Edgar Thurston.

Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

. (page 6 of 33)
Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


AGAMUDAIYAN 12

Some of the trees are classed as milky, and others
as dry. The young man's tree should be dry, and that
of the girl milky, or both milky.

10. Pakshi (birds). Certain asterisms also belong
to birds, and the birds of the pair should be on friendly
terms, e.g., peacock and fowl.

11. Jadi (caste). The zodiacal signs are grouped
into castes as follows :

Brahman, Karkatakam, Mlnam, and Dhanus.

Kshatriya, Mesham, Vrischikam.

Vaisya, Kumbam, Thulam.

Sudra, Rishabam, Makaram.

Lower castes, Midhunam, Singam, and Kanni.

The young man should be of a higher caste, accord-
ing to the zodiacal signs, than the girl.

After ascertaining the agreement of the pair, some
close relations of the young man proceed to some
distance northward, and wait for omens. If the omens
are auspicious, they are satisfied. Some, instead of so
going, go to a temple, and seek the omens either by
placing flowers on the idol, and watching the direction
in which they fall, or by picking up a flower from a large
number strewn in front of the idol. If the flower picked
up, and the one thought of, are of the same colour, it is
regarded as a good omen. The betrothal ceremony is
an important event. As soon as the people have
assembled, the bridegroom's party place in their midst
the pariyam cloth and jewels. Some responsible person
inspects them, and, on his pronouncing that they are
correct, permission is given to draw up the lagna patrika
(letter of invitation, containing the date of marriage, etc.).
Vigngswara (the elephant god Ganesa) is then wor-
shipped, with the lagna patrika in front of him. This
is followed by the announcement of the forthcoming



13 AGAMUDAIYAN

marriage by the purohit (priest), and the settlement of
the amount of the pariyam (bride's money). For the mar-
riage celebration, a pandal (booth) is erected, and a dais,
constructed of clay and laterite earth, is set up inside it.
From the day on which the pandal is erected until the
wedding day, the contracting couple have to go through
the nalagu ceremony separately or together. This con-
sists in having their bodies smeared with turmeric paste
(Phaseolus Mimgo paste), and gingelly (Sesam?pm) oil.
On the wedding day, the bridegroom, after a clean shave,
proceeds to the house of the bride. The finger and toe-
nails of the bride are cut. The pair offer pongal (boiled
rice) to the family deity and their ancestors. A square
space is cleared in the centre of the dais for the sacred
fire (hOmarn). A many-branched lamp, representing the
thousand-eyed Indra, is placed to the east of the square.
The purohit, who is regarded as equivalent to Yama (the
god of death), and a pot with a lamp on it representing
Agni devata, occupy the south-east corner. Women
representing Niruti (a devata) are posted in the south-
west corner.

The direction of Varuna (the god of water) being
west, the bridegroom occupies this position. The best
man, who represents Vayu (the god of wind) is placed in
the north-west corner. As the position of Kubera (the
god of wealth) is the north, a person, with a bag full of
money, is seated on that side. A grinding-stone and
roller, representing Siva and Sakthi, are placed in the
north-east corner, and, at their side, pans containing nine
kinds of seedlings, are set. Seven pots are arranged
in a row between the grinding-stone and the branched
lamp. Some married women bring water from seven
streams or seven different places, and pour it into a pot
in front of the lamp. The milk-post (pal kambam) is set



