Why did a Tamil King Kill 1000 Goldsmiths? (Post No.3821)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 15 APRIL 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 15-59


Post No. 3821


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


contact; swami_48@yahoo.com 


Silappadikaram, the Tamil epic, is the story about Kannaki and Kovalan (The details of the story are given at the end of this post).

Matalan, the Brahmin, is a link in the story. He plays a key role and fills the gaps in the story. He advised the mighty king Cheran Senguttuvan about the good things in life (Dharma).


In the Nirpataik (Chapter) Kaathai of the epic he gives some important details:-

While King Senguttuvan was sitting on the throne, the Brahmana Matalan appeared before him and said:

“Long live the King! After going around the Potiyil Hills, sacred to the great sage (Agastya) and bathing in the famous ghat of Kumari, I was returning, when, as if impelled by fate, I went into Madura belonging to far-famed Tennavan (Pandya King) of the sharp sword.


There when Matari heard that beautiful (Kannaki) had defeated the Pandyan king of the mighty army with her anklet, she proclaimed in the Taateru manram (common meeting place of the cowherds and cowherdesses, and was generally under a tree):-

“O people of the cowherd community! Kovalan had done no wrong; it is the king who has erred; I have lost her to whom I gave refuge. Have the king’s umbrella and the sceptre fallen from the righteous path?”  With these words, she (Matari) threw herself into the burning flames in the dead of night.

Kavunti, distinguished for her penance, took a vow to die of starvation and thus gave up her life.

I heard in full detail all this and also of the devastation that over took the great city of Madurai ruled by the Pandyan of the golden car. Overcome by this I went back to my native place (KaveriPumpattinam, Port city of Chozas) and leant that Kovalan’s father distributed all his wealth in charity and entered Indra Viharas/Buddhist temple and practised penance. Kovalan’s mother died of pity. Kannaki’s father also gave away his wealth in religious gifts and adopted Dharma in the presence of Ajhivakas. His wife gave up her good life within a few days ( of Kovalan’s execution , followed by the death of Pandya King and Queen and Kannaki burning Madurai city).


The lady Matavi (courtesan), shorn of her hair with the flower wreaths therein, entered the Buddha Vihara and received the holy instruction. She told her mother that her daughter should not become a courtesan.


Brahmin Matalan continued………….

“These people died because, they heard this news from me, therefore I come to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges (In order to purify myself). Long live you, O King of Kings!


When Matalan gave the king the tragic news about Kannaki’s parents, Kovalan’s parents, Cowherd woman Matari, Jain woman saint Kavunti and courtesan Matavi, the mighty lord of the Cheras, asked Matalan:


“May I hear what happened in the highly flourishing Pandya Kingdom after the king’s death?”

Matalan said,

“May you long live, King of the great world! You destroyed in a single day nine umbrellas of nine kings, who joined together in an alliance against your brother in law Killi valavan.

Human Sacrifice of 1000 people!


“The victorious (Pandya king) Ver Chezian residing at Korkai (Port City of the Pandyas), offered a human sacrifice of one thousand goldsmiths in a day to divine Pattini (chaste woman) who had twisted off one of her breasts (with which Kannaki burnt Madurai city).

“And when ancient Maduria lost her glory and was chafing in untold trouble owing to royal injustice, this Pandyan prince of the lunar line (Chandra vamsa) which was celebrated for the exemplary way in which it gave protection to the people of the southern regions, mounted in succession the royal throne of Madura, like the (sun) mounting in the morning, with his rays crimson, the divine chariot with the single wheel, yoked to seven horses with tiny bells attached to its necks. May the king of our land live for all time protecting the world from aeon to aeon; live he in fame.”


Thus, from the Brahmin Matalan we come to know the fate of cowherdess Matari, Jain woman saint Kavunti, Courtesan Matavi, Parents of Kannaki and Kovlan and the human sacrifice of 1000 goldsmiths.


