Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tuluva-Malayali Matrilineal System - Part 2

Legends of matrilineal inheritance:
There is only one legend that talks about the beginning of the matrilineal system in this region. However, that is not part of celebrated and well known Malayali matrilineal system. The legend is about the beginning of Tuluva matrilineal system. I believe the legend in Kerala could be that like everything in their society even this system could have been established by Parashurama (or Brahmins). Unfortunately, I have not been able to  find the English translation of either Sanskrit work, Kerala Mahatmya, or the Malayalam work, Keralolpati.

But the story I read when I was small is entirely different from what I have read recently online. The story I knew somewhat goes like this. I'm leaving out all names as I'm bit confused about them at present.

A king was sending his merchant ships to the sea. But they were confiscated by a spirit called Kundodara. He asked for human sacrifice. The king asked his wife to give one of their sons. However, wife refused. But king's sister came forward and gave her son for the sacrifice. The spirit Kundodara spared the life of that boy and released king's ships. The king was so overwhelmed by the magnanimity of his sister and her son that he declared his nephew as his heir apparent. And implemented nephew lineage (Aliya Santana Kattu) in his region.

But the story I recently came across is bit different.
Deva Pandya, a wealthy merchant of the Pandya country, was sending new ships, richly laden, to a dark island covered with snow, but before launching them, Kundodara, a Bhuta raja, or king of the demons, an attendant on Siva, observing that the ships were new, demanded a human sacrifice. Deva consulted with his wife as to sacrificing one of his own seven sons, but the wife fled with them to her native town. On which Deva lay in deep distress, until his sister Satya-vati, hearing of the case, came and offered her own boy, saying to Deva, ' You should not care for this trifling matter. Do you give the boy Jaya Pandya, a son of mine, as a human sacrifice.' But Kundo-dara refused the boy, being aware that Jaya was the son of Vira Pandya, king of that dominion, who had been defeated by Chand Rangada raja, and that Jaya was a Mahapurusha, destined to be a great man ; he desired Jaya to assume his, the demon king's name, as Bhutala Pandya, and promised to restore him to the dominions of which Chand Rangada had deprived him. On this, the demon king entered Ujjain, subdued the eight demi-gods, Bhairava, etc., gave Bhutala a throne that Davendra had given to Vikramarka, and entered the town of Jayantika, accompanied by Bhutala. On the demise of the king Siddha Vira Prassiddha Raya, Jaya was elected king. Jaya ruled for six years, during which the Makkala Santana, i.e. the law of inheritance by direct descent of sons, was, for the following reasons, set aside, and that of Aliya Santana, i.e. inheritance on the line of nephews, substituted. The ships of Deva had during a mercantile voyage grounded on the miry bank of an island covered with snow and darkness, and the crew were in great distress, when the demon king appeared and bid them load the ships with the Siddha sile stone (a green stone, husuru sile galu) and Siddha-rasam, and pray to him. This being done, a fair wind brought the ships to the river mouth of Hangara katte at Kalianpur harbour. King Jaya on ascertaining that the ships belonged to his uncle Deva sent for him to receive them but the demon king again demanded one of Deva's sons as a sacrifice Deva consulted as to this with his wife who refused the goods(?) on that condition and the cargo of stone and liquid was then delivered to king Jaya who placed both the stone and the liquid in front of the idol Someswara changing its name to Sidheswara and erected a temple and image to Kundodara the demon king to which he gave the name of Maheswara. On the demon king's recommendation he framed a code of laws containing 30 rules introducing the Aliya Santan a rule (the descensus a matre). At this time king Jaya is styled master of the throne of king of kings, master of the masters of the four countries called Tulu, Malayala Haiga and Karnatika the first person in the era of Sativahana. In the sixth year of his reign the demon king ordered him to bury the green stone (emerald) and shut up the Siddha rasa well and the image of Naga set thereon. The castes enumerated in these rules are
Tuluvaru -> Tuluvas (Tulu)
Jainaru  -> Jain (Tulu)
Nayammavaru ->Nayars (Malayalis)
Masadika -> A subset of Bunt caste (Tulu)
Haricetti -> Cetti -Shetty (Trader) (Tulu?)
Pariyaru -> Parivara, A subset of Bunt (Tulu)
Kumbararu -> Potters
Devadiga -> Temple singers/drummers (Tulu)
Saliya -> Weavers (Malayalis or Tuluvas or both)
Mulekudeya -> Malekudiya (Tribe)
Panchala -> ?
Kshauraka -> Barbers (?)
Agasa -> washermen (Tulu)
Halepaika -> Tribe (?)
Mundala -> Tribe (Tulu)
Karinnara -> ?
Holeya -> bonded labourers (Tulu)
Andekoraga -> Tribe (Tulu)