AGAMUDAIYAN 14

up between the lamp and the row of pots. This post is
usually made of twigs of Ficus religiosa, Ficrts bengal-
ensis, and Erythrina indica, tied together and represent-
ing Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Sometimes, however,
twigs of Odina Wodier, and green bamboo sticks, are
substituted. At the close of the marriage ceremonies,
the Erythrina or Odina twig is planted, and it is regarded
as a good sign if it takes root and grows. The sacred fire
is kindled, and the bridegroom goes through the upana-
yana (thread investiture) and other ceremonies. He then
goes away from the house in procession (paradesa prave-
sam), and is met by the bride's father, who brings him back
to the pandal. The bride's father and mother then wash
his feet, and rings are put on his toes (kalkattu, or tying
the leg). The purohit gives the bridegroom a thread
(kankanam), and, after washing the feet of the bride's
father and mother, ties it on his wrist. A thread is also
tied on the left wrist of the bride. The pair being seated
in front of the sacred fire, a ceremony called Nandisra-
dham (memorial service to ancestors) is performed, and
new clothes are given to the pair. The next item is the
tying of the tali (marriage badge). The tali is usually
tied on a turmeric-dyed thread, placed on a cocoanut,
and taken round to be blessed by all present. Then the
purohit gives the tali to the bridegroom, and he ties it on
the bride's neck amidst silence, except for the music
played by the barber or Melakkaran musicians. While
the tali is being tied, the bridegroom's sister stands
behind the bride, holding a lamp in her hand. The
bridegroom ties one knot, and his sister ties two knots.
After the tali-tying, small plates of gold or silver, called
pattam, are tied on the foreheads of the pair, and presents
of money and cloths are made to them by their relations
and friends. They then go seven times round the



1 5 AGAMUDAIYAN

pandal, and, at the end of the seventh round, they stand
close to the grinding-stone, on which the bridegroom
places the bride's left foot. They take their seats on
the dais, and the bridegroom, taking some parched rice
(pori) from the bride's brother, puts it in the sacred fire.
Garlands of flowers are given to the bride and bridegroom,
who put them on, and exchange them three or five times.
They then roll flowers made into a ball. This is
followed by the waving of arathi (coloured water), and
circumambulation of the pandal by the pair, along with
the ashtamangalam or eight auspicious things, viz., the
bridesmaid, best man, lamp, vessel filled with water,
mirror, ankusam (elephant goad), white chamara (yak's
tail fly-flapper), flag and drum. Generally the pair go
three times round the pandal, and, during the first turn,
a cocoanut is broken near the grinding-stone, and the
bride is told that it is Siva, and the roller Sakthi, the
two combined being emblematical of Ardanarisvara, a
bisexual representation of Siva and Parvathi. During
the second round, the story of Arundati is repeated
to the bride. Arundati was the wife of the Rishi
Vasishta, and is looked up to as a model of conjugal
fidelity. The morning star is supposed to be Arundati,
and the purohit generally points it out to the bridal pair
at the close of the ceremonial, which terminates with
three homams. The wedding may be concluded in a
single day, or last for two or three days.

The dead are either buried or cremated. The
corpse is carried to the burning or burial-ground on a
bier or palanquin. As the Agamudaiyans are Saivites,
Pandarams assist at the funeral ceremonies. On the
second or third day after death, the son and others go to
the spot where the corpse was buried or burnt, and offer
food, etc., to the deceased. A pot of water is left at the



AGARU 1 6

spot. Those who are particular about performing the
death ceremonies on an elaborate scale offer cooked food
to the soul of dead person until the fifteenth day, and
carry out the final death ceremonies (karmandhiram) on
the sixteenth day. Presents are then given to Brahmans,
and, after the death pollution has been removed by
sprinkling with holy water (punyaham), a feast is given
to the relatives.

The Agamudaiyans worship various minor deities,
such as Aiyanar, Pidari, and Karupannaswami.

Agaru. Agaru, or Avaru, is recorded, in the
Madras Census Report, 1901, as a small caste of Telugu
cultivators in Vizagapatam and Ganjam, who are also
sellers of vegetables and betel leaves. Agaru is said
to mean betel in their language, which they call Bhasha,
and contains a good deal of Oriya. An extensive
colony of Agarus is settled at Nellimerla near Vizia-
nagram. Both males and females engage in the cultiva-
tion of the betel vine, and different kinds of greens,
which find a ready sale in the Vizianagram market.
Marriage is usually after puberty, and an Oriya Brahman
officiates. The dead are burnt.

