child is also bathed with hot water, and for three months it is generally washed twice a day. After ten days, cocoanut oil and turmeric are used to rub the infant with twice a day, the limbs are also shaken, and the nose gently pulled out. This is continued for several months. A low head is admired.

The mother eats the usual food — rice and fish, or fowl if procurable, or pork; beef and mutton are never eaten by this caste. For about a couple of months she takes a ball morning and evening of the acid pulp of the fruit of Garcinia Roxburghii (pinaru) and black pepper ground.

The child is nursed for two years, sometimes much longer, which often greatly exhausts the strength of both mother and child. In the sixth month solid food is first given, for which occasion the relatives are invited. The father and grandfather and other relatives each take a small quantity of rice, and put it in the mouth of the infant. The name is at the same time given by the father, usually the name of the grandfather, or the father or other relative. The friends afterwards drink some toddy and leave.

The names in common use are not many; in any list many persons will be of the same name, and we have known two sisters both named Kali; the father had to call one “black”and the other “white”Kali. For males the most usual name is Eiyan (father or lord), then Chattan (=Shastavu or lyenar), Veluttan (white one), Chadayan (hairy), Kiliyan (parrot), Palei and Arangan. For women the commonest name is Kali, Chatta (fem. of Chattan), Eiyi (fem. of Eiyan), Velutta (fem. of Veluttan), Chakki, Natchatram (star), Kannamma, Oomala, and Mala (Garland).

The hair is first cut when the infant walks, whether male or female. The ears of girls are perforated with some ceremony. For the puberty of girls a small hut is built of jungle sticks, where the girl is sent, and no other person allowed to enter, not even the mother. Women must stand at a little distance from the shed, and food is brought and laid down a little way off. Here the girl remains for seven days, and is then brought back to the house, dressed in a new or clean cloth, and friends invited and treated with betel-nut, toddy, and arrack. When people have means, or in time of harvest when rice is always plentiful, rice flour is put on the forehead, arms, and cheeks of the girl.

Marriage is celebrated before or after maturity, according as a suitable husband may offer. Boys usually marry at the age of 14 to 18 or 20. A father likes to see his sons married during his own lifetime, so that he may arrange matters to his own satisfaction.


The father of the youth and his maternal uncle first make enquiries as to where suitable girls may be found. Coming to such a house without previous notice, the owner will ask, “What have you come for?”
“To ask your daughter for our son.”
“Come again after a few days, and we shall arrange a day for the matter.”

They then hand over two or three fanams to the bride’s mother or maternal uncle, and partake of some food or drink. After a few days the bridegroom goes there, taking a few fanams in hand to give to them; and they entertain him for a few days. Again the relatives accompany the youth on some auspicious day, and appoint a day for the marriage. An old man gives three fanams and beads worthy say, two fanams into the hands of the girl’s father, and proclaims, “from such a date this girl is betrothed to be the wife of this youth.” Then the girl’s father sends a pot of toddy and three measures of parched rice to the relations of the youth; and their acceptance of these present confirms the betrothal.

On the day of the wedding, after the bride is dressed (which is done at the cost of the bridegroom), 16 fanams, or 22, are paid to a middle-man, who divides the money amongst the maternal relatives of the bride. The mother also gets her share of this, perhaps one fanam. But if the mother or the younger sisters of the bride were to approach the bridegroom, this would cause ceremonial pollution. On the day of the wedding any woman may attend, except the mother and maternal aunts of the bride. Therefore, one fanam and some betel-leaf, &c., are laid on some spot by the bridegroom for the mother. He walks off to some distance, and she takes up the presents. Sometimes a cow, or other present, is given to the bride’s family — is it not a kind of purchase money, or payment for the rearing of the bride?

A wedding pandal or shed is put up at the bride’s house, and by invitation the relatives of both families and the neighbours assemble. The affair begins in the evening and continues till morning. They begin by drinking some toddy or arrack; then sit and talk awhile. For the feast 22 edungalies of rice are given by the father of the bridegroom and other relatives, along with baskets, mats, pots, and curry stuffs. This is cooked by two of the bridegroom’s party. While the rice is being cooked, four or five of the men will dance in a circle with drumming and singing.

The sister of the bridegroom ties the till, or marriage badge corresponding to our wedding ring (usually a bead of glass purchased from a Muhammadan dealer), on the neck of the bride.

The male and female guests sit apart, and in order for the feast, with plantain leaves laid before them for use as plates. The newly-married husband and wife eat a little, in the presence of all, out of one vessel. But Pulayar husbands and wives commonly do eat together at the same time. Afterwards all wash hands and partake of betel-nut. This feast takes place about midnight. Then there is more play but no more drinking till dawn. The play consists of dancing and leaping, several persons together.

At dawn, a conch shell is put in a sieve, and spun round to see whether the marriage will turn out a lucky one. The interpretation is given by wise men of their own caste. If the shell falls to the north, it is an omen of good fortune; if to the east, still more so. The west is not considered specially favourable, but the south is the most unpropitious. In the morning the sun is worshipped with a salam by the bride and others. This is a daily practice. She also bows to her father (not to her husband’s father) and to her maternal uncle, then to the four quarters; to the east first, next north, thirdly west, and lastly, south; thus not going round with the sun.

A new house is not built specially for the newly-married couple. Several families may reside in one house, that is, in several huts built close together. The bridegroom’s party, and two or three of the bride’s, accompany the young people home and put them into their house. Her nearest relatives will drink a little and go home. Nothing is given to others. If they continue to live affectionately together, the wife remains with her husband; if displeased at any time, she returns to her own home.

It is considered that the husband of a young girl should not be over sixteen years of age or so. But it often happens that a youth of sixteen marries a young girl of eight or nine years of age; and they do live together. The earliest age at which they become mothers is from fourteen to sixteen. Children are not very numerous in a family.


Polygamy is common, a man taking as many as four wives, all married as above: there is no fixed limit. Polyandry is never practised. But a brother-in-law may take the widow.

If a husband wishes to get rid of his wife before she has borne children, he may take her back to her parents; and if she also wishes to be freed from him, his money (the 22 fanams) will be returned to him. But if she was unwilling to part with the man, this money is not returned. If another man afterwards desires to have her, he pays the parents the 22 fanams, and they repay the first husband. No ceremony whatever is observed on this re-marriage.

Adultery and disputes arising from jealousy are not very prevalent, perhaps because a change is so easily effected. Discontented parties can separate and leave at once; the women are also so poor, badly-fed and hard-worked, that there is less incentive to evil. The Pulayars are spoken of as less licentious than Pariahs. If adultery is committed they would be excluded from their caste privileges. They also worship spirits called Kannimar or virgins, apparently the ghosts of girls who have died unmarried, who are supposed to punish this crime. In case it is committed, the injured husband will beat his wife and her paramour.

Or, he invites the chief men of the caste (on which occasions many will assemble), and makes his complaint before them. Then both the guilty parties are tied, and beaten with rattans by his brother-in- law, or by persons employed for the occasion. Fines are resorted to, generally 12 fanams, paid by the adulterer, and spent on arrack for all who were assembled to adjudicate. No money is paid to the injured husband.

Pregnancy. — The ceremony called Vayittu pongali is observed in the seventh month. It is an offering to Tottiya or Bhagavan, the sun. New pots are procured and brought to the centre of the courtyard, and rice boiled in them. Some rice is taken out of the pot while on the fire, and shown or presented to the sun. It is waved three times, then put back into the pot; afterwards distributed to the persons invited. There is no dance on this occasion.


Then a pot is brought full of water, the mouth tied tightly with a cloth and a plantain leaf, and the pot put upside down. The priest repeats some mantrams while the pregnant woman stands on the top of the inverted water-pot : it will not break. At the four corners of the yard, four plantain stems are fixed like posts, and connected with strings, which the woman cuts with a knife after getting down from off the pot. At the foot of the four plantain stems are placed four cocoa-nuts; the husband goes with a bill-hook and splits them. Then they feast on the rice, of which the woman also partakes, and all return to their homes.

Sickness. — Pulayars are subject to many ailments arising from their privations, and the nature of their employment. Standing at times in the rice swamps with their feet in water or mud and the head uncovered produces headache, rheumatism and fever. From their uncleanly habits they are afflicted with skin diseases, inflammation of the eyes, ulcers, and leprosy. Bad food, strong drinks and tobacco-chewing also injure them. From the beginning of any sickness they, like many other castes, consider it dangerous to wash or bathe; and this, of itself, often aggravates disease.

They are both careless and ignorant in the treatment of the sick. Wives or husbands are often abandoned to the care of their parents when ill. They have no professional doctors amongst them; and no knowledge of medicines even so simple as castor oil. A mixture of salt and chillies is sometimes used. The Sudra masters give some medicines; and would sometimes on an emergency, visit their slaves, purifying themselves afterwards.

When physicians of other castes are applied to they charge very heavily, such as on account of tottukuli, “bathing after having touched” a patient of this class, 3 fanams; for feeling the pulse, a few fanams and a basket of parched rice; all must be paid in advance, besides offerings of fowls, rice, &c., to various demons. For all diseases both medicines and incantations are resorted to.

Every ailment is attributed to the agency of some demon or other whom it is the business of the pujari or priest, to discover. He is acquainted with the proper mantrams or incantations, and has an iron rattle, called kokkara, by the sound of which he divines. “It will be revealed to him by a kind of inspiration or possession which demon it is that has caused the sickness; and he will declare who it is, and what is to be done in the particular case.”


The kokkara is formed of a plate of iron turned into a tube, the edges strongly serrated and not closely united. It is about nine inches in length and one and a half in diameter. From it hangs a chain and an iron pin, or spike, which is rubbed along the dentate edges of the iron cylinder, making a horrid grating noise. This instrument is used by sorcerers amongst Pariahs, Vedars and Kuravars, but it seems more especially to belong to Pulayars. It is used in seeking demoniac possession, in exorcising demons, in divination and in cases of sickness. The instrument costs from three-quarters to one rupee, and is made by the ordinary blacksmith.

When a youth wishes to learn this black art, he goes to some one accomplished in it, and presents a para of paddy, three fanams in money, seven cocoanuts, and two chuckrams’ worth of betel leaf. A feast is also given to his relatives, costing, say twenty-five fanams. He learns for about a week the names of all the demons and the charms with which the teacher is acquainted. When fully instructed, he receives from the teacher a kokkara and a cowry shell, and pays a further fee. It costs about 100 fanams to learn the business.

He is then called to cure patients, young and old, of various diseases by playing this instrument; and with the addition of a conch shell, a cocoanut and a cowry, he may make a reputation for himself and much gain by deceiving the people. All Pulayars honour and fear him; Sudras also employ him in various matters. When he goes to find omens for fortunetelling, he is paid one fanam; for casting out demons, three fanams and three edungalies of paddy; for rescuing a pregnant woman from a demon, seven fanams; for offering sacrifices, ten fanams and the flesh of the fowls slain and some toddy; and for destroying enemies or detecting robbers, twelve fanams.

In times of sickness, these dancers frighten the people by announcing the wrath of the demons, and the necessity of further propitiatory offerings in order to get rid of the disease. They also give sacred ashes to patients for their recovery.

When the priest is called to a house for a case of sickness, he generally comes in the evening, and is first entertained with food, toddy to drink, and betel to chew. He then prepares a tender cocoanut, the flower of the Areca palm, and some parched rice powdered — these he lays down and covers over with a young palm leaf. Bringing the sick person forward, the priest draws a circle with an iron pen or stylus round the patient, then sticks the stylus outside the circle. This is called “putting in fetters,” and by this the demon is supposed to be arrested.

The demon sometimes causes the patient to cry out, “Oh, I am in pain — he is beating me,” and such like; but the patient does not know who it is that is afflicting him. Sometimes the priest will make the demon speak. The sick man makes a vow, which is to be fulfilled in due course, promising sheep, rice, flowers, palm leaf, and arrack. All such vows are paid at their annual festivals in February or March.

Or, on visiting the sick house, a rice fan or sieve, containing three betel leaves with areca nuts, three nari of paddy, Ocimum flowers, sacred ashes, and the conch and cowry shells, is laid in the yard; sitting before this fan and facing the sun, the officiator begins to worship the demons. While doing so, he holds the shells in his hand, and turns to the four points. After noticing some omen, he takes the kokkara and sounds it, chanting the names of terrible demons, such as Mallan, Karunkali, Kottu-tamburan, Ayiravilli, The Five Virgins; and repeating incantations. This is varied with dancing also.

The performer plays on the iron instrument, sometimes from evening till noon of the next day; and it is no wonder that the nerves of the tortured patient are unstrung by a whole night’s incessant grating of this harsh file. The sick person is often terrified into confession of some sin (possibly in the case of hysteric females a purely imaginary one), when a fine of, say three fanams, is imposed, and at once spent for toddy, which is drunk by the assembled party.

If death unexpectedly occurs, he consoles the bereaved, and warns them that their offerings to the spirits have been insufficient.

Sometimes affliction is supposed to be brought on by the enmity of others who have got incantations written on palmleaf or potsherds, and buried in the earth near the house, or by the side of the well. Another sorcerer will be called to find out and counteract such evil charms, for which he digs, destroying them when found. Of course, this pretence affords great opportunity for imposition.

Death. — When just on the point of death they give some rice water conjee, “because the soul is leaving.” As soon as death takes place, the family set up a cry; hearing this, the relatives, both male and female, come to the house. Lamentation is made in various terms, such as
“You are dead, are you not? There is no one left us now. This is our misery. We have no father now to help us. Precious father! you did us such and such benefits. O demon! you have very quickly taken his life. If you had not called him away, we should have given you fine gifts. We have now lost both our expenditure (in the sickness) and our friend. O, Udaya Tamburan (Possessor-God), thou gavest him birth, and now hast taken him again.”

Sometimes comfort is offered to the bereaved, such as “Why should you weep — what can be done? It is God who has taken him away. Though you weep and cry, he will not return.” The influence of Christian teaching as to the existence and unity of God seems apparent in some of these statements.

The body is washed by the near relatives, men for men and women for women. Cocoanut oil and turmeric are rubbed over the corpse, and it is covered with a white cloth. Women are buried with all their ornaments on. Men wear ear-rings and finger rings, and these are left on after death.

Vaykkari, “rice for the mouth,” is a pinch of raw rice put into the mouth of the corpse. In some higher castes a coin also is put into the mouth, as was done by the ancient Romans. If a priest dies, the body is bathed and oiled; all his devildancing ornaments, head-dress, &c., are put on, but removed again before burial.


Bodies are buried in their own gardens, or if they had no land, in some retired place belonging to their employers. Those who are better off are buried in a room in their own house, at a depth of about four feet. The grave is levelled and smeared with cow dung; no bad smell is observed to come from the grave. This is done through affection to the deceased; still it is rare, and no women are so buried. It is not priests merely, but wealthy and esteemed persons who are buried in this way; the relatives are not careful to avoid treading on the grave.

“The soul does reside there — this is what is desired. The spirit is called vadha, or familiar, and will not harm the survivors, but watch over their interests and protect them from disease and danger. Propitiatory offerings are made to it occasionally of anything they eat; and the ghost can be set on their enemies. If neglected or displeased it haunts and troubles the household.”

The corpse is taken to the side of the grave, and incantations and prayers made there. It is carried by the sons and nephews and others, on a frame, and covered with a cloth. A small quantity of paddy is brought, and whispering over this an incantation (the names of demons, &c.), it is. cast into the grave. The pujari, or priest, then goes round the grave three times, without drumming or singing on this occasion. The corpse being put in, the grave is filled up, and the relatives throw in three handfuls of earth. At the four corners of the grave a few grains of rice are placed, and a little pebble laid over this with mantrams, “to prevent jackals from disturbing, and to hinder the spirit from molesting people.” The grave is dug north and south, the head placed to the north. The grave will be preserved, and no cultivation made over it.

On the seventh day, the priest goes to the grave and lifts a handful of earth, as other castes gather up the burnt bones, makes a rude image of the dead man, and brings it near the house. It is not brought into the yard, but to a place cleared for it at some distance from the house, to avoid pollution. Then turmeric, flour, &c., are put on it to prepare it for the spirit’s reception. Now he rattles the kokkara, spins the conch, and invokes the deceased by name to enter the image; from thence it passes into the priest, and from him into a cloth which a man standing beside him holds out like a sheet. While possessed by the spirit the priest dances; when he ceases, he puts the spirit into the cloth and holds it there.

The image is no further used. Both men now go to the water, they bathe and dip the cloth in water, then return into the house, holding the cloth folded up, which they put on a plaited palm leaf, placing around it offerings of rice, toddy, arrack, and betel-leaf.

The conch is again spun round to ascertain whether the offerings have been accepted. If the spira of the conch points towards the spirit in the cloth, the offering has been accepted. They simply spin on till they obtain a favourable omen of complacency, and again until they obtain permission to eat. They then go into the yard with the cloth, mix a little turmeric with water and with oil, and sprinkle the cloth, thus representing the anointing of the spirit as the body had been anointed. After the food {annam) has been presented to the spirit, the priest repeats mantrams to retain the spirit in the house. It is then supposed to have left the cloth, which is taken into the yard and opened. No further Sraddha or funeral ceremony is performed.

The conch shell is used by sorcerers near Cottayam to spin round in order to ascertain from which of the eight directions the evil spirit has come, and caused any given case of affliction.

The spirits of deceased relatives are called Chavu “the dead.” They are seen in dreams, especially by near relations, who repeat such dreams in the morning, telling that they saw and spoke with the deceased. The souls of women and children, even of still-born infants, are existent. “Many of these ancient spirits are now great gods.” A man will continue to worship the spirit of his own father, and of his deceased wife.

Superstitions and Worship. — As will be evident from the preceding observations, the worship practised by the Pulayars is simply that of demons and evil spirits, or of deceased ancestors, who must be propitiated by offerings of such things as will please them. Images are not used in the South, but small ones of brass, a few inches in height, are not uncommon in North Travancore. They represent both males and females, and are called pretham, or ghost, equivalent to chavu. A case is mentioned in which the image of a murdered slave was made and worshipped by the murderer, to appease the spirit of his victim. The spirits are supposed to be displeased if the people receive instruction in Christianity.

A woman said, “Our domestic demon troubles us whenever we hear your Bible read, therefore we do not wish to become Christians.” Another said that a demon was residing in his hut, and begged the teacher to come and pray in his dwelling, that the evil spirit might take his flight. The sorcerers and devil dancers also hinder the people from Christian instruction, lest their profits should be gone. Some of the priests are dreaded even by the higher castes, as exercising great influence in the spirit world, whether to set their familiars to destroy, or to restrain them from injury by magic arts. They are consequently employed by Sudras and Shanars for casting out devils and counteracting enchantments.

To avoid the malignance of these demons, various plans are adopted. Some wear rolls of palm leaf tied round the neck, to prevent the demons approaching or annoying them. Baskets are hung up in rice fields, containing peace offerings. Where-ever there is a grove or dense forest, adoration is paid to Madan, Kali, &c., supposed to reside there, and sacrifices are occasionally offered. Special efforts to please their demons occupy all the leisure enjoyed from rice cultivation between the close of November and the beginning of April, when the dancers go about the slave huts, collecting money to provide parched rice, fowls, and ardent spirits for offerings.

Gardens and cultivation will be protected from the blight of the evil eye by hanging up earthen pots with spots of lime daubed over them. If a good cloth is worn when going out, sickness is supposed to result from the evil eye of jealousy.

These poor people are also deceived by Hindu mendicants of other castes to secure some money from them. One came and uttered mantrams over a young cocoanut, which he gave to a woman who had no milk for her babe.


Their chief deities are Madan and the Five Pandus. “These are greater than the Sun, but of course Udaya Tamburan (the Possessor-God) is greater than all” they now say. Last come the deceased ancestors, or Chavus. Pulayars have no temples built by or belonging to themselves, but chiefly attend the Sudras’ temples as far as permitted.

Temporary places of worship are formed by trees planted in a square, one at each corner — such trees as Odina odier, Silk cotton, Rottlera and Erythrlna. On these a platform of cocoanut wood or common sticks is erected, and upon this a frame or cage of cocoanut leaves, as the special residence or shrine pro tempore of the demon. At the foot of the trees is a representation of the cobra. Several little shrines of this kind are put up for the habitation of several demons, the Chavus or Ghosts and the Virgins, once a year; and offerings are made of rice, grain, parched rice, and flowers. A fowl is decapitated and the blood sprinkled over the shrine; the flesh is afterwards eaten by the worshippers.

For devil-dancing there is a special dress and ornaments.

Any one may become a priest by practice, but the profession is often, as might be expected, hereditary. The head-dress is a helmet of basket-work with red cords hanging down from either side. A cotton scarf is worn round the waist, and bells tied on the legs. In one hand an old sword is held, in the other a bell. At first the dancer goes round slowly, then greatly quickens his motion. He stamps heavily on the ground with the feet alternately, trembling and greatly agitated.

On one occasion in March I had the opportunity of witnessing a little of their dancing at Trevandrum during the prevalence of small-pox, when similar scenes were enacted generally through the country. They had been engaged in this festival all night, and the noise of their drumming and cheering was still heard in the early morning. The scrub and weeds had been cleared off a raised bank by the side of the rice-fields, and a kind of temporary altar, as above described, made on the stem of a tree cut off at the height of ten or twelve feet.

On this was a small platform with a rude ladder leading up to it, and offerings laid upon it. At the base of this frail structure stood two or three painted boards, one of them the figure of the cobra’s hood very clearly represented. At one side was a shed for the accommodation of the people, and at the other side a miniature house, about two feet high, which was supposed to be the residence of the demon, and in which offerings of cocoanuts and other things were placed. Women were beating rice for the feast; others selling provisions; altogether about a hundred people were then present.

Some of the principal officiators were adorned with fringes of young palm leaves tied round the waist, and with the usual brass bells around the ankles and calves of the legs. Several had plaited bundles of palm leaves to represent horses, on which they pretended to gallop round the altar, whipping the horses and shouting. A fire was alight, and they galloped through and over this until it was extinguished. On such occasions dancing and singing are sometimes carried on for several days with great enjoyment and enthusiasm.

In the North a curious “club dance“ is practised at night, by the light of a large fire. The dancers, men with clubs a foot long, one in each hand, go in concentric circles in different directions, and meeting each other very prettily strike each other’s clubs, keeping time to the songs they sing — now bending to catch the blow made towards the feet and then rising to ward off or meet one directed towards the head.

Attendance at Hindu Temples — It has been remarked that the servile castes, have, in various parts of South India, special privileges granted them on particular festivities, whether as treats in relaxation from sore toil, bribes to keep them submissive under oppression, or as vestiges; of a higher position in former times, when they were masters of the land before the arrival of the Aryans.

Captain Mackenzie, in the “Indian Antiquary” for March, 1873, thinks that the Holiars of Mysore, now despised and outcast, once held the foremost place in the village circle, having been the first to establish villages there. A Holiar is even now generally the priest to the village goddess, and, as such, on annual offerings takes precedence of Brahmans. At Mailkota, and at Bailur, Holiars have the right of entering the temple on three days in the year specially set apart for them. He considers that it proves that the Holiars were the first to take possession of the soil, that the Kulwadi, or village henchman, a Holiar, receives fees from the friends of any who die — “they buy from him the ground for the dead.”

In Travancore, nothing of this kind is observed, but on festival days the Pulayars and other low castes are permitted some games and a little nearer approach than usual to some pagodas, as at Pareychaley, &c. At Ochira, on the great sham fight, slaves are permitted to join and give and receive blows equally with Nayars. Wooden swords and shields are used. At Kumaranallur annual feast of slaves, Sudras come from Bhagavathi’s temple with little beaten-gold images of the goddess for sale. The slaves buy and offer them to the deity; the same image being sold over and over again, and each time offered by the buyer to the goddess.

At the Neduvengaud Temple, where two or three thousand people, mostly Sudras and Ilavars, attend for the annual festival in March, one third of the whole are Pariahs, Kuravars, Vedars, Kanikars, and Pulayars, who come from all parts around. They bring with them wooden models of cows neatly hung over and covered, in imitation of shaggy hair, with ears of rice. Many of these images are brought, each with a separate procession from its own place. The headmen are finely dressed with clothes stained purple at the edge. The image is borne on a bambu frame, accompanied by a drum, and men and women in procession — the latter wearing quantities of beads, such as several strings of red, then several of white; or strings of beads and then a row of brass ornaments like rupees — and all uttering the kurava cry. These images are carried round the temple, and all amuse themselves for the day.

Oaths and Ordeals — They swear by the Sun, raising the hand towards the sun — or by some temple — saying, “By this deity, I did not do so.” “By the Sun, I did not.” “If I speak falsely, may my eyes perish, or my head be struck off by lightning,” or, “let me be cut off by cholera or small-pox;” or, “let me not live more than forty-one days.”

If falsely accused of adultery, an oath is taken, or the following ordeal : — A new pot is procured, in which some cowdung is mixed up with water, then made to boil thoroughly. Into this the man dips his hand, stirs it three times round in the water, and lifts out some of the cowdung which he lays on a plantain leaf. Before the pot is placed, the priest utters some imprecations on the man if guilty. If the hand is burnt, he is guilty — if not burnt, innocent. In case of other faults than adultery, he will make oath at some devil temple.

Once when a theft of rice occurred, the loser went to a temple of Lakshmi, belonging to Sudras, and standing afar off as required, laid down three fanams as an offering, praying aloud to the deity, “Oh, hear my complaint !” The priest comes out and takes up the money; then the deity is expected to punish the thief. If the thief afterwards suffers from sickness, he will make the usual inquiries and be informed — “So and so made vows against you.” The temple priest is not able by his charms to discover who it was that committed the theft.

Good Manners. — In presence of an elder brother, a younger brother cannot sit down. Before a father, grown-up daughters should not sit; and sons sit on a somewhat lower level. Little children sit anywhere. Nephews and nieces must not sit on the same level with the maternal uncle, nor the common people with a Head Pulayar. There is one of these in each Proverty, formerly appointed by the Sirkar, now by the people. A woman cannot sit at all in the presence of her sonin- law, and vice versa. These two cannot approach one another nearer than about twenty feet. This rule sometimes causes little difficulties when converts first begin to attend Christian worship. We have seen the son-in-law climb into the prayer-house over the wall at the farthest point from where the mother-inlaw was sitting; but this absurd regulation is soon dropped as useless and inconvenient.

Slavery and Work. — All castes, Brahmans, Sudras, Ilavars, and Shanars possessed slaves. Yet Pulayars have of late years since their emancipation, and perhaps in rare cases previously, had some little property in cattle, or land purchased or reclaimed by their own labours. They still regard themselves and speak as being slaves, but those who have opportunity to break off the old connection are free. Many prefer their former situation when at all favourable, to independence and self-help.

When they work in the rice-fields, women now receive daily one edungaly of paddy; men, one and a half, also four armfuls of straw and rice (or perhaps only two) from each field for watching the crops throughout the year. For residence, a small bit of land is allotted. The trees in this belong to the master, but the Pulayar enjoys the produce while he lives there. When not required by his master, he is at liberty to work elsewhere, or for himself. Actual work for the master occupies about three months in the year, and watching, three months. There is little to do in the hot season, say March, after the February rice crop has been garnered. In April, rice nurseries are prepared, enclosures repaired, and manuring and ploughing attended to. In the middle of May the rice is sown and transplanted; in June, weeding occupies till the end of that month. There is then little field work for two months till August when the second harvest begins.

While some masters treated their slaves with consideration, others greatly oppressed them. If a cow gave them milk they must take it to the house of the master. When bought and sold, the agreement specified “tie and beat, but do not destroy either legs or eyes.” For faults or crimes they were cruelly confined in stocks or cages, and beaten. For not attending work very early in the morning, they were tied up and flogged severely. Awful cruelties were sometimes perpetrated. Cases are known in which slaves have been blinded by lime cast into their eyes. The teeth of one were extracted by his master as a punishment for eating his sugar cane.

A poor woman has been known, after severe torture and beating, to kill her own child in order to accuse her master of the murder and get revenge. Even the Syrian Christians were sometimes most cruel in their treatment of their slaves. Rev. H. Baker, fils was acquainted with a case in which a slave ran away from his master, but afterwards returned with presents, begging forgiveness. He was beaten severely, covered with hot ashes, and starved till he died. It cost the unworthy master, however, five hundred rupees in bribes “to settle the trouble.”

Slaves were not only bought and sold outright, but also mortgaged like lands. Female slaves were valued at double price, on account of the “produce”— the children— half of which went to the seller and half to the purchaser. Lieut. Conner says in Report of Survey, 1820, “Husband and wife sometimes serve different persons, but more frequently the same. The females of this class are given in usufruct, scarcely ever in complete possession : the eldest male child belongs to the master of the father : the rest of the family remain with the mother while young, but being the property of her owner, revert to him when of an age to be useful; and she follows in the event of her becoming a widow.”

In 1852, before emancipation, the Rev. George Matthan wrote that the price of a slave was usually Rs. 6, but in Mallapalli, Rs. 18. The children were the property of the mother’s owner. Being paid in kind and at the lowest possible rate, they were able to obtain only the coarsest support of life. Lying, stealing, and drunkenness were common among them.

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Post posted by VED »

b4 #. VEDAR

Though the caste name means “hunter,” these people are in a condition very similar to that of the Pulayars, living in jungle clearings, or working in the rice fields, and formerly sold and bought as slaves. Their usages, worship, and superstitions greatly resemble those of the Pulayars.

They are in deep poverty, very timid, and destitute of temporal comfort and conveniences. They have to wander about in seasons of scarcity in search of wild yams, which they boil and eat on the spot, and are thorough gluttons, eating all they can get at any time, then suffering want for days.

Women are filthy in their habits, the sick are uncared for, and mortality amongst the children is great. Polygamy is common, as men are not required to provide for the support of their wives. But some who have been converted to Christianity show wonderful and rapid improvement in moral character, civilisation, and diligence.

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The Kuravars, or Coravars, appear to be identical in race with the Kurumber, Kurubar or Korawa caste in Madras and Mysore and on the slopes of the Neilgherries, and closely allied to the Vdar, or Bedur, hunting caste. The Kuravars in Travancore are mostly found in the Quilon district, and thence northwards.

This tribe once formed a State of considerable power in Madras and Mysore, where their descendants are now musicians, snake charmers, basket-makers, cultivators, or robbers. Small bodies of them were driven into the jungles of Travancore, where they have sunk in civilisation and fallen into the position of predial slaves. They, are, however, higher in the caste system than Pulayars, Pariahs, and Vedars.

There are four principal sub-divisions of this caste, one of which is called Kakkei, or “Crow” Kuravars, because they are said to eat crows, vultures, alligators, and such like, though they will not touch beef. These, however, are very few, and chiefly mendicants, ear-borers, soothsayers, gymnasts, or thieves. Their dress is like that of the Tamilians.

Others are called Kunda, “low or mean” Kuravars; and are in fact slaves (though legally emancipated). They are not allowed to approach the higher classes in markets, or to enter their houses; and were formerly sold from one owner to another. They perform various agricultural labours; and receive payment in kind or in money.

They imitate the Nayar custom of marriage, that is, a mere temporary union, technically called “presenting a cloth and living together.”

The husband, however, continues to pay for the wife to her uncle in rice, &c., as long as he retains her. Those now under Christian instruction are called Malayam Kuravars.

Their religion is the aboriginal worship of demons as Madan, Bhadrakali, and others; in groves or small temples; without images, or with rude stones to represent the spirit.

A party of “Hill Vedars” came to visit Mr. Baker, and spoke with peculiar words and in a curious tone, rendering it very difficult to converse with them. Their women had immense necklaces of beads, pieces of lead, and brass; one had a broad chain of brass round her neck. These people were coal-black, and many quite curly-headed.

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Various tribes of wild, but inoffensive mountaineers, occupy the higher hills and the mountains of Travancore, finding a rather precarious living by migratory agriculture, hunting, and the spontaneous products of the forests. The Hill men proper number close upon 12,000; and Ulladars, a hunting caste, 2,829. The Vedars are scarcely mountaineers, being found rather at the foot of the hills, and in a social condition very similar to that of the Pulayars. These hill people are most numerous in Neyattankara district, where fully a fourth of their whole number are found : the others are scattered over the mountains north and south of this centre.

These remarkable people are very rude and primitive in manners, and are generally regarded as the aborigines of the country. Bishop Caldwell, however, considers that they are not, like the Tudas of the Neilgherries, the surviving representatives of the earliest inhabitants of the plains, but, like the hill tribes of the Pulneys, the descendants of some Hinduised low-country people who were driven to the hills by oppression, or who voluntarily migrated thither.

The Kanikars. — The tribes living towards the south of Travancore are most usually designated by this term, while those in the north are more commonly called Mala Arayans. There are differences between these two classes, probably arising not from variety of origin but from their isolation on separate mountains or ranges which present physical obstacles to close or continued intercourse.

Kanikaran means “hereditary proprietor of land,” thus recognizing their ancient rights over the forest lands. They are sometimes spoken of as Velanmar “spearmen,” a cognomen which they disclaim, and which seems rather inappropriate, unless it has been suggested by the staff or pike which is always carried. They are also called Malei Arasars in Tamil, Mala Arayars in Malayalam, derived from arachan, chief, or more distantly from raja, king. The term means “hill kings “ or chiefs, and has nothing to do with “Aryan,” as applied to the Sanskrit people.

The Kanikars are generally very short in stature and meagre in appearance, from their active habits and scanty food. Some have markedly negroid features. The men go almost naked, having only a small strip of cloth round the loins. Men and women alike grow the hair long and tie it up in a knot behind, like the Cingalese. A few men of the better grade imitate the Sudra mode of wearing the hair. Their clothing and habits are generally uncleanly.

The women are rather better clad, and are very shy of strangers. They wear bracelets of iron or brass, and load the neck with countless strings of red beads or shells : leaden rings are also worn in the lobe of the ear.

The men always carry a cane basket slung upon their shoulders like a knapsack, containing a few necessary utensils, or used for bringing home the food or other articles which they may secure. They also carry a long staff, a heavy knife or billhook stuck in the waistcloth, and sometimes a bow and arrows.

The Kanikars live together in little clans, each hamlet under the patriarchal rule of a headman (Muttukani, the “stem” or principal Kanikaran), who is but one of themselves, but has great influence and authority over all his people. Their dwellings are very small, but neatly made of bambus and the elephant reed (Melocanna Rheedii), the leaves and stems being interwoven for walls as well as roof. Besides the huts on the ground, a number of booths are built on trees with large branches, a platform being made of sticks, and the hut built on this in order to be out of the way of mischievous elephants, tigers, &c. Access is obtained by a ladder or a single long bambu with the side shoots cut off on either side at a distance of a few inches.

These wandering husbandmen cut down a patch of forest, burn and clear it, and sow a crop, with little or no tillage. After cultivating this plot for two or three years, it is exhausted, and they move off in search of fertile land for a fresh field for operations, though not to great distances. They grow rice and millet, tapioca and sweet potatoes, as is done in the low country. This mode of cultivation yields a larger return for the same amount of labour than permanent plough husbandry, but is highly destructive of valuable forest lands. Their migrant habits arise partly from laziness : it is easier to cut down and burn new forest than to rear cattle, plant trees, manure land, and build houses. They, therefore, prefer this savage life, but should be encouraged to settle if possible : only by such means can they be reclaimed to civilisation and education, as has been done farther north.


From their intimate acquaintance with the forests and hills, the Kanikars can readily point out the places haunted by wild beasts, which they recognize by the smell, either to warn travellers against danger, or to guide sportsmen to their game. They strike fire by the friction of dry wood. A peg of the wood of Isora corylifolia (or of bambu) is taken and inserted in a small reed which is rapidly revolved on another piece of the same wood, this being the best for the purpose : in a few minutes smoke is evolved, then fire, which is caught in tinder contained in a small joint of bambu, and can then easily be preserved or carried about.

Though thus familiar, from ages of experience, with the ways of the forest, these poor people are not gifted with even an ordinary amount of knowledge, not one of them being able to read or write, except very recently a few in Pareychaley Mission district, who have learnt to read a little and to sing Christian lyrics. They can never tell their own ages, and if asked, sometimes make absurd guesses. They are unable to count a hundred; over ten they lay down a pebble for each ten. They knot fibres of various climbing plants to express their wants. At Purattimalei twenty years ago, only one had seen a white man before; none had ever travelled to a greater distance from home than twenty miles.

In the south they speak Tamil, and Malayalam further north, but pronouncing very badly, as vichi for vithi. Words strange to the people of the coast, or archaic, are intermingled with their speech, as ‘kala’ (kalayi, second cultivation of a rice field), for a place where they have remained for two years; ‘’kuruma’’ (kurumba) a child; ‘yengachi’ where? for ‘yewide’ and patti (a fold), or wadi (an enclosure, entrenchment) for house; with other oddities in talk, which it requires some time to become familiar with. They are said to pay homage to the Maharajah occasionally, when they address him without the customary honorifics, their boorish ways being good naturedly excused on the ground of their ignorance, and furnishing rather subject of amusement. The very large fruited “bambu plantain,” which produces but few fruits in a branch and those of great size, they used to bring as presents on such occasions. I formerly had difficulty in persuading them to part with a sucker of this curious plantain, as they fancied it must be reserved for the use of the Rajah alone.

The Kanikars are much imposed upon and overcharged in the purchase of beads, cloth, and ornaments, by the Muhammadan and other dealers; by the itinerant blacksmith, who comes round to repair their billhooks; and the goldsmith, who gives but little gold and much brass, and squeezes a good price somehow out of them, giving long credit and taking double when the harvest is reaped.

They ask large pay of the European planters, partly because they do not care to work at all unless under such inducement; partly, perhaps, from ignorance of the value of money and the difficulty of obtaining it, as formerly they never saw such a thing. The hillmen will not eat with Shanars or Ilavars, or still lower castes, but will take food cooked by Sudras. They do not eat the wild ox or buffalo, nor the grey or Hanuman monkey, but only the black species. They gather wild honey in the clefts of rocks and on branches of trees, and bring it home, or for sale, in joints of bambu. Being great smokers of tobacco, which they grow for their own consumption, they stop work frequently when employed on estates in weeding or clearing, to indulge in a smoke.

Till recently, none possessed wealth in coin, only hatchets, billhooks, knives, hoes, and other tools. Their traps for the wild boar and tiger are made with rough timber supported on a spring which falls and lets down the whole weight upon the animal’s back. They have no weapons, but are very ingenious at wickerwork of bambu, rattan, and reed. I have seen a bridge over a river, perhaps a hundred feet wide, constructed by them of such materials, over which a pony could pass. Their circumstances have greatly improved of late wherever coffee estates have been opened and worked; but those who are unwilling to take work are driven farther into the hills in search of fresh lands. “The fate of the hillkings, says Mr. Honiss, is rather sad. For ages past they have boasted of being the undisputed lords of the primeval forests.

“The elephant and tiger were their only foes; but with snares and traps they could hold their own against these enemies. But they could not resist the onward march of a superior race. The planter approaches them in a peaceable way, offering wages for their hire, but demanding as his right the land he has purchased. The proud men of the woods decline to herd with coolies, and work like common people. As soon as the planter’s axe is heard, the hill kings pack their traps and desert their homes to establish themselves in another valley. In this way they have been driven from hill to hill and from valley to valley, until some have found now a safe resting place in the dense jungles of the lowlands of Travancore. If the planter wishes to penetrate some unexplored jungle, or cut a path in some out-of-the-way place, the hill men are ready to assist, and it is the universal testimony that they are more faithful to their engagements than their more civilized brethren from the plains.”

Though reckoned amongst the low castes in the Census and in vernacular works, the Kanikars are somewhat superior in several respects, and are by no means regarded with the abhorrence felt towards the Pulayars and others. Being credited with the possession of considerable influence over their local demons, other castes are afraid to offend them.



Marriage Customs. — The lowest age for marriage of girls is seven, for boys sixteen. Girls sometimes remain unmarried till near sixteen, “because no bridegroom has offered.” A youth desirous of marrying a girl visits her uncle, accompanied by four of his relatives who make the proposal. If agreed upon, the marriage day is at once fixed, and guests are invited by both parties by presenting betel and spices. On his arrival at the marriage house, the bridegroom presents a cloth to the bride’s mother, which is called amma vidu mundu — “mother’s house-cloth,” and five and a half fanams to her uncle if she has become marriageable; if otherwise, seven and a half fanams. The bride is then brought into the marriage shed amongst the company assembled. A tali worth four chuckrams, is handed to the bridegroom, who after adoring the Sun with it in his hand, holds it near the bride’s neck, and his sister standing behind ties it on. He also hands over a cloth to his sister, who puts it on the bride.
The headman offers some “advice” to the husband as to the management of his wife, beginning his rule with mild measures and proceeding to extremities only by degrees as required. The heads of his discourse are said to be as follows : —

1. Cholli kodu — Teach by words.

2. Nulli kodu — Teach by pinching — slight punishments.

3. Talli kodu — Teach by blows. Next,

4. Talli kodu — Cast her away (at last, if she will not obey !)

On that day a feast is held at the bride’s house, and on the following day at the house of the husband. The richer families spend 100 fanams on the feast, while the poor simply entertain their guests with betel -nut to chew and Indian hemp to smoke.

The dowry consists generally of mattocks, axe, a large chopping knife, brass cups, earthen vessels, and such like. Having no landed property, no dowry of this kind can be given. If there be anything to inherit, the nephew is the heir.

The ceremony practised on the occasion of pregnancy is called vayaru pongala, when boiled rice is offered to the Sun. First, they mould an image of Ganesha, and setting it in a suitable place, boil the rice. To this they add for an offering aval, or flattened rice, parched rice, cakes, plantain fruits, young cocoa-nuts, and tender leaves of the same palm, with the flower of the Areca palm. The headman then commences dancing and repeating mantrams. He waves the offerings to the Sun.

The name is given to a child when it is able to sit on the ground, say at the age of three or four months. The usual names are very much the same as those used by other people — Parappankani, Sattan, Eiyan, Madappan, Vikkiran; and for women — Eechi, Valli, Kannammei, Pumalei, Parappi. They were willing to tell us the names of their wives.

On first giving rice to a child, a feast is held, and an offering presented to the jungle demons.

Sickness and Death — When any one takes ill the headman is at once consulted; he visits the sick and orders two drumming and singing ceremonies to be performed. A whole night is spent in dancing, singing, drumming, and prayer for the recovery of the patient. The offerings consist of tapioca, flour, and cocoanuts, along with the articles previously mentioned. After some time, the headman, with manifestations of demoniac possession, reveals whether the sufferer will die or not. If the former, he repeats a mantram (kudumi vettu mantram, formula on cutting off the topknot), and cuts off the sick man’s kudumi. This being a sign of approaching death, the relatives and others pay their last visits to the sick.

