Castes and Tribes of Southern India/Paraiyan
Paraiyan.— The Paraiyans or, as they are commonly termed. Pariahs of the Tamil country number, according to recent census returns, over two million souls, and a large proportion of those who returned themselves as Native Christians are said also to belong to this class. For the following note I am mainly indebted to an account of the Paraiyans by the Rev. A. C. Clayton.*
The late Bishop Caldwell derived the name Paraiyan from the Tamil word parai a drum, as certain Paraiyans act as drummers at marriages, funerals, village festivals, and on occasions when Government or commercial announcements are proclaimed. Mr. H. A. Stuart, however, seems to question this derivation, remarking * that "it is only one section of Paraiyans that act as drummers. Nor is the occupation confined to Paraiyans. It seems in the highest degree improbable that a large, and at one time powerful, community should owe its name to an occasional occupation, which one of its divisions shares with other castes. The word Paraiyan is not found in Divākaram, a Tamil dictionary of the eleventh century A.D., and the word Pulayan was then used to denote this section of the population, as it is still in Malayālam to this day." In the legend of the Saivite saint, Nandan is, in the prose version of the Periya Purānam, called a Pulayan, though a native of Shōlamandalam, which was a distinctly Tamil kingdom. Mr.W. Francis writes † that "the old Tamil poems and works of the early centuries of the Christian era do not mention the name Paraiyan, but contain many descriptions of a tribe called the Eyinas, who seem to have been quite distinct from the rest of the population, and did not live in the villages, but in forts of their own. Ambūr and Vellore are mentioned as the sites of two of these. They may perhaps have been the ancestors of the Paraiyans of to-day."
In a note on the Paraiyans, Sonnerat, writing ‡ in the eighteenth century, says that "they are prohibited from drawing water from the wells of other castes; but have particular wells of their own near their inhabitations, round which they place the bones of animals, that they may be known and avoided. When an Indian of any other caste permits a Paraiya to speak to him, this unfortunate being is obliged to hold his hand before his mouth, lest the Indian may be contaminated with his breath; and, if he Is met on the highway, he must turn on one side to let the other pass. If any Indian whatever, even a Choutre, by accident touches a Paraiya, he is obliged to purify himself in a bath. The Brāhmans cannot behold them, and they are obliged to fly when they appear. Great care is taken not to eat anything dressed by a Paraiya, nor even to drink out of the vessel he has used; they dare not enter the house of an Indian of another caste; or, if they are employed in any work, a door is purposely made for them; but they must work with their eyes on the ground; for, if it is perceived they have glanced at the kitchen, all the utensils must be broken. The infamy of the Paraiyas is reflected on the Europeans: last are held in more detestation, because, setting aside the little respect they have for the cow, whose flesh they eat, the Indians reproach them with spitting in their houses, and even their temples: that when drinking they put the cup to their lips, and their fingers to their mouths in such a manner that they are defiled with the spittle."
Paraiyans are to be found throughout the Tamil districts from North Arcot to Tinnevelly, and in the southern extremity of the Native State of Travancore. In the Telugu country the Mālas and Mādigas and in the Canarese country the Holeyas take their place.
Some of the most common names of Paraiyan males are —
|Kanni or Kanniyappan.||Subban.|
|Rāman or Rāmaswāmi.||Nondi.|
Ammani, Selli, Gangammāl. In one village, where the Paraiyans were almost all Vaishnavas, by profession not by practice, Mr. Clayton found the inhabitants all named after heroes of the Mahābhārata, and dirty naked children answered to the names of Ikshvākan, Karnan, Bhīman, and Draupadi. It is usual to give the father's name when distinguishing one Paraiyan from another, e.g., Tamburan, son of Kannan. In legal documents the prefix Para denotes a Paraiyan, e.g., Para Kanni, the Paraiyan Kanni, but this is a purely clerical formula. The Paraiyan delights in nicknames, and men sometimes grow so accustomed to these that they have almost forgotten their real names. The following nicknames are very common: —
|Nondi, lame.||Kannan, with eyes.|
|Kallan, thief.||Muthalai, crocodile.|
|Kullan, dwarf.||Kudiyan, drunkard.|
|Vellei, white or light|
No name, indicating virtue or merit, is given, lest the wrath of malevolent spirits should be aroused.At the census, 1891, 348 sub-divisions were returned, of which the following were strongest in point of numbers: — Amma found chiefly in Tanjore and Madura; Katti in Salem and Trichinopoly; Kīzhakkatti (eastern) in Salem; Kōliyan (weavers) in Chingleput, Tanjore and Trichinopoly; Konga in Salem; Korava in Coimbatore; Kōttai (fort) in South Arcot; Morasu (drum) in Salem; Mottai in Madura; Pacchai (green) in Coimbatore; Sāmbān in South Arcot; Sangidum (sanku, conch, or chank shell) in Coimbatore; Sōzhia (natives of the Sōzha or Chōla country) in Tanjore and Madura;
It has been suggested to me that the Morasu Paraiyans, included in the above list, are Canarese Holeyas, who have settled in the Tamil country. In the south their women, like the Kallans, wear a horsehair thread round the neck. As additional sub-divisions, the following may be noted: —
Aruththukattātha, or those who, having once cut the tāli-string, do not tie it a second time,i.e., those who do not permit remarriage of widows.
Valai (a net). — Paraiyans who hunt.
Sanku (conch-shell). — Those who act as conch-blowers at funerals.
Thātha. — Thāthan is the name given to mendicants who profess Vaishnavism. Such Paraiyans are Vaishnavites, and some are beggars.
In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. Francis notes that the term Paraiyan "is now almost a generic one, and the caste is split up into many sub-divisions, which differ in manners and ways. For example, the Kōliyans, who are weavers, and the Valluvans, who are medicine men and priests and wear the sacred thread, will not intermarry or eat with the others, and are now practically distinct castes." As occupational titles of Paraiyans Mr. Francis gives Urumikkāran and Pambaikkarān, or those who play on drums (urumi and pambai), and Podarayan or Podara Vannān, who are washermen. The title Valangamattān, or people of the right-hand division, is assumed by some Paraiyans.
Mr. Clayton states that he knows of no legend or popular belief among the Paraiyans, indicating that they believe themselves to have come from any other part of the country than that where they now find themselves. There is, however, some evidence that the race has had a long past, and one in which they had independence, and possibly great importance in the peninsula. Mr. Stuart mentions * that the Valluvans were priests to the Pallava kings before the introduction of the Brāhmans, and even for some time after it. He quotes an unpublished Vatteluttu inscription, believed to be of the ninth century, in which it is noted that "Sri Valluvam Puvanavan, the Uvacchan (or temple ministrant), will employ six men daily, and do the temple service." The inference is that the Valluvan was a man of recognised priestly rank, and of great influence. The prefix Srī is a notable honorific. By itself this inscription would prove little, but the whole legendary history of the greatest of all Tamil poets, Tiruvalluvar, "the holy Valluvan," confirms all that can be deduced from it. His date can only be fixed approximately, but it is probable that he flourished not later than the tenth century A.D. It is safe to say that this extraordinary sage could not have attained the fame he did, or have received the honours that were bestowed upon him, had not the Valluvans, and therefore the Paraiyans, been in the circle of respectable society in his day. This conjecture is strengthened by the legend that he married a Vellāla girl. The same hypothesis is the only one that will account for the education and the vogue of the sister of the poet, the aphoristic poetess Avvei.
In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. Francis mentions an inscription of the Chōla King Rāja Rāja, dated about the eleventh century A.D., in which the Paraiyan caste is called by its own name. It had then two sub-divisions, the Nesavu or weavers, and Ulavu or ploughmen. The caste had even then its own hamlets, wells and burning-grounds.
There are certain privileges possessed by Paraiyans, which they could never have gained for themselves from orthodox Hinduism. They seem to be survivals of a past, in which Paraiyans held a much higher position than they do now. It is noted by Mr. M. J. Walhouse*that "in the great festival of Siva at Trivalūr in Tanjore the headman of the Parēyars is mounted on the elephant with the god, and carries his chauri (yak-tail fly fan). In Madras, at the annual festival of Egatta, the goddess of the Black, † now George, Town, when a tāli is tied round the neck of the idol in the name of the entire community, a Parēyan is chosen to represent the bridegroom. At Mēlkotta in Mysore, the chief seat of the followers of Rāmānuja Achārya, and at the Brāhman temple at Bēlur, the Holēyas or Parēyars have the right of entering the temple on three days in the year specially set apart for them." At Mēlkote, the Holeyas and Mādigas are said to have been granted the privilege of entering the sanctum sanctorum along with Brāhmans and others on three days by Rāmānuja. In 1799, however, the right to enter the temple was stopped at the dhvajastambham, or consecrated monolithic column. At both Bēlur and Mēlkote, as soon as the festival is over, the temples are ceremonially purified. At Srī- perumbudūr in the Chingleput district, the Paraiyans enjoy a similar privilege to those at Tiruvalūr, in return for having sheltered an image of the locally-worshipped incarnation of Vishnu during a Muhammadan raid. It is noted by Mr. Stuart that the lower village offices, the Vettiyan, Taliāri, Dandāsi or Bārike, and the Tōti, are, in the majority of Madras villages, held by persons of the Paraiyan caste. Paraiyans are allowed to take part in pulling the cars of the idols in the great festivals at Conjeeveram, Kumbakōnam, and Srīvilliputtūr. Their touch is not reckoned to defile the ropes used, so that other Hindus will pull with them. With this may be compared the fact that the Telugu Mālas are custodians of the goddess Gauri, the bull Nandi, and Ganēsa, the chief gods of the Saiva Kāpus and Balijas. It may also be noted that the Kōmatis, who claim to be Vaisyas, are bound to invite Mādigas to their marriages, though they take care that the latter do not hear the invitation. Mr.Clayton records that he has heard well-authenticated instances of Brāhman women worshipping at Paraiyan shrines in order to procure children, and states that he once saw a Paraiyan exorciser treating a Brāhman by uttering mantrams (consecrated formulæ), and waving a sickle up and down the sufferer's back, as he stood in a threshing floor.
In a note on the Paraiyans of the Trichinopoly district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows. "They have a very exalted account of their lineage, saying that they are descended from the Brāhman priest Sāla Sāmbavan, who was employed in a Siva temple to worship the god with offerings of beef, but who incurred the anger of the god by one day concealing a portion of the meat, to give it to his pregnant wife, and was therefore turned into a Paraiyan. The god appointed his brother to do duty instead of him, and the Paraiyans say that Brāhman priests are their cousins. For this reason they wear a sacred thread at their marriages and funerals. At the festival of the village goddesses, they repeat an extravagant praise of their caste, which runs as follows. 'The Paraiyans were the first creation, the first who wore the sacred thread, the uppermost in the social scale, the differentiators of castes, the winners of laurels. They have been seated on the white elephant, the Vīra Sāmbavans who beat the victorious drum.' It is a curious fact that, at the feast of the village goddess, a Paraiyan is honoured by being invested with a sacred thread for the occasion by the pūjāri (priest) of the temple, by having a turmeric thread tied to his wrists, and being allowed to head the procession. This, the Paraiyans say, is owing to their exalted origin."
