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The Aryanization of Kerala

history of kerala
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  The Aryanization of Kerala   The Aryan culture was introduced in to Kerala by immigrant Brahmins from the North. They reached Kerala in small periodical waves from the 5 th  Century AD onwards. Theycame to be called Nambudiris. Though the Aryan Culture began to spread in Kerala fromthe 5 th  century AD !induism was a very minor religion until th  century AD. During # th Century AD a new set of immigrants reached Kerala and strengthened the e$isting force of Brahmins and during the th  Century at the time of Adi %an&aracharya Brahminismreached its 'enith.As was done in the north it was not possible to suppress or supplant the native peopleby force in the %outh due to three reasons. () The immigrant Brahmins were small in number.*) The native society was well organi'ed.() The geographical and social conditions were different from those of the North. !ence the Aryani'ation of Kerala had to be a gradual peaceful cultural move and asystematic enslavement of the natives%everal strategies were adopted almost simultaneously to achieve this. +t was li&e anattac& on several fronts at the same time.,ne step ta&en by the immigrant Brahmins was to win the support and allegiance of thenative Dravidian chieftains. The chieftains were flattered with Aryan titles and were madeto believe that they belonged to %urya&ula Chandra&ula or Agni&ula race of &ings and thatthey were different and much superior to those who were ruled by them. Then they weretaught to imitate and emulate the grandeur and habits of those legendry &ings. Thusemerged the ruling class of Kshatriyas in Kerala. The Brahmins were able to persuadethese rulers to follow the Brahminical ways for spiritual attainment and perform variousAryan rites for their spiritual and material benefit. +n return respect for the Brahmins andtheir protection became great virtues for the rulers. The rulers supported the Brahmins inall their actions.Another step ta&en by the Brahmins was to get temples of Aryan -ods constructedthroughout Kerala under the patronage of Kulase&haras the then rulers of Kerala. Thesetemples were completely under the control of the Brahmins and became live centers of Brahminic activity and bases for the enslavement of the natives and the perpetuation of Brahminic domination. All the people e$cept the rulers were strictly &ept away fromtemples.!owever it was not an easy tas& for the Brahmins to penetrate deep in to the wellintegrated society and establish their domination over it. The encroachment of the Brahminsinto their social and religious life was resented and resisted by certain strong sections of thenative population.!ence their ne$t step was to create a split among the masses. The socalled divine lawof /0arna/ was a ready weapon to achieve this ob1ective. Those among the masses whowere at that time moving close to the Brahmins and Kshatriyas and serving themwere designated as /%udras/ and assimilated into the Aryan /varna/ system and they formedthe fourth group of the !indu caste hierarchy. Thus with the emergence of %udras fromamong the native masses the hitherto integrated society of Kerala came to be dividedinto two main divisions. The Savarnas  who belonged to one of the four varnas and the   Avarnas,  those who were outside the 0arna system.2ater the label /%udra/ lost currency and the nomenclature /Nair/ in local vernacular came tostay for this caste. The Brahmins came to be called /Nambudiris/.The Nairs were constantly told by their caste superiors that they were the people ordainedby -od to serve the other upper castes and they were superior to and privileged over thenatives who were outside the caste system. As an incentive for accepting Brahmincal waysand the caste system the Nairs were given certain privileges such as entry intotemple premises employment in -overnment service and temple service facilities foreducation etc. which were denied to the  Avarnas.   +n course of time these privileges hadfar reaching conse3uences on the society giving positions of administrative powerand related wealth and privileges to Nairs. They emerged as a privileged class over andabove their native counterparts the  Avarnas,  whose position gradually deteriorated. 