Silappadikaram Story:–


Silappathikaram is the earliest among the available Tamil epics. It was written by a poet cum prince Ilango. The story of the epic is as follows:-

Kannaki and Kovalan were the daughter and son of wealthy merchants of the port city Kaveri Pumpattinam of Choza kingdom . Both of them were married  and before long Kovalan fell into the spell of courtesan Matavi. But Kannaki was a faithful wife and received Kovalan wholeheartedly when he came back to her. They wanted to start a new life away from their home town and so they travelled to the renowned city of the Pandyas, Madurai.


Kannaki came to Madurai along with her husband Kovalan to sell her anklet and start a new life. But, her husband was unjustly accused of stealing the anklet of the Queen by a GOLDSMITH and was killed under the orders of the Pandya King. To prove the innocence of her husband, and expose the heinous crime of the Great Pandya King, Kannaki went to his court with one of her anklets. She accused the Pandya King of having ordered the death of her husband without conducting proper trial. The Pandya Queen’s anklet had pearls whereas the anklet of Kannaki had gems inside. She broke her anklet in the presence of the king and proved that her husband Kovalan was not guilty. Immediately Pandya King and Queen died, probably of massive heart attack.

Image of Kannaki and Kovalan

Afterwards Kannaki burnt the city by twisting one off her breasts and throwing it in the streets of Madurai City , Capital of the Pandya Kingdom, sparing the elderly, invalids, children, Brahmins and women. In other words, all the bad people were burnt alive. Later she went to Chera Nadu (present Kerala in South India) and ascended to Heaven in the Pushpaka Vimana/ pilotless airplane, that came from the Heaven. When the Chera King Senguttuvan heard about it from the forest tribes who witnessed her ascension, he decided to go to Holy Himalayas to take a stone and bathe it in the holy Ganges and then carve a statue out of it for Kannaki. King Senguttuvan’s brother Ilango composed the Silappadikaram giving all the details about the chaste woman/Patni Kannaki. Though the incidents happened in the second century CE, the epic in its current form is from the fourth or fifth century CE (Post Sangam Period).



Tamil Proverbs on Importance of Water (Post No.3803)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 9 APRIL 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 22-08


Post No. 3803


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


contact; swami_48@yahoo.com

Water is very essential for any living being. Water changes the geography and the history of the world. From the oldest Vedas to the 17th Century Tiruvilaayatal Purana (Giving the miracles of Lord Shiva based in Madurai temple), we have innumerable references to drought and  the migration of people. No wonder that the Tamils also have so many proverbs on water in Tamil .


I have just compiled some Tamil proverbs at the request of a research student who is studying role water in every culture. I give below a rough translation of those Tamil proverbs:


Tamil Veda Tirukkural praises the rains in the second chapter. The last couplet says,

“Eve as life on earth cannot sustain without water, virtue too depends ultimately on rain (Kural 20)


World cannot exist in the absence of the waters is also found in 2000 year old Sangam Tamil Literature (Natrinai verse 1)


Tamil Proverbs

1.A country without water, an open courtyard without moon (both are desolate places)

(Niirillaa Naadu, Nilavillaa Mutram)

2.It is like the bottle gourd that is submerged in water (It can never be submerged; impossible task)

Niiril amiZththina suraikaay pola


3.Water also kills, Fire also kills

(Niirum kollum, Neruppum kollum)

4.It is like a mixture of water and algae (so muddy; confused)

(niirum paasiyum kalanthaar poola)

5.If you beat (smack) the water, will it become separate? (What is the use of punishing)

(Niirai adihthaal nir vilakuma?

6.Like washing the water and burying the shadow (impossible task)

(Niiraik kazuvi Nilavaip puthaippathu pola)


7.Spilling the water, frittering away the wealth

(Wasting water is like wasting the hard earned money)

(Niirai sinthinaiyoo, siirai sinthinaiyo)


8.Like the land spoils water (taste of water depends upon the condition of the land where it is stored)

(Nilaththinaal Niirin thanmai kundrinaarpola)


9.If the pot is full of water it does not make noise (Empty vessel makes noise)

(Nirai Kutam Thazumpaathu)


10.He is very clever who could see the foot print or the track in water

(Thanniirile Thatam Paarppaan)

11.Should he show his strength in the water? (Stupid act)

(Thanniirileyaa than Balam Kaatturathu)


12.Even the egg that sumbmerged in water should come when you put the aalt

(Thanniiril amukkina Muttai uppu pota kilambum)

13.Who knows whether frog in the water drank  water or not?

