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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



CASTES AND TRIBES

OF

SOUTHERN INDIA



CASTES AND TRIBES



OF



SOUTHERN INDIA



BY

EDGAR THURSTON, C.I.E.,

Superintendent, Madras Government Museum ; Correspondant Etranger,

Soci6t6 d'Anthropologie de Paris ; Socio Corrispondante,

Societa Romana di Anthropologia.

ASSISTED BY

K. RANGACHARI, M.A.,

of the Madras Government Museum,



VOLUME I A AND B



GOVERNMENT PRESS, MADRAS
1909.



College
ibrary




PREFACE




1894, equipped with a set of anthropometric
instruments obtained on loan from the Asiatic
Society of Bengal, I commenced an investiga-
tion of the tribes of the Nilgiri hills, the Todas,
Kotas, and Badagas, bringing down on myself the
unofficial criticism that " anthropological research at
high altitudes is eminently indicated when the thermo-
meter registers 100 in Madras." From this modest
beginning have resulted : (i) investigation of various
classes which inhabit the city of Madras ; (2) periodical
tours to various parts of the Madras Presidency, with
a view to the study of the more important tribes and
classes ; (3) the publication of Bulletins, wherein the
results of my work are embodied ; (4) the establishment
of an anthropological laboratory ; (5) a collection of
photographs of Native types ; (6) a series of lantern
slides for lecture purposes ; (7) a collection of phono-
graph records of tribal songs and music.

The scheme for a systematic and detailed ethno-
graphic survey of the whole of India received the
formal sanction of the Government of India in 1901. A
Superintendent of Ethnography was appointed for each



20C5GG9



X PREFACE.

Presidency or Province, to carry out the work of the
survey in addition to his other duties. The other
duty, in my particular case the direction of a large
local museum happily made an excellent blend with
the survey operations, as the work of collection for
the ethnological section went on simultaneously with
that of investigation. The survey was financed for a
period of five (afterwards extended to eight) years,
and an annual allotment of Rs. 5,000 provided for
each Presidency and Province. This included Rs. 2,000
for approved notes on monographs, and replies to the
stereotyped series of questions. The replies to these
questions were not, I am bound to admit, always
entirely satisfactory, as they broke down both in accuracy
and detail. I may, as an illustration, cite the following
description of making fire by friction. " They know
how to make fire, i.e., by friction of wood as well as
stone, etc. They take a triangular cut of stone, and
one flat oblong size flat. They hit one another with
the maintenance of cocoanut fibre or copper, then fire
sets immediately, and also by rubbing the two barks
frequently with each other they make fire."

I gladly place on record my hearty appreciation
of the services rendered by Mr. K. Rangachari in the
preparation of the present volumes. During my tem-
porary absence in Europe, he was placed in charge
of the survey, and he has been throughout invaluable
in obtaining information concerning manners and cus-
toms, as interpreter and photographer, and in taking
phonograph records.



PREFACE. XI

For information relating to the tribes and castes
of Cochin and Travancore, I gratefully acknowledge
my indebtedness to Messrs. L. K. Anantha Krishna
Aiyer and N. Subramani Aiyer, the Superintendents of
Ethnography for their respective States. The notes
relating to the Cochin State have been independently
published at the Ernakulam Press, Cochin.

In the scheme for the Ethnographic Survey, it
was laid down that the Superintendents should supple-
ment the information obtained from representative
men and by their own enquiries by " researches into
the considerable mass of information which lies buried
in official reports, in the journals of learned Societies,
and in various books." Of this injunction full advantage
has been taken, as will be evident from the abundant
crop of references in foot-notes.

It is impossible to express my thanks individually
to the very large number of correspondents, European
and Indian, who have generously assisted me in my
work. I may, however, refer to the immense aid
which I have received from the District Manuals edited
by Mr. (now Sir) H. A. Stuart, I.C.S., and the District
Gazetteers, which have been quite recently issued under
the editorship of Mr. W. Francis, I.C.S., Mr. F. R.
Hemingway, I.C.S., and Mr. F. B. Evans, I.C.S.

My thanks are further due to Mr. C. Hayavadana
Rao, to whom I am indebted for much information
acquired when he was engaged in the preparation of
the District Gazetteers, and for revising the proof

sheets.

B*



Xll PREFACE.

For some of the photographs of Badagas, Kurumbas,
and Todas, I am indebted to Mr. A. T. W. Penn of
Ootacamund.

