( .-. , . : . HUBES
CASTES AND TRIBES
CASTES AND TRIBES
EDGAR THURSTON, C.I.E.,
Superintendent, Madras Government Museum ; Correspondant Etranger,
Soci6t6 d'Anthropologie de Paris ; Socio Corrispondante,
Societa Romana di Anthropologia.
K. RANGACHARI, M.A.,
of the Madras Government Museum.
VOLUME II C TO J
GOVERNMENT PRESS, MADRAS
CASTES AND TRIBES v *
OF SOUTHERN INDIA.
^ANJI (gruel). An exogamous sept of Padma
Sale. Canji is the word " in use all over India
for the water, in which rice has been boiled.
It also forms the usual starch of Indian washermen."*
As a sept of the Sale weavers, it probably has reference
to the gruel, or size, which is applied to the warp.
Chacchadi. Haddis who do scavenging work, with
whom other Haddis do not freely intermarry.
Chadarapu Dhompti (square space marriage offer-
ing). A sub-division of Madigas, who, at marriages,
offer food to the god in a square space.
Chakala. See Tsakala.
Chakkan. -Recorded in the Madras Census Report,
1901, as " a Malabar caste of oil-pressers (chakku means
an oil-mill). Followers of this calling are known also
as Vattakkadans in South Malabar, and as Vaniyans in
North Malabar, but the former are the higher in social
status, the Nayars being polluted by the touch of the
Vaniyans and Chakkans, but not by that of the
Vattakkadans. Chakkans and Vaniyans may not enter
Brahman temples. Their customs and manners are
similar to those of the Nayars, who will not, however,
* Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.
marry their women." Chakkingalavan appears as a
synonym for Chakkan.
Chakkiliyan. " The Chakkiliyans," Mr. H. A.
Stuart writes,* "are the leather-workers of the Tamil
districts, corresponding to the Madigas of the Telugu
country. The Chakkiliyans appear to be immigrants
from the Telugu or Canarese districts, for no mention is
made of this caste either in the early Tamil inscriptions,
or in early Tamil literature. Moreover, a very large pro-
portion of the Chakkiliyans speak Telugu and Canarese.
In social position the Chakkiliyans occupy the lowest
rank, though there is much dispute on this point between
them and the Paraiyans. Nominally they are Saivites,
but in reality devil-worshippers. The avaram plant
(Cassia auriculata) is held in much veneration by them,f
and the tali is tied to a branch of it as a preliminary to
marriage. Girls are not usually married before puberty.
The bridegroom may be younger than the bride. Their
widows may remarry. Divorce can be obtained at the
pleasure of either party on payment of Rs. 12-12-0 to
the other in the presence of the local head of the caste.
Their women are considered to be very beautiful, and it
is a woman of this caste who is generally selected for the
coarser form of Sakti worship. They indulge very freely
in intoxicating liquors, and will eat any flesh, including
beef, pork, etc. Hence they are called, par excellence,
the flesh-eaters (Sanskrit shatkuli)." It was noted by
Sonnerat, in the eighteenth century,! that the Chakkili-
yans are in more contempt than the Pariahs, because
* Manual of the North Arcot district.
t The bark of the avaram plant is one of the most valuable Indian tanning
t Voyage to the East Indies, 1774 and 1781.
they use cow leather in making shoes. " The Chucklers
or cobblers," the Abbe Dubois writes,* "are considered
inferiors to the Pariahs all over the peninsula. They are
more addicted to drunkenness "and debauchery. Their
orgies take place principally in the evening, and their
villages resound, far into the night, with the yells and
quarrels which result from their intoxication. The
very Pariahs refuse to have anything to do with the
Chucklers, and do not admit them to any of their feasts."
In the Madura Manual, 1868, the Chakkiliyans are
summed up as "dressers of leather, and makers of
slippers, harness, and other leather articles. They are
men of drunken and filthy habits, and their morals are
very bad. Curiously enough, their women are held to
be of the Padmani kind, i.e., of peculiar beauty of face
and form, and are also said to be very virtuous. It is
well known, however, that zamindars and other rich
men are very fond of intriguing with them, particularly
in the neighbourhood of Paramagudi, where they live in
great numbers." There is a Tamil proverb that even a
Chakkili girl and the ears of the millet are beautiful
when mature. In the Tanjore district, the Chakkiliyars
are said t to be "considered to be of the very lowest
status. In some parts of the district they speak Telugu
and wear the namam (Vaishnavite sect mark) and are
apparently immigrants from the Telugu country."