(Thanniiril irukkira thavalai thanniiraik kutiththathaik kantathu yaar? kutiyaathathaik kantathu yaar?)


14.Even if you fart under water, it would come out (obvious act)

Thanniirin kiize kusu vittaal thalaikku mele)

15.Water and anger are seen in low places

(Thanniirumkopamum Thaazntha itaththilee)


  1. Even water tolerates three mistakes

(Thanniirum Mundru Pilazi Porukkum)

17.Can you disparage or deprecate water and mother?

(Thanniiraiyum thaayaiyum pazikkalaamaa?)

18.Even if water becomes hot, it extinguishes fire

(Thanniir venniir aanaalum Neruppai avikkum)


  1. Can any one separate coldness from water and hotness from fire (inborn qualities)

(thanniirinindrum thanmai piriyumo,thiiyinindrum velmmai piriyumo?)


20.Salt that came out of water must dissolve in water itself

(Thanniiril piRantha uppu, thanniirileye karaiya vendum)

There are more proverbs on water. The list here is not exhaustive)




Lord Shiva’s Sandals on the Head of a Tamil King! (Post No.3663)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 23 FEBRUARY 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 9-59 am


Post No. 3663


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


contact; swami_48@yahoo.com



Silappathikaram is the earliest among the available Tamil epics. It was written by a poet cum prince Ilango. The story of the epic is as follows:-


Kannaki came to Madurai along with her husband Kovalan to sell her anklet and start a new life. But, her husband was unjustly accused of stealing the anklet of the Queen and was killed under the orders of the King. To prove the innocence of her husband, and expose the heinous crime of the Great Pandya King, Kannaki went to his court with one of her anklets. She accused the Pandya King of having ordered the death of her husband without conducting proper trial. The Pandya Queen’s anklet had pearls whereas the anklet of Kannaki had gems inside. She broke her anklet in the presence of the king and proved that her husband Kovalan was not guilty. Immediately Pandya King and Queen died, probably of massive heart attack.


Afterwards Kannaki burnt the city by twisting one off her breasts and throwing it in the streets of  Madurai City , Capital of the Pandya Kingdom, sparing the elderly, invalids, children, Brahmins and women. In other words, all the bad people were burnt alive. Later she went to Chera Nadu (present Kerala in South India) and ascended to Heaven in the Pushpaka Vimana that came from the Heaven. When the Chera King Senguttuvan heard about it from the forest tribes who witnessed her ascension, he decided to go to Holy Himalayas to take a stone and bathe it in the holy Ganges and then carve a statue out of it for Kannaki. King Senguttuvan’s brother Ilango composed the Silappadikaram. Though the incidents happened in the second century CE, the epic in its current form is from the fourth or fifth century CE (Post Sangam Period).

Kannaki is worshipped in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka as the Goddess of Chastity. Of the five Tamil epics, Silappadikaram (Cilappadikaram) is the most popular one. Chera King Senguttuvan was very powerful and he defeated the sea pirates and the Romans in the West coast of India. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Just before leaving for the Himalayan Mountains, he went around the Shiva Temple with the sandals of Lord Shiva on his head. Later when the priests from the nearby Vishnu temple brought ‘prasadam’, he placed them on his shoulders. When he completed the Himalayan journey successfully and erected a statue for Kannaki, all the powerful North Indian Kings and Gajabahu of Sri Lanka were invited to see the consecration of the statue. A Brahmin by name Madalan figured in the epic from the very beginning. At the end, he blessed the king to live for eons, i.e. his name and fame will live for thousands of years. Madalan also praised him as a great devotee of Lord Shiva.