Agarwal. A few members of this Upper India
trading caste, who deal in grain and jewellery, and are
also bankers and usurers, have been returned at times
of census.

Agasa. In the South Canara district, there are
three distinct classes of washermen, viz., (i) Konkani
Christians ; (2) Canarese-speaking washermen, who
seem to be allied to the Agasas of Mysore ; (3) Tulu-
speaking washermen. The Tulu-speaking Agasas
follow the aliya santana law of inheritance (in the female
line). Madivala (madi, a clean cloth) is a synonym for



1 7 AGASA

Agasa. The word Agasa is derived from agasi, a
turban.

The Agasas of Mysore have been described as
follows.* " The Agasa is a member of the village
hierarchy, his office being hereditary, and his remunera-
tion being grain fees from the ryots. Besides washing,
he occasionally ekes out his substance by carrying on
his donkeys grain from place to place. He is also em-
ployed in bearing the torch in marriage and other public
ceremonies. The principal object of worship is the
pot of boiling water (ubbe), in which dirty clothes are
steeped. Animals are sacrificed to the god with the view
of preventing the clothes being burnt in the ubbe pot.
Under the name of Bhuma Deva, there are temples
dedicated to this god in some large towns, the service
being conducted by pujaris (priests) of the Agasa caste.
The Agasas are Vishnuvaits, and pray to Vishnu,
Pattalamma, and the Saktis. Their gurus (religious
preceptors) are Satanis. A unique custom is attached
to the washerman's office. When a girl-wife attains
puberty, it is the duty and privilege of the washerman
to carry the news, accompanied by certain presents, to
her husband's parents, for which the messenger is duly
rewarded."

The Tulu Madivalas of the South Canara district,
like other Tulu castes, have exogamous septs or balis.
They will wash clothes for all castes above the Billavas.
They also supply cloths for decorating the marriage
booth and funeral cars, and carry torches. They worship
bhuthas (devils), of whom the principal one seems to
be Jumadi. At the time of kolas (bhOtha festivals), the
Madivalas have the right to cut off the heads of the



* Mysore Census Report, 1891, 1901; Rice, Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer.
2



AGASTYA 1 8

fowls or goats, which are sacrificed. The animals are
held by Pombadas or Paravas, and the Madivala decapi-
tates them. On the seventh day after the birth of a
child, the washerwoman ties a thread round its waist.
For purificatory ceremonies, the Madivali should give
washed clothes to those under pollution.

In their ceremonial observances, the Madivalas
closely follow the Bants. In some places, they have
a headman called, as among the Bants, Gurikara or
Guttinaya. At marriages, the pouring of the dhare water
over the united hands of the bride and bridegroom is
the duty of the father or maternal uncle of the bride, not
of the headman.

Some Maratha washermen call themselves Dandu
(army) Agasa.

The insigne of the washermen at Conjeeveram is
a pot, such as that in which clothes are boiled.

Agastya (the name of a sage). An exogamous sept
of Kondaiyamkottai Maravans.

Agni (fire). An exogamous sept of the Kurubas
and Gollas, and sub-division of the Pallis or Vanniyans.
The equivalent Aggi occurs as an exogamous sept of
Boya. The Pallis claim to be Agnikula Kshatriyas,
i.e., to belong to the fire race of Kshatriyas.

Agraharekala. A sub-division of Bhatrazu, mean-
ing those who belong to the agraharam, or Brahman
quarter of a village.

Ahir. A few members of this Upper India caste of
cowherds have been returned at times of census.

Ahmedi. Returned, at times of census, as a general
name for Muhammadans.

Aivattukuladavaru (people of fifty families). A
synonym for Bakuda,



19 AIYARAKULU

Aiya. Aiya or Ayya, meaning father, is the title of
many classes, which include Dasari, Devanga, Golla,
Idiga, Jangam, Konda Dora, Komati, Koppala Velama,
Linga Balija, Mangala, Muka Dora, Paidi, Satani, Ser-
vggara, and Tambala. It is further a title of the Pat-
nulkarans, who claim to be Brahmans, and a sub-division
of the Tamil Pallans.

