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Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Ezhava-side interests

It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!


Now, let me take up the Ezhava-side interests.

Even though there seems to be no documentary evidence mentioned in the book, Malabar, it is seen mentioned that the Ezhavas came from Ceylon. It is again seen asserted that they brought in the coconut tree from Ceylon. Since Ceylon and Travancore are quite nearby locations, it is possible that it was a common tree in both the locations. In fact, Ceylon is much nearer to Travancore than is Cannanore. As to anyone bringing the coconut tree to Travancore and from there to Malabar, there might not be any specific need to identify it with any one particular caste or population unless there is some documentary evidence to that effect. For, history literally goes backward indefinitely.

Since the traditional language of Travancore is seen being mentioned as being Tamil, it is quite possible that the Ezhavas also had some close Tamil links. However, as of now, there might be different populations who might be identified as Ezhavas. I do not personally have much information on Ezhavas, other than what is seen written in such books as Travancore State Manual, Native Life in Travancore, Castes and tribes of Southern India etc.

In the last two mentioned books, there are locations where some attempt to identify the Ezhavas with the Thiyyas is seen. In the Native Life in Travancore, there is this line:

QUOTE: In the far south on both coasts they are known as Shanars; in Central Travancore as Ilavars; from Quilon to Paravoor, Chogans; in Malabar, as far as Calicut, they are called Teers, or Tiyars; and still farther north Billavars, which appears to be a slightly altered form of Ilavar. END OF QUOTE

What was Rev. Samuel Mateer’s source of information that made him mention the Makkathaya Thiyyas of South Malabar as Ezhavas is not known. However, as I had mentioned earlier, the Converted Christian Church had its own self-centred aim in promoting an idea that the Travancore and Malabar were one single geo-political unit. However, it is again curious that Mateer has not mentioned the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas of North Malabar.

As mentioned earlier, the Ezhavas of Travancore had their own deities. Not necessarily that of the Brahmanical religion. However, being under the Nayars, as the both the two Thiyyas were in Malabar, there would naturally be a lot of worship systems wherein they collaborated with the Nayars.

It is similar to any kind of hierarchical systems. For instance, see the case of the Kerala police now. The DySp (deputy district police officer) is conducting a function. In that function, the Circle Inspector, the Sub Inspector, the Head Constable and the Constables would have different and certain definite roles to play. In a similar manner, in any sacramental function conducted by a Nair household, there would be many lower-placed populations who would willingly and joyously participate.

In a manner similar to the police constable being placed at the down-below fag end of the hierarchy, the lowest class populations would stand at the lowest levels. However, they would also participate. There would not be any antipathy towards the Nair household. For, this is the social system everyone is accustomed to.

[Incidentally the antipathy arises only when the lower-placed populations are allowed to rise up in social standing. Then they would start having terrible and vexatious memories of how they had been low-level servants of persons who they now perceive as equals. Generally in feudal language social systems, the lower-placed populations are never allowed to improve. Only utterly foolish English social systems allow the slave populations from elsewhere to rise up in social standing to their own levels. These populations later carry a lot of grudge towards the same people who helped them improve. As to the lower-placed populations in feudal language systems, they have a lot of gratitude and affection towards the higher castes who throw a few crumbs to them.]

The second item is that the Ezhavas are generally dark-skinned. As mentioned earlier, there were many Ezhavas who were fair-complexioned also. So, it is evident that there has been a lot of mixing up of population among the Ezhavas.

At the same time, it must also be admitted that in those days, the total population of Travancore had a darker hue to their skin. In Malabar, in those days, the dark-skin was more or less confined to the labourers who worked in the sun.

In Travancore, it was possible to find Nayars and even some Brahmin folks with dark-skin complexion. All this generally point to a genetically different population mix in Travancore.

The wider theme with regard to the skin-complexion is that dark-skin complexion is less liked by many people in the subcontinent. It is not that the dark-skinned persons are inferior or something like that. It is simply that dark-skin is seen as less lovely. However, beyond that, dark-skinned is slightly connected to lower-placed population groups in Travancore. However, in Malabar, since the lower-castes are also fair in skin complexion, this identification is not absolute. But then again in Malabar also, dark-skin is mentally connected to a lower class population.

