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take unusual forms. In the north of Melur taluk, it is credibly-
stated, women who are anxious for offspring vow that if they
attain their wish they will go and have a cocoanut broken on their
lieads by the pujari of the temple at vSendurai. In many shrines
hang ex voto cradles and small painted clay babies placed there by
women who have at length been blessed with children. Silvered'
voto images of parts of the body which have recovered from disease
are often presented to the larger temples, such as those at Palni,
Tirupparankunram and Alagarkovil. The mouth-lock vows which
are performed at Palni are referred to in the account of that
])lace on p. 307 below. Alagarkovil is such a favourite place
for carrying out the first shaving of the heads of children that the
right to the locks presented to the shrine is annually sold by
auction ! When cattle or sheep are sick, people vow that if they
recover they will go and do puja on the top of one or other of
several little hills which are thought to be very efficacious in such
cases. Gopinathasvami hill in Kannivadi zamindari is one of
these, and others are those at Vadipatti in Nilakkottai taluk and
Settinayakkanpatti near Dindigul. Fire-walking is often per-
formed at Draupadi shrines. In Palni there is an annual feast
at the Mariamman temple at which people carry in their bare
hands, in performance of vows, earthen pots with a bright fire


blazing inside thera. Thoy are said to escape bnrng by the favour CHAP. m.
of the goddess, but it is whispered that immunitj is sometimes The Hindis.
rendered doubly sure by putting- sand or paddy husk at the bottom
of the pot.

Devils are unusually numerous. Sometimes they haunt land Devils.
and render it unlucky, and such fields (pisdsu pidiclicha, ni'lam, as
the}'' are called) are unsaleable. Generally, however, they take up
their abode in a woman. Women thus possessed may be seen at
tlie great temple at Madura every Navaratri, waiting for release.
There are many professional exorcists, who are often the pujaris
at the local goddess' shrine. Their methods have a family resem-
blance. At dead of night they question the evil spirit and ask him
who he is, w^hy he lias conu^ there and what he wants to induce him
to go away. He answers through the mouth of the u'oman, who
works herself up into a frenzy and throws herst-lf about wildly.
If he will not answer, the woman is whipped with the rattan which
the exorcist carries, or with a bunch of margosa twigs. W'jien he
replies, his requests for offerings of certain kinds ai-e complied
with. When lie is satisfied and agrees to leave, a stone is placed
on the woman's head and she is let go and dashes off into the
darkness. The place at which the stone drops to the ground is
supposed to be the place where the evil spirit is content to remain,
and to keep him there a lock of the woman's hair is nailed with an
iron nail (Madura devils, like those of other parts, dislike iron)
to the nearest tree.

Short accounts v.ull now be given of certain castes which occur rRi.xnpAL
in greater strength in this district than in others. These notes will t'Asrrs.
clearly show how slight is the influence of the Bra'hmans in social
matters. Neither at weddings nor at funerals is their presence
usually required. 'I lie various castes employ either priests of tlicic
own community or none at all. Certain oth^r resemblances run
through the customs of all these communities. Kntloganious
subdivisions are usual and exogarnous septs common ; the easte
organization is generally complete and powerful ; the ceremonies
performed when a girl artains maturity are elaljorate ; at weddin}^ miles east of Usilampatti. '1 laese main sections are again
sub-divided into smaller ndds calJed after certain villages which it
would be tedious to name in detail. At Sivaratri Kalians go and
do pdja at the tem})le in the village which gives its name to tlieir
ndd. Tradition says that the caste came originally ' from the
north ' ; the dead are buried with their faces laid in that direction ;
and when pdja is done to Karuppanasvami, the caste god already
r^'ferred to, the worshippers turn to the north. The Kilnad
Kalians were thus the first to reach the district. They came
south, say the legends, on a hunting excursion with their dogs
and their caste weapon, the valldrUadi or boomerang, and
observing a peacock turn and show fight to one of their hounds
saw that the country mast be favourable to the development of
the manly virtues and decided to settle in it. The Vellalans wore
then the chief cultivators round Melur, and the Kalians took service
under them. The masters, however, so bullied the servants tliat
the latter eventually struck and drew up a schedule of money
penalties to be exacted for every variety of bodily injury inflicted
on them, from the knocking out of a tooth to the causing of deatli.
Later on they grew strong enough to turn the Vellalans altogether
out of the taluk, which they then named tan-aranu-ndd or ' tlie
country governed by themselves.' A section of them then travelled