2aterthey were declared untouchables. The 4'havas constituted the bul& of the  Avarnas as theywere large in number.At a certain point this process of assimilation also came to an end. The %udras thoughtthat if all the natives were assimilated as %udras they will have no one inferior to themand that would affect their privileges. %o they saw to it that the assimilation stopped.oreover the policy of the Brahmins was also not the unification of the people but divisionin order to perpetuate their superiority.Another step ta&en was a landgrab attempt. The Brahmins were considered superhumanby the rulers. The properties belonging to the temple 6Devaswom) and to the Brahmins6Brahmaswom) were considered immune to ta$es and confiscation by anybody including theenemy in case of war. %o during a war 6and wars were many in those days of anarchycaused by the sudden death of Kulase&hara) the Nambudiris persuaded the people totransfer their land and properties to the temples or to Nambudiris so as to protect themfrom the enemy. By this clever strategy the temples and Nambudiris became big landowners. 2ands belonging to the temple were naturally en1oyed by the Nambudiris as theywere the sole administrators of temples. !istory shows that all feudal lords of alabar wereNambudiris.eanwhile the 1udicial system was also manipulated. A new penal code based on castewas introduced in which degrees of punishment varied according to the caste for the samecrime. According to this the 'Avarnas'   got the worst. 7ith this the enforcement of the castesystem was legali'ed.7ith the introduction of the caste system the idea of social superiority and inferiorityentered the minds of the people. +n order to perpetuate social superiority and inferioritynew customs and practices li&e untouchability and unapproachability appeared and thesociety began to disintegrate fast. %ocial harmony and dignity of labor disappeared. 8ightsprivileges duties and punishments came to be defined in terms of caste. The  Avarnas  alsowere affected by the ideas of social hierarchy as they were branded inferior anduntouchable by the Savarnas.  Naturally the  Avarnas  also loo&ed for a hierarchy amongthemselves in their social scale. The rich found the poor inferior the learned foundthe unlettered inferior and the civili'ed found the tribals inferior. +n short castes and subcastes and social hierarchy appeared among the native  Avarnas  who never had any systemof such ran&ing. ,ut of these ran&s the 4'havas the 9ulayas and the 9arayas emerged asthe ma1or castes. They had no wor&ing models so they imitated the Savarnas  andfollowed the rules of untouchability and unapproachability among themselves. 4ach castefound some other caste which could be considered inferior. A thousand years passed andthe once balanced and integrated society of Kerala degenerated into a /lunatic asylum/ ascalled by %wami 0ive&ananda. 5. The Caste Structure of Kerala    As the final product of Aryanisation Kerala society crystalli'ed into two ma1or castebasedcategories the caste !indus or /%avarnas: and the noncaste !indus or /Avarnas:. Thecaste and subcastes were arranged in a hierarchical order from the highest and themost sacred to the lowest and the least worthy.The %avarna hierarchy consisted of the Nambudiris or Kerala Brahmins the Kshatriyas orthe rulers and %udras or Nairs in a descending order. The Avarna hierarchy had 4'hava6Thiyya or Chovan) at the top followed by 9ulaya 9araya etc. with the Nayadi occupyingthe last rung. The Avarnas were definitely below the ran& of %udras. The bifurcation of %avarna and Avarna was so deeply felt that professional castes li&e tailor barberwasherman etc. e$isted separately for %avarnas and Avarnas. That is a %avarna tailor orbarber would not wor& for an Avarna as an Avarna was considered to be inferior to the%avarna professional.Another point of interest is that Kerala has no 0aisya caste. There could be two reasonsfor this. ;irst when the immigrant Aryans 6Brahmins) reached Kerala agriculture andtrade were well developed and well maintained by the local people many of whomre1ected the varna system. Any interference in the economy would have been suicidal tothe vested interests of the Brahmins. %o they wisely manipulated to become the mastersof everything with the least disturbance to the social set up. %econdly they must have feltthe need for a serving class under them rather than a free trading class. %o the willingnatives were elevated to the %udra status and the unwilling natives were brandeduntouchables.The Nambudiris represented the highest ran& privileged to enter the sanctum sanctorumof the temples touch idols and perform oblations. 