Let us look at the description of his devotion to Lord Shiva in the words of great poet Ilango:–


“The sovereign lord of the sharp sword, decorated his crown of gems with Vanci blossoms form the unflowering Vanci when the morning drum sounded at the gate, announcing the time for other kings of the earth, to pay their tributes. With the vicorious Vanci wreath were worn THE SANDALS OF THE GREAT GOD IN WHOSE FORM THE WHOLE UNIVERSE MANIFESTS ITSELF (SIVA), AND WHO WEARS THE CESCET MOON IN HIS LONG, DARK MATTED HAIR; AND HAVING LAID THE HEAD THAT BOWED TO NONE ELSE AT HIS HOLY SHRINE, HE CIRCUMAMBUATED IT. The sweet fumes from the sacrificial fires offered by the Vedic Brahmins deprived his garlands of its luxurious colour. He then mounted the nape of his proud war elephant.

There appeared before him some persons bearing the pracaatam pf the Lord Vishnu who slumbers in a yogic trance at Aatakamaatam and addressed him with benedictory words: May success attend on Kuttuvan, the Lord of the West! Since the king already placed on his crown of gems the beautiful sandals of the Lord whose matted hair bears the Ganga, he received this pracaatam and carried on his fair, bejewelled shoulders.”

–from Kalkot Katai, Cilappatikaram, Translated by Prof.V R Ramachandra Dikshitar, 1939

This shows that Senguttuvan was a follower of orthodox religion which consisted in the worship of Siva and Vishnu.

Aatakamaatam is identified with the Padmanabhaswamy temple of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). Some scholars thing it was another temple at Karur, which was known as Vanchi in the olden days.


There are numerous references to Lord Shiva in the epic. Siva’s dances and Siva’s temples are referred to in other sections.


Here is what the great Brahmin Madalan said in his blessings:

“It is not strange that people who do good things attain heaven and people who have worldly minds are reborn, and that good and bad deeds have their own reward and those dead should be reborn. Those are ancient truths. You who were born through the grace of HIM WHO RIDES ON THE SACRED BULL and have won distinction as king in the wide world, saw clear as an object held in the palm of your hand, the fruits of righteous deeds and the forms of holy people. Live long from aeon to aeon protecting the earth! Live long, gracious monarch.”


“Please with what the Brahmin Matalan said, the king endowed grants to the temple of the very youthful Pattini (Chaste woman) who twisted off her breast and there by raised flames which enveloped the noisy Kuutal (Madurai’s other name) of the great Pantiyan Kingdom, much celebrated in poetical themes.”


Silapadikaram has innumerable references to Hindu customs. Commentator Adiayrkkunallar has added encyclopaedic information about ancient Tamil Nadu.






Nectar and Poison in Tamil and Sanskrit Books (Post No.3636)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 14 FEBRUARY 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 20-55


Post No. 3636



Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.



contact; swami_48@yahoo.com


In Sangam Tamil Literature, which is 2000-year-old, Sanskrit word Amrita (nectar) is used in at least 40 places with three different Tamil spellings (amiztham, amirtham, amutham). Tirukkural, which belongs to the post Sangam period has at least three couplets with the word Amrita. Mahabharata which is several thousand years old has got interesting slokas on nectar and poison (Amrita and Visha)


Here are few similes on Amrita and Visha from Mahabharata:


yat tad agre visam iva

parinaame amrtopamam

tat sukha saatvikam proktam

aatma buddhi prasaadajam 6-40-37


That which is initially like poison (but) like nectar in maturity, that is called the saatvika happiness, born of serenity of soul and mind.


visayendriya samyogaad

yat tad agre amrtopamam

parinaame visham iva

tat sukham rajas am amrtam 6-40-38


That which is initially like nectar owing to contact of the objects of sense and the sense and the sense organs, but like poison in maturity, that is known as Rajasam happiness.


Vyasacompared Amritam with sweetness and extreme contentment, sweet fruits (3-155-44), water (3-152-22), an interesting story (1-90-5) and a consoling word (1-147-24).


Poison is compared with anger.

