Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
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A digression to Thiyyas

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Before going ahead with the information on Thiyyas, there is something more to be mentioned about them. When the English administration set up its legal and judicial process in Malabar, they were confronted with one confusing issue. The word Thiyyas was seen to define two entirely different population groups.


One was the Thiyyas of north Malabar. That is north of Korapuzha. Then there was the Thiyyas of south Malabar. These two population groups were mutually different and distant. The former was following Matriarchal family system. That is, the family property moved to the heirs through the female children. The children of the male members did not inherit the family property. These children received their ancestral property from their mother’s family.


The Thiyyas of south Malabar followed the Patriarchal family system. That is, the children of the male members inherited the family property.


Between these two castes with the same name, there existed some kind of caste-based repulsion. The north Malabar Thiyyas, especially the socially higher class Thiyyas of Malabar, did not allow any matriarchal relationship with the Thiyyas of south Malabar.


Why this was so, is not known to me. However, it is possible that this might point to two different origins for these two different population groups.


Generally there was a tendency among non-Thiyya castes, especially the Ezhavas, when they reside in Malabar to identify themselves as Thiyyas.


Moreover, it has been observed by such writers as Rev. Samuel Mateers and I think by Thurston also, that there was a tendency to jump into a higher caste when any family relocate to a different location. This automatically places them at a greater social advantage.


It is like head constable in one state in India, when he moves to another state for a temporary residence, informing others that he is a police Circle Inspector in his own state. Off course, nowadays this is not much possible, due to technology making all such distances quite near. However, in a situation wherein there is no means to check the antecedents of a person, it is quite easy to jump up.


However, Rev. Samuel Mateers does mention the following: QUOTE: Pretences are sometimes made by individuals to higher than their real caste. During a festival at Trivandrum, several goldsmiths putting on the dress and ornaments of a superior caste, walked boldly into the temple. We have known one or two apostates from Christianity, well-educated in English, who assumed Sudra names, and passed in distant parts of the country as such. But impostors are detected by very simple means. A Shanar youth who took the high-caste seat at a public cook-shop was discovered by his mode of eating rice, picking it up with the fingers, while a Brahman scoops it up gently with the side of the hand lest he should tear with his nails the leaves which they are accustomed to use as plates. Strangers at feasts are therefore closely scrutinised and watched. Still, changes in caste do, in odd instances, succeed. END OF QUOTE


It is possible that the two different populations having the common name ‘Thiyya’ are of two different origins. There is some claim in the northern version Thiyyas, that is, the Marumakkathaya Thiyyas, that they are from the Tian-Sang Mountain-range regions of north-central Asia. If this be so, what could be the origin of the southern-version Thiyyas, I am not sure.


However, it is possible that the Marumakkathaya Thiyya arrived on the Malabar shore in some century in the distant past. Since they did not know the hidden treachery in the language codes, some of them took up the extremely terrifying and daring occupation of coconut-tree climbing. The physical capacity to do this is an accomplishment, which few people have.


In the feudal-language codes of the local language, this action acts like a switch. The person, his associates, his family members and even his complete group can get placed very forcefully in a degraded verbal slot. Once placed inside this slot, the doors shut and the population literally gets subordinated to the level assigned for them. This subordination is not something that can be understood in English. Everything that can give any sense of dignity and self-confidence is erased out. This becomes so powerful an emotion that the affected person/s would not even sit in the presence of their superior. They will be addressed and referred to in the most degrading forms of the word-forms for You ഇഞ്ഞി, ഇനക്ക്, Your ഇന്റെ, Yours ഇന്റേത്, He ഓൻ, His ഓന്റെ, Him ഓന്, She ഓള്, Her ഓടെ, Hers ഓൾടേത്, They ഐറ്റിങ്ങൾ, Their ഐറ്റിങ്ങടെ, Theirs ഐറ്റിങ്ങടത്, Them ഐറ്റിങ്ങക്ക് etc.


The working of the social machine is a bit complicated. Nairs are also addressed by similar verbal usages by the Brahmins. However, they do not feel the terrorising degradation. Instead they feel the placing of them into their supervisor slot, when thus addressed and referred to by the Brahmins.


However, in the case of the Thiyyas who went in for the degrading physical labour, the cunning technique used to place them down powerfully is to use similar level and also lower-level populations groups to address them by these degrading words. Then it is a powerful pushing-down and pulling-down effect.


Incidentally, I may mention here that this is now an ongoing social phenomenon in England. The native-English speaking population of England are slowly being placed in a like-manner into a hideous slot by the immigrant crowds who speak feudal-languages. Once a sizable number of native-English speakers are thus defined and confined in the slots, all that the immigrant groups need to do is to forcefully shift the spoken-language to their native language. The trap-door shuts and then there is no escape. At that point the native-English future generations will become the repulsive lower-castes.


Not all of the north Malabar Thiyyas who arrived on the north Malabar coast went in for these coconut-tree connected professions. That much is evident from the population’s social demeanour. Many must have remained as land owners and some as land lessees. However there is a total blackout on them inside this book, Malabar, purported to have been written by William Logan.