Social Background of Kerala in 19th Century


Rony Scaria

            Society was divided in lower-caste and upper-caste. Upper-caste consists of Brahmin, Kshetria, Vaisya and Shoodra. Lower-caste consists of ezhavas, Parayas, Pulayas, Arayas, Ulladas etc. In Kerala Shoodra community was constituted by Nairs. The kings were emerged from this Shoodras. Brahmins possessed the superior possition in caste hierarchy. Nairs have the second possition in the society. Yathavas, Ezhavas, Asaris,Kollan, Mukkuvas, etc. have lower position than nairs. The untouchables constituted Vannan, Malayar, Parayar, Panas, etc.

            Each caste was instructed to keep a fixed distance from their upper-caste. Nairs were considered as untouchable by Brahmins. Nairs were required to keep a distance of sixteen meters from Brahmins. Ezhavas could keep 32 meters and Pulayas should keep 64 meter distance. Like this Ezhavas required to keep 16 meters and Pulayas to keep 32 meters distance from Nairs. The distance should be different from place to place. An Upper-caste lost his purity if any untouchable touch him. Some castes considered which as unseeabls. A Brahmin do not see an Ullada. If he so an Ullada he lost his purity. Such Brahmins could not entered in his house without bathing. The lower-caste did not pass near to the bathing pond of higher-caste. The lower-caste should be always conscious to keep distance from upper-caste. The sound produced for the arrival of upper-caste is known as Teendadal.

            The feudal system and political conditions in Malabar strengthen slavery and caste system. Exchange of land was companied with the exchange of slaves. Slavery was practiced as hereditary their exist the system that given slave for rent. Travenkoor and Cochin was under the control of local rulers, while Malabar was under British rule. So Caste system was more power full in Travenkoor and Kochin. When a lower-caste wanted to buy card from post office, he should put money on a; leaf and should go away. The upper-postmaster should take the money and put the card at the same place and after his return; the lower-caste should take the card. Ezhavas never get jobs in government service. Even Dr Palpu did not get a job; only because of he was an Ezhava. In early period, Brahmin was got only get a job. They completely control the administrative system.

Brahmins interpreted Puranas and Ithihasas according to their selfish motives and claim the honourship of the epics. They also claim the honourship of temple lands. The possessed right of doing ritual in temples. The lower-castes were prohibited to use public roads. They were civierly punished if they entered in to public roads or pass near to a high-caste .They prohibited to use foot wares, umbrellas, and costly ornaments and dress.

Evil cast system and blind faith in religion increasingly grown. Animal sacrifice were increased hen, goat etc killed mercilessly. Vannattimatu was one of the most prominent customs in Travenkoor and Malabar. The dress washed by Vannatty was called Mattu. It believed that death, delivery etc created pollution. The first menses of a girl o is known as Thirundukuli. This was celebrated largely. Generally Nair and Teen considered it as a big custom. It was a four days celebration and in the day. There was a procession which consisted of elephants.

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