After death, a mixture of ganja (hemp), raw rice, and cocoanut is put into the mouth of the corpse by the son and nephews; and it is buried at some distance from their abode, mantrams being repeated over the body. Occasionally one is cremated. The relatives bathe before returning home, and cannot take any of the produce of their lands till the death pollution is removed, fearing that wild beasts will attack them or destroy their crops. To this end a small shed is built outside their clearing on the third day, three measures of rice are boiled and placed in a cup or on a plantain leaf inside the shed; then all bathe again and return home. On the seventh day all this is repeated, the old shed being pulled down and a new one put up. On returning to their dwelling, they sprinkle cow dung on their houses and in the yard, which finally removes the defilement. People in better circumstances make a feast of curry and rice for all present.

Ceremonies with reference to Cultivation. — When intending to clear some land, the headman is invited; three edungaly measures of rice and six cocoanuts are presented to him. These he takes to a suitable plot of forest-land, makes an offering, and first clears a small portion with his own hand; then the others follow. These offerings are repeated at the burning of the felled timber, and the sowing of the seed, plantain fruits and other articles being added. On the first appearance of the ear, they spend two nights in drumming, singing, and repeating mantrams at the field, putting up a tattu, or platform on four sticks as a shrine for the spirits, where they offer raw rice, tender cocoanuts, flowers, &c.

At harvest-time, a sufficient quantity of rice being beaten, sweetmeats are prepared, and cocoanuts, plantain fruits, and flowers added to these for a general offering to the various spirits, such as Ayiravilli, “he of a thousand bows;” Madan Tamburan, “the Cow-like Lord;” Mallan Tamburan, “the Giant Lord;” Matthandan Pey, “the Sun Demon;” Pucha Mallan Pey, “the Cat Giant Demon;” Athirakodi Pey, “the Boundary Flag Demon,” and a great many others whom they regard as deities. They wait upon the headman for the manifestation of the gods, then devour the offerings.

These demons are supposed to be peculiar to the hills, to reside in large trees, and rule the wild beasts, restraining them from mischief. No images or sacred stones are used, but a small stone may be taken when required as an idol or fetish.


The Kanikars have not much idea of the soul or immortality. When asked, they say, “Who can tell?” Some with whom we conversed said they knew nothing of a hell, or of the wicked going there. Some of their superstitions are connected with the serpent; for example, a vein in a certain granite rock is said to have been caused by a snake creeping over it before it hardened.

Some days are lucky, as Monday for sowing seed, Wednesday for building, Friday for reaping. They observe two days in the year as fasts, the dates of which they learn from Muhammadans or Hindus, who come to them with rice or other articles for sale.

These wild men are usually ranked above the more civilized Hindus of the plains in point of morals. Though rude, hardy, and courageous, they are inoffensive, and are regarded as somewhat truthful, honest, chaste, and hospitable. Men may stay in their villages as long as they like, but must be very reserved and careful respecting the women. It is said that formerly individuals amongst them guilty of adultery were punished with immediate death. Some, however, have two wives if they can get both wives to agree together. We have met with individuals who scarcely seemed to understand the distinction between good and evil.

The great vice of these mountain men is drunkenness, through the almost universal prevalence of which they are constantly in distress. It is cruel and wrong to offer them strong drinks.

Some of our preachers on a tour came upon a large number of them assembled with jars of arrack, &c., to offer to their deities, and to drink. The headman was intoxicated, and while the Christians were speaking, he shouted, “Children, make a pile of wood at once to burn these fellows. They are come from the white men to take us to their company and make us eat beef.”

So the preachers had to make their escape.

When the Christian religion is recommended to them, they reply that if they embraced it, the jungle-demons would be offended, and send elephants and other wild beasts to kill them, and destroy their cultivations. “Why, then,” it was asked, “do not the Europeans suffer, who cut down the forests?” to which they answered, “ As the white men worship a mighty God, the demons take their flight from their presence.” Jungle fever also is attributed to the agency of these deities, and they remove from a place where it prevails. Some altogether refused to hear our exhortations. When they see books in the hands of the Christian teachers, they will say, “Do you come to destroy us by bringing the wrath of the demons upon us?” One woman said, “I have only two children; do not kill them by teaching them your Vedam.”

The Muhammadans, dreading the loss of their influence and opportunities for cheating these simple people, endeavour to hinder them from receiving instruction, even in reading, by saying, “These people want to make you all Christians, then the devils will desert you so that you shall become the prey of wild beasts. If you learn letters the English will carry you away to foreign lands in ships.”

Efforts have from time to time been made by the Mission for their benefit, especially in Pareychaley and Trevandrum districts, but the deadly fever of the hills has sometimes proved fatal, or prostrated the catechists employed, and but little success has been met with. The hillmen are now often addressed by the catechists of the Cooly Mission labouring amongst the Coffee Estates.

Mr. Emlyn writes : — “The spirits so much feared in the plain, are not supposed to concern themselves with the moral conduct of men; all they are thought to care about is to be honoured with pujah, sacrifices, and offerings. The divinities of the hills are believed to have a moral law. It is a pity their prophets have said nothing against drinking. Drink is the curse of the Kanikars. Their belief, too, that learning to read is a religious act, a sort of initiatory step to another religion, and, therefore, displeasing to their gods, is another serious evil.

Coffee planting in this country seems as if largely intended, in the Providence of God, for the good of this hill tribe. In the plantations Kanikars and Christians meet and work together, and some of the latter are not backward in showing what the Lord has done for them in spiritual as well as in temporal things, and they urge their companions to accept the same blessings. In these plantations, too, catechists, and occasionally missionaries can speak with as many Kanikars as take employment there, and staying there at night, can spend the day in preaching in the unhealthy valleys below.

These people have already learnt one or two valuable lessons. One is, that the spirits they worship have no power over Christians from Europe and the plains. When Europeans and native Christians began planting on the hills, some of the Kanikars went to their priests, and in the most solemn and religious manner got awful curses pronounced on their new neighbours. All were to be utterly destroyed unless they went away.

This was done repeatedly, but nothing happened. Some of the priests now declare that it is in vain to curse Christians, or, as they call them, ‘the people that have books.’ Another lesson they have learnt is that Christianity is a civilizing and an elevating religion, and a good religion for this life generally. The people that live nearest the abodes of the Kanikars are Pariahs and Puliahs, our converts from these castes, and their Sudra masters. The hillmen despise the Pariahs and Puliahs, but they see that our converts from these castes have wonderfully improved since becoming Christians — some of them even to become superior to themselves. A few more lessons learnt, and He who is the Truth will, we trust, be welcomed as their Teacher and Saviour.”


The Mala Arayans. — In treating of these people we cannot do better than make extracts from the valuable account given by Rev. H. Baker, junr., in a pamphlet entitled “The Hill Arrians,” published in 1862. Mr. Baker was very intimately acquainted with the Arayans, and was one of their most distinguished benefactors — the apostle and father of the Christian converts whom he was privileged to gather from this tribe. We shall add to that first published monograph, further observations by himself and others, rearrange, and bring up the whole to the present date.

The majority of the hill tribes are divided into small wandering bodies, living for a few months in a particular spot, and then deserting it for another as soon as their scanty crop of grain is reaped. The Mala Arayans, however, have their fixed villages, and reside generally on the western slopes of the higher range of mountains or their spurs. Their villages consist of houses scattered all over the steep hill sides, like birds’ nests perched among the rocks. They are often lovely spots, in a ravine not accessible to elephants, near to some gushing rivulet falling over granite rocks, and surrounded by gigantic trees and palms, rarely at a less elevation than two or three thousand feet above the sea. Many of their houses are good substantial erections of wood and stone, built by workmen from the plains, and after the fashion common to the Western Coast; but in many cases they prefer temporary huts of mud, bambu, and grass-thatch, as the survivors often dislike living in a dwelling in which the head of the family has died. Small huts are also built in trees for watching and security from wild beasts.

“The Arayans are for the most part short in stature, and not very long-lived. But the feverishness of the climate in the districts they inhabit is enough to account for any physical degeneracy of race. They are as fair as the high-caste Hindus, the women frequently beautiful, proving that the aborigines of India were not black from race peculiarities, but only sometimes black through circumstances.”— (Collins.)

Those who live on the Melkavu range being near large Romo-Syrian villages are more civilized, perhaps, than other Arayans.

By the Government officials they are called “Mala Velans,” and are considered to rank in caste above all mechanics, and equal to Muhammadans and Jews. Sudras do not deem themselves polluted by contact with these respectable and independent people, while they keep Chogans at a distance for fear of defilement The Chogans, however, consider themselves superior to the Arayans. The more degraded Malei Arasars in the south, who speak Tamil, are not allowed by them to be of the same race.

The Arayans are some of them rich, being large cultivators of the hill slopes, which they clear of jungle in the dry season, sowing during the rains. This gives them abundance of rice. Little terraces are cut out on the steep ascents to prevent elephants from getting at them, and some protection is obtained by high and strong fences piled up of wood from the trees that have been felled. Every man, however, has to watch with loaded guns during seed-time and harvest, to protect the crops from elephants, deer, and other animals, as well as from swarms of birds which destroy the crops, and tigers and leopards which kill the cattle. They are also frequently exposed to danger of drowning in the swollen torrents during the monsoon, to falls from trees and precipices which they climb to procure fruits and honey, and to the occasional ravages of small-pox and other diseases. The headman of one village is considered very wealthy, his annual crops yielding him ten or twelve thousand parahs (say four or five thousand bushels) of paddy, besides other grain, pulses and roots.

They will not often work for hire, and are very averse to carry loads. All their produce is carried in baskets, which are slung on the shoulders; and every son has his own room in the family house, into which no one intrudes excepting himself and the wife. There is a general store for provisions for the family, which is provided by all in common: but each individual has, in addition his own cultivation and store, to provide for his private wants. The collection of old coins, jewels, and other valuables, hoarded up by some is very great. They dispose of their hill produce at the markets in the plains. They are free and somewhat intelligent in their manners, more truthful and generally moral in their habits than people of the plains. They are great hunters of the wild beasts and game which abound in their hills, and relate a tradition giving them special permission to eat the black monkey. From this they are called by the low country people kurangu tinni “monkey eaters.” Though sometimes spoken of as an inferior race by the Hindus, yet we generally find them looked upon as beings in alliance with some powerful demonolatry; and presents are abundantly bestowed in order to prevent their curses producing ill-effects. Nayars often deprecate in no measured terms prognostics of evil uttered by a hill-man, without reference to his caste or tribe. Doubtless the defenceless low castes have found it tend to shield them from worse oppression to make pretensions to spiritual powers of this kind.


As a rule, the names of individuals among this hill tribe are not Hindu; they severally signify some peculiarity, as Kannan — “the eyed one; “Pottan — “the deaf one; “Thadian — “the fat one,” for men : and for females, Madura — “the sweet one; “Shangam, and also Ponna, “the golden one; “Chakra — “the sugar one.” Where the people are under the influence of the Nayars, there only we meet with names from the Shastras. The language is Malayalam, with several words, however, not known on the coast. Only in three Arayan villages does the custom of Nepotism hold, and there because the Zemindar has compelled them to do so; but still they have outwitted him by making it obligatory on cousins to marry. In all other Arayan settlements, children invariably inherit their father’s property.

At all Arayan feasts, particularly weddings, husbands and wives eat off the same plantain-leaf, sitting side by side; this shows their relationship. After thus eating together the bridegroom ties the tali on the bride’s neck, and a collection is made for the happy couple, which is concluded by the bride taking possession of any brass cooking vessels or gold ornaments in the house, saying, “This is my father’s : “then her husband appropriates them. The marriage rite is held as sacred and indissoluble.


A child, when a month old, is seated in the father’s lap and fed with a little sweetened rice; the omission of this ceremony implies it to be illegitimate. The maternal grandfather, and other near relatives repeat the ceremony. The birth of each child renders the mother impure for a month, when she must reside out of the village, and cannot cook, or go near the springs, or enter the provision grounds, or touch any implement or vessel. She generally lives in a hut in a tree. The father also is impure for a week and must not eat rice; but, like the mother, must live on roasted roots and water. A funeral prevents the family from entering their cultivation for a week.

The Arayans bury their dead; consequently there are many ancient tumuli in these hills, evidently graves of chiefs, showing just the same fragments of pottery, brass figures, iron weapons, &c., as are found in other similar places. These tumuli are often surrounded with long splintered pieces of granite, from eight to twelve or fifteen feet in length, set up on end, with sacrificial altars and other remains, evidently centuries old. Numerous vaults too, called Pandi Kuri, are seen in all their hills. They stand north and south, the circular opening being to the south; a round stone is fitted to this aperture, with another acting as a long lever, to prevent its falling out; the sides, as also the stones of the top and bottom, are single slabs. To this day the Arayans make similar little cells of pieces of stone, the whole forming a box a few inches square; and on the death of a member of any family, the spirit is supposed to pass, as the body is being buried, into a brass or silver image, which is shut into this vault; if the parties are very poor, an oblong smooth stone suffices. A few offerings of milk, rice, toddy, and ghee are made, a torch lighted and extinguished, the figure placed inside the cell and the covering stone hastily placed on; then all leave. On the anniversary, similar offerings being made, the stone is lifted off, and again hastily closed. The spirit is thus supposed to be enclosed; no one ventures to touch the cell at any other time.

The objects of Arayan worship are the spirits of their ancestors, or certain local demons supposed to reside in rocks or peaks and having influence only over particular villages, or families. The religious services rendered to these are intended to deprecate anger rather than to seek benefits; but in no case is lust to be gratified, or wickedness practised, as pleasing to these deities.

The woodcut on the following page represents one of their effigies of ancestors. It is a brass image about three inches in height, the back of the head hollow, the hands holding a club and a gun. This represents a demonized man of wicked character, who lived about a century ago. He is said to have beaten his wife to death with a club, wherefore the people joined to break his skull, and he became a malignant demon. Another image carried an umbrella and staff and had a milder countenance — this was a good demon. One such image is kept in each family, in which the spirit is supposed actually to reside. They were also put into the little square chambers described above.


Rev. W. J. Richards, of Cottayam, has favoured me with the following history, which throws much light upon this curious superstition : —

“Talanani was a priest or oraclerevealer of the hunting deity, Ayappan, whose chief shrine is in Savarimala, a hill among the Travancore Ghats. The duty of Talanani was to deck himself out, as already described in this book, in his sword, bangles, beads, &c., and highly frenzied with excitement and strong drink, dance in a convulsive horrid fashion before his idols, and reveal in uneathly shrieks what the god had decreed on any particular matter. He belonged to the Hill Arayan village of Erumapara (the rock of the she-buffalo), some eight or nine from Melkavu, and was most devoted to his idolatry, and rather remarkable in his peculiar way of showing his zeal. When the pilgrims from his village used to go to Savarimala — a pilgrimage which is alway, for fear of the tigers and other wild beasts, performed in companies of forty or fifty — our hero would give out that he was not going, and yet when they reached the shrine of their devotions, there before them was the sorcerer, so that he was both famous among his fellows and favoured of the gods.

“Now, while things were in this way, Talanani was killed by the neighbouring Chogans during one of his drunken bouts, and the murderers, burying his body in the depths of the jungle, thought that their crime would never be found out; but the tigers — Ayappan’s dogs — in respect to so true a friend of their master, scratched open the grave, and, removing the corpse, laid it on the ground. The wild elephants found the body, and reverently took it where friends might discover it, and a plague of small-pox having attacked the Chogans, another oracle declared it was sent by Sastavu (the Travancore hill boundary god, called also Chattan or Sattan) in anger at the crime that had been committed; and that the evil would not abate until the murderers made an image of the dead priest and worshipped it. This they did, placing it in a grave, and in a little temple no bigger than a small dog kennel. The image itself is about four inches high, of bronze. The heir of Talanani became priest and beneficiary of the new shrine, which was rich in offerings of arrack, parched rice, and meat vowed by the Arayans when they sallied out on hunting expeditions. All the descendants of Talanani are Christians, the results of the Rev. Henry Baker’s work. The last heir who was in possession of the idol, sword, bangle, beads, and wand of the sorcerer, handed them over to the Rev. W. J. Richards in 1881, when he had charge for a time of Melkavu.”

Lamps to the memory of their ancestors were kept burning in little huts, and at stones used to represent the spirits of their ancestors. At one spot, where the genii were supposed to reside, there was a fragment of granite well oiled, and surrounded by a great number of extinguished torches. A most fearful demon was said to reside in a hollow tree, which had been worshipped by thousands of families. They did not know the precise hole in which the symbol was to be found; when discovered, it looked like the hilt of an old sword. One deity was said by the priest of a certain hill to have placed three curious looking rocks as resting-places for himself on his journeys to the peak; but he could not answer the objection, “How could a god want to rest, or how was it he could not place his seat quite upright, or in the pleasant shade of a grove?”

Cocoanuts are offered to famous demons residing in certain hills. It has been observed that in cases of sickness sometimes Arayans will make offerings to a Hindu god, and that they attend the great feasts occasionally; but in no case do they believe that they are under any obligation to do so, their own spirits being considered fully equal to the Hindu gods.

Each village has its priest, who, when required, calls on the “Hill” (mala), which means the demon resident there, or the Pretham, ghost. If he gets the afflatus, he acts in the usual way, yelling and screaming out the answers sought. The devil-dancer wears the kudumi, and has a belt, bangles, and other implements; and invokes the demons in cases of sickness.

They have some sacred groves, where they will not fire a gun or speak above a breath; they have certain signs also to be observed when fixing on land for cultivation or the site of a house, but no other elaborate religious rites. In choosing a piece of ground for cultivation, before cutting the jungle they take five strips of bark of equal length, and knot all the ends together, holding them in the left hand by the middle. If all, when tied, form a perfect circle the omen is lucky, and the position in which the cord falls on the ground is carefully noted by the bystanders.

The Arayans draw toddy from two wild palms of the hills, and much arrack is taken to them from the low country; drunken fits are common, but though their fights are sometimes desperate, the filthy language commonly used by Hindus is never heard. Drunkenness is their besetting sin, and makes the middleaged look older than they really are; while the young men, from exercise in the clear mountain air, have a healthy look. They grow tobacco, steep it twelve hours in a running stream, dry, and pound it. Instead of areca nut, they chew the bark of a tree.

These mountain men were in former times terribly fleeced and oppressed by their rulers, and by powerful neighbours. The Sirkar required each individual to furnish a certain quantity of wax and wild honey and firewood for temples without remuneration; also to assist in catching elephants. They were otherwise free even from paying land-tax. The Kanikal people, though freemen, paid head money for themselves and all males who had died within the previous ten years, besides the usual land-tax and ground rents and taxes on fruit trees; and were besides fleeced by the local petty officers. The services required furnished occasion for continual annoyance and exactions, men being seized by the officials to carry cardamoms from the hills to the boats without pay; and if they hid themselves, as was natural, the women were caught, beaten, locked up, kept exposed to the sun and the pouring rain, and all sorts of indignities were inflicted. They also had to complain of some of their cows being killed, others stolen by the tax gatherers, so far from the central authority; and worse than all, some had been beaten and expelled from lands which their forefathers’ sweat had bedewed for years untold. The Arayans of Todupuley, it is said, are still much oppressed by their Muhammadan neighbours.

The Puniattu Rajah, who ruled over those at Mundapalli, made them pay headmoney — two chuckrams a head monthly as soon as they were able to work — and a similar sum as “presence money,” besides certain quotas of fruit and vegetables, and feudal service. They were also forced to lend money if they possessed any, and to bring leaves and other articles without any pretext of paying them, and that for days. The men of these villages were thus placed in a worse condition than the slaves. This petty Rajah used to give a silver-headed cane to the principal hillman, who was then called Perumban, “cane-man.”


Among these wild but most interesting tribes the late Rev. Henry Baker, junr., began, about 1849, a good work of evangelizing and civilizing, which he carried on in the teeth of many difficulties and perils which would have discouraged a less resolute man, travelling on foot by the jungle tracks, crossing bridgeless streams, climbing the hills to their romantic settlements, and once spending nights in a hut in a great tree for protection from the wild elephants. Great opposition was experienced from the heathen, especially in the Puniattu Rajah’s country. The inquirers were beaten by some of the Rajah’s servants, made to stand in water up to their very necks “in order to wash Christianity out of them;” kept in stocks for days, chillies rubbed in their eyes, and their heads tied up in bags and in loosened head cloths filled with the large black ground-ants and red tree-ants.

Mr. Baker was privileged to baptize many hundreds of the Arayans, instructing them and forming them into congregations. This good work is still cared for by other missionaries, and is likely to extend. There are now about 2000 Arayan Christians in congregations, situated chiefly north of Puniattu and around Mundakayam, all within a radius of thirty-six miles from Cottayam — an imperishable memorial of Henry Baker and his indefatigable labours. At Melkavu a church has been substantially built of stone on a site about 2,000 feet above the sea-level. The Christians still suffer persecution from rich Muhammadans and Nayars in the neighbourhood, who fear the loss of their gains if the hillmen are taught to read, and from the Sirkar’s underlings, who try to obtain money on false pretences. The need of trained agents is now much felt for the guidance and growth of these new churches. Very recently the inhabitants of two hills near Melkavu have expressed their desire to be instructed, and asked for teachers. Thus is “the wilderness made glad, and the parched desert become like a garden of the Lord.”

Several other tribes dwell in the hills, as Ulladars, a true jungle tribe of wild and timid savages, whose subsistence and life are miserable and pitiful. They are without settled villages and civilized clothing, wandering within certain boundaries prescribed to each division, living a few months in one spot till the crop of ragi is reaped, then decamping to another place more likely to be productive of wild roots. They subsist chiefly on wild yams, arrowroot, and other esculents, which they find in the jungle, and for the grubbing up of which they are generally armed with a long pointed staff. They also further enjoy the fruits of the chase, and are adepts in the use of the bow and arrow. The arrow they use has an iron spear-head, and an Ulladan has been known to cut a wriggling cobra in half at the first shot. When armed with guns they make excellent sportsmen.* They were claimed as the property of celebrated hill temples, or great proprietors, who exacted service of them, and sometimes sold their services to Nairs, Syrians, and others. A few Ulladars in the low country say that they or their fathers were stolen in childhood and brought down as slaves.


A small number of Uralis wander over the Todupuley hills, building their huts on trees like the Arayans. They entertain a singular aversion to buffaloes, whose approach they anxiously avoid; and are expert in the use of the bow. Uralis and Ulladans are said to intermarry. The former, originally slaves, were employed by their Nair masters in cultivating rice on the lower slopes of the hills; they afterwards migrated to the high lands, changing their quarters annually, and obtaining good crops of rice from forest clearings. They are first-rate guides, and some of them particularly useful in carrying heavy loads. From the practice of polyandry, they are, like the Tudas on the Neilgherries, fast diminishing in numbers.

These tribes generally consider themselves superior to the Palayars and Pariahs.

The Mannans are also a wandering people, little, strangelooking, mountain-men, hardy, and very black, speaking bad Tamil, much employed by the Sirkar to collect cardamoms, keep watch, &c. They rarely cultivate anything but ragi.

There is also a hunter caste called Pulayars, which Mr.Baker considers to be nearly the same as the Uralis, except that their speech is Tamil. He also met with a few miserable beings calling themselves HILL Pandaram, without clothing, implements, or huts of any kind, living in holes, rocks, or trees. They bring wax, ivory, and other produce to the Arayans, and get salt from them. They dig roots, snare the ibex of the hills, and jungle fowls, eat rats and snakes, and even crocodiles found in the pools amongst the hill streams. They were perfectly naked and filthy, and very timid. They spoke Malayalam in a curious tone, and said that twenty-two of their party had been devoured by tigers within two monsoons.

These jungle tribes have generally the same rules and notions respecting women, property, demonology, &c., as the Arayans, and look upon the people of the plains as immigrants to the country. The Sirkar recognized headmen among the Mannans and Arayans, and gave them swords and other insignia, still preserved among them.

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These are more numerous in the South, where they are also found less reduced in social status, and their usages resemble those of the Tamil Pariahs. They profess to have been once free and powerful. The flesh of cattle left dead by the roadside is their perquisite, and it is their partaking of this food that excites the abhorrence of ordinary Hindus, who venerate the cow. The Pariahs are employed chiefly in field labour. Zealous devil-worshippers and dancers, they make great pretensions to sorcery and magical powers.

About Trevandrum the people of this caste are rather strongly built and bold. They live in hamlets, and eat the putrid flesh of dead cattle, tigers, &c. As with the Sudras, nephews are the heirs. Their girls are married when very young — for mere form — by their cousins, but when grown up are selected by others, who “give cloth.” Instances occur both of polygamy and polyandry. The females are rather fair and licentious. They rub turmeric on their faces and bodies, and wear numerous heavy ornaments.

The Pariahs are employed by Sudras and Shanars for casting out devils and counteracting enchantments. A Christian convert of this caste, who had been a devil dancer, being asked concerning his former practices, replied that they were mere tricks to obtain money.

In North Travancore, their condition seems at the lowest, as they enter farther into the Malayalam country, and have had fewer opportunities of escape from their caste degradation and bitter servitude.

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These are a branch of a great and widespread race of people that occupies South Tinnevelly, Travancore, and the Malabar coast as far as the Tulu country. In the far south on both coasts they are known as Shanars; in Central Travancore as Ilavars; from Quilon to Paravoor, Chogans; in Malabar, as far as Calicut, they are called Teers, or Tiyars; and still farther north Billavars, which appears to be a slightly altered form of Ilavar. SEE footnote below

Ilavar, or Eeloover, is derived from Ilam, Ceylon, whence they are said to have immigrated into Malabar, bringing the cocoanut tree along with them.

“The general and natural course of migration would doubtless be from the mainland to the island; but there may occasionally have been reflex waves of migration, even in the earliest times, as there certainly were later on, traces of which survive in the existence in Tinnevelly and the western coast, of castes whose traditions, and even in some instances whose names, connect them with Ceylon.”(Caldwell.)

A few are found in Sivagasi district in Tinnevelly, where they are called Pandi Ilavars, or Panikkars — distillers of arrack — also in Travancore, from Tovala to Velavenkodu. These generally obey the Makkatayam law of inheritance like the Shanars and Tamil people, but they are Malayalis in dress, language, and customs.

In the census of Travancore, the Ilavars are classified with Paravans, Noolians, Thandans, and Shanars, as all ‘’slightly modified forms of the same order of the Hindu community.” The Ilavars proper, however, number 383,017; if Shanars and others of similar standing are added, there are over five lacs, or nearly a fourth of the entire population. Shertala is the stronghold of the Ilavars, as half a lac of them reside in that Talook. Some of their community are among the most respectable ryots in the State. All speak Malayalam, while the Shanars are Tamilians.

In Travancore there are several sub-divisions of the caste, which are respectively held in various social and local estimation. Sometimes the terms by which the higher castes are accustomed to denote them differ from those which they use of one another; and offence may be given by appellations, which are regarded as nick-names. The Pandi, or Tamil Ilavars, have already been mentioned; sometimes they call themselves Pattanam varikar. The Pachotti, or Pachili Ilavars, are found between Kovelam and Quilon — the Chevannar or Shanar Ilavars, South of Quilon to Anjengo — the Pula Ilavars, very numerous from Neondakara to Cochin, appear to be simply Chagans. Tandans, Panikkans, and Velans are also Ilavars.

Titles of Honour. — The ‘Channan’ amongst the Chevannar Ilavars is the one who conducts marriages and presides at all important ceremonies, for which he receives presents of tobacco, &c. He is the head-man of the village, and the office is hereditary from uncle to nephews.

Panikkar (artificer, an honorific applied to different classes) is used chiefly in the north from Kayenkulam, more particularly to denote a priest of this caste.

The Illam “house or lineage,” is a curious classification amongst this caste, purely Hindu and copied, apparently from the Brahmanic gotras. It may be traced also amongst the Pulayars and the Mukkuvars (the latter are said to be immigrants from Ceylon, and are probably allied to the Ilavars). Persons who belong to the same illam are accounted as brothers and sisters, and may not intermarry, for this would be regarded as incest. These illams, they allege, continue the same from generation to generation; new ones are not established, nor do the old ones die out, while of course the actual blood relationship between the families of an illam is becoming more and more distant. The illam is counted through the mother. It is an instance of the law of exogamy — marriage prohibited within the clan. “It must be remembered,” says Sir A. C. Lyall, “that in all pure Hindu society, the law which regulates the degrees within which marriage is interdicted proceeds upon the theory that between agnatic relatives connubium is impossible. And as by an equally universal law no legitimate marriage can take place between members of two entirely different castes or tribes, we have thus each member of Hindu society ranged by a law of intermarriage, first as belonging to an outer group, within which he must marry; and secondly, belonging to an inner group of agnatic kinsfolk, among whom he must not marry.”


Amongst the Ilavars this rule is purposeless and very troublesome, sometimes proving quite a check on desirable marriages; even after becoming Christians the prejudice clings to them.

At Mayanadu, a few miles south of Quilon, of which we have particulars, the illams are stated to be Choli, Muttu, Mathinadu, and Madambi, the origin of each of which is traced to Veerabhadran marrying wives of various castes. The Ilavars there regard themselves as belonging to the second and third of the above illams, and each takes wives from the other illam only. Those of the Madambi illam, they say, are numerous about Trevandrum and Neydttankara, and are said to intermarry amongst themselves sometimes. Muttu appears to mean the “stem” or principal line; Mathinadu to be merely Mayanadu, the name of the locality; and Madambi, the “baron’s”servants.

When marriages take place at Mayanadu between persons of the Muttu and Mayanadu illams, the headman of each is paid five fanams for conducting the ceremony. They also receive a bundle of betel leaves when the pulikuli ceremony takes place on pregnancy; and at the tirandukuli ceremony, on the arrival at maturity of a girl. Various other marks of respect are paid them.

The Muttillam comprises but one class, who are also called Nayan Shanan. There are four subdivisions in the Mayandau illam, viz., Senior Shanan, Junior Shanan, and Ayanthi and Kannankara Shanan, names of places. They say that the title of Channan was obtained from their former rulers by paying a fee to them.

At the temple of “The Five Lords” in Mayanadu (probably the Five Pandu Brothers), a festival is conducted in April for five days by the headmen of the five sub-divisions of illams last mentioned, during which the five nieces or heiresses of these headmen are allowed to carry lamps and walk round the idols inside the temple, while other women can only perambulate on the outside.

The special occupation of the Ilavars is the culture of the cocoanut palm, and the manufacture from it of toddy and ardent spirits, described in another chapter. They are also general agriculturists; some are weavers and boatmen, and a few are petty traders, teachers, priests, doctors, and such like. They are a pleasant looking, intelligent, and respectable people, the highest of the so-called low-castes, but very bigoted in their superstitions, and strongly attached to their caste usages and high pretensions. At Vakkam men are sometimes supported by their wives, who earn a living by trade. The land in that village is divided into neat little square plots of half an acre, or an acre, each planted with cocoanut trees, and having a neat thatched cottage in the centre.

Customs. — The ceremony called Pulikudi “tamarind drinking,” is observed in the seventh month of pregnancy. For her delivery the woman’s put in a separate room and attended by the midwife. If the infant is a male, the assembled women make the kurava cry; if a female, they strike the earth with the midrib of a cocoanut leaf to remove the fear of demons. The infant is immediately washed, and totturekka ceremony performed as follows: — A little palm sugar and some onion are mixed in water, and a few drops of this given to the infant by some relative or friend whose excellences, it is supposed, will be acquired by the child. Some give the water of a young cocoanut — others rub a little gold into powder on a stone, mix with water and administer this.

The parents note the exact time of birth as well as they can by the length of their shadow or otherwise, and apply to the astrologer for a horoscope. Regarding the house as polluted by the occurrence, the husband cannot eat food in it for ten days, but goes elsewhere to eat. On the seventh day, pollution is removed by a ceremony performed by the barber woman. She breaks a cocoanut and scrapes it into fine flakes, which she throws about the house.

Women of well-to-do families only go out of the compound on the 28th, or the 40th day, but poorer people go abroad on the seventh. On the eleventh day after the confinement, food is given to the women who had attended on that occasion.

The name is given to the child on the twenty-eighth day. Names are selected by lot, or sometimes the father settles it. Names of deities are usually chosen. On the day the name is given, offerings of boiled rice are made to the god whose name is taken, and a feast is given; an ornamental chain of silver or gold is put on the waist of a boy and a kind of tali on the neck of a girl. Poor people only tie a cotton cord on the waist.

The first rice is given to the infant when six months old, with some ceremony. When the first tooth appears, a kind of sweetmeat called pallada is made of rice, sugar, and cocoanut, and given to the relatives. On the child’s birthday rich parents give alms to the poor, or food to a number of children of their own caste.

Thoughtful parents send their children to school at the age of five or six. Education is begun with the following ceremony : — An edungaly of rice is placed on a smooth floor or plate, and a lamp and a nali measure containing rice, cocoanut, and flowers of Ixora and Jasmine laid close by. The teacher, holding the boy’s right hand, makes him to write on the rice the word Hari (Vishnu). The rice is given to the teacher, who then writes on a palm leaf a word of praise to the deities and the first sixteen letters, and at the end of the leaf “Hari;”this he gives to the pupil, receiving from him in return some chuckrams as a present. When the boy becomes able to read short words, naryam edukka, “taking the iron pen” is the next step. The teacher writes a line on a palm leaf and hands it to the pupil along with the iron pen, receiving again a present of one or two fanams in a betel leaf. Some parents present beaten rice and plantain fruits to all the children in the school.

Ornaments for girls are made in various forms, as, a leaf of gold or silver tied on the waist, a gold chain round the neck, silver and gold bracelets, a takka or large cylinder for the ears, which last is not worn by those who have become mothers. Some families have large quantities of jewels, which they keep in a box and bring out on special occasions.


Marriage. — Ilavar girls are all married in infancy as a mere form or custom, at various ages, from one to nine. If not so married, the neighbours reproach the parents for their neglect, and exclude them from social privileges. The person who marries a girl in infancy does not afterwards live with her — often it is a near relative who is the nominal bridegroom.

A month before the solemnization of the nuptials, betel and tobacco are sent as a preliminary invitation to the heads of the community as well as to the maternal uncles of the couple, who are immediately consulted about the erection of a pandal or marriage-shed. The materials having been provided and an auspicious day named by the headman, they assemble and erect the shed. The finishing touches of this work, as trellis, steps, windows, arches, and ornaments, are afterwards given by degrees. In the south-west corner of the pandal, a platform of ‘ stones is made, white-washed, adorned with flowers, and covered with a canopy of red, white and coloured cloths, upon which are fastened lotus flowers and leaves of Ficus religiosa cut in paper. A stool is also placed there covered with silk, upon which caskets, looking-glasses, swords, &c., are placed. A plank is also arranged in the pandal north and south, covered with clean cloth.

To save expense and trouble, several girls are usually married at one time. They are taken to the river to bathe, dress, and put on their ornaments. On returning they are accompanied by the barber-women of their caste, who sing marriage songs, and by men, women, and children of their own people, shouting, blowing snake-horns, and the “five kinds” of music. At the entrance of the pandal the noisy display is stopped, and the eldest of the brides is prepared for marriage; her face is veiled and she is carried by one of her cousins and seated on the decorated platform, while the other brides are seated upon the boards, having their heads covered with white and red cloths. On the left side of each girl is laid a plantain leaf, and on this a nari measure, an edungaly measure made of the wood of Alstonia sckolaris, and filled with paddy, a brass vessel containing an edungaly of rice, and a clean cloth folded, on which half a cocoanut, containing a little oil and a wick, is placed. A brass lamp is also lit and laid close to each leaf, in addition to silver rings (worth one fanam each) tied with thread.

The barber-woman now places a betel leaf beneath the left elbow of each girl, takes up the ring, and thrice begs permission of the principal men and women, “Shall I tie the bracelet?”

Permission being given she binds it on. Here it may be observed that the barber-women bathe, put on their ornaments, and go to the marriage shed on the day previous to the wedding, where they keep up singing until the hour fixed for the marriage on the following day. On this occasion, the mother of each bride presents a red cloth, while other females present make them gifts of common cloth and money.

Again, the brides’ uncles employ the brothers of the girls who are to be married to furnish a memorandum of the names and birthdays of the brides, with a parcel of betel-nut and tobacco, to the respective bridegrooms’ maternal uncles, by whose permission the bridegrooms retire to some place at a considerable distance, where they have their hair partly cropped or shaved. After bathing and daubing sandalwood paste over the body in stripes, they put gold bracelets on the wrists and gold beads round the neck, and tie a gold tissue on the red cloth which covers the muslin on the head. They also dress in a white thick cloth, over which is worn a thin muslin, also a gold or silver belt with similarly mounted writing style and penknife. These ornaments are hired for the occasion if not possessed by the family. This is a common practice amongst all castes.


The bridegrooms return to the marriage house in procession with shouting, trumpeting, the five kinds of drums, playing with swords, and other athletic feats. Arriving at the entrance of the pandal, they make a present of four or five bundles of betel to the workmen who erected it. The astrologer then comes forward and announces that the appointed and auspicious hour has arrived. Instantly the bridegroom of the eldest girl, already sitting on the elevated platform, is taken in and seated by her side, while the other bridegrooms are seated on boards or planks in the shed. The bride sits on the left of her bridegroom. As soon as all are seated, the barber woman, holding in her hand the tali of the girl who is about to be married, and declaring the astral days and the names of the spouses, begs leave of the male and female relatives of the bride, thrice repeating the words, “Shall I take advantage of the lucky hour?”

Permission being granted, she hands over the minnu or tali to the bridegroom, who then ties it on the neck of the girl. Afterwards the mothers of the newly-married couples put into the hands of each bridegroom ten chuckrams, while other guests throw into a brass plate various sums, from five to ten fanams each. A list is then made of the names of the contributors, and the amounts paid in. The barber woman takes, as her fee, one fanam from each bridegroom, and leaves the remainder of the money to the bride’s maternal uncle, who counts and takes care of it.

The married couple remain at this house for a week, and are amused with various athletic performances, which they reward with appropriate presents. On the seventh day, the ring tied up by the barber woman is taken off — the wedding is over, and the bride’s party give to the mock bridegroom 25 fanams and a bunch of plantain fruits, with five edungalies of rice and a suit of cloth, and conduct him back to his home.

When girls thus married in childhood attain maturity, they are usually chosen as wives by a relative who is willing to do so. Then they are sent to his house with the money contributed to each during their first marriage, and in addition, ornaments, brass vessels, cows and she buffaloes, or any other presents her parents may wish to give.

Death and Burial. — In sickness, sorcerers are consulted, who divine that a certain demon is provoked, and must be pacified by offerings of rice, flowers, fowls, &c. For rendering this service he is paid. Vows are also made to various deities. Sacred ashes are sometimes thrown on the patient, with the promise that he shall recover.

The ceremonies after death vary according to the means and circumstances of the parties. Notice being at once given to relatives and neighbours, both men and women visit the remains. The body is washed and laid on a cot looking north and south. Before washing the dead, the Tandan is sent for, who constructs a shed of cocoanut palm leaves in the yard; the corpse is laid there immediately after washing, and the vaykkari, or “putting of rice into the mouth” performed. The barber takes some paddy, beats it free from the husk, mixes with it some scraped cocoanut and keeps the mixture ready in a cup. He presides over the ceremony. The children, nephews, and other relatives of the deceased, come forward one by one, and each puts a small pinch of the mixture into the mouth of the corpse. Afterwards the nephews and others put new cloths on the body, which cloths, together with the earrings, &c., of the dead, become the perquisites of the barber himself. While the vaykkari ceremony is being performed, offerings are laid in the shed, and the relatives cry and mourn. The offerings consist of a nari measure of paddy, flowers, and tender cocoanuts. A lamp is also kept burning. This shed remains for seven days, during which time there is daily mourning. The body is buried, either wrapped in mats, or enclosed in a coffin. But if the deceased had been distinguished for wealth, social position, or great age, the remains are burnt.

The grave is generally dug in the compound, and on the south side of the house. Relatives alone bear the body to the grave. They carry it seven or eight times round the grave before lowering and burying it. Afterwards a tender cocoanut is placed at each end of the grave, and some green leaves on it lengthways. A cocoanut tree is also planted on the spot, which is afterwards called “the burning ground cocoa-tree.” If the corpse has been burnt, a lamp is kept burning at each end of the grave, instead of the young cocoanuts.

On the sixteenth day is the pulakuli or “purification” ceremony, when the caste people are invited, and comparatively large sums spent by wealthy Ilavars on sumptuous entertainments. Bundles of betel-leaf are presented to the principal guests on leaving, and they are thanked for their attendance. To indicate that the “pollution” is over, the barber sprinkles milk in the house.

We may here observe that the barber attends in various ways. At feasts, for instance, it is his office to remove the plantain leaves which have served the guests as plates. Should he publicly refuse to take away the leaf, it is considered a most bitter and degrading insult.

The graves of virgins dying young are used as places for worship, some tree, such as pala (Alstonia scholaris) being planted over the grave, and a lamp kept burning. Pregnant women dying are supposed to become demons, and are, therefore taken for burial to some distant and lonely jungle, and mantrams repeated over the grave to prevent their spirits from returning to injure people. Those who die of fever are supposed to become Maruthas, and are buried inside the house, mantrams being said over them also, to hinder their attacking the survivors. This miserable superstition is common amongst all classes, and the grief of a bereaved husband is often sorely aggravated by the thought that the future destiny of the beloved wife is that of an evil spirit, and that he should have to hear continually stories of her making frightful appearances and possessing others.

The nepotistic law of inheritance is, to a considerable extent, followed by this caste. Those in the far south being more closely connected with the Tamil people, their children inherit.


Amongst the Ilavars in Trevandrum district, a curious attempt is made to unite both systems of inheritance, half the property acquired by a man after his marriage and during the lifetime of his wife going to the issue of such marriage, and half to the man’s nepotistic heirs. In a case decided by the Sadr Court, in 1872, the daughter of an Ilavan claimed her share in the moveable and immovable property of her deceased father, and to have a sale made by him while alive declared null and void to the extent of her share. As there was another similar heir, the Court awarded the claimant a half share, and to this extent the sale was invalidated. Their rules are thus stated by G. Kerala Varmman Tirumulpad : —

“If one marries and ‘gives cloth’ to an Ilavatti (fem.), and has issue, of the property acquired by him and her from the time of the union, one-tenth is deducted for the husband’s labour or individual profit; of the remainder, half goes to the woman and her children, and half to the husband and his heirs (anandaravans),

“The property which an Ilavan had inherited or earned before his marriage devolves solely to his anandaravans, not to his children.

“If an Ilavatti has continued to live with her husband, and she has no issue, or her children die before obtaining any share of the property, when the husband dies possessing property earned by both, his heirs and she must mutually agree, or the caste-men decide what is fair for her support; and the husband’s heir takes the remainder.”


Demon worship, especially that of Bhadrakali, a female demon described as a mixture of mischief and cruelty, is the customary cultus of this caste, with sacrifices and offerings and devil-dancing like the Shanars. Shastavu, and Veerabhadran are also venerated, and the ghosts of ancestors. Groves of trees stand near the temples, and serpent images are common, these creatures being accounted favourites of Kali. They carry their superstitions and fear of the demons into every department and incident of life. In some temples and ceremonies, as at Paroor, Sarkarei, &c., they closely associate with the Sudras.


