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Malabar Manual Vol 2
William Logan

Position and Extent.—This island, which is the largest of the northern group of the Cannanore Islands, is situated in Lat. 10° 48' N and Long, 73° 57' E. It is about 139 miles from Calicut and differs in its formation from all the other islands of the group in that it lies east and west and has hardly any lagoon. The coral shoal upon which it is situated is of considerable extent, but the coral crops up to the surface only in the immediate neighbourhood of the land, the reef being hardly anywhere above sixty yards from the beach, and on the east the beach and reef are coincident.

The greatest length of the island from south-east to north-west is about 3½ miles, and the greatest breadth, which is at about the centre of the island, is 1¼ miles. The area is l,0672/3 acres or about 12/3 square miles. The coast line is scarcely at all indented, so that the island forms a regular oval figure. The surface is generally a level plain, elevated but a few feet above the sea, but here and there it is varied by mounds formed mostly of the heaped-up material excavated in forming the "Tottam” or arable land.

The highest mound is probably not 40 feet above the sea and the average elevation not more than 7 or 8 feet.

Soil, Products.—The soil is comparatively superior to that of other islands save perhaps parts of Kalpeni. It is richest in the centre and west parts and poorest on the south-east, where it is largely mixed with coral stones varying in size from small pebbles to considerable boulders. The Pandaram or crown lands comprise about one-fourth of the area of the islands and are scattered throughout the holdings of the islanders. They have been acquired by escheat or confiscation and contained, according to Sir William Robinson’s report, about 20,000 coconut trees prior to the great storm of 1847.

The chief Pandaram possessions are the East and West Valiya Pandarams which are comparatively in a neglected condition. The holdings of the islanders are well stocked with coconut trees. The chief produce of the island is coconuts ; but dry grains, such as raggi, varagu and millet, yams, sweet potatoes, bread-fruit trees, plantains, limes, areca palms and betel vines are also grown to a limited extent.

Animals.—The number of cattle and goats is larger in this island than in any other and amounted in 1880 to 208 cattle and 418 goats. The only other domestic animals are fowls and cats. There are several species of rats which commit great injury to coconut plantation. The crow is the only wild bird that breeds on the island, but it is visited by various kinds of sea birds and also by migratory birds, such as the golden plover, the smaller curlew and the cuckoo.

As there is no lagoon, the turtle and tortoise are very scarce, and from the absence of extensive shallow coral banks, the same is the case with cowries and other shells. Fish also are not plentiful, but there is a small species of octopus, called by the islanders appallu, which when roasted is esteemed a great delicacy.

People, their Customs and Occupation.—The people of the island fall under three main classes, viz. —

(1) Karnavar (doers, agents), subdivided into Karnavar proper and Thanakapirantha Kudiyans.

(2) Malumis (pilots and sailors), subdivided into (a) Malumis proper, (b) Urukars.

(3) Melacheris (tree-climbers).

The first class of Karnavars is composed of the rich odam (vessel) owners and Panchayatkars (arbitrators). The male members of this class are also distinguished by the title of Koya—a religious dignity. The island Karnavans, Amin and Kazi, all belong to this class. The Thanakapirantha Kudiyans are less wealthy and cultivators. The second class or the Malumis are, as the name implies, sailors They are generally Patta Kudiyans, i.e., partly independent and partly dependent on the higher classes The only difference between the Malumis proper and the Urukars appears to be in the names. The third class, Melacheris, are servants and toddy-drawers (the name signifies one who works aloft).

These are generally Adima Kudiyans or serfs of the Karnavars, but they are at liberty to change their employers. Inter-marriage between the two classes of Karnavars is free and unrestrained, and lately it appears that the jusconnubrum (right of intermarriage with Karnavars) has been accorded to the second class), but it is still withheld from the third class or Melacheris, intermarriage with whom is punished by the exclusion of the offender from his or her caste. The marriage is, however, deemed a valid one.

The islanders compare favourably in physique with the people of the coast and in their customs and habits closely resemble the Mappilias of North Malabar. The men of the upper classes wear jackets and head gear, but the Melacheris or lowest classes wear neither the one nor the other. Contrary to what is the usage on the mainland, the women do not cover their heads and are not kept in seclusion. The women are generally very untidy and dirty.