In times of drought some of the lower orders, instead of addressing their prayers to the rain god Varuna, try to induce a spirit or dēvata named Kodumpāvi (wicked one) to send her paramour Sukra to the affected area. The belief seems to be that Sukra goes away to his concubine for about six months, and, if he does not then return, drought ensues. The ceremony consists in making a huge figure of Kodumpāvi in clay, which is placed on a cart, and dragged through the streets for seven to ten days. On the last day, the final death ceremonies of the figure are celebrated. It is disfigured, especially in those parts which are usually concealed. Vettiyans (Paraiyan grave-diggers), who have been shaved, accompany the figure, and perform the funeral ceremonies. This procedure is believed to put Kodumpāvi to shame, and to get her to induce Sukra to return, and stay the drought. Paraiyans are said * to wail as though they were at a funeral, and to beat drums in the funeral time. The Paraiyans are said by Mr. Francis * to have a curious share in the ceremonies in connection with the annual buffalo sacrifice at the Kāli shrine at Mangalam in South Arcot. "Eight men of this community are chosen from eight adjoining villages, and one of them is selected as leader. His wife must not be with child at the time, and she is made to prove that she is above all suspicion by undergoing the ordeal of thrusting her hand into boiling gingelly (Sesamum) oil. On each of ten days for which the festival lasts, this Paraiyan has to go round some part of the boundaries of the eight villages, and he is fed gratis by the villagers during this time. On the day of the sacrifice itself, he marches in front of the priest as the latter kills the buffaloes. The Paraiyans of the eight villages have the right to the carcases of the slaughtered animals."
The Paraiyans know the village boundaries better than anyone else, and are very expert in this matter, unerringly pointing out where boundaries should run, even when the Government demarcation stones are completely overgrown by prickly-pear, or have been removed. Mr. Stuart records a custom which prevails in some parts of making a Paraiyan walk the boundaries of a field with a pot of water on his head, when there is any dispute about their exact position. He thinks that the only satisfactory explanation of this is that the connection of the Paraiyans with the soil is of much longer standing than that of other castes. The admitted proprietary right which Paraiyans have in the site known as chēri-nattam, on which their huts stand, is a confirmation of this. These sites are entered as such on the official village maps. They cannot be taken from the Paraiyans, and date from time immemorial. Throughout the whole of the Tamil country it is usual to find that the land allotted for house-site (nattam) is in two portions in every village (Ūr). One part is known by the Sanskrit name grāmam (village), the inhabited place. The other is called by the Dravidian name chēri (gathering place).
Sometimes the latter is called by the fuller title parachēri (Anglice parcheri, parcherry), i.e., the gathering place of the Paraiyans. In the grāmam live the Brāhmans, who sometimes dwell, in a quarter by themselves known as the agrahāra, and also other Hindus. In the parachēri live the Paraiyans. The parachēri and the grāmam are always separated, at least by a road or lane, and often by several fields. And not only is it usual thus to find that, in every village, the Paraiyans as a community possess a house-site, but there are many cases in which more than one chēri is attached to a grāmam. This seems to repudiate the suggestion that at some period or periods the higher castes relegated the Paraiyans to these chēris. Indeed, in some cases, the very names of the chēris suggest what appears to be the more correct view, viz., that the chēris had a distinct origin. For instance, the whole revenue village of Teiyar near Chingleput consists of one Sūdra grāmam and seven Paraiyan chēris, each with a name of its own, Periyapilleri, Komanchēri, etc. In other cases, e.g., Ideipālayam in the north of the district, and Varadarājapuram near Vandalūr, only Paraiyan hamlets exist; there is no grāmam. In South Arcot there are at least two villages, Govindanallūr and Andapet, inhabited only by Paraiyans, where even the Maniyakkāran (munsiff or village headman) is a Paraiyan. Other instances might be quoted in proof of the same opinion. And, when the ceremonial antipathy between Brāhman and Paraiyan is examined, it points in the same direction. It is well known that a Brāhman considers himself polluted by the touch, presence, or shadow of a Paraiyan, and will not allow him to enter his house, or even the street in which he lives, if it is an agrāhāra. But it is not so well known that the Paraiyans will not allow a Brāhman to enter the cheri. Should a Brāhman venture into the Paraiyan's quarter, water with which cow-dung has been mixed is thrown on his head, and he is driven out. It is stated* by Captain J., S. F. Mackenzie that "Brāhmans in Mysore consider that great luck will await them if they can manage to pass through the Holeya quarter of a village unmolested, and that, should a Brāhman attempt to enter their quarters, they turn out in a body and slipper him, in former times it is said to death." Some Brāhmans consider a forsaken parachēri an auspicious site for an agrāhāra. A very peculiar case is that of the grāmam founded for, and occupied by the clerks of the earliest Collectors (district magistrates) of the jagir of Karunguli from 1795 to 1825 A.D. These clerks were Brāhmans, and it was called the agrāhāram. It was deserted when the head-quarters of the Collector were removed to Conjeeveram. It is now occupied by Paraiyans, but is still called the agrāhāram.
The facts, taken together, seem to show that the Paraiyan priests (Valluvans), and therefore the Paraiyans as a race, are very ancient, that ten centuries ago they were a respectable community, and that many were weavers. The privileges they enjoy are relics of an exceedingly long association with the land. The institution of the parachēri points to original independence. and even to possession of much of the land. If the account of the colonisation of Tondeimandalam by Vellālans in the eighth century A.D. is historic, then it is possible that at that time the Paraiyans lost the land, and that their degradation as a race began.
The Paraiyans have long been a settled race. And, though a number of them emigrate to Ceylon, Mauritius, South Africa, the West Indies, the Straits Settlements, and even to Fiji, the vast majority live and die within a mile or two of the spot where they were born. The houses in which they live are not temporary erections, or intended for use during certain seasons of the year only. The rudest form is a hut made by tying a few leaves of the palmyra palm on to a framework of poles or bamboos. The better class of houses are a series of rooms with low mud walls and thatched roof, but generally without doors, surrounding a small courtyard, in which the family goats, buffaloes, and fowls have their homes. The cooking is done anywhere where it is convenient either indoors or out, as there is no fear of pollution from the glance or shadow of any passer-by. Very occasionally the walls of the house, especially those facing the street, are whitewashed, or decorated with variegated patterns or figures in red and white. Paraiya women, like higher caste women, are much given to tracing exceedingly intricate symmetrical designs (kōlam) with rice flour on the smooth space or pathway immediately before the doors of their houses, it is said, to prevent the entrance of evil spirits. Mr. S. P. Rice writes to me that the patterns on the floor or threshold are generally traced with white powder, e.g., chalk, as rice is too costly; and that the original object of the custom was not to drive away evil spirits, but to provide food for the lowest creatures of creation — ants, insects, etc. Admissions to the Paraiyan caste from higher castes sometimes occur. Mr. Clayton records having met an Aiyangar Brāhman who was working as a cooly with some Paraiyan labourers at Kodaikānal on the Palni hills. He had become infatuated with a Paraiya woman, and had consequently been excommunicated, and became a Paraiyan.
In every Paraiya settlement a small number of the more important men are known as Panakkāran (money-man). The application of the term may, Mr. Clayton suggests, be due to their comparative opulence, or may have arisen from the custom of paying them a small sum (panam) for various services to the community. But Panikkar or Panakkar is usually said to be derived from pani, meaning work. They form a committee or council to decide ordinary quarrels, and to amerce the damages in cases of assault, seduction, rape, and adultery. They have power to dissolve marriages on account of the wife, or if the husband has deserted his wife. In these cases their authority is really based on the public opinion of the paracheri, and goes no further than that public opinion will enforce it. There is no headman in a Paraiya hamlet corresponding to the munsiff or village magistrate of the Hindu village (grāma). In modern practice the Paraiyans are, for police purposes, under the authority of the munsiff of the grāma, and there is a growing tendency on their part to refer all disputes and assaults to the munsiff, or even directly to the police. On the other hand, cases of a more domestic nature, such as disputes about betrothals, seduction, etc., are still dealt with, generally acutely and fairly, by the village council. It should be added that the rank of Panakkāran is hereditary, and is regarded as honourable. The Paraiyans, like all the other right-hand castes, come under the jurisdiction of the Dēsāyi Chettis, who have held a sort of censorship since the days of the Nawābs of Arcot over some twenty-four of these right-hand castes, chiefly in North Arcot. The Dēsāyi Chetti has nominal power to deal with all moral offences, and is supposed to have a representative in every village, who reports every offence. But, though his authority is great in North Arcot, and the fines levied there bring in an income of hundreds of rupees yearly, it is not so much dreaded in other districts. The punishment usually inflicted is a fine, but sometimes a delinquent Paraiyan will be made to crawl on his hands and knees on the ground between the legs of a Paraiya woman as a final humiliation. The punishment of excommunication, i.e., cutting off from fire and water, is sometimes the fate of the recalcitrant, either before the council or the Dēsāyi Chetti, but it is seldom effective for more than a short time. Mr. K. Rangachari adds that, in certain places, the Dēsāyi Chetti appoints the Panakkāran, who is subordinate to the Dēsāyi, and that a man called the Variyan or Shalavāthi is sometimes appointed as assistant to the Panakkāran. He also mentions some other punishments. The fine for adultery is from 7 pagodas 14 fanams to 11 pagodas, when the wronged woman is unmarried. If she is married, the amount ranges from 12 pagodas 14 fanams to 16 pagodas. The fine is said to be divided between the woman, her husband, the members of council, and the Panakkārans. Formerly an offender against the Paraiyan community was tied to a post at the beginning of his trial, and, if found guilty, was beaten. He might escape the flogging by paying a fine of two fanams per stripe. Sometimes a delinquent is paraded through the hamlet, carrying a rubbish basket, or is ordered to make a heap of rubbish at a certain spot. Or a cord is passed from one big toe over the bowed neck of the culprit, and tied to his other big toe, and then a stone is placed on his bent back. In some places, when an unmarried woman is convicted of adultery, she is publicly given a new cloth and a bit of straw or a twig, apparently in mockery. It is said that formerly, if the chastity of a bride was suspected, she had to pick some cakes out of boiling oil. This she had to do just after the tāli had been tied in the wedding ceremony. Her hair, nails, and clothes were examined, to see that she had no charm concealed. After lifting the cakes from the oil, she had to husk some rice with her bare hand. If she could do this, her virtue was established. In the South Arcot district, according to Mr. Francis,* the Paraiyans "have caste headmen called the Periya (big) Nattān and the Chinna (little) Nattān or Tangalān (our man), whose posts are usually hereditary. The Tangalān carries out the sentence of caste panchayats, administering a thrashing to the accused for example, if such be the order of the court. Of the fines inflicted by these assemblies, a fifth is usually handed over to the local Māriamma shrine, and the remaining four-fifths are laid out in drinks for the panchayatdars. Until recently, a part of the fine was in some cases, in these parts, paid to the local poligar."
Excommunicated Paraiyans are said to go to a mythical place called Vinnamangalam. In some documents signed by Paraiyans, the words "If I fail to fulfil the conditions of our agreement, I shall go to Vinnamangalam " are inserted. In all enquiries by the police, the council, or the Dēsāyi Chetti, the Paraiyan only tells what in his opinion it is expedient to tell. But evidence given after burning a piece of camphor is said to be reliable.