The Ilavar temples are generally low, thatched buildings, with front porch, a good deal of wooden railing and carving about them, an enclosure wall and a grove or a few trees, such as Ficus religiosa, Plumieria, and Bassia.

At the Ilavar temple near Chakki, in the outskirts of Trevandrum, represented in the illustration, the goddess Bhadrakali is represented as a female seated on an image, having two wings, gilt and covered with serpents. Twice a year fowls and sheep are sacrificed by an Ilavan priest, and offerings of grain, fruit, and flowers are presented. The side-piercing ceremony is also performed here.

A temple at Mangalattukonam, about ten miles south of Trevandrum, at which I witnessed the celebration of the annual festival on the day following Meena Bharani, in March or April, may be taken as a fair example of the whole. In connection with this temple may be seen a peculiar wooden pillar and small shrine at the top, somewhat like a pigeon-house. This is called a tani maram, and is a kind of altar, or residence, for the demon Madan, resembling the temporary shrines on sticks or platforms erected by the Pulayars. On it are carvings of manyheaded serpents, &c., and a projecting lamp for oil.

For the festival, the ground around the temple was cleared of weeds, the outhouses and sheds decorated with flowers, and on the tanimaram were placed two bunches of plantains — at its foot a number of devil-dancing sticks. Close by were five or six framework shrines, constructed of soft palm leaves and pith of plantain tree, and ornamented with flowers. These were supposed to be the residence of some minor powers, and in them were placed, towards night, offerings of flowers, rice, plantains, cocoanuts, and blood.

The Ilavars who assemble for the festival wear the marks of Siva, a dot and horizontal lines on the forehead, and three horizontal lines of yellow turmeric on the chest. They begin to gather at the temple from noon, and return home at night. Over five hundred persons attend on this occasion — formerly many more came. The festival lasts for five days. Some of the neighbouring Sudras and Shanars also attend, and some Pulayars, who pay one chuckram for two shots of firework guns in fulfilment of their vows. Offerings here are generally made in return for relief from sickness or trouble of some kind. The pujari or priest, is an Ilavan, who receives donations of money, rice, &c.

A kind of mild hook-swinging ceremony is practised. On the occasion referred to, four boys, about fifteen or sixteen years of age, were brought They must partly fast for five days previously on plain rice and vegetable curry, and are induced to consent to the operation, partly by superstitious fear, and partly by bribes. On the one hand they are threatened with worse danger if they do not fulfil the vows made by their parents to the devi; on the other hand, if obedient, they receive presents of fine clothes and money.

Dressed in handsome cloths and turbans, and adorned with golden bracelets and armlets, and garlands of flowers, the poor boys are brought to present a little of their blood to the sanguinary goddess. Three times they march round the temple; then an iron is run through the muscles of each side, and small rattans inserted through the wounds. Four men seize the ends of the canes, and all go round again in procession, with music and singing and clapping of hands, five or seven times, according to their endurance, till quite exhausted.

The pujari now dresses in a red cloth, with tinsel border, like a Brahman, takes the dancing-club in hand, and dances before the demon. Cocks are sacrificed, water being first poured upon the head; when the bird shakes itself, the head is cut off and the blood poured round the temple. Rice is boiled in one of the sheds in a new pot, and taken home with the fowls by the people for a feast in the house.

At Mayanadu, the Bhagavathi of the small temple belonging to the Ilavars, is regarded as the sister of the one worshipped in the larger temple used by the Sudras, and served by a Brahman priest; and the cars of the latter are brought annually to the Ilavars’ temple, and around it three times before returning to their own temple. At the Ilavars’ temple the same night, the women boil rice in new earthen pots, and the men offer sheep and fowls in sacrifice.


In further illustration of the strange superstitious practices of this tribe, two more incidents may be mentioned.

An Ilavatti, whose child was unwell, went to consult an astrologer, who informed her that the disease was caused by the spirit of the child’s deceased grandmother. For its removal he would perform various incantations, for which he required the following, viz. : — Water from seven wells, dung from five cowsheds, a larva of the myrmeleon, a crab, a frog, a green snake, a viral fish, parched rice, ada cake, cocoanut, chilli, and green palm leaves.

An Ilavan, who had for some time been under Christian instruction, was led away by a brother, who informed him that if he built a small temple for the worship of Nina Madan and offered sacrifices, he should find a large copper vessel full of gold coins hid underground and under the charge of this demon. The foolish man did so, and dug to the depth of eighteen feet, but did not find a single cash. Now the lying brother avers that the demon will not be satisfied unless a human sacrifice is offered, which, of course, is impossible.

Ilavar converts form a proportion of the congregations under the care of the London Missionary Society. Through the labours of the Church Missionary Society, also, in the north, some thousands of the Chogans have been converted to Christianity; this work commencing about thirty years ago. Various little difficulties arose from the peculiar laws of marriage (or rather concubinage) and inheritance observed by the Chogans. Some of the daughters of the converts were claimed and taken away by their uncles as the legal guardians: heathen nephews a’so made complaints that their Christian uncles had gone mad! Generally the difficulty was met by the Christians at once dividing their property equally between children and nephews.

The heathen relatives also attempted to remove the children, or prohibit their baptism, on the ground that, according to Travancore law, a father has no right to his own children among Hindus below Brahmans. The right of Christian converts to walk on the high road and enter public markets and streets was also discussed, the Brahmans and Nayars objecting to this, but the point was at last carried, as mentioned in our chapter on Caste.

Yet such is the corrupting influence of caste prejudice, that it was equally necessary to warn a few of these Christian converts against attempting to carry out the same unjust and cruel prejudices against Pulayar Christians. In 1877, some of the latter wished to attend the church at Arpukara near Cottayam, but the Chogan Christians appealed against this to the Bishop of Madras on the ground that they would lose some employment and advantages in their work for Nayars if they were obliged to mingle with Pulayars every Sunday, and threatening to secede if they were obliged to do so. An admirable reply was given by the Bishop, explaining the spiritual principles of the gospel, the duty of brotherly kindness to the longdespised Pulayars, and the impossibility of Christianity adapting itself to heathenism; at the same time, enjoining the Pulayars to attend divine worship clean in person and dress, in order that no reasonable cause of offence should be given. The Chogans were displeased, and held worship separately for a time; but being judiciously advised, they returned by degrees, and all goes on well now.

Chogans sometimes have a few stones around a tree in the front of the house to represent the spirits of their ancestors, and perform certain ceremonies in their honour every year.

Valans are the most degraded branch of this tribe in Travancore, whose social condition demands special consideration and improvement. They are found at Shertala, Vaikkam, Paravur, and other places on the banks of the great backwaters in the north. They are sometimes called “fishing Arayans,” though not very appropriately, seeing that they have no connection with the Hill Arayans, their headman only being called arayan or chieftain. Through ages of oppression by the native rulers these unfortunate people are virtually in a state of slavery, out of which it is impossible for them to redeem themselves, being unalterably bound by the system of government impressment for forced labour to their present residences, employments, and status. They are commonly regarded as lower than Ilavars and Chogans, but their manners and customs and laws of inheritance show them to be of the same origin.

The Valans have no fields or lands of their own, but like Pulayars and Kuravars build their wretched huts on the lands of the Nayars or Chogans, so that they may be dispossessed at any moment. Their food is scanty, and never includes eggs, milk, or rice cakes. Their dress is unclean and poor, the children going quite naked, and often suffering from indigestion, worms, and other diseases; while the parents are so ignorant that they do not even know the use of such a simple remedy as castor oil. They fear also to go to the Sirkar hospitals, which, indeed, are scarcely for the low castes. Very few have learnt to read, and those only in Christian schools.

Through extreme poverty their women do not, like Ilavar females, wear ornaments of gold. Their usual dress is the waist cloth and a small cloth on the shoulders, not covering the breast.

When the Valans converse with high caste people, they must use the old terms of humiliation and self-depreciation. Too many of them waste their earnings on drink. They “give cloth” for concubinage, and, therefore, change their partners often, like ‘other such castes.

The men fish only in the backwaters, not in the sea, using large nets which catch the fish at the ebb and flow of the tide as it affects the lagoons, and raising the nets nightly to gather the fish. The most they get at a haul is eight or ten chuckrams’ worth. The nets are made of cotton thread, and repaired by themselves, one being the work of two or three months, and lasting for three years. Their tradition to account for this employment is that while Parameswara and Parvathi were crossing a brook, a ring which the former wore fell into the water. From the thigh of his wife the god created a man, who went into the water and brought up the ring. This man and his descendants thus became a race who make their living by labouring in the water. Sometimes they do a little cultivation, and the women eke out a livelihood by spinning coir yarn, buying the green husks from the farmers.

They have a few small temples of Bhagavathi, in which Valans officiate. They dread demons, some of whom, as “Water Giant” and “Up to the Skies,” seize people maliciously. Some are driven by their oppression into the Roman Catholic or Syrian communities.

Those who live at Tannirmugham Customs Station have to be ready at a moment’s call to examine boats passing, in order to detect opium or other smuggling. If the peons are sleeping, or at their food, boatmen must just wait. The Valans are also employed for rowing, the boats of government officials, for which they’ receive the usual hire — six cash per man per mile.

Their headman is called Arayan, and has a sword of honour presented by the Rajah. He lives at Chembil. When the Maharajah travels by water, it is the business of the Arayan to collect his people in snake boats for the procession in front of and behind the royal cabin boat. On such occasions the rowers are provided with food from the Ootooperahs, but of course cannot enter; they eat at a distance. The headman has an allowance from the Sirkar. While rowing, the Valans sing portions of the Ramayana in Malayalam, keeping time very well. They are great at boat-racing.

One class amongst these people are called Marakkans: their employment is similar; but Valans do not take food from a Marakkan’s house, and the two never intermarry.

Large numbers of these Valans are impressed by the Sirkar for the purpose of guarding the custom houses, salt warehouses, and excise stations; and rowing the canoes of the superintendents, inspectors, and peons whenever they go out on duty by water. Though the number daily required may be but one or two hundreds, yet the pressure affects the whole class, as each man has to serve a certain number of days by rotation, and each village is indented on for its quota. The apology usually made for this is that these people enjoy free the right of fishing in the backwaters. But this indulgence is free in every part of the country, and the poor Valans have been so long and so effectually crushed down and hindered from agricultural pursuits, that they are now entirely dependent on their fishing and daily labour.

This system of forced labour is as oppressive as it is injurious to the industry of the poorer classes, and is of little real benefit to the State. The work indispensably required should be done by regular paid rowers and watchmen, and by the government servants to whom it legitimately belongs; and the Sirkars have now abundant means at their disposal for this reform. It only needs more consideration for the sufferings of the poor, and an awakening to a sense of the great injustice perpetrated on this class. We trust that this much-needed reform will be carried out during the reign of the present Maharajah: it is rather surprising that it has not been effected long ago.

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The Shanars of South Travancore are identical with those of Tinnevelly, who have been so well described by Dr. Caldwell in his monograph published in 1850. Their domestic usages, however, have not hitherto, we believe, been detailed.


The cultivation of the palmyra palm-tree is practised by this interesting race, from which many converts have been made to Christianity. The palmyra yields a sweet sap, from which sugar is obtained; as it is from the sap of many other palms, the sugar-cane, beetroot, and the maple-tree. The sap flows from the unexpanded flowering stem, which comes out at the very top of the tall, mastlike, branchless palm; and to collect the sap the tree must be climbed at least twice daily.

With marvellous agility the climber ascends, just like a monkey, clasping the tree with hands and feet, assisted only by a loop of fibre, seen in the illustration, laid on the man’s head, as his hands are fully occupied. This loop is placed around the feet to hold them together, and enable the toes to grasp the stem more firmly. The crutch-like staff being laid against the tree, the first step upwards is taken upon it. The hands being required for climbing, the vessels are tied to the waistcloth.

The uppermost vessel is a basket made of the spathe of the palm, and this holds the smaller apparatus — a brush, a little lime to prevent the over-rapid fermentation of the juice, and so forth. Besides the staff, the climber holds a pair of wooden pincers for crushing the flower stem slightly, and a knife to trim it daily, in order to make the sap flow freely. The next is a basket or bucket of palm leaf, plaited double, to hold the juice and carry it down to the bottom of the tree; and the lowest is an earthen pot, holding about a quart, which is suspended to the bleeding flower-stem to catch the sap. The climber’s wife boils the sweet juice into sugar, which she takes to the market for sale.

The work of palmyra-climbing is very laborious, and demands great strength of muscle, incessant practice, and caution to avoid dangerous falls. The more prosperous owners of palm groves rent out the trees, or hire climbers to do the work for them. A hundred palmyras are said to suffice for the support of two families by their produce of sap, sugar, coarse fruits, leaves, fibre, and timber.


Birth. — On such occasions they put margosa leaves (Azadirachta Indica) in the eaves of the house, and keep a lamp lit in the room all night. This is done for sixteen days.

Relatives who visit will bring rice and curry stuffs, but not partake of food in the house during this time of ceremonial pollution. On the sixteenth day all in the house put on clean cloths, and invite the relatives and entertain them. The husband also, who had abstained from shaving from the time he first knew of his wife’s pregnancy, has the whole body shaven from head to foot, and bathes.

When the child’s head is first shaved, the barber pours some milk into a brass plate arid shows it to the relatives sitting near the child — then they put some chuckrams in the plate as a present to the barber; the parents also give him either some money or a palmyra tree, the produce of which he enjoys so long as the tree stands. The ears of children of both sexes are pierced, but those of boys are not enlarged.

The ears of female children are bored at the age of about six months, and the hole barbarously enlarged — first by means of twisted cotton or elastic rolls of palm leaf, then by leaden rings, added one after another till the opening in the lobe of the ear is extended sufficiently to contain a large cylinder of wood or of gold. Girls in running, are sometimes obliged to hold up the ears with their hands, lest the lobe should break with the weight of the leaden rings; and a cruel husband in anger, or a robber grasping at the golden jewels, is sometimes known to tear the ear-lobe, which has then to be repaired by the native physician, tying it up again until fully re-united and healed. The umbilical cord, being dried in the roof and preserved, and the first hair shaven off the head, are enclosed in a small silver tube and tied round the neck with other ornaments, to ward off the attacks of demons.

When the whole of the hair of the head has grown to such a length as to be tied in a knot, a feast is given to the boy’s maternal uncle, who brings a headcloth, ties four chuckrams in a corner of it, and binds it on the head of the boy.

Betrothal. — After the relatives of a youth have understood that the guardians of a girl will consent to give her in marriage, the former go and confirm the agreement by partaking of food in the house of the latter, and fix the date for bringing the parisa money or donation by the bridegroom to the bride, before proceeding to the house for marriage, along with fruits, fish, and other things. After this is done the bride’s people return the visit. An auspicious day for the marriage being fixed, rice-cakes are made, and a little paddy boiled and beaten, and reserved without a single grain being taken from it, until the marriage day.

Erecting Pandal.— On the day of the wedding a green palmyra-tree is cut, and nine posts are set up in the courtyard of the house. The first post is called “south-west post;” a measure full of paddy, four chuckrams, betel, and arecanut being laid down, the post is set up with drumming, whooping, and rejoicing. Then the other posts are fixed and the roof erected. The measure of paddy and other things along with a pot of boiled rice, will go to the headman of the village.

Food is supplied to the guests. The bridegroom fasts on the day previous to the marriage, but on this day he is shaven from head to foot, and is supplied with food made from the rice auspiciously prepared some time before.

The barber marks the bridegroom’s forehead, puts on him the marriage cloth and gold ornament, and brings him into the pandal, where his maternal uncle will be fed with milk and fruits. The uncle then sitting on a low seat near the banyan-wood post and next to the “Brahma,” or middle post, a basket of rice, a cloth, cocoanut, plantain, and betel leaf will be laid before him. The bridegroom, too, brings the bride’s tali and cloth and jewels in a wedding basket of special form called pere petti, which the uncle returns into his hands, blessing him, and tying four chuckrams in a corner of his head-cloth. The bridegroom hands the basket, which contains a smaller one for the tali to his sister, who carries it along.



This marriage basket is of considerable significance in the ceremony, and is used by all the makkalvari or true marriage castes, Brahmans, Shanars, Vellalars, Chetties, Barbers, Pariahs, &c., with some diversities in the form of the basket and the details of its use. Pariahs were permitted only to have a single coverless basket in which the wedding cloth would be seen; now being free, they naturally imitate other people.

The Brahman basket has several divisions for rice, betel, saffron, two of their gods, Sivalingam and Tali kiramam (an egg-like idol), in two of the little divisions, with the cloth in the centre and the tali in another small basket.

Shanars and similar castes used the kind of basket plaited of palmyra-leaf represented in the engraving. The chief wedding cloth costs from Rs. 10 to Rs. 30 or more; some use cheaper coloured cloths, or common calico, according to their means. In all marriage baskets there is a smaller one, which contains the tali, along with which they always put three grains of rice and the points of three betel-leaves, without which, they say, the tali would have to fast. There are also placed in the basket some measures of rice, one or more cocoanuts, seven areca nuts, seven betel leaves, &c., which are to be given to the relatives of the bride. Some castes also keep in it a small vessel of oil.

The marriage basket must be carried only by a sister of the bridegroom — if not his own sister she must at least be a cousin. She carries the wedding-cloth in the basket for clothing the bride, as will be described presently.

Among the fisher caste the custom differs very much. The marriage basket and cloth and tali are provided by the bride or her family, because in that caste husbands are bought by females for so many fanams, and should live in the wife’s village or house. The baskets, &c., are, therefore, sent on the wedding day from the bride’s house to the sister of her bridegroom.

Amongst Sudras, being nepotists,* the custom is quite different; they have no marriage basket. Their girls go through a make-believe marriage ceremony in their childhood. On the marriage day, when the nominal husband leaves his house, his sister puts the cloth in a large brass plate kankalam commonly used by wealthy natives for eating food. She holds the plate in her left hand and a lighted lamp in her right. That cloth is called mantra kodi — “charm cloth.” (Holding a light near the marriage basket is customary amongst all castes except Pariahs and Pulayars. The higher classes, and rich heathen Shanars, carry it all the way.) The Nayar tali is made in the bride’s house at the expense of her family, costing from three fanams to any sum they may wish to expend. But whatever they may spend on this, the bridegroom pays only one fanam for it; as soon as this is paid, the goldsmith puts the tali in a small wooden or horn box, and it is given to the sister of the bridegroom.

In the Shanar marriage procession, the bridegroom, if possible, rides on horseback, or is carried in a palankeen, holding a cocoanut and a sword in his hands. Before starting for the bride’s house he bows to his parents. All along the way cocoanuts are broken, tom-toms beaten, playing, fencing, and fireworks go on. When nearing the bride’s house, they are met from thence with drums, and the bride’s brothers place a garland of flowers on the neck of the bridegroom. They rub sandal-powder on his forehead, seat him in the place prepared, and offer a slight refreshment of jaggery and water, betel-leaf and areca nut, to his company.

After a few minutes’ rest, his sister, accompanied by some women, enters the bride’s room with the basket and the little vessel of oil. There the bride will be holding two rolls of betel-leaf in her hand, which are taken by her bridegroom’s sister. Then oil is poured on the bride’s head three times (if heathens, prepared saffron is added). After that the bridegroom’s sister invests her with the marriage cloth and jewels brought in the basket. Her parents also receive money for the fees of washer-man, barber, drummer, and other assistants, seven fanams for the village goddess, and five fanams for the village people. The bridegroom’s sister receives, besides the betel-leaf and nut, some money for her aid to the bride.

After the bridegroom has come into the marriage shed, the girl’s female relatives cover the mouth of a large new pot with their hands; and the bride’s mother brings twenty-one measures of paddy and puts into the pot


Tying the Tali. — The marriage badge is a gold bead on a string: the bridegroom holds it on the bride’s neck, and his sister ties it securely. Both persons standing on the marriage board, or plank, the bride’s father causes the man to hold the woman’s right hand. Then a rice-mortar, in which some cotton- seeds and oil are put and set on fire, is carried by the bride-groom’s brother thrice around the Brahma post, the bride and bridegroom following. This completes the marriage.

Both persons are then seated on the board, and a little oil, with a few chuckrams in it, is given into the hand of the husband; this he touches thrice with his fingers, and sprinkles on his wife’s head — she does the same to him. After this, both are clothed with a long cloth, supplied by the washerman, and bathe. Then both are fed from the auspicious rice; the remainder, together with a large quantity of boiled rice and cakes, is used by the relatives. A little lime and turmeric are mixed, waved thrice round the heads of husband and wife, and thrown away. The bride, paying due obeisance, transfers all the things she brought from her father’s house to the hand of her mother-in-law, who puts a bracelet on, and bids her bow to the salt-vessels, &c. They all eat together, and return to the bride’s house, where also they are entertained.

The following curious estimate of the expenditure in both houses in a Christian marriage of this caste on a respectable scale, is furnished by a native friend intimately and practically acquainted with these matters. It is calculated in fanams = value the seventh of a rupee.

Tobacco brought by the agents of the bridegroom on going to ask the consent of the bride’s parents 1

Feast on receiving these men 6

Tobacco given by the bridegroom’s party to the bride’s on settling the achi panam ‘mother’s money’ 3

Feast on this ocassion, at the bride’s house 5

Tobacco brought by the bridegroom’s party to the bride’s house when paying the achi panam 15

Paid on same day by bridegroom’s family as a sign that both are now connected 41

For the bride’s jewels, from both parties. 464

Feast at bride’s house on same day. 70

Pillapani, jewels given to the bride by her relatives 121

Feast at the bride’s house when writing application for marriage licence 5

Tobacco brought by the bridegroom’s party 2

Erecting marriage pandals, both parties. 95

Betel, &c. distributed to guests as invitation 80

Feast at the bride’s house to those who bring the provisions from the bridegroom’s house. 18

Marriage feast, both parties: - rice, fs. 425; cocoanuts, fs.45. plantains, fs, 115; salt, tamarinds, curry stuffs, fs. 35; vegetables, fs. 32 652

Oil 30

Payasam or pudding of rice, milk, jaggery, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin seed 54

Pappadam cake to eat with curry 14

Alms for Panddrams, Kuravars, &c. 15

Hire of horse, carriage, &c. 14

Hire of gold chains, silver waistbelt, turbans, bracelets, for dressing bridegroom and bride’s brother. 15

Cloths for the bride and bridegroom’s uncles. 17

Cloths and jewels brought by the man for his bride 140

Drumming, shooting guns, singing, &c. 147

Given to the bridegroom by the bride’s father when giving her hand to him 7

Vathilida (door) money to the bride’s mother-in-law 41

Presents of rings, ear-rings, money, &c. by their relatives to the young couple when bidding farewell 210

Cow, brass vessels, &c. dowry given to the bride by her father 160

Given to the bridegoom and his brothers in visiting the bride’s house 40

Feast to them, the same day 35

Marriage fees, &c. 19

Washerman and barber 6
Fs. 2594
Rs. 370½


Pongalpanei. — New pot to boil rice for the Pongal feast From the day of marriage the woman’s parents supply cloth, washerman’s hire, and other expenses to their daughter. Early in January they give notice of this feast to their daughter, and, accompanied by other relatives, visit her, taking with them some money, rice — raw and boiled — tobacco, betel, &c., with pots from three to eleven in number.

At other festivals they invite their daughter and son-in-law to a feast. She is presented also with a spinning-wheel. From her marriage till the first child is born, all her expenditure is supplied from her father’s house, where, also, her first confinement should take place. The parents come in good time to take her home. All these expenses are considered as part of the dowry.

Burial. — When one dies, the body is covered with cloth, and the barber is sent to call the relatives and others, who come and make a great cry; then proceed to prepare the bier and fetch water. They go with beating of tom-toms to the river or tank, walking upon cloth spread by the washerman all the way, the relatives holding a long cloth carried above their heads, with a pitcher for the ceremony on the head of the son of the deceased. This is filled with water, adorned with garlands of flowers, and placed near the dead body, which is then shaved, rubbed with oil, and bathed with the water brought by the villagers, clothed with a new cloth, and incense burned before it.

A small hole is made in the side of the vessel which the son carried; and the water which gushes out is received in a brass cup containing some cotton-seeds, cocoanut blossoms, turmeric, &c.; the cup is then carried round the corpse. Then the nieces and near relatives weep and beat on their chests, and the women put rice and chuckrams into the mouth. While carrying the coffin to the grave, the mourners again walk on cloth spread along. The coffin is carried thrice round the grave, and the son breaks the pitcher of water at the foot of the body. The males then put rice and money into the mouth, and bury the body in a sitting posture. The barber, washerman, drummer, and other attendants are then paid, the mourners return to the house, where they are sprinkled with salt water, and spend the night in fasting, except that they may take some peas, cocoanut, or betel.

The next day all the rooms of the dwelling are purified with cow-dung, and the people mourn and burn incense. Mourning is continued till the sixteenth day. On the grave, palm-blossoms, tobacco, rice, and fruits are offered by a barber and a pandaram. A small bier is prepared in which some of these articles are put; it is carried to the sea-shore, cut to pieces, and thrown into the sea. A burning wick, with a little flour on a plate, is also sent afloat on the waves. Boiled rice is also placed near the grave, the conch-shell blown, and a cactus, or banyan, or palmyra palm planted for a memorial.


The Devil worship, zealously practised by these people, is minutely described in “Land of Charity,” pp. 189-226. The accompanying illustration represents the bell music used by them. A bow, seven or eight feet long, is fitted with a cord of strong leather, on which are strung a number of bells. The singers sit down on the floor with the bow before them, and strike on the cord with short sticks made for the purpose; four or five do this in turn. This is a regular study; when lads have finished a course of training, they are considered worthy to sing in the pagodas, and other places, where they get a handsome fee.

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b10 #. POTTERS

The Kusavars, or potters, are found, as might be expected, scattered generally throughout the country, evidently attracted to each locality by the nature of the soil and the extent of the demand for earthen vessels. They eschew, however, the sandy district of Sherttala and the wild mountainous regions of Meenachel and Todupuley.


There is a very large and steady demand amongst the poorer classes for earthenware, as it is constantly used for household purposes, and readily breaks, the quality being inferior. If supposed to be ceremonially defiled, earthen vessels are broken; and for religious rites, in which the boiling of rice is almost always included, new pots must be used. The potters manufacture small drinking cups and larger cooking vessels, small oil lamps, and other household utensils, large round water-pots, and great jars for storing rice, tiles for roofing houses, and clay idols and images of various kinds. In the South they are specially busy in making pots for the climbers during the palmyra season.

There are in Travancore two classes of potters — Tamil and Malayalam. The Tamil potters are called Pandi Velans. They wear the sacred cord, and their women the tali and conch on their necks. The marriage ceremony lasts for seven days; remarriage of widows is strictly prohibited; so also is polygamy.

The larger body are called Malayam Velans. Their usages resemble those of the Nairs. The women wear thick cotton cords round the neck, and other ornaments as Sudra women do. “Giving cloth” is customary, both partners separating when they please, and forming other unions. A man’s property, however, goes to his own children among both divisions of potters.

The Kusavars work diligently, men, women, and children from four or five years of age assisting. Fair earnings are made, but the potters do not seem to be provident. The men dig the clay; then all unite to carry it to the place where the wheel is fixed, where it is softened and tempered and put on the wheel by men. The wheel is horizontal, and is generally spun round by a woman, the man dexterously moulding and shaping it with his hands, the simple impetus serving for the formation of the vessel.


A batch of pots is put in the kiln once in a couple of months or so. Fuel being laid in the bottom, the pots are arranged over it, and the kiln is covered with earth to exclude the air and to keep in the vapour. While the pottery is in the furnace, worship is paid to a demon called Chula Madan, who they fear, if not propitiated, will break it. On the third day the ware is taken out ; and if but a minimum of loss has been sustained in the firing, these worldly-wise artificers present thank-offerings to the demon, such as a coin, rice, cakes, fowls, or a goat. They also make offerings of boiled rice to the sun.

The women and girls carry large loads of pottery on their heads, secured with ropes, to the markets for sale.

These people are held in some repute as sorcerers. One saw an aged potter making incantations before a crowd of others on behalf of a sick Shanar child. The man had raw rice laid on a plantain leaf, some betel-nut and tobacco, and a medicinal root to be tied round the child’s waist with a thread. He was complaining, however, that the offerings were inadequate.

Some potters enjoy free grants of lands from the Government for supplying the pagodas with idol gods and images of horses. They sometimes boast of their dignity as manufacturers of the gods that other men worship.

Annually new clay images are conveyed in procession to pagodas, with great reverence and display, from the potter’s house : “This, said one of them, is done for the honour of the god, instead of sacrificing a child.”

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THESE are a Tamil Sudra caste, never engaging in manual labour, but usually subsisting upon alms as religious mendicants.


They wander about singing songs and begging, sometimes officiating as priests. They are Purva Saivas, and worship Supramanian as their patron deity, also Ganesha and the SivaIingam. Some of them are intelligent and clever.

Their marriage ceremonies and rules resemble those of the Tamilians. The body is buried in a sitting posture, and facing the north.

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“THIS is the most numerous class of the Hindu community. There are numerous sub-divisions among them, and sometimes the distinctions are so nice and capricious that the men and women of one house will not eat meals prepared by the members of another, nor sit for eating together in the same row, though they do not object to eat in the presence of those others, or sit with them in different rows. The members of this community are sometimes called Nairs (Nayars), which is a title of distinction, and cannot be indiscriminately applied to all the classes among them. The principal sub-divisions included under this head are thirty-four.” (Census Report.)


The Sudras are generally a cleanly and respectable people, residing in their own houses, on the banks of the rice fields which they own, and cultivate by the aid of the low caste labourers. Many are employed in the service of government, and some of the poorest of them are day labourers ; but scarcely any are engaged in trade or shopkeeping. They are a home-keeping people : rarely do native-born Malayalis visit other countries.

Their strange laws of marriage and inheritance being fully discussed in the chapter on Nepotism, a few notes on domestic manners will here suffice.

Malayalam Sudras are careful to pay much respect to aged relatives. Nephews will not sit down in the presence of their uncles, but stand with the left arm crossed on the breast and the right hand over the mouth ; or, at least, sit on a lower seat or level Sudras meeting Brahmans adore them, folding both hands together ; the Brahman, in return confers his blessing by holding the left hand to the chest and closing the fingers.

Friends are invited to a feast, not by sending betel-leaf, as the low castes do, but by going in person. Guests are first served with water to wash the hands and face ; then different kinds of curries, rice, fruits, sweetmeats, and salt are served on plantain leaves. The leaves used for plates by officials and influential men are removed by maid-servants : other persons carry out their own. Usually the first polite inquiry concerning health is- “How is it that you are so much reduced?

‘’ Men are not accustomed to cover the body above the waist ; so also females when in the house, but when going out they cover the bosom with a piece of light white cloth, which is sometimes a costly article, having a border of gold thread. They wear many ornaments, and the hair done up in a kind of chignon on the lift side of the head.* Women are fond of swinging while they sing songs ; dancing and plays are much liked.

On a journey, wealthy people are attended by men-servants carrying a brass betel-box, drinking vessel, fan, and provisions. Before partaking of a meal, they always bathe and put sacred ashes on the forehead : some also repeat the praises of Rama. They eat from brass or earthen vessels, sitting on the ground : after eating, the place is swept and purified with cow-dung. At some special feasts women are first served, then the men, the food being distributed by men. Some wealthy Sudras employ Brahmans to cook for them at feasts, according to the Brahman mode: food cooked by them may be eaten by all classes. Sudras do not eat beef, but mutton, poultry, &c.

Their barber women, having some experience, officiate as midwives. If a male child is born, they utter the kurava cry ; if a female, they beat on the ground three times. The name is given on the twenty-seventh day, with offerings to Ganesha. The mother sits down with the child, and whispers the name chosen by the father in its ear; then the midwife takes the child, and calls the name aloud before all assembled. At six months old the “first rice” is given with due ceremonial ; also, on a girl’s attaining maturity a festival is held for four days. The tali marriage and the “giving of cloth” are described in the chapter on Nepotism.

In the seventh month of pregnancy the pulikudi, “tamarind drinking,” ceremony is held. The woman is sent to her parents’ house, and on an appointed day the husband takes, according to his means, rice, cocoanuts, plantains, and seven pots full of sweetmeats to her house for offerings, called pongala.

On that day rice is offered in seven pots. Afterwards the woman goes to the house of one of her cousins, and brings a plant of the tamarind tree, and some plants of Sida retusa and Achyranthes aspera in a pot to the front yard of the house where she is to be delivered. She stands on a piece of plank facing the Sun; and a Maran takes the juice of some leaves of the pinaru (a gamboge tree, Garcinia Roxburghii) and of the Sida, which he gives into the hand of one of the woman’s cousins. The woman takes this acid juice in her mouth, and spits seven times. Some of the offerings are given to the Maran.

Sudras have no priests but Brahmans. Some, however, begin to entertain and to show great aversion to Brahmans on account of their profession of superiority, and probably really superior force of intellect. This dislike seems rather on the increase, amounting at times to bitterness and jealousy.

Some classes of Sudras, who may eat together, do not intermarry.


“The Nair’s house almost invariably faces the east, which long-established custom and superstitious belief enjoin. Every house has in addition to the pumukham, or building over the gateway used for more public purposes, a tekkathu, “southern shed,” which is generally dedicated to the presiding deity of the house, and is kept neat and clean, and without any furniture or household utensils, except a brass lamp which is lighted up every evening. The place is looked upon with reverence by the inmates of the house, who do not enter it except after purifying themselves by a bath, which is generally done by dipping into cold water.

“The Brahman visitor of the family retires to the tekkathu for purposes of meals and drink. The spacious open yard enclosed by this cluster of buildings, so useful for drying paddy, grain, peas, and other annual stores, is kept scrupulously neat, the floor having been first hardened and made smooth by a solution of cow-dung and charcoal, which is often repeated during the hot weather.

The master of the house, most probably an old Proverty accountant or a pensioned Tahsildar, not noted for over-scrupulousness while in office, but now in affluent circumstances and respectable old age, sits in the pumukham, or porch-house, chewing away the tender betel and the narcotic tobacco, or beguiling the hours of the afternoon with anecdotes of his early prowess, achievements, and successes ; while the religious books of his family, the time- honoured Ramayana and Mahabharatha, alternately engage and exact his time and attention.”*

* Census Report, p. 123

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THE royal family of Travancore are certainly an ancient dynasty, exercising sway for some centuries, originally over a very confined territory, which was occasionally increased by conquest or otherwise, so as at one time to include the southern portion of Tinnevelly, and within the last century and a half to comprise the whole of the present principality. Around such a race of rulers cluster many traditions, histories, and loyal sentiments, the particulars of which can with difficulty be gathered by Europeans, because the law of caste pollution makes Hindu domestic life inaccessible to strangers. Curious customs, religious and social, have also arisen from precedents once formed in the course of time and of events. It is scarcely correct to speak of them as a single family, as it is evident from historical records that the reigning family has often died out from lack of direct heirs, which it has been remarked is singularly often the case in Hindu families of the higher classes ; and has been recruited by adoptions-usually from the allied line of Mavelikara, but formerly, it is said, even from so great a distance as Kolattiri, near Cannanore.


There are several families of petty Rajahs in Travancore allied to the Maharajahs, the principal of whom is the Mavelikara family, from whom adoption of princesses is usually made, and with whom therefore close relations of friendship subsist. The present Ranees were selected from this family in 1858. It is said that the Mavelikara line was itself perpetuated in ancient times from Travancore, mutual adoptions thus producing intimate union between the two houses.

Besides the various noble families known as Rajahs, another class are found called “ COIL TAMBURANs,” or “ Lords of the Temple.” These are usually regarded as Kshatriyas ; and from their ranks are chosen the consorts of the princesses of the realm. Several families of this class reside in the northern part of the State. The men “give cloth” to Sudra females, while the women are united to Namburi Brahmans.

The accompanying illustration is a portrait of a gentleman of this caste.

National Ensign.-As various nations have adopted particular plants or animals as their emblems, such as the rose for England, and the dragon for China, so Travancore has adopted the conch shell, and for coat-of-arms, within the last few years, two elephants rampant and a Sanskrit motto, meaning ‘’ Charity is our household divinity.” The conch shell is also one of the emblems of Vishnu, and is used in temples for blowing as a horn.

Birth and Education.-In prospect of the birth of a prince, the mother is put apart in a separate building, where she is attended by female servants and midwives. The English physician is also kept in attendance, to be ready in case of need. On the sixteenth day the lady bathes, and returns to her residence.

In the sixth month rice is given to the infant for the first time on which occasion all the relatives attend. The education of the young princes in vernacular languages, and for a long time past in English also, has always been carefully attended to ; and several princes have developed considerable taste for literature, of which the present Maharajah is a distinguished example.

Investiture of Sacred Thread.-This is done early in the sixteenth year of the young prince, when he comes of age. The ceremony is called Upanayana investiture with the sacred cord, or Tirumadampu-a royal pupil having completed his studies.

Europeans sometimes speak of it as a “marriage,” from a mistranslation of the word Kalyana, which literally means “joy,” and is applied to various occasions of special rejoicing. It is one of the twelve purificatory rites, which are supposed to purify a man from the taint of sin derived from his parents, and which are enjoined, with certain variations, on all the twice-born classes. The cord, however, is worn not only by those classes, but also by all the Kammalars or artificer castes, and even by Pariahs on particular occasions.

This ceremony is usually performed about the time of the Pongal, as an auspicious period for this or for marriage. The ceremonies are announced by a salute of 21 guns; and last for nearly a week, during which the young prince is not at liberty to go about freely, but is under strict religious rules as to food and observances. The ceremony, being rather of a domestic character, is performed in one of the palaces inside the fort.

Multitudes of Brahmans and visitors assemble, clad in holiday attire, and the fort is full of noise and excitement. The Alvancheri high-priest presides, and the Brahmans are liberally fed, as upon all great occasions, and charities distributed to them at the Palace. The native troops of the Nair Brigade, with the band, attend every morning to do the honours. Salutes of cannon and fireworks are fired repeatedly. Music and plays fill up the day, and feasting and dances the night. On the fifth day the Maharajah circumambulates the Fort in full procession, visiting the Temple and the palace of the youth’s mother.

At the close of the ceremonies the Rajah usually entertains his European friends to dinner in a magnificent temporary shed erected for the occasion, and sumptuously fitted with furniture, lamps, pictures, and cloth and tinsel decorations in Indian style. The young Prince, in whose honour all is performed, cannot even attend the dinner, on account of ceremonial pollution, but he and the ladies of the family sit in a side room which looks into the dining-hall to enjoy the festive scene. The whole is closed with fireworks, burning of blue lights, and other illuminations.

From this time the young prince has a separate staff and residence and monthly allowance, and is very much at liberty to select his own friends, and to live as may please himself. The ceremonies cost about Rs. 18,000.

After the investiture with the cord, the young prince is required to pay a visit to Attingal, in order to offer homage at the domestic shrine there.


Marriage.-The Maharajah, as head of the family, decides whom the young princes or princesses should marry. The union is that common to the Nairs, not like that of Brahmans, except that an Ammachi, or wife of a Rajah, if put away or widowed, is not allowed to marry any other man. The connection may, according to theory, be dissolved by either party ; but an ammachi would not be likely to do so ; and now public opinion is so valued that the union is usually steadfast.

Little is heard of this ceremony amongst outsiders, because it is really not an important one like a Hindu marriage. “The ammachi is not a member of the royal household, and is in nowise associated with the royal court. She has neither official nor social position at Court, and cannot even be seen in public with the ruler whose wife she is. Her issue occupy the same position as herself, and the law of Malabar excludes them from all claims to public recognition.”

Nayars usually go to the lady chosen, give the cloth, and take her home, or reside with her at her brother’s house. In the case of the royal family, a number of splendid cloths are sent, and she is brought to the palace of her consort. But, unlike other Sudra unions, the Ammachi, having once been married to a Rajah, is required to remain single all the remainder of her days ; and is shut UP and guarded in her own residence. Hence it is not all parents that are willing to give their daughters on these terms. The bereaved lady is comfortably provided for by endowment during the life of the husband, and pension after his decease. Precisely similar is the custom in China, where, on the death of an emperor, his women are removed to a portion of the palace, in which they are shut up for the remainder of their lives.

The Tangachis, or daughters of the Rajah, who, like sons, have no titles of rank, are first married in childhood by a Tirmulpad; when one attains to maturity “cloth is given” by some one who takes her to wife.

The nieces, who, like nephews, have the titles of Highness and Ranee (fem. of Rajah) are married when young to Coil Tamburans, who afterwards live with them so long as both parties are mutually content. It is not necessary that the same person who nominally married the lady in childhood should actually consort with her in maturity. The princess can choose for herself, and if one consort dies, another is called in.

Pulikudi, or “Tamarind drinking” ceremony. When a Hindu wife has reached the seventh month of her first pregnancy, this festival is celebrated on her behalf. A bower, formed of the leaves and flowers of the cocoanut tree, is constructed in the courtyard of her dwelling, when all her female relatives and friends assemble by invitation of the husband, who sends them betel leaf and other things. First, a rice offering, called pongal, is made on a plantain leaf. Along with the rice there may be some figs, sugar, and butter. This offering is made to ensure the protection of the young mother from all dangers during this period. Next, a cocoanut is broken and presented as an offering to Ganesha. Sitting in the centre of her bower, a garland of flowers is hung round the neck of the woman ; and a dish of water, in which saffron and lime are dissolved, is placed before her. To frighten away the evil demons, to whose malice females in these circumstances are supposed to be peculiarly exposed ; all the women present take up the dish and wave it backwards and forwards three times before the woman’s face. A wooden vessel is then brought containing some milk, with gold and silver coins, which she holds in her hand. Taking a piece of gold or silver, the women place it between her shoulders, invoking the aid of the goddess Lakshmi for a safe delivery in due course. Having put some cloth on a tamarind tree, they walk round it; and, on returning to the house, the woman is to taste or drink some juice pressed out of tamarind leaves.

Order of Succession.-The nearest heir to the throne is usually the Rajah’s next younger brother, or the eldest son of his sister. Should the nephew be older than the brother, the senior is the heir. The heir apparent is called Eliya, or “junior” Rajah ; and the next heirs First, Second, Third Princes, and so on. When one dies, the next takes the vacant title, so that the Third Prince will become Second, then First, then Eliya Rajah. These changes of title are rather puzzling to outsiders, as young princes grow older, and older ones are removed by the hand of death. Native designations, however, are permanent, being taken from the star under which each prince was born. As the succession is continued through sisters’ sons, it is not, as amongst Brahmanical Hindus, males who are adopted in case of need, but females, as sisters to existing heirs, and their sons will succeed. Should there be no sons, or only infants, the mother rules during the minority.