The problem with the dark-skin complexion is that the dark-skinned populations themselves do not appreciate their skin colour. It is at this point that the dark-skin goes down. However, from a personal experience, it is generally seen that the dark-skinned people are capable of bearing the sun-heat much more than the fair-skinned.

There is some other observation that I have had that seems to connect the skin-colour with certain language-code effects. However, I cannot go into that here.

The second terrific problem that confronted the Ezhavas and all the lower castes in Travancore was them being kept out of all kinds of government jobs in the kingdom, other than menial jobs. Ezhavas would naturally try to stick close to the Nayar community, and at the same time try to keep all the castes below them at a distance. This more or less proves that they were willing collaborators of the social system. Their only complaint being that they are not allowed to move up. They were not keen that the castes below them should come up.

The social system and the various kinds of repulsions and attractions were designed by the feudal languages of the location. The language is seen mentioned as Tamil. How it became Malayalam might be a very curious story.

The Ezhavas in Travancore were under the Nayars as were both the two different populations known as Thiyyas in Malabar. However, it is quite doubtful if the common Ezhava in Travancore or common Thiyya in Malabar would be aware of each other. In fact, way back in 1970s, I did understand that not many common persons in Malabar had heard of a caste called Ezhava. At the same time, in 1982, when I mentioned Thiyya in my college in Trivandrum, not even one person could understand what that caste was. In fact, it was a very curious incident that one of my college-mates understood it as some kind of Brahmin caste (something like Elayathu), seeing the casual manner in which I had mentioned the word Thiyya.

With the establishment of the English-rule in Malabar and the establishment of a close relationship between the Travancore kingdom’s government and the English administrators in Madras, the detachment and disconnection that Malabar and Travancore had between each other broke down at the official levels. It is possible that the Malabar district higher officials would have immense chance to meet and interact with the Travancore government higher officials in some common meeting place in Madras meant for the senior civil servants.

It might be true that at among the seafaring and fishermen folks from Malabar and Travancore, there would be much contact. However, it is seen that generally the fishermen folks and such other traditional seafaring populations seem to be from a common population group. Even though they were good at their work, they were generally kept at a distance by the people who live and work in the land areas. As of now, all these distance and disconnections are melting down.

Even though these kinds of melting-downs of social barriers are very easily understood as some kind of great social reformation, the fact remains that unless these kinds of changes are forcefully directed by some higher-quality people like the native-English, what ultimately comes out is a highly profanity-filled communication group. In fact, the worst qualities of the mixing groups get diffused into everyone. The good qualities simply fade out.

The knowledge of Malabar and its people and location would be slowly filtering into the Travancore region by way of the Christian Church also. When mentioning the Christian Church, it must be very carefully mentioned that a huge majority of the traditional Christian populations in Travancore and Malabar had nothing to do with the establishment of the English rule in the subcontinent. I will take up that point later.

When the English administration in Madras exerted pressure upon the Travancore government, the lower castes were given a lot of liberties for the first time in centuries. It is sure that it is this freedom that gave the social condition for persons like Sree Narayana Guru etc. to come up. Otherwise it is quite conceivable that if any Ezhava man were to set up a Brahmanical temple and make a totally cantankerous statement that it was an Ezhava Sivan that he was consecrating, he would have been beaten to a pulp then and there, along with huge stream of profanities to add insult to injury.

Generally there was a punishment used by most ruling kings and other small-time and big-time royals in the Subcontinent. That is impalement. If the higher classes feel that they had been slighted, they would complain to their rulers who would catch the miscreant and impale him. In fact, there is the incident of the so-called Pazhassi raja (he was not actually a raja, but just a family member of the ruler of Kottayam, who had the chance to occupy the title of raja during the melee caused by Sultan Tippu’s rumpus in Malabar.) of Kottayam near Tellicherry, impaling certain Mappillas because of some ‘respect’ issue. This was the first cause of consternation for the English administration with regard to him. Impaling means, hammering iron nails through the body to sort of fix it to a wooden pole or board.

Velu Tampi who occupied the post of Dalawa of Travancore for quite short period had this habit. He would also impale persons as a sort of quick punishment. In many cases, it was seen as quite effective. The Muslims in Travancore also had this experience from him. There might be need to study why there is so much antipathy for the Muslims in the subcontinent. It is due to a range of issue. Each different in different locations. I will try to take that up later.