The attainment of puberty by girls is a subject of greedy curiosity to most of the women in a Paraiya village. This has been said to be due to the fact that "the menstrual fluid is held in horror, dire consequences being supposed to result from not merely the contact, but even the very sight of it. Hence the isolation and purification of women during the menstrual period, and the extreme care and anxiety with which the first approach of puberty in a girl is watched." The girl at once begins lo wear a covering of some sort, even it be the most pathetic rag, over her left shoulder and breast. Till this time, a bit of cotton cloth round her waist has been considered sufficient. Among the Tangalān Paraiyans, when a girl attains puberty, she is kept apart either in the house or in a separate hut. Pollution is supposed to last eight days. On the ninth day, the girl is bathed, and seated in the courtyard. Ten small lamps of flour paste (called drishti māvu vilakku), to avert the evil eye, are put on a sieve, and waved before her three times. Then coloured water (ārati or alam) and burning camphor are waved before her. Some near female relatives then stand behind her, and strike her waist and sides with puttu (flour cake) tied in a cloth. This is believed to make her strong. At the same time other women strike the ground behind the girl with a rice-pestle. Then presents are given to the girl. In some places the girl is beaten within the house by her mother-in-law or paternal aunt. The latter repeatedly asks the girl to promise that her daughter shall marry her paternal aunt's son. In marriages among the Paraiyans, difference in religion is of little moment. A Christian Paraiyan will marry a heathen girl, though it should be said that she is usually baptised at or about the time of the marriage. A Christian girl is sometimes married to a heathen Paraiyan. Mr. Clayton thinks that the fact that certain Paraiyans paint the nāmam of Vishnu on their foreheads, while others smear their foreheads with the ashes of Siva, prevents marriages between them.
The bridegroom must be older than the bride. Subject to this condition, it is usual for a youth to marry his father's sister's daughter, or his mother's brother's daughter. A girl should be married to her mother's brother's son if he is old enough, but not, as among the Konga Vellālas and some Reddis, if he is a child. In short, Paraiyans follow the usual Tamil custom, but it is often neglected.
Marriage contracts are sometimes made by parents while the parties most concerned are still infants, often while they are still children; in the majority of cases when the girl attains the marriageable age. The bridegroom may be many years older than the bride, especially when custom, as noted above, settles who shall be his bride. The bride has absolutely no choice in the matter; but, if the bridegroom is a man of some years or position, his preferences are consulted. The elder sister should be given in marriage before her younger sisters are married. The arrangements are more or less a bargain. Presents of clothes, paltry jewels, rice, vegetables, and perhaps a few rupees, are exchanged between the families of the bride and bridegroom. The household that seeks the marriage naturally gives the larger gifts. The actual marriage ceremony is very simple. The essential part is the tying of a small token or ornament (tāli), varying in value from a few annas to four or five rupees by a turmeric-stained string, round the neck of the bride. This is done by the bridegroom in the presence of a Valluvan, who mutters some kind of blessing on the marriage. A series of feasts, lasting over two or three days, is given to all the relatives of both parties by the parents of the newly-married couple. The bride and bridegroom do not live together immediately, even if the girl is old enough. The exact date at which their life together may begin is settled by the bride's mother. The occasion, called soppana muhurtham, is celebrated by another feast and much merry-making, not always seemly.The following detailed account of the marriage ceremonies among the Tangalān Paraiyans was furnished by Mr. K. Rangachari. The parents or near relations of the contracting parties meet, and talk over the match. If an agreement is arrived at, an adjournment is made to the nearest liquor shop, and a day fixed for the formal exchange of betel leaves, which is the sign of a binding engagement. A Paraiyan, when he goes to seek the hand of a girl in marriage, will not eat at her house if her family refuse to consider the alliance, to which the consent of the girl's maternal uncle is essential. The Paraiyan is particular in the observation of omens, and, if a cat or a valiyan (a bird) crosses his path when he sets out in quest of a bride, he will give her up. The betrothal ceremony, or pariyam, is binding as long as the contracting couple are alive. They may live together as man and wife without performing the marriage ceremony, and children born to them are considered as legitimate. But, when their offspring marry, the parents must first go through the marriage rites, and the children are then married in the same pandal on the same day. At the betrothal ceremony, the headman, father, maternal uncle, and two near relations of the bridegroom-elect, proceed to the girl's house, where they are received, and sit on seats or mats. Drink and plantain fruits are offered to them. Some conversation takes place between the headmen of the two parties, such as "Have you seen the girl? Have you seen her house and relations? Are you disposed to recommend and arrange the match?" If he assents, the girl's headman says "As long as stones and the Kāveri river exist, so that the sky goddess Akāsavāni and the earth goddess Bhūmadēvi may know it; so that the water-pot (used at the marriage ceremony), and the sun and moon may know it; so that this assembly may know it; I . . . . give this girl." The headman of the bridegroom then says "The girl shall be received into the house by marriage. These thirty-six pieces of gold are yours, and the girl is mine." He then hands betel leaves and areca nuts to the other headman, who returns them. The exchange of betel is carried out three times. Near the headmen is placed a tray containing betel nuts, a rupee, a turmeric-dyed cloth in which a fanam (2½ annas) is tied, a cocoanut, flowers, and the bride's money varying in amount from seven to twenty rupees. The fanam and bride's money are handed to the headman of the girl, and the rupee is divided between the two headmen. On the betrothal day, the relations of the girl offer flowers, cocoanuts, etc., to their ancestors, who are supposed to be without food or drink. The Paraiyans believe that the ancestors will be ill-disposed towards them, if they are not propitiated with offerings of rice and other things. For the purpose of worship, the ancestors are represented by a number of cloths kept in a box made of bamboo or other material, to which
to pay a return visit, and the party should include at least seven men. Betel is again exchanged, and the guests are fed, or presented with a small gift of money. When marriage follows close on betrothal, the girl is taken to the houses of her relations, and goes through the nalugu ceremony, which consists of smearing her with turmeric paste, an oil bath, and presentation of betel and sweets. The auspicious day and hour for the marriage are fixed by the Valluvan, or priest of the Paraiyans. The ceremonial is generally carried through in a single day. On the morning of the wedding day, three male and two married female relations of the bridegroom go to the potter's house to fetch the pots, which have been already ordered. The potter's fee is a fowl, pumpkin, paddy, betel, and a few annas. The bride, accompanied by the headman and her relations, goes to the bridegroom's village, bringing with her a number of articles called petti varisai or box presents. These consist of a lamp, cup, brass vessel, ear-ornament called kalāppu, twenty-five betel leaves and areca nuts, onions, and cakes, a lump of jaggery (crude sugar), grass mat, silver toe-ring, rice, a bundle of betel leaves and five cocoanuts, which are placed inside a bamboo box. The next item in the proceedings is the erection of the milk-post, which is made of a pestle of tamarind or Soymida febrifuga wood, or a green bamboo. To the post leafy twigs of the mango or pipal (Ficus religiosa) are tied. In some places, a pole of the Odina Wodier tree is said to be set up, and afterwards planted near the house, to see if it will grow. Near the marriage dais a pit is dug, into which are thrown nine kinds of grain, and milk is poured. The milk-post is supported on a grindstone painted with turmeric stripes, washed with milk and cow's urine, and worshipped, with the Valluvan as the celebrant priest. The post is then set up in the pit by three men and two women. A string with a bit of turmeric (kankanam) is tied to the milk-post, and to it and the dais boiled rice is offered. Kankanams are also tied round the wrists of the bride and bridegroom. The bridegroom's party go to the temple or house where the bride is awaiting them, bringing with them a brass lamp, vessel and cup, castor and gingelly oil, combs, confectionery, turmeric, and betel leaves. The procession is headed by Paraiyans beating tom-toms, and blowing on trumpets. When their destination is reached, all take their seats on mats, and the various articles which they have brought are handed over to the headman, who returns them. The bride is then taken in procession to the marriage house, which she is the first to enter. She is then told to touch with her right hand some paddy, salt, and rice, placed in three pots inside the house. Touching them with the left hand would be an evil omen, and every mishap which might occur in the family would be traced to the new daughter-in-law. The bride and bridegroom next go through the nalugu ceremony, and some of the relations proceed with the ceremony of bringing sand (manal vāri sadangu). A cousin of the bridegroom and his wife take three pots called sāl karagam and kūresāl, and repair to a river, tank (pond) or well, accompanied by a few men and women. The pots are set on the ground, and close to them are placed a lamp, and a leaf with cakes, betel leaves and nuts set on it. Pūja (worship) is made to the pots by burning camphor and breaking cocoanuts. The Vettiyan then says "The sun, the moon, the pots, and the owner of the girl have come to the pandal. So make haste and fill the pot with water." The woman dips a small pot in water, and, after putting some sand or mud into a big pot, pours the water therein. The pots are then again worshipped. After the performance of the nalugu, the bridal couple go through a ceremony for removing the evil eye, called "sige kazhippu." A leaf of Ficus religiosa, with its tail downwards, is held over their foreheads, and all the close relations pour water over it, so that it trickles over their faces; or seven cakes are placed by each of the relations on the head, shoulders, knees, feet, and other parts of the body of the bridegroom. The cakes are subsequently given to a washerman. The parents of the bridal couple, accompanied by some of their relations, next proceed to an open field, taking with them the cloths, tāli, jewels, and other things which have been purchased for the wedding. A cloth is laid on the ground, and on it seven leaves are placed, and cooked rice, vegetables, etc., heaped up thereon. Pūja is done, and a goat is sacrificed to the ancestors (Tangalanmar). By some the offerings are made to the village goddess Pidāri, instead of to the ancestors. Meanwhile the bridegroom has been taken in procession round the village on horseback, and the headmen have been exchanging betel in the pandal. On the bridegroom's return, he and the bride seat themselves on planks placed on the dais, and are garlanded by their maternal uncle with wreaths of Nerium odorum flowers. The maternal uncle of the bride presents her with a ring. In some places, the bride is carried to the dais on the shoulders or in the arms of the maternal uncle. While the couple are seated on the dais the Valluvan priest lights the sacred fire (hōmam), and, repeating some words in corrupt Sanskrit, pours gingelly oil into the fire. He then does pūja to the tāli, and passes it round, to be touched and blessed by those assembled. The bridegroom, taking up the tāli, shows it through a hole in the pandal to the sky or sun, and, on receipt of permission from those present, ties it round the neck of the bride. Thin plates of gold or silver, called pattam, are then tied on the foreheads of the contracting couple, first by the mother-in-law and sister-in-law. With Brāhman and non- Brāhman castes it is customary for the bride and bridegroom to fast until the tāli has been tied. With Paraiyans, on the contrary, the rite is performed after a good meal. Towards the close of the marriage day, fruit, flowers, and betel are placed on a tray before the couple, and all the kankanams, seven in number, are removed, and put on the tray. After burning camphor, the bridegroom hands the tray to his wife, and it is exchanged between them three times. It is then given to the washerman. The proceedings terminate by the two going with linked hands three times round the pandal. On the following day, the bride's relatives purchase some good curds, a number of plantains, sugar and pepper, which are mixed together. All assemble at the pandal, and some of the mixture is given to the headman, the newly married couple, and all who are present. All the articles which constitute the bride's dowry are then placed in the pandal, and examined by the headman. If they are found to be correct, he proclaims the union of the couple, and more of the mixture is doled out. This ceremony is known as sambandham kūral or sambandham piriththal (proclaiming relationship). Two or three days after the marriage, the bridegroom goes to the house of the bride, and remains there for three days. He is stopped at the entrance by his brother-in-law, who washes his feet, puts rings on the second toe, and keeps on pinching his feet until he has extracted a promise that the bridegroom will give his daughter, if one is born to him, in marriage to the son of his brother-in-law. The ring is put on the foot of the bride by her maternal uncle at the time of the marriage ceremony, after the wrist threads have been removed. In some places it is done by the mother-in-law or sister-in-law, before the tāli is tied, behind a screen.
