RSS Feed

The Kalpathi furor

Posted by Maddy Labels: , ,

Untouchability, caste rigors, and a turbulent period at Palghat, Knapp & Sir CP

Villages in Palghat followed caste-based rules as well as the prescribed segregation strictly during the pre-independence period, and the caste rigors felt across the whole region exasperated reformists within and outside the state, especially after Vivekananda termed the state akin to a lunatic asylum. It is a vast and complex subject and there are many books and papers which go into it in great detail, but we are going now to the Kalpathi Agraharams which were inhabited by Tamil Brahmins (Pattar), where during the period 1924-27, several disturbances upset routine life and peace in the area. The conflict between Ezhavas and the Paradesi Brahmins became a media furor and was hotly debated in the Madras legislative council. This then is a summary of events as they happened.

The heart of Montrose

Posted by Maddy Labels:

 Madurai’s peculiar connection to Scotland, Logarithms, Colin Mackenzie, and a hero’s heart

Madurai has a great cultural history, and for a long time was Tamil Nadu’s cultural capital, and the ‘Toonga Nagaram, the city that never slept’. It was one of those cities which endured so many rulers and changes, notably by the Kalabhras, the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Tughlaq Sultanate, the Vijayanagar Rayars, the Telugu Nayaks, the Nawab of Arcot and Chanda Saheb, the British East India Company and finally the British Raj. Most would recall it as a Nayak-era temple town on the banks of the Vaigai river, or as a pilgrimage town, home to the magnificent Madurai Meenakshi temple and the Tirumala Naikar temple.

Mackenzie Manuscripts – Malabar and Travancore collections – Part 1

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Colin Mackenzie’s assistants involved with Malabar & Travancore 

In the previous article about Montrose’s heart and its connection to Napierian logarithms, we read that Colin Mackenzie had succeeded in getting a commission with the EIC and had proceeded to Madurai. With Ms. Hester Johnston’s help, we understood that he had established contact with the learned Brahmins of Madurai. But did he find the link between Napier and Hindu Mathematics? Sadly, no! He seems to have lost interest in the subject or may have been pulled into more important work by the EIC such as soldiering and surveying the large tracts of land, which the EIC had acquired in India by that time. This apolitical man was thence, set to devoting his entire life into studying, surveying and collecting manuscripts as well as inscriptions from the various South Indian towns, followed by a short administrative life in Calcutta.

The Zamorin’s seat at Ponnani

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

At the Thrikkavil Kovilakom

While most people associate the Zamorin mainly with Calicut, avid historians opine that Ponnani was a temporary military capital of the Zamorin during the medieval years, as Calicut remained his political and business capital. Ponnani was the location where he marshaled his cavalry resources (the 50-60,000 Nair pada or foot soldiers as and when required and the armory) and went on to fight his foes. In later years it became the naval capital of the Zamorin and the stronghold of the Marakkar captains. But a deeper study reveals that it was a more permanent headquarters and affirms that the Zamorin stayed mainly at Ponnani between the 16th to 18th centuries, visiting Calicut sporadically for ceremonious occasions. Let’s now try to find out the underlying reasons.

The Konkani’s of Cochin

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , ,

A look at the community’s history (with particular reference to the GSB)

All of us have had some interaction with a GSB (Goud Saraswat Brahmin) Konkani, be it in college or at the workplace, and for people in Cochin, the community which lives there and their slightly different customs and their singsong intonation of the Malayalam language. You will remember a Pai, a Bhat, a Rao, a Kamath, a Prabhu, a Shenoy, etc. all recall the Shenoy’s theatre, and you may have seen Mammooty - Dileep’s movie on the community and the Dosa song from Kamath & Kamath. But this little article will take you back a bit and retrace their arrival in Cochin and see the ups and downs this community, which was persecuted, faced along the way.

The Devil of Calicut - A Misconception

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , ,

Varthema in Calicut

In Christian evangelical discussions concerning the advent of the devil, there is frequent mention of the so-called ‘Calicut Devil’, and when I recently came across it, I decided to check a little deeper into what the discussion was all about. As one could imagine, it was something that came out due to a complete lack of understanding of the alien culture which the Portuguese chanced on after Vasco Da Gama landed in Calicut and opened the floodgates to an era of discovery and inventions, as the Europeans called it. The research led me to a lot of things I did not know and helped me put to rest the confusion created by Varthema, the Italian who was led by the Zamorin into a little temple within the precincts of the old palace at Calicut, in 1505.