The sons of the Rajah, who are called Tambi-younger brother-reside with him in his palace during their youth, and are provided for while the father is alive, as are their mothers also, by gifts of estates, houses, or money, which they thenceforth enjoy as private property.

Accession to the Musnud, or Throne.-During the eleven days of mourning for the deceased Rajah, the new king lives a life of seclusion, attends to the funeral ceremonies and mourning, and receives expressions of sympathy in his bereavement, and of submission to himself as the incoming ruler. On the second day after the obsequies, all the officers of state visit his palace, in mourning attire, to condole with the young Rajah. And on the sixth day, the native officers of the brigade visit the new ruler, when each offers a present of a piece of silk cloth. The new king is not, however, proclaimed for thirteen days ; but, by order of the British Resident, the usual guard of honour sent to the Maharajah attends upon the Prince in the meantime. Until formally installed, he is addressed by his previous title.

A new governor-general having arrived in India in the interregnum between the death of the late, and the accession of the present Maharajah, the usual official intimation had to be addressed to the Ranee. The letter was in English, accompanied by a translation in Persian, beautifully written on paper powdered with silver, and enclosed in a rich satin bag, covered with white net.

The days of mourning for the deceased ruler being ended, purification is made on the twelfth day; and on the thirteenth day the new Rajah visits the pagoda of Patmanabhan for the native ceremonial answering to a coronation. The whole kingdom having been bestowed by Rajah Martandah Vurmah on this deity, in I750, in perpetual endowment, the crown can only be received from him through the Brahmans. The ceremony is called padiyettam, “receiving of subsistence allowance,” and is the clearest possible acknowledgment of entire subservience to the god and his only representatives, the priests. The Ranees being regarded as the custodians of the keys of the temple while the god is absent from it at the Arattu procession, receive for this service a small allowance of rice ; the new Rajah likewise attends the temple for his instructions, and allowances of food and clothing, and for investment with office, and with the first of his official titles, Sree Patmanabha Dausa, “the servant, or slave, of the holy Patmanabhan.”


The royal house of Orissa in like manner, “has for centuries performed menial offices before the image of Jagannath ; and, as the sweeper caste is the lowest in the Hindu commonwealth, so the kings of Qrissa have reached the climax of religious humility in their most cherished title of ‘Hereditary Sweeper of Jagannath.”’-(Hunter’s “Orissa,” p. 115.)

Ascending the temple steps with due acts of homage to the presiding deity, the Maharajah receives from him an allowance of rice and cloth, in token of administering the kingdom as his tenant and vicegerent. The head-accountant of the temple reads from the ritual the rules originally prescribed for observance on the accession of a new sovereign. Offerings are then presented, and various acts of adoration performed, such as pradakshina, circumambulating the pagoda, and sashtangam, prostration of the whole body. The Maharajah is anointed (abhishekham) with consecrated water, and the whole is concluded by the high priest handing to His Highness the sword of state and the belt (which are supposed to belong to Patmanabhan, and have been kept in the temple from the demise of the late king), the prasadam (sandal-wood powder given from the temple as a mark of the god’s favour), the ration of a cocoanut, and 1½ edungalys, of rice, which the Rajah has boiled, and eats.

The eight Yogakar (Brahmans who are the members of the ruling council of the temple) give the neet, or “grant” of the regal office. O n receiving the sword, the Maharajah says, ‘’I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns.” Finally, marching round the pagoda, he returns to take possession of the palace and to sign his first order. This, in the case of the present sovereign, was a grant of an additional five thousand rupees per annum for the repairs of temples, which caused a profound sensation throughout the country in favour of idolatry. So, also, on the arrival of the new Dewan, his first official act was to sign an order for the punctual feeding of the Brahmans.

On the day of the native installation, special pujas and offerings for the Rajah’s health and prosperity are made at the temple in the fort, and at all other pagodas throughout the kingdom. European officials and friends now congratulate him on his accession.

As soon as convenient, a Durbar, or ‘’levee” is held for the public recognition and installation by the British Government. Till this comes off, there is a sort of interregnum, the reign of each Rajah being officially dated from this day. The old Audience Hall in the fort is still preferred, on account of its historical associations, to the Durbar Hall in the new public buildings. The British sepoys from Quilon, with their English officers, are invited to be present, and all Europeans resident in the country ; while multitudes of the native population flock into the capital for a holiday, to witness the pageant and join in the general rejoicings. The houses are gaily decorated with floral arches and fruiting stems of the plantain ; and festoons of foliage, bright-coloured flowers, and palm-leaf ornaments are strung across the roads from tree to tree.

The Durbar Hall is a long, narrow, upper room, handsomely furnished with carpets, sofas, large mirrors and lamps, paintings of former Rajahs and distinguished British officers, and other furniture in Western style. Outside, in the great square, the troops are drawn up under arms in imposing array; the state elephants, richly caparisoned, and with bells about their necks, bear costly howdahs, though rarely, or never used for riding purposes ; and crowds of the people assemble in honour of the occasion.


The royal party, officers, and retinue being in readiness a little beforehand, the British Resident is received on his arrival, with the usual salute from _ the artillery and troops, takes the Maharajah’s arm, and is placed on a seat immediately on his right The Commanding Officer of the Nair Brigade, who also bears Her Majesty’s commission, sits on the other side; and the Princes and English officials or guests, with their respective wives, take their seats on either side of the room, the whole forming a brilliant and impressive scene.

The ivory throne at the head of the hall is adorned with cushions, shield, and weapons, and a glittering canopy sup- ported on pillars of silver. Beside it stand the Prime Minister and favoured officers in appropriate costume.

The Maharajah is now placed upon the throne by the Resident and the Commanding Officer, when the Resident also presents the insignia of sovereignty-what may be called the Crown-a plumed and jewelled turban worn by each ruler in succession, with drooping feathers of birds of Paradise, aigrette of diamonds and emeralds, and two large pendent pearls. The new Rajah, in turn, resigning the turban that appertains to the heir apparent, hands it over to the next heir, who thus becomes Eliya Rajah. It cannot but be deeply touching to those who may have known and entertained personal affection for the ruler so recently departed, to witness his crown thus solemnly handed over to his successor. A Proclamation by the Governor of Madras is then read, proclaiming the new king, and “requiring and directing all the subjects of the Travancore Sirkar to acknowledge and obey His Highness as their Maharajah and sovereign.”

The reading of this proclamation is followed by a royal salute and a feu de joie. A translation of the same in Malayalam, accompanied by a proclamation from the new ruler, is read to the people outside, the Rajah, Resident, and assembled company standing in the long verandah in front of the Hall ; another salute being fired, a number of unfortunate criminal convicts, corresponding to the years of the Maharajah’s age, and previously selected as the fittest objects of his clemency, are liberated down below from their chains to commemorate the auspicious day. Throughout the ceremonial, the company politely rise and stand whenever His Highness does so, or sit when he does. After further congratulations, a speech by the Rajah expressing his sentiments on the occasion, and the principles on which he intends to govern, is read. On the installation of the present Maharajah, this was a most remarkable document, such, it was observed, as few of the native Princes of India could prepare or deliver. Another royal salute, and the assemblage is dismissed with distribution of garlands and bouquets of jasmine flowers, and the fragrant leaves of the Artemisia; rose water is sprinkled, and each visitor shakes hands with the Maharajah on retiring.

After this Durbar, attended by Europeans and the representatives of the British Government, is over, the Rajah resumes his seat on the musnud; and another levee is held for the reception of the native officers of position in the service of the State, who have all been ordered in from their posts through-out the country in order to pay homage by offering the usual tribute of money, each according to his rank and grade. The amount formerly presented was one-tenth of a month’s salary -now a much smaller sum.

About 3 o’clock P.M. the Rajah goes in public procession for pattana pradesam, “entering the city,” in his state palankeen, every one but himself marching on foot ; even a little son will walk holding on by a corner of the royal palankeen for assistance. They go round the principal streets of the Fort, escorted by the Bodyguard and Brigade, and attended by the Dewan and native officials, and a vast concourse of the people. All being obliged to walk, and no umbrellas allowed by etiquette to the highest or the feeblest, this is a very exhausting ceremony in the hot sun. A royal salute and three volleys of musketry are fired on His Highness appearing after his return on the upper terrace of the palace. Provisions are afterwards distributed to the Brahmans under the superintendence of the sepoys out of uniform.

In the evening a State dinner is given at the Residency ; and next day, the Maharajah honours the British Resident with a visit, coming in full procession of cavalry and led horses, Brigade brass bands and native musicians with strange flutes and other instruments, the State elephants and carriages, attendants strewing green leaves on the ground, the sword and emblems of State, and two curious gold stands for a kind of incense sticks always borne burning before the Rajah in State procession.

Visits to Attingal.-This is a village and. palace situated on the bank of the river about five miles inland from Anjengo, the revenues of which, with the surrounding district, comprising four Athigarams, form the private patrimony of the Ranees. This district is called Sree Bhagam, or “the sacred portion,” and is administered by the princesses through their kariakar or manager. They reside here at least once a year, for a time, for change of air, river bathing, and boating, and worship at their tutelar shrine. It is said that Attingal was selected as a residence for the Travancore Ranees in M.E. 480 (A.D. 1305), when pagodas were erected to their guardian goddess, Bhagavathi or Durga.

In the earliest periods of the English factory at Anjengo, contracts for pepper were all made with the Ranee of Attingal. Cantervisscher says, “Attingal is the name of the maternal house of the Rajah of Travancore who rules over the country lying between Tengapatnam and Paroor, three leagues south of Quilon.” And from the account which he gives of the massacre of a hundred and forty English there, in 1721, in revenge for cruelties which had been practised on a Brahman priest, it would seem as if the Queen of Attingal then possessed a sovereign power distinct from that of the Rajah of Travancore. According to tradition, this power was surrendered by the reigning princess in 1740, when the arm of a strong man was felt necessary to reduce the petty chiefs to one master.

Attingal is still visited by the Maharajah as an ancient and honoured residence of the family. He goes about the same time in January of each year, to begin the reaping of the rice harvest, and to make offerings of the firstfruits ; and is accompanied by the Dewan and a military escort. Some notes of the royal visit in 1881, will best supply definite information regarding the observances.


The Maharajah arrived at the landing place in the afternoon of 20th January, and proceeded to the palace in procession, in the royal palankeen, accompanied by his officers, sepoys, and band. After walking to bathe in the river, and going out in a boat a short distance, he went in procession to the Pagoda, where the festival is celebrated, at the time prescribed by the astrologer as auspicious.

Previous to the arrival of the Rajah, the Potti Brahmans themselves conduct preliminary rites as follows :-The golden image of Bhagavathi is decorated with silk cloth, bright flowers, sandal paste, &c., and having been placed on the back of an elephant and held by a priest, it is conducted four times round the pagoda. There are never less than four elephants at the procession; on this occasion there were eight, on the tallest of which the idol is carried. During the procession a splendid silk umbrella is held over the head of the image by a Brahman. The cortege is accompanied by drumming and music, fireworks, cheering of women and shouting; and the goddess is again placed in the temple.

After this, two or three people of a caste called ponnara panikkar draw a sketch of Ganesha on the ground in front of the temple, with powders of various colours, such as rice, charcoal, red ochre, dried leaves of the acacia, turmeric and lime. The priest then offers to this figure plantain fruits, parched rice, cakes, sugar, ghee, and cocoanut water.

These offerings are afterwards given to those who have drawn the picture; and they obliterate it again with further accompaniment of music. The place is then swept, and sprinkled with cow-dung by Sudra women ; and the priest places there an altar adorned with silk cloth. He then takes the sword which is placed before the goddess in the temple, brings it with music to the altar, on which he fixes it upright. Then he offers worship to the sword, presenting flowers, sacred water, and sandalwood.

All this being in readiness some days previously, the Rajah comes in procession, wearing no covering on the head or chest, but only the cloth round the waist, and carrying a sword in his hand. With great pomp and solemn reverence, he approaches the sword upon the altar, and stands before it. The priest now brings a measure of raw rice in a vessel, which he lays in front of the sword. The Maharajah lifts this with his own hand, and gives it back to the priest The latter then scoops up some of the rice in a hollow conch shell, pours a little three times on the top of the sword, and thrice on the head of the image in the temple : the remainder of the rice in the conch shell he puts on the head of the Rajah. This is called abhishekam- anointing or consecration. It is also called, “Putting rice on the threshing-floor.” It may be compared with the old western custom of throwing rice on the bride and bridegroom ; and with the Malabar rite in the coronation of Rajahs-a Brahman taking some rice in his hand from a silver dish, and dropping it slowly on the crown of the Rajah three times while proclaiming his titles.

During this performance the firing of guns and crackers, drumming and music, the kurava cheer and shouting are continued. His Highness still standing before the sword, the priest enters the temple, brings the garlands of flowers and the sandalwood from the goddess, and presents these in a golden vessel to the king. He receives the gifts, which are called Baghavathi prasadam, with much humility, and is at liberty to return to the palace.

This festival is celebrated annually from Ist to 10th Magaram (say 13th to 22nd January), but the Rajah attends only on the ninth day after the sword has been placed and worshipped. It appears to correspond to some extent with the ordinary Pongal or “boiled rice feast,” seeking prosperity throughout the year.

Birthday Rejoicings.-The Maharajah’s birthday, according to native calculations, is celebrated on dates varying considerably in each year, whether in accordance with the astrologer’s determination of lucky days, or at the period when the natal star attains its position.

On the first birthday after his accession a ceremony, called Tirumudi kalasam or purification, is performed in the great pagoda by pouring holy water on the Maharajah’s head, a royal salute being at the same time fired. A series of religious ceremonies having been solemnized within the palace, he sets out in grand procession, adorned with his finest jewelry of diamonds and emeralds, to go through the main streets of the fort in the state palankeen, headed by the cavalry, the band playing a lively march, and the infantry under its English officers following in two columns. In front of the palankeen walk the Dewan, the judges, and peishcars, and the palace and other officials.


Slowly moving round the fort, His Highness visits all the principal pagodas inside and outside the fort. At each he alights to drop in his offerings at their shrines. The procession is over by ten o’clock ; and then commence the festivities, closing with sarvani or peace offerings to the Brahmans, who have also been feasted for days before, and small donations to some other castes. The more intelligent Sudras are beginning to exclaim against this incessant feeding and feeing of idle and profitless Brahmans from public funds to which the Sudra taxpayers so largely contribute, to meet which feeling the present Maharajah thoughtfully included the Nair officials, subordinates, and pupils in his hospitality-a sensible arrangement unheard of before. Dinners are also given at the Residency, and an entertainment by the Dewan to the native officials at his residence in the fort.

On this day the Maharajah breakfasts with all the family privilege accorded once a year to each prince on his birthday.

Another procession to the temple at Shastamangalam, in the suburbs of Trevandrum, is undertaken, usually about a week after this, with full procession of horses, elephants, peons, ensigns and banners, officials and soldiery, the Rajah riding in his great Car of State, ornamented with flowers, and drawn by six horses.

(See engraving.) The English officers accompany the procession part of the way : it then proceeds to the temple, where offerings are made, and coins are thrown to the assembled multitude.

Daily Life. The Maharajah is an early riser, and goes first to bathe, visits the temple for private devotions, then takes a drive to his country house, where visitors are commonly received between seven and eight o’clock. Returning to the palace, he bathes again, and partakes of breakfast in Hindu fashion at nine or ten o’clock.

Animal food is not used, and Brahmanical customs in several respects have been adopted. Though not absolutely bound, they are as particular in diet as Brahmans ; as also are various high Sudra families. Rice and a great variety of curries, bread and cakes, tea and coffee, sweetmeats and fruit, are the ordinary diet. Pure water is brought every morning, under a guard, from the river at Karamana. When invited to dinner with Europeans, no food can be eaten with them, but His Highness sits at table, and engages in polite conversation with his nearest neighbours.

The day is occupied with public business, receiving officials and hearing their reports, consulting on affairs of State, signing orders, &c. On particular days audience is given to the Dewan, the judges, and heads of departments, who present their respective reports. After seeing the Rajah on Monday, the Dewan visits the Resident on Tuesday to convey or receive any communication. Other officials are received as may be convenient ; and presents of gold bangles, valuable rings, and other tokens of favour are sometimes given to deserving officers.

In the afternoon or evening, the late Maharajah was accustomed to hear the Sastries read the Hindu religious works for an hour, and to converse with them. Another drive is taken in the cool of the evening. Petitioners often place themselves at prominent points of the road, hoping to remind their royal master of their applications or needs.


At 8 or 9 o’clock, supper is taken; and on special occasions nautches or plays fill up some more time. Rajah Bhagyodya Martandah Vurmah was remarkable for his attention to religious duties. “Every day,” says Mr.P.S. Menon, “the Maharajah spent no less than three hours in the morning and evening in prayers and devotions, which often interfered with His Highness taking his meals at the proper time. There was scarcely a day on which the Maharajah took his breakfast before 1 P.M., and supped earlier than twelve in the night; and on certain particular days of fasting, or on the occasion of any other ceremonies, he would not swallow even a drop of water during the day, and would take his meals only at night after all the ceremonies were over.’’ These lengthened hours of attendance at devotions, and also at theatrical representations, of which he was very fond, with the consequent irregularity of retiring to sleep, probably affected the Rajah’s health, and tended to shorten his life.

While at home and at ease, and on the most solemn religious occasions, all dress in the simplest possible fashion-a mere cotton cloth wound around the waist and a cap or turban on the head. They pleasantly call this undress their “uniform,” apparently on the principle that they are ‘’when unadorned, adorned the most”. Fine robes and valuable jewelry are reserved for great occasions and for appearance in portraiture.

Dogs are not kept, nor the chase engaged in, though there appears to be a relic of former hunting expeditions in the palli vettu ceremony.

The amusements of the Court are pretty fully detailed in Mr. Shungoony Menon’s “History.” English books and illustrated papers are procured and read. Occasional tours are made through various parts of the land, for change of air, restoration to health, or pilgrimage to temples. In long journeys to Madras or Benares, the ladies may accompany their husbands or uncles, and a great retinue of hundreds of persons, including the family gods, and the priests, who need some precautions to avoid pollution. Once a golden casket containing the tutelary idols was missing for some time, and only recovered by the police after much expense and anxiety.

The members of the royal family pay their devoirs to the head of it from time to time. The strictest attention is always required to etiquette and respectful bearing, a humble salutation being given on entering the presence, and no inferior presuming to sit before the sovereign till invited to do so by word or sign.



Pleasant intercourse is maintained with Europeans of position by attending their garden parties, or meeting them at the military band in the public gardens. The Maharajah pays visits only to the Resident or distinguished visitors to the capital ; but the princes visit more freely ; and all receive visits of courtesy, appointments for which must always be made beforehand. They correspond in English in the usual style of polite society. English officials and friends write notes of congratulation and good wishes to the Rajah on his birthday, and he addresses such notes to them on our New Year’s day.

The Ranees lead a secluded life in the bosom of their own families, rarely appearing in public. They did so, however, in Travancore, in June, 1881, on the investiture of the Senior Ranee with the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, and at Madras in February, 1883, on the investiture of the Maharajah with the Order of the Star of India. They are often visited by English ladies, and sometimes even gentlemen. They are not allowed to leave the kingdom without special permission, but travel in company with their consorts to various palaces and visit noted temples such as Vaikkam, Tiruvattar, &c. Both royal ladies are educated in English as well as the vernaculars ; and are accomplished in music, needle-work, &c.

Court Etiquette may be described as simply the ordinary regulations of caste, carried out in all their details and to the fullest extent. Shoes are laid off by natives before entering the presence ; the chest must be uncovered ; and the head covered with a cloth or turban. Umbrellas must be lowered before royalty. Native officials and subjects meeting the royal carriage must stop and get out and stand, make a low obeisance raising both hands and performing the curious twiddlings, or closing and extending of the fingers, which is the Malabar salutation to Rajahs. On obtaining an audience, presents of fruits, cloth, or money are offered by subjects. In the presence, all stand with the left hand on the breast and the right hand covering the mouth lest the breath should pollute the king or other superior. So also at Parisnath Jain temple, a low-caste man carries in the incense and musical instruments with a broad bandage tied over his nose and mouth, in order that his breath might not poll
ute the idols. And in China it was formerly customary for the officers of the Court to hold cloves in the mouth before addressing the sovereign, in order that their breath might have an agreeable odour.

A special language of a highly artificial and conventional character is used of the royal person, property, and actions, ordinary terms being forbidden. The palace occupied by the prince is called bajanapura-”worship building ; “ the royal food, “nectar;” a birth, an “incarnation;” and a birthday, a “holy day ;” a death, “leaving the country,” or, “going to the heaven of Vishnu, Vaikuntha;” travelling, erunnellu or procession ; and the word palli, church, or tiru, sacred, is applied to almost everything connected with the king.

The Maharajah cannot in the vernacular be spoken of as “he,” but at least “the Maharajah themselves;” and is personally addressed as ponnu tambran”, literally “ golden god,” but perhaps implying not much more at present than “precious lord” - Tiru manassu - the “sacred mind,” is also incessantly used. None dare say nyan, “I,” but “adiyen,’’ “your slave” or servant.

Proper names are never uttered, but the various members of the royal family are spoken of in the third person by the star under which they respectively were born -as the Visagha or the Mulam Prince ; or by descriptive epithets, as the Senior or Junior Rajah, the Great, or Little, Coil Tamburan; and so forth.

On the decease of a Maharajah, the literati compose poems and elegies in language of the highest Sanskrit style, quite incomprehensible to ordinary people.


As no subject can be seated in the presence of the Rajah, the coachman has to stand up while driving him out in the carriage. Formerly when a series of lectures was commenced, at which the Prince kindly consented to preside, serious difficulty was at first experienced from the highest officials being compelled to stand with others during the whole time, but afterwards His Highness kindly gave a special permission to sit; to avoid entire reversal of recognized etiquette he himself, when delivering addresses, now sits to allow the hearers to do the same.

Tulabharam and Hiranya Garbham Ceremonies - The extraordinary ceremonies called Tulabharam, “Scale Weighing,” and Hiranya Garbham “Golden Womb,” each performed once in the life-time of each Rajah, have been fully described in “Land of Charity,” pp. 169-175; and further reference to them will be found in the review of the “ History of Travancore” in the present volume, Chapter XXXV.

For the “Scale Weighing,” the Maharajah is seated on one scale of an ornamental balance, with his sword and shield ; and in the other scale his weight is heaped in gold coins having the name of the god inscribed thereon, which are afterwards distributed to the Brahmans in various proportions according to their dignity and claims. The weight of gold for this costs about £I 2,000 and additional expenditure, say, £4.000 besides. One king performed this ceremony a second time in silver at the end of his reign.

The “Hiranya Garbham” ceremony is performed in a large golden vessel or tub with a cover of gold, an engraving of which with the accompanying priests, officials and guards in procession, forms the frontispiece of this book. Inside the vessel is placed a mixture of “the five products of the cow.” After many preparatory rites the Maharajah enters the golden tub, the cover is put on, he bathes and offers prayers inside for ten minutes while the assembled priests continue praying and chanting hymns. After coming out, he is again crowned by the chief priest and is supposed to be advanced in caste purity, and religious privilege, as well as full authorization to reign over his people.

This golden vessel is also cut up and distributed amongst the Brahmans. The ceremony costs the State about £14,000.


Bhadradipam Ceremony.-One of the principal religious ceremonies in which the Rajah himself takes a principal part, is the Bhadradipam, or “Lamp of Good Fortune.” After the wars for the subjection of the petty Rajahs and neighbouring principalities, in which much blood was shed, and that often without just cause, Rajah Bala Martandah Vurmah appears to have been somewhat pricked in conscience (as our own fierce but superstitious barons were in similar circumstances in the dark ages), and he set about inquiring what could be done to expiate these sins, secure general prosperity, the destruction of his remaining enemies, and the conciliation of the conquered peoples. Consulting learned Brahmans from various parts of the country, they recommended the Bhadradipam and Murajapam ceremonies. Bartolomeo falls into error in referring the “Golden Cow ceremony” to this origin, instead of the Bhadradipam.

This festival is a kind of sun worship, like the Pongal of the Tamils, which occurs at the same time, and in which offerings-of boiled rice are made to the sun. It is performed at the two ayanas, or solstices of the year, calculated by the Hindus as occurring about 12th January and 14th July. It was first celebrated in M.E. 9I9 (A.D. 1744), and the first Murajapam six years afterwards.

The Bhadradipam chiefly consists in the priests transferring, by means of mantrams or invocations, the spirit of the Sun to sacred lamps. The five lamps are lighted on 1st Magaram (13th January). After seven days of prayers and offerings are made, Brahmans are feasted, and special donations made to them. This is repeated on 1st Karkadagam (15th July). The Trevandrum Siveli, or circumambulation of the temple with the images, is made on the previous evening. At these times the Rajah is secluded and fasting, and unable to receive European visitors. Presents of money are still made by the Sirkar to leading Brahmans at Kidangur, as a peace-offering to compensate for the crime of killing Brahmans in the last century.

Every twelfth Bhadradipam is preceded by the Murajapam, which thus occurs once in six years. The last took place in November and December, 1881. It is a special and extraordinary observance of the Bhadradipam, and is supposed to compensate for any defect during the preceding six years. The three Vedas (Rig, Yajur, and Sama) are recited in rotation in the great temple once in eight days. This recitation is thus repeated seven times during the fifty-six days continuance of the festival. About 3000 Brahmans are feasted all this time at the expense of the Sirkar. The fifty-sixth, or concluding day, is called Lakshadeepam, or “Hundred thousand Lamps,” when innumerable lights are lit in the evening. For further notes, see “Land of Charity,” p. 167.

The Worship of the Sword.-The great Hindu festival, called Dasara, or “The Ten Days,’’ occurring about the end of September or the beginning of October, is known in Northern India as Durga Pujah, and in Travancore by the terms Puja Weippu and Eduppu, which means literally “setting worship” and “removing worship.” This is rather of the character of a domestic festival, when all families adore the instruments, tools, and implements by which they gain their livelihood-the plough of the farmer, the hammer and chisels of the artisan, the barber his razor, the tailor his needle, the writer his pen, teachers and scholars their books, the soldier his sword, shield, and gun, and so forth. Women heap together their baskets, the pestle and mortar with which they clean the rice, and other household implements, and worship them.

The worship of the sword appears to have descended from the ancient Scythians, and is practised especially by the martial tribes of India. Among the Mahrattas the cannon are praised, invoked, and propitiated. These instruments are adored as so many deities, to whom the Hindus present their supplications, and offerings of incense, flowers, fruit, and rice, that they would continue propitious, and still furnish them with the means of living.

A British officer, who seemed not to have fully considered the moral aspect of his action, informed me that he and many others are accustomed to hand over their swords to the sepoys for this festival, with a contribution towards the expenses. Enlightened natives, on the other hand, plead that they only join in this absurd worship through fear of giving offence to their elders.

In this Puja, several deities are worshipped, especially Saraswathi, the wife of Brahma, and goddess of music and letters ; and Durga, Parvathi, or Bhagavathi, formerly propitiated with human sacrifices and offerings of blood.

To honour this festival with their presence, two of the ancient deities of the royal family, kept in temples which belong to their ancient territory, are brought to Trevandrum. “They must needs be borne because they cannot go.” The Maharajah himself goes to Attingal to present his offerings ; but the images of Kumaraswami of Kumarakoil, near Palpanabhapuram, and of Saraswathi, are brought to the capital in solemn procession, carried on a great litter or wooden frame, by forty or fifty bearers of good caste, bedecked with flowers, and escorted by a company of the Nair Brigade, temple women cheering and shouting, magistrates, and some of the people.

The image of Kumaraswami, or Supramanyan, son of Siva (the same as Shastavu, or Iyenar, and virtually a species of demon worship, as in Tinnevelly-probably the religion of the aboriginal inhabitants, including the Sudras) is in the form of a human figure riding on a horse, all in silver.But Kumaraswami, they say, married one wife of the Kuravan, and another of the Pariah caste. He is, therefore, supposed to have lost caste, and is not allowed entrance into the pagoda of Patmanabhan, but made to reside in a temple outside the fort, called Ariya Chaley, and taken for the Puja Eduppu to a Mandapam, or Stone Pillared Hall at Pujapura, in the suburbs of Trevandrum. They also say that his two wives are on bad terms with one another, and ready to proceed to blows. Yet Kuravars, and other low castes, are driven out of the road on the procession day lest they should pollute the god who married into their castes.


The presence of this god for the feast costs the native Government over four hundred rupees annually, besides travelling expenses. The god is supposed to receive this fee on account of his difficult task in crossing three great rivers, at Kulitory, Neyattankara, and Karamana. After the close of the ceremonies, the images return to the South in state, escorted as before.

On the first of the Ten Days the flag is hoisted in the temple on the golden flagstaff, and dancing and other amusements are kept up during the whole night. On the second day the Puja Weippu is held in the palace itself, in honour of the goddess Saraswathi. During the ten days the Maharajah remains partially secluded, and is obliged to fast for the last two or three days. Splendid feasts are given to the Brahmans during the whole time.

The ninth day is called Maha navami, “the great Ninth,” being celebrated on the ninth day of the increasing moon, which is also a grand night in Bengal. Then the implements are collected, and placed on altars for adoration. The next day, Puja Eduppu, they are removed, and the celebration ends. On this day the grandest pageant of the year is exhibited-an imposing State procession from the Fort to Pujapura, for a ceremony called palli vettu, or nayattu, “royal hunting.” In other parts of India it is not unusual for Hindu kings to move a short way out of town or camp on this day, to a sacred tree planted for the occasion, and adored in order to secure a propitious time for undertaking various enterprises, especially hunting and war-like expeditions. The palli vettu seems to be a relic of such expeditions formerly conducted in Travancore.

In the afternoon the Rajah sets out, under a royal salute, in procession in his magnificent royal car of state, glittering with gold and perfumed with scents and flowers, drawn by six large white horses, preceded by the State elephants, one bearing the national standard, the Nair Brigade with the band playing lively airs, the bodyguard, and the officers and native musicians of the palace. Behind the car move the carriages of the princes, the Dewan, peishcars, and judges-then the sastries, songsters, and other native officials.

The houses in the streets traversed by the procession are profusely decorated with garlands of flowers, bunches of plantain fruits, flags, and various devices. On some gates are arches with the motto, “ Long live His Highness the Maharajah,” and the streets were lined with crowds of people - men, women, and children in holiday attire hurry from all quarters to Pujapura. Even the poor Pulayars come out in clean or yellow-stained cloths, but have great difficulty in getting along without touching any others in the crowd, where the roads are narrow and enclosed with walls on either side.

The people seem to meet one another, and chat in an unusually friendly and good-humoured way. Near the open plateau at Pujapura a very lively scene is presented. It is a stirring sight to witness the dense moving mass of soldiers, elephants, carriages, and men coming up ; and everywhere as the car passes a low obeisance is made by the people, which is acknowledged by a courteous bow from their Sovereign.

Before the procession arrives, various ceremonies are gone through by the Brahman priest of Kumaraswami, who accompanied the image from the south. It is placed on its carriage in a small enclosed space added to the Mandapam. A square pedestal of stone also stands in front of the building, on which are planted some green branches of a tree and a plaintain stalk in fruit, garnished which the blossom of the palm, and festoons of flowers. At the foot of these is laid a large soft cocoanut, with one end of the husk sliced off to shoot into ; also a brass pot of consecrated water, a bell to call the attention of the god, and a lamp blazing the whole time. The priest puts some sacred grass between his fingers, sprinkles holy water, and puts flowers one by one on the cocoanut, muttering mantrams, or prayers. All this is repeated several times.


A little before reaching the Mandapam, the party alight and proceed on foot. The military forming a cordon around them to secure a clear open space, they stand till Kumaraswami is lifted on the shoulders of his bearers and carried round the stone pedestal several times. This is called pradakshina, or circumambulation, and in it the right side is kept towards the person or object to be honoured. The idol is then set down on one side, and the priest takes a large bow in his hand : he first shoots three arrows cautiously into the cocoanut, then the Maharajah comes forward and receives the royal bow, a small and highly decorated one, with light, steel-headed arrows, which he quietly and carefully shoots into the cocoanut, standing quite close to avoid the illluck of missing*. The booming of another salute, followed by three volleys of musketry, announces the accomplishment of this exploit.

The god is again carried to the Mandapam, where His Highness and the princes enter, witness the burning of incense and camphor, and present each a number of coins and a few yards of silk to the god. They come out again in a few minutes, and pass to the adjoining palace for a brief interval of rest.

As soon as the Maharajah retires, a scramble ensues for the flowers, fruit, and leaves on the pedestal, which are immediately torn away and carried off.

Sir J. Malcolm speaks of a similar ceremony by the Mahratta Peishwa, who plucks some leaves from a sacred tree, and from a field a stalk of grain. The whole crowd then fire off arms, pluck in like manner, and carry the leaves and grain home with joy.

Songs of praise are chanted, and dancing performed before the idol by the temple women, led by an old Brahman whom they surround in a circle. But neither reverence nor pious awe is exhibited, and the tumult of the crowd is distracting. The dancing is, like most idolatrous worship, a mere play — a subject of laughter amongst the dancing women and attendants — the spectators, at the same time, pushing and fighting to get a good place for seeing, and the Sepoys almost striking with their muskets to maintain some order. When the singing has ceased, these decorations also are torn away by the crowd.

The procession returns after dark to the fort, where it receives a final salute, and the Puja Eduppu closes.

Throughout the country in all public offices and schools this holiday is more or less kept. In schools it is considered essential to prosperity for the coming year; and a teacher who cannot himself attend to it, hands his books to a neighbour, and gets them back next day, paying in return a suitable fee for the accommodation. A portion of the schoolroom is screened off with leaves as a kind of sanctuary, and beautified with flowers, plantain stems, and ornaments plaited of the white soft leaf of the palm. On a chair inside, covered with fine silk cloth, are placed the books to be worshipped. A Brahman is called to perform the service, for which he receives a fee of, at least, three quarters of a rupee.

Sickness Death, and Funeral Ceremonies.— In case of illness famous native doctors are applied to for treatment, as well as the services of the English Court physician. Difficulties arise from the conflict of Hindu and caste usages with the particular diet or drugs that may be prescribed according to European medical science. Frequently a fair and sufficient trial is not given to European skill and medicines.

Travelling for change of air and scene, and for pleasant bathing, is commonly resorted to with advantage. This is turned into, or combined with, a pilgrimage to shrines and sacred places, to which sometimes an improvement in health is attributed rather than to the fresh air and exercise, and the hopefulness inspired by the effort.

One prince expended more than his income on gifts to the deities and temples in seeking to ward off death, and spent all his time in repeating “Rama, Rama,” employing a person to count the number of repetitions.


Further superstitious measures are tried. The prasadom or oblations of food consecrated by dedication to the idol, and brought from the temple of Patmanabhan, are expected to exert a healing power. Special praises of the gods, sacrifices to conquer death, vows to noted temples, and other rites are performed by Brahman priests. Many Brahmans are fed with the most delicious articles of food, and endowed with liberal gifts.

Should sickness be prolonged and distressing, and appear to be mortal, it is supposed that the sins of the invalid hinder his peaceful departure. And, in any case, the burden of sin and the need of a sin-bearer cannot but be felt.

The Alingana Danam — “Embrace Gift” is now made, a most touching ceremony, which bears some resemblance to the Jewish institution of the scapegoat. A holy Brahman is found who is willing to undertake this responsibility in consideration of a large sum of money, rupees ten thousand; he is brought in, and after the performance of certain ceremonies by the Brahmans, closely embraces the dying man, and says, O King! I undertake to bear all your sins and diseases. May Your Highness live long and reign happily.” Thereby assuming the sins of the sufferer, the man is sent away from the country and never more allowed to return.

Gifts of cows are also made to Brahmans to ensure the support of a cow in crossing the river of death. Gomulya Danam or “Gift to purchase cows,” is a present of 45 fanams each, given in money, instead of the actual animals, to a thousand Brahmans, this being equal to the gift of a thousand cows.

Sudras, when ill, sometimes offer a cow, with silver decorations on the horns, to Brahmans for atonement of sin and recovery of health.

The worship of cows, especially at the time of death, is a favourite one with the Hindus. Baka Bhai, widow of the last Rajah of Nagpore, spent twelve hours daily in the adoration of cows, the Ocimum plant (tulasi), the Sun, and her idols. When her end was at hand, five cows were introduced into the room where she lay, in order to be bestowed on Brahmans. The gift of the animal was accompanied by a further donation in money; and as one after another they passed onward from the bedside, they were supposed to help the dying woman forward on her way to heaven. Among the last acts of her life, was to call for a cow, and having fallen at its feet, as far as her now fast waning strength would allow her, she offered it grass to eat, and addressed it by the venerated name of mother.

When death is imminent, Kala Danam, or the “Death Gift,” is made, A buffalo is brought; it is covered with valuable cloths, the neck and horns decked with jewels, and a little fire in a pot tied under its belly, but without touching it. A Brahman is called, who receives four paras of sesamum seed and a few rupees, and is then mounted on the buffalo and sent away.

The dying person is laid on the ground upon soil brought from Attingal, a last farewell taken of the members of the family, and disposition made of personal effects. Words of consolation and kind advices are also addressed, and reconciliations effected. All the rites and donations are completed; the sacred oblations of the household deity brought from the pagoda, and applied to the eyes and forehead; and a Brahman repeats some mantrams in the ears of the expiring Rajah.

The women connected with the palace, assembled in expectation of the solemn event, stand in two lines, ready to commence mourning. Immediately that death occurs, they begin a terrible wail, beating their breasts and unloosing their long hair. The cry is heard outside, and hundreds of women join in concert.


Trumpeters are instantly sent round, whether it be day or night, to call in the whole of the Nair Brigade, and the barrack bell is also rung. At dead of night, as on the last occasion, the melancholy sounds of the death horn are sadly impressive. The household being polluted by the occurrence of death, none can partake of food till the remains are disposed of. The body is therefore washed, rubbed with sacred ashes, and at once prepared for cremation. The funeral pile is quickly erected in a small yard outside the fort, the fuel of mango, with some cedar and sandalwood, being in readiness beforehand. A shed ornamented with flowers is put up to protect the pile from rain, and sufficiently high to be out of reach of the fire.

The body is lavishly decked with bracelets, necklaces, and ear-rings of plain gold (no precious stones being allowed), all of which are burnt along with it, the melted gold becoming the perquisite of the priest and others. The body is also wrapped in a silk cloth and girdle bestowed by Patmanabha swami on his servant the king, as he also is accustomed to give the sere cloth for burial to his dependants. This cloth is brought from the temple in procession with music.

Placed in the State palankeen, the mortal remains are closely covered up, the palankeen also being overspread with a rich silken pall, and decked with garlands of jasmine and other flowers. It is taken out of the palace through a breach in the wall, made for the purpose, to avoid pollution of the gate, and afterwards built up again so that the departed spirit may not return through the gate to trouble the survivors. On the starting of the mournful procession, and during its progress, minute guns are fired, one for each year of age of the departed prince.

The funeral procession much resembles that on the occasion of the Arattu, or bathing of the god, and starts within a few hours after the decease. It is headed by the Maharajah’s body guard on foot, bareheaded, and leading their horses, followed by the band, with drums muffled and colours draped in black.

The bandmen march bareheaded, playing the Dead March; the Brigade also bareheaded, their muskets reversed and flags furled; the English officers on foot in full uniform with strips of crape. Behind the band walk the great Officers of State, then the Eliya Rajah who is to succeed, next the Princes in order. Behind these comes the palankeen with the royal remains borne by a caste called Pounders, It is surrounded by the domestics and favourite followers, and by hundreds of Sudra women, with their hair dishevelled, wearing but a single cloth around the waist, and filling the air with their loud weeping and lamentations. All are in similar undress; even in the heaviest showers not an umbrella is permitted, so that the risk is sometimes great to delicate constitutions from standing two or three hours in rain during the cremation. A vast multitude of men, women, and children, of various castes and creeds, follow the funeral procession to the burning ground, but only the princes and chief officials are allowed to enter it. The ceremonies are performed under the direction of the Brahmans.


Underneath the high outer shed, a small inner canopy immediately over the pile is very handsomely decorated with flowers, plantain trees, young cocoanuts, palmyra nuts, and many other ornaments. The fuel is piled on planks, and a mattrass placed on the top. The remains are laid in the centre — the head southwards, the feet to the north, and completely covered with sandal-wood. As soon as the body reaches the place, it is borne round the pile three times, then placed on the pyre, and three volleys of musketry fired — the last salute to departed royalty. Then the brothers and nephews put a little rice and money in the mouth, and break the pots of water according to custom. Two lights are placed at the head and at the feet, and kept burning for five days and nights.

Before lighting the pile, a mantram is repeated, giving the elements of the body to the five elements — the eye to the sun, the breath to the wind, the limbs to the earth, the water, and the plants whence they had been derived. In accordance with the theory that each element must have a portion of the body at dissolution, it usually expires on the earth, is washed with water, burnt with fire, to set free the spiritual element from the superincumbent clay and complete the regenerative process; and the ashes are, in some cases, scattered in the air, in others buried in the earth, or thrown into the rivers or the sea.

Fire is applied to the pile by several of the nearest relatives, the chief mourners, who hold the torch behind their backs, reverently looking away from the remains. The military and band are now permitted to depart, but the princes and high officials remain for two or three hours till the body is consumed. Fuel is added, and oil and butter poured on, with fragrant substances, till the body is fairly reduced to ashes. Then more oil and ghee are supplied in order to raise the flame so as to ignite the sheds and their decorations. At intervals the mourning women utter a loud wail all in unison.

The bereaved family now return to their palaces, bathe, and continue in deep mourning for eleven days, the pile being left to smoulder under charge of a guard of about fourteen sepoys, till the fire dies out in a day or two.

After the funeral is over, Brahmans flock in and receive gratuities of three or four fanams each.

A notification is at once issued by the Dewan announcing the demise, the consequent closing of all public offices and institutions, and suspension of all business for three days, and other customary marks of mourning. All shops are closed and work dropped throughout the kingdom. Umbrellas also are not allowed to enter the fort. For eleven days the palace women and all Nairs have to go mourning with hair loose and without wearing new cloths or rubbing sacred ashes. For the same period, mourning is observed by the Nair Brigade, the men shaving off their moustaches and hair, excepting the kudumi, which hangs loose, and going about bareheaded, without their turbans.

In Alleppey, as soon as the sad intelligence is known, the Commercial Agent orders all the shops in the town to be closed, and the national standard hoisted half mast from the flagstaff.

Barbosa, writing early in the 16th century of the death of the kings of Malabar, says (p. 107)*—

“After having burned him, all shave themselves from head to foot, excepting the eyelashes, from the prince, the heir of the throne, to the smallest child of the kingdom; and they also clean their teeth, and universally leave off eating betel for thirteen days from that time; and if in this period they find any one who eats it, his lips are cut off by the executioner.”