Polygamy is not common among the Paraiyans, but Mr. Clayton has known a few instances in which a Paraiyan had two regularly married wives, each wearing a tāli. But it is very common to find that a Paraiyan has, in addition to his formally married wife, another woman who occupies a recognised position in his house-hold. The first wears the tāli. The other woman does not, but is called the second wife. She cannot be dismissed without the sanction of the parachēri council. The man who maintains her is called her husband, and her children are recognised as part of his family. Mr.Clayton believes that a second wife is usually taken only when the more formally married wife has no children, or when an additional worker is wanted in the house, or to help in the daily work. Thus a horsekeeper will often have two wives, one to prepare his meals and boil the gram for the horse, the other to go out day by day to collect grass for the horse. The Tamil proverb "The experience of a man with two wives is anguish" applies to all these double unions. There are constant quarrels between the two women, and the man is generally involved, often to his own great inconvenience. It is quite common for a Paraiyan to marry his deceased wife's sister, if she is not already married.
A Paraiya woman usually goes to her mother's house a month or two before she expects the birth of her first child, which is born there. Sometimes a medicine woman (maruttuvacchi), who possesses or professes some knowledge of drugs and midwifery, is called in, if the case is a bad one. Generally her barbarous treatment is but additional torture to the patient. Immediately after the birth of the child, the mother drinks a decoction called kashāyam, in which there is much ginger. Hence the Tamil proverb "Is there any decoction without ginger in it?" About a week after the birth, the mother, as a purificatory ceremony, is rubbed with oil and bathed.
Among Sūdras there is a family ceremony, to which the Sanskrit name Simanta has been assigned, though it is not the true Simanta observed by Brāhmans. It occurs only in connection with a first pregnancy. The expectant mother stands bending over a rice mortar, and water or human milk is poured on her back by her husband's elder or younger sister. Money is also given to buy jewels for the expected child. The ceremony is of no interest to anyone outside the family. Hence the proverb "Come, ye villagers, and pour water on this woman's back." This is used when outsiders are called in to do for a member of a family what the relatives ought to do. This ceremony is sometimes observed by Paraiyans. Among Brāhmans it is believed to affect the sex of the child. It should be added that it is firmly believed that, if a woman dies during pregnancy or in childbed, her spirit becomes an exceedingly malignant ghost, and haunts the precincts of the village where she dies.
A widow does not wear the tāli, which is removed at a gathering of relatives some days after her husband's death. "The removal of the tāli of a widow," Mr.Francis writes,* "is effected in a curious manner. On the sixteenth day after the husband's death, another woman stands behind the widow, who stoops forward, and unties the tāli in such a way that it falls into a vessel of milk placed to receive it. Adoption ceremonies are also odd. The adoptee's feet are washed in turmeric water by the adopter, who then drinks a little of the liquid. Adoption is accordingly known as manjanir kudikkiradu, or the drinking of turmeric water, and the adopted son as the manjanīr pillai, or turmeric water boy." Paraiya women do not wear any distinctive dress when they are widows, and do not shave their heads. But they cease to paint the vermilion mark (kunkumam) on their foreheads, which married women who are living with their husbands always wear, except at times when they are considered ceremonially unclean. The widow of a Paraiyan, if not too old to bear children, generally lives with another man as his wife. Sometimes she is ceremonially married to him, and then wears the tāli. A widow practically chooses her own second husband, and is not restricted to any particular relative, such as her husband's elder or younger brother. The practice of the Levirate, by which the younger brother takes the widow of the elder, is non-existent as a custom among Paraiyas, though instances of such unions may be found. Indeed the popular opinion of the Tamil caste credits the Paraiyan with little regard for any of the restrictions of consanguinity, either prohibitive or permissive. "The palmyra palm has no shadow: the Paraiyan has no regard for seemliness" is a common Tamil proverb.
It is stated, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, that "the Paraiyans have been but little affected by Brāhmanical doctrines and customs, though in respect to ceremonies they have not escaped their influence. Paraiyans are nominally Saivites, but in reality they are demon worshippers." The Hōmakulam tank in the South Arcot district is reputed to be the place where Nanda, the Paraiyan saint, bathed before he performed sacrifice preparatory to his transfiguration to Brāhmanhood,* Brāhman influence has scarcely affected the Paraiyan at all, even in ceremonial. No Paraiyan may enter any Vaishnava or Saiva temple even of the humblest sort, though of course his offerings of money are accepted, if presented by the hands of some friendly Sūdra, even in such exclusive shrines as that of Srī Vīra Rāghava Swāmi at Tiruvallūr. It is true that Paraiyans are often termed Saivites, but there are many nominal Vaishnavas among them, who regularly wear the nāmam of Vishnu on their foreheads. The truth is that the feminine deities, commonly called dēvata, have been identified by Hindus with the feminine energy of Siva, and thus the Paraiyans who worship them have received the sectarian epithet. As a matter of fact, the wearing of the nāmam of Vishnu, or the smearing of the ashes of Siva, is of no meaning to a Paraiyan. They are neither Saivites nor Vaishnavites.Like all other Dravidians, the Paraiyans acknowledge the existence of a supreme, omnipresent, personal spiritual Being, the source of all, whom they call Kadavul (He who is). Kadavul possesses no temples, and is not worshipped, but he is the highest conception of Paraiya thought. Paraiyans worship at least three classes of godlings or devata, generally called the mothers (ammā). Sometimes they are worshipped as the virgins (Kanniyammā) or the seven virgins. These mothers may be worshipped collectively in a group. They are then symbolised by seven stones or bricks, perhaps within a little enclosure, or on a little platform
the boundaries of the chēri or grāmam where her temple lies, sometimes of both grāmam and chēri. She is believed to protect its inhabitants and its livestock from disease, disaster and famine, to promote the fecundity of cattle and goats, and to give children. In a word, she is called the benefactress of the place, and of all in it who worship her. The following are a few of the names of these village tutelary deities: —
- Ellammā, goddess of the boundary, worshipped by Tamil and Telugu Paraiyans.
- Mūngilammā, bamboo goddess.
- Padeiyattāl or padeiyācchi.
- Parrapotammā,a Telugu goddess supposed to cure cattle diseases.
- pīdarīyammā, sometimes called Ellei Pidāri.
The symbol of the goddess may be a conical stone, or a carved idol. Occasionally a rude figure of the bull Nandi, and an iron trident mark the shrine. A lamp is often lighted before it at night.
The ceremonial of worship of all classes of dēvata is very simple. The worshipper prostrates himself before the symbol of the deity, whether one stone, seven stones, or an image. He anoints it with oil, smears it with saffron, daubs it with vermilion, garlands it with flowers (Nerium odorum by preference), burns a bit of camphor, and circumambulates the shrine, keeping his right side towards it. On special occasions he breaks cocoanuts, kills fowls, goats or sheep, of which the two last must be killed at one blow, pours out their blood, perhaps offers a little money, and goes his way, satisfied that he has done his best to propitiate the dēvata whom he has honoured.
Special shrines attain very great fame. Thus the goddess Bāvaniyammāl of Periyapālayam, some sixteen miles from Madras, is well known, and crowds come to her annual festival. Paraiyans, Pallis, and Chakkilians form the majority of the worshippers, but of late years Sūdras and even Brāhmans are to be found at her shrine. The homage rendered to her is twofold. Her worshippers sacrifice some thousands of sheep on the river bank outside her temple, and, entirely divesting themselves of their garments, and covering themselves with bunches of margosa leaves, go round the temple. Except on the five Sundays, usually in July and August, on which the festival is held, the shrine is forsaken, and the goddess is said to be a vegetarian; but on the five festival Sundays she is said to be as greedy for flesh as a leather-dresser's (Chakkiliyan) wife.
Two goddesses hold a position distinct from the mothers as a group, or as tutelary goddesses. These are Gangammāl and Māriyattāl, and their peculiarity is that they are itinerant deities. Gangammāl is often described as the goddess of cholera, and Māriyattāl, as the goddess of small-pox, though both diseases are frequently ascribed to the latter. Māriyattāl is worshipped under the names of Poleramma and Ammavāru by Telugus. For instance, near Arcotkuppam in the North Arcot district, a festival is held in honour of Gangammāl in the Tamil month Vaikasi (May-June), in which Sūdras join. The main feature of the festival is the boiling of new rice as at Pongal. Men also put on women's clothes, and perform grotesque dances. In the same way, in the ten days' festival in honour of Māriyattāl held at Uttaramallūr during the Tamil month Avani (August), the goddess is carried about by washermen (Vannān), who perform a kind of pantomime (vilas) in her honour. There is a curious belief that these goddesses (or Gangammāl, if they are distinguished) must travel along roads and paths, and cannot go across country, and that they cannot pass over the leaves of the margosa or the stems of the plant called in Tamil perandei (Vitis quadrangularis). Consequently, when cholera is about, and the goddess is supposed to be travelling from village to village seeking victims, branches of margosa and long strings of perandei are placed on all the paths leading into the grāmam or chēri. Sometimes, also, leaves of the margosa are strung together, and hung across the village street. These are called toranam.
Besides the deities already referred to, there are a number of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins (pey or pisāsu), whom Paraiyans propitiate. Mathureivīran and Vīrabadran are, for example, two well-known demons.
Among Tamil Paraiyans there are families in almost every village, who hold a kind of sacerdotal rank in the esteem of their fellows. They are called Valluvans, Valluva Pandārams, or Valluva Paraiyans. Their position and authority depend largely on their own astuteness. Sometimes they are respected even by Brāhmans for their powers as exorcists. It is often impossible to see any difference between the Valluvans and the ordinary Paraiyans, except that their houses are usually a little apart from other houses in the chēri. They take a leading part in local Paraiya festivals. At marriages they pronounce the blessing when the tāli is tied round the bride's neck.
In cases of supposed possession by demons, or by the mothers, the Valluvan is consulted as to the meaning of the portent, and takes part in driving the spirit out of the victim, sometimes using violence and blows to compel the spirit to deliver its message and be gone. The Census Report, 1901, states that Valluvans do not eat or intermarry with other sections of the Paraiyans. Mr.Clayton is unable to confirm this, and is inclined to doubt whether it is generally true.