Even though the Ezhavas were experiencing a lot more freedom, still they were a lower-placed population who could not get a government job. The issue of a government job in the subcontinent is that it is not at all like a government job in England. A government job in the subcontinent is not really a job, but a social position. All the lower grade words will get deleted with regard to the person who gets a government job. An ‘avan’ will become an ‘Adheham’ in Malayalam. An ‘aval’ will become an ‘Avar’ in Malayalam. This is something not understood or known in English. Naturally no sane individual from the higher caste would allow such a change to come upon a lower caste man.

It would be like household servant in the subcontinent being allowed to sit on the dining table and eat along with the members of the household. It would be a terrible infliction on the householders. The language codes insist that the servant maid has to sit on the floor and eat. She has to be addressed as a ‘Nee’ and she has to use ‘respectful’ words to the householders. If she is allowed more freedom and allowed to sit on the dining table, she would start addressing the householders with a Nee. And she would refer to the landlady as an ‘Aval’.

Without understanding all this, it would be quite unwise to define the terror that the Nayars felt in allowing the Ezhavas and other lower castes to come up. It was this perfectly mischievous deed that the Christian missionaries from the London Missionary Society were doing in Travancore kingdom. They were interfering into a social system they did not understand. And the more terrible part of their deed in Travancore was that they were developing a new language called Malayalam. This new language was to contain all the local feudal codes. So, in that sense the Christian Church was doing a social interference in Travancore, which was totally opposite to what the English administration was doing in Malabar. In Malabar, as elsewhere in the subcontinent, the English administration was trying hard to crush down the native feudal languages. More so, after the Minutes on Indian education was ratified by the English East India Company administration. Macaulay had clearly mentioned that the native languages here were ‘rude’.

The fact that the Thiyyas of Malabar, who by caste hierarchy were on the same pedestal as the Ezhavas, as being just below the Nayars, were in a social system where there was no statutory restrains on them would have been a most painful information to the Ezhava leadership and other Ezhavas who knew about this. There is no doubt that these people who came to know about this would be discussing this most ‘terrible’ information. That, over there in Malabar, ‘we’ are able to get high ranking government jobs.

It is like a menial servant finding that his friend’s son is an IAS or IPS officer.

It goes without saying that for the Ezhavas, it was just a matter of moving into Malabar, and they become a ‘forward caste’ population. This would be a great information. For, the path to salvation was a ‘relocation to Malabar’. Or to somehow connect with the Thiyyas of Malabar, especially of North Malabar.

This point would be quite clearly understood by the Ezhava leadership also. For, over there in Travancore, they are mere dirt to the officialdom. At the same time, in Malabar, they become the leaders of the officialdom!

It might be true that there would be a lot Ezhava families which were not poor or of the labour class. In fact, there might be herbal medical men, astrologers and many other professionals among them.

Financially, in the newer social situation, they would be not poor. All they wanted would be political and social freedom.

There was one Ezhava person who had become a medical doctor. He had studied in England. I am not sure as to who sponsored his studies. It is possible that it was the English Missionaries. Whatever it is, when he came back, he was not allowed to join the Travancore kingdom’s Health Service. For, he was an Ezhava. He then got a job in the British-Indian health service at Mysore.

It is possible that persons like him could also coax or influence event in Tellicherry and Cannanore. For, he was an England-returned person. The very address of an ‘England-returned’ would do wonders in the subcontinent. For, it was sure that such persons could talk in good English and address the English officials as equals. The other native leaders here had to go step-by-step towards the higher positions of the local officialdom. In most cases, they would have to stop at the level of the deputy tahsildar or deputy Collector. It is not that that the English officials will not deal with them. It is more due to the fact that the native officials will not allow them to deal with a level higher to them.

This England-connection was made use of many others like Nehru, SubashChandran, Gandhi etc. Even now, so many persons who get to stay in native-English nations like England, USA, Australia, Canada etc. make use of this verbal code liberty when they come back home. This more or less could make the local man seem like an imbecile compared to them. At the same time, the fact remains that if the Indians who is currently domiciled in native-English nations, are brought back to India, they will get to know the reality of their native land, which they had been praising in the English land. They would go into a bout of social paranoia, if they were to find themselves addressed as Thoo / Nee, and referred to as USS / Avan/Aval. They will not come out of their houses.