I may add that the anthropometric data are all the
result of measurements taken by myself, in order to
eliminate the varying error resulting from the employ-
ment of a plurality of observers.

E.T.



INTRODUCTION.




HE vast tract of country, over which my inves-
tigations in connection with the ethnographic
survey of South India have extended, is
commonly known as the Madras Presidency, and officially
as the Presidency of Fort St. George and its Depend-
encies. Included therein were the small feudatory States
of Pudukottai, Banganapalle, and Sandur, and the larger
Native States of Travancore and Cochin. The area of
the British territory and Feudatory States, as returned
at the census, 1901, was 143,221 square miles, and the
population 38,623,066. The area and population of the
Native States of Travancore and Cochin, as recorded
at the same census, were as follows :

Area. Population.

SQ. MILES.

Travancore .. .. .. 7,091 2,952,157

Cochin .. .. .. 1,361 512,025

Briefly, the task which was set me in 1901 was to
record the ' manners and customs ' and physical charac-
ters of more than 300 castes and tribes, representing
more than 40,000,000 individuals, and spread over an
area exceeding 1 50,000 square miles.

The Native State of Mysore, which is surrounded
by the Madras Presidency on all sides, except on part
of the west, where the Bombay Presidency forms the
boundary, was excluded from my beat ethnographically,
but included for the purpose of anthropometry. As,
however, nearly all the castes and tribes which inhabit
the Mysore State -are common to it and the Madras



XIV INTRODUCTION.

Presidency, I have given here and there some informa-
tion relating thereto.

It was clearly impossible for myself and my assistant,
in our travels, to do more than carry out personal inves-
tigations over a small portion of the vast area indicated
above, which provides ample scope for research by many
trained explorers. And I would that more men, like
my friends Dr. Rivers and Mr. Lapicque, who have
recently studied Man in Southern India from an
anthropological and physiological point of view, would
come out on a visit, and study some of the more import-
ant castes and tribes in detail. I can promise them
every facility for carrying out their work under the
most favourable conditions for research, if not of climate.
And we can provide them with anything from 112 in
the shade to the sweet half English air of the Nilgiri
and other hill-ranges.

Routine work at head-quarters unhappily keeps me
a close prisoner in the office chair for nine months in the
year. But I have endeavoured to snatch three months
on circuit in camp, during which the dual functions of the
survey the collection of ethnographic and anthropo-
metric data were carried out in the peaceful isolation of
the jungle, in villages, and in mofussil (up-country) towns.
These wandering expeditions have afforded ample
evidence that delay in carrying through the scheme for
the survey would have been fatal. For, as in the Pacific
and other regions, so in India, civilisation is bringing
about a radical change in indigenous manners and
customs, and mode of life. It has, in this connection,
been well said that " there will be plenty of money and
people available for anthropological research, when there
are no more aborigines. And it behoves our museums
to waste no time in completing their anthropological



INTRODUCTION. XV

collections." Tribes which, only a few years ago, were
living in a wild state, clad in a cool and simple garb of
forest leaves, buried away in the depths of the jungle,
and living, like pigs and bears, on roots, honey, and
other forest produce, have now come under the domes-
ticating, and sometimes detrimental influence of contact
with Europeans, with a resulting modification of their
conditions of life, morality, and even language. The
Paniyans of the Wynaad, and the Irulas of the Nllgiris,
now work regularly for wages on planters' estates, and I
have seen a Toda boy studying for the third standard
instead of tending the buffaloes of his mand. A Toda
lassie curling her ringlets with the assistance of a cheap
German looking-glass ; a Toda man smeared with Hindu
sect marks, and praying for male offspring at a Hindu
shrine ; the abandonment of leafy garments in favour
of imported cotton piece-goods ; the employment of
kerosine tins in lieu of thatch ; the decline of the
national turban in favour of the less becoming pork-pie
cap or knitted nightcap of gaudy hue ; the abandonment
of indigenous vegetable dyes in favour of tinned anilin
and alizarin dyes ; the replacement of the indigenous
peasant jewellery by imported beads and imitation
jewellery made in Europe these are a few examples of
change resulting from Western and other influences.