For a full year it is forbidden to celebrate marriages, or other occasions, with the usual music or display. It is customary to give a chuckram to each Sirkar official present at the burning, which he is supposed to place in the mouth of the deceased. The surviving relatives, therefore, for some days after, always enclose a chuckram in letters to officials whom they may have occasion to address.

After the cremation, the royal palankeen is again brought morning and evening, for five days in procession to the burning ground, accompanied by a Brahman priest, sepoys, and attendants, and mourning women, who cry as before. It is carried round the ashes thrice, and then returns.

On the fifth day, by which time relatives who live at a distance will have arrived, the new prince goes as before, bare-headed and barefooted, and wearing only a single cloth, in procession with music, wailing women, &c., to collect the ashes and the remains of bones still unconsumed. After a Brahman called the Kakkattu Potti has performed certain ceremonies, the bones are gathered, and part placed in a pot to be sent to the Ganges at Benares in charge of a Brahman, who receives two thousand rupees for this service, and is also regarded as degrading himself by such an office. The remainder is put with many ceremonies in another urn, and buried under a jack tree in some compound in the neighbourhood. Over this grave is placed a stone with the name and age of the deceased; and the owners of the garden receive for the perpetual guardianship of the tomb a daily grant of two measures of rice, and half a nari of cocoanut oil for constantly burning at night in a lamp over the grave.

The ashes of junior members of the royal family are buried at the burning place, and a jack tree planted over each.

The melted gold is divided into three or four parts, and distributed to the officiating priest, the temple, the palankeen bearers, and the mourning women.

On the twelfth day Punyaham, or cleansing from pollution, is celebrated by the Potties, after which the new ruler can take possession. Into a quantity of water in a vessel they throw sacred flowers, then prayers are recited; the holy water is sprinkled over the person and house to be purified. Presents are again made to Brahmans.

Sixteen days after the cremation the Sraddha, or oblation to the manes for the repose of the soul, is celebrated, and this is continued daily in the palace itself for some time. It consists in the offering of pindam or rice balls, and oblations of water to the deceased ancestors and the gods, with the feeding of Brahmans required in all ceremonies. The Sraddha is explained by Prof. Monier Williams to the following effect : —

The Hindus fancy that a man has three bodies; and sometimes the attempt is made to puzzle Christian preachers by’ catechising them on this point. The first is the sthula sarira, or gross body, which is burned; but the soul quits with the; linga sarira or subtile body, sometimes described as the size of the thumb, and hovering near the former. The departed spirit has now no real body capable of enjoying or suffering anything, so that it is restless, uncomfortable, and impure. If funeral rites are not performed, it may become a foul, wandering ghost, disposed to take revenge for its misery on all living creatures by malignant acts.


The object of the Sraddha is to soothe the troubled spirit by libations of consecrated water, and to furnish it with an intermediate body, by which alone it can obtain gathi, or progress onward to other births, and ultimate emancipation. The first pinda offered endows it with the rudiments or basis of a body; the next day another pinda supplies limbs, and so on. When the soul receives a complete body it becomes a pitri (ancestor), and is held to be a deva or deity, and practically worshipped as such in the Sraddha ceremonies, which continue to accelerate its progress onwards to a temporary heaven, and then through various stages of bliss to final union with the Supreme.*

As the new sovereign cannot, through press of official duties, observe all the mourning ceremonial, it is customary for the next heir, the Eliya Rajah, to conduct these: he willingly remains in mourning and unshaven for the twelve months, during which the Sraddhas are frequently repeated.

On the first anniversary of the Maharajah’s death, and commencing some days before that date, the Tirumassam or annual Sraddha is observed. Many thousands of people are then amply fed, and largesses freely distributed for four days amongst the Brahmans, the first day at the rate of one rupee each, on succeeding days one fanam each, and five rupees per head to Namburi Brahmans. The royal party and suite visit in procession the temple of Parasu Rama at Tiruvellam, near Trevandrum, where further rites are performed, and gifts presented to Brahmans. The Eliya Rajah is now relieved from mourning observances. The temple at Neyattankara is also visited in state, and offerings presented there.

Sraddhas are repeated annually as long as there are relatives to take an interest in the ancestors and remember the anniversary of their deaths. At Palpandbhapuram and Suchindram, a ceremony of long-standing usage is annually observed in grand style — the feeding of some hundreds of Namburi Brahmans for the good of the departed spirits of some Rajahs of bygone days.

A palace in which the sovereign dies is left vacant, and preserved, with all its furniture and contents intact for one or two generations before it is again opened and re-occupied; as in Central Africa, everything belonging to the deceased king is preserved with the greatest reverence. Care is taken, if possible, that younger members of the house die in some unoccupied palace that can conveniently be spared from ordinary use.

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The laws of this remarkable people respecting marriage and inheritance being fully discussed in the chapter on Nepotism, we have only room here to add a curious glimpse of their inner life given in the Census Report (p. 214) by an official, who, as a Brahman, though of another class, could obtain admittance to their dwellings. The accompanying engraving is from a photograph of a priest in the temple at Trevandrum.


“The women are guarded with more than Moslem jealousy : even brothers and sisters are separated at an early age. When the Nambdri lady goes to worship the village god or visit a neighbour, a Nair maid, who accompanies her, commands the retirement of all the males on the road, while the lady moves all shrouded in cloth, with a mighty umbrella, which protects her from the gaze of profane eyes. At home they are simple in their habits, dressing, like Nair women, up to the waist.

The way in which the cloth is worn is slightly different with them, one end of the cloth being passed between the legs in addition to covering all round, while with the Nair women, the cloth is simply wrapped round the waist. They are not extravagant on the score of their ornaments. A necklace consisting of a number of gold coins, through the eyes of which a silk cord is passed, constitutes the most important of the set : gold bangles, and in the case of the poor silver and metallic ones, nearly exhaust the list The males wear only a cloth, like all other Travancoreans, with the usual complements of a waist string, an under-cloth and a scarf used as an upper-cloth.

When the Namburi eats alone, the wife generally serves him; but if strangers are invited, the master of the house, or one of the younger members in it, serves them, when the wife sends on the dishes from within the kitchen, where only the husband could go.

The Namburi’s hospitality and charity are proverbial. The Brahman guest in the family is most kindly treated; and in spite of the uncouth manners and queer conversation which he may meet with, he is certain to carry away the happiest recollections of the Illam (Namburi’s house). On entering the gate of the extensive property, in the midst of which is situated the palatial mansion with its suburban buildings severally dedicated for the household god, the younger members of the family, the cutcherry of the proverty officers, and for the weary Brahman traveller, the visitor is received by the lord of the manor, who, in his native simplicity, inquires whether he has bathed, without any further ado about the health or other concerns of his guest.

If the answer is in the negative, he himself leads the guest to the bathing tank, with its cool shed and refreshing waters, most politely inquiring if oil and cleansing materials are required — all the time innocently gaping at the dress, the walk, the arrangement of the hair, the moustaches on the face, the absence of the scarfcloth, and the conventional waist-string and under-cloth, while the stranger, accustomed to more formal society, smarts with shyness at the gaze of his host. The Namburi must be asked to leave the bath for a short time before he can be expected to go.

The visitor is next led into the Illam, and asked to sit before the leaf spread out, not where the inmates generally eat, but in one of the outer rooms : the inevitable thought occurs that you are treated like an outcast. Even the ghee and dhall (peas) eating propensities of the visitor are attended to, though these are carefully eschewed and even disliked by the Namburi in his own meals. Before serving rice, the Namburi inquires whether the morning prayers are over, which he thinks improbable on account of the speed with which the visitor has returned from the tank; and feels a conscientious but unexpressed hatred of the light manner in which religious observances are regarded by the Brahmans of the other coast.

The feeding of Brahman travellers is not, however, a rare business with the Namburi, and he is often a victim of indebtedness caused by the ruinously expensive character of the marriage of his daughters, and by his unbounded hospitality.”

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The total population of this class numbers close upon 140,000, scattered all over the country, most thickly near the coast, but very few in Yettumanur and Cottayam districts, where they form less than one per cent, of the inhabitants. With few exceptions, they have no acquaintance with Hindustani, but speak the vernacular of the country in which they live. The Hindustani speaking families come from North India, and comprise, in all, 2,844 persons.


Most of the men wear only the ordinary native waist-cloth; and for full-dress a cotton jacket or long coat. They are fond of coloured handkerchiefs and cloths, and often carry about with them a China paper umbrella. A skull-cap is to some extent a distinctive mark, as joining their religion is usually called “putting on the cap.” The beard is worn, not shaven like the Hindus.

Women dress in the ordinary Malayalam cloth and jacket and upper-cloth, as is well shown in the accompanying copy of a native drawing. Foreign Muhammadans retain their own respective national costumes. The features of the latter are, of course, Arabic or Jewish, while those of most of the native Mussulmans are Indian. Islamites in creed, they are almost Hindus in person.

In the census Muhammadans are divided into seven classes, of which three are insignificant in numbers in Travancore, viz. : — Two or three thousand MOGHULS, who should be descendants of the Tartar chiefs who followed Tamerlane into India; six or seven hundred Arabs, who came over as horsedealers, traders, &c.; and over eight hundred Sheiks (or Shaikhs), who profess to be the descendants of the immediate friends and followers of Muhammad, though the title (which means “an old man,” especially one who has authority and respect) is given to any one who is learned and clever. Besides these, there are some fifteen thousand persons belonging to other minor sub-divisions.

Of the four principal classes, the first are Pathans (Pattanis) or Afghans, adventurers and settlers of that nation, chiefly descendants of sepoys retained by the Rajahs of Travancore. They number over three thousand, and are generally poor and unimportant.

Syeds are descendants of the prophet through Ali and Fatima his favourite daughter. Yet, mingled with other blood, they marry whatever women they choose, but do not give their females to others. Those who so classify themselves number over six thousand.

LUBBAYS (Labi or Lebbe) are about 18,000 in number. The term is of doubtful origin. Some trace it to the Arabic labek “may it please you,” used by servants to their masters. Many of these reside in Trevandrum and on the coast southwards. They speak chiefly Tamil, and are of mercantile habits. They are of mixed parentage, being descendants of Arabs and natives. But the proportion of Arabic blood is exceedingly small; they are but a mongrel breed of circumcised Hindus. From various words in use amongst them, and ornaments worn in South Travancore, some suppose that a large proportion of them were formerly Shanars converted, not recently, but centuries ago.

Bishop Caldwell says, “Muhammadan Arabs seem to have settled first on the Malabar Coast in the ninth century, and thence to have spread to the eastern coast and Ceylon. Their principal settlement on the eastern coast is Kayalpattanam in Tinnevelly. Heathen Arabs, that is, the Sabaeans of Southern Arabia, frequented the coasts of India long before, following the lead of the Greeks. The mixed race consisting of the descendants of those Arab merchants are called Mapillas on the western coast, Lebbies on the eastern. By the Tamil people they are generally styled Tulukkar (Turks) or Jonagar (Yavanas?). Their ordinary title is Maraikan or Marakan, a word which means steersman, implying that they were first known as sailors, which doubtless is correct”*

Mettan, a term of respect used to these people, appears to be the Mahratta “mehtar’ a common designation for a hereditary village officer, or the head of a business or a caste, who used to exercise considerable authority over the others. It was once a title of honour given by the Rajah to the chief Muhammadan at Powar and others : now every man is politely called Mettan.

The TULUKKANS should scarcely be classed as distinct from the preceding, being also the descendants of Arab immigrants by the Indian women, but more closely connected with those on the East Coast. The great body of the Mussulmans of Travancore, say over 110,000, come under this head.

Here, as in British India, the Muhammadans stand low in education and attainments. Of the two classes last-mentioned, about eight and a half per cent, of the males, but only eighty-four females in all, can read and write. They have little taste for education, scarcely a single school or publication of their own, and few who learn English. In this Hindu State there are no nobles amongst them. In Government service 384 persons are employed, chiefly Tulukkans and Pattanis, mostly in the humble position of peons or policemen. About a fifth of the whole body are cultivators; one-fifth traders; a tenth are labourers; a few are weavers, men of property, &c. Though rather stubborn and troublesome, they are persevering and industrious. Females are not allowed to enter a place of worship, of which restriction we have known some complain in view of the liberty of Christian women; but they are not secluded as in some parts of British India.

The better class of Muhammadans are extremely polite and hospitable. In Alleppey the houses of the Cutchmen are large and roomy, but close and dirty. On entering the archway leading to the courtyard in order to pay a visit to such, the old and hale householder may generally be seen sitting tailor fashion, and propped up with pillows. If word is sent beforehand, the visitor is honourably received. Two men appear with bottles of rosewater who completely drench him, his hands are filled with cardamoms and cloves, and on rising to take leave, a bottle of otto of roses is put into his hand as a parting gift.

They, of course, avoid pork and other forbidden food, but may eat beef if it be killed with the requisite ceremonies. They are very loose in their moral principles and in their attendance at mosques and observance of religious rites, yet superstitious and even heathenish in common life, and bigoted against all others, though they understand very little of their own religion and do not care to learn more. The ignorance of their youth even in their teens is sometimes remarkably dense, of which an amusing instance is given by Mr. Yesudian.

In examining a new class in the Tamil First Book and endeavouring to test their general knowledge, he questioned them as to the various points of difference between, say, an ox and a dog, and then said, “You have told me that the tail of an ox is useful in driving away the flies that annoy it — would it not be a desirable thing if we likewise were provided with tails?” This they all answered in the affirmative. Then he required them to tell, one by one, what number of tails they would like to have. The first boy said he would like to have one tail; the second boy, two tails; the third boy, three; and the fourth, as if desirous of excelling them all, said he would have four tails. On this the whole school burst into loud laughter. Then the fifth boy said with some hesitation, “we do not require a tail;” and some of the silk weaver boys said, “we have hands instead,”. On being interrogated as to the reason for their giving such ridiculous answers, they said it was because they had not previously learnt anything of letters.

Circumcision they call marga kalyananam “religious rejoicing;” it is performed on children of five to eight years of age according as money is available for the feast. It is not done in infancy, “lest it should grieve them — a little older, they know what it is.” Children think the rite an honour and submit. The barber operates. Several boys are generally circumcised at one time and in one house, with prayers by the Lebbe, all the neighbours being invited, and spending the night without sleeping, at watch over the children, feasting, talking, singing songs, and playing games. Feasting and rejoicings are continued for a week.


Wedding processions are conducted with as much display, and the festivities continued as long as can be managed. The bridegroom is richly dressed and adorned, and the accompanying party join in a chant as they proceed. Some marry their children in infancy, which is contrary to their law.

As might be expected from the views and practice of Islam and the Malayalam examples around them, the Muhammadans are very dissolute and sensual. Not many, however, can afford to keep more than one wife. Divorce is not infrequent. The wife must first be warned, then may be beaten, then put away for a few days; then finally divorced by repeating the tallah or formula for the occasion. After two months she is at liberty to marry another person.

The Muhammadan law of inheritance is extremely difficult and intricate, but rarely claimed to its fullest extent in Travancore. Indeed, they seem to have little knowledge of their own laws of inheritance, frequently talking of the “undivided family,” and other Hindu customs and rules which they are familiar with, and look upon as applicable to themselves as a matter of course.

When suffering from sickness, the patient is not only treated with medicines for his recovery, but is given holy water, over which the Tangal or priest has repeated texts and prayers. If death seems near, his face is turned towards Mecca, he repeats the creed, and the 36th chapter of the Koran is repeated for the consolation of the dying man.

At death, the eyes are closed by the attendants, and the legs stretched and tied together with a band of cloth. Relatives are immediately informed, and friends flock in to the funeral, which is conducted as soon as they can arrange. The Lebbe is sent for and the bier brought, the attendants served with betel-nut, and the body bathed and dressed for removal to the cemetery adjoining each mosque. The remains of widows are always clothed in white; those of wives whose husbands survive, in red cloths of silk and other materials.

To follow a bier on foot to the grave is an obligation incumbent on good Mussulmans. During the funeral procession from the house to the burial-ground, the Lebbe repeats certain plaintive songs, the others joining in at intervals repeating the kalima or creed. The body is not carried inside the mosque, but taken near it, and the prayers repeated. Coffins are never used; the corpse being only wrapped in cloths and laid on mats. After the prayers, it is lowered into the grave, and each puts in seven clods of earth, repeating a text in the Koran, cap. 112. “We created you of earth, and we return you to the earth. We shall raise you out of the earth on the day of resurrection.” The grave is dug north and south, and the body buried with the face towards Mecca; poor people place two stones at the ends, while the rich erect tombs and monuments, or a canopy of cloth over the grave.

After the funeral all return to the house of mourning, chew betel, and then go home. For forty days after the interment, a lamp is kept burning day and night. On the second day fruits and flowers of various kinds are made ready at the house; and the Lebbe and others again attend, when the priest performs other ceremonies, takes the articles to the burial-ground, and again repeats texts and prayers for the remission of the sins of the deceased. This over, all the articles are distributed amongst those present. On the tenth, and on the fortieth days, feasts are made for the friends; and special ceremonies performed at the expiration of twelve months after the death, all doubtless imitated from the Hindu sraddha.


Here are a few notes of a fishing village, Vilinjam, a few miles south of Trevandrum, inhabited both by Roman Catholics and Muhammadans — the one class at the north end, the other at the south of the village. They are not mutually hostile, but do not go out to fish in the same boats. The Mussulmans are divided into two classes, whom they call merchants and marakkans or Lubbays — the last inferior. These two do not intermarry, but they attend the mosque together, and are buried alike, close by the mosque. The marakkans will eat food from their superiors, but not vice versa. They are probably pure native proselytes from the Mukkuvar and other castes. None however, have recently been converted to Islam here.

These fisher people marry early, boys at the age of ten or twelve; girls at seven to ten, but occasionally remaining unmarried many years longer, if a suitable husband does not appear. Lucky days are sought for marriage and other engagements.

They do not go out to fish on Fridays, but attend the mosque, though not very regularly, where the Lebbe reads the Koran from a palm-leaf manuscript. The mosque is built on a prominent point of land, and wholly of stone, as are some wayside rest-houses, with three spikes on the top, like some Hindu temples. They assert that it was not built by human hands, but by persons sent by the prophet. The children are excessively rude and ignorant, shouting at a European traveller, “White man ! go from the mosque !” and other impertinences. They go out to fish with the fathers from a very early age.

The men do not carry fish to market, but sell to the merchants of dried fish, who export to Colombo. Some days they take nothing : then must run in debt to the merchants, or want. Their houses are wretched huts, put up on the sands in the shade of a few cocoa-nut trees, and formed entirely of leaves, as they cannot procure clay for walls. The graves are neglected, and the remains sometimes shockingly exposed to view.

The two great religious divisions of Islam are SUNNIS and SHIAHS. Of the latter, who admit tradition only when verified by any of the twelve Imams, there are none in Trevandrum. They mourn the martyrdom of Hassan and Hossein, the women abstaining for ten days from betel, flesh-meat, and other luxuries, leaving off their ornaments and coloured cloths, and wearing only black in token of mourning. They offer prayer with unclasped hands. Shiah is literally ‘a follower,” ie., of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, and, in the opinion of his followers, the lawful successor to the Khalifat.

The Sunnis (from sunnat, the record of those sayings and acts of Muhammad which oral tradition had at first preserved) recognizing the lawful succession of the first four Khalifs, are the great body of the Mussulmans, and are again subdivided into four sects, named after four eminent orthodox Imams or Doctors of the Law, who decided questions regarding which Muhammad had given no explicit direction.


These are : —

1. Hanifa, born A.H. 80. He admitted very few traditions as authoritative in his system, which claims to be a logical development from the Koran, and permits the right of private judgment. The Pattanis are of this sect, and their tenets generally prevail throughout India.

2. Malik, born A.H. 93, founded his system on the “customs of Medina.” He arranged and systematized the traditions current there, and formed a historical and traditional system of jurisprudence rigidly embracing the whole sphere of life. His tenets are not known to prevail in India.

3. Shafif, born A.H. 156. An eclectic system from the works of the two previous Imams, and requiring a considerable number of traditions in proof of any single point. In offering prayer they put the hands on the breast or shoulder, the thumbs touching the lobes of the ear. His doctrines have some currency along the sea-coast; the Calicut Mussulmans belong to this sect.

4. Ibn Hanbal, born A.H. 164, professed excessive veneration for the Koran as uncreated and eternal. There are none of this sect in India.

Of Wahabis there are but a few, chiefly men from Sind, very zealous against the use of tobacco, opium, &c., but attending the usual mosques.

Proselytes are called Maula Islam. Cases of conversion are very rare in Trevandrum, but more common in Alleppey and Cochin. Children are sometimes purchased or picked up, and educated in Islam. They cut off the kudumi at once, as heathenish, and because they think an outward mark is needed. Yet a few wear it for temporal profit, as for example, sepoys in the Brigade. There are five special commandments imposed upon all, viz : —


I. To learn the Kalima (a “word,” or speech, the confession of faith), and repeat it “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Apostle of God.”

2. To pray five times a day.

3. To fast in the month of Ramzan, the ninth Muhammadan month, during which eating, drinking, and any sensual gratification is interdicted between dawn and the appearance of the stars. The preceding ordinances are for all, the next for the wealthy : —

4. To give five per cent, of income to charity.

5. To go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.


Priests and Religious Teachers. — Of the regular moulavi (a learned man, teacher, expounder of Muhammadan law) there are few, if any, in Travancore. Officers are retained under this title at the principal law courts at Trevandrum, Alleppey, &c., to administer oaths to Mussulman witnesses. This is done by making them take a Koran in their hands, or place it on the head, then making solemn affirmation in set form that they will speak the truth.

Sometimes, they say, a peer or saint may visit the country, or a Moulvi may come round and preach, but such visits must be rare.

The local priests are called Tangal, a common Malayalam honorific, meaning “they themselves.” These are supposed to be Syeds, and exercise considerable influence; they have no regular training for this office — any one who has learnt, and can conduct the prayers acceptably, may become accustomed to it by degrees, and be popularly recognized. The Tangal of Powar travels about as a great man in a palankeen, sometimes as far as to Colachel, the people of each place where he is invited, in order to conduct special ceremonies, bearing the expense of bringing him to the locality.

Under a Tangal are several Lebbes, one in each mosque, who conducts the worship, kills sheep for food with due ceremonial, and conducts marriages. He is appointed by the people, and paid by fees and presents.

Friday (Juma) is the day of public prayer. In the mosques there are no sermons, no common prayer, and no singing. At the principal mosques no public service is held except there be forty persons present, exclusive of strangers, slaves, and the deformed. The Lebbe repeats some portion of the Koran in Arabic, but without explaining it, as he does not know the meaning himself. At least three texts must be repeated, taken from any part of the sacred volume. All stand while this is repeated, and follow the action of the Lebbe in ritual as he stands, bows, prostrates himself, or sits down. The common explanation of these acts is that man should praise the Creator as head of the creation, and on behalf of all — standing like a tree, stooping like quadrupeds, prostrate like reptiles, and sitting like mountains and hills.

They should attend the mosque five times a day for prayer, but this is never done. When the time of prayer comes, men pray wherever they are. Women should pray in their houses five times daily, but not when unclean.

The mosques in Travancore number 335 in all. There is a remarkable one at Tiruvankodu, the ancient capital. It is usually called Malukku Muthaliar’s Mosque, this being supposed to be the name of an Arab buried on the site before the building was erected, whose tomb — a low brick-built structure — is now enclosed within the building. Strangers are not allowed to enter.

The tradition is that, a Rajah of Travancore, then residing at Keralapuram, near Takkaly, heard a sound like the muezzin’s call to prayer, and gave orders for the erection of this mosque; hearing also the blowing of the conch shell in another direction, he built the temple of Mahadevan. In digging the foundations, the remains of a human being were discovered, and the same night a person appeared in a dream to one of the principal parties, and said, “I am Malukku Muthaliar.”

The courtyard is large, and surrounded by a high brick wall, like some Brahman temples, with a porch-house surmounting the front entrance. Within is a deep tank, square, with fine stone steps on the four sides leading down to the water. The mosque itself is remarkable as being built entirely of granite, like some Hindu temples. The eastern end is used as a porch for the accommodation of the people before engaging in worship, and has a pent roof of stone, with stone rafters. A door leads into the body of the building, which has a flat roof, all of stone, and is fifty-nine feet in length and twenty-five feet wide; the stones for cross beams must therefore each be about thirty feet in length.

At the western end of the mosque there is a kind of pulpit or platform, called mimber used by the Lebbe while officiating. It is built of brick and plaster, bare of railing, but with a flight of steps for ascending.

An old inscription on another tombstone is indistinct, but is read by some as dated M.E 179, which would be over eight centuries ago, but the letters seem of much later date. This mosque is maintained and lighted daily from the produce of a garden granted free of tax by the Rajah, who is said to have built the mosque; from fees on marriage dowries at one-tenth (not always paid now-a-days), and on trade, at a quarter per cent, of the capital expended; and from the collections made at the annual festival, amounting to some eight hundred rupees. On the anniversaries of the death of honoured individuals, rice is brought to the courtyard by the relatives, and distributed to the poor.


The chief festival at this place is held about April, and is called Sandanakudam “vessel of sandal- wood.” A silver pitcher is filled with the powder of this fragrant wood, and brought from the old mosque to the new one, borne by the priest in an open palankeen, in full procession, torches burning, banners waving, and music and shouts of “Allah, Allah,” concluding with fireworks. People from as far as Quilon visit this celebrated temple.

The Muharram (“sacred, or prohibited,” being the first month in their year, in which it was held unlawful to make war) is observed about November or December. It has gradually assumed the appearance of a scene of amusement and merrymaking, while the religious principles on which it used to be observed — in commemoration of the tragic fate of Hassan and Hossein — are fast melting away. Pretty tabuts or biers, are made of coloured paper or tinsel, something like a mausoleum in the Saracenic style of architecture, and carried in procession on the shoulders of men, with drum and fife, beating of tom-toms, masquerading, and other mummeries. Some of the company are painted with yellow and brown stripes, frightful red mouth, and bloody jaws, to represent tigers, holding rattles in the hand, the long tail supported by a friend, looking frightful enough to women and children. These go about demanding money from the people. A feast is also prepared, and the Fatiha repeated in the name of Hossein, and over the graves of friends.

The Mussulmans are accustomed to speak of Islam as the “Fourth Veda,” or Religion, alluding to Adam, Abraham, and Jesus Christ as previous prophets with a divine mission, each bearing new laws and revelations, which superseded all that had been delivered by their predecessors; Muhammad being the last and greatest of the prophets, the final authoritative organ of the divine will. Sometimes, however, Christianity is referred to as the “Fifth Religion.” They are very fond of the illustration that, as of these four — milk, butter-milk, curd, and butter — the last is the best and most valuable and durable, so their religion, “the Fourth,” is superior to all that preceded it. Still they admit the excellence of the Christian faith in some respects, occasionally purchasing and reading with pleasure the Pentateuch, the Proverbs of Solomon Nabi, or prophet, and even the Gospels. They admit the divine mission of Jesus, and His authority as a prophet of God, and assert that His birth was glorious, that He did not die as commonly believed, but that He still lives in a mountain near Jerusalem; and they say that He was endowed with miraculous powers of which Muhammad was destitute — yet that Jesus was inferior to their prophet. Some believe that Jesus is now in the fourth heaven, and will come again to destroy antichrist “

We also,” say they, “are Vedakar (people of a book religion); we have Allah and Muhammad.” They strongly object to the image worship of Romanists. One of these was found engaged in discussion with a Mussulman, and insisting that Muhammad was wrong in not allowing females to attend the mosque for worship. The other retorted upon his opponent respecting their worship of images, and the dispute was referred to a colporteur who then came up, for his opinion. He thought both were in error on the points in question.

They are for the most part strongly prejudiced against Christianity; a few read books published by Islamites against it; and without making any serious inquiry, they urge blasphemous objections, and abuse and insult the Christian preachers.


“How,” they ask, “could the Saviour of the world be put to death on a cross?” The miraculous birth of Jesus Christ is to them a standing difficulty. We have known some refuse even water to drink to a European, because he was a Christian.

Yet they are far from any correct acquaintance with their own religion, or any intelligent submission to its principles and precepts.

In country parts we have asked them who was Muhammad, and why they believed in him, but they could give no answer. Such repeat scarcely any prayers morning or evening, nor attend to other prescribed duties; they have no zeal for their religion or its propagation, and are full of heathen and caste superstitions. There is a decided tendency to deify Muhammad and even to confound him with the heathen gods and to speak favourably of their power. “Vishnu and Muhammad are the same,” said one, “Muhammad is an Avatar of Vishnu.” “Muhammad was created,” says another, “before the world was, and was consulted by the Supreme Being respecting the creation of the world.” They speak of the prophet coming down from heaven, when prayed to, and restoring children to life.

The ignorant often thus assert that Muhammad was before the creation. This arises from a text in the Koran, or a tradition, “I have created thee from my light and by thy light I have created the world. If I had not created thee, I should not have created the world,” meaning, the world is created for thee. A bright light, they assert, shone on Adam’s forehead, and was transmitted down to Abdullah and Muhammad his son.

Many superstitious notions and practices prevail amongst them. Pattanis make a hand of gold or silver, “because Hossein’s hand was cut off in battle,” which they take to the Karamana river and bathe. “During the prevalence of cholera in 1875, the conduct of the Muhammadans who occupy the northern portion of the Tittuvilei village, was deplorable. For they stubbornly refused to take medicine, on the plea that their Koran prescribes no remedy for cholera; and sacrificed cocks, goats, and even young bulls, tumultously calling upon evil spirits whom they considered to be the cause of the plague, to abandon their dwellings and to repair to those of the heathens or Christians. When this proved ineffectual, the males of the village joined together, and bawled out simultaneously a prayer which means something like the following : —

“Allah is Allah — no other Allah.

“Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.

“Save, O Allah! ‘

’Save,O Allah!’’

This they commenced every night at nine or ten o’clock, and continued till they felt exhausted by the depth of their outcry, to and fro, along their several streets. The effect was awfully distressing, as it struck with a panic the heart of every person in the neighbourhood. The obstinacy of the deluded Mussulmans brought on them no trifling loss; for about one- fifteenth of their entire number was swept away by the plague.”

So ignorant and heathenish are the Muhammadans of Travancore, that they are pronounced by those of the East Coast “worthless.” They do not allow people of other castes or religions to eat with them. Few go to Mecca on pilgrimage. Sickness is attributed to the agency of demons, wherefore some secretly send gifts to the devil temples; many attend the idol procession at Arattu. Many give their children in marriage in infancy. Though forbidden to sell arrack or opium, some do this secretly. As education is low, so crime, it is admitted, is excessive amongst them. Little moral discipline is exercised, though they may be excluded from the mosque, and others may refuse to speak or hold intercourse with them or give them fire, for adultery with heathen women, for disobedience, or drunkenness.

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These very interesting people are well described, and an admirable and exhaustive history of their Church given in Whitehouse’s “Lingerings of Light in a Dark Land.” To this a few general remarks may be added, with some account of their domestic manners and customs, which have not hitherto been described. For part of the latter I am indebted to an able paper written at my suggestion by Mr. M. Matthew, B.L.

Birth. — A horoscope is generally procured immediately on the occurrence of a birth, from the Kanian, or astrologer, one of whom resides in each village, of course knows the families well, and can make shrewd guesses as to the future. For this custom the apology is made that it is “convenient for pre-serving the date as a register; “ but it is happily dropping out of use.

Names are taken from Scripture, chiefly the New Testament, and many of them considerably altered in the course of ages from the original Syriac form, so as to be hardly recognizable. Peter, for instance, has come to be Poonen; Joshua, Koshi; Paul, Peili; Zechariah, Tarien; Alexander, Chandy; and John Lohanan.

Baptism. — The children are accompanied by sponsors. The water for baptism is first consecrated, the infant placed in the stone font, and water lifted up in the hand of the priest and poured or rubbed over the whole body of the child, which is also anointed with holy oil on the forehead, ears, chest, hands, and feet, both before and after the baptism.

“There are a good many ceremonies besides the simple baptism — the exorcism of evil spirits; a strange plan of mixing warm and cold water with the assertion that ‘John mixed water for baptism and Christ sanctified it, went down into it, and was baptized; ‘ and an investiture of the baptized person with the priest’s girdle and a crown, of which the latter is removed by the priest seven days after the baptism, with a prayer that the child may receive instead of it a crown of glory. The doctrine of regeneration in baptism is strongly stated.”(Bishop Cotton.) A “baptismal feast” is usually held afterwards.



At a year old, “the giving of rice,” is observed. For this occasion the maternal grandparents supply a string of ornaments. For a male child, the largest ornament is a gold cross — for a female, a golden ducat or other coin. Parents take great pride in having many and costly ornaments tied round the neck of the child. But this exposes the little ones to danger from the cupidity of thieves. An ornament consisting of a tiger’s claw set in gold, curiously carved, is worn round the waist of children for good luck.

Boys when young wear these golden ornaments, but they are removed as they grow older. The Syrian girls are very fond of ornaments, wearing armlets, gold rings on the right hand; and in the upper part of the ear, in the southern parts of the country a golden takka, or cylinder, like the Sudra women. These earrings are the only ornaments retained after marriage. The ears of girls are bored, but not those of men, whereas among Hindus both males and females have the ears pierced.

At about four years old, the alphabet is learnt. A brass vessel full of rice is taken to the teacher. A lamp being lit, the teacher holds the right hand of the child and makes him write a letter or two on the rice, which afterwards, along with a few chuckrams, some tobacco and betel-nuts, is presented to the teacher. On beginning to use the pen, a present is given to the teacher, and a feast to the whole school, consisting of parched corn, plantains, cocoanuts, and jaggery, distributed by the monitors.

The lessons chiefly consist of grammar and poetry, Syrian prayers and songs in Malayalam, which is at present the vernacular of these people, and Scripture stories, all written on palm-leaves and committed to memory. Boys and girls are taught alike, as long as girls attend school, generally until married.

Food. — There are no prejudices against any particular kind of food. Beef is ordinarily not procurable, therefore not eaten. Rice and curry is a favourite dish. The Syrians eat sitting on the ground, on a mat or piece of plank. Brass vessels are used to contain the food, and on important occasions plantain leaves. The right hand only is used in eating.

Marriage — Few or none remain unmarried, except the higher orders of priests. A girl is never left unmarried, and only the very poorest have been known to wait till the age, say, of twenty- two. Even a deaf, or dumb, or blind girl must get married, because girls receive no share of the parent’s property, only marriage dowries. Some fifty years ago, eight thousand chuckrams (Rs. 285) was considered a large dowry — at present such a sum is insufficient, as much as a thousand rupees being sometimes given. The dowry is supposed to be equal to one-third of the property of the bridegroom’s father. Should the husband die, the dowry is returned to the widow; in case of her early death, it goes to her relatives.



Re-marriage of widows is conducted in the early morning before daylight, as a somewhat shameful thing. Hence the possibility of such a fraud as was committed by a priest about ten years ago, who substituted a niece of his own, a young widow with several children, instead of the bride promised to a certain man. The officiating priest was not in the secret, but on coming to the light at the door after the ceremony the sexton recognized the woman, and the deceived bridegroom took to his heels and fled to the Metran to complain. Of course, this was no valid marriage. Second marriages are thus allowed without the usual display, while third and fourth marriages are severely reprobated.

The minimum age of marriage is ten for a boy and seven for a girl, though such early and scandalous marriages are contrary to the ancient canons of the church, and apparently from a recent decision of the Sadr Court, contrary to the law of Travancore. In Christian marriage, it was decided, the free and reasonable consent of both parties is absolutely indispensable, therefore a marriage performed between such mere infants is null and void; and to this point the attention of the Syrian community was invited.

Yet a Syrian marriage, it is said, was recently solemnized between a boy of eleven years of age and a girl of nine, the children of educated and influential people. The usual ages are respectively sixteen or eighteen, and twelve. Never is a youth supposed to wed a girl older than himself — girls are always professedly but twelve before marriage, and strange to say, some are eighteen within two years after ! Unfortunately there are no registers of births or deaths kept in the churches. The young man may have no means for supporting a wife : then his parents must provide.

Intermarriage between blood relations on either side is prohibited to the seventh generation, which stringent rule interposes unnecessary difficulty in the way of finding suitable wives. They never intermarry with converts from inferior castes. Generations must pass before even high-caste converts get rid of the reproach of idolatry.

Wooing is not customary, nor are love-letters written : all is arranged by the parents alone. Often the parties have never seen each other until they meet in the church. The girl’s family are first to make proposals. It is a common saying that young men, whatever be their age, will find a wife at pleasure, but if girls are not married young, suitable husbands will not easily be found.

The fortunes of the young couple are usually cast from their ages and horoscopes. There is a “book of fate” in the hands of the clergy for this purpose. Much useless expenditure is incurred on weddings for the hire of conveyances, jewels, umbrellas, and musicians and feasting for days. The marriage expenses are roughly estimated at half the dowry. Both parties meet in the bride’s house to arrange the dowry and date of marriage.

The dowry may consist of ornaments, lands, or money. Eight days before the wedding, the parents of the girl send a deputation to the house of the boy’s father with the money for the dowry : it is contained in a purse carefully tied and received without counting, but should the contents prove, in the meantime, to be less than the sum agreed on, the boy does not come to the church.

The banns are published a week before the wedding, and only once. Marriages are always, except amongst a few of the reformed churches, celebrated on Sundays, and forbidden on all fast days. The bride and bridegroom must attend the public service immediately before being married, else a fine is imposed. The bride never enters the church before the bridegroom : should she happen to arrive before him, she waits in some house in the vicinity. Her dress is a white cloth with red stripe down the front; or a coloured cloth, and a jacket worked with yellow silk on the sides and round the neck : a light muslin is thrown over the head as a veil. She is generally laden with borrowed jewels and strings of gold coin hung round the neck.

The bridegroom wears a splendid robe and turban, heavy gold bracelets on the arms, and a large golden cross on the breast; sometimes a silver girdle encircles his waist. They do not use the ring but a tali, a bit of gold with the figure of a cross strung on a piece of cord, which the bridegroom ties round the woman’s neck, and which she always retains.

‘The tali or marriage badge (like our wedding-ring) which every woman wears while her husband lives, proclaims her at once and everywhere as a married woman, and as having a protector. It also ensures her attention and respect, where a woman without the tali might receive neither.” (‘Every Day Life,’ p. 102.)

Both are required to fast on the day of marriage till the ceremony is over, generally in the afternoon. This appears to be a Hindu custom. In return for this abstinence they have the peculiar privilege of sitting in the church during divine service, while others stand. And when returned to the bridegroom’s house, they are seated for the time on an equality with the Cattanars. Only after all the guests have feasted may the married couple partake of food. Some, indeed, is offered them in church, immediately after the marriage, but it is generally declined, or only a handful accepted — even this the bride cannot do unless the husband has first taken a little.


Returning from the church, the newly-married couple do not enter the house till the ceremony called nellum nirum, “rice and water,” is over. A female relative meets them in front of the house, with a lamp in her left hand (even in broad daylight, which is one of the privileges of the Syrians in Travancore), and some paddy powdered and mixed in a vessel with water in her right hand. With this she makes a spot on the forehead, first of the husband, then of the wife, who makes obeisance in acknowledgment.

To omit this would be regarded as dooming the parties to poverty. The attendants then conduct the young couple into the house amid the exciting shouts of men and women, the men crying nada, ‘march,’ and the women making the kurava cry, a shrill sound produced by the vibration of the tongue between the lips and teeth. This is much used at Hindu weddings, devil-dancing, and so forth. The wedded pair enter the house and are seated on a plank curiously adorned with patterns of rice flour mixed with water, and surrounded by circles of the same substance.

The feasting now begins, the guests sitting in rows parallel to each other. All the men are seated on mats by themselves, and are served first. The women are seated inside. The men take rank according to seniority and the antiquity of their pedigree. The position of greatest honour is marked by two pieces of cloth, one black, the other of some dark colour, put in a place visible from all parts of the pandal. If an upstart, or a convert from Hinduism, however wealthy, takes his seat on these, irony is poured on him by the younger men till he is glad to vacate the seat.

A man having a head-cloth tied on his head stands in the marriage pandal holding a basket full of tobacco, areca nuts, and betel leaf for chewing. Thrice he begs permission of the company to present the basket, which being accorded, it is laid before the principal persons. Others with similar baskets, and a little lime, and spittoons, enter and supply the guests. A short time is spent in chewing betel. After going out to cleanse their mouths and returning to their respective seats, the large leaves of the plantain, which are used as plates, are laid before each. The Syrians enjoy the peculiar privilege of folding up the end of the leaf !

Salt is put upon the righthand side of the leaf, then rice upon the leaf, and around the rice various curries of fish, fowl, and vegetables. Afterwards milk curd is brought to each leaf, and sugar, plantains, curd, and rice are mixed together and eaten. The sign of being satisfied is to close the fingers, which is noticed by the attendants. When all have made this sign, the question is formally put, “Have all closed their fingers?” and an affirmative answer is given. Afterwards all leave the pandal to wash their hands, tobacco is again distributed, and they go home.

On the second night of the wedding, small and great unite in merriment and joy, dance and song. Women amuse themselves by repeating all the songs they have ever learnt. Men and women come to the pandal splendidly attired, glittering with gold and silver jewellery. The young couple are placed in the centre of the pandal, four pieces of cloth are presented by the bridegroom to his mother-inlaw, uncle, grandmother, and father respectively. Each embraces the bridegroom; the most respectable men and women in the company embrace the bride, the men first and women afterwards.

Dancing, singing, and cheering are kept up till daybreak, when the company quietly disperses, to meet again in the evening. Only men dance. The bride’s relatives supply the guests with churutti a sweetmeat in shape like a conical roll, thought indispensable at Syrian weddings, and peculiar to that people.

The next evening is also spent in dancing and singing. One of the bride’s relatives acts the part of mother-in-law to the bridegroom. She is bound to supply him with rice, and to superintend the cleaning of the marriage chamber. On the fourth night of the wedding, the fictitious mother-in-law stands at the door of their room, which has been purposely closed, and anxiously requests that it be opened. The attendants dictate various conditions, to which she assents. She knocks at the door with songs full of fine promises.

“Open the door, my son and daughter. I will give you a cow and a calf to provide milk to drink — a servant to attend upon you, a brass cup for the children’s rice — a basin to wash your hands,” and so forth, exhausting the catalogue of domestic utensils, earnestly beseeching and knocking till the attendants report that the son- in-law is pleased, and orders the door to be opened for her entrance.

Other plays and jests are performed amongst the friends, in which several days after the wedding are spent. Parents, relatives, and visitors freely intermingle and rejoice together. The greatest happiness of Syrian parents is to see all their sons and daughters married during their own lifetime.

Laws of Inheritance. — Property devolves to legitimate children alike by first or second marriage, sons inheriting the bulk of the property in equal shares; daughters can claim only dowry, and are, therefore, not responsible for debts on the estate. The father cannot quite disinherit any of his children, but may, while alive, distribute his property to them by gift in any reasonable manner or proportion that he pleases.

