Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’


Now, we come to the book known as Keralolpathi. I do not know much about this other than what has been mentioned in the various books I had mentioned. Viz. Travancore State Manual, Native Life in Travancore and this book, Malabar &c.

Various claims are there that it is a fraudulent book. However, who could have taken so much trouble to write such a book which seems to mention many authentic historical items?

There is a story of Parasurama creating the land of Kerala in this book. However, it is seen mentioned elsewhere that there is no mention of this story in the ancient Hindu writings of the northern parts of the subcontinent. Then who could have conjured up such a story from thin air and for what purpose? What is the wider aim of this story?

The aim is simple. That the land mass of Kerala was one, and that Malabar and Travancore were one.

However, it might be true that a lot of local realities and traditions usually mentioned in higher caste households could have been collected and inserted into this story.

It does seem that the story has been written with serious deliberation. A lot of places have been mentioned. Only a person or groups of persons who have wide and far-reaching links to the various nook and corner of the landscape could have known about these wide-spread and not at all easy-to-travel-to locations. The only organised group which had the resource, man-power and literally acumen to accomplish this deed would be the trained members of the Converted Christian Church.

However, this would lead us to a very perilous location. For, it is said that it was Gundert, the German, who found and transcribed this book. I am not sure what this is supposed to mean. Could it be that he himself personally wrote the manuscript of this book? Or that he had the trained lower-caste Converted Christian members of the church to do the writing for him, which he dictated? If he had done either of this, then it is possible that the original palm-leaf book could have been in the possession of the Church at Tellicherry. If the original is with the Church, then it would be a good idea to make a thorough study of the same.

If there is no original, then it could mean that the book is the handiwork of the members of the mentioned Church. They in their desperation would literally do anything to escape from the hell on earth in which they were living in Travancore, till the advent of the evangelists from England.

I have a pdf copy of two books purported to have been written in manuscript by Gundert. I do not know why they are in the manuscript form. For, they must have been printed.

One of the books is the Keralolpathi. The other is a book titled ഒരആയിരം പഴഞ്ചൊൽ (A thousand proverbs). I have noticed that at least some of the proverbs found in Malabar by William Logan have been taken from this book. See the Chapter on Proverbs.

On a casual observation, I find that the hand writing of Gundert in the two books seem different from each other. Whether this has any significant meaning I do not know.

There are a lot of unmentioned problems with regard to Keralolpathi. It is kind of promoting a ‘Kerala’. Even though a word ‘Kerala’ is a mentioned in some historical records, there is no scope to believe that it included the whole of current-day Kerala. There is no way to know if the word ‘Kerala’ has been used in various periods of history to denote absolutely different and unconnected geographical locations in South Asia.

As to finding out the historical existence of Kerala from various other places all around the world, there is an item of silliness in it. It is, as I had mentioned earlier, like trying to prove the existence of England by studying the various inscriptions, rock-pillar writings, maritime writings etc. The height of absurdity is that in spite of all this striving to find the ‘Kerala’ word recorded elsewhere, there seems to be no such record anywhere in the location that claims to be Kerala. Even in the various stone-inscriptions in stone mentioned in Travancore State Manual, there seems to be no mention of a ‘Kerala’ which extended from Trivandrum to Manjeshwar.

However, in Keralolpathi, the word ‘Kerala’ seems to have been used an umpteen times. The stories of the kings and kingdoms of the various locations, I think are splattered with little regard for any chronological order or historical logic. Whatever had been heard must have been inserted. All to prove that there was a single country called Kerala.

A lot of credibility has been inserted into the book, by mentioning the Brahmin supremacy in a very contorted manner. However, I think, the history of the location does not give much mention of them. It simply moves into the location of various kings. It might be true that the writers of this book had taken pain to collect as much traditional information as possible from various sources. There must have been very concerted efforts in this regard with at least a small group of persons participating in the endeavour.

There are a number of things that could be gathered from Keralolpathi. One is that a lot of gramams of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore are mentioned. It is obvious that some of the place names have been written from inaccurate hearing. For, the names cannot be made to correspond with any known location. Moreover, even though there might have been some attempt to arrange the names in a north to south manner, the writers obviously did not have enough knowledge about the exact geographical continuity of the locations.

There is a mention of an Anakundi Krishna Rayar. As per this book, Malabar, this name is mentioned in an absolutely wrong historical period.

Keralolpathi is seen mentioned as being written in modern Malayalam. This is a very curious bit of information. The so-called modern Malayalam was then in a evolving form in the hands of the Christian converts of Travancore. Such a thing was not there in Malabar.

However, see this QUOTE: The Kerala Brahmans are said to use Malayalam. END OF QUOTE.

Where did this ‘Kerala’ come from? And what language is this ‘Malayalam’ referring to? The traditional language of Malabar or the newly designed language of Central Travancore?