When the Thiyya delegation from North Malabar came to meet Sree Narayana Guru, it is possible that the others in the Ezhava leadership must have been already apprised of the idea. It was too good an idea to go waste. For, there was the whole landmass of Malabar to be occupied. And that too an escape to an English rule location from their traditional social system, wherein they had ‘deep love and respect’ of their higher classes. From this level of ‘deep love and respect’, they would be moving to a level of ‘equality and disdain’.

I did get one message in my Whatsapp on what happened in Malabar as the next part of the events. I do not know the source or correctness of this information. I am posting it here (no corrections are added):

QUOTE: How Thiyya's associated with Ezhava's ? --- A glance in to History. For centuries, Thiyyars used to worship in their own "Kavu's". Most of the Kavu's were not in organised way. For making an organised way of community rituals, some prominent Thiyyas of Thalassery formed a committee. It was decided by the committee to start an organised Temple with annual feast like Sri Rama Temple of Thiruvangad. Unfortunately, nobody could be identified within the community to do the planning / establishing & sanctifying the Project, as they did not want to involve Brahmins. Suggestion came that a person named Sree Narayana Guru from South Kerala established couple of temples for non-Brahmins.

As the committee did not want to involve Brahmins for establishing the Temple, they entrusted Sri. Varadur Kaniyil Kunhi Kannan to visit Sree Narayana Guru at Varkala and submitted the idea that Thiyya Community should have a Temple at Thalassery, in the year 1904. Narayana Guru permitted the celebrated poet Kumaran Asan, as his representative and to convene meetings to ascertain the reaction of the people about the feasibility of a Temple for the community.

Kumaranaasan who was staying with Dr. Palpu in Bangalore accepted the invitation and consequent on his arrival the first meeting was convened at ‘Parambath House’ of Sri. Cheruvari Govindan Shirastadar on 9th July 1905.

The report given by Kumaranaasan to Narayana Guru was - "Thiyyars are Socially and Economically forward community but they lack sound leadership". As Sree Narayana Guru was busy in awakening Ezhavas in South Kerala, he was not much keen into going Thalassery. So the committee again visited Narayana Guru and invited him to Thalassery.

Subsequently, Sri Narayana Guru arrived at Thalassery on 17th March 1906. The instruction of Narayana Guru was "his arrival would be kept secret" was strictly adhered to. On 23rd March Sri Narayana Guru drove the pile for the temple construction at an auspicious moment.

The foundation stone was laid on 21st April 1906 by Sri. Kottiyath Ramunni Vakil in the presence of the great poet Kumaran Asan. It was on 13 February 1908 that Narayana Guru consecrated the Temple and named it Sri Jagannath Temple and the administrating committee was named as "Gnanodaya Yogam". (Though Narayana Guru was the President and Kumaranaasan was the Secretary of SNDP, they were not interested to add the temple or Thiyya community in the clutches of SNDP !!! )

After this function, Thiyyas became followers of Sri Narayana Guru. This was the first relation between Thiyya and Ezhava. After independence, during compiling the constituency the then Government clubbed Thiyya and Ezhava together. END OF QUOTE

Actually, the deed done by some of members of the Thiyya community was not something asked for by the majority members of the community. A few persons who had the financial acumen and official power and status, joined together to organise the community under their leadership. That was all.

Now, let me check the above quote: QUOTE: Most of the Kavu's were not in organised way. END OF QUOTE. I think this is true. Due to the feudal nature of the language, it could be very difficult to arrange different worship centres to arrange themselves under any specific organisation with a specific leadership. It is like the Indian administrative system. It is totally inconceivable that the native population of the subcontinent would be able to organise such a thing on their own. However, once such a thing is organised, the various hierarchies would arrange into something like a caste system and would endure on.

QUOTE: For making an organised way of community rituals, some prominent Thiyyas of Thalassery formed a committee. END OF QUOTE. Even though the idea can seem innocuous, the aim was not so. The aim was to completely delete the traditional rituals and worship systems of the Thiyyas and commit them en masse to Brahmanical deities and temples as worshippers.