If there are no sons, all goes to the daughters, or brothers, or next heirs — if no near relatives, to the Church. Persons without children may bequeath all their property to the Church, but this is not allowed if they have children. A widow with a family may enjoy her late husband’s property till her sons come of age; if she re-marries, nothing is given her.


Burial. — The body is carried in procession on a bier to the church, decently covered with white cloths, the hands crossed, and only the face exposed. Chanting a psalm on the way, the Cattanar, or priest, precedes, the corpse with a cross, umbrella, &c., the male friends and relatives following.

The body is laid in the porch of the Church, with the face towards the east, and a lamp and a cross at the head, where prayers are read. It is then re-wrapped with additional strips of cloth, the priest’s fees are paid, the body is placed in the grave, and the funeral service completed. Consecrated water is sprinkled on the corpse, and both it and the grave are incensed. All present turn eastward, and offer intercession for the departed. Then the priest first throws in a little earth, the people follow, and the grave is filled up.

Some are buried inside the church, for which a large fee is required, or in a kind of skeleton church or “cemetery,” erected and consecrated for the purpose. Metrans are always buried near the altar. Rarely are monuments erected; on the contrary, the remains are often treated irreverently, being thrown out on the next occasion when the grave is required, and cast into a great pit in a corner of the churchyard.

Fasting for the dead is kept, like the Hindus, for a whole year, by a member of the family of the deceased, during which time he who fasts is to abstain from meat and from shaving.

Amongst the southernmost churches, the Syrians have been largely awakened and enlightened through the influence chiefly of the Church Missionary Society, who have laboured directly amongst them, and the London Missionary Society in the Quilon district. In some churches the public service is conducted almost wholly in the vernacular, and the gospel is preached. About fifty of their churches are more or less reformed; but the future of this movement greatly depends on the result of the lawsuits going on for some years past, as to the legal rights of the Patriarch of Antioch, and Metrans appointed by him, who desire to maintain the old state of things.


Farther north, little improvement is discernible — there is no preaching or teaching of the people, no effort for the ingathering of the heathen. When urged to go out to read and exhort at least on a Sunday afternoon, they said that after confession they must not even speak to a Hindu, or answer when called ! Caste rules are observed by them towards their inferiors, and applied to them by Sudras and Brahmans. Immorality, it appears, is not inconsiderable in amount; opium eating, intemperance, and quarrelling not uncommon.

There is no discipline in the churches, as the priests are dependent on the fees received for sacred offices; and some of themselves are blameworthy. Sorcerers are sometimes secretly consulted, especially in cases of epileptic disease, and offerings made to propitiate demons.

It is chiefly these who swell the proportion of crime amongst Christians to an undue extent by their smuggling tobacco and cardamoms, in which they seem to take the lead, and which they, perhaps, regard as venial sins.

The Syrians appear to be in the lowest condition in the northern and mountainous districts in Muvattupulay direction, where the Mission has, as yet, been able to do very little. Between Cottayam and Trichoor, a distance of about 70 miles, a great field for Christian labour lies open, for which the Alwaye Itineracy has been established.

At Muvattupulay and Todupulay there are large numbers of Syrians, poor, hardworking, and kind people, renting lands from the Namburi landlords, for which they pay four or five times the seed sown, and cultivating areca palms and the fruits, roots, and grains on which they live. They have no Scriptures or other books, and few schools. Nor is there a Sirkar District school at either of the two district towns just mentioned. The priests conduct service and go off to their houses; sometimes indeed there is no one to hold worship in the churches. The surrounding population have very little idea as to what God the Syrians worship, or how.

The ignorance and spiritual darkness of these poor nominal Christians is very great. On a tour in that quarter not long ago to see the country, I very carefully and cautiously examined those whom I met, or stayed with, as to their knowledge of Christian truth. It was heart-rending to learn of the criminal indifference and negligence of the priests, and to find old men and young quite ignorant, not only of the Scriptures, which they never read nor hear read, but even as to who Jesus Christ was.


“I know nothing of it “said an old man with whom I conversed. A youth with handsome open countenance could not tell what kind of person or character Jesus Christ was — whether a Brahman, a government officer, a carpenter, or what ! He “could not say.” One could hardly credit that such Ignorance was possible; but a native friend, who accompanied me, also repeated the queries in various forms to make sure that they were understood, and both of us used their Syriac terms. The old man could mumble over the creed, but did not know the meaning.

“What then do you go to church for ? “
“To do the appointed things, and worship the cross. The priest shows us God.”

But he could not tell why the cross was worshipped. Another said he went to worship the Apostle Paul, but did not know who he was, or what he did.

“Why are you baptized ? “
”For the religion and for the soul; to make me a Mapillay,” were the answers.
“Why do you attend the holy communion ? “ “Because it is the custom. We are told to do it, but do not know the reason why.””Is it the same as eating your rice?”

“Oh no, something quite different, but I do not know what.” Scarcely any knew who the first man was, and such like things. I found that the Syrians were beneath the Roman Catholics of the neighbourhood, both in knowledge and in morals.

The accompanying engraving of the carved stone-work on the doorway of the Syrian church at Kotarakara is copied from a sketch made on the spot, and shows their usual style of ornamentation — the cross, angels, &c.; and what rather surprised me at first, the cock beside the cross. I asked a man what this meant, and he told me it was the cock which the Angel Gabriel heard crow! He meant the Apostle Peter. Then he related some foolish story respecting the armed figures on the posts of the door. It is a solid and neat piece of stone-work.

Last edited by VED on Sat Nov 25, 2023 9:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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The indigenous inhabitants of the Malabar Coast may be referred to three principal classes — Brahmans, Nayars, and the various Low castes. For some four or five hundred miles along the coast northward from Cape Comorin, the mass of the population speak Malayalam, and have strange customs and characteristic laws of their own. Having been driven by subsequent waves of immigration to the very extremity of India, and being both protected and hedged in by the great range of the Western Ghauts running nearly parallel with the coast at an average distance of some fifty miles, these races retain very primitive and semi-civilized usages and peculiar practices. Amongst these may be named polyandry, polygamy, and nepotism in domestic economy; demon-worship and Brahmanism in religion; and the institute of caste in its most rigid form.

The law of Nepotism — by which relationship is traced obliquely, only through the female line, so that not one’s own but the sister’s children are regarded as the nearest heirs — can only be understood, and its origin investigated, by first examining the marriage and inheritance laws of the Malayalam Brahmans, or Namburis, and those of the Malayalam Sudras, or Nayars, both of which are inseparably connected and interdependent.

The Namburis and other Malayalam Brahmans are the special priests of the Malabar Coast, and are regarded as most sacred. None of them reside in South Travancore, which is only visited by them from time to time for the celebration of religious festivals and ceremonies for the kings and temples.

They are extensive landowners, often possessed of much wealth. The family property is owned and enjoyed in common by all the members of the family; and to preserve this intact for the general welfare and protection, a kind of law of entail is observed. In order that the family property may descend undivided, the eldest son alone is permitted to marry, the younger sons being only provided with subsistence, and obliged to form temporary connections with Sudra and other females of inferior caste, who abide in their own ancestral dwellings, with whom, however, these Brahmans cannot, on account of caste, eat food, and whose children, being by Hindu law, of necessity illegitimate, can only be supported by, and inherit property from, their mothers’ brothers.

The law by which property descends to heirs of the body is called Makkathyam or “children’s inheritance”; that law by which the nephews of Nayars are their heirs is called Marumakkatayam, the term marumakkal being used for nephews, or sometimes for son-in-laws, from maru “to dwell or fondle”— those who reside with one, and are affectionately treated as his own children.

The following summary of the laws of the Malayalam Brahmans, relating to marriage and inheritance, is taken, in substance, from a native work by G. Kerala Varmman Tirumulpad, one of a class who profess to be Kshatriyas, and who usually consort with the royal family of Travancore : —

“Parasu Raman ordained that only the eldest son in a Malaylam Brahman family should marry. How then are the younger sons to attain heaven without children to perform the necessary ceremonies on their behalf? Manu says: ‘If there be several brothers, the sons of one brother can perform ceremonies for all, so the sons of the eldest brother may do among the Namburis.’

‘If the eldest son be without issue, he may marry one or two additional wives; but the younger brothers must not marry. The wives, so long as they do not disagree, live together in the same house. If the eldest brother still have no children, or die without issue, the next in succession may marry, and so on.

“Though the wife be alive, and have children, yet if the Brahman is unable to meet the expense of giving his sisters or daughters in marriage, he may, in exchange, take one or two addtional females, as wives, from the family to whom he gives wives. Thus accounts will be balanced. Yet, however many wives he may have, only one among their children can marry; and that according to seniority of birth, not of the mother’s marriage.

“If in a poor family there be four or five virgins, the eldest son in another family cannot, according to Dharmma Sastra, marry more than three of them in exchange, but may consent to one or two of his younger brothers marrying; but should the younger brother have issue before the elder, the order of seniority of such issue shall not be that of the fathers, but of the children themselves.

“The general rule is that girls should be married before arriving at maturity. But as only one man in a family is at liberty to marry, available husbands are scarce and women plentiful, so it is customary to marry after maturity; and many women are left to live and die in celibacy. Widows are never permitted to re-marry. Marriage of a female after puberty involves the payment of a considerable dowry to the husband.

‘’Should a Malayalam Brahman die without issue or relatives, leaving a widow and an unmarried daughter only, the widow may cause another Brahman to perform the funeral mourning and oblations for her late husband, and may, in order to continue the family, give him her daughter and the whole of the property.


‘If an elder brother die, leaving only an unmarried daughter, the next younger brother should marry to perpetuate the family. The orphan daughter is not to be given in marriage with the whole of the property, but merely with a fair portion.

“Division of family property is forbidden among these, and is not practised. The eldest brother is to see that no loss is suffered by the family; the younger brothers are to remain unmarried, to aid the increase of the family estate as much as possible, and to honour and obey the elder like a father. The eldest alone has authority over the family and the property; the younger sons have merely daily subsistence (for which they may sue at law), and the property can never be divided.

“But if the family be numerous, and one brother wishes to separate and live apart, the karanavan (elder brother or manager of the united family) should give him a share sufficient for food and clothing, &c., or may make a regular allowance for this.

“Those who can claim support from the common fund are — (i) all the males of the family; (2) their wives; (3) their virgin daughters and sisters; (4) widows — and this for the last two classes only while residing in the house.”

Sudras or Chetries have sometimes to pay heavily for engagements with men of higher caste to consort with their families. The nieces of the Cochin Rajahs, whose male children succeed to the throne, form such morganatic alliances with the Namburis, who, however, lose to some extent in caste, and forfeit all ancestral privileges; and, becoming dependent on their new connections, receive in compensation large marriage portions and separate establishments at the palace. The nieces or sisters of the Travancore royal family intermarry with Chetries only, and this seems to be the sole reason why the Cochin Rajahs are admitted to be superior caste to those of Travancore : the former manage to procure Namburi Brahmans as consorts; the latter only Chetries of the class called Coil Tamburan.

The Malayalam Sudras, of whom the better class are called Nayars (or lords), are the bulk of the respectable population — the landholders, farmers, soldiers, officials, and rulers of the country. There seems reason to believe that the whole of the kings of Malabar also, notwithstanding the pretensions set up for them of late by their dependents, belong to the same great body, and are homogeneous with the mass of the people — if, indeed, the so-called Brahmans and Kshatriyas of the Western Coast are not also of identical origin.

Nayar customs admit of no real marriage — nothing, in fact, that can rightly be called marriage, the trivial bond being dissolvable with a word at the will and pleasure of either partner. Such a temporary association, or concubinage, even if it should be continued till death, as it sometimes is (the people being often better than their laws), cannot in any proper sense be dignified by the sacred name of marriage, though in such cases the union may have much of the effect of marriage through the mutual affection and fidelity of the parties.

The females of a wealthy Nayar family, especially where there is but one sister, are visited at their own homes by Brahman paramours, or by persons of their own caste; and their children are reared up in the same house, and inherit from their mothers’ brothers, as the fathers have nothing of their own to give them. Females of poorer and less fashionable families go to reside with partners of their own caste, so long as they agree together, or permanently : the average duration of such unions happily is increasing through the spread of civilisation and enlightenment.

There is, indeed, a ceremony called “marriage,” which is performed in the infancy or childhood of every Sudra girl; but it is the merest pretence — never consummated as a marriage, and conferring no connubial claims or obligations on the nominal bridegroom, who has thenceforth no further connection, but rather serving to set the girl at liberty, as soon as she arrives at maturity, to form temporary associations, or to change them as she pleases.

The Malayalam Sudra laws are as follows : —

Sudra women usually marry in their own caste, but sometimes are married by men of higher caste. But the mere ceremony of marriage does not make her a wife, unless the same man should also “give cloth” and cohabit with her. The trifling ceremony of “giving cloth” is rarely omitted in any case of cohabitation. It is not now usual for a woman to enter into such concubinage with several men at one time, except she resides with several who are brothers. Nor can she ever associate with a man of lower caste. In no case can an inferior male have intercourse with a female of superior class.

Their children have no claim to inherit from the father. The nearest heirs of a Sudra man are his mother, brothers, sisters, and sisters’ children. The woman’s property goes first to her children, male and female.

The Nayar family is undivided, and by theory the ancestral property is impartible, though it sometimes is divided by consent of all the members, and this should be more and more allowed and approved of for the advancement of the country and the welfare of society. The family property is enjoyed by all in common as a kind of commonwealth or civil family, administered by a karanavan or head of the family — either the maternal uncle, or the eldest brother. The common property is vested in him as executive officer or trustee, but without power to make arbitrary alienation.

He is authorised to alienate it only to meet necessities, in order to save the family from greater loss, or for some such similar purpose. The theory is that the unanimous consent of every co-proprietor is required to each valid act of the karanavan because each member claims, not through another, but through himself. This would make the transaction of business well-nigh impossible, but for various legal rules; as, for example, it is presumed that every act is done by him for the good of the family, and the negative must be proved by a complainant, which is difficult . A transfer of land by a single member is quite invalid : at least one other member of the family must sign the document, and in fact all should do so.

Each member of the Tarawad, “household,” is legally entitled only to subsistence, and the acquisitions of each merge in the common fund, excepting movables and jewels individually acquired by gift or otherwise.


A man’s sister’s son, and a woman’s own son, as their respective nearest blood relatives, perform (if their age permits) the funeral rites on their decease, and observe mourning, remaining one year without shaving or cutting the hair.

Should a Nayar woman, after bearing a son to a man, reject the latter, he having presented to her some property, then bear children to another man and receive some property from him also, the whole property is common to her and her children. But if the grant was made in the name of particular children, it is theirs individually.

The Nayar ceremony called “marriage” is celebrated as follows : —

Every girl must somehow get married with the tali (marriage badge, a small gold ornament threaded on a cotton cord), 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 bridegroom. The ceremony may be performed for nine or ten girls at one time. The pandal or marriage shed, is built and decorated in special style for the more distinguished families. On the day previous to the marriage there is an observance called “changing of clothes,” when the brides are brought into the shed, clothed with new clothes and gorgeously adorned.

Some relative usually acts as bridegroom, for which he receives a present of money; or a Malayalam Brahman is invited for the purpose. An astrologer having previously determined the auspicious hour for the marriage, and the agreement of the bridegroom’s natal star with that of the bride, the former is met in procession, his feet are washed by the bride’s brothers, to each of whom he presents a piece of cloth, and he is then seated along with the bride on a board covered with cloth, the manavadei or marriage-altar.

Then the Maran, or drummer, places a light in the front yard along with a measure containing paddy, some cocoanuts, flowers, betel, &c., and the cousins of both bride and groom sing a bridal song. At the propitious moment the tali is tied. If the make-believe bridegroom be a Brahman, one will suffice for all, and he ties the tali beginning from the eldest girl to the youngest in due order.

Often there is one boy for each girl. Finally the Brahman washes his hands in expiation of the sin against caste, and in token that he has nothing further to do with the brides, receives his dues according to the number of girls, and goes off. The ordinary officiating bridegroom receives at the end of the ceremonies two pieces of new cloth. During the ceremony the musicians play, and the women present make a curious cry called kurava.

In a Sudra “marriage” recently witnessed in South Travancore, a manavadei was put in the centre of the pandal, the bride and bridegroom were seated upon it, and a Brahman guru was performing the ceremonies. Near the manavadei stood a small image of Pilleiyar, made of cow-dung, ornamented with garlands, and before it was placed some boiled rice, a measure full of rice, and a light.

A silk towel was spread on the ground, and a grinding-stone laid upon it, which was taken and first given into the hands of the father and mother of the bride, who gave it into the hands of the bride, and she again into the hands of the bridegroom. He having this on his hands, they both came round the manavadei three times, then laid it on the same silk towel.

After this the bridegroom put the tali on the neck of the bride, while the Brahman priest was uttering some mantrams. Then the couple were led into the house. Four days are spent in feasting and merriment; then a ceremony called. “bathing” is observed, at which the marans must be present, as well as the relatives. On the fourth day, the bride and bridegroom go to a river in procession with music to bathe, and ceremonies are performed the same as on the first day.

At any time subsequently, the girl may “receive cloth” from any suitable man, and consort with him. There is no fixed rule that the person who “married” her must not “give cloth” to the same girl, and this sometimes happens, but not very frequently. The girl continues to reside with her brother, or in a house built or given by her relatives, and the husband may be sent off at any time. The person who ‘married’ the mother is called by the children ‘appan’ the actual father ‘achan’.


The ceremony called ‘giving a cloth,’ or agreement for concubinage, is also performed in the presence of relatives and neighbours, at an appointed time, usually in the night. The girl is set, with the young man, on a mat on the ground, the emblems called lingam and yoni being marked in front. A valuable cloth being offered by the youth, the girl asks her uncle, “Shall I receive it?” “Yes.” The same question is put to the mother, who also gives her consent. A cheaper cloth is given to the woman’s father, mother, sister, brother, and other near relatives.

Rev. J. Abbs, in his “Twenty-two Years in Travancore,” gives the following narrative, related to him by a Sudran, which well illustrates the subject in hand : —

“Being a tall, handsome man of respectable family, although poor, I was engaged several years ago by two rich men of my own caste to be the husband of their sister. As they did not wish to give me a dowry, or to let their sister leave them, it was agreed that I should have a monthly allowance, go whenever I pleased to see my wife, and when at the house of her brothers, eat in common with the males of the family. This I expected would be permanent. But a few days ago, when I went to the house, I was told by the elder brother that I could not be admitted, as another husband had been chosen for his sister. Her brothers have taken the two children to train them up as the heirs of the family property.”

The Ilavars, or cocoa-palm cultivators, who are the highest representatives of the Malayalam low castes, also perform a sham marriage in the infancy of the girl, generally by a near relation : when she is grown up she “receives a cloth,” and goes to live with some man of her own caste. Like Sudras, they may separate at any time; but it is proper to call in four respectable men of their caste to see that accounts are duly settled, and to write a deed of separation.

Ancestral property, or that acquired by the man before his taking a woman, goes wholly to the children of his sister, not to his own; but property earned by both during the continuance of the union is divided — half to the wife and children, and half to the sisters’ children. Some other castes have a similar custom.

On review of these singular laws and usages it will be observed that —

(i) They materially deviate from orthodox Hindu law, and are, in fact, quite opposed to it. They are recognized and administered by the British Indian Courts as a distinct and separate code. According to Hindu law the marriage bond is permanent, and of most sacred obligation — so much so, that the widow can never re-marry, being considered as still virtually a part of her deceased husband.

Christian missionaries regard the marriage of Brahmans, Shanars, and others, as perfectly valid, being a life-long contract, of legal force; but those who have only “given a cloth,” and may, therefore, at any moment separate from one another, are required to be re-married in Christian form. Amongst Hindus, children inherit equally, after deducting the widow’s share; or, if there be no children, the father succeeds, or the mother.

The Malayalam Brahman system may be characterized as “primogeniture run mad.” Hindu marriage is monogamous; but Namburi Brahmans practise polygamy up to the number of seven wives; and Nayars, Ilavars, and others occasionally practise polyandry — that is, a woman will reside with two or more brothers who are unable or unwilling to support a wife for each, as concubine to all.

Amongst Hindus, the family property is owned by the members of the family individually in shares, not by the family as a corporation. But in the Marumakkathayam family it is otherwise. Brahmans cannot even adopt a sister’s son, or any child whose mother they could not have married; while Malayalis ignore their own children, and value their nephews as sons and heirs.

“By Hindu law, only men and women of the same caste can intermarry. But in Malabar by far the greater number of the Brahman men, as will be obvious, are obliged to cohabit with females of some inferior caste, while the offspring of Sudra women may have either Sudras, Chetries, or Brahmans as fathers; and no distinction of caste is made from the circumstance of the father’s caste. Those descended from Brahman fathers are simply Sudras like others, and merge without distinction into the caste.

"Even in the case of the royal families, who can afford always to have Brahmans or Chetries as consorts for their females, their children marry ordinary Nayar women, and fall into the mass of that caste, with no more distinction than the very natural one of having been descended from royal blood. “The king’s sons,” remarked Forbes, “whether by his wives or concubines, have no privileges annexed to their royal descent; neither are they by birth entitled to any importance in the government.”


Under the circumstances described, no widowhood is possible to Marumakkathya women, while the Hindu widow is for ever incapable of remarriage. The marked contrariety between the two usages appears in a celebrated case which occurred in 1872, and which still remains a serious blot on the civilisation of Travancore.

An Iyengar Brahman nobly and courageously gave in marriage again a young virgin daughter who had been left nominally a widow by the death of her betrothed. The father was formally excommunicated from the temple and from the society of his fellow-castemen, and the temple was cleansed at great expense and with solemn ceremonies from the pollution supposed to have been caused by his having entered it after the re-marriage; while on the other hand, about the same time the consort of one of the royal ladies having deceased, a cousin of his was quietly called in soon afterwards to fill his place, with the trifling observance of “giving a cloth.”

(2) These regulations are all astutely planned for the exclusive interests of the Malayalam Brahmans, as indeed everything in the State is supposed to be devoted to the enjoyment of this very small minority of the population. They are free from tax on land and from capital punishment; about one-fifth of the annual income of the State is expended on religious entertainments and ceremonies, chiefly for their benefit. Of course the Brahmans of the present day are not the authors of these laws; but they maintain and enforce them, and are prepared to resist any measures of reform. The preface of the native work on this subject, already quoted, says : —

“As Malabar is but a small country, and other countries are extensive, should no exact account of these laws be prepared for the guidance of foreign priests, they may be found fault with, and fall into contempt. And it might come to pass that even Malayilis, without sufficient information, might say. Such and such are the traditions and customs of our land, but all men object to them, therefore it will be better for us to adopt the usages of other countries; and thus they may, without fearing to sin, reject the ancient customs and observances prescribed by Parasu Raman and others.”

The whole is placed on religious, or rather superstitious grounds. “Parasu Raman ordained it.” This personage may be altogether mythical, or may have been the leader of some immigration of Brahmans into Malabar.

Whether the Brahman colonists found such aboriginal laws in operation, and adopted and maintained them for their own convenience and aggrandizement, or whether the present Malayalam Brahmans represent simply the highest class of the primitive inhabitants, raised to this position in imitation of the orthodox Hindu system, by circumstances or by popular vote, it is not easy to discover. But it is clear that they have endeavoured to make the Sudras not only in theory, but in fact, their social slaves, and wicked threats are used to some classes if they do not place their females at the disposal of the Brahmans.


G. K. Varmman says : —

“Muttathus marry females of their own caste; but they only perform the customary ceremony, while Brahmans cohabit with them and beget children. Should men of their own caste dare to approach them, it is like incest with a mother — there is no atonement possible for them — and such progeny are sacrilegious!”

No wonder that these and other statements in the same book formed the ground of a complaint in the Courts of Travancore, the decision in which is understood to have been, that they did not constitute a personal libel, but mere historical statements, the accuracy or untruthfulness of which was simply a question for literary debate.

(3) Such loose customs respecting marriage are only suited to semicivilised races, whose ideas of the sacred bond have not risen much above that of the association of the lower animals. These usages are not far dissevered from promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, or free love. Friar Jordanus, who resided at Quilon, and wrote his description of the Wonders of the East some five centuries and a half ago, assigns as the reason for the nepotistic law the following : —

“In this India, never do even the legitimate sons of great kings, or princes, or barons, inherit the goods of their parents, but only the sons of their sisters; for they say that they have no surety that those are their own sons; but ’tis not so with the sister, for whatever man may be the father, they are certain that the offspring is of their sister, and is consequently thus truly of their blood.”

In a note on the above. Colonel Yule says that this remarkable custom of inheritance exists, or has existed, also in Canara; among the aborigines of Hispaniola and tribes of New Granada and Bogota; among negro tribes of the Niger; among certain sections of the Malays of Sumatra; in the royal family of Tipura and among the Kasias of the Sylhet mountains (both east of Bengal); in a district of Ceylon adjoining Bintenne; in Madagascar; in the Fiji Islands; and among the Hurons and Natchez of North America.

(4) This peculiar patriarchal and primitive system seems to suggest that both the Brahmans and Sudras of the Malabar Coast are of homogeneous descent, and of a primeval Turanian race. It appeared to W. Taylor that “the Nayars are the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants of Kerala, who probably were brought into some measure of civilisation by the colonist Brahmans, yet retaining so much of their own manners as to be a people, inclusive of mixed tribes, very different from genuine Hindus.

There are traces of resemblance between their customs and those of the Maravars; and there is little doubt that they were aboriginally portions of one homogeneous, but excessively barbarous people. The Maravars have peculiar customs contrary to those of the Hindus, particularly the frequency of remarrying allowed to the women, either upon voluntary separation from their husbands, or at their death.”

Dr. Gundert defines the Nayars as the “Sudras of Kerala, raised to the rank of Kshatriyas by their intimate connection with the Brahmans.”

Thus the so-called Kshatriyas or Chetries of Malabar may be but the higher classes among the Sudras; indeed, from their usages and history this would appear to be the case. And as it is known that the original partitions of caste early broke down, so that it is difficult to find pure Brahmans or Kshatriyas anywhere, more especially in the south of India, the popular traditions may embody some fragment of truth regarding the transformation of fishermen into Brahmans by Parasuraman investing them with the sacred thread.

Dr. W. W. Hunter remarks that the Brahmans throughout India are of two classes — more ancient settlers, and aboriginal superior natives raised, as tradition generally asserts, to this rank. The Namburis, for example, are said to originate from fishermen: they follow different customs from the orthodox caste, allow only the eldest male to marry, practise polygamy, and their ideas of marriage closely resemble those of the aboriginal Nayars. But in spite of their descent from a low caste fisher-tribe and semi-aboriginal customs, they make high claims, and despise other Brahmans. (“Orissa,”vol. i. p. 254.)

It will be evident, from the preceding remarks, that under the Marumakkathyam system of law there is a marked absence of the peculiar advantages and benefits of true marriage, and of family privileges which men highly and justly prize. Virtuous love and the noblest affections, parental rights and domestic order, the obligation to protect wife and children as the weakest party, the right of men and women to domestic felicity, all are more or less ignored; and this violation of the Divine law carries with it its own punishment, in the promotion of family dissension and of sensuality in various forms.

As to the evils and inconveniences of nepotism— (i) Polygamy, with its accompanying demoralisation and cares, is prescribed to the eldest son of Malayalam Brahmans in order to offspring, in place of the happy marriage of the sons to one wife each.

(2) The revolting system of polyandry is not rare among Sudras, Carpenters, Ilavars, and other Marumakkal castes, and has been thought by some to have been the origin of these laws. But they rather appear to be traceable to the Brahman prohibition of marriage to all but eldest sons.

Rarely is there ever felt such strong and elevated affection in these cases that the brothers quarrel, or are jealous about possession of the common partner; on the contrary, we have known an elder brother offended because the younger, on becoming a Christian, very properly took a wife to himself.

(3) The natural relationship and reciprocal love of parents and children are interfered with, and perverted by this pernicious law. It is somewhat odd that notwithstanding the introduction and spread of enlightenment among the higher classes in Travancore, so far as to lead to the preparation and publication of interesting native works, some are yet found who are not ashamed to defend this distortion of the law of nature and of God, and to represent the love and relationship of the father as something merely conventional and legal, rather than natural : just as some tribes ludicrously go to the opposite extreme of obliging the mother to rise, and the father to go to bed with the new-born babe.

“The reckoning of blood relationship,” says G. K. Varmman, “through the mother is more natural than through the male parent : the latter is rather by a legal rule. Among animals the mother alone cares for the progeny. Amongst men we find by experience that commonly the mother has more affection for the children, the father a little less. But as mankind are rational beings, besides that the father has some parental affection (by nature), he cherishes it also by obligation to law, and on account of the children performing funeral ceremonies for him and inheriting his property. And we see amongst Nepotists greater affection, arising from reason, towards sisters’ sons, who are not their own children, and merely by law their heirs and mourners.”

Here the love and care and discipline of the father are systematically absent. And if children do not know, or scarcely know, their own fathers, how can they love them? Should there be a natural longing for the love of the father, it cannot be gratified. I have known a fine Sudra youth bitterly lament that his own father, a Brahman, cared nothing for him; and, in fact, the father could not under any circumstances, eat with him, nor touch him without ceremonial pollution. If in any case we do find the same affection entertained for nephews as for children, it is but ‘a forcing of nature, there being no other way of preserving the unity of the household and family property.


Mr. Abbs remarks : “I have often been astonished to observe how natural affection is perverted and transferred by these customs. It was common for a man to have his nephews living in his house and attending to his affairs as sons would have done, while his own children would be with their mother’s family at a distance — seldom, if ever, having communion with their father.

A Nair came to me one morning and told me very unconcernedly that his wife had died on the preceding day. He was married again in less than three months. In about a twelvemonth afterwards, he came to me weeping bitterly, and told me that he had lost one of his nephews by death, and could not, therefore, attend to his usual vocation for a day or two. I asked him how it was that he grieved so much for his nephew and so little for his conjugal partner; he said that he considered his own sorrow more according to nature, as, being a rich man, when his wife died he could easily obtain another, but, having lost his nephew, he might live to see his estate fall into decay by neglect.”

(4) The security of the marriage bond is affected. Indeed, there is no recognized form of marriage by which a Nayar man and woman could bind one another, even if they wished, for life. A poor man engaged as husband by a wealthy family may be sent off at a moment’s notice, without wife or child, beggared in the domestic charities as well as in purse : sometimes for failing to send a present on festival days, or on other trivial pretexts, he is discarded. Or his partner may be seduced away from him by a richer or younger man, and he left heart-broken and desolate.

Still less has a woman any assurance that she will not be deserted in her advancing years, when her need is greatest, though she had been maintained while young and fair. We have known a Sudra, hard to satisfy, and of an imperious temper, who had eleven women, one after another. A Sudra woman may be dismissed with a word, “Go, leave the house,” and another may be brought into her place next day. Concubines are frequently changed before having children, or even after bearing several children to one man.

(5) Much misery and heart-burning are caused to the victims of this social tyranny, the youngest sons of Brahmans being prohibited honourable marriage with persons of their own class, and forced to form illegitimate connections with strangers, and the larger proportion of Brahman women mercilessly doomed, notwithstanding the high estimation in which the Hindus hold marriage, to perpetual celibacy, with all its risks and privations. Many of these females live and die unmarried : yet, strange to say, the corpse undergoes all the ceremonies of marriage.

To prevent their falling into unchastity, they are closely shut up and guarded. Occasionally they do fall, and then are irrevocably expelled from family, friends, and society. In such case they must join the lower castes, to whom they were formerly sold as slaves and concubines, or go over to the Roman Catholic or Syrian Christians, uniting with some one in marriage. And before a case of this kind is decided by a committee of the heads of the Brahman caste, the expense of the investigation is sometimes so great as to ruin the family.

(6) It is evident that sensuality and lust are fostered and encouraged by such usages. The union of the sexes is viewed in the lowest and most degrading light, and the whole country becomes saturated with immorality and vice. Castes which have the institute of marriage, as Shanars and others, are tempted to adopt more or less of these rules; and some branches of these castes have become so corrupted. Individuals of some castes are allowed to form connections with Sudra females which are to them irregular, but which they attempt to justify by pleading the Nayar usages; and many cases of prostitution occur, even among the respectable classes.

(7) Community of property naturally tends to discourage individual activity, personal exertion, and independence of spirit. The expenditure of a large family thus united may be less than if divided into several separate families, but the aggregate income would be much larger, and the peace and comfort enjoyed by the latter plan would be incomparably greater. Misery, idleness, ignorance, and poverty follow from these laws; life is wasted in listless inactivity.

Such a home is “no true home, but rather a sort of family club, where all the male members of the household take their meals together. Employed or unemployed, active or indolent, he and his may live here and take their share with the rest as long as there is, property enough, or employment enough, among them all to keep things going.”

Sir H. S. Maine observes: “Where people are living in a ‘state of Arcadian simplicity, without the desire or the possibility of advancement, the family system is a very sound one, as it prevents properties being split up, and enables a number of persons to be supported with a maximum of comfort on the minimum of means. But as soon as society begins to dash ahead, then the effect of the corporate union is deadening in the direct ratio of its strictness. Who will work with full energy when the benefit of his labour goes not solely, nor even chiefly, to himself ? Who will work at all when some one else is working for him? Ingenuity could not contrive a more effectual plan for damping the spirit of the industrious, and extinguishing the spirit of the idle. It makes the best member of the family a slave, that the others may be sloths.”

(8) Though some large Nayar families are known to live in peace and unity, the tendency of the law of nepotism is to promote family dissensions and discord. The Marumakkatayam system of law is in itself intricate and complicated, and is one of the most difficult to administer in Travancore, because of the cheating to which it gives rise. A junior member of the family pretends that he owes a sum of money to a friend, with whom he is in collusion, and whom he gets to file a suit against him for the sum, in the hope of somehow squeezing it out of the Tarawad property.

Or, money is lent to one who seems, from all outward appearance, to be the actual manager of the family, till it is discovered long afterwards that he is not in this position. Complaints are frequent against the karanavan that he is dissipating the common fund; he is provoked, and sometimes becomes really indifferent to the general welfare. Since many individuals in each caste, sometimes even two brothers, bear the same name, a member of the Tarawad may have the same name as his karanavan . He asserts that it is his own name that appears in the deeds and legal documents; and may thus succeed in gaining possession of property.


A man may be left with several sisters, all of whose children are dependent solely upon him. On the other hand, there may be two or more uncles responsible for the support and training of the children of one sister, and disputing among themselves as to the share of expenditure devolving upon each. Amongst the Ilavars and others, the temporary wife sometimes’ secretly accumulates property in anticipation of being left unprovided for by the death of her husband; or she obtains, by clever management from him while he lives some gift of property.

The sons might, of course, be quite content to inherit from the uncle, and to profit by this law if he be more wealthy than the father; but cases have occurred in which the sons felt sorely aggrieved by their unnatural exclusion, and desired a change of the usage. A century and a half ago, two of the sons of a recently deceased Rajah of Travancore were slain by the new king, because they demanded the right of succession to the throne instead of their cousin, the nephew of the deceased.

There are, it is true, one or two incidental advantages of this system; or rather, we should say, there are certain evils of the orthodox Hindu social system which it is impossible to unite with the nepotistic regime. For instance, Malayalam Brahman girls are not married till after puberty; and Sudra girls, though nominally married, are usually left free till the same period, when they enjoy more or less freedom of choice in the selection of their temporary partners. From this curious law of succession, the sister, being the mother of the heirs, becomes a person of great importance; daughters are longed for, and sons treated as of less account.

The whole arrangement tends to give Nayar women (though not Brahmanis) much influence, and admits of their being to some extent educated (1.19 per cent, of their number), and saves them from the sad privations of Brahmanical widowhood. But it will be observed that it is all for the pleasure of the Brahmans; and the same benefits would accompany any just or rational marriage law. The end should be attained by other means. No mercy is shown to the Brahman women: the men only have the whole world (down to a certain grade) cast at their feet.

The only hope of continued subsistence and increased comfort to the dense and ever multiplying population of India consists in the adoption of prudential restraints on improvident and early marriages irrespective of the means of subsistence; but the plan adopted by the Malayalam Brahmans only removes the burden of providing for their progeny from the shoulders of this small but influential and wealthy community (10,762, or a half per cent, of the total population) to those of the more numerous and sturdy Sudra caste (440,932= 19.1 per cent.).

Some of the more enlightened and educated Nayars are now beginning to realise their degradation, and to rebel against the Brahmanical tyranny, and absurd and demoralising laws under which they are placed. The Nanjinad Vellalars have addressed petitions to the Maharajah, praying to legalise their reversion to the law of nature instead of nepotism. This may easily be done if all agree. Nepotism is felt by a considerable number of Sudras to be a special grievance because a man’s own acquisitions, as well as the ancestral property, devolve to nephews; and only during his own life can he bestow anything on his sons.

Even this is difficult of accomplishment. Many intend to do so, but go on procrastinating till it is too late. Ilavars have not such a grievance, as half of a man’s own earnings goes by law to the children. Many Sudras would like a change, but it is impossible, they say, “unless the Maharajah commanded it, and led the way.” It is not easy to see how the native Government could make such a change before public opinion is ripe for it and demands it.

Division of property and individual ownership might, however, at once be allowed, as throughout British India; and the clear head of Sir Madava Row many a year ago discerned the necessity for this. In his Administration Report for M.E 1050 he says: “It is evident that some effective legislative action is required without delay in certain directions. For instance, it has to be declared lawful for any member of a Malayali (native) family to insist upon a division of common property so far as he or she is individually concerned, if he or she wishes to separate. Not that such a law would be generally acted upon at once : the feeling in favour of relatives living together in an undivided state of property is too strong to yield to reason in the present generation.

But it is obviously the province of Government to see that a general feeling of the kind does not operate as an instrument of tyranny over individuals.”


We fear this enlightened intention has dropped almost entirely out of sight, and that the tendency of more recent action has been rather to rivet more tightly the chains of this barbarous system of law. But the Government has no authority whatever over the social usages of Brahmans. A good deal of controversy has taken place on the subject in the public prints, and a society for the reform of the Malabar laws of marriage (and inheritance) has been formed at Calicut by the leaders of the Nayar community, especially those educated in English.

Besides being opposed by orthodox Hindus and Muhammadans, this system of laws also forms an obstacle in the way of the spread of Christianity. Civil rights are lost by the change of religion. R. Moothookristna Naidoo says, in his work on the subject : “Females who will not obey their karanavan and who apostatise to other religions, lose all right both to subsistence and inheritance from the family property.”

A karanavan is also removed should he break caste by joining another religion. Christian fathers have been exposed to the interposition, in violation of natural rights, of the authority of the maternal uncle of their children to the extent of withdrawing them from their own control, and of preventing them from being received with the parents into the Christian community. The paternal right of converts to Christianity, who may have children at the time of their conversion, ought to be fully secured to them, notwithstanding anything to the contrary which may have obtained in the caste or people to whom they previously belonged.

Converts to Christianity in Travancore are liable also to be deprived of inheritable property on account of their change of religion. In some instances, as appears from the decrees of the old Appeal Court, Christians have been thus deprived of their property, though in other cases property has been awarded to Christians which belonged to their ancestors, or relatives who were not Christians.

And in a recent case, where an Ilavan convert to Christianity has long individually enjoyed property derived from ancestors, and paid tax for it separately in his own name, which, therefore, he devolved by will to his children, the decision of the Lower Court in favour of the will has been reversed by the High Court, on the ground that ancestral property can never be divided and, therefore, a share in it cannot be willed away to children, or others than the nephews.

Such a decision is prohibitory of all reform in the future, and scarcely in consonance with the altered habit of the people, which no longer entirely ignores the paternal relation. Objectionable laws and customs are sometimes brought into prominence, sanctioned and perpetuated by judicial recognition.

“There are cases,” says Lyall, “in which the action of law courts, in stereotyping and enforcing invariably customs that were naturally very elastic and varying, tend to check the natural modifications according to circumstances, the sloughing off of decayed forms.”

The law should be adopted in Travancore which was passed by the late East India Company in 1850 (Act XXI) that no one should suffer by loss of property, or in any way, on account of a change in religion. In one case, that of a Hindu dying without heirs, except such as have become converts to a different religion, the Sirkar has relinquished its claim to escheat, and permits the property to descend to the natural heirs independently of religious considerations (Procl. No. 90 of 1869). But where there are Hindu heirs, converts still lose their rights.

An additional difficulty is also cast in the way of Christian converts, who had formerly belonged to distinct castes, intermarrying, as the domestic usages and the laws of inheritance vary so widely. So in regard to Christians seeking to adopt the law of nature and of Scripture, in leaving their property to their own children by will. By the law of British India this may be done; but there is some uncertainty as to whether it is yet allowed in native States or not. It is of great importance to future progress that this right be granted.

Property might easily be divided according to existing customs of Marumakkatayam which are occasionally applied, and each might then enjoy in future his individual estate, and hand it down to his children, like other Hindus, by will; or, if intestate, in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Succession Act of 1865, with any modifications that might seem demanded by the circumstances.

Some effective form of marriage, instead of “cloth giving,” might also be settled on, and left to the option of individuals desiring to adopt it, which would no doubt come into repute in course of time with the more intelligent and welldisposed Nayars. It is said that some such Act has already been drafted in Malabar, intended for proposal to the Madras Government.

Any hasty or ill-considered attempt at change or legislative reform could not but cause infinite confusion. The facts should first be made accurately known, and a more enlightened public opinion created by free ventilation of the question. But it is obvious that great difficulty would be found in altering, even for the better, the law of inheritance obtaining amongst a million or two of people, most of whom are possessed of some property. One singular advantage of the monarchic form of government is the avoidance, by the law of hereditary succession, of disputes as to succession, and of discussion as to the personal merits of candidates for power.


An attempt to change the nepotistic law would naturally and reasonably aggrieve the next legal and expectant heirs according to the present system. It so happens, however, that while in the Cochin State, which is but a small kingdom, with a population of only three-quarters of a million, no less than twenty-two princes are heirs expectant to the throne, and form a heavy burden on the public for maintenance in idleness and luxury; in Travancore, the only other, and much more important, State in which the nepotistic law carries with it royal power, there are but four princes still to reign, and no possibility of more, except by adoption.

The family, in fact, judged by their nepotistic law, has come to an end, as there are no sisters alive of any of the present heirs, to continue the nepotistic line.

Indeed, all but the next heir are themselves the sons of ladies adopted some twenty-five years ago for the purpose of continuing the succession. As these princesses have no daughters, the dynasty is again near to extinction after the present four princes shall have had their turn, unless the children of the present Maharajah, or of future sovereigns, are taken into account.