The dead are buried as a rule, but sometimes the corpses are burnt. A portion of the village waste land is allotted for the purpose. Only Paraiyans are buried in it. The funeral rites are very simple. The corpse is carried on a temporary litter of palm leaf mats and bamboos, wrapped in a cotton cloth, which is a new one if it can be afforded, and interred or burnt. About the third or fifth day after death, the pāl sadangu, or milk ceremony, should take place, when some milk is poured out by the next-of-kin as an offering to the spirit of the deceased. This spirit is then supposed to assume a sort of corporeity, and to depart to the place of respite till fate decrees that it be re-born. This ceremony is accompanied by a family feast. On the fifteenth day after death, another family gathering is held, and food is offered to the spirit of the dead person. This ceremony is called Karumāntaram, or expiatory ceremony. Occasionally, for some months after the death, a few flowers are placed on the grave, and a cocoanut is broken over it; and some attempt is even made to recognise the anniversary of the date. But there is no regular custom and it is probably an imitation of Brāhmanical usages. The ordinary Paraiyan's conception of life after death is merely a vague belief that the departed soul continues its existence somewhere. He has no ordered eschatology. If a first-born male child dies, it is buried close to or even within the house, so that its corpse may not be carried off by a witch or sorcerer, to be used in magic rites, as the body of a first-born child is supposed to possess special virtues. It is noted by Mr. H. A. Stuart * that "the Tangalāns profess to have once been a very respectable class, and wear the sacred thread at weddings and funerals, while the other divisions never assume it."
The following note on the death ceremonies of the Paraiyans at Coimbatore was supplied by Mr. V. Govindan. If the deceased was a married man, the corpse is placed in a sitting posture in a booth made of twigs of margosa and milk-hedge (Euphorbia Tirucalli), and supported behind by a mortar. The widow puts on all her ornaments, and decorates her hair with flowers. She seats herself on the left side of the corpse, in the hands of which some paddy (unhusked rice) or salt is placed. Taking hold of its hands, some one pours the contents thereof into the hands of the widow, who replaces them in those of the corpse. This is done thrice, and the widow then ties the rice in her cloth. On the way to the burial ground (sudukadu), the son carries a new pot, the barber a pot of cooked rice and brinjal (Solanum Melongena) fruits and other things required for doing pūja. The Paraiyan in charge of the burial ground carries a fire-brand. The mats and other articles used by the deceased, and the materials of which the booth was made, are carried in front by the washerman, who deposits them at a spot between the house of the deceased and the burial ground called the idukādu, which is made to represent the shrine of Arichandra. Arichandra was a king, who became a slave of the Paraiyans, and is in charge of the burial ground. At the idukādu the corpse is placed on the ground, and the son, going thrice round it, breaks the pot of rice near its head. The barber makes a mark at the four corners of the bier, and the son places a quarter anna on three of the marks, and some cowdung on the mark at the north-east corner. The widow seats herself at the feet of the corpse, and another widowed woman breaks her tāli string, and throws it on the corpse. Arrived at the grave, the gurukal (priest) descends into it, does pūja and applies vibhūti (sacred ashes) to its sides. The body is lowered into it, and half a yard of cloth from the winding-sheet is given to the Paraiyan, and a quarter of a yard to an Āndi (religious mendicant). The grave is filled in up to the neck of the corpse, and bael (Ǽgle Marmelos) leaves, salt, and vibhūti are placed on its head by the gurukal. The grave is then filled in, and a stone and thorny branch placed at the head end. As the son goes, carrying the water-pot, three times round the grave, the barber makes a hole in the pot, which is thrown on the stone. The son and other relations bathe and return to the house, where a vessel containing milk is set on a mortar, and another containing water placed at the door. They dip twigs of the pīpal (Ficus religiosa) into the milk, and throw them on the roof. They also worship a lighted lamp. On the third day, cooked rice, and other food for which the deceased had a special liking, are taken to the grave, and placed on plantain leaves. Pūja is done, and the crows are attracted to the spot. If they do not turn up, the gurukal prays, and throws up water three times. On the seventeenth day, the son and others, accompanied by the gurukal, carry a new brick and articles required for pūja to the river. The brick is placed under water, and the son bathes. The articles for pūja are spread on a plantain leaf, before which the son places the brick. Pūja is done to it, and a piece of new cloth tied on it. It is then again carried to the water, and immersed therein. The ceremonial concludes with the lighting of the sacred fire (hōmam).
The death ceremonies of the Paraiyan, as carried out in the Chingleput district, are thus described by Mr. K. Rangachari. The corpse is washed, dressed, and carried on a bier to the burning or burial ground. Just before it is placed on the bier, all the relations, who are under pollution, go round it three times, carrying an iron measure round which straw has been wrapped, and containing a light. On the way to the burial ground, the son or grandson scatters paddy, which has been fried by the agnates. A pot of fire is carried by the vettiyan. At a certain spot the bier is placed on the ground, and the son goes round it, carrying a pot of cooked rice, which he breaks near the head of the corpse. This rice should not be touched by man or beast, and it is generally buried. When the corpse has been placed on the pyre, or laid in the grave, rice is thrown over it by the relations. The son, carrying a pot of water, goes thrice round it, and asks those assembled if he may finish the ceremony. On receiving their assent, he again goes three times round the corpse, and, making three holes in the pot, throws it down, and goes home without looking back. If the dead person is unmarried, a mock marriage ceremony, called kanni kaziththal (removing bachelorhood), is performed before the corpse is laid on the bier. A garland of arka (Calotropis gigantea) flowers and leaves is placed round its neck, and balls of mud from a gutter are laid on the head, knees, and other parts of the body. In some places a variant of the ceremony consists in the erection of a mimic marriage booth which is covered with leaves of the arka plant, flowers of which are placed round the neck as a garland. On the third day after death, cooked rice, milk, fruits, etc., are offered to the soul of the departed on two leaves placed one near the head, the other near the feet of the corpse. Of these, the former is taken by men, and the latter by women, and eaten. The karmānthiram, or final ceremony, takes place on the twelfth or sixteenth day. All concerned in it proceed to a tank with cooked rice, cakes, etc. A figure of Ganēsa (Pillayar) is made with mud, and five kalasam (vessels) are placed near it. The various articles which have been brought are set out in front of it. Two bricks, on which the figures of a man and woman are drawn, are given to the son, who washes them, and does pūja to them after an effigy has been made at the waterside by a washerman. He then says "I gave calves and money. Enter Kailāsam (the abode of Siva). Find your way to paralōkam (the other world). I gave you milk and fruit. Go to the world of the dead. I gave gingelly (Sesamum) and milk. Enter yamalōkam (abode of the god of death). Eleven descendants on the mother's side and ten on the father's, twenty-one in all, may they all enter heaven." He then puts the bricks into the water. On their return home, the sons of the deceased are presented with new clothes.It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore district, that, when a man dies, camphor is not burnt in the house, but at the junction of three lanes. Some Paraiyans, on the occurrence of a death in a family, put a pot filled with dung or water, a broomstick and a fire-brand at some place where three roads meet, or in front of the house, in order to prevent the ghost from returning. An impression of the dead man's palm is taken in
water are placed outside the door, and the heir sits on these, chews a piece of fish, spits thrice, and then goes and worships a light burning in the house.
Tattooing is practiced on women and children of both sexes, but not on grown men. With children it is confined to a simple line drawn down the forehead. Among Paraiyans who have become Roman Catholics, the device is sometimes a cross. Women, like those of other Tamil castes, frequently have their arms elaborately tattooed, and sometimes have a small pattern between the breasts. A legend runs to the effect that, many years ago, a Paraiyan woman wished her upper arms and chest to be tattooed in the form of a bodice. The operation was successfully carried out till the region of the heart was reached, and then a vulnerable part was punctured by the needles, with the result that the woman died. Whence has arisen a superstitious objection to tattooing of the breasts.
Sometimes an arei-mūdi, shaped like the leaf of the pūvarasa tree (Thespesia populnea), made of silver or silvered brass, is tied round the waist of female infants as an ornament. Small, flat plates of copper, called takudu, are frequently worn by children. One side is divided into sixteen squares, in which, what look like the Telugu numerals nine, ten, eleven and twelve are engraved. On the other side a circle is drawn, which is divided into eight segments, in each of which a Telugu letter is inscribed. This charm is supposed to protect the wearer from harm coming from any of the eight cardinal points of the Indian compass. Charms, in the form of metal cylinders, are worn for the same purpose by adults and children, and procured from some exorcist. Similar or the same charms are worn to avoid the baneful influence of the evil eye. To prevent this from affecting their crops, Paraiyans put up scarecrows in their fields. These are usually small broken earthen pots, whitewashed or covered with spots of whitewash, or even adorned with huge clay noses and ears, and made into grotesque faces. They are set up on the end of poles, to attract the eye of the passer-by from the crop. For the same reason more elaborate figures, made of mud and twigs, in human shape, are sometimes set up. Before wells are sunk, a charmer (mantirakkāran) is called in to recite spells and find a likely spot, cocoanuts are broken, and the milk thereof poured out to propitiate the gods of the place.
The Paraiyans are very largely employed as domestic servants by Europeans. And it has been said that "so necessary to the comfort of the public is the Paraiya that orthodox Brāhman gentlemen may be seen employing Paraiya coachmen and syces (footmen). The Christian Paraiya has become 'Native Christian' caste, and has achieved, among other things, University honours, the wearing of the surplice, and the rod of the pedagogue." * Vast numbers of Paraiyans are agricultural labourers. Till a score or so of years ago some were actually bond serfs, and there are instances on record in quite recent years, which show that it was no infrequent thing for a Paraiyan to mortgage his son as security for the repayment of a loan. Some Paraiya families own much land. It is noted by Mr. Francis* that in the South Arcot district, "their numbers, and the comparative wealth which ground-nut (Arachis hypogœa) cultivation has brought them, have caused them to take a rather better social position here than elsewhere, and they are actually beginning to copy the social ways of the higher castes, sometimes burning their dead (though those who have died of cholera or small-pox are still always buried), marrying their children when infants, and looking with disfavour on the remarriage of widows."
Current Tamil speech and custom divide the landless labouring Paraiyans into padiyāl and kūliyāl. The padiyāl is definitely and hereditarily attached to some land-holding family in the Hindu grāma. He can work for no one else, and cannot change masters. His privilege is that in times of drought and famine his master must support him. The kūliyāl is a mere day labourer, only employed, and therefore only receiving pay (kūli) when required. He has no claim for maintenance in seasons of scarcity, and, though no man's serf, is worse off than the padiyāl.
Three communal servants, the grave-digger (Vettīyān), watchman (Talaiyāri), and scavenger (Tōti) are all Paraiyans. The Vettiyān officiates when a corpse is buried or burned. Hence the proverb against meddling in what ought to be left to some one else: — "Let the Vettiyān and the corpse struggle together." The Rev.H. Jensen notes † in connection with this proverb that "when fire is applied to the pyre at the burning-ground, it sometimes happens that the muscles of the corpse contract in such a fashion that the body moves, and the grave-digger has to beat it down into the fire. It looks as if the two were engaged in a struggle. But no one else should interfere. The grave-digger knows his own work best."
It is noted by Mr. H. A. Stuart* that "among the lower class of Vellām Paraiyans, who are the village tōtis, the following legend is current, accounting for the perquisites which they get for performing the menial work of the village. When Adi Sēsha was supporting the earth, he became weary, and prayed to Siva for assistance. Siva ordered a Paraiyan to beat upon his drum, and cry 'Let the ripe decay.' The Paraiyan enquired what should be his reward, and was granted the following privileges, viz., mankūli (reward for burning corpses), sān tuni (a span cloth), vāykkarisi (the rice in the corpse's mouth), pinda sōru (morsel of boiled rice), and sūttu kūli (fee for bringing firewood). This seemed to the Paraiya very little, and so, to increase the death-rate and consequently his perquisites, he cried 'Let the ripe and the unripe decay.' The swāmi (god) remonstrated with him, for the result of his cry was that children and the middle-aged among men died. The man pleaded poverty, and was given four additional privileges, viz., a merkal to measure grain, a rod to measure the ground, a scythe to cut grass, and the privilege of carrying the karagam-pot when annually running over the village boundary. All the above privileges still belong to the village vettis, who receive fees for performing the duties referred to in the legend."