The practice of human sacrifice, or Meriah rite, has
been abolished within the memory of men still living,
and replaced by the equally efficacious slaughter of a
buffalo or sheep. And I have notes on a substituted
ceremony, in which a sacrificial sheep is shaved so as
to produce a crude representation of a human being, a
Hindu sect mark painted on its forehead, a turban stuck
on its head, and a cloth around its body. The pictur-
esque, but barbaric ceremony of hook-swinging is now



XVI INTRODUCTION.

regarded with disfavour by Government, and, some time
ago, I witnessed a tame substitute for the original
ceremony, in which, instead of a human being with
strong iron hooks driven through the small of his back,
a little wooden figure, dressed up in turban and body
cloth, and carrying a shield and sabre, was hoisted on
high and swung round.

In carrying out the anthropometric portion of the
survey, it was unfortunately impossible to disguise the
fact that I am a Government official, and very consider-
able difficulties were encountered owing to the wicked-
ness of the people, and their timidity and fear of
increased taxation, plague inoculation, and transporta-
tion. The Paniyan women of the Wynaad believed that
I was going to have the finest specimens among them
stuffed for the Madras Museum. An Irula man, on the
Nilgiri hills, who was wanted by the police for some
mild crime of ancient date, came to be measured, but
absolutely refused to submit to the operation on the
plea that the height-measuring standard was the gallows.
The similarity of the word Boyan to Boer was once fatal
to my work. For, at the time of my visit to the Oddes,
who have Boyan as their title, the South African war was
just over, and they were afraid that I was going to get
them transported, to replace the Boers who had been
exterminated. Being afraid, too, of my evil eye, they
refused to fire a new kiln of bricks for the club chambers
at Coimbatore until I had taken my departure. During
a long tour through the Mysore province, the Natives
mistook me for a recruiting sergeant bent on seizing
them for employment in South Africa, and fled before
my approach from town to town. The little spot, which
I am in the habit of making with Aspinall's white paint
to indicate the position of the fronto-nasal suture and



INTRODUCTION. XV11

bi-orbital breadth, was supposed to possess vesicant
properties, and to blister into a number on the forehead,
which would serve as a means of future identification for
the purpose of kidnapping. The record of head, chest,
and foot measurements, was viewed with marked suspi-
cion, on the ground that I was an army tailor, measuring
for sepoy's clothing. The untimely death of a Native
outside a town, at which I was halting, was attributed to
my evil eye. Villages were denuded of all save senile
men, women, and infants. The vendors of food-stuffs
in one bazar, finding business slack owing to the flight
of their customers, raised their prices, and a missionary
complained that the price of butter had gone up. My
arrival at one important town was coincident with a
great annual temple festival, whereat there were not
sufficient coolies left to drag the temple car in proces-
sion. So I had perforce to move on, and leave the
Brahman heads unmeasured. The head official oi
another town, when he came to take leave of me,
apologised for the scrubby appearance of his chin, as the
local barber had fled. One man, who had volunteered
to be tested with Lovibond's tintometer, was suddenly
seized with fear in the midst of the experiment, and,
throwing his body-cloth at my feet, ran for all he was
worth, and disappeared. An elderly Municipal servant
wept bitterly when undergoing the process of measure-
ment, and a woman bade farewell to her husband, as she
thought for ever, as he entered the threshold of my
impromptu laboratory. The goniometer for estimating
the facial angle is specially hated, as it goes into the
mouth of castes both high and low, and has to be taken
to a tank (pond) after each application. The members
of a certain caste insisted on being measured before
4 P.M., so that they might have time to remove, by



XV111 INTRODUCTION.

ceremonial ablution, the pollution from my touch before
sunset.

Such are a few of the unhappy results, which attend
the progress of a Government anthropologist. I may,
when in camp, so far as measuring operations are
concerned, draw a perfect and absolute blank for several
days in succession, or a gang of fifty or even more
representatives of different castes may turn up at the
same time, all in a hurry to depart as soon as they have
been sufficiently amused by the phonograph, American
series of pseudoptics (illusions), and hand dynamometer,
which always accompany me on my travels as an
attractive bait. When this occurs, it is manifestly im-
possible to record all the major, or any of the minor
measurements, which are prescribed in ' Anthropological
Notes and Queries,' and elsewhere. And I have to rest
unwillingly content with a bare record of those measure-
ments, which experience has taught me are the most
important from a comparative point of view within my
area, viz., stature, height and breadth of nose, and
length and breadth of head, from which the nasal and
cephalic indices can be calculated. I refer to the
practical difficulties, in explanation of a record which is
admittedly meagre, but wholly unavoidable, in spite of
the possession of a good deal of patience and a liberal
supply of cheroots, and current coins, which are often
regarded with suspicion as sealing a contract, like the
King's shilling. I have even known a man get rid of
the coin presented to him, by offering it, with flowers
and a cocoanut, to the village goddess at her shrine, and
present her with another coin as a peace-offering, to get
rid of the pollution created by my money.