The sage’s son of hot temperament is likened to poison (visakalpa rseh sutah 1-36-23)


Yudhisthira is very much pained to remember the insult to Draupadi in the assembly; this painful insult is likened to the essence of poison.

duuve visaye va rasam viditvaa (3-35-17)


That great army of Dhrtaraastra), while destroyed in three battle field, displayed violent paroxysms like a man after having drunk poison) 6-79-23)

saa vadhyamanaa samara dhaartaraastri mahaacamuuh

vegan bhhuvidhaams cakre visam piitve va maanavah


Amrita in Tamil Veda Tirukkural:-

Tiruvalluvar, author of Tirukkural, used the word nectar in three couplets:-

“The food into which the children’s little hands have been dipped will be far sweeter to the parent than nectar” (64)


“ A discourse addressed to unsympathetic hostile ears is like poring sweet nectar into a filthy gutter” (720)


“Her arms are made up of nectar, for their touch revives my life whenever it occurs” (1106)




பெண்கள் விளையாட்டுகள் (Post No.3537)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 12 January 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 9-31


Post No.3537



Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.



contact; swami_48@yahoo.com


பெண்கள் விளையாட்டுகள்:


அந்தக் காலத்தில் திருமணமாகும் வரை பெண்கள் என்ன என்ன விளையாடினர் என்று ஒரு பாட்டின் மூலம் தெரிகிறது. இது முற்றிலும் சரி என்பது சங்கத் தமிழ் பாடல்களாலும், ராமாயண, மஹாபாரத நூல்களாலும் உறுதியாகிறது:-


மருங்குவளர் பூங்கா மலர்வாவி யூச

றிருந்துமணி செய்குன்று தேமா- விரும்பமுத

பானங்கிளி பூவை பந்துகன்னங் கழங்கன்ன மயின்

மான்முல்லை பந்தர் வளர்ப்பு

–உபமான சங்கிரஹம் இரத்தினச் சுருக்கம்


1.பூங்காவில் பூக்கள் பறித்து விளையாடினர்.

2.பொய்கை, கிணறுகளில் நீராடிப் பொழுது போக்கினர்.

3.வீட்டிலும் மரத்தடியிலும் ஊஞ்சல் கட்டி ஆடினர்.

4.பணக்காரர் வீடுகளில் செயற்கையாக குன்று எழுப்பி அதில் ரத்தினக் கற்களைப் பதித்துவைத்து அதன் மேல் ஆடி ஓடி சாடினர்.

5.தேமாமரம் விளையாடினர் (மாமரத்தில் ஏறி அல்லது கல் விட்டெறிந்து மாங்காய், மாம்பழம் எடுத்துச் சாப்பிடுதல்) .

6.அமிர்தம் போன்ற பானங்கள் செய்து குடித்தனர்.

7.காய்களை வைத்து கழங்கு ஆடினர்;

8.பூப்பந்து ஆடினர்.

9.கிளி, பூவை (சாரிகைப் பறவை), அன்னம், மயில் ஆகிய பறவைகள் வளர்த்து பொழுது போக்கினர்.

10.முல்லைப் பூச்செடிக்கு பந்தல் கட்டி வளர்த்து அதைப் பராமரித்தனர். முல்லை என்றால் அது போன்ற பிறவகை மலர்ச் செடிகளும் அதில்  அடங்கும்.


ஐந்து தொழில்கள்

அம்பொற்றொடியணிமினார் தங்கைக்கைந்து தொழில்

செம்பவள மென்விரலைச் சேர்த்தெண்ணலம்பெழுதல்

பூசித்திலை கிள்ளல் பூத்தொடுத்தல் பண்ணெழில்யாழ்

வாசித்தலென்றுரை செய்வார்

–உபமான சங்கிரஹம் இரத்தினச் சுருக்கம்



அழகிய பொன்னினாற் செய்யப்பட்ட வளையலை அணிந்த மாதர் கைகளுக்கு ஐந்து தொழில்கள் உண்டு. (அவையாவையெனின்) 1.செம்பவளம் போன்ற மென்மையான விரல்களைச் சேர்த்து எண்ணுதல்,

2.அம்பின் உருவத்தை எழுதல்,

3.பூசை செய்து இலை பறித்தல்,

4.மலர் தொடுத்தல்,

5.பண்ணொடு கூடின அழகாகிய வீணை வாசித்தல் என்று சொல்வர்.


