Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
VED.jpg
The takeover of Malabar

PREVIOUS NEXT


Now coming back to the book, Malabar, it can be mentioned that the following groups of persons were hell-bent on connecting the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas of north Malabar as well as the Makkathaya Thiyyas of south Malabar to the Ezhavas of Travancore kingdom:

1. Nayars of Malabar

2. Subversive elements in the Thiyya Community

3. The Christian Church of the converted Christians of Travancore, operating in Malabar.


To understand the aspirations of the Christian Church of the converted Christians of Travancore, there are basic ideas that have to be understood. It requires some bit of foundation building. For, it would require the visualisation of the local history from new framework.


As of now, everyone speaks of ‘Kerala’ as if it was the original conceptualisation of all ‘Malayalis’ who lived in a location commencing from Manjeshwar in the northern tip of Kerala to somewhere around Balaramapuram, at the southern tip of Trivandrum district. However, the fact is that this visualisation of a geopolitical area is just the creation of a concerted education and indoctrination. Actually when I first moved to Alleppy in the year 1975 from Malabar, it was literally like going to a neighbouring state. The people looked totally different. They spoke a different language. And for the same words in Malabar language, there was a totally different meaning in Malayalam.


In fact, I remember having a very heated argument with one person with regard to the word ‘Mappilla’. He very categorically said that it meant ‘Christian’. However, to me this mention seemed quite unacceptable. For, in Malabar, a ‘Mappilla’ was a Muslim (of Malabar).


As of now, the population has mixed and the newspapers, the cinemas and the radio broadcast etc. have established a Malayalam state called Kerala.


When the book Malabar was being written, there was no Kerala. However in the various textual wordings, one can see someone’s hand inserting ‘Kerala’ all over the location. It was as if someone wanted to change everything and create a state called Kerala. There is no historical evidence that can categorically state that such a kingdom had existed in any time in history, that was positioned right from Manjeshwar to Balaramapuram.



It is historically a impossibility. For, the Travancore antiquity is Tamil. While that in Malabar, it was a language that I would like to call as Malabari now. For, actually the name of that language could have been Malayalam. And it might have had a script, which is currently taken over by the new language of Malayalam. These inputs of mine are mere impressionistic ideas, for which I do not have any documentary evidences. However, from my acute understanding of how the people of this location manipulate history to accommodate their own interests, I think there might be some veracity in what I mention.


Just to understand what I am trying to convey, look at this map of the States of India, just after the nation was created.


The brown location at the south-western end is the Travancore-Cochin State. All around it is the Madras State. Just north of the Travancore-Cochin state was the Malabar district of the Madras state.


To come up with a fake history that the Travancore kingdom was close to the Malabar location is some sort of nonsense. In those days, travel was quite difficult. Malabar was thick jungle in most places. Even in the place where I am currently residing, that is Deverkovil, way back in 1966, when we first came there, there was no proper road. The place was sparsely populated. The terrain was not plain. It was totally uneven landscape with all kinds of blocks to travel; thorns, huge stones, varying levels of land &c. See these image here. The place was somewhat like this:



However as of now, everywhere good roads have come. The place is filled with people and houses.


In the Native Life in Travancore, Rev. Samuel Mateer does very graphically mention the problems faced by the lower castes like the Pariahs, Pulayas, Shanar, Ezhavas etc. who had converted into Christianity. It would be quite an erroneous idea that they converted due to any love or understanding of Christ or Christianity. The most fundamental attraction was that the evangelists were speakers of English. That itself was a very powerful allurement. For, when speaking with persons who speak English, it is a very commonly felt issue that the issue of degrading of human personality is not there in the verbal content.


This point is not known to native-Englishmen. However, on the contrary, they would get to feel the tremulous splintering and degrading of human personality that the feudal language speakers convey in words, facial demeanour and eye-language. If they, the native-English, are not properly shielded from its negative effects, they would literally try to keep a distance from the speakers of such satanic languages. However, this is again a problem. For, the satanic language speakers can quite easily define their action as ‘racist’. The whole scenario is quite curious and funny. The villains appear in the attire of great humanists! And the people of innate refinement appear as villains.