Ibn Battuta, the Tangerine

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , ,

Ibn Battuta’s Rihala – A product of oral history

I have realized along the way, after some 35 years of global travel that – you can never understand an Arab sitting and studying books and power points in Stuttgart, nor can you understand an Afghan by sitting in Zurich. Ibn Battuta’s accomplishments can never be surpassed by any other, for such was the period and the difficulties he faced, going out into the yonder which little to guide him, be it detailed maps, dependable transportation, or finance. How he managed it is a wonder, and like many researchers, one has to admire his sheer grit and personality, for he managed the 70,000-odd miles of travel (by boat, on foot, horse, camel, donkeys, and palanquins), always deploying a charming personality and guile, layered with a thick coat of diplomacy and faith. Easily getting into and out of problems, and facing the adversities of weather, this wonderful person spent 30 years on the road.

Hiranyagarbha – Elevation of the Royal caste

Posted by Maddy Labels: , ,

When royals were reborn from the golden womb

The sacrifices like Hiranyagarbha which had lost relevance in Northern India, remained in vogue for a longer time in the South, if only to Brahmaṇize the political powers of the area. Some royal families of the south are known to have continued with the Hiranyagarbha sacrifice to claim origin from the Hiranya Yoni. It was quite common in Venad and one can see mentions of it being practiced by the rulers of the kingdom of Travancore. It allowed them to sit and eat with Brahmins and chant the Gayatri, and rub shoulders with the exalted top tier. Manu Pillai had some time ago, penned a couple of humorous articles on this subject, one related to the Nayaks and another connected to Marthanda Varma.

The Panniyur Sukapuram conflict– The Kurmatsaram

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , ,

 A backdrop to the Zamorin’s Tirunavaya conquest 

The Zamorin annexed Tirunavaya, followed by the Valluvanad and Vettam territories, and with this the chasm between the two feuding dynasties of Perumbadappu and Nediyirippu, widened, fracturing the peaceful life in medieval Central and South Malabar, as well as the territories between Cochin and S Malabar. The catalyst to the move by the Zamorin was the precipitation of the age-old conflict between the two Namboothiri village communities near Tirunavaya, namely Panniyur and Chokiram (Chovur, Chowaram, etc symbolizing Sivapuram i.e., today’s Sukapuram) located to the south of the Nila River or the Bharatapuzha.

The Pamban Channel at Rameswaram

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , , ,

 The Portuguese at Pamban and connections to Malabar

Some years ago, I mentioned the Pamban bridge, while writing about the Ceylon boat mail, a bridge that was an engineering marvel when it was constructed in 1914, over 108 years ago. The Pamban bridge was planned as the first phase of the linkage between India and Ceylon. However, the second part of the link, connecting Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar, i.e., the Palk straits, never reached fruition and what we still see, are the remnants of the ancient Adam’s bridge, the Rama Setu bridge constructed by Hanuman and his troops. Now comes the clincher. Did you know that the original Pamban channel was man-made, and that too not so long ago? In fact, the isthmus at Pamban which had been breached in a violent storm in 1480, was dug up and converted into a channel by workers, under Portuguese direction in 1549!

The purpose and the effects of this work in the vicinity of the holy town of Rameswaram had a number of violent consequences involving even the powers in Malabar, and their connections interestingly continued during the Pamban bridge construction in 1904 and more recently in 1964!

Whither goeth the Porlathiri?

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , , ,

The Bayanor of Cartinaad, or the Ballanore Burgarie…

In a previous article, we covered the highlights of the Zamorin’s tussle with the Porlathiri and the annexation of Polanad, which locale by the way, is more or less today’s Calicut. We also mentioned that the Porlathiri fled to the Kadathanad region. Many questions continue to be asked about the Kadathanad raja, and so I thought it best to add a bit more about him. I did touch upon it while penning the Tatcholi Othenan article, for Othenan from that area. And so, we go to Kadathanad, searching for answers on the later life of the Porlathiri, who had once been the lord of the seas.

Battle of Calicut - 1502

Posted by Maddy Labels: , , , , ,

A Turning Point

The people who sailed and commanded the battleships for the Zamorin, used for fighting the Portuguese were a misunderstood lot. While the Portuguese and other Western scribes collectively grouped them under the heading Moors, current writers tended to group them under the Moplahs or Mappila community. The reality is far from the truth. The original seamen who commanded the small fighting craft were Pardesi Arabs and as time went by, the rice trading Marakkayars from the Tamil regions of Kayal, with their own customs and traditions, those who had moved from Kayal near Tuticorin first at Cochin and later Ponnani and Badagara, took command after the Pardesi Arabs had either been driven away or drifted. While we can discuss the change in command and the control structure of the Zamorin’s naval forces in more detail another day, we will spend some time now covering the very important sea battle of 1502, one that proved detrimental in ensuring Portuguese ascendancy of the seas.