Though they are Tamil-speaking people, the Chakkili-
yans, like the Telugu Madigas, have exogamous septs
called gotra in the north, and kilai in the south. Unlike
the Madigas, they do not carry out the practice of
making Basavis (dedicated prostitutes).
* Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies,
t Manual of the Tanjore district, 1883.
The correlation of the most important measurements
of the Madigas of the Telugu country, and so-called
Chakkiliyans of the city of Madras, is clearly brought
out by the following figures :
Stature ... ... ... ... 163'! 162-2
Cephalic length 18-6 i8'6
breadth 13-9 13-9
index 75- 75-
Nasal height 4-5 4-6
breadth ... ... 3-7 3-6
index ... ... ... 8o'8 78-9
The Chakkiliyan men in Madras are tattooed not
only on the forehead, but also with their name, conven-
tional devices, dancing-girls, etc., on the chest and upper
It has been noticed as a curious fact that, in the
Madura district, "while the men belong to the right-
hand faction, the women belong to and are most
energetic supporters of the left. It is even said that,
during the entire period of a faction riot, the Chakkili
women keep aloof from their husbands and deny them
their marital rights." *
In a very interesting note on the leather industry of
the Madras Presidency, Mr. A. Chatterton writes as
follows. t " The position of the Chakkiliyan in the south
differs greatly from that of the Madiga of the north, and
many of his privileges are enjoyed by a ' sub-sect' of the
Pariahs called Vettiyans. These people possess the
right of removing dead cattle from villages, and in return
Manual of the Madura district.
t Monograph of Tanning and Working in Leather, 1904.
have to supply leather for agricultural purposes. The
majority of Chakkiliyans are not tanners, but leather-
workers, and, instead of getting the hides or skins direct
from the Vettiyan, they prefer to purchase them ready-
tanned from traders, who bring them from the large tan-
ning centres. When the Chuckler starts making shoes
or sandals, he purchases the leather and skin which he
requires in the bazar, and, taking it home, first proceeds
with a preliminary currying operation. The leather is
damped and well stretched, and dyed with aniline, the
usual colour being scarlet R.R. of the Badische Anilin
Soda Fabrik. This is purchased in the bazar in packets,
and is dissolved in water, to which a little oxalic acid
has been added. The dye is applied with a piece of rag
on the grain side, and allowed to dry. After drying,
tamarind paste is applied to the flesh side of the skin,
and the latter is then rolled between the hands, so as to
produce a coarse graining on the outer side. In making
the shoes, the leather is usually wetted, and moulded
into shape on wooden moulds or lasts. As a rule,
nothing but cotton is used for sewing, and the waxed
ends of the English cobler are entirely unknown. The
largest consumption of leather in this Presidency is for
water-bags or kavalais, which are used for raising water
from wells, and for oil and ghee (clarified butter) pots, in
which the liquids are transported from one place to
another. Of irrigation wells there are in the Presidency
more than 600,000, and, though some of them are fitted
with iron buckets, nearly all of them have leather bags
with leather discharging trunks. The buckets hold from
ten to fifty gallons of water, and are generally made
from fairly well tanned cow hides, though for very large
buckets buffalo hides are sometimes used. The number
of oil and ghee pots in use in the country is very large.
The use of leather vessels for this purpose is on the
decline, as it is found much cheaper and more convenient
to store oil in the ubiquitous kerosine-oil tin, and it is
not improbable that eventually the industry will die out,
as it has done in other countries. The range of work
of the country Chuckler is not very extensive. Besides
leather straps for wooden sandals, he makes crude
harness for the ryot's cattle, including leather collars
from which numerous bells are frequently suspended,
leather whips for the cattle drivers, ornamental fringes for
the bull's forehead, bellows for the smith, and small boxes
for the barber, in which to carry his razors. In some
places, leather ropes are used for various purposes, and
it is customary to attach big coir (cocoanut fibre) ropes
to the bodies of the larger temple cars by leather harness,
when they are drawn in procession through the streets.
Drum-heads and tom-toms are made from raw hides by
Vettiyans and Chucklers. The drums are often very
large, and are transported upon the back of elephants,
horses, bulls and camels. For them raw hides are re-
quired, but for the smaller instruments sheep-skins are
sufficient. The raw hides are shaved on the flesh side,
and are then dried. The hair is removed by rubbing
with wood-ashes. The use of lime in unhairing is not
permissible, as it materially decreases the elasticity of
the parchment." The Chakkiliyans beat the tom-tom
for Kammalans, Pallis and Kaikolans, and for other
castes if desired to do so.