சங்க இலக்கியத்திலும் சம்ஸ்கிருத இலக்கியத்திலும் இந்த விளையாட்டுகள்வரும் இடங்களை தனியே எழுதுகிறேன்






Bull Fighting in the 1890s (Post No.3523)

Compiled by London swaminathan


Date: 7 January 2017


Time uploaded in London:-  20-41


Post No.3523



Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.



contact; swami_48@yahoo.com



“There are several other kinds of amusement, some of them of a vulgar character, Bull fighting is one of them.

The bull fighting must not be regarded as like the familiar bull-fighting in Spain, or any other western country. This fight is called ‘sallikattoo’, and takes place during the day.


A large plain is chosen for the purpose and the villagers collect money among themselves with which to meet the necessary expenditure. They send out invitations to the people of other villages and inform them of the fixed day for bull-fight. This news spreads abroad among all classes of the people who come in numbers in bands and parties, both men and women to the spot appointed. The people of the village who have arranged the bull fight erect temporary sheds at their own cost in order to accommodate their visitors. As it is a public meeting place, the sellers of various articles flock to it with their different kinds of goods.

At about eight O clock in the morning all assemble in the plain. Sometimes there are thousands of people met on such occasions. Several fighting bulls will be brought by the villagers from different districts. The owner of each bull ties a new cloth around its neck. In  some cases the owner puts money in a corner of the cloth. He takes the bull to the headman of the assembly and bows his head to him. Then the headman inquiries concerning the parentage and name if he does not happen to know him. Then be asks the herald or the crier to beat his drum three times. This is a sign for the people to understand that a fighting bull will be let loose in the midst of the assembly. This is a signal also to the men who have come to fight the bull, and take the cloth and the money its neck that they must hold themselves in readiness. The owner of the bull takes him to the centre of the assembly, and there be lets him loose by warning the bult to take cate of and to make his way through the crowd to his shed.


As soon as ever the bull is set free, ten or fifteen men come to the front of the assembly without either stick or knife, and they face the bull manfully. Some of the clever bulls defend themselves hours together, hurting many of those men, and sometimes killing one or two; at last they escape from their hands and go home, leaping and frisking for joy. There are many bulls who are known to be great fighters and who allow anyone to take the cloths from their necks. Whoever takes the cloth considered to be a is hero. The bullocks are brought in to fight, one after another, the whole day through, and sometimes this terrible struggle between man and beast will be continued for two or three days. Some of the owners of the bulls offer a large sum of money to anyone who can arrest their bulls before the assembly.


These beasts are very knowing and clever in their fighting; they stand quietly before the assembly, and do not run or jump but if anyone approaches them, they hit him with their horns or legs as quickly as a flash of lightning. The people who come to witness the fight occupy the ground for half a mile in a crescent form. Some will sit and some will stand, just as they may please, and most of them will be exposed to the wind and the sun; but this they consider as nothing compared with the pleasure they derive from watching the bull-fight. The public do not pay a penny on occasions of this kind.



Interesting Information about Indian WASHERMAN (DHOBY) (Post No.3454)

Compiled by London swaminathan


Date: 16 December 2016


Time uploaded in London:- 12-59


Post No.3454



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contact; swami_48@yahoo.com


A Washerman is called Dhoby in North India and Vannan in Tamil Nadu. In Malabar the females this class wash the clothes and the men have taken to the trade of tailoring, or to the profession of devil dancing.


