June & July 2019


Historical Background and Life

While we refers the term of CHATHUR VARNA in Bhagvad Geetha in the verses no.13,chapter 4, Njana Karma Sanyasa Yogam, we can easily understand that every work or karma was classified into four standards based on Gunas or Quality.The first standard is fine or satvika.The second is better. The third is not good and fourth stage is bad. We can understand this classification of standards in work or duty in every walks of life .So that every karma was classified by its own Gunas or Quality. As we refers the verses, chathur varna or four fold classification is based on guna karma. It is based on neither caste nor race.

After the decline of Buddhism during Century 3 A.D and the renaissance of Brahmanical Hindu Imperialism , the term chathur varna was totally changed into upside down and replaced it in the basis of different castes.The aim of this Brahmanical Hindu Imperialism during the feudal system was to capture the total ownership of land and tactic exploitation of the entire work force of India.

The newly defined chathur varna and caste based discrimination and exploitation were existed in India until 20 th century. The ownership on land was made the working people very poor and dependable to higher caste.The real work forces with their own greatest traditions were marginalized and abandoned from human rights as well as human dignity.

In the name of such casteism, many atrocities were performed on the poor people of Kerala.The real work force was divided in to many divisions on the basis of caste and hindu feudalism. The lower caste people had no rights for education, higher jobs and even to wear fair dress.It was the age of darkness in Kerala as well as other Indian regions. Even in the 19 th century , there was no permission to schools for low caste and no freedom to walk on public paths. They had to stand away certain distance from the path while the higher feudal caste people were going. The higher caste people made sounds like hoi. hoi to inform their coming .They were not to permit to walk on the other side while the higher caste were taking bathe in 100 feet square ponds.

Among the low caste communities Nadars suffered a lot. They were levied with more than 300 taxes.Oozhiam was a special responsibility put on them. Because Nadars were hard working, it was their duty to complete the construction of public buildings like Government offices, Temples etc without any wages.They were suppressed with iron-hand by ruling and upper classe. Restrictions were imposed on them with cruelty.

Social Restrictions
The low caste people suffered from unapproachability, untouchability and unseeability. They had to keep a distance from the high caste according to caste hierarchy. Since the Nadars belonged to the low caste group, they were segregated and not allowed to go near a Brahmin or Nair. Those who violated this rule of keeping distance would be immediately killed. Nadars should keep a distance of 36 feet from a Brahimin and 12 feet from a Nair. There were also restrictions in dress and use of ornaments to the Nadars. Their women were restrained to dress like the Nair women. Both male and female were restricted to cover below their knee and above their waist. Women were forbidden to cover their bosoms. Low caste women appearing before the high caste people covering the breasts was considered as an insult by the high castes. Such dress restrictions were thrust upon the Nadars particularly on the women. Those Nadar men or women who violated this rule were beaten up and tortured. The jacket or upper cloth worn by the low caste women were torn to pieces by the high caste. Ornaments made out of costly metals were prohibited to the low castes. They should not use umbrellas, chappals and were also prohibited to tile their houses, own a cow or use of vehicles. Nadars were not allowed to decorate marriage pandals and their women should not carry water pots on their waist. They should carry the water pots on their head holding the pot by their right and left hands.

Religious Restrictions
The Nadars faced many restrictions in the worship of God. In the temples managed by the government and high caste Hindus, entry was prohibited to the low caste people. They could not even go near the outer side of the temples. Nadars had their own temples or worship places. In those temples, installation and worship of Gods like Siva, Brahmma, Vishnu were prohibited. They were considered as high caste gods. The low caste gods like Veerabadran, Sudalai Madan, Irulan, Mutharamman, Bhadrakali were allotted to the Nadars and other low castes. Only for the high caste gods, ghee and milk were offered while the Nadars were allowed to offer toddy and arrack to their gods.