It happens, therefore, that it would be easy to alter the Travancore succession by the simple plan of adopting no more females into the family: no one would be personally aggrieved or injured, and sons or heirs of the body might succeed thenceforward. There is no need to manufacture factitious heirs when there are natural ones. Who knows whether the next fifty years may not bring round such general enlightenment, or such a spread of true Christianity amongst the higher classes (which we look upon as the only true remedy for all social disorder), as to admit of the possibility of even this reform]

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The propriety, or otherwise, of Native Christians retaining the kudumi or topknot of hair worn by Hindus, has for the last twenty years been greatly discussed amongst missionaries in South India, and upon it opinions are seriously divided. To aid those who wish to arrive at a right conclusion on the subject, we purpose to lay before them our notes and experience for the consideration of all interested.

The moot point is — Whether is the wearing of the kudumi a national and respectable usage — a mere fashion depending on personal taste, and therefore to be included in the category of things absolutely indifferent to the Christian believer — or a badge of Hinduism — of religious significance, and consequently to be rejected by those who profess to - follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

This question is in many respects similar to and affiliated with, that of Hindu caste, the identity of which with social rank, or its un-Christian and heathenish character, was long debated; and judgment in it is now given almost unanimously by evangelical missionaries against the observance of caste. Hindu caste and the kudumi appear to be closely associated. Those who retain the former invariably retain also the latter; and sometimes but a half-hearted opposition is given to caste by those who defend the use of the kudumi.

The scale for and against the kudumi has vibrated variously at various times. In the early stages of Protestant missions, the matter appears to have excited but little attention, being swallowed up in the more comprehensive and burning question of caste and its evils. Yet when a mission was evangelical, and its founders careful, the kudumi was generally objected to and discarded. In the Church Mission in North Travancore, it was naturally laid aside from the first, the clear and united testimony of the ancient Syrian Christian Church, the Roman Catholics, and the Muhammadans having guided the English missionaries to a sound decision. In the London Mission in Travancore, little attention appears to have been paid to the subject; but the Rev. J. C. Thompson, who arrived in 1827, was one who took a zealous interest in it.

Mr. Abbs from 1837 required the relinquishment of the kudumi by all communicants and mission agents. Mr. Cox also bore testimony that “the greatest care has always been taken not only to remove every mark of caste and heathenism, as the kudumi, &c., but also to root out every lurking remnant of those evils;” and Mr. Baylis wrote of the Neyoor District under his care — “By degrees I got all the agents and church members to leave off the kudumi, and then never admitted or baptized with it; and it became customary to leave it off in Nagercoil District.” But within the last dozen years a change has gradually taken place. Though the missionaries, we think, generally dislike the top-knot, they do not seem to feel it their duty, or perhaps quite practicable, to insist on its entire abandonment.

In Tinnevelly, definite action was taken respecting caste and the kudumi in 1846, as described by the late Rev. J. Thomas in the following terms. “When in the year 1846, the Committee of the C. M. S. determined upon presenting to the Bishop for ordination several of their catechists, they resolved that caste should be entirely relinquished by the candidates, and that the kudumi should also be removed. Mr. Thomas went to Madras in company with Mr. Pettitt to confer with the Committee on the subject.


At that time there were several members who from their knowledge of Hindu customs and literature were thoroughly competent to deal with such a subject. We found on our return to Tinnevelly, that there was no hesitation on the part of the candidates to comply with the Committee’s resolutions. The Rev. J. Devasagayam had been in holy orders for many years previously, and had never worn the kudumi.”

The learned Bishop Caldwell, however, wrote in 1867 a pamphlet on the other side of the question, regarding the top-knot as merely a national fashion, and as rather a mark of civilisation, refinement, and adornment, than as possessing any particular religious import, and now the kudumi is allowed to a very large extent in the missions of the C. M. S., as well as in those of the Propagation Society.

The light in which the top-knot is regarded in some other parts of India is fairly stated by Mr. Thomas in the same paper.

“Throughout the whole of India, all Protestant missionaries of every denomination (except indeed the old German Missionaries of Tranquebar and Tanjore, with their successors in the Tamil Mission field) have been led, and no doubt after much anxious inquiry, to insist upon the removal of the kudumi at baptism, as a sign of sincerity. Such is, I believe, the uniform custom in Bengal — on the Western Coast among the German Evangelical Missionaries — and at Masulipatam by missionaries of the C. M. S.; and we may be well assured that the missionaries of North India, whose knowledge of Sanskrit literature is a necessary qualification to their usefulness in that part of the country, must have made themselves thoroughly acquainted with all the adjuncts of the kudumi question before deciding that it ought to be removed by their converts.

"We may also feel satisfied that a man of Mr. Noble’s stamp at Masulipatam, having Mr. Sharkey as his coadjutor, would not lightly require a sacrifice on the part of his converts which was not indispensably necessary. To the Brahman, the removal of the kudumi and string is considered as equivalent to death; and yet his Brahman converts at baptism willingly gave up the string and kudumi, with the conviction that this was imperatively necessary to prove that they fully and entirely renounced heathenism, and willingly took up the cross to follow Christ.”(“Ind. Evan. Review,”April, 1876.)

In the vigorous Arcot Mission of the Dutch Reformed Church, the views held on this question are thus described by Dr. Jared Scudder :

“With reference to the kudumi, my own opinions are very clear and definite. I believe it to be a distinctive mark of heathenism. I am thankful to say that in our Mission we have never baptized a kudumi, and I hope we never shall. . . . We have, from the first, enforced excision of the tuft, it being a principle with us that the kudumi must fall before baptism; and once off, it does not often grow again. . . . .

"I am persuaded that it is a badge of heathenism. Some time ago, a learned Brahman in one district was asked what would be the effect of the removal of the kudumi. ‘When the kudumi goes, Brahmanhood goes,’ was his significant reply. Judging from personal observation and conference with others, I feel pretty sure that no missionary, however tolerant he may be of the kudumi in practice, likes his native ministers and catechists to wear it.”(Bang. Conf. Report, Vol. I. p. 316.)


To similar purport are the words of Dr. E. Scudder of the same Mission.

“The view we have held from the origin of our Mission is that the kudumi is one of the strongest links in the chain of religious superstition and caste feeling. Our people, therefore, all excise it when they join us. Very little objection is made to this, and their heads certainly present a more civilised and Christian aspect when the European mode of wearing the hair is substituted. Whether an evil or not in itself considered, the kudumi is certainly productive of discord and mischief in its relations to the Church of Christ.

"Formerly it was regarded as heathenish by the majority of Christians, and the applicant for church membership was required to excise it before admission. Now there appears to be a disposition to ignore it. — There is much confusion, and not unfrequent heart-burnings, among the Christians of different societies. The advocates of the tuft are not willing to abandon it, even when they enter communities where the opposite practice prevails; and hence the latter are made to feel more forcibly their singularity.”

In Mysore, the kudumi is cut off by the Wesleyan Missionaries. Rev. W. Burgess, of Madras, considers that “this practice in its origin is undoubtedly heathenish, and had a religious significance; though not clear in his own mind that it is now thus to be regarded.”

Rev. B. Rice, L.M.S., Bangalore, thinks it is, “if not a mark of heathenism, at least of caste, and a disposition to fraternize as much as possible with the ways of the Hindu world.”

“In the Telugu country,” says Rev. F. W. N. Alexander, “the kudumi is not known anywhere. It is a universal opinion that it is completely heathenish, and we should set our faces against it.”Mr. Hay, of Vizagapatam, says : “The change is so great in embracing Christianity that all caste ideas are completely given up. The Hindu kudumi is given up, and the hair worn in some other way.”

So also the late Mr. Beynon, of Bellary : “Kudumi and other caste and heathen customs have never been allowed amongst our Christians.”

Rev. J. H. Walton also writes : “We discussed the subject in Bellary; and after consulting the opinions, not only of influential, native Christians, but also of leading orthodox Hindus, we considered that the tuft of hair was so intimately associated with heathen practices, so much an evidence of worldliness in those Christians who wore it, and so diametrically opposed to the apostolic doctrine contained in the11th chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, that it was desirable to disuse the custom among the members of our churches.”

Rev. J. B. Graeter, of Mangalore, points out that in Lev. 19, 27, the practice is condemned, though the passage may not literally refer to the kudumi.

Rev. P. Rajahgopaul, of Madras, remarks, “Most of our pupils were of caste families; and when a man became a true believer, and wished to enter the Christian Church, at once the kudumi went, and there was no more trouble about caste.”

And Dr. James Glasgow, of Guzerat, informs us : “The top-knot is voluntarily cut off by converts of the Irish Presbyterian Mission; if they did not do so, the Missionaries would insist upon its relinquishment.”

In order to form a correct judgment upon the question before us, it is essential to note the position of the kudumi in the system of Hinduism, and also the light in which it is regarded in the present day. On these considerations necessarily depends its practical treatment in the Christian Church. Now it is an undoubted fact that the kudumi (called also caula, chonti, shendie &c.) is one of the most important observances of Hinduism. The remarks of Professor Monier Williams in his useful “Manual of Hinduism” (pp. S9-60) seem to us abundantly sufficient to set the whole matter at rest.


He says : —

“As an unmarried student, the young Brahman was to reside with his preceptor until he had gained a thorough knowledge of the three Vedas. He was to go through twelve ‘Sanskaras’ or purificatory rites, which purify a man from the taint of sin derived from his parents, and which are enjoined, with certain variations, on all the three first classes alike. They are as follows : —

1. Garbha dhana, ceremony on conception;

2. Punsavana, on the first indication of a living male’s conception;

3. Simanton nayan, arranging the parting of the mother’s hair in the fourth, sixth, or eighth month of pregnancy;

4. Jata karman, touching an infant’s tongue with honey and ghi thrice at birth;

5. Nama karana, giving a name on the tenth or twelfth day after birth;

6. Nishkramana, taking out the child in the fourth month to see the sun;

7. Annaprasana, feeding it with rice between the fifth and eight month;

8. C’uda karman, or c’aula, tonsure of the hair, except one lock on the crown of the head, in the third year;

9. Upanayana, induction into the order of a ‘ twiceborn ‘ man by investiture with the sacred cord;

10. Kesanta, cutting off the hair, performed on a Brahman in his sixteenth year, on a Kshatriya in his twenty-second, on a Vaisya in his twentyfourth;

11. Samsvartana, solemn return home after completing a course of study with a preceptor;

12. Vivaha, marriage, which completes the purification and regeneration of the ‘twiceborn.’

Of the above rites — 1, 2, 3, and 10 are little observed. The other eight are more worthy of attention; 8 and 9 are of considerable legal importance, even in the present day, and 7 is still practised; 7 and 12 are said to be the only rites allowed Sudras; and the 12th, vivaha, marriage, is a religious duty incumbent on all persons alike.”

To the same effect writes Dr. John Wilson, of Bombay, in his work on “Indian Caste” (p. 15) :

“Caste has its marks, and signs, and symbols, and symbolical acts, as well as its laws and customs; and very great stress is laid by it on their constant exhibition. The grand index of Hinduism is the tuft of hair on the crown of the head — called in Sanskrit chuda or shikha in Maratti shendi, in Bengali tika and in Tamil kudumi — which is left there on the performance of the sacrament of tonsure on the first or third year after birth in the case of the three first classes of Hindus. In consequence of this mark Hinduism is popularly known as the shendi dharma, or religion of the shendi.”

Until the kudumi is worn, the Brahman child is but a Sudra, and every Shastri attests the religious character of this symbol; and this is as expressive today as it ever was. Balfour, in the “Encyclopaedia of India,” defines the chonti or kudumi as “among Hindus, a tuft of hair left unshaved on the top of the head.”

For some of the actual present-day uses of this heathen badge see a very instructive essay by a native Christian — Mr. V. Samuel, of Nagercoil — published in the Indian Evangelical Review for October, 1876. He shows that the kudumi is in Travancore fully saturated with superstition, and inseparably associated with Hinduism and caste. On the sixteenth day after the birth of a child, the father bathes, and, taking a few drops of water from his wet kudumi, pours them into the child’s mouth : then, for the first time, he sees and handles the child.

When the child’s head is first shaved, the barber is invited, incense is offered to the image of Pilleiyar, and the shaving of the greater part of the hair is done by the barber, the remainder by a Brahman with certain mantrams. The last portion of the hair is enclosed in a silver case and tied around the waist of the child as an amulet. On the child’s first going to school the teacher touches him by the kudumi, divides it into three parts, and after having plaited them together at the crown of the head, worships it.


The chief use of the tuft, however, is to perform the funeral ceremony necessary for the salvation of the father.

“In order to quench the hell fire, the son must uncover the sacred portion of his head by shaving off the Kudumi, put upon it a new pot full of water, that it may attract from it the virtue of quenching the hell fire, and walk with it three times around the deceased parent, each time cutting a new hole in the pot, that the water may spout out as he walks along.

"The third time he must break the pot at the head of the bed of the deceased, and pour a few drops of this sacred water into the mouth of the parent, as the parent formerly did to the son. The cutting off the kudumi on the occasion of the death of the parent, is not regarded as a sign of sorrow, but is considered an essential requisite for performing the funeral ceremony which is absolutely necessary for the eternal welfare of the deceased parent.

"No one but the heir of the deceased cuts off the kudumi, and that at no other time but on the occasion of the parent’s death. A father may lose a dozen children, but he never thinks of shaving his kudumi as a sign of sorrow. A man may have six sons, of whom only the eldest cuts off his kudumi on the occasion of death.” Is not this literally “making baldness between the eyes for the dead”? (Deut. XIV. i.)

With this we may compare the classical custom of cutting off the hair and devoting it to a deceased father, or as an offering to appease the infernal gods. In the Choephorae of Aeschylus, Orestes at the tomb of his murdered father says :

At whose high tomb I bow, shade of my father !

Hear me, O hear !
To thee these crisped locks
Once sacred to the nurture-giving stream of Inachus,
In the anguish of my soul
I now devote.

Compare also the curious custom of the Buddhist priests in China, who have small round bald spots on the head, increasing in number with their rank in the priesthood. They take a small candle, or some such combustible, and set it on fire on the head till it burns down to the flesh, leaving a bald spot. This is done again when the next step in the priesthood is obtained — therefore, a purely religious badge.

Quotations are given from commentators on Lev. XIX. 27, from which the following sentences may be extracted : — “This kind of coiffure had a highly idolatrous meaning, and it was adopted with some slight variation by almost all idolaters in ancient times.” “The Gentiles cut their hair for the worship of devils or idols, to whom young men used to consecrate their hair, as Homer, Plutarch, and many others write. God would not have his people agree with idolaters, neither in their idolatries, nor in excessive mourning, no, nor so much as in the appearance and outward significations or expressiofis thereof”

From these and other considerations, the essayist with great reason asks, “Is not this reason quite sufficient for the Christians of the present time to cut off their kudumi, especially in the infant state of the native church, when they should be taught, not only to keep themselves aloof from superstitions, but also to show their aversion by acting quite contrary to them?”


In deciding the question before us, it is not the historical or traditional origin of the kudumi that is of primary importance, but the actual feeling of the Hindu mind upon the subject — the associations connected with the kudumi, or any other custom — and the influence which the observance or abandonment of the practice is seen to exercise upon converts to Christianity.

There are some questions, too, that are settled by a kind of spiritual instinct, rather than by logical reasoning alone, or specific texts of Scripture. We generally find that when men become decided on the subject of personal religion, card playing, dancing, and theatres, and in India, the tom-tom used in demon worship, flaunting processions, and wasteful and extravagant display at weddings, are given up, and people of evangelical views and earnest piety are fairly well agreed on these matters.

There is greater care to live separated from the world, and to avoid everything that leads the heart away from God. In consulting with native Christians as to the propriety of permitting or discouraging various doubtful native customs, we have often found them saying, “this, or that, must be allowed to the new Christians, else they will be dissatisfied or leave us; but the mission agents do not approve of it, and ought not to practise it.”

The relinquishment of the kudumi by the native clergy of Tinnevelley doubtless had its rise in some such feeling, that though it may be allowable to the common people, yet the clergy are expected to be very much their superiors in the strict avoidance of whatever is of doubtful propriety. Even were we to take the lowest ground, that the kudumi is to be classed with gold ornaments and fine clothes, we think that the excessive pride, the intense love of the world, and the characteristic weakness for vain display before heathen neighbours, and passion for paltry fame exhibited by many Hindus, need correction; and that it is thoroughly in accordance with the spirit of the admonitions of Scripture to renounce the kudumi.

Even granting that it were lawful for native Christians to wear the tuft, we have no hesitation in saying that in Travancore and Malabar, at least, it is, in the Scriptural sense, highly expedient for the sake of others to relinquish it. There the Syrian Christians, Roman Catholics, and Muhammadans have left it off on the ground that it is a badge of heathenism, which it certainly is to all intents and purposes in that part of India. It is not right to shock the feelings of other Christians by retaining such a mark of Hinduism.

Not long ago a native missionary from the Tamil country was itinerating amongst the Syrian Christians. Lodging in one of their houses, his servant, who wore the kudumi, entered the kitchen to prepare some food. The women of the house, seeing the tuft of hair, cried out, “A heathen has come in here !” and fled in dismay. The missionary, who himself did not wear the kudumi, had to explain, with much shame, that his attendant was not a heathen, but a Christian.

There can be no doubt that the kudumi is associated in the minds of Hindus with the profession of Hinduism, and with heathen ceremonies and ideas, and that, therefore, it should be given up by native converts, so as to separate them completely, as far as this goes, from heathen influences.

Of course our readers will understand that only that particular mode of cutting the hair, so as to leave a central tuft, which has a special significance among Hindus (as the blue ribbon has amongst temperance reformers), is objectionable, and that the hair may be freely worn in any European fashion, or shaved off periodically as most Hindus prefer, or in any other form which has not this special significance. Without the queue a Hindu cannot perform the appointed ceremonies, nor retain his caste standing, although certain curious and anomalous exceptions to this rule have been pointed out.


In the theistic Tamil poem, Siva Vakyam, the kudumi is opposed along with other Hindu practices, as in the familiar quotation : —

“The four Vedas, the sacrificial Kusa grass, the kudumi, the ascetic’s staff which Brahmans cord”— when (you were) born, were the Brahman’s cord and the kudumi born with you ?”

Fully a century ago. Father Bartolomeo remarked that “when a Brahman by his own fault has forfeited his cord, or his tuft of hairy he loses all his privileges, and can no longer discharge any of the sacerdotal functions.”(Voyage, p. 298.)

The relinquishment of the kudumi has, therefore, a far greater influence in separating Christians from heathenism, and distinguishing them on all occasions as Christians, and so reminding them and others of their obligations to act consistently under circumstances of temptation, than some would be inclined to give it credit for. It will be found that by far the greatest number of thoroughly earnest and sincere Hindu converts acknowledge that they ought to give up this custom.

Take, as an instance, the following sentences in the autobiography of a convert to Christianity applying for baptism in Madras in 1853. He says, “As in the last assault they laid hold of the hair of my head (kudumi) I had that removed. This effectually severed my connection with Hinduism for without the hair as it is commonly worn, I could not maintain my position among them.

It is one of the marks of Hindu idolatry,, and removing it has effectually cut me off from them.” The rejection of the tuft is thus a proof of sincerity, an invariable and noticeable mark of having fully relinquished heathenism and caste. The Rev. J. D. Thomas, of Madras, remarks that he noticed some time after the baptism of a convert that he had discarded the kudumi, and asked why he had done so, though it had not been insisted on by the missionary as an essential for baptism. The convert replied that his friends did not believe he was baptized because he had not removed it, and therefore to convince them of the fact, he had voluntarily cut it off. (Madras C, M, Record, June, 1880.)

Candidates for baptism sometimes beg the missionary to allow them to retain the kudumi in order to lessen, as they fancy, the mockery and annoyances which they shall have to endure from heathen relatives. In cases where this concession has been made we have sometimes found that the application was but an index to the general state of mind of the individuals — that they had never thoroughly broken with heathenism, nor heartily placed themselves on a level with their Christian brethren.

It is extremely doubtful, too, whether the yielding in this one item of usage would, on the whole, lessen the trials of a convert; and sure we are, that to require them to surrender without reservation, and at once, say before baptism, all that is inconsistent with the Christian profession is truest kindness in the end, and much preferable even for their own comfort. Those who manifest thorough decision of character will meet really less annoyance from others. The heathen relatives or employers will have less hope of success in the endeavour to turn back a thorough-going, earnest convert; and will sooner cease their useless efforts than in cases where timidity or hesitation is shown.

Generally, native Christians who wish to retain the kudumi profess to think it a trifling matter, of no importance whatever — simply for personal adornment, or a concession to popular usage; yet in some instances, when tested, they would rather be outside of the visible church and its privileges than yield the point. The only individual instances I have met with, in twenty years, in which persistent refusal to part with the tuft of hair was maintained, were three.

One was that of a Government Apothecary, educated and brought up amongst Christians on the Eastern coast, by whom the kudumi is worn and caste distinctions zealously observed. On asking him to conform to our rules in the matter of the top-knot and of partaking of food with other respectable Christians, he refused, on the ground that he was accustomed to visit and enter the houses of heathens, where the absence of this mark would lead to a less favourable reception.

Now his wearing or lacking the kudumi does not at present connote his caste or rank, as it is worn by all castes, but he found it a convenience to be mistaken for a Hindu, or not identified as a Christian in his professional attendance upon heathen patients. This spirit, or that which leads a “caste Christian” to determine that under no circumstances will he ever taste food from the hands of native Christians of lower caste than himself, however respectable in character or office, or from Europeans, cannot belong to one “born of God.”

Another case was that of a Christian teacher in a Travancore Government school, who had Hindus and others in his class. He dressed in a particular mode in imitation of the higher castes, and retained the kudumi, as he himself acknowledged, for reasons similar to the above. The third case was somewhat of the same character.

In a lamentable instance of the total apostacy of a youth who had been well educated in English for mission service, and who afterwards wished to pass for a caste Hindu, he not only took a heathen name but assumed the kudumi also. In Damaun, in the Bombay Presidency, a large number of Roman Catholic Christian Kolies, being alarmed by an epidemic of cholera in 1821, abandoned Christianity and supplicated Devy and other deities.

“They discontinued all intercourse with their Christian brethren and resumed the custom of wearing the sandhy, or tuft of hair on the crown of the head.”(Madras Jour, Lit, Sci., January, 1837.)

The absence of the kudumi, usually somewhat disadvantageous in Travancore as being a sign of association with Christians known to be of humble birth, has been in troublous times highly inconvenient and even dangerous; and occasionally quite the contrary.


The Hindu officials of the Native Government regard the tuft as a distinct mark of heathenism, and its absence as one proof of the actual profession of Christianity. In former times, when people were seized for Government service on Sundays, or for work for the temples. Christians were often exempted on the spot on showing that they had no kudumi.

Again, in a certain district a persecution of the poor Christians was begun by a Tahsildar and Sudra landowners, exasperated by the rapid spread of Christianity and the elevation of the low castes. False charges were laid against the Christians, and the Tahsildar sent his peons to seize as Christians all whom he found without the tuft.

During the “uppercloth” disturbances in 1858, “some of the Sudras collected mobs of men with whom they frequented the daily markets, watching both for the Christian men and women, examining the heads of the former to ascertain whether they had cut off the kudumi, or lock of hair which is a mark of heathenism, and to assault them if by its absence they were found to be professors of Christianity.”

From the preceding remarks and illustrations, it will be evident that the kudumi is not such a trifle as it might appear at the first glance to be. Some may think it a great descent from the delightful and elevating topic of Infinite Mercy in the conversion of a human soul to advise upon the subject of hair dressing !

Yet an inspired Apostle more than once delivered judgment in addressing converts from heathenism, respecting the covering of the head, the length of the hair, and mode of dressing it, and other apparently trifling points. When such usages have a religious bearing or signification they become matters of conscience. No true- hearted soldier will be ashamed of the colours of his regiment, but rather glory in them.

It is remarkable that the kudumi is only permitted where there are large bodies of nominal Christians, whom it may be sometimes difficult to retain under strict discipline. As the “adherents” of our various Missions, unbaptized or noncommunicants, become more numerous and more powerful by their contributions for the support of native agency, and thus less amenable to judicious control, is there not danger of their demanding indulgence in caste and kudumi, in doubtful or heathenish ceremonies at marriages, in worldly display and immunity from Church discipline, and thereby swamping the more spiritual element. This tendency should be met with sagacious prevision.

Only the spiritual conversion to God of all our people, and their growth in grace, will correct all errors and remove all that savours of heathenism, and on this blessed work our best energies should be concentrated; but it may be helpful, meantime, to understand the true nature of indigenous customs, and the light in which they should be regarded by Christian missionaries; and this is what I have attempted to show with reference to the kudumi.

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In illustrating the social condition of women in Travancore, it may be convenient to present a somewhat general outline, speaking sometimes of one caste, or class, or status, sometimes of another, as there are so many classes, with corresponding diversities of manners, customs, habits, food, titles, marriage laws, religion, property, and rank in society.

As to Dress, each caste has its own distinctive style of dress and ornaments, forbidden by law and custom to others, the infringement of which prohibition has sometimes led to riots, lawsuits, and special legislation; and greatly varying in shape, pattern, and mode of wearing. Brahman, Mussulman, and Christian women wear jackets of different styles. The Roman Catholic fisherwomen, instead of jackets, tie a long cloth across the bosom.

Women, as well as men, generally wear around the waist and tucked in at the ends, a single calico cloth, two or three yards in length : a smaller one is sometimes put on the shoulders. Sudra women commonly wear a large waist-cloth, and a thin muslin “upper-cloth” over the shoulders and chest; while most of the poor habitually go uncovered from the waist upwards, the upper-cloth being formerly, and, perhaps, by the letter of the law, still forbidden to them.

Poor people get only one set of cloths in the year, those of moderate means two sets, and the wealthy three or four in the year. Women are generally supplied with new cloths by their husbands at the Onam Festival, about September, and at Bharani, in March. Hence the proverbial reference to “the haste of the weaver on the approach of Onam,” through the great demand for new cloth. If the customary presents be not given on those days, sometimes the women of the Sudra, barber, washerman, carpenter, and other concubinage castes, will forsake their men and go with others.

The pattern, make, and material of the ornaments of gold or silver, brass, wood, shell, or glass, worn on the head, ears, nose, waist, legs or toes also greatly vary; and only incessant training from infancy would enable one to understand the manners, mode of speech, and of acting in the most minute particulars, and on all occasions, great or small, appropriate to, and required of each caste. Even the most uncivilised and barbarous have their own code of etiquette to which they punctiliously and unswervingly adhere.

The principal jewels and ornaments worn by respectable females are the takka a large cylinder of wood or gold, worn in the pierced and enlarged lobe of the ear; the mani and minnu strung on a thick thread for the neck; rings of silver and gold worn on the toes; chains round the waist; nose rings amongst the Tamil women; necklaces, and bracelets. Ilavar women wear golden ornaments on the ears and neck, as many as they can manage to procure. On special occasions they also wear bangles on the wrists.


Employments. — Besides domestic duties in the house, and marketing, the poorer women must work for a living, as actively often, as the men. Many are engaged in the lighter departments of field work, gathering leaves and cutting twigs for manure, carrying these to the fields, transplanting, weeding, reaping and threshing rice. Cooly women who live by their daily labour, commence work at seven in the morning, rest for an hour at noon, and leave off work at five in the evening; in the case of rice-field workers only at sunset.

They carry home the provisions which they have earned; and, after the long labour of cooking, sometimes get supper only at eight or nine o’clock at night. Some are employed, especially Ottar women, for carrying mud in digging tanks, sand, mortar, and bricks in building, and earth and gravel for roadmaking.


Some carry produce to the markets for sale, as sugar, and salt, fish, and vegetables, and firewood. Many are obliged to aid their male relatives in their respective labours, the hill tribes in their cultivation, others in pottery, distilling and selling arrack, washing clothes, &c. The females of the oil-mongers are obliged to rise betimes for cooking and housework, as they have much to do in the daytime, drying the kernels of the cocoanut, laurel-nut, and other oil seeds, helping in the pressing and grinding of these, and disposing of the oil manufactured.

The wives of goldsmiths, also, are often engaged throughout the day in spinning cotton thread, the Shanar females in boiling jaggery, and the Ilavars in distilling. A Malayalam proverb says, “When hammering the heated iron, the blacksmith and his wife are one.” To eke out a humble maintenance, others also spin thread, make ropes of fibre, and do other light work. The Kuluvar women catch jackals and snakes, and other reptiles to eat. Pariah women plait mats of reeds, and make neat palm-leaf umbrellas : a few work in the fields.

Daily Life. — Women are the earliest risers of the family, being usually up by daybreak, sometimes earlier. High-caste women first sweep their houses and courtyards, both inner and outer, then go to the well or river to fetch the water required for the day.

In Travancore no one enjoys the convenience afforded in English towns by the water being conveyed through pipes to every house, so that the turning of a tap suffices for the domestic supply of water. Even pumps are very rarely in use, the wells being too deep, as may be judged from the length of the coir rope which the woman in the engraving carries in her hand. To draw up the water for filling her large earthen pot, she takes with her a light bucket, ingeniously formed from the fan-like leaf of the Palmyra palm. This fragile vessel does not last long, but is easily renewed in the south, where the palmyra grows in great abundance.


The earthen pot in which the water is brought home is almost globular in form, with a small mouth, and holds a considerable quantity. It must be set down with some care to avoid breaking it. Brass waterpots are used by those who can afford them. The work of drawing water and carrying it home is often toilsome, as a good quantity is required in a large household for use in cooking rice and other food, and for drinking and washing purposes.

In former times, caste regulations required lowcaste females to carry the waterpot only on the head, not on the hip or side, as in the illustration. Wells belonging to Brahmans and other high castes are not open to those of inferior caste.

Excellent water is procured from wells, tanks, and rivers. Wells are often dug in the courtyard of the house to save time and trouble in going to a distance for water.

Before the drawing of the water in the early morning is finished, other members of the family have risen, whereupon the various apartments and verandahs are swept clean, then cleansed with a thick mixture of cow-dung and water (an emblem of purity, and universal disinfectant from ceremonial pollution), the raised verandahs being smeared over, and the courtyards sprinkled with it.

Some flowers are also placed on the ground in front of the door, in honour of the Sun. When this is finished they wash their faces, hands and feet, clean the teeth, and put the “marks” on the forehead and chest, with the sacred ashes of cow-dung, or with powdered sandal-wood or turmeric. They then worship the rising sun, looking towards it, facing to the east; and the other gods, facing to the other quarters of the heavens; or repeat their prayers to the domestic idols, and cause their children who are over five years of age to do the same : the Christians gather round the family altar, and worship the true and living God.

While putting on the ashes, they are to meditate on their guru’s, or spiritual teacher’s, name. A sloka, or verse, is in common use, to this effect — “He is blessed, who, in the morning, as soon as he rises from his bed, and has washed his feet and face, rubs the sacred ashes, meditating on his guru’s feet, and lives here with prayer in the name of the guru.” This used to be more strictly observed by all classes than at present.

After this, the domestic work of the day is begun, feeding and milking the cows, churning the milk previously boiled to make butter, cleaning their brass vessels, serving out a meal of cold rice with soured milk to the children, and sending them off to their respective duties, as ploughing, tending the cattle, or school. The men and boys generally take this light meal about seven o’clock, afterwards going to their work till nearly mid-day, when they get fresh cooked rice and curry. At Trevandrum, some women go to the pagodas, and buy for breakfast part of the rice which had been consecrated to the god.


If, however, the family means admit of providing a hot meal in the morning, the women busy themselves in cooking this, while the men go out for a while to bathe or to see friends, to arrange the work of the day, or to look over their crops and gardens. For a regular meal, whether morning, noon, or evening, they boil rice, prepare roots, vegetables, fish, peas, greens, and fruits; grind cocoanuts, pepper, and spices for curry, and add butter or oil. Some of the highest castes refrain from eating fish or flesh, but make up for this partly by the use of milk, butter, cakes, and fruits. The Brahman women especially are accomplished cooks; Ilavars, Syrians, and others are noted for making various kinds of cakes and sweetmeats.

Food is served out first to the men in brazen cups — these cups being filled with curry and rice by means of ladles or spoons made of cocoanut shells fixed on handles of bambu. Among the higher classes of the people plantain leaves are preferred to brazen cups, or even leaves of the banyan or other trees, pinned together with the stem of a grass. The females of the family generally wait upon the men until they have finished their meals. They use no tables or chairs or spoons, but sit on mats spread on the ground, with very little clothing, and eat with the hand, mixing the rice and the curry together. Afterwards the females take their food.

Daily, after cooking operations are over, the women sit down near the cook room to clean and polish the brass vessels in which the food is served, rubbing them with common wood-ashes or burnt husks of rice, or sometimes with finely powdered brick-dust*

If cold rice has been used in the morning, the women soon begin to prepare the dinner for noon. If a warm breakfast has been made, it may be over about ten or eleven o’clock, and in a little while the arduous and almost daily work of “rice beating” or pounding and cleaning must be begun.

The cheapest food in Travancore, except home-grown roots and fruits, is rice. Of this adults require about a pound and a half daily, and it costs something like a penny to a penny farthing per pound. Rice is not nearly so nourishing as wheat or oatmeal, and should be supplemented, as it usually is among vegetable feeders, with pease, milk, or butter. Numerous varieties are grown, and nice distinctions made of flavour and individual taste.

Rice can be purchased husked and ready for cooking, but most poor families are obliged to economise by purchasing it in the husk (when it is called paddy), and beating it clean with a heavy wooden pestle in a wooden or stone mortar. Cultivators, of course, must beat it for themselves, as there are no large mills to send it to. Soaked for a night, and partially boiled, the grain becomes soft, and is then dried in the sun, and beaten or threshed in the mortar till the outer husk or chaff comes off. Another beating removes the bran or dark outer skin of the rice; and a third makes it clean and white, as we see it in England.

This work is very heavy and exhausting to delicate women; it consumes much time every day, and requires severe bodily exertion. It is, therefore, more usual for two women to work together; in rich families coolies, or servants, are employed for it. All this is done in more civilized countries, and in Burmah, in large mills; and some, small, cheap machines for domestic use are a great desideratum in Travancore, and would largely tend to better the position of women.

A flat fan is used for winnowing the grain from the husk or bran, which is given as food to fowls or cattle. The beaten rice comes to half in bulk, but twothirds in weight, of the unhusked grain; and it again swells out to three times the original bulk in boiling. When properly boiled, the rice should be dry, each grain unbroken. It is sometimes parched in a pot on the fire till the grain swells nicely and bursts, called pori; or half boiled, bruised flat, and eaten, called aval; or ground into flour and baked into flat, heavy cakes. This grain will not, like wheat, make leavened bread, but good pancakes are made by adding toddy as yeast; these are often flavoured with sugar and butter.

Rice, the staple food of the people, is not commonly ground into flour, but boiled whole and eaten with curry — that is, highly spiced meat, fruit, or vegetables; other grains, as millet, &c., are ground into flour, and boiled into a kind of porridge or pudding. Millstones being of granite, in so hot a climate the work of grinding is very heavy. The grain is poured into a hole in the centre of the upper stone, and the flour falls out on all sides from between the two stones into a cloth spread underneath. The work is lighter when two women work together; those in our picture might be mother and daughter.

Their dress is the Christian jacket, and the upper-cloth usually worn by native women. The armlet is of silver; and many ornaments are worn even by poor people. As there are no native banks, it is convenient to lay by savings in the form of jewellery, on which ready money can at any time be raised. The elder of these women wears a number of small gold rings encircling the ring of flesh into which the lobe of the ear has been drawn. The younger has, in addition, a flat gold pendant pinned to the upper part of the ear.



To return to the daily domestic duties — rice-beating is sometimes suspended at one or two o’clock for a few minutes to eat luncheon, and will be over by two or three in the afternoon. Then preparation of the evening meal — the most important of the day — shortly commences, similar to that of the forenoon, with the addition say of plantain fruits and payasam, or sweet pudding of rice, sugar, and milk. The boiling of rice, going to the bazaar for fish, vegetables, and curry stuffs, grinding the last with a roller on a flat granite stone, and mixing and boiling the curry, may keep some busy until seven or eight, or even nine o’clock. The rich sometimes sup as late as ten or eleven at night, in which case, of course, they do not rise so early in the morning.

Amongst Christians, family worship is usually conducted the first thing in the morning, and before supper, at seven or eight o’clock at night.

The Indian women are not only the first to rise, but the last to retire to rest, taking supper after the men have done, and then washing and laying aside the vessels in due order. A woman may not unduly feel the pressure of house work when she lives with her husband’s parents, for the mother-in-law and sister-inlaw will help her, but when newly married and living separately with her husband, all this work is sometimes very trying.

The social circumstances and daily life of the poor low-caste or slave women, who are obliged to labour for their daily support, and sometimes have nothing to eat on any day on which they remain idle, present a direct contrast to the comfort of these just described, as might be expected from the condition of extreme and enforced degradation in which they have been so long kept, and the contempt and abhorrence with which they are universally regarded. Yet they are human as well as their superiors. They work hard, suffer much from sickness and often from want of food, and generally, like all slaves, also form evil habits of thieving, sensuality, drunkenness, and vice, which increase or produce disease and suffering.

Very early in the morning these women go with a pot or a leaf bucket to their masters, asking for food and instructions respecting the day’s work. They are kept toiling in manuring, planting, or reaping through the day in the agricultural season, mostly with the blazing sun beating on the bare head, and the feet in mire or water, and return in the evening, fatigued and hungry, to their wretched huts to boil their rice and eat it with salt and pepper. The Pariahs eat the carcases of cows and other animals which have died of old age or disease, even when almost putrid. These are cut up for distribution by the females principally, and after partaking of this disgusting food, their odour is insufferable.

During the months of scarcity the Vedar women go to the jungle, and dig up various kinds of wild yams and tubers with pointed sticks of wood which they always carry, and boil and eat these roots. The Pulayars, likewise, hunt for crabs, tiny fish, and snails, in the irrigation channels, eggs of red ants, the winged white ants, or anything else to fill the stomach and satisfy the cravings of hunger.

At night they sleep on the floor, or on a plaited cocoanut leaf or old mat. Dress, food, and dwellings, are alike uncleanly. They rarely bathe or wash their bodies. Purchasing a cloth at harvest-time, it is worn till it falls to pieces. Their ornaments are bits of brass, glass beads, or shells. They are without the social amenities of life, not allowed to enter the markets or use the public roads without impediment, and were formerly bought and sold like cattle. They run into debt for strong drink, clearing off the debt with the grain earned during harvest. Their devil worship and ghost worship also spring from fear and abject superstition.

Is it not surprising that the sufferings of these unfortunate and despised people do not move the hearts of their wealthy and educated countrymen, and that no Hindu practical philanthropist arises to labour for their regeneration and enlightenment?

Females of the higher castes are very cleanly in their habits, bathing daily in water, and rubbing the body with cocoanut or sesamum oil twice a month, usually on Fridays. Seclusion of women is not so close or common as in other parts of India, except amongst the Namburis and other castes next to Brahmans. The Ranees do not appear in public, but a happy innovation on this custom has more than once been made. An enlightened Brahman lady, from other parts of India, would be pleased to be able to go out here without covering the head with a veil, and would enjoy the greater freedom allowed.

Still there is amongst respectable families much retirement and seclusion, which some are beginning to feel, complaining that they are “like parrots shut up in a cage.”

The low estimation, and even contempt, in which women, as such, are too often regarded, appears in the laws by which a man’s partner in life may be sent off at a moment’s notice. The former salutation in Travancore was for a female to uncover the chest before a respectable man. Their grievance sometimes bursts out in such an exclamation as, “Better to be a clod than to have been born a woman !”

A Hindu prayer is that the wife may have seven wise sons and two handsome daughters. Men are dejected when they hear of the birth of a daughter, according to the proverb, “Why do you sit as if a girl had been born at home ?”

Another proverb amusingly represents a grumbling father as foolishly complaining, “Through the incapacity of the midwife, the infant is a female !”

A counterfeit modesty is taught them, while true delicacy of speech and conduct are often absent. Should a man come to make inquiries at a house when the master is not at home, the woman does not reply to him direct, but addresses the door. In some castes a woman must not speak to male relatives, even cousins, who are in India called “brothers.” The denial of education to females springs to a great extent from the fear that they would misuse such advantages and become unfitted for obedience and humble labour. The first question is not, “Can she read ? can she do needlework ? can she keep accounts ?” Such things are secondary. But, “Can she cook rice ? can she work well.?”

Being without education, moral training, or real knowledge of the world, many women spend much time in gossiping with their friends on the most frivolous and profitless topics — dress and ornaments, which are their chief delight; their husbands and neighbours, and the scandal of the village; stories of devils, tigers, and so forth.

The wicked custom of child-marriage arises from distrust of female virtue, and sometimes naturally causes repugnance to live with the husband at all. The child-bride is all unconscious of the real meaning and obligations of the relation, although her girlish fancies have been continually directed to it. The veriest baby, when she cries in her cradle, is consoled by her grandmother with promises of marrying her to a good husband; but if the old lady is cross, the little darling is threatened to be married to a wicked husband.

One day the grandmother of a little girl eight years old, who was learning at school, made the distressful complaint, ‘I have coaxed and scolded her alternately, and have even promised to marry her soon, but to no purpose. She does nought else but read her books and play.”

The lot of the childless wife is deplorable. She meets not with the kind sympathy which would be reasonable, but her barrenness is blamed as a sin. Hence their continual resort to the temples and rites to seek the gift of offspring.

We can here only allude to the intolerable miseries of Hindu widows, of whom the late census shows that there are no fewer than 63,000 under ten years of age, and fifteen and a half millions between ten and twenty, all prohibited from marrying a second time. They are deprived of their ornaments — in which they so much delight — and of the use of coloured garments, and of their long hair, reproached as misfortunate, and cruelly debarred as accursed of the gods from assisting in domestic religious ceremonials. The too frequent results of this cruel treatment are immorality, suicide, and infanticide.


For newly-married persons to meet a widow anywhere, portends approaching calamity, therefore this is carefully guarded against and avoided. They are frequently required to fast: ekadasi is a day of close fast for all widows.

Yet, of course, women have great influence in social and domestic life. ‘Unlike their sisters in North India, the restraints imposed on them are few. They are not restricted to their own apartments, and the mother of each household occupies a dignified and honourable position. In the families of the Nayars she governs the whole house, often a large one consisting of from twenty to thirty persons, provides for the wants of each, settles all disputes, and rules even her grown-up sons, who never in public sit down in her presence, but stand humbly behind her chair.

Her duties are not light, for, besides buying, storing up and giving out food for so many mouths, she regulates the lives of the children, decides what schools they shall attend, how they shall dress, and what medicines they shall take when they are ill, their own mothers having no choice in anything that concerns them.”

Though Travancore boasts of peculiar castes amongst whom widowhood is never possible (because the relation of wife does not, in truth, exist), and women hold a high place and are admitted to the benefits of education, it appears from the census that, after all, only a trifle over one per cent, of the Malayalam Sudra females can read and write, and but a little larger proportion of Brahman women; only 93 females of the hundreds of thousands of Ilavars, and not one amongst the heathen Pariahs, Pulayars, and other low castes.

