Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’


There is a lot of hype about the women folks of the subcontinent. However, without taking into consideration the fact of caste rules, the state of women cannot be mentioned. Women of the higher castes would not like even to be referred to by the lower castes women, unless they can be very forcefully made to use the ‘respectful’ indicant words for She, Her, Hers etc.

If the lower caste females use the lower indicant words such as Olu / Aval etc., it can be dangerous degrading. The native-English cannot understand this at all. Hence, their own nation and its original native-English are being degraded bit by bit, and they have no information on this.

The state of women was not that great, unless they stayed in a location wherein they received ‘respect’. If they were touched by a lower caste male or female, many of them could lose the right of entry into their very household.

There is a very detailed description of the terrors of being a female in the neighbouring Travancore in Rev. Samuel Mateer’s Native Life in Travancore. Interested readers can refer to that book.

QUOTE: Leud, adulterous women were made over to the chiefs with a premium by the other members of their families in order that they might be taken care of, and the chiefs (at any rate the Zamorins) used in turn to sell the women to foreign merchants, thus making a double profit out of them END OF QUOTE.

Women in the hands of various others would naturally have to undergo many kinds of experiences. Since they are from the higher castes, in most cases, they might be made use of only by the higher castes. If the lower castes were to be given right to use them, then it would be an utter tragic condition, given the terrific feudal content in the languages. That of the lower castes using words such as Inhi/Nee, Edi, Ale, Enthale, Enthadi, Olu, Aval etc. to and about a higher caste female.

But then, it has been seen reported elsewhere that higher caste women who were thrown out of their households used to be taken by the lower caste strong-men.

QUOTE: The persons accused by the woman are never permitted to disprove the charges against them, but the woman herself is closely cross-examined and the probabilities are carefully weighed. And every co-defendant, except the one who, according to the woman’s statement, was the first to lead her astray, has a right to be admitted to the boiling-oil ordeal as administered at the temple of Suchindram in Travancore. If his hand is burnt, he is guilty ; if it comes out clean he is judged as innocent END OF QUOTE.

QUOTE: Pulayatta-penna (lewd, aduterous women), or degraded women, were a source of profit to Rajas ; outcastes, not exclusively, but chiefly of the Brahman caste, they were made over to Rajas to take care of. As a compensation for their maintenance and for the trouble of preventing their going astray again, the family of the outcast were in the habit of offering to the Rajas as far as 600 fanams or Rs. 150. The Rajas then disposed of them for money, but their future condition was not exactly that of a slave. They were generally bought by the coast merchants called Chetties, by whom they had offspring, who came to be intermarried among persons of the same caste, and in a few generations their origin was obliterated in the ramifications of new kindred into which they had been adopted. END OF QUOTE.

In such situations, a powerful family name would help. Otherwise the servants of the merchant would address them in the pejorative. Once this is done, they are literally defined as dirt.

In a feudal language situation, the servants are very dangerous individuals for those who cannot display some powerful family name or status.

QUOTE: "Nilkesi, a woman of good family, an inhabitant of a place called Sivaperur (Trichur?), a town famous for female beauty, could not obtain a son though married to several men END OF QUOTE.

The above quote is from Payyannur Pattola (legend of Payyannur). The issue of a woman mating with different men does not seem to be a great item here. For, if the woman is addressed as Inhi / Nee, and referred to as Olu / Aval by different men, there will definitely be a personality depreciation in her. She would literally be like a servant woman in many ways. However, the words ‘woman of good family’ might stand a defensive shield to her. However, the mention that she moved out as a beggar might actually mean that she did lose her status in the society.

But then polyandry was not that rare in the land. In which case, it is like a woman brought home for doing the various household chores. And at the end of the day the man who married her and his brothers taking her for fornication. Even in this fornication, usually the precedence is perfectly maintained with the elder son having relative precedence. There is no scope for any kind of jealousy or envy in that the woman is literally a household servant who will bear the children of the sons of the family.

See this QUOTE: Like the Pandava brothers, as they proudly point out, the Kanisans used formerly to have one wife in common among several brothers, and this custom is still observed by some of them. END OF QUOTE.

But then, in the matriarchal family system, the female is literally handed over to Nambhoothri Brahman honoured guest, when he visits the household, by her brothers. In the case of her marriage (sambhandham) to a Nayar man also, it is seen that her brothers do decide on whether that relationship should continue. Literally she is in her household where her brothers stay. They can inform her ‘husband’ that he is no longer welcome.



Whereas there being no male members in the two Illams of Kandiyur Natuvattunnu Natuvat and Kandanasseri Palaykat in Alur Muri of Chundal Pravirtti, Sridevi and Savitri, two females of Natuvat Illam, have executed a document authorising Otalur Nambutiri to marry in the said Taravad, to hold and enjoy the property, movable and immovable (വസ്തുമതുൽ), including the slaves and the Ambalapadi, Urayma and other titles and honours (സ്ഥാനമാനങ്ങൾ) attached to the pagodas of Ariyannur, Kandiyur and Plakkat, and to maintain the females : and whereas that document has now been presented before us, we hereby direct that Otalur (Nambutiri) to marry in the said Taravad, hold and enjoy the property, movable and immovable, slaves and chest of documents (പെട്ടിപ്രമാണം) belonging to the two Illams of Natuvat and Palaykat, and the Ambalapadi, Urayma, titles and honours, and everything else pertaining to the above-mentioned three pagodas and maintain the females. 1851 END OF QUOTE.