Economic Restrictions
The Nadar community people had to lose a large portion of their income in the form of fines, taxes and gifts. Among the fines, Prayachittam was the most cruel levy on the Nadars. The amount of fine was fixed as per the will and pleasure of the officer who levied the tax. The officer who levied and collected the tax did not remit even 20 per cent of the amount collected to the government treasury. Prayachittam was collected even from those who did not do any wrong deed. Another major extortion from the Nadar caste people was in the form of taxes. The government collected hundreds of taxes from the Nadars. One of the important taxes collected was Purusantaram. This was a payment made to the government by those who inherit the ancestral property. It was more than 40 percent on the value of the inherited property. Like Prayachittam, the collectors of Purusantaram also misappropriated by not remitting the actual collection to the treasury. Another cruel tax was Poll Tax. The male member of a family, aged between 16 and 60 years had to pay this tax. For the dead and for those who migrated from the country, the surviving family and the available male members had to pay Poll Tax. The Nadars paid Professional Tax, House Tax and Land Tax. for the hut they lived one Fanam was collected and it was named as Kuppakachi, for changing the roof Manai Meyppan Kollum Irai was collected. For all types of trees possessed by the Nadars, tax was collected.. For some kinds of dress, ornaments, turban, umbrella, palanquin and conducting marriage one had to pay tax to the government. Always the tax collectors collected more than the prescribed amount and never remitted the actual collection. Those who failed to pay the tax were severely punished. A weighty stone was loaded on the back of the defaulter who was made to stand under the hot sun in the same posture for many hours. Red hot iron was used to pierce the ears of the defaulter and the rod was allowed to hang in his ear for many hours. They were beaten, arrested and put in jail for many days. The women defaulters were molested by the government officers. High officers did not entertain the complaints lodged by the victims. Another important factor that kept the Nadars under permanent poverty was Oozhiam and Viruthi services. They had to carry salt from the field to the selling station on head. To guard the woods cut from the forest and elephant pits, the Nadars were employed without payment. Those who were drawn for such duties had to be away from family for many days. As the Nadars were called continuously to do Oozhiam service, their own works suffered and thus they were driven to poverty. Even if the government paid for the work done, the wages were misappropriated by the officials. In all these, the Nadar community suffered much. Those who held temple or government lands were called Viruthikars. Viruthikars were bound to supply things free of cost in addition to the Oozhiam service. Palmyrah tree leaves used as writing materials and coconut tree leaves used as the main food of elephants were supplied regularly by the Viruthicars. During festivals, the Royal Families, Officers and Jenmies should be gifted with hens, eggs, vegetables, fruits, oil, firewood and vegetables should be supplied to the Ootupuras, free feeding centres for Brahmins by the Viruthikars. In all these, many a time the Viruthikars had to transport the things as head load to Trivandrum or Quilon where they lived.

Different types of TAXES were levied from low caste people. To conduct a marriage of a low caste man a particular amount of tax was to be paid to high caste authority. This tax was known as THALI KKARAM ( Tax on wedding chain).

The low caste family who keeps cow, goat or even a dog had to pay MATTU KKARAM(Tax on cattle rearing).

Different amounts were levied on LOOM, CHAKKU(Traditional wooden-grinder for producing oil), RAW-BOAT, FISHING NET, CART, SPADE, SICKLE, HAMMER etc., The palmira and coconut tree-climbers were levied with two taxes. One for their LADDER and other for their FOOT-ROPE. These taxes were known as EANNIKKARAM and THALLA KKANAM. The low cast people who want to wear golden ornaments they had to pay a tax called MENI PPONNU. Women laborers were levied with tax called MULAI VILA . Even the economically and physically weaker persons (Eazhakal) had to pay a particular tax- EAZHA KKARAM. The owners of the slaves had to pay another tax AALL KASU (TAX FOR KEEPING OF SLAVES). VALA PPANAM was the tax to be paid by the fishermen for their nets and MEEN PPATTAM was another tax to be paid for the right for fishing. Pottery people ( VELARS /KUSHAVAS) were levied with CHEKKIRA and Dhobis were levied with VANNIRA PPARA. Goldsmiths (Thattar) had to pay a tax called THATTARA PPATTAM. The system of OOZHIYAM VELA ( Hard work without remuneration ) was also prevailed during that period. The higher caste people had much right even to kill them while they were in offence, in their own definition. This is the right picture of the feudal caste back ground , when AYYA VAIKUNDA NATHER ,the young revolutionist emereged as the need of a social renaissance.