Aiyar occurs very widely as a title among Tamil
Brahmans, and is replaced in the Telugu and Canarese
countries by Bhatlu, Pantulu, and Sastrulu. It is noted
by the Rev. A. Margoschis that "the honorific title
Aiyar was formerly used exclusively by Brahmans, but
has now come to be used by every native clergyman.
The name which precedes the title will enable us to
discover whether the man is Christian or Hindu. Thus
Yesudian Aiyar means the Aiyar who is the servant of
Jesus." The Rev. G. U. Pope, the well-known Tamil
scholar, was known as Pope Aiyar.

Aiyanar. A sub-division of Kalian, named after
Aiyanar, the only male deity among the Grama Devata
or village deities.

Aiyar akulu. In the Madras Census Report, 1901,
Aiyarakam is summed up as being a caste of Telugu cul-
tivators, who, in their social and religious observances,
closely follow the Kapus and Balijas, may intermarry
with Telagas, and will accept drinking water from the
hands of Gollas. According to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao,
to whom I am indebted for the following note, the Aiya-
rakulu are a section of Kapus, who rose in the social
scale by Royal favour. The name is derived from aiya
and rikam, denoting the act of being an aiya or distin-
guished person. The Aiyarakulu state that their fore-
fathers were soldiers in the Vizianagram army, and
rendered great services to the Rajas. They have a story



AKASAM 20

to the effect that, on one occasion, they proceeded on an
expedition against a Golconda force, and gave so much
trouble to the Muhammadan commander thereof that,
after putting them to the sword, he proceeded to their
own country, to destroy their homes. On hearing of
this, the women, dressing themselves in male attire,
advanced with bayonets and battle-axes against the
Muhammadans, and drove them off in great disorder.
The Raja, in return for their gallant conduct, adorned
their legs with silver bangles, such as the women still
wear at the present day.

The Aiyarakulu are divided into gotras, such as naga
(cobra), tabelu (tortoise), etc., which are strictly tote-
mistic, and are further divided into exogamous septs or
intiperulu. The custom of menarikam, according to
which a man should marry his maternal uncle's daughter,
is in force. Girls are married before puberty, and a
Brahman officiates at the wedding rites, during which
the bride and bridegroom wear silver sacred threads,
which are subsequently converted into rings. Some
Aiyarakulu call themselves Razus, and wear the sacred
thread, but interdine and intermarry with other mem-
bers of the community. The remarriage of widows, and
divorce are forbidden.

The principal occupation of the Aiyarakulus is culti-
vating, but, in some parts, many of them are cart-drivers
plying between the plains of Vizagapatam and the
Agency tracts. The usual title of members of the caste
is Patrudu.

Akasam (sky). An exogamous sept of Devanga.

Akattu Charna. A sub-division of Nayar.

Akattulavar. A name, indicating those inside (in
seclusion or gosha), by which Nambutiri and Elayad
and other females are called.



21 ALBINO

Akshantala (rice grain). A gotra of Odde. Ak-
shathayya is the name of a gotra of Gollas, who avoid
rice coloured with turmeric and other materials.

Akula (betel leaf: Piper Betle\ An exogamous
sept of Kamma and Bonthuk Savara, and a sub-division
of Kapu. The presentation of betel leaves and areca
nuts, called pan-supari, as a complimentary offering is
a wide-spread Indian custom.

Ala. A sub-division of Golla.

Alagi (pot). An exogamous sept of Vakkaliga.