Some Paraiyans eat carrion, and Mr. Clayton has known them dig up a buffalo which had been buried some hours, and eat its flesh. It is said that even the lowest Paraiyans will not eat the flesh of cows, but leave that to the leather-dressers (Chakkiliyans). Mr. Stuart, however, states * that "the Konga Paraiyans and the Vellām Paraiyans, who do scavenging work, will eat cows that have died a natural death, while Tangalāns only eat such as have been slaughtered. "In time of famine, the Paraiyans dig into ant-hills to rob the ants of their store of grass seed. This is called pillarisi or grass rice.
There are many proverbs in Tamil, which refer to Paraiyans, from which the following are selected: —
- (1) If a Paraiyan boils rice, will it not reach God? i.e., God will notice all piety, even that of a Paraiyan.
- (2) When a Paraiya woman eats betel, her ten fingers (will be daubed with) lime. The Paraiya woman is a proverbial slut.
- (3) Though a Paraiya woman's child be put to school, it will still say Ayyē. Ayyē is vulgar Tamil for Aiyar, meaning Sir.
- (4) The palmyra palm has no shadow; the Paraiyan has no decency. A contemptuous reference to Paraiya morality.
- (5) The gourd flower and the Paraiyan's song have no savour. Paraiyans use this saying about their own singing.
- (6) Though seventy years of age, a Paraiyan will only do what he is compelled.
- (7) You may believe a Paraiyan, even in ten ways; you cannot believe a Brāhman. Almost the only saying in favour of the Paraiyan.
- (8) Is the sepoy who massacred a thousand horse now living in disgrace with the dogs of the parachēri?
- (9) Paraiyan's talk is half-talk. A reference to Paraiya vulgarisms of speech.
- (10) Like Paraiya and Brāhman, i.e., as different as possible.
- (11) Not even a Paraiyan will plough on a full moon day.
- (12) Parachēri manure gives a better yield than any other manure.
- (13) The drum is beaten at weddings, and also at funerals. Said, according to the Rev. H. Jensen, of a double-dealing unreliable person, who is as ready for good as for evil.
- (14) The harvest of the Paraiya never comes home.
The term Paraiya, it may be noted, is applied to the common dog of Indian towns and villages, and to the scavenger kite, Milvus Govinda.
The Paraiyans are included by Mr. F. S. Mullaly in his 'Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency.' "The local criminals," he writes, "throughout the Presidency in all villages are the Paraiyas, and, though they cannot be considered de facto a criminal tribe, yet a very large proportion of the criminals of the Presidency are of this caste, notable among them being the Vēpūr Paraiyas of South Arcot." For an account of these Vēpūr Paraiyas and their methods I must refer the reader to Mr. Mullaly's description thereof. Concerning these criminal Paraiyans, Mr. Francis writes as follows.*"There is one branch of them in Suttukulam, a hamlet of cuddalore. They are often known as the Tiruttu (thieving) Paraiyans. The crimes to which they are most addicted are house-breaking and the theft of cattle, sheep and goats, and the difficulty of bringing them to book is increased by the organised manner in which they carry on their depredations. They are, for example, commonly in league with the very heads of villages, who ought to be doing their utmost to secure their arrest, and they have useful allies in some of the Udaiyans of these parts. It is commonly declared that their relations are sometimes of a closer nature, and that the wives of Vēpur Paraiyans who are in enforced retirement are cared for by the Udaiyans. To this is popularly attributed the undoubted fact that these Paraiyans are often much fairer in complexion than other members of that caste." It is said to be traditional among the Vēpur Paraiyans that the tālis (marriage badges) of Hindu women and lamps should not be stolen from a house, and that personal violence should not be resorted to, except when unavoidably necessary for the purpose of escape or self-defence.
In a kindly note on the Paraiya classes, Surgeon-Major W. R. Cornish sums them up as follows.* "A laborious, frugal, and pleasure-loving people, they are the very life-blood of the country, in whatever field of labour they engage in. The British administration has freed them, as a community, from the yoke of hereditary slavery, and from the legal disabilities under which they suffered; but they still remain in the lowest depths of social degradation. The Christian missionaries, to their undying honour be it said, have, as a rule, persevered in breaking through the time-honoured custom of treating the Paraiya as dirt, and have admitted him to equal rights and privileges in their schools and churches, and, whatever may be the present position of the Paraiya community in regard to education, intelligence, and ability to hold a place for themselves, they owe it almost wholly to the Christian men and women who have given up their lives to win souls for their great Master." Paraiyans of Malabar, Cochin and TravanCOre.— For the following note on the Paraiyans or Paraiyas of Cochin I am indebted to Mr. L. K. Anantha Krishna Aiyar.* Paraiyas belong to a very low caste of the agrestic serfs of Cochin, next to Pulayas in order of social precedence. They will eat at the hands of all castes, save Ullādans, Nāyādis, and Pulayas. But orthodox Pulayas have to bathe five times, and let blood flow, in order to be purified from pollution if they touch a Paraiya. In rural parts, a Paraiya's hut may be seen far away on the hill-side. At the approach of a member of some higher caste, the inmates run away to the forest. They cannot walk along the public roads, or in the vicinity of houses occupied by the higher castes. It is said that they at times steal the children of Nāyars, and hide them in the forest, to bring them up as their own. They are extremely filthy in person and habits. They very rarely bathe, or wash their bodies, and a cloth, purchased at harvest time, is worn till it falls to pieces. They will eat the flesh of cattle, and are on this account despised even by the Pulayas. They are their own barbers and washermen.
A legend runs to the effect that Vararuchi, the famous astrologer, and son of a Brāhman named Chandragupta and his Brāhman wife, became the King of Avanthi, and ruled till Vikramāditya, the son of Chandragupta by his Kshatriya wife, came of age, when he abdicated in his favour. Once, when he was resting under an ashwastha tree (Ficus religiosa), invoking the support of the deity living therein, he overheard the conversation of two Gandarvas on the tree, to the effect that he would marry a Paraiya girl. This he prevented by requesting the king to have her enclosed in a box, and floated down a river with a nail stuck into her head. The box was taken possession of by a Brāhman, who was bathing lower down, and, on opening it, he found a beautiful girl, whom he considered to be a divine gift, and regarded as his own daughter. One day the Brāhman, seeing Vararuchi passing by, invited him to mess with him, and his invitation was accepted on condition that he would prepare eighteen curries, and give him what remained after feeding a hundred Brāhmans. The Brāhman was puzzled, but the maiden, taking a long leaf, placed thereon a preparation of ginger corresponding to eighteen curries, and with it some boiled rice used as an offering at the Vaiswadeva ceremony, as the equivalent of the food for Brāhmans. Knowing this to be the work of the maiden, Vararuchi desired to marry her, and his wish was acceded to by the Brāhman. One day, while conversing with his wife about their past lives, he chanced to see a nail stuck in her head, and he knew her to be the girl whom he had caused to be floated down the stream. He accordingly resolved to go on a pilgrimage with his wife, bathing in rivers, and worshipping at temples. At last they came to Kērala, where the woman bore him twelve sons, all of whom, except one, were taken care of by members of different castes. They were all remarkable for their wisdom, and believed to be the avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, gifted with the power of performing miracles. One of them was Pakkanar, the great Malayālam bard. Once, it is said, when some Brāhmans resolved to go to Benares, Pakkanar tried to dissuade them from so doing by telling them that the journey to the sacred city would not be productive of salvation. To prove the fruitlessness of their journey, he plucked a lotus flower from a stagnant pool, and gave it to them with instructions to deliver it to a hand which would rise from the Ganges, when they were to say that it was a present for the goddess Ganga from Pakkanar. They did as directed, and returned with news of the miracle. Pakkanar then led them to the stagnant pool, and said "Please return the lotus flower, Oh! Ganga," when it appeared in his hand. Pakkanar is said to have earned his living by the sale of the wicker-work, which he made. One day he could not sell his baskets, and he had to go starving. A neighbour, however, gave him some milk, which Pakkanar accepted, and told the donor to think of him if ever he was in danger. The neighbour had a married daughter living with him, who, some time after, was dying of snake-bite. But her father remembered the words of Pakkanar, who came to the rescue, and cured her. One of Pakkanar's brothers was named Narayana Branthan, who pretended to be a lunatic, and whose special delight was in rolling huge stones up a hill, for the pleasure of seeing them roll down. Though the son of a Brāhman, he mixed freely with members of all castes, and had no scruple about dining with them. A Nambūtiri Brāhman once asked him to choose an auspicious day for the performance of his son's upanayanam (thread ceremony). He selected a most inauspicious day and hour, when the boy's family assembled and asked Narayana whether the rite should be celebrated. He told the father to look at the sky, which became brilliantly illuminated, and a Brāhman was seen changing his sacred thread. The omen being considered favourable, the investiture ceremony was proceeded with.
The Paraiyas of Malabar and Cochin are celebrated for their knowledge of black magic, and are consulted in matters relating to theft, demoniacal influence, and the killing of enemies. Whenever anything is stolen, the Paraiya magician is consulted. Giving hopes of the recovery of the stolen article, he receives from his client some paddy (rice) and a few panams (money), with which he purchases plantain fruits, a cocoanut or two, toddy, camphor, frankincense, and rice flour. After bathing, he offers these to his favourite deity Parakutti, who is represented by a stone placed in front of his hut. Rattling an iron instrument, and singing till his voice almost fails, he invokes the god. If the lost property does not turn up, he resorts to a more indignant and abusive form of invocation. If the thief has to be caught, his prayers are redoubled, and he becomes possessed, and blood passes out of his nose and mouth. When a person is ill, or under the influence of a demon, an astrologer and a magician named by the former are consulted. The magician, taking a cadjan (palm) leaf or copper or silver sheet, draws thereon cabalistic figures, and utters a mantram (prayer). Rolling up the leaf or sheet, he ties it to a thread, and it is worn round the neck in the case of a woman, and round the loins in the case of a man. Sometimes the magician, taking a thread, makes several knots in it, while reciting a mantram. The thread is worn round the neck or wrist. Or ashes are thrown over a sick person, and rubbed over the forehead and breast, while a mantram is repeated. Of mantrams, the following may be cited as examples. "Salutation to god with a thousand locks of matted hair, a thousand hands filling the three worlds and overflowing the same. Oh! Goddess mother, out of the supreme soul, descend. Oh! Sundara Yaksha (handsome she-devil), Swaha (an efficacious word)." "Salutation to god. He bears a lion on his head, or is in the form of a lion in the upper part of his body. In the mooladhara sits Garuda, the lord of birds, enemy of serpents, and vāhana (vehicle) of Vishnu. He has Lakshmana to the left, Rāma to the right, Hanumān in front, Rāvana behind, and all around, above, below, everywhere he has Srī Narayana Swaha. Mayst thou watch over or protect me."