He was born to very poor and hard working parents Ponnu Nadar and Veiyelal Ammal in 1809 at Thamarakkulam village of Kingdom of Travancore .They named him Mudi Choodum Perumal which means the Lord with Crown. But the higher caste authorities felt angry in putting such a name and they demanded to change it.At last the parents were compelled to change the name of their child as Muthukutty.He grew up as a bright child and helped his parents in their household activities.

At the age of twenty-two, he suffered from an incurable disease and was bed-ridden. The local Vaidyars treated him but there was no improvement. For one long year, he was suffering from that disease. His parents and relatives were much worried about him. One night his mother prayed to God for a long time and went to sleep. That night she had a divine dream and asked her to take her son to Tiruchendur Temple for the Masi festival and told her that the God will relieve him and give him a holy life. In the morning, Veiyelal was delighted by the dream and she informed her relatives. The relatives decided to take Muthukutty to Tiruchendur. Preparations were on for a long journey.But they could not afford even a bullock-cart. Muthukutty was not able to walk a single step. So they decided to carry him in a cloth-cradle. They set off by early morning. There were no proper roads.

They had to walk through fields, forests and to cross streams and rivers to reach Thiruchendur. On the way they rested for some time on the bank of the river Thorravazhi aru and had their meals. After some time the sickman stepped out of the cradle and started running towards Tiruchendur.

All of them ran behind him. They thought that he was running in delirium. At Tiruchendur they found him standing in the street. Then he straight away walked into the sea and disappeared. The relatives had a futile search for two days. They tried to console his mother for the loss of her son and decided to leave Tiruchendur. But his mother Veiyelal could not be consoled. With strong belief of return of her son, she remained on the sea shore for three days.

On the third day, the 20th of Masi (March 3, 1833 / Kollam Era 1008), he came out the sea. His mother ran towards him and tried to embrace him. He looked on her face and revealed that now he was not her son but Sree Vaikundar.

Vaikundar started his journey towards Thamarakkulam,his birth place. On the way, he came to Udangudi. Seeing him in their street, some miscreants pelted him with stones. Within a shortwhile,number of kites and monkeys appeared on that street and destroyed the roofs of the houses. The people sought apology from Sree Vaikundar. Some people greeted him also. Then he continued his journey.

One the way, Sree Vaikundar saw a Palmyrah climber taping the sap. He asked him for some sap to quench his thirst. He offered the little available in an earthern pot to him and his group. Even after the entire group had slaked their thirst, there was still more sap left in the pot. Vaikundar blessed him and continued his journey.

On his way, he got into a pond to wash his legs. On seeing him, a man started abusing. Within a short time he suffered from diarrhoea. He ran to Vaikundar and apologized. Then he was cured of his disease. Later, people welcomed him and greeted him. They offered him palmgur drink and fruits. He blessed them and reached Thamarakkulam. He chose the spiritual hill station named as Maruthvamala which has a reference in Ramayana, for meditation.

After the meditation days, he arrived his native place, Swamithoppu. Sree Vaikundar remained in his birth place by loving ,treating and advising the people who gathered before him. Vaikundar used sanctified clay (thiruman which is called as Namam by his devotees) and water to treat the people for their diseases.He blessed and advised the people from far and wide congregated there. With the spreading up of this exclusive news ,there rose the morning star of social change.

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