QUOTE: It was decided by the committee to start an organised Temple with annual feast like Sri Rama Temple of Thiruvangad. END OF QUOTE. I have heard it said that even though a Ezhava temple was built at Temple Gate Tellicherry, the common Thiyya person had more faith and devotedness towards Sri Rama Temple of Thiruvangad. However, it was again a location where they traditionally had no right to enter. The issue was something akin to the adage: ‘distance lends enchantment’.

QUOTE: Unfortunately, nobody could be identified within the community to do the planning / establishing & sanctifying the Project END OF QUOTE. It is partially the traditional attitude of not finding anything great in a local man. The greatness was seen in an individual from afar. It was actually a totally foolish situation. The native-English rulers have given all kinds of liberties and improvements for the Thiyyas. And yet, they could not find anyone amongst themselves who they could mention as having quality.

In fact, the social improvement in the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas has only spurred the mutual jealousies in them.

QUOTE: Suggestion came that a person named Sree Narayana Guru from South Kerala established couple of temples for non-Brahmins. END OF QUOTE. There is a problem here. Sree Narayana Guru was not from South Kerala. He was from the Travancore kingdom. The newly formed Thiyya leadership was trying to bring in an individual from a foreign nation. When I use the term ‘foreign’, the reader might find it quite cantankerous. However, in Travancore State Manual, the words ‘foreign’ and ‘foreign country’ has been repeatedly used to denote people from outside Travancore kingdom. From that perspective, it would be correct to mention that Sree Narayana Guru was from another country. For, the events happened in the same period that the Travancore State Manual was written.

Second thing was, under what sacramental authority was Sree Narayana Guru establishing Brahmanical temples for non-Brahmans? Simply hearing such a thing and inviting him to do the same thing in North Malabar, has some kind of social error that can be smelt out. The issue was: were the newly self-appointed Marumakkathaya Thiyya leaders given the go-ahead by the households that had till then continued the traditional Marumakkathaya worship systems over the centuries, right from the hoary days of the hazy past?

If such a traditional worship system was in vogue, who were these newly formed busybodies to bring in something that would override those traditional systems?

QUOTE: Kumaranaasan who was staying with Dr. Palpu in Bangalore accepted the invitation END OF QUOTE.

It is a very revealing statement. Both of them had taken up residence in Bangalore, where it is possible that they would enjoy the egalitarian social ambience that the English administration had showered. And yet, it is these persons who are mentioned as the reformers of the social system. Is it very difficult to see that the egalitarian and liberal social reforms were the handiwork of the English administration? And that all these so-called ‘great’ social liberators were merely basking in its shining halo?

The English administration sort of removed the feudal content in the native languages. The Nee, Avan, Aval, Avattakal, Avarkal, Adheham, Avar forms of human personality was removed by the English language? Could these ‘great’ social reformers do anything like that? Or did they ever even attempt to do anything like that?

QUOTE: The report given by Kumaranaasan to Narayana Guru was - "Thiyyars are Socially and Economically forward community but they lack sound leadership". END OF QUOTE. It is an extremely interesting report. The Thiyyas are socially and economically forward? That was only in the areas where they existed in close proximity to the English administration. Elsewhere in the distant villages, they were still at the beck and call of the Nayars. As to the Ezhava leadership providing a social leadership for the ‘socially and economically forward’ Thiyyas, it was a sort of nonsensical claim and ambition. The Ezhavas were in terrible situations. To invite a group that claimed leadership over them to come and take over the leadership of Marumakkathaya Thiyyas has all the contents of some kind of unbelievable nonsense.

As to Sree Narayana Guru being the accepted leader of all the Ezhavas also might be a debatable point. It could be like the various rich folks from the South Asian subcontinent, both from inside British-India as well as from the independent kingdoms near it, going to Europe or England, and then organising Indian freedom movement conventions and debates. The moot question was who gave them the authority to act as the leaders or representative of the people/s of the Subcontinent?

QUOTE: After this function, Thiyyas became followers of Sri Narayana Guru. END OF QUOTE. Marumakkathaya Thiyyas who were the traditional devotees of Muthappan and other shamanistic deities then became the followers of Sree Narayana Guru? Could be true to a certain extent.