The manifold views, which have been brought
forward as to the origin and place in nature of the



INTRODUCTION. XIX

indigenous population of Southern India, are scattered
so widely in books, manuals, and reports, that it will
be convenient if I bring together the evidence derived
from sundry sources.

The original name for the Dravidian family, it may
be noted, was Tamulic, but the term Dravidian was
substituted by Bishop Caldwell, in order that the desig-
nation Tamil might be reserved for the language of that
name. Dravida is the adjectival form of Dravida, the
Sanskrit name for the people occupying the south of
the Indian Peninsula (the Deccan of some European
writers).*

According to Haeckel,t three of the twelve species
of man the Dravidas (Deccans ; Sinhalese), Nubians,
and Mediterranese (Caucasians, Basque, Semites, Indo-
Germanic tribes) " agree in several characteristics,
which seem to establish a close relationship between
them, and to distinguish them from the remaining
species. The chief of these characteristics is the strong
development of the beard which, in all other species,
is either entirely wanting, or but very scanty. The
hair of their heads is in most cases more or less curly.
Other characteristics also seem to favour our classing
them in one main group of curly-haired men (Euplo-
comi) ; at present the primaeval species, Homo Dravida,
is only represented by the Deccan tribes in the southern
part of Hindustan, and by the neighbouring inhabitants
of the mountains on the north-east of Ceylon. But,
in earlier times, this race seems to have occupied the



* " Deccan, Hind, Dakhin, Dakhan ; dakkina, the Prakr. form of Sskt.
dakshina, 'the south.' The southern part of India, the Peninsula, and especially
the table-land between the Eastern and Western Ghauts." Yule and Burnell.
Hobson-Jobson.

t History of Creation.



XX INTRODUCTION.

whole of Hindustan, and to have spread even further.
It shows, on the one hand, traits of relationship to the
Australians and Malays ; on the other to the Mongols
and Mediterranese. Their skin is either of a light or
dark brown colour ; in some tribes, of a yellowish brown.
The hair of their heads is, as in Mediterranese, more
or less curled ; never quite smooth, like that of the
Euthycomi, nor actually woolly, like that of the
Ulotrichi. The strong development of the beard is
also like that of the Mediterranese. Their forehead is
generally high, their nose prominent and narrow, their
lips slightly protruding. Their language is now very
much mixed with Indo-Germanic elements, but seems
to have been originally derived from a very primaeval
language."

In the chapter devoted to ' Migration and Distribu-
tion of Organisms,' Haeckel, in referring to the continual
changing of the distribution of land and water on the
surface of the earth, says : " The Indian Ocean formed
a continent, which extended from the Sunda Islands along
the southern coast of Asia to the east coast of Africa.
This large continent of former times Sclater has called
Lemuria, from the monkey-like animals which inhab-
ited it, and it is at the same time of great importance
from being the probable cradle of the human race. The
important proof which Wallace has furnished by the help
of chronological facts, that the present Malayan Archi-
pelago consists in reality of two completely different
divisions, is particularly interesting. The western
division, the I ndo- Malayan Archipelago, comprising the
large islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra, was for-
merly connected by Malacca with the Asiatic continent,
and probably also with the Lemurian continent, and pro-
bably also with the Lemurian continent just mentioned.



INTRODUCTION. XXI

The eastern division, on the other hand, the Austro-
Malayan Archipelago, comprising Celebes, the Moluccas,
New Guinea, Solomon's Islands, etc., was formerly
directly connected with Australia."