The people are, as a rule, quiet in their disposition, but the complexities of the Muhammadan rules of inheritance and marriage and the existence, side by side, of the Makkatayam and Marumakkatayam rules give rise to frequent litigation. The men are comparatively indolent, but the women are engaged from morning till dark in cooking, pounding rice, beating, unravelling and twisting coir-fibre, carrying loads, boiling toddy in order to make jaggery, etc.

It is somewhat difficult to define what is the occupation of the Karnavar class, as they rarely do anything save bullying their dependents or quarrelling among themselves ; occasionally they do a little cultivation and fishing, and those who have odams (vessels) superintend the repairs and accompany the odam on the voyage to the coast where they do all the buying and selling, only rendering an account upon the return of the odam to the island.

The dependents of the Karnavar caste serve for nothing in their master’s odam (boat), or, when he has none, in the odam in which he sails or sends his goods. The Kudiyan must also ship the produce of his trees, etc., in the master’s odam, or through him in the odam in which the master ships his own goods, and 20 per cent of the goods he so exports is appropriated by the master as freight. The tottam or arable land is sometimes cultivated by the master, but most is given over to Kudiyans(dependents) on the share-and-share-alike system.

The income of the Karnavar class, who are all landholders and many of them odam-owners, is thus derived from the following sources :-

(1) From the produce of parambas retained in their own hands.

(2) From the export and sale of the goods worked up by the females of the family.

(3) From the freight paid them by their Kudiyans on the goods they export. Where the Karnavan is also the odam-owner he gets the whole 20 per cent ; when he is not, he usually gets freight for his own goods and those of his Kudiyans at the rate of 10 per cent in the odam of another and the other 10 per cent of the exports of his Kudiyans is alone appropriated by him.

(4) From the rent (half the produce) of their arable lands.

(5) Kudiyams are also bound to give the Karnavan a share of the fish they catch when fishing in his boat and to make presents on the occasion of weddings and other festivities in the Karnavan's family

(6) Some of this class also make tours on the mainland giving themselves out to be priests and often return to the island with large sums collected from the faithful of the places they visit.

The second class or Malumis are sailors and are engaged in exporting the produce of the island to the mainland in the Karnavar's odams ; some of them also possess fishing boats and small odams of their own, in which they make voyages to the coast, and this has excited the jealousy of the Karnavar class, who look upon them as interlopers and rebels. There is thus ill-feeling between the two classes.

The Melacheris or the third class are the hardest working population of the island. They alone climb trees and so pluck the nuts and draw toddy from the trees in the possession of the higher classes. For plucking nuts, a small percentage is given them as hire, and the toddy which is drawn twice a day is given every other day to the Karnavan, i.e., half goes to the Melacheri and half to the Karnavan. Besides their profession of toddy-drawing, they have to do odam service for their lords and they also work in the tottam and go fishing.

A few coast people who have settled in the island are silversmiths and jewellers.

Population, Sanitary Condition and Medical Aspects.—The population of the island previous to the great storm of 1847 was 2,576 ; in 1876 it was 2,629. According to the census of 1881 it numbered 2,884 souls, of whom 1,412 were males and 1,472 were females. A large number of people perished during the storm of 1847, and it is believed that the number that remained in the island, omitting those who emigrated to the other islands, did not exceed 900. The island has now thoroughly recovered itself from the disastrous effects of 1847.

The sanitary condition of the island, although more satisfactory than that of the rest is, as might be expected very backward. There is no conservancy, and house-refuse is allowed to accumulate in the house-yards until it becomes objectionable, when it is collected and occasionally burnt. Rarely it is placed as manure in the pits in which young coconut-plants are planted.

Water-supply is good, there being as a rule a well attached to each house. The wells consist of a pit about 5 feet square and about 5 feet deep with steps leading down one side to a similar pit at the bottom cut through the coral substratum. From these wells, which are never dried up, excellent water is obtained. Some of the mosques and better sort of houses have also small tanks similarly constructed attached to them. These are used for bathing purposes only, but the sea is the chief resort for this purpose. There are no wells for purely cultivation purposes.