Now before moving off from this location, it must be mentioned that Sree Narayana Guru has been mentioned as a great Vedic scholar. It is seen said that his writings are of great scholarship and profundity. These claims might be true. And as a person, he would have many charms. However, making his name and individuality mixed up in a different location where he and his ideas did not have much relevance, can be the issue. There has been no greater social reforming force in the subcontinent other than the English rule. All other ‘great’ social reform movements have been mere minor ingredients that survived due to the superb protection and security provided by the English administration.

In no way could the SN Colleges run by the SNDP be compared to the colleges of the English rule time in Tellicherry. Institutions like the Brennen College of those times, in Tellicherry were repositories of great English atmosphere. Out of which student came out who were extremely good in English and English systems. The officer class of the Madras Presidency Civil Service and later of the Madras State Civil Service were many populated by students from such institutions. They were to create an incorruptible and high elegant officer class. The students who came out of SN Colleges and NSS colleges were rarely of this mental stamina. In fact, there has been mention that these colleges taught the students the tougher and rougher sides of social living, including that of the calibre to use Malayalam profanities with rare equanimity. Even though, this is a very formidable training that is received by the students, the issue is that there is no need to go into a college to get trained in such rough and uncouth social standards.

Beyond all this, it was rank nonsense to attempt to replace the Muthappan worship with an idol of Sree Narayana Guru.

QUOTE: Though Narayana Guru was the President and Kumaranaasan was the Secretary of SNDP, they were not interested to add the temple or Thiyya community in the clutches of SNDP !! END OF QUOTE.

It might correct to state that it was not really the interest of either Sree Narayana Guru or of Kumaranashan to connect the Thiyyas with the Ezhavas. It might be the subversive elements in the Thiyya community who might have wished to establish this connection.

When speaking of the Muthappan and such other Shamanistic deity worships, which include such entities such as Kuttichathan, Gulikan, Paradevatha, Asuraputra, Chamundi, Vettakkorumakan &c., the fact is that there is something as yet un-deciphered in these phenomena. Even though the traditional stories connected to these spiritual entities seem quite stale and insipid, the phenomenon in itself is superb and well-worthy of preserving. May be a time might come when more information on such things can be had. Interested readers are requested to read this book of mine: Software codes of mantra, tantra, witchcraft, black magic, evil eye, evil tongue &c.


Commentary                MMVol 1               MMVol 2

Book Profile

1. My aim

2. The information divide

3. The layout of the book

4. My own insertions

5. The first impressions about the contents

6. India and Indians

7. An acute sense of not understanding

8. Entering a terrible social system

9. The doctoring and the manipulations

10. What was missed or unmentioned, or even fallaciously defined


12. Nairs / Nayars

13. A digression to Thiyyas

14. Designing the background

15. Content of current-day populations

16. Nairs / Nayars

17. The Thiyya quandary

18. The terror that perched upon the Nayars

19. The entry of the Ezhavas

20. Exertions of the converted Christian Church

21. Ezhava-side interests

22. The takeover of Malabar

23. Keralolpathi

24. About the language Malayalam

25. Superstitions

26. Misconnecting with English

27. Feudal language

28. Claims to great antiquity

29. Piracy


31. Slavery

32. The Portuguese

33. The DUTCH

34. The French


36. Kottayam

37. Mappillas

38. Mappilla outrages against the Nayars and the Hindus

39. Mappilla outrage list

40. What is repulsive about the Muslims?

41. Hyder Ali

42. Sultan Tippu

43. Women

44. Laccadive Islands

45. Ali Raja

46. Kolathiri

47. Kadathanad

48. The Zamorin and other apparitions

49. The Jews


51. Hinduism

52. Christianity

53. Pestilence, famine etc.

54. British Malabar versus Travancore kingdom

55. Judicial

56. Revenue and administrative changes

57. Rajas

58. Forests

59. Henry Valentine Conolly

60. Miscellaneous notes

61. Culture of the land

62. The English efforts in developing the subcontinent

63. Famines

64. Oft-mentioned objections

65. Photos and pictures of the Colonial times

66. Payment for the Colonial deeds

67. Calculating the compensation

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