4ven the Kshatriya was not allowed thisprivilege. The Nambudiris followed the rule of primogeniture that is the eldest son of thefamily inherited the property. And to &eep the property intact only the eldest son wasallowed to marry that too from within the caste. ;or the convenience of the younger sonsa peculiar system called /%ambandham/ < a morganatic marriage < with Nair orKshatriya women was devised. By this system the woman was not given the social statusof a wife nor could the children inherit the paternal property. The children were forbiddento touch their father lest they pollute him. The matriarchal system of the Nairfamilies was 3uite convenient to the Brahmins as the maternal uncle became the guardianof the children thus cleverly eliminating the responsibility of the father to provide for thewife and children. 9rof. %. N. %adasivan refers to this arrangement as a /se$ual lu$urywithout the social obligation./ The Nairs were 3uite convinced that it was the duty of theNair men to serve and the duty of the Nair women to please the Brahmin. 4ven Kshatriyafamilies believed that the seed of a Nambudiri could produce better and more efficientKings. +t too& hundreds of years and generations for the community to reali'e and reactagainst this se$ual e$ploitation.But the Nambudiris did not escape from ignominies and miseries of this system. 2oo& atthe fate of the Nambudiri women 6Antar1anam). any a lady had to suffer compulsorymaidenhood all her life because only one man from a family could marry. ,r she hadthe choice to become one of the several wives of a Nambudiri who could be old enough tobe her father or grandfather. =oung widows among Nambudiri women were 3uitecommon.As a result of the inbreeding of NambudiriKshatriya Nair castes there emergednumerous hybrid castes li&e enon 7arrier arar 9isharady etc. As they increased and  multiplied they were made subordinate functionaries of the temple establishments.The plight of the Avarnas or noncaste !indus was the most pitiable. Not only economicdeprivation but inhuman humiliations were heaped upon them. By the end of theseventeenth century caste assumed a ferocious and barbarous form in Kerala andstiflingly oppressive to those in the lower rungs of the caste ladder. .There were nearly three hundred compulsory ta$es imposed on the  Avarnas  e$clusivelysome of which will loo& ridiculous and nonsensical to the modern mind. !ere are somee$amples> Tharivari  ta$ on handlooms 0alayara  ta$ on fishing boats and   netsCha&&uvari  ta$ on oil pressThalavari    ta$ to be paid by an  Avarna for the hair on his head.ula&aram   6   breast ta$)  ta$ on women to be paid depending on the si'e of their breasts.Chetthu&aram  ta$ to be paid by the wor&er for the number of palms he climbed in aday for e$tracting toddy. These ta$es appear laughable but imagine the implied humiliation and tragic fate of thepeople who had to bear them. 8eali'ing the illegitimacy impropriety and inhuman natureof these ta$es 8ani -auri 2a$mibai of Tranvancore issued a proclamation in (#5(abolishing them !owever the social humiliations continued to be in force because there was a firm belief that the lower castes defiled the higher in a spiritual or ritualistic sense. !ence theprinciple of untouchability and unapproachability was maintained very strictly.4ven Savarnas  were victims of this. %ince the Nambudiris were alleged to be the highestand most sacred even the Kshatriyas were regarded as polluting the Nambudiris by touchand approach. The Kshatriya was therefore compelled to &eep a distance of two feet awayfrom the Nambudiris and the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. %imilarly the distance tobe observed by the others were> Nair  (? ft. 4'hava  @* ft. 9ulaya and 9araya ?ft.Nayadi  not to come within the sight of a Brahmin.The sight of a Nayadi at a distance would force the Brahmin toundergo ritual purification+n addition to these these social groups had to &eep certain specified distance fromeach other. The use of public highways was forbidden to the  Avarnas,  and anyone daring to passwithin polluting distance of a Savarna  would be cut down at once. To recogni'e suchcastes they were re3uired to remain na&ed above the waist. This applied to women too.
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