An important ethnographic fact, and one which is
significant, is that the description of tree-climbing by
the Dyaks of Borneo, as given by Wallace,* might have
been written on the Anaimalai hills of Southern India,
and would apply equally well in every detail to the
Kadirs who inhabit those hills.t An interesting custom,
which prevails among the Kadirs and Mala Vedans of
Travancore, and among them alone, so far as I know,
in the Indian Peninsula, is that of chipping all or some
of the incisor teeth into the form of a sharp pointed,
but not serrated, cone. The operation is said to be per-
formed, among the Kadirs, with a chisel or bill-hook and
file, on boys at the age of eighteen, and girls at the age
often or thereabouts. It is noted by Skeat and Blagden }
that the Jakuns of the Malay Peninsula are accustomed
to file their teeth to a point. Mr. Crawford tells us
further that, in the Malay Archipelago, the practice
of filing and blackening the teeth is a necessary prelude
to marriage, the common way of expressing the fact
that a girl has arrived at puberty being that she had
her teeth filed. In an article entitled " Die Zauber-
bilderschriften der Negrito in Malaka," Dr. K. T. Preuss
describes in detail the designs on the bamboo combs,
etc., of the Negritos of Malacca, and compares them
with the strikingly similar designs on the bamboo combs
worn by the Kadirs of Southern India. He works out
in detail the theory that the design is not, as I called it ||



* Malay Archipelago, 1890. f See article Kadir.

J Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, 1906.

Globus, 1899. II Madras Museum Bull., II, 3, 1899.



XX11 INTRODUCTION.

an ornamental geometric pattern, but consists of a
series of hieroglyphics. It is noted by Skeat and
Blagden * that " the Semang women wore in their hair
a remarkable kind of comb, which appears to be worn
entirely as a charm against diseases. These combs
were almost invariably made of bamboo, and were deco-
rated with an infinity of designs, no two of which
ever entirely agreed. It was said that each disease had
its appropriate pattern. Similar combs are worn by the
Pangan, the Semang and Sakai of Perak, and most
of the mixed (Semang-Sakai) tribes." I am informed
by Mr. Vincent that, as far as he knows, the Kadir
combs are not looked on as charms, and the markings
thereon have no mystic significance. A Kadir man
should always make a comb, and present it to his wife
just before marriage or at the conclusion of the marriage
ceremony, and the young men vie with each other as to
who can make the nicest comb. Sometimes they repre-
sent strange articles on the combs. Mr. Vincent has,
for example, seen a comb with a very good imitation
of the face of a clock scratched on it.

In discussing the racial affinities of the Sakais, Skeat
and Blagden write * that " an alternative theory comes
to us on the high authority of Virchow, who puts it
forward, however, in a somewhat tentative manner. It
consists in regarding the Sakai as an outlying branch of
a racial group formed by the Vedda (of Ceylon), Tamil,
Kurumba, and Australian races ... Of these the
height is variable, but, in all four of the races compared,
it is certainly greater than that of the Negrito races.
The skin colour, again, it is true, varies to a remarkable
degree, but the general hair character appears to be

* Op. cit.



INTRODUCTION. Xxiii

uniformly long, black and wavy, and the skull-index, on
the other hand, appears to indicate consistently a doli-
chocephalic or long-shaped head." Speaking of the
Sakais, the same authorities state that " in evidence
of their striking resemblance to the Veddas, it is per-
haps worth remarking that one of the brothers Sarasin
who had lived among the Veddas and knew them very
well, when shown a photograph of a typical Sakai, at
first supposed it to be a photograph of a Vedda." For
myself, when I first saw the photographs of Sakais pub-
lished by Skeat and Blagden, it was difficult to realise
that I was not looking at pictures of Kadirs, Paniyans,
Kurumbas, or other jungle folk of Southern India.

It may be noted en passant, that emigration takes
place at the present day from the southern parts of the
Madras Presidency to the Straits Settlements. The
following statement shows the number of passengers
that proceeded thither during 1906 :

Madras Total.

C Porto Novo 2 , 555

South Arcot. \ Cuddalore 583

^Pondicherry ... ... ... ... 55

TNegapatam ... ... ... ... 238

j and

"JNagore ... 45,453

l^Karikal ... ... ... ... 3,422

" The name Kling (or Keling) is applied, in the
Malay countries, to the people of Continental India who
trade thither, or are settled in those regions, and to the
descendants of settlers. The Malay use of the word is,
as a rule, restricted to Tamils. The name is a form of
Kalinga, a very ancient name for the region known as
the Northern Circars, i.e., the Telugu coast of the Bay of
Bengal." * It is recorded by Dr. N. Anandale that the

* Yule and Bumell, Hobson-Jobson.



XXIV INTRODUCTION.

phrase Orang Kling Islam (i.e., a Muhammadan from
the Madras coast) occurs in Patani Malay. He further



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