The houses are built with thin slabs quarried from the coral freestone substratum, the size of the blocks averaging about 5 to 6 feet in length, 2 feet in width and 4 inches in thickness. These are placed lengthwise on their edges and the walls so formed are plastered to give them stability. The houses are ill-ventilated and are in some cases so dark that a stranger requires to be shown about with torch or other light. The higher and lower classes are opposed to vaccination, but several children have been operated on, and a beginning has been made. There are two native physicians in the island. They purchase the necessary medicines from native physicians on the coast. There is hardly any medicinal plant to be found there. The most prevalent diseases are fever, rheumatism, consumption, dysentery, itch and ophthalmia.

Education.—The upper classes do not seem to be wanting in intelligence, but they are very indifferent to education, whilst the lower classes from the state of the subjection in which they are held are rude and ignorant. Most of the members of both sexes belonging to the former class can read the Koran character, but the number that can read Malayalam is comparatively limited. The number shown in the census return of 1881 is 89. A school was started by Mr. Winterbotham in 1878 with a nominal roll of 36 boys, but this number had dwindled away to 14 in 1880. The plan of combining mosque schools and secular schools is being tried.

Religion arid Mosques.—All the people of the island profess Muhammadanism. There were 30 mosques in 1880, of which 28 had grave yards attached.

Manufactures and Trade.—The only manufactures carried on in the sland are the manufacture of coir-yarn and that of jaggery. Shark fin are cured for exportation in small quantities, but the curing of holothuric has been entirely given up. Jaggery is prepared from meerah (as the sweet toddy drawn from the coconut palm is called) by a process of evaporation. In order to prevent fermentation, in place of rubbing the collecting pots with chunam (lime water) as is done on the mainland, the Melacheris are in the habit of putting in them small coral limestone pebbles which answer the same purpose, and to this cause is attributed the peculiar sweet taste of the island toddy.

When the meerah has become semi-fluid, which it does after about two hours boiling, various articles are usually mixed with it in order to flavour it, such as rice, ragi flour and the scrapings of tender coconuts, etc. It is then taken off the fire and allowed to cool, when it forms a solid but sticky mass. This the women mould into balls (Pindika) of from 1 lb. to 2 lb. in weight, which they wrap up in bread-fruit tree leaves, and in this form it is exported. At Calicut a price of about two annas per pound is obtained. Jaggery is used by Mappillas in the preparation of the Calicut "alva", a very popular sweetmeat amongst them. Ambergris, which was mentioned by Sir William Robinson as a product of Androth, was found by Mr. Brodie only in the possession of one islander.

The principal exports from the island are, as in all other islands, coir-yarn, coconuts, with and without husk, jaggery and pindika (a kind of sweetmeat) and a little vinegar, lime-pickle and shark fins. The imports are rice, salt, arecanuts, betel, curry-stuffs, cooking utensils, both earthen and metal, implements of husbandry, clothes and occasionally cattle and ornaments. Teak, mango-wood and bamboos are also imported and used in repairing the odams and small boats.

As Androth is the nearest island to the coast, many odams from other islands call there for water, etc, both on their way to the mainland and when returning. The usual coast markets visited by the islanders are Calicut, where they sell their goods, and Mangalore where they usually purchase their supplies. Occasionally they also call at Tellicherry and Cannanore. The number of boats possessed by the islanders in 1880 as contrasted with the numbers in 1876 and 1848 is given below :-

Survey and Cowles.—The demarcation and survey of the Pandaram lands in Androth have been completed and most of the lands granted on cowle.

Subdivisions of the Island.—-The island is divided into four subdivisions or cheris, viz.-

(a) Edacheri

(b) Mecheri

(c) Kicheri

(d) Chemacheri.

The last cheri is situated upon the southern shore and separated from Edacheri by the tottam or garden. Formerly these cheris were political and revenue subdivisions, but now that all matters are decided by the Amin with the assistance of the Karnavars, regardless of the cheri to which the latter belong, and the Muppans and the Nadapals are abolished and the revenue administration directly committed to the Amin, these subdivisions have lost all importance. There are no islets attached to Androth for administrative purposes.

Commentary                MMVol 1               MMVol 2

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