The local Sudra / Nayar people had given proper warning to the evangelistic that the lower castes, especially the slave castes were not fully human being, and more or less only semi-humans or half animals, or human beings with their mental facilities not fully developed. However, the evangelistic went ahead with their work. Actually in certain totally interior areas like that of Kottayam (north of Trivandrum), persons like Henry Baker and his wife, I am told, did stay there and set up schools for the despised classes.


The missionaries improved the status of the individuals who had converted to Christianity. They were made to learn to read and write the local language. I think, it was then that the missionaries started improving the local language or creating a new language. From Native Life in Travancore, it is understood that there were many languages which the lower castes used. Some of them were not understood by the higher castes. However, the slave populations had been maintained over the centuries as sort of cattle.


These lower castes soon improved in their personality aspect quite remarkably. However, due to the severe feudal content in the language/s, it was not quite easy to erase the various non-tangible social communication boundaries. The Ezhava converts absolutely refused entry to the pulaya, pariah &c. lower caste converts into their churches. They were frightened that if they went down to the levels of the lower castes, their social equation with the Nayars would be dismantled.


This is not a very difficult issue to understand. Look at this illustration:


Among the clerks in an office, there is much fellowship. The menial workers in the office address the clerks as Saar and refer to them as Saar. One of the clerks starts moving with the menial workers to the extent that they start calling him by his name, and he starts addressing the senior-aged persons of the menial workers as Chettan (respected elder-brother). They start treating him as one among them and address him with Nee and refers to him as Avan. It goes without saying that the other clerks would soon like to distance themselves from him.


Some of the converts soon became teachers amongst themselves, in the schools started by the Missionaries. This is a very great social elevation. For, they become some kind of Saar or Chettan (both titles of ‘respect’). It is a very curious situation. Persons who would have been treated like dirt are now in charge of establishments which were qualitatively better than most establishments run by the higher classes. For what was reflected in these lower caste establishments were a minor reflection of the England, in its native-Travancore form.


Here again, there is nothing for others to rejoice. For, these ‘teachers’ would set-up feudal hierarchical set-ups, in which they were the ‘Saars’ and ‘Ichayans’. And the others would arrange themselves below them in a ladder-step manner as Saar (highest You) – Nee (lowest you) arrangement. If any outsider tried to up-set this hierarchy, they would be treated with an immensity of rudeness. This rudeness would be of terrific content, because the population was innately lower caste.


A lower caste man using the word Nee word would have a terrific hammering effect, much more powerful than when a higher caste man uses it.


If the protective umbrella of the English administration from Madras Presidency was not there over them, it is quite easy to understand that all these great ‘teachers’ and ‘Ichayans’ would have been caught by their collars, addressed as Poorimone, Pundachyimone etc. (or some other profanity that would be effective on the lower castes – for many of the profanities that could hurt a higher class man might not have any effect on a lower caste man), tied up in bullock cart and taken to the public square. They would be nailed to the trees in the location. That was a usual practice done to the lower castes who tried to be too smart. In fact, Velu Tampi, who had been a Dalawa for a short period of time used to practise this art quite frequently during his tenure. Pazhassiraja in Malabar also was a practioner of this art.


The next point is that the lower castes were still the slave populations of the upper classes. They were not allowed to walk on the public roads. See this quote from Native Life in Travancore:


QUOTE:

The children of slaves do not belong to the father’s master, but are the property of the mother’s owner. In some places, however, the father is allowed a right to one child, which, of course, is the property of his master. This succession is by the female line, in accordance with the custom of the Nayars, the principal slaveholders of the country.


“A great landlord in a village near Mallapally has nearly 200 of them daily employed on his farm, while three times that number are let out on rent to inferior farmers. The slaves are chiefly composed of two races — the Pariahs and the Puliahs— of whom the latter form the more numerous class.”


Further interesting details are supplied in the same periodical for February, 1854, in the form, of questions and answers, as follows : —


“Why do you not learn?”