NATIVE LIFE IN TRAVANCORE
The REV. SAMUEL MATEER, F.L.S.
Of the London Missionary Society
The Kuravars, or Coravars, appear to be identical in race with the Kurumber, Kurubar or Korawa caste in Madras and Mysore and on the slopes of the Neilgherries, and closely allied to the Vdar, or Bedur, hunting caste. The Kuravars in Travancore are mostly found in the Quilon district, and thence northwards. This tribe once formed a State of considerable power in Madras and Mysore, where their descendants are now musicians, snake charmers, basket-makers, cultivators, or robbers.
Small bodies of them were driven into the jungles of Travancore, where they have sunk in civilisation and fallen into the position of predial slaves. They, are, however, higher in the caste system than Pulayars, Pariahs, and Vedars. There are four principal sub-divisions of this caste, one of which is called Kakkei, or “Crow” Kuravars, because they are said to eat crows, vultures, alligators, and such like, though they will not touch beef. These, however, are very few, and chiefly mendicants, ear-borers, soothsayers, gymnasts, or thieves. Their dress is like that of the Tamilians.
Others are called Kunda, “low or mean” Kuravars; and are in fact slaves (though legally emancipated). They are not allowed to approach the higher classes in markets, or to enter their houses; and were formerly sold from one owner to another. They perform various agricultural labours; and receive payment in kind or in money. They imitate the Nayar custom of marriage, that is, a mere temporary union, technically called “presenting a cloth and living together.”
The husband, however, continues to pay for the wife to her uncle in rice, &c., as long as he retains her. Those now under Christian instruction are called Malayam Kuravars. Their religion is the aboriginal worship of demons as Madan, Bhadrakali, and others; in groves or small temples; without images, or with rude stones to represent the spirit
A party of “Hill Vedars” came to visit Mr. Baker, and spoke with peculiar words and in a curious tone, rendering it very difficult to converse with them. Their women had immense necklaces of beads, pieces of lead, and brass; one had a broad chain of brass round her neck. These people were coal-black, and many quite curly-headed.