The Chakkiliyans do not worship Matangi, who is
the special deity of the Madigas. Their gods include
Madurai Viran, Mariamma, Muneswara, Draupadi and
Gangamma. Of these, the last is the most important,
and her festival is celebrated annually, if possible. To
cover the expenses thereof, a few Chakkiliyans dress up
so as to represent men and women of the Marathi bird-
catching caste, and go about begging in the streets for
nine days. On the tenth day the festival terminates.
Throughout it, Gangamma, represented by three deco-
rated pots under a small pandal (booth) set up on the
bank of a river or tank beneath a margosa (Melia
azadirachtd), or pipal (Ficus reli%iosa) tree, is worshipped.
On the last day, goats and fowls are sacrificed, and
During the first menstrual period, the Chakkiliyan
girl is kept under pollution in a hut made of fresh green
boughs, which is erected by her husband or maternal
uncle. Meat, curds, and milk are forbidden. On the last
day, the hut is burnt down. At marriages a Chakkiliyan
usually officiates as priest, or the services of a Valluvan
priest may be enlisted. The consent of the girl's mater-
nal uncle to the marriage is essential. The marriage
ceremony closely resembles that of the Paraiyans. And,
at the final death ceremonies of a Chakkiliyan, as of a
Paraiyan, two bricks are worshipped, and thrown into a
tank or stream.
Lean children, especially of the Mala, Madiga, and
Chakkiliyan classes, are made to wear a leather strap,
specially made for them by a Chakkiliyan, which is
believed to help their growth.
At times of census, some Chakkiliyans have returned
themselves as Pagadaiyar, Madari (conceit or arrogance),
and Ranaviran (brave warrior).
Chakkiyar. The Chakkiyars are a class of Ambala-
vasis, of whom the following account is given in the
Travancore Census Report, 1901. The name is gener-
ally derived from Slaghyavakkukar (those with eloquent
words), and refers to the traditional function of the caste
in Malabar society. According to the Jatinirnaya, the
Chakkiyars represent a caste growth of the Kaliyuga.
The offence to which the first Chakkiyar owes his posi-
tion in society was, it would appear, brought to light
after the due performance of the upanayanasamskara.
Persons, in respect of whom the lapse was detected
before that spiritualizing ceremony took place, became
Nambiyars. Manu derives Suta, whose functions are
identical with the Malabar Chakkiyar, from a pratiloma
union, i.e., of a Brahman wife with a Kshatriya husband.*
The girls either marry into their own caste, or enter
into the sambandham form of alliance with Nambutiris.
They are called Illottammamar. Their jewelry resem-
bles that of the Nambutiris. The Chakkiyar may choose
a wife for sambandham from among the Nambiyars.
They are their own priests, but the Brahmans do the
purification (punyaham) of house and person after birth
or death pollution. The pollution itself lasts for eleven
days. The number of times the Gayatri (hymn) may
be repeated is ten.
The traditional occupation of the Chakkiyans is
the recitation of Puranic stories. The accounts of the
Avataras have been considered the highest form of
scripture of the non-Brahmanical classes, and the early
Brahmans utilised the intervals of their Vedic rites, i.e.,
the afternoons, for listening to their recitation by castes
who could afford the leisure to study and narrate them.
Special adaptations for this purpose have been composed
by writers like Narayana Bhattapada, generally known
as the Bhattatirippat, among whose works Dutavakya,
Panchalisvayamvara, Subhadrahana and Kaunteyashtaka
are the most popular. In addition to these, standard
works like Bhogachampu and Mahanataka are often
* Pratiloma, as opposed to an anuloma union, is the marriage of a female of
a higher caste with a man of a lower one.