King Jaya prohibited the Brahmnns ofliciating in death and birth ceremonials; prohibited the Maha-layam or inauspicious ceremony for the deceased; prohibited the giving of the Panchajavyani; prohibited the Punya-Homa sacrifice with dubh grass on births and deaths, and permitted only the Nirmalya or remains of idol offerings for the dead, and authorized the continuance of the Puja and Abhishekam to the deity for those who brought forth children or died. In the twelfth year of his reign, he invited Jains from the Balaghat, and they built Mangalore and other towns. King Jaya made the Aliya Santana rules applicable to the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudras, but permitted Brahmins to continue the rule of direct descent.
The explanation of the above fable seems to be that in the time of king Jaya, all great works, such as shipbuilding, as is still the case in Polynesia, were inaugurated by human sacrifices in propitiation of demons ; that a woman of rank twice refused to part with any of her sons for such a purpose, and her husband's sister offered her son Jaya in their stead, but was refused ; from which king Jaya declared that descent of property should follow from the sister's side.
 Here we should note that the antiquity of this legend is highly disputed. Even thought it talks about Salivahana Era (Saka, 77 CE), the legend might have been constructed anywhere between 12th to 19th century according to the researchers. This should be inconsequential for my present post as I'm more interested in analysing the contents which would give clues to existing ideas.

 Few points from the story.
- Jaya Pandya/Bhutala Pandya was son of the king, Vira Pandya. His uncle Deva Pandya was not a king but a merchant. The central character for establishing the matrilineal system was not the king but a merchant.
- The region is mainly spirit worshipping which could be seen in the fact that the system was willed by a spirit ( and not by any gods or goddesses). But it should be noted that the present day region named after this spirit (Kundapura) is a Kannada speaking region and not Tulu speaking. However, matrilineal inheritance was practiced even in that Kannada speaking region.
- There is a clear sign of merging spirit worship with Saiva worship
- It appears as if Brahmin hegemony on religious life was removed. Until very recently, most of the matrilineal communities conducted religious activities with the help of washermen, barbers and castes/tribes outside the caste system. Probably, that passage was an explanation with a belief that Brahmins should have been conducting all those rituals in a normal caste society(which is the case now.. in the last 50 years or so, anyhow..washermen and barbers are no longer part of any rituals).
- It says Jains were invited from Balaghat. I believe that should be Palakkad (Palghat) in present day Kerala. It should be noted here that in Brahmin legends they were the ones invited by the kings. I would consider this is a proof of Jain connection with matrilineal system. Also, the presence Jains in Kerala(merchants) could be the reason behind the existence of matrilineal system there too.
- Interestingly, it also talks about four countries. Tulu (present day Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka), Haiga (I believe present day Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka), Malayala (present day Kerala) and Karnataka. But it should be noted that only the communities in Tulu and Malayala regions followed matrilineal system. But the ruling families of Haiga (Salva) and Kodagu (spoken language Kodava) district of Karnataka were believed to be matrilineal and Jain. But both these families were supposedly branches of Tulu royal families.

To be continued...

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