CHAP. HI. westward heyond tlie Nagamalai, drove out the Vedans who
rKiNciPAi, peopled that country and settled there. Branches from this
Castes. division travelled to Dindigul and Palni. Jt is said that
the poligar of Virupakshi (p. 310) invited some of them to serve
under him as l)order guards and tliat Ottaiyur (' single village ') in
Palni, which is now entirely peopled by Kalians, was founded by
the descendants of these people.

The organization of the Kilntid Kalians differs from that of
their biethren beyond the hills. Among the former an hereditary
headman, called the ambahkdran, rules in almost every village.
He receives small fees at domestic ceremonies, is entitled to the
iirst betel and nut and settles caste disputes. Pines indicted
are credited to the caste fund. The western Kalians are under a
more monarchical rule, an hereditary headman called Tirumala
Pinnai Tevan deciding most caste matters. He is said to get this
hereditary name from the fact that his ancestor was appointed
(with three co-adjutors) by king Tirumala Nayakkan and given
many insignia of office, including a state palanquin. If any one
declines to abide by his decision, excommunication is prooounced
by the ceremony of ' placing the thorn ,^ which consists in laying
a thorny branch across ihe threshold of the recalcitrant party's
house to signify that for his contumacy his property will go to
ruin and be overrun with jungle. The removal of the thorn and
the restitution of the sinner to Kalian society can only be procured
by abject apologies to Pinnai Tevan.

Every Kalian boy has a right to claim the hand of his paternal
aunt's daughter in marriage. This aunt bears the expenses
connected with his circumcision. Similarly the maternal uncle
pays the cost of the rites which are observed when a girl attains
maturity, for he has a claim on the girl as a bride for his son.
These two ceremonies are performed at one time for large batches
of boys and girls. On an auspicious day the young -people are all
feasted and dressed in their best and repair to a river or tank.
The mothers of the girls make lamps of plantain leaves and float
them on the water and the boys are operated on by the local
barber, who gets a fee of from one to live fanams fa fanam is 3 as.
4 ps.) for each. This practice of circumcision, which is not
common among Hindu castes, has often been supposed to have
been borrowed from, or enforced by, the Musalmans, but argu-
ments in favour of its indigenous origin are the facts that it has
a Tamil name and that, as has been said, the maternal aunt pays
the expenses.



Polyandry is stated^ to have prevailed among the -western cUAP. III.
Kalians at one time, but no traces of the practice now survive. Priscipai.

When a girl has attained maturitj she puts away the necklace
of coloured beads she wore as a child and dons the horse-hair
necklet which is characteristic of the Kalian woman. This she
retains till death, even if she become a widow. The richer Kalians
substitute for the horse-hair a necklace of many strands of fine
silver wire. In Tirumangalam the women often hang round tlieir
necks a most curious brass and silver pendant, six or eight inclies
long and elaborately worked.

Marriage is either infant or adult. Rrahmans have no hand in
it. A boomerang should figure among the presents to the bride.
The tali is tied by the bridegroom's sister, who then hurries off
the bride, weeping pitfously, to her brother's house. Widows
may re-marr)' and, if childless, almost invariably do so The
correct match is with the late husband's brother Divorce is a
mutual right and is permitted on slight grounds so long as the
petitioner pays the usual fines, which are graduated in a compli-
cated manner to meet different c;ises A man who divorces his
wife for unfaithfulness does so by sending for her brothers and
formally giving them a piece of straw, the idea being that this is
all the fine the lady's value demands. The childreu of a divorcee
conceived after the divorce may be legitimised by the waist-
string of the father being cut off at a caste meeting and tied
round the woman's neck.

The Kiluad Kalians usually bury their dead. Lamps are

Online LibraryMadras (India : State)Madura (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 40)