The Paraiyans are notorious for the performance of marana kriyakal, or ceremonies for the killing of enemies. They resort to various methods, of which the following are examples: —
(1) Make an image in wax in the form of your enemy. Take it in your right hand, and your chain of beads in your left hand. Then burn the image with due rites, and it shall slay your enemy in a fortnight.
(2) Take a human bone from a burial-ground, and recite over it a thousand times the following mantra: — " Oh, swine-faced goddess! seize him, seize him as a victim. Drink his blood; eat, eat his flesh. Oh, image of imminent death! Malayala Bhagavathi." The bone, thrown into the enemy's house, will cause his ruin.
Odi or oti cult (breaking the human body) is the name given to a form of black magic practiced by the Paraiyans, who, when proficient in it, are believed to be able to render themselves invisible, or assume the form of a bull, cat, or dog. They are supposed to be able to entice pregnant women from their houses at dead of night, to destroy the foetus in the womb, and substitute other substances for it; to bring sickness and death upon people; and so to bewitch people as to transport them from one place to another. A Paraiya who wishes to practice the cult goes to a guru (preceptor), and, falling at his feet, humbly requests that he may be admitted into the mysteries of the art. The master first tries to dissuade him, but the disciple persists in the desire to learn it. He is then tried by various tests as to his fitness. He follows his master to the forests and lonely places at midnight. The master suddenly makes himself invisible, and soon appears before him in the form of a terrible bull, a ferocious dog, or an elephant, when the novice should remain calm and collected. He is also required to pass a night or two in the forest, which, according to his firm belief, is full of strange beings howling horribly. He should remain unmoved. By these and other trials, he is tested as to his fitness. Having passed through the various ordeals, the guru initiates him into the brotherhood by the performance of pūja on an auspicious day to his favourite Nīli, called also Kallatikode Nīli, through whose aid he works his black art. Flesh and liquor are consumed, and the disciple is taught how to prepare pilla thilam and angola thilam, which are the potent medicines for the working of his cult. The chief ingredient in the preparation of pilla thilam, or baby oil, is the sixth or seventh month's foetus of a primipara, who should belong to a caste other than that of the sorcerer. Having satisfied himself that the omens are favourable, he sets out at midnight for the house of the woman selected as his victim, and walks several times round it, waving a cocoanut shell containing a mixture of lime and turmeric water (gurusi), and muttering mantrams to secure the aid of the deity. He also draws yantrams (cabalistic devices) on the ground. The woman is compelled to come out of her house. Even if the door is locked, she will bang her head against it, and force it open. The sorcerer leads her to a retired spot, strips her naked, and tells her to lie flat on the ground. This she does, and a vessel made of a gourd (Lagenaria) is placed close to her vagina. The uterus then contracts, and the foetus emerges. Sometimes, it is said, the uterus is filled with some rubbish, and the woman instantly dies. Care is taken that the foetus does not touch the ground, as the potency of the drug would thereby be ruined. The foetus is cut to pieces, and smoked over a fire. It is then placed in a vessel provided with a few holes, below which is another vessel. The two are placed in a larger receptacle filled with water, which is heated over a fire. From the fœtus a liquid exudes, which is collected in the lower vessel. A human skull is then reduced to a fine powder, which is mixed with a portion of the liquid (thilam). With the mixture a mark is made on the forehead of the sorcerer, who rubs some of it over various parts of his body, and drinks a small quantity of cow-dung water. He then thinks that he can assume the form of any animal he likes, and achieve his object in view, be it murder or bodily injury. The magic oil, called angola thilam, is extracted from the angola tree (Alangium Lamarckii), which bears a very large number of fruits. One of these is believed to be endowed with life and power of motion, and to be capable of descending and returning to its original position on dark nights. Its possession can be attained by demons, or by an expert watching at the foot of the tree. When it has been secured, the extraction of the oil involves the same operations as those for extracting the pilla thilam, and they must be carried out within seven hours. A mark made on the forehead with the oil enables its wearer to achieve his desires, and to transform himself into some animal.
When a person has an enemy whom he wishes to get rid of, the Paraiya magician is consulted, and the name of the enemy given to him. Identifying his residence, the Paraiya starts off on a dark night, and anyone whom he comes across is at once dispatched with a blow. The victim comes out of his house in a state of stupefaction, and the magician puts him to death either by a blow on the head, or by suffocating him with two sticks applied to his neck. Odi cult is said to have been practiced till only a few years ago in the rural parts of the northern part of the State, and in the taluks of Palghat and Walluvanād in Malabar, and even now it has not entirely died out. But cases of extracting foetuses and putting persons to death are not heard of at the present day, owing to the fear of Government officials, landlords, and others. The story is current of a Nāyar village official, who had two fine bullocks, which a Māppila wished to purchase. The Nāyar, however, was unwilling to part with them. The Māppila accordingly engaged some men to steal the animals. Availing themselves of the absence of the Nāyar from home, the robbers went to his house, where they saw a Paraiya and his wife practicing the odi cult, and compelling a young woman to come out of the house, and lie on the ground. Catching hold of the Paraiya, the robbers tied him to a tree, and secured him. The man and his wife were beaten, and the would be robbers rewarded with a present of the bullocks.
The Paraiyans have no temples of their own, but worship Siva or Kāli. According to a legend, in Tretayūga (the second age), a Paraiya named Samvara, and his wife Pulini were living in a forest, and one day came across a Sivalinga (stone lingam) at a dilapidated temple, which they kept, and worshipped with offerings of flesh, and by smearing it with ashes from the burial ground. On a certain day, no ashes were available, and the woman offered to have her body burnt, so that the ashes thereof might be used. With much reluctance her husband sacrificed her, and performed pūja. Then he turned round to offer, as usual, the prasadam to his wife forgetting that she was dead, and he was surprised to see her standing before him, receiving his offering (prasadam), in flesh and blood. Highly pleased with their conduct, Siva appeared in person before them, and gave them absolution.
In every small village in the rural parts, is a small Bhagavati temple, to the deity of which the Paraiyas are devotedly attached, and look to it for protection in times of cholera, small-pox, or other calamities. Kodungalūr Bhagavati is their guardian deity, and they take part in the festivals (yēla) at the shrine. A few days before the festival, a piece of cloth is given to the Velichapād (oracle), who dresses himself in it, wears a piece of red cloth round his neck, a peculiar dress around his loins, and ties a few small bells (chelamba) round his legs. Accompanied by others with drums and fife and a basket, he goes to every Nāyar house daily for seven days, and receives presents of paddy, wherewith to defray the expenses of the festival. During the celebration thereof, the Velichapād and others go to a shed at a distance from the temple (kavu), some dressed up as ghosts, and dance and sing, to the accompaniment of a band, in honour of the deity.
In a note on the Paraiyans of Malabar, Mr. T. K. Gopaul Panikkar writes* that "at certain periods of the year the Paraiyas have to assume the garb of an evil deity, with large head-dresses and paintings on the body and face, and tender cocoanut leaves hanging loose around their waists, all these embellishments being of the rudest patterns. With figures such as these, terror-striking in themselves, dancing with tom-toms sounding and horns blowing, representing the various temple deities, they visit the Nair houses, professing thereby to drive off any evil deities that may be haunting their neighbourhood. After their dues have been given to them, they go their ways; and, on the last day, after finishing their house-to-house visits, they collect near their special temples to take part in the vēla tamāsha (spectacle)."
On the first of every month, a ceremony called kalasam is performed on behalf of the spirits of the departed. Fish, cooked meat, rice, parched grain, plantain fruits, cocoanuts, toddy, and other things, are placed on a leaf with a lighted lamp in front of it. A prayer is then uttered, expressing a hope that the ancestors will partake of the food which has been procured for them with much difficulty, and protect the living. One man, becoming inspired, acts the part of an oracle, and addresses those assembled.
The following story is narrated concerning the origin of the Elankunnapuzha temple on the island of Vypīn. When some Paraiyas were cutting reeds, one of them discovered a remarkable idol and fell into a trance, under the influence of which he informed the Rāja of Cochin that the idol originally belonged to the Trichendur temple in Tinnevelly, and that he must build a shrine for it. This was accordingly done, and to the Paraiyan who discovered the idol a daily allowance of rice, and a larger quantity of rice during the annual temple festival were given. In return, he had to supply cadjan (palm leaf) umbrellas used at the daily procession, and bamboo baskets required for washing the rice offered to the idol. These allowances were received by the Perum or big Paraiyan up to a recent date, even if he is not receiving them at the present day. When a Paraiyan woman is delivered, she is secluded for two weeks in a temporary hut erected at a short distance from the dwelling hut. On the tenth day, some male member of the family goes to his Brāhman or Nāyar landlord, from whom he receives some milk, which is sprinkled over the woman and her infant. She can then come to the verandah of her home, and remains there for five days, when she is purified by bathing. The temporary hut is burnt down.
The dead are buried, and the corpse, after being laid in the grave, is covered with a mat.
The Paraiyas are engaged in the manufacture of wicker baskets, bamboo mats, and cadjan umbrellas. They also take part in all kinds of agricultural work, and, when ploughing, will not use buffaloes, which are regarded as unclean beasts, the touch of which necessitates a ceremonial ablution.
Many Paraiyans become converts to Christianity, and thereby receive a rise in the social scale, and a freedom from the disabilities under which their lowly position in the social scale places them.
In 1829 several natives of Malabar were charged with having proceeded, in company with a Paraiyan, to the house of a pregnant woman, who was beaten and otherwise ill-treated, and with having taken the fœtus out of her uterus, and introduced in lieu thereof the skin of a calf and an earthen pot. The prisoners confessed before the police, but were acquitted, mainly on the ground that the earthen pot was of a size which rendered it impossible to credit its introduction during life.
In 1834 the inhabitants of several villages in Malabar attacked a village of Paraiyans on the alleged ground that deaths of people and cattle, and the protracted labour of a woman in childbed, had been caused by the practice of sorcery by the Paraiyans. They were beaten inhumanely, with their hands tied behind their backs, so that several died. The villagers were driven, bound, into a river, immersed under water so as nearly to produce suffocation, and their own children were forced to rub sand into their wounds. Their settlement was then razed to the ground and they were driven into banishment.
The following extract is taken from a note on the Paraiyans of Travancore by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. The Paraiyas may be broadly divided into two classes, viz., the Tamil-speaking Paraiyas of the east coast who are found in considerable numbers in the southern taluks, and the indigenous Paraiyas, who mostly abound in Central Travancore, avoiding the sea-coast tāluks. The latter only are considered here. The titles owned by some are Vēlan conferred upon certain families for their skill in magic; Panikkan; and Mūppan. The Paraiyas may be mainly divided into four divisions, viz., Vellam (water or jaggery?), Vēl (a lance), Natuvile (middle), and Pani (work). The last is considered to be the lowest in the social scale, and members thereof are not admitted into the houses of the other divisions. One theory of the origin of the Paraiyas is that they were formerly one with the Pulayas, from whom they separated on account of their eating beef. The Paraiyas have a dialect of their own, with which the Pulayas are not familiar, and which would seem to be worthy of study. In the Kēralolpathi, they are classed as one of the sixteen hill tribes. Concerning their origin the following tradition is current. They were originally Brāhmans, but, on certain coparceners partitioning the common inheritance, the carcase of a cow, which was one of the articles to be partitioned, was burnt as being useless. A drop of oil fell from the burning animal on to one of the parties, and he licked it up with his tongue. For this act he was cast out of society, and his descendants, under the name of Paraiyas, became cow-eaters. Pakkanar is said to have been born a Paraiyan, though subsequent tradition honours him with Brāhmanical parentage.