Alavan. The Alavans are summed up, in the
Madras Census Report, 1901, as "workers in salt-pans,
who are found only in Madura and Tinnevelly. Their
titles are Pannaiyan and Muppan. They are not allowed
to enter Hindu temples." In the Travancore Census
Report, 1901, it is recorded that "the Alavans or Uppa-
lavans (salt Alavans) are so called because they work in
alams or salt-pans. Three or four centuries ago, seven
families of them are said to have been brought over
from the Pandyan territory to Travancore, to work in
the salt-pans. It is said that there are at Tamarakkulam,
Puttalam, and other places in South Travancore, inscrip-
tions recording their immigration, but these have not
been deciphered. They speak Tamil. They are flesh-
eaters. Drinking is rare among them. Burial was the
rule in ancient days, but now the dead are sometimes
burned. Tattooing is a general custom. The tutelary
deities are Sasta and Bhadrakali. As a class the
Alavans are very industrious. There are no better salt
labourers in all Southern India."

Albino.^The picture drawn by the Abbe Dubois *
of albino Natives is not a pleasant one. "This extreme



* Hindu Manners and Customs. Ed. 1897.



ALBINO 22

fairness," he says, " is unnatural, and makes them very
repulsive to look at. In fact, these unfortunate beings
are objects of horror to every one, and even their parents
desert them. They are looked upon as lepers. They are
called Kakrelaks as a term of reproach. Kakrelaks are
horrible insects, disgustingly dirty, which give forth a
loathsome odour, and shun the day and its light. The
question has been raised as to whether these degenerate
individuals can produce children like themselves, and
afflicted with nyctalopia. Such a child has never come
under my observation ; but I once baptised the child of
a female Kakrelak, who owed its birth to a rash European
soldier. These unfortunate wretches are denied decent
burial after death, and are cast into ditches."

This reference to albinos by the observant Abbe may
be amplified by the notes taken on several albino Natives
in Madras and Mysore, which show, inter alia, that the
lot of the present day albino is not an unhappy one.

Chinna Abboye, aet. 35. Shepherd caste. Rope
(insigne of office) round waist for driving cattle, and tying
the legs of cows when milking them. Yellowish-white
hair where long, as in the kudumi. Bristles on top of
shaved head pure white. Greenish-brown iris. Father
dark ; mother, like himself, has white hair and pink skin.
One brother an albino, married. One child of the usual
Native type. Cannot see well in glare of sunlight, but
sees better towards sunset. Screws his eyelids into
transverse slits. Mother kind to him.

Vembu Achari, set. 20. Artist. Kudumi (top-knot)
yellowish-white. White eyebrows and moustache.
Bright pink lips, and pink complexion. Iris light blue
with pink radiating striae and pink peripheral zone. Sees
best in the evening when the sun is low on the horizon.
Screws up his eyelids to act as a diaphragm. Mother,



23 ALIA

father, brothers and sisters, all of the ordinary Native
type. No relations albino, as far as he knows. Engaged
to be married. People like himself are called chevapu
(red-coloured), or, in derision, vellakaran (European or
white man). Children sometimes make game of him, but
people generally are kind to him.

Moonoosawmy, set. 45. Belongs to the weaver class,
and is a well-to-do man. Albino. Had an albino sister,
and a brother of the ordinary type. Is the father often
children, of whom five are albinos. They are on terms
of equality with the other members of their community,
and one daughter is likely to be married to the son of a
prosperous man.

, aet. 22. Fisherman caste. Albino. His

maternal uncle had an albino daughter. Has four
brothers, of whom two are albinos. Cannot stand the
glare of the sun, and is consequently unable to do outdoor
work. Moves freely among the members of his com-
munity, and could easily secure a wife, if he was in a
position to support one.

, set. 36. Rajput. Hardware merchant. His

father, of ordinary Native type, had twelve children, five
of whom were albino, by an albino wife, whose brother
was also albino. Married to a woman of Native type,
and had one non-albino child. His sister, of ordinary
Native type, has two albino children. Iris light blue.
Hair yellowish. Complexion pink. Keeps left eye
closed, and looks through a slit between eyelids of right
eye. People call him in Canarese kempuava (red man).
They are kind to him.