pressed into the Chakkiyar's service. Numerous upa-
kathas or episodes are brought in by way of illustration,
and the marvellous flow of words, and the telling humour
of the utterances, keep the audience spell-bound. On
the utsavam programme of every important temple,
especially in North Travancore, the Chakkiyarkuttu
(Chakkiyar's performance) is an essential item. A
special building, known as kuttampalam, is intended for
this purpose. Here the Chakkiyar instructs and regales
his hearers, antiquely dressed, and seated on a three-
legged stool. He wears a peculiar turban with golden
rim and silk embossments. A long piece of cloth with
coloured edges, wrapped round the loins in innumerable
vertical folds with an elaborateness of detail difficult to
describe, is the Chakkiyar's distinctive apparel. Behind
him stands the Nambiyar, whose traditional kinship with
the Chakkiyar has been referred to, with a big jar-shaped
metal drum in front of him called milavu, whose bass
sound resembles the echo of distant thunder. The
Nambiyar is indispensable for the Chakkiyarkuttu, and
sounds his mighty instrument at the beginning, at the
end, and also during the course of his recitation, when
the Chakkiyar arrives at the middle and end of a
Sanskrit verse. The Nangayar, a female of the Nambi-
yar caste, is another indispensable element, and sits in
front of the Chakkiyar with a cymbal in hand, which
she sounds occasionally. It is interesting to note that,
amidst all the boisterous merriment into which the
audience may be thrown, there is one person who has to
sit motionless like a statue. If the Nangayar is moved
to a smile, the kuttu must stop, and there are cases
where, in certain temples, the kuttu has thus become a
thing of the past. The Chakkiyar often makes a feint
of representing some of his audience as his characters
for the scene under depictment. But he does it in such
a genteel way that rarely is offence taken. It is an
unwritten canon of Chakkiyarkuttu that the performance
should stop at once if any of the audience so treated
should speak out in answer to the Chakkiyar, who, it
may be added, would stare at an admiring listener, and
thrust questions on him with such directness and force
as to need an extraordinary effort to resist a reply. And
so realistic is his performance that a tragic instance is
said to have occurred when, by a cruel irony of fate, his
superb skill cost a Chakkiyar his life. While he was
explaining a portion of the Mahabharata with inimitable
theatrical effect, a desperate friend of the Pandavas
rose from his seat in a fit of uncontrollable passion,
and actually knocked the Chakkiyar dead when,
in an attitude of unmistakable though assumed heart-
lessness, he, as personating Duryodhana, inhumanely
refused to allow even a pin-point of ground to his
exiled cousins. This, it is believed, occurred in a
private house, and thereafter kuttu was prohibited except
It is noted, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that
" Chakkiyars or Slaghyar-vakukar are a caste following
makkattayam (inheritance from father to son), and wear
the punul (thread). They are recruited from girls born
to a Nambudiri woman found guilty of adultery, after
the date at which such adultery is found to have
commenced, and boys of similar origin, who have been
already invested with the sacred thread. Boys who have
not been invested with the punul when' their mother is
declared an adulteress, join the class known as Chakkiyar
Nambiyars, who follow marumakkattayam (inheritance
in the female line), and do not wear the thread. The
girls join either caste indifferently. Chakkiyars may
1 1 CHALIYAN
marry Nangiyars, but Chakkiyar Nambiyars may not
Chaliyan. The Chaliyans are a caste of Malayalam
cotton weavers, concerning whom Mr. Francis writes as
follows*: " In dress and manners they resemble the
artisan castes of Malabar, but, like the Pattar Brahmans,
they live in streets, which fact probably points to their
being comparatively recent settlers from the east coast.
They have their own barbers called Potuvans, who are
also their purohits. They do not wear the sacred
thread, as the Sale weavers of the east coast do. They
practise ancestor worship, but without the assistance of
Brahman priests. This is the only Malabar caste which
has anything to do with the right and left-hand faction
disputes, and both divisions are represented in it, the
left hand being considered the superior. Apparently,
therefore, it settled in Malabar some time after the
beginnings of this dispute on the east coast, that is,
after the eleventh century A. D. Some of them follow
the marumakkatayam and others the makkatayam law
of inheritance, which looks as if the former were earlier
settlers than the latter."
The Chaliyans are so called because, unlike most of
the west coast classes, they live in streets, and Teruvan
(teru, a street) occurs as a synonym for the caste name.
The right-hand section are said to worship the elephant
god Ganesa, and the left Bhagavati.
The following account of the Chaliyans is given in
the Gazetteer of the Malabar district : " Chaliyans are
almost certainly a class of immigrants from the east
coast. They live in regular streets, a circumstance
strongly supporting this view. The traditional account
* Madras Census Report, 1901.
is to the same effect. It is said that they were originally
of a high caste, and were imported by one of the
Zamorins, who wished to introduce the worship of
Ganapathi, to which they are much addicted. The
latter's minister, the Mangatt Acchan, who was entrusted
with the entertainment of the new arrivals, and was
nettled by their fastidiousness and constant complaints
about his catering, managed to degrade them in a body
by the trick of secretly mixing fish with their food.