The houses of the Paraiyas are, like those of the Pulayas, mean thatched sheds, with a couple of cocoanut leaves often serving as the wall between one room and another. The village sites are shifted from place to place, according to the exigencies of the inhabitants thereof. The Paraiyas imbibe freely, and toddy is the drink most scrupulously prescribed for those who are under a vow. Like the Pulayas, the Paraiyas work in the rice fields and cocoanut gardens, and are employed in hill cultivation, and the manufacture of wicker baskets. The sun god is their principal deity, and in his name all solemn oaths are uttered. It is believed that the Brāhman who originally became a Paraiya cursed Brahma. To remove the evil effects of the curse, the sun gave to his descendants as objects of worship forty-eight thousand gods and eight special deities. A certain portion of the house is regarded as their own, and to them offerings of beaten rice and toddy are made on the first of every month, and, if convenient, every Tuesday and Friday. To these deities small shrines are dedicated, whereat the priests, on the 28th of Makaram (January- February), become inspired, and answer questions concerning the future put to them by the assembled Paraiyas. The priests are known as Kaikkārans, and belong ordinarily to the lowest or Pani division.
Adultery, be it said to the credit of the Paraiyas, is an offence which is severely punished. The man is fined, and the erring woman has to jump over a fire which is blazing in a deep pit. This ordeal recalls to mind the smarthavicharam of the Nambūri Brāhman. Pollution, on the occurrence of the first monthly period, lasts for seven days. The headmen and elders, called Jajamanmar and Karanavanmar, are invited to attend, and direct four women of the village to take the girl to a hut erected at a considerable distance from the house. This hut is called pachchakottilil kutiyiruttuka, or seating a person within a hut made of green leaves. On the fourth day the girl has a bath, and the Kaikkāran waves paddy and flowers in front of her. On the morning of the eighth day the shed is burnt down, and the place occupied by it cleansed with water and cow-dung. The girl bathes, and is thus rendered free from pollution. A woman, during her menses, should remain at a distance of sixty-four feet from others.
The Paraiyas observe two marriage rites, the tāli-kettu and sambandham. The former ceremony must be performed before the girl reaches puberty, and the tāli-tier is her maternal uncle's or paternal aunt's son. The Kaikkāran invites at least four headmen to be present, and they prescribe the manner in which the ceremony is to be performed. The auspicious time for the marriage celebration is fixed by a Kaniyan (astrologer), and, on the day before the wedding, the Kaikkāran invites the Paraiyas of the village to be present at the tunniruttal, or erection of the pandal (booth). All those who attend are presented with betel, tobacco, and a liberal allowance of toddy. The next item in the programme is the vachchorukkal, or placing beaten and cooked rice, flowers, toddy, and other things in the pandal, under the direction of the Kaikkāran. Some of the assembled males then sing a song called maranpattu, or song of the god of love. The bride then becomes inspired, and dances, while the sorcerer rolls out mystic hymns. On the following morning, the bridegroom goes to the home of the bride in procession, and is led to a wooden seat in the centre of the pandal, where he is joined by the bride, who seats herself on his left. He then ties the minnu (marriage badge) round her neck, and retires with her to the maniyara, or bedroom, where they remain together for some minutes. On the final day of the ceremonies, the bride is bathed.
When a Kaikkāran dies, a conch shell is buried with the corpse. Once a year, and on some new moon day, offerings are made to all the deceased ancestors.
The Paraiyas have a dramatic entertainment called Paraiyan Kali, in which the performer plays his part, standing on a mortar, to the accompaniment of music.
Paraiyas are required to keep at a distance of 128 feet from Brāhmans, i.e., double the distance required of a Pulaya. But they will not receive food at the hands of the Pulayas.
In a further note on the "Paraiya Caste in Travancore," the Rev. S. Mateer writes as follows.* "They were formerly bought and sold like cattle, starved, flogged * like buffaloes,' made to work all day for a little rice, and kept at a distance as polluted; and they still are in a position of subservience and deep degradation, not vitally differing from that of the Pulayas and Vēdars. One particular characteristic of this caste, and most offensive to others, is that they eat the flesh of bullocks and cows left dead by the roadside. They cut it up, and bear it away; what they leave the vultures and dogs devour. This disgusting practice is to a great extent disappearing among the Christian castes. The Paraiyas of Nevandrum (Trivandrum ?) district live in clusters of huts, and eat the putrid flesh of dead cattle, tigers, and other animals. Their girls are 'married' when very young for mere form to their cousins, but, when grown up, are selected by others, who give them a cloth, and live with them in concubinage. Cases of polygamy occur, and sometimes also of polyandry. They eat the seed of Ochlandra Rheedii, which abounds in an unusually dry season, as does also the bamboo. Jungle roots, land crabs, and snails form part of their food. Some of them have enough of rice at harvest time, but seldom at any other period of the year. They are zealous devil worshippers, their chief demons being Mādan (the cow one), Rathachāmandy Mallan (the giant) and Mūvaratta Mallan, Karunkāli (black kali), Chāvus (departed spirits), Bhūtham, Mantramūrtti, and other Murttis (ghosts), with many other evil beings, to whom groves and altars are dedicated. The souls of their deceased ancestors are called Maruttā (ghosts), for whose worship young cocoanut leaves are tied at the bottom of a tree, and a small shed is erected on poles, and decorated with garlands of flowers. Presents of cocoanuts, parched rice, and arrack are offered, and cocks killed in sacrifice. In the devil-dancing they use clubs and rattans, bells, handkerchiefs, and cloths dedicated to their deities. Other castes generally dread incurring the displeasure and malice of these deities. Sūdras and Shānars frequently employ the Paraiya devil-dancers and sorcerers to exorcise demons, search for and dig out magical charms buried in the earth by enemies, and counteract their enchantments; and, in cases of sickness, send for them to beat the drum, and so discover what demon has caused the affliction, and what is to be done to remove it. Sometimes a present of a cow is given for those services. These pretended sorcerers are slightly acquainted with a few medicines, profess to cure snake-bite, and can repeat some tales of the Hindu gods. They also profess to discover thieves, who sometimes indeed through fear actually take ill, confess, and restore the property. One priest whom I knew used to pretend that he had a 'bird devil' in his possession, by which he could cast out other devils. On one occasion, however, when he made the attempt in the presence of a large concourse of Sūdras and others, he utterly failed, and hurt himself severely by beating his chest with a cocoanut and leaping into the fire. He soon after resolved to abandon this course of life, and became a Christian.
"After the wife's confinement, the husband is starved for seven days, eating no cooked rice or other food, only roots and fruits, and drinking only arrack or toddy. The shed, in which she was confined, is burnt down.
"In cases of sickness, the diviner is first consulted as to its cause. He names a demon, and offerings are demanded of rice, fruits, flowers, and fowls. Being daily supplied with these articles, the diviner spreads cow-dung thinly over a small space in the yard, where he places the offerings on three plantain leaves, invokes the presence of the demons, dances and repeats mantras, looking towards the east. He catches the demon that is supposed to come in an old piece of cloth filled with flowers and parched rice, and carries both demon and offerings into the jungle, where, again preparing a spot as before, two torches are set, the food arranged, and, after further mantras, a fowl is sacrificed. He takes the whole afterwards for himself, gets a good meal, and is also paid twelve chuckrams (small silver coins) for the service.
"In cases of small-pox, one who has had this disease is called in to attend. He takes the patient to a temporary hut in a lonely place, and is well paid, and supplied with all that he requires. Through fear, none of the relatives will go near. Should the patient die, the attendant buries him on the spot, performing the ceremonies himself, then comes to the house, repeats mantras, and waves his hands round the head of each to remove further alarm. If a woman with child dies, she is buried at a great distance away. Occasionally the remains of an aged man are burnt on a funeral pile, as being more honourable than burial, and providing some merit to the soul.
"Let us pay a visit to one of the rural hamlets of the Kōlām Paraiyans, a considerable sub-division of this caste. The cattle manure is saved, but handed over to the Sūdra farmers. The Paraiyas plant a few trees around their settlement as otti (mortgage) and kurikānam (a kind of tenant right), then pay a sum to the Sūdra landowner to permit them to enjoy the produce, as it is so difficult for them to get waste lands registered in their own name. Some have cleared lands, and possess a few cocoanut and betel-nut palms, mangoes, etc. They may have a few cattle also, and let out a milch cow to the shepherds at one rupee per month. They grow some vegetables, etc., in waste valley lands temporarily cleared and cultivated. They work in the rice fields, sowing, planting, and reaping, for which they are paid in paddy. During the slack season they work at making mats of Ochlandra Rheedii, for which the men bring loads of the reeds from the hills, and the women do the work of plaiting. This art they are said to have learnt from the Kanikar hill-men."Some Paraiyas in Nanjinād have enjoyed ancestral property for six generations, and a few still have good properties. Titles were purchased for money of the Rājas of Travancore, e.g., Sāmbavan, an old name for Pāndi Paraiyas. The Rāja gave to such a headman a cane, and authority to claim a double allowance of betel, etc. He, however, had in his turn to give double at funerals and festivals to his visitors. This head Paraiyan would be met with drums and marks of honour by his people, and the arrangement would enable the Government to rule the Paraiyas more easily. It is said that some Rāja, fleeing in war, hid himself in Paraiya huts at Changankadei, and was thereby saved, for which he gave them a small grant of land producing a few fanams annually, which they still enjoy. They have a tradition that, in M.E. 102 (A.D. 927), one Vanji Mannan Rāja granted privileges to Paraiyas. During the war with Tippu, proclamation was made that every Paraiyan in this district must have a Nāyar or master, and belong to some one or other. All who were not private property would be made slaves of the Sirkar (Government), which was greatly dreaded on account of the merciless oppression, and obliged to cut grass for the troops, and do other services. Many, therefore, became nominally slaves to some respectable man, asking it as a kindness to free them from Government slavery. Several respectable families begged the Nambūri high priest, visiting Suchindram and other temples, to call them his slaves, for which they paid him one fanam a head per annum. This payment is still kept up. This priest conferred upon them additional benefits, for in their troubles and oppressions, he wrote to the Government,requiring from them justice and proper treatment. The slaves of the Nambūri would also be treated with consideration on account of his sacred position and rank. These families, 'Potty slaves,' still intermarry only among themselves, as in this case the wife could not be claimed by a different owner from the husband's.
- * Madras Mus. Bull., V, 2, 1906.
- * Madras Census Report, 1891.
- † Madras Census Report, 1901.
- ‡ Voyage to the East Indies, 1774 and 1781,
- * Loc. cit.
- * Ind. Ant., Ill, 1874.
- † The name Black Town was changed to Georgetown to commemorate the visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to Madras in 1906.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Ind. Ant. II, 1873.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Manual of the North Arcot district.
- * A. P. Smith. Malabar Quart: Review, 1904.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- † Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897.
- • Manual of the North Arcot district.
- * op cit.
- * Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.
- * Madras Census Report, 1871.
- * Monograph Eth. Survey. Cochin.
- * Malabar and its Folk, 1900.
- * Journ. Roy. As, Soc, XVI.
- * C.M. Record, 1850.