Alia.- The Alias are an Oriya cultivating caste, found
mainly in the Gumsur taluk of Ganjam. In the Madras
Census Report, 1891, it is suggested that the name is
derived from the Sanskrit holo, meaning a plough. The



ALICE 24

further suggestions have been made that it is derived
from alo, meaning crop, or from AH, a killa or taluk of
Orissa, whence the Aliyas have migrated. In social
position the Alias rank below the Bhondaris and Odiyas,
who will not accept water touched by them.

Various titles occur within the caste, e.g., Biswalo,
Bonjo, Bariko, Jenna, Kampo, Kondwalo, Lenka, Ma-
hanti, Molla Nahako, Patro, Podhano, Podiyali, Ravuto,
Siyo, and Swayi. Like other Oriya castes, the Alias
have gotras, and the marriage rules based on titles and
gotras are peculiar. A Podhano man may, for example,
marry a Podhano girl, if their gotras are different. Fur-
ther, two people, whose gotras are the same, may marry
if they have a different title. Thus, a man, whose gotra
is Goru and title Podhano, may marry a girl of a family
of which the gotra is Goru, but title other than Podhano.

Infant marriage is the rule, and, if a girl does not
secure a husband before she reaches maturity, she goes
through a mock marriage ceremony, in which the bride-
groom is represented by a brass vessel or an arrow.
Like many other Oriya castes, the Aliyas follow the
Chaitanya form of Vaishnavism, and also worship various
Takuranis (village deities).

Alige (drum). An exogamous sept of Kuruba.

Aliya Santanam. Inheritance in the female line.
The equivalent, in the Canara country, of the Malayali
marumakkathayam.

Allam (ginger). An exogamous sept of Mala.

Allikulam (lily clan). Returned, at times of census,
as a sub-division of Anappan.

Alvar.- An exogamous sept of Toreya. Alvar is a
synonym of Garuda, the winged vehicle of Vishnu. Alvar
Dasari occurs as a sub-division of Valluvans, which claims
descent from Tiruppan Alvar, one of the Vaishnava saints.



25 AMBALAKKARAN

Amaravatiyavaru. A name, denoting people of
Amaravati on the Kistna river, recorded * as a sub-
division of Desabhaga Madigas. Amaravati also occurs
as a sub-division, or nadu, of Vallamban.

Ambalakkaran. In the Madras Census Report,
1891, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes that "Ambalakkaran
(ambalam, an open place t) is the usual designation of a
head of a village in the Maravan and Kalian districts,
and it is, or was the common agnomen of Kalians. I am
not able to state what is the precise connection between
the Ambalakkaran and Kalian castes, but, from some
accounts which I have obtained, the Ambalakkarans
seem to be very closely connected, if not identical with
Muttiriyans (Telugu Mutracha), who have been classed
as village watchmen ; and this is borne out by the sub-
divisions returned, for, though no less than 109,263
individuals have given Ambalakkaran as the sub-division
also, yet, of the sub-divisions returned, Muttiriyan and
Mutracha are the strongest. Marriage is usually deferred
until after puberty, and widow re-marriage is permitted,
but there does not seem to be the same freedom of
divorce at will as is found among Kalians, Maravans, etc.
The dead are either burnt or buried. The consumption
of flesh and liquor is allowed. Their usual agnomen
is said to be Servaikkaran, but the titles Muttiriyan,
Ambalakkaran, Malavarayan, Mutarasan, and Vannian
are also used. The usual agnomen of Muttiriyans, on
the other hand, is said to be Nayakkan (Naik)."

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Ambalak-
karans are summed up as follows. " A Tamil caste of



* Mysore Census Report, 1901.

f Ambalam is an open space or building, where affairs connected with justice
are transacted. Ambalakkaran denotes the president of an assembly, or one who
proclaims the decision of those assembled in an ambalam.



AMBALAKKARAN 26

cultivators and village watchmen. Till recently the term
Ambalakkaran was considered to be a title of the



Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 33)