In the whole State only 3,452 females (from twelve years of age and upwards) are returned as able to read and write of all the Hindu castes; and only 86 Muhammadan females. Ninety eight out of a hundred females, therefore, even of the higher castes, are entirely uneducated. A Brahman gentleman was once asked, “What do you think a woman ought to know.?”

“She must know two things,” was his reply; “first, she must know the way to the bazaar to buy necessaries for the house; and secondly, she must know the way from the bazaar home again !”

A Munshi, also, when requested to instruct a class in our boarding-school in Tamil poetry and literature, stoutly objected at first, saying that if girls were instructed in such things, they would not make obedient wives, and, instancing the case of his own wife, who, he affirmed, could only count up to eight.

Women can, therefore, often scarcely speak correctly in their own language, indeed I believe they have some peculiar words or style of their own. I have heard a Brahman publicly state that he never yet heard a woman accurately pronounce the names of some of the well-known towns in Travancore.

A Malayalam proverb says, “A travelled woman is like a garden trespassed by cattle.”

Ignorant of moral duty and unawakened in conscience, most of the women do not know what sin is, as committed by themselves, not in a previous birth; and are surprised to be told that they have ever sinned against God. “I have never committed any sin,” said one, “yet God took away my son.”

The spiritual darkness and gross superstition of Hindu females are appalling. To them no light from heaven shines upon the mysteries of life, no solid ground of comfort is available under its sorrows and bereavements. In sickness, they murmur against God and his dealings with them, or attribute all their sufferings to the agency of malignant spirits or inexorable fate. An aged woman on the bed of lingering sickness was asked did she hope to be happy after death.

“Happiness!” she exclaimed, “I am suffering in this way through my sins, for which God is making a play of me. Had I been free from sin I might have been permitted quietly to die. What I long for is death. What happiness do I require after death ? Even my own children have become tired of me, and look upon me with aversion.”

Others say, “As we are suffering so much in this world, we are sure to obtain happiness in the next.”

Those who die in childbed are supposed to be killed by demons, hence the offerings to evil spirits, and the sorcery continually resorted to on such occasions. In the South, branches of the margosa tree are used to prevent the entrance of the demons into houses where a birth has taken place. Tender mothers live in ceaseless terror of unknown spiritual agencies, to whom they attribute the infantile ailments or convulsions of their children.

Their own dear ones are supposed under certain circumstances to become demons. An aged mother who had recently lost her son, a promising official, inquired, bitterly weeping, “Where will a man go who has died of small-pox? It is the opinion of our people that one who has died of this disease will remain unhappy and vagrant upon the earth as a marutha demon. Can he go to heaven?”

Their whole life is made burdensome by superstitions, and vain terrors regarding lucky and unlucky times and actions and objects : these intrude even in the most common-place avocations. It is dangerous and foreboding to come out of doors when giving alms to beggars — to sweep the inner yard and remove the dust when it is dusk — to comb the hair at night — to sweep the house during the prevalence of small-pox, or to sweep the stable with the same broom as the house. To wear again a new cloth, part of which has got burnt, will prove fatal to her husband.

To put on a new cloth on Saturday, or at night, is very inauspicious. If a woman happen to get ill after having been seen by others in full dress and ornamented with her jewels, she ascribes it to the blight of the evil eye of some one. A leprous Ilavar woman declared that the cause of her disease was when young her accidentally polluting a Brahman goddess. Thenceforward she suffered from disease, “and I cannot afford, she added, valuable offerings to the goddess to propitiate her.”

Not knowing where true consolation and refuge from their woes can be found, they can only try anything and everything that may be suggested to them — visiting temples, presenting gifts, prayers and vows, rubbing sacred ashes from the temple, repeating or hearing the Pradosha Mahatmyam and Namaskara Japam which they deem highly beneficial, and so forth. Women are the chief inventors and upholders of all this superstition and folly, and they are also the principal sufferers from it.

Four women were met on their way to a temple to bathe and worship. On being accosted, they remarked that they were going for four several purposes. The first said, “I go in the hope of obtaining the blessing of a child”; another “In order to get rid of an ailment”; the third said, “When my child was sick, I vowed to offer worship there on his recovery.” And the fourth said, “As I am now advanced in years, I am going there in order that my soul may be saved.” A fairly typical picture this, of the common cases and petitions of the votaries at the sacred shrines.

Their best efforts, vows, pilgrimages, and gifts are often found to be in vain in respect of the temporal blessings for which alone idols are worshipped; and sore disappointment is experienced in the worship of gods that cannot hear or understand. “Just as I was arranging to pay a visit to the great temple at Vaikkam,” said a Sudra woman, “my child took ill. I therefore thought it useless to travel so far. I perceive that the Vaikkam goddess is unable to save; if she were all-powerful, my child would not have fallen sick at such a time.”

“I expended,” said another, “much money in offerings to noted demons on behalf of my daughter, and also made vows to Saint Xavier at Kottar; but none of them could deliver my daughter from death.”

A very wealthy Ilavar woman, whose only son, a fine youth, was attacked with small-pox, vowed that if he should recover from this she would put him in a scale, take an equal weight of gold, and fashion this into the form of a man to offer to the goddess Ammen. But he died on the ninth day. Their sorrows, truly, “are multiplied who hasten after another god.”


A few more of their superstitious notions may be mentioned.

A girl born in the asterism Magam, and a boy born in that of Puradam, are preferable for marriage.

Children born in April are unfortunate. Hence the custom of calling away females newly married from the house of the husbands in July to their parents’ houses. The falling of certain shadows, as of a woman who has given birth to a still-born child, or lost her infant, the shadow of toads, &c., causes general emaciation of the body, if not immediate death.

“A mother who has a young baby will on no account take the baby of another in her arms, believing that, should she do so, her own child will pine away. If an elder child in a family has died, it will be said, whenever the younger one is ailing, ‘Ah, the dead child is troubling it !’

"If an expectant mother walks across any grave, it is believed that her child, when born, will be a great sufferer. A mother whose baby has died, must not even touch the child of another until she has had another living child. A Christian teacher, who had lost her twin babies, refrained on one occasion from touching another’s child, even to save it from a severe fall, because, although she herself knows better, she knew that the ignorant mother of that child would prefer its falling to its being touched by her. The cruelty that there is in this last restriction will be felt by all who know the yearning that a bereaved mother often has for all little children.”

If an infant is observed to distort its limbs, as if in pain, it is supposed to be under the pressure of some one who has stooped over it, to relieve which the mother places it with a nut-cracker on a winnowing fan, and shakes it three or four times.

Hindus never compliment one another on their beautiful and healthy appearance, for they think it bad manners to do so, and that this is the surest way to spoil everything you compliment them on. For instance, mothers never like any one to say, “What a fine child yours is,” for they think people must be envious of them, and that saying such things will bring bad luck — the very opposite of the Christian sentiment, “I am quite well, thank God.”

From the commencement of Mission work, both by the London Mission and the Church Mission, female education has been engaged in, and its benefits illustrated by examples of Christian females who have been trained in the Boarding and Village Schools.

“The results that we are reaping to-day,” says Mr. A. Spicer, one of the recent deputation to India, “and the rapid rate at which this work is growing in India, are in large measure owing to the work which our missionaries’ wives have devoted to this department for years past.”

Now the strong prejudice against female education is slowly giving way, and the Hindus themselves have a few schools for caste girls. The royal family are also leading the way, and some desire for education of females is springing up. “You sometimes see people in the road walking about and hesitating which way to go,” said one female to a Christian teacher, “that is just how I feel, and I want you to show me the way.”

“You are a happy woman,” said a Sudra to our Bible woman, “for you have received a good education. Your children also are blessed, as they can read, write, and sing so nicely. Will you kindly take my daughters under your care, as I should like to see them as well trained as yourself.”

A Vellalar woman, thirty-six years of age, presented a quantity of lamp oil to our church in token of gratitude for having been taught to read. An encouraging number of adult females — Sudras, Brahmans, Muhammadans, and others, are learning to read at Nagercoil, Trevandrum, Cottayam, and elsewhere, under the superintendence of the missionary ladies and a very interesting work is going on amongst adult females, besides the girls learning in the Mission Schools — about 1,370 in the Church Mission, and 2,375 in the London Mission, of whom some are heathen children.

In the towns around Nagercoil, about 300 women are now receiving Zenana teaching, and three or four caste girls’ schools are in operation. Very recently, at a school examination, a Bible woman who would have been classed as low-caste according to the Hindu system, brought with her about forty caste girls, whom she teaches in their houses, all respectable and well dressed, but diligently learning, and willing to sit down amongst Christian and low-caste children. Such a thing had never been seen there before.

“Several women who had learned with us,” writes Mrs. Duthie, “have removed to neighbouring villages. These have excited others, and messages have been sent asking us to provide a Biblewoman to teach them. No doubt many of the women in the Zenanas are anxious only to learn to read, and may not have any great desire for the knowledge of the truth. Bible teaching, however, is the most prominent feature of the work, and not a few listen with attention and apparent interest to the lessons we try to teach them.


"In some cases we see even more than this, and are led to hope that the good seed has begun to take root, and is bearing some fruit. Heathen customs have been partially abandoned, and the general appearance and conduct of these women have much improved since we began our work amongst them.

"Amidst much that is depressing, it has been cheering to gather round us little groups of women and children able to read the Word of God, and to hear them repeat texts that they have learned, telling of a Saviour’s love and power to save. Christian lyrics are sung by many of them, hymns are committed to memory, in various ways the truth is finding an entrance into these homes, and we pray that it may also reach many hearts.”

Amongst Protestant Christians in South Travancore, fully one in six of the adult women can read and write (though a considerable proportion of them are direct converts from heathenism), and this can be proved from our lists of names, and might be expected from the great interest taken by the missionaries and their wives in this work. They are also taught to wear a decent native dress, to sing, to sew, and embroider, and work fine pillow-lace.

Heathen women notice with admiration the marked difference in manners and speech of girls thus educated.

Visitors passing through Nagercoil are greatly struck with their intelligence and accuracy in answering. So in Cottayam, the venerable Mrs. Baker, Senior, has for over sixty years been spared and privileged to educate generation after generation of girls in her valuable schools, and other ladies have laboured for various periods.

The 46 female teachers in the London Mission are, of course, the pick of our Christian females (available to give time to such duties), and are diligent and devoted workers amongst their country-women. Many of the private members of the Church are faithful, loving, and earnest Christians, shining as lights in their own homes, visiting the sick, and conversing with the heathen women, to whom they make known the way of salvation.

Last edited by VED on Sat Nov 25, 2023 9:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Manufactures being few and insignificant, agriculture is the principal industry of Travancore, one-third of the able-bodied population being engaged in it. Almost every one secures for himself a small area of land, sufficient at least for the site of a dwelling, and small garden around it. Indeed, in some parts of Malabar there are scarcely any compact towns, each house being separate, and situated in its own grounds.

Agriculture is carried on with some measure of practical skill and success derived from lengthened experience, but with most primitive instruments, and needing much improvement as to manuring, rotation of crops, and the preparation of produce for the market.

With a view to national progress in these respects, two students have been sent by the native Government to the Agricultural College at Madras, who, it is hoped, will be able on their return to introduce more scientific methods of husbandry. A beginning has also been made in holding Agricultural Exhibitions of cattle and produce, which may be expected, in time, to improve and encourage native agriculture.

The principal native agricultural products are rice, cocoanut, and other palms, and farinaceous roots for food, besides coffee, which is cultivated by European planters, with the aid of native labour. Fruit trees also are grown, more or less, by every one, and invariably planted as the beginning of an estate when waste land is cleared.

Rice is grown chiefly on irrigated or swamp land, though dry or “hill” rice is also grown wherever the soil is sufficiently rich to give a crop, and the rain sufficiently abundant to bring it to perfection. Most of the landed wealth of the country consists of rice or “paddy” lands, which vary greatly, however, in quality and produce, and consequently in value.

On account of the uncertain and varying character of the land and grain measures in use in various parts of the country, it is difficult to give exact estimates of cost and returns. The common measurement is the para : “100 paras of land” is the area which requires a hundred paras of seed sown.

The para grain-measure itself differs throughout the country, but properly speaking, a para contains 920 cubic inches — a little over two-fifths of a bushel. The para land-measure is smaller for the valuable rice lands than for common dry or unirrigated land. In the case of government grants during the last fifty years, the para is taken at 4,000 square feet, which is a little over one-eleventh of an acre.

The older estimate, applying to the greater portion of the rice lands in Travancore, is one-eighth of an acre = 5,445 square feet; but in the northern districts the para measures somewhat over this. For the present we shall assume the para to be equal to one-eighth of an acre.

The price of “paddy” lands varies according to the soil, facilities for irrigation, distance from the centres of population, and the returns they are capable of yielding. Some are worth only 30 rupees to 40 rupees per para; others cost up to 70 rupees (say, 24 l. to 56 l. per acre). The Government compensation for rice lands taken for public purposes is only 14 rupees per para. Land may be said to be worth generally about 15 years’ purchase.

The proper soil for rice is found in valleys or plains irrigated by water-channels, often with a supply for the dry season in a tank at the head of the valley. The varieties of rice suited to .different soils and seasons are numerous.

The produce of rice lands in Travancore ranges from so low as five-fold, and usually ten to fifteen-fold, up to thirty- fold occasionally. There is a popular complaint that the land is deteriorating, and the return less than in former days, which the old people ascribe to diminished attention to sacred rites and duties, but which appears to have some foundation in fact, and to arise from exhaustion of the soil through want of proper cultivation, sufficient manure, or regular fallows. Rice is a slow growing grain, of low nutritive value, and its cultivation prevents a rotation of crops.

In the southern districts, where tillage is more careful, and manuring better attended to, and the sun hotter, the clouds and rainfall being less, the increase has sometimes been known to be forty-fold; but farmers think they are well off with fifteen-fold at each harvest — i.e,, twice in the year — and throughout the greater part of the country seven or eight-fold, or in the south twelve to fifteen-fold must be put down as the usual return. Of course, in unfavourable seasons the crop may be almost nothing.

As it costs at least two paras of grain in wages to sow one para of seed, a return of at least three times the seed sown is necessary to repay expenditure. A ten-fold increase would be 80 paras, or 33 bushels, of “paddy,” or rice in the husk. When cleaned of the husk, this is reduced to half the quantity — say 16 bushels — weighing on an average 64 lbs. per bushel when raw. Old rice would be lighter, down to about 59 lbs. The produce, therefore, of an acre of good rice land may be averaged at 1,044 lbs.

Mr. Caird estimates that the present average produce of grain throughout India is below 10 bushels per acre. In a recent experiment at Saidapet Farm, near Madras, the average out-turn per acre was, grain 1,594 lbs., and straw 4,033 lbs.; but few of the native rice growers can show such results.


Paddy is usually sold at 12 chuckrams per para. The Government rate for commutation of taxes payable in kind is 7 chuckrams. When slightly boiled and beaten from the husk, the price is 32 chuckrams per para, or about Rs. 2¾ per bushel.

The total acreage of rice land under cultivation in Travancore is not exactly known, but a fresh survey and re-assessment are about to be undertaken. The survey of eighty years ago places it at about 400,000 acres; but since then much waste land has been brought under cultivation, and the total acreage cannot probably be taken at less than 500,000 acres. Whereas at the beginning of the century, Travancore exported large quantities of paddy and rice (in 1843 no less than 281,000 candies of 654 lbs. each), and imported but a small quantity, the case is now totally reversed — exports being only about Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 80,000 in value, and imports (duty free) having risen from 4½ lacs of rupees seven years ago to 9¾ lacs in 1881.

The produce of the country is, therefore, not sufficient for home consumption at the present time. This arises not only from the diminished production already referred to and from increase of population, but also from the general improvement of the circumstances of the lower castes, who can now afford to eat more rice in place of, or in addition to, fruits and vegetables, coarse roots, and inferior grains.

Supposing the cultivated area of rice to be 500,000 acres, and the joint produce of the two crops fifteenfold, or 1,566 lbs. per acre; this divided amongst a population of 2 J millions would give 312 lbs. of rice per head per annum for consumption. Imported rice to the value of 10 lacs of rupees would give (at a chuckram per pound) 1 1 lbs. per head additional. The consumption in Ceylon of rice (and fine grain) is estimated at 5 bushels, or over 300 lbs. per head, besides fruits, vegetables, and roots; and in Burma, “where the peasantry have enough and to spare,” 507 lbs. per head.

The quantity required for an adult living wholly upon rice is usually reckoned at 3 nari, about 1½ lbs. per day, or rather more. The Famine Commission compute that for a working adult male i J lbs. of flour or rice is sufficient, and for children, from half to a fourth of the quantity according to age. Twenty- six ozs. of rice daily is allowed in Trevandrum Gaol for labouring male prisoners.

The cultivation of the Cocoanut extends over the whole State, which has hence been facetiously called Cocoanut-core. At the survey of some forty-five years ago, the total number of these trees was 11 millions; and the increase since has been so great, much waste land having been planted with this valuable palm, that the present number cannot be estimated at less than 15 millions. These are almost invariably too closely planted to obtain full advantage of sun and air : but supposing they stood at the moderate distance of 20 feet apart (which is 109 to the acre) the area covered would amount to 137,000 acres.

The soils best suited for the cocoanut are the seashore, the banks and alluvium of rivers, and level lands exposed to the sea breeze; these conditions abound in Travancore. Inland, on the mountains, the cocoanut will grow, but not bear fruit, deteriorating as it recedes from the coast. The young plants generally require watering for the first two or three years, and must be protected from the inroads of cattle until they rise some feet above the ground. Ashes are applied as manure at the beginning of the wet season, and the ground opened about the roots of the trees, which come into bearing some eight or ten years after planting.

To natives this is one of the most easily-managed and most remunerative products of the country — perhaps, as in the South Sea Islands, almost too easy for enforcing habits of industry and perseverance. They have but to put down the nuts and guard the trees, more or less, while attending to their other employments, and in due course a permanent and profitable plantation is created. Europeans, however, seldom attempt such an investment, and few who have done so have succeeded in it.

For new plantations, waste lands are usually taken up. Within the last twenty or thirty years much land, otherwise worthless, has been reclaimed along the sandy sea-coast, and many trees have been planted on either side of new roads opening up into the interior. To purchase a plantation, however, is a more costly undertaking. The value of such property, of course, varies greatly according to situation and productiveness. The price of 100 ordinary trees in the southern parts may be stated at about 400 rupees.

These would produce, at a low estimate, say 2,400 nuts, value 34 rupees, annually. The produce of the tree is very much dependent on soil and climate. The average of good trees in full bearing has been stated at 120 nuts in the twelve months, while in low and sandy soils it will amount to 200, and in gravel or laterite, be under 60. Ripe cocoanuts are quoted in the Trevandrum market list at somewhat under 2 rupees per 100.

The kernels are dried into copra for the manufacture of cocoanut oil. The copra is largely exported to other parts of India, as well as the “ coir” or fibre surrounding the husk, which is sent to Europe and America.

The annual value of the products of this palm exported — nuts, dried kernel or copra, oil, and fibre — amounts to 46 lacs of rupees, besides oil, nuts, timber, and leaves for home use. It has been estimated that 60,000,000 of nuts and 15,000 candies of oil are annually consumed in the country. The timber is not exported, but split up and used for rafters, and the leaves are in great demand for thatching.



The trees are sometimes tapped for a few months to procure the sweet juice, which, boiled while fresh, gives a palm sugar, and kept a day or two till it ferments and becomes toddy, a slightly intoxicating drink, somewhat like beer. The toddy also is distilled into arrack or native spirits.

Other palm-trees are also cultivated. Next to the cocoanut comes the Palmyra, which is grown only in the drier districts towards Cape Comorin. Farther north they appear to flourish fairly well when planted; but there are none of the class of people who climb and collect the produce of this palm, and the great rainfall would doubtless hinder such work; the tree, also, is of extremely slow growth, so that only rare specimens are found in those parts.

The palmyra, with its sweet sap and sugar, leaves, timber, and fruit, furnishes a living to a great number of the Shanar caste in Travancore, and in Tinnevelly. The number of trees in the former survey, was about 6,000,000. It is probable that no considerable increase has taken place since, as old trees are in demand for their timber, and the slow growth of this palm discourages planting. The export of jaggery, the sugar of this palm, has considerably increased of late, amounting in M.E 1056 to 50,741 cwts., valued at 180,000 rupees.

The beautiful Areca palm is planted in damp, clayey soil on the banks of tanks and rivers. Unlike the cocoanut it will thrive at a distance from the sea and on the hills. It is grown very largely in North Travancore, whence the nuts are carried to the South by Syrian and other traders. The trees will grow two or three feet apart. The areca begins to bear in five years, and continues to produce for twenty-five years. The nuts are sold wholesale at six or eight chuckrams per thousand, and retail in Trevandrum at from eight to thirty-two for a chuckram, according to season and demand. Last year exports to other parts of India amounted to 3,866 candies, valued at nearly 5 lacs of rupees, say £ 50,000.

Roots, vegetables and fruits form a considerable proportion of the food of the population, especially of the poorest classes, who have little besides when rice is scarce or dear. The forest and hill people dig out wild, stringy yam-roots from the jungle as food in the hot season. Every native grows something, if he can, around his own dwelling for home use.

The principal cultivated root-crops are yams (Dioscorea) of various sorts, the small tubers of which are planted out in the beginning of the rainy season and dug again within a year. Some of these roots grow, under favourable circumstances, to a large size, up to four feet in length and one in diameter. Sweet potatoes, the root of a convolvulus, give good returns within three months after planting, and quantities of esculent arums (Amorphophallus and Colocasia) are grown in fields, furnishing a large supply of food.

Tapioca, introduced from South America, is now largely cultivated in Travancore, and admirably suited for still more extended use. As the price of rice has risen of late years, tapioca has become the more essential as an article of food.

Within the last forty or fifty years, the growth of tapioca has rapidly spread; and now a large proportion of the population in the South live upon this root during the hot season. It will grow in any soil, and needs but little care except to preserve it from the depredations of cattle. After the roots are dug, the stem is cut into pieces about 4 inches long and planted some 3 feet apart, with a little ash or other manure.

The root requires occasional weeding and earthing, and arrives at maturity in nine or ten months. Well boiled, it is eaten with fish curry. It is sometimes given to cattle. In a green state the root does not keep long, but it can be sliced and dried in the sun, or grated and made into farina. A field of this valuable and nutritious root is planted at but little cost; its yield is very large, and its cultivation highly profitable.

The produce has been estimated in Ceylon at 10 tons of green roots per acre : this weighs one-fourth when dried, and, if the dried roots gave half their weight of flour, it would amount to 2,800 lbs. per acre. With some care and attention any amount of the granulated flour might be prepared for home use and export; but, though this plant grows all around us, European residents find it more economical to send to London for the prepared tapioca, as the people do not take the trouble to prepare it.

Arrow-root (Curcuma angustifolia) might be grown much more largely than at present. In an experiment with this root at Saidapet the produce was at the rate of 3,944 lbs. of tubers per acre, which would represent an outturn of one-eighth of that quantity of flour. The culture of this crop is very simple, so also is its preparation by reducing the tubers to pulp, mixing it with water, washing out the starch, and drying it in the sun. The flour could be sold profitably at 4 annas per pound. Last year 3,515 cwts. were exported, valued at 29,600 rupees. Other culinary vegetables are Amaranthus, cucumber, brinjal, peas, &c.


Fruits commonly grown are the jack, of which there are two or three million trees in the country, the guava, papaw, Anona, pine-apple, and plantains in great variety. The spices grown are pepper, ginger, turmeric and chillies. The exports of ginger amount to about 4 lacs of rupees; of tamarinds, 2 lacs; of turmeric, nearly 1 lac; of pepper 3 to 5 lacs; and of coffee, from 6 to 8 lacs. Good crops are often obtained from sesamum and horse gram, and much might be done in the production of fibres for cordage and papermaking.

‘The size of farms is various; three or four hundred acres is an estate of considerable magnitude, which not two in a hundred will possess. The lesser farms do not exceed from seven to fourteen acres, and are often considerably smaller; indeed, taking the average as given in the Sirkar accounts, we should only have about two acres as the extent held by every farmer.

"A farmer with three hundred paras of paddy land four hundred cocoanut trees, fifty areca, and twelve jack-trees, with vines yielding five or six tulams of pepper, will be in very easy circumstances; but scarcely twenty husbandmen in a hundred will have such a property; indeed, the lower classes rarely possess sufficient rice land on which to support their family; they trust, however, to the produce of their garden lands to make up the deficiency.”

The following description of a Syrian Christian farming community near Quilon was furnished, in substance, by one of their priests : —

Though the Syrian Christians often complain of their poverty, they have fair houses, rice-fields, cattle and sheep, some of them possessing two or three native ponies. They are better off than formerly, and little oppression from government officials is now complained of. They cultivate rice for home use, reaping generally tenfold, of which a tenth is paid as tax to the Sirkar.

Some will have rice to sell over and above what is required for domestic consumption. Then they have roots, plantains, and other fruits, &c., some of which are sold to boatmen and trading coolies, who carry their purchases to the town of Quilon for sale. Milk is procured from the cows. Sheep are occasionally sold at from 2 rupees to 3 rupees each — only the weakly or less valuable ones are killed and used as food.

A well-to-do Christian farmer may have twenty-five or thirty persons in his family, including sons with their wives and children. His annual income in money, derived from the sale of rice, sheep, cocoanuts, roots, and other produce, in addition to food of his own growth for all, may amount to from 500 rupees down to 50 rupees per annum. Out of this the purchase of clothing is almost the only expenditure in cash, excepting for marriages and festivals.

The clothing may cost 70 rupees. The minimum expenditure here for marriage is 25 to 35 rupees, but sometimes extravagant sums are wasted in this way. ‘There is not much hiding or hoarding of money in these days. The farmer invests his savings in additional paddy-land, which costs about 70 rupees per para, or less if the land be inferior or at some distance towards the hills.

A native friend supplies the following account of the life of a cultivator of the humblest class :—

A young man begins agriculture at the age of fifteen or so. Residing with his parents till the age of twenty, he may be able to save on his own account from 100 to 150 rupees, during this period. Then he gets married. After marriage, still diligently labouring, he may earn 65 rupees a year; his expenditure will be 1 fanam (1/7 of a rupee) daily for food, and 40 fanams per year for clothing. Thus he may manage to save a few rupees a year. Then he builds a house and purchases some land. At the age of thirty he will be possessed of some property, and his annual income rises to 100 rupees, while his expenditure amounts to 70 rupees or 75 rupees.


The cultivator invests his savings in a lottery, to accumulate for the marriage expenses of his daughters. Then he may spend more than he has saved, and fall into debt and difficulties. But if his land be fertile and trees productive, he will recover ground again.

Taking the expenditure as 4 chuckrams (3½d.) a day, it may be apportioned as follows : — For rice, 1 chuckram; salt, ¼ chuckram; fish, 4 chuckram; cocoanut, ¼ chuckram; curry spices, 1/8 chuckram; oil for light, 1/8 chuckram; tapioca roots, 1 chuckram, oil for the head, 1/8 chuckram; and the remaining 5/8 chuckram for the noon meal, for which sweet potatoes, or peas, or jack, or mango fruits, or tender cocoanuts, or palm juice,’ or jaggery, are used. About 40 fanams will be required for cloths, washing, and barber’s hire in the year. The annual expense for earthen pots will be 10 fanams; for mats, 3 fanams; for hospitality, 30 fanams; which, however, will be returned by others, as occasion offers.

The poorer class of cultivators generally go to their work at six o’clock in the morning, and return at the same hour in the evening. Only when the work is unusually difficult or pressing do they take solid refreshment at noon. They get food warm and abundant in the evening only.

Last edited by VED on Sat Nov 25, 2023 9:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Within the last twenty years, a new enterprise has sprung up, which has brought a considerable number of European settlers into the country, and covered the hills in some parts with careful cultivation, and a large, though migratory, native population. Where once the crouching tiger and lordly elephant, the panther and bear, the wild ox, sambhur and spotted deer freely roamed, there are now trim estates, neat bungalows, herds of cattle, and farm buildings, usually kept in first-rate order.

Where formerly a score of Europeans assembled together on state occasions at the capital was a sight to remember, now a hundred may be seen at a public entertainment, or on the annual racecourse at Trevandrum. And though the planting interest is now struggling with serious difficulties and reverses, its influence on the social and economic condition of the country is a remarkable phenomenon of the age, worthy of attentive consideration.

The coffee plant was, perhaps two centuries or more since, introduced on the Western Coast by the Arabs, and in the early part of the present century cultivated in Travancore, some quantity even being exported. In the ‘Description of the Administrative System,’ by V. Kristno Row, we find that the export of this product in M.E. 1 01 8 (A.D 1843), amounted to 155 candies = 910 cwt, on which a duty of 669 rupees was levied.

This coffee would be grown by natives in the low country, and at a small altitude by Messrs. Binny & Co., of Madras, who, however, were unsuccessful with their plantations and afterwards sold them off. Further particulars of that period are not at present available.

Coffee was afresh introduced into Travancore, and extended to the Hills, about the year 1854, by Lt.-General Cullen, then British Resident. Procuring seeds from the Neilgherry Hills, he began a small experimental garden at Velymalei, near Pulpanabapuram, at a height of about 1,8oo feet. Here he cultivated nutmeg, cocoa, cloves, and other valuable plants; this garden still continues, and the acreage of coffee has of late been somewhat extended.

Another small garden, of somewhat over two acres, was planted at Assambu, at a height of about 3,000 feet, which became the nucleus of a large estate, opened by the First Prince and Sir Madava Row, who jointly purchased the General’s garden after his death.

Experiments were also made by General Cullen with apples, New Zealand flax, and oranges, all of which failed, either through want of sufficient elevation, or through lack of care. Specimen trees of cypress, cedar, cloves, allspice, and the indigenous Assam tea, however, are now very healthy and flourishing. This portion of the Assambu Estate, now comprising about 12 acres in extent, is remarkable for the richness of the soil being situated in a kind of basin, in which the soil washed down from the surrounding hills has collected for ages, and it has been known to give the enormous return of a ton per acre. The usual produce of this small plot is seven or eight cwts. per acre. The plants are now, of course, nearly thirty years old; some of the stems 13 inches in circumference.


Nearly fifty years ago a small estate had been commenced in the low country at Valrampuram, near Trevandrum, by an East Indian. He planted his coffee in the shade of jack and other trees, and for many years made a considerable profit. The plantation has now nearly died out. But similar culture of coffee under fruit and garden trees is practised to a large extent in Trevandrum, Quilon, and elsewhere, and the produce is often a considerable help to the income of the native householder.

The first to enter upon the professional culture of coffee in the Travancore Hills was a native Christian, Mr. P. D. Devasagasim, of Assambu. This worthy man had been a teacher in the Mission Seminary at Nagercoil, but wishing to push his way in the world, he emigrated to Ceylon, at the same time generously supporting a teacher in his stead. He became a trustworthy and successful manager, and afterwards resolved to return and invest his savings in his native land.

In 1859 he applied to the Dewan for a grant of 60 acres of forest land, which was granted after two years’ delay and correspondence, demand being made at first for security to pay the taxes, as in the case of rice cultivation. Erecting a shed, in 1861, on a broad platform of rock in the Assambu Pass, he cut down the forest, drove off the wild beasts, and by the Divine blessing on a course of diligence and uprightness, now possesses a well-kept and profitable estate of 60 acres, producing in its earlier stage, before the appearance of leaf disease, about 400 cwt. of coffee, and now usually 160 cwt, half of the returns being net profit.

Striking testimony to the worth and prosperity of this native planter was borne by H.H. the First Prince (now Maharajah) in a lecture delivered at Trevandrum : —

“Another example (of successful diligence) is that of Mr. P. D. Devasahayam, of South Travancore. Born of very poor parents, at Nagercoil, and losing his father early, he was placed in the Mission Boarding School by the late Rev. C. Mault, and was there brought up and educated by him. When about eighteen years old, he was attached to the Mission as a catechist, with a monthly pay of five rupees.

"As such he continued for some years; but in 1844, at the instigation of a friend of his, who had just returned from a coffee planter in Ceylon with some little savings, he played the truant, and went over to that island in hope of large gain. At first he was employed as a conductor, on a salary of 20 rupees, under a coffee planter. He continued in Ceylon for about 20 years, during which he served several planters, and by his diligence and sterling honesty gave satisfaction to all. During the last few years he was employed in a large plantation, and drew 100 rupees per month.

"Being allowed a few months’ leave every year, he was able to spend them in his native land, where, with his savings, he invested 2,000 rupees in a good house, and another 2,000 rupees in paddy lands. In 1858, he took it into his head to try coffee planting in the Assambu range of Hills. His hopes were strengthened by the sight of the coffee trees groaning under the weight of scarlet berries in the experimental garden of that keen and unwearied student of nature, the late General Cullen. In spite of very strong dissuasion from friends, he applied for land, obtained it, and at once seriously threw himself into the venture.

"Suffice it to say, that the results exceeded the fondest hopes. I have myself seen the Victoria Estate belonging to Mr. Devasahayam, and I may say that it is one of the best chosen, best managed, best looking, and best paying coffee estates I have ever seen.

In his neat, picturesque, and comfortable little chalet with a coy little stream of crystal water near it, with every comfort which characterises a contented and cheerful homestead, with a bracing climate, with congenial and invigorating exercise in connection with his property, with the fruits of honest labour around him, with the sweet pleasure of having, ever and anon, silently contributed to a thousand little charities; without begging of any one, or crossing any one, and above all, with a clean conscience, Mr. Devasahayam presents a model of life every way worthy of imitation in principle. I may add that myself and my partner have the good fortune of having secured Mr. Devasahayam’s agency to look after our property.”

The pioneer of coffee culture on a large scale was the late Mr. John Grant, formerly of Ceylon, a gentleman in whom characteristic Scottish caution and kindliness were united with enterprise and indefatigable industry, and whose memory has been perpetuated by a hospital on the Hills, erected by public subscription; he was aided by two of his brothers. Mr. Grant received from the Sirkar a free grant of 500 acres of forest at Mahindragerry, north of Assambu; the planting of this estate was commenced in 1864, after a fourth of Mr. Devasagaim’s estate had begun to bear.

A total of nearly 800 acres was planted, and excellent pulping machinery, driven by a water wheel, introduced. Large crops have often been yielded by this estate — as much as 15 cwt. per acre on some plots of ten, twenty, or even fifty acres in extent. But, unfortunately, a fourth of the estate has had, of late years, to be abandoned, partly on account of the alarming spread and destructive ravages of leaf disease, but still more through fierce monsoon winds in the early part of the year blowing off the blossoms and preventing the growth of the tree.

Another fourth seems to be slowly dying out through a disease affecting the roots, which has appeared both at Peermade and Assambu, and causes the whole tree to die off. Tea, cocoa, cinchona, and other products are now being introduced, and promise in time to prove remunerative.

On the Peermade range of Hills the first openings for coffee were made by Messrs. Baker and Munro, and General Stevenson, who obtained grants of forest land from the Sirkar for the experiment. Mr. Baker received a free grant of 500 acres, of which, however, 200 were grass land not available for coffee. The estate has been carefully managed, and is now of great value and giving good returns. Other estates also have prospered, but of late the ravages of leaf disease have been very trying. Tea is, therefore, being largely planted as a second resource, and so far, is doing well. From three to five cwts. of coffee has been the usual rate of produce per acre.


A planter who settled at Peermade with but small capital, but abundant energy and close application, accumulated within ten years a property of 250 acres of coffee planted land, worth Say £10,000. From 20 acres of this estate he once gathered, in the second year, 18 cwt, and in the third year 120 cwt. of coffee; and from 150 acres, in 1876, about 400 cwt.

In 1862, when it appeared likely that this branch of agriculture would prove successful, a set of rules was drawn up by the Sirkar for grants of forest land, reserving valuable timber trees, such as blackwood and teak, and cardamom cultivations, and fixing an annual tax of three quarters of a rupee per acre; besides an export duty of five per cent., this to be remitted for the first five years on condition that a fourth of the land should be cleared and planted within the first three years.

Public attention having been widely attracted to the speculation, and several parties sometimes applying for the same tracts of waste land, indicating some amount of competition, the Sirkar established in 1865 a system of auction sales of the land, at an upset price of one rupee per acre, which continued till the last sale in October, 1874. At first there was little competition; but, in 1874 the upset price was raised to 10 rupees per acre. The sale of these waste lands brought a considerable sum into the Government treasury.

According to the State Administration report for 1874-5, the sales of land had produced over 3 lacs of rupees. Besides this, the annual tax of R. 5 per acre on over 17,000 planted, and ultimately oil the whole of the land taken up for coffee, ought to yield a good revenue. An export duty of S per cent, was imposed on coffee up till 1875, when it was dropped for a year or two, and afterwards re-imposed at 254 per cent, on the tariff valuation of Rs. 20 per cent, at which rate it now remains.

It is impossible to trace year by year the precise area actually under cultivation. From the statistics for 1879, drawn up by the Dewan, it appears that the total extent of land sold amounted to 37,805 acres; and of this amount no less than 20,292 acres, though taken up with a view to coffee cultivation, were not then planted; and most of this is still in the same condition in consequence of want of capital, and the depression produced by leaf disease within the last ten years. The yield of mature plants was approximately estimated at from 336 lbs. down to 64 lbs. per acre, in various districts, the average of the whole being 192 lbs.

The following are the returns of crop exported for a few of the first and of the last years of the enterprise : —

1864 ... 2,979 cwt. value Rs. 59,644
1865 ... 3,965 “ “ 80,221
1867 ... 9,655 “ “ 211,542
1868 ... 14,140 “ “ 243,000
1877 ... 50,000 “ “ 990,058
1878 ... 39,737 “ “ 803,700
1879 ... 18,781 “ “ 374,600
1880 ... 45,700 “ “ 883,100
1881 ... 29,611 “ “ 599,400

The coffee estates in Travancore vary greatly in extent. The largest is Strathmore, comprising 2,800 acres, of which 1,500 are planted; and another is 600 acres, of which 500 are planted; and another 1,100 acres, of which 440 are under cultivation. Two or three hundred acres is a very usual size, and there are many smaller, down to native gardens of a few acres.


In 1879 it was stated that there were 121 regular coffee estates, and it is certain that but little increase has taken place since then, rather the contrary. The greatest proportion of mature plants is found in the southern estates, as the progress of the cultivation has been from the south northwards.

The average elevation of the plantations is greater, however, in the north. The highest estate is in Velavengodu district, at an elevation of 3,900 feet; but there are only two estates there, which comprise unitedly 395 acres, and the out-turn of which for 1877-8 was the largest in the State, viz., 412 lbs. per acre of mature plants. The lowest estate is in Neduvengaud, altitude above the sea about 400 feet; and on this 154 lbs. per acre were gathered.

The average produce for the whole in 1877-8 was about 276 lbs. per acre of full-grown plants. Where the cost of cultivation is greatest, the out-turn also is greatest. In the two highest estates, mentioned above, the cost of cultivation was said to be Rs. 111 per acre.

Drought is often complained of in February and March, when rain is wanted to set the fruit. Coffee is a very precarious investment in Travancore, because the crop is entirely dependent upon rain at the blossoming season, and a few showers just at the right time make a difference of thousands of rupees to the planter. Violent and continuous rains in other months sometimes cause great injury to the plants, and carry away valuable soil.

As compared with the estates in Ceylon, those in Travancore are very steep, the difference between top and bottom sometimes being over a thousand feet; they are thus greatly exposed to wash from heavy rains. The soil is, in general, a black or chocolate coloured loam, with a subsoil of red earth and decomposed granite; the quality much the same as in Ceylon — in some places very poor.

The profits made in the early stage of the coffee speculation, while the soil was unexhausted, the plants young and strong, and expenditure for manure not yet begun, and previous to the appearance of the leaf disease, were so tempting that nearly every one who possessed, or could borrow any capital, embarked in it. The “bumper crops” of 1869-70 and of 1871-2 added to the public eagerness. Those who had planted and sold out at such times made the most money, while those who just then invested came in for the bad times succeeding.

The “coffee fever” spread, until at the last sale of land, in the latter part of 1874, wild competition sent up the price of land to an unprecedented extent. Hundreds of acres were purchased at rates varying from Rs. 10 to Rs. 57. Several small lots went up to Rs. 70. Two hundred and fifty acres were bought at Rs. 6; and some unfortunate native bid for 50 acres at Rs. 82, though he never got so far as to clear, or even pay for his purchase.

Many of the estates opened by natives were at by far too low an elevation, say from five to eight hundred feet, where there ought to have been two to four thousand feet of altitude, and consequently were subject to drought and premature exhaustion. Much of the land selected was unsuited to the growth and requirements of this plant, and the estates were often left weedy and neglected; the native planters were also generally less punctual and reliable paymasters than the Europeans.

Many of these estates have since had to be abandoned, and great losses thereby incurred. But bad working had as much to do with the failure as the low elevation of the plantations. Native Christians who had saved money as conductors in Ceylon opened such estates, and their friends placing additional capital at their disposal, much loss was incurred. A trial of native probity and reputation was, at the same time, experienced, under which some lamentably sank.

Various entire estates, especially between Agastier and Assambu, and numerous inferior portions of others, have been abandoned as unprofitable, and are now returning to their original waste condition. Several causes of failure operated.

One of the principal was the “leaf disease,” which appears in brown or orange patches of fungus on the leaves, causing them to drop off, and injuring the fruitbearing power of the plant. The fruits also were sometimes found empty of berry, or very light, the pulp only having been developed, while the external appearance led to large estimates of the produce that might be anticipated.

Symptoms of the leaf disease were first noticed in Travancore in November, 1870. It appeared unmistakably in October, 1871, on several estates, but only became general after July, 1872; the other estates were completely stripped of leaves after the crop of that year. The disease first attacked a few individual trees, then patches; and finally the whole field suffered.

Bad management was also often a cause of failure after the time of the pioneers of the enterprise, who worked with a will. Lands were incautiously selected or carelessly planted, and extravagant expenditure incurred. Where a native might perhaps make a good living, an estate would not bear to be loaded with a monthly salary for a European superintendent; and there were instances in which some of these were not a credit to our country.

In various parts of the mountains strong winds, during the north-east monsoon, are the great enemy of the planter, smiting portions of the plantations so fiercely, that the trees could not grow, or are even blown down, and when in blossom the very flowers are blown off”. Even trees for shade and shelter cannot be brought on in such localities. The wind is worse than in Ceylon, apparently because the Travancore Hills are a narrower range than the mountain region of that island — more like a backbone. If it blows fairly on an estate, the injury caused is less; but if sideways, and rushing through a gorge, it destroys all flower and fruit.

From these and other causes, some estates did not repay the expense of cultivation — in others, the crops were greatly lessened. Times were sadly changed. Where formerly two or three hundredweight of coffee per acre was expected even off two year old plants, or, at least, repayment of all expenses, there are now so many estates producing almost nothing that the whole average produce will not come to two cwts. per acre.

A certain estate which cost Rs. 10,000 for up-keep in 1879, produce