They do not, like their counterparts on the east coast,
wear the thread ; but it is noticeable that their priests,
who belong to their own caste, wear it over the right
shoulder instead of over the left like the Brahman's
punul, when performing certain pujas (worship). In
some parts, the place of the regular punul is taken by a
red scarf or sash worn in the same manner. They are
remarkable for being the only caste in Malabar amongst
whom any trace of the familiar east coast division into
right-hand and left-hand factions is to be found. They
are so divided ; and those belonging to the right-hand
faction deem themselves polluted by the touch of those
belonging to the left-hand sect, which is numerically
very weak. They are much addicted to devil-dancing,
which rite is performed by certain of their numbers
called Komarams in honour of Bhagavathi and the
minor deities Vettekkorumagan and Gulikan (a demon).
They appear to follow makkatayam (descent from father
to son) in some places, and marumakkatayam (inherit-
ance in the female line) in others. Their pollution
period is ten days, and their purification is performed by
the Talikunnavan (sprinkler), who belongs to a some-
what degraded section of the caste."
The affairs of the caste are managed by headmen
called Uralans, and the caste barber, or Pothuvan, acts as
the caste messenger. Council meetings are held at the
village temple, and the fines inflicted on guilty persons
are spent in celebrating puja (worship) thereat.
When a girl reaches puberty, the elderly females of
Uralan families take her to a tank, and pour water over
her head from small cups made of the leaves of the jak
(Artocarpus integrifolia) tree. She is made to sit apart
on a mat in a room decorated with young cocoanut
leaves. Round the mat raw rice and paddy (unhusked
rice) are spread, and a vessel containing cocoanut flowers
and cocoanuts is placed near her. On the third evening,
the washerman (Peruvannan) brings some newly- washed
cloths (mattu). He is presented with some rice and
paddy, which he ties up in a leaf, and does puja. He
then places the cloths on a plank, which he puts on his
head. After repeating some songs or verses, he sets it
down on the floor. Some of the girl's female relations
take a lighted lamp, a pot of water, a measure of rice, and
go three times round the plank. On the following day,
the girl is bathed, and the various articles which have
been kept in her room are thrown into a river or tank.
Like many other Malabar castes, the Chaliyans per-
form the tali kettu ceremony. Once in several years,
the girls of the village who have to go through this
ceremony are brought to the house of one of the
Uralans, where a pandal (booth) has been set up.
Therein a plank, made of the wood of the pala tree
(Alstonia scholaris), a lighted lamp, betel leaves and
nuts, a measure of raw rice, etc., are placed. The girl
takes her seat on the plank, holding in her right hand a
mimic arrow (shanthulkol). The Pothuvan, who re-
ceives a fanam (coin) and three bundles of betel leaves
for his services, hands the tali to a male member of an
Uralan family, who ties it on the girl's neck.
On the day before the wedding-day the bridegroom,
accompanied by his male relations, proceeds to the
house of the bride, where a feast is held. On the
following day the bride is bathed, and made to stand
before a lighted lamp placed on the floor. The bride-
groom's father or uncle places two gold fanams (coins)
in her hands, and a further feast takes place.
In the seventh month of pregnancy, the ceremony
called puli kudi (or drinking tamarind) is performed.
The woman's brother brings a twig of a tamarind tree,
and, after the leaves have been removed, plants it in the
yard of the house. The juice is extracted from the
leaves, and mixed with the juice of seven cocoanuts.
The elderly female relations of the woman give her a
little of the mixture. The ceremony is repeated during
three days. Birth pollution is removed by a barber
woman sprinkling water on the ninth day.
The dead are buried. The son carries a pot of
water to the grave, round which he takes it three times.
The barber makes a hole in the pot, which is then
thrown down at the head of the grave. The barber also
tears off a piece of the cloth, in which the corpse is
wrapped. This is, on the tenth day, taken by the son
and barber to the sea or a tank, and thrown into it.
Three stones are set up over the grave.
Chaliyan also occurs as an occupational title or sub-
division of Nayars, and Chaliannaya as an exogamous
sept of Bant. In the Madras Census Report, 1901,
Chaliyan is given as a sub-caste of Vaniyan (oil-
pressers). Some Chaliyans are, however, oilmongers