The Vannan is called, in consideration of his innumerable and unscrupulous services, ‘the son of the village’. He washes all the clothes of both the men and women, his wife assisting him in some parts of his work. When she goes to fetch the clothes from the women’s apartments, the women of the house receive the daughter of the village’ warmly, and entertain her with interesting conversation for a few minutes; then they give her a little oil with which to anoint her head, and feed her with a cold meal. Sometimes they also give her some home-made cakes to take back with her to her children. The washerwoman leaves the house highly pleased. She carries the soiled clothes of the women hooked on a stick, lest she should be contaminated by the touch of them. She takes the things to the fuller’s ground, at a pool, or river, or tank, and submits them to a regular process of cleansing. First she throws each article into the water and sets it aside. Then she herself plunges into the water, in order to remove any defilement which she may have contracted in graces. She then places all she has collected in the heap of other soiled clothes from the village which her husband had brought. The dhoby as a rule does not consider himself to be polluted in ordinay cases  when he carries the soiled clothes.


The dhoby has his house in some corner of the village, and it is built on a piece of ground belonging to the village. The walls of his house  are raised at the expense of the  village people, and they themselves pay for the thatched roof. They also contribute to the purchase of a spirited donkey or two.


Of useful household articles the dhoby has hardly any; only a few earthen vessels in which to cook his food, and to serve for washing purposes.


His business apparatus consists of only a few large earthen pots, and these are filled with water and placed on an oven, which is built of mud, and in a triangular shape. This oven is heated whenever he wants the soiled clothes to be steamed. Before they are steamed he dips them over and over again in the alkaline water, which is obtained by him at very little cost. This alkaline water is nothing more than a mixture of pure water with fuller’s earth, or washing soda. When the process of steaming is done, the dhoby and his children start off at about four o’clock in the morning to the fuller’s ground.


Donkey Work!


The poor, uncared-for donkeys move about in the dull streets and waste lands of the village all the other days and nights except the night in which the dhoby intends to start for his work. The unfed beasts are then made to carry the heavy loads of wet clothes. The moment they are loaded they start off in advance from the house of their unkind master as they know well the place of destination, and the way to it is quite familiar to them. The dhoby with his children follow them, each carrying a heavy load on his back, and even on his head. As the dhoby passes through the streets he cheers his beasts by whistling, and uttering encouraging words such as these Podaa saami ie, Go, master Maanam kappattudaa,’ i e., Save my reputation Karuttua  Dorai Ayya ie… black gentleman! Nadadaa  singam, ie,  Walk as a lion.’ When he reaches the water-side — this is often a good distance away — first he throws off his own load, removes the loads off the backs of his beasts and pasture.


In cases where there are fields in cultivation, one of the grown-up children of the dhoby minds the brutes while they are grazing. Then the dhoby unties the bundle of clothes. and keeps them within his reach near water, where the rough stones are kept, for bleaching. He takes up a cloth in his hand and dips it in the water, and beats it against the stone, with an invocation to his God, the common Father. Then he places the cloth on the stone raises his right hand to his forehead, as he stands in a bending attitude, in order to indicate that he seeks the benediction of the Heaven to rest upon the labours of the day.


The work of a dhoby in an Indian village is tedious and difficult. He has to cleanse from two to three hundred cloths of various lengths and breadths, many of them in an exceedingly dirty state. He beats in cloth after cloth with his full strength on the coarse stones. His children also share the work of their father, taking for their part the tiny clothes of children like themselves.

Composing and Singing Songs!

While he is beating the cloths he sings songs of his own making, or that were made by his forefathers. These are very peculiar in their composition, and they are quite uninteresting to anyone beside himself. There is in them no melody, and there is not even any beating of time. He sings in praise of his ass, or of his wife, or he narrates his love, patience, earnestness, in relation to his sweetheart before his marriage. Sometimes he sings in praise of father-in-law. Sometimes it is a mournful song about an old and faithful ass which he has recently lost.


While the dhoby is busily engaged with the  clothes, his wife will turn up carrying a potful of cold food, which she has been obtaining from the village folk during the previous night. Every house in the village is bound to give  twice daily a handful of cooked food, either made of rice, millet, maize or some other Indian grain. She also carries a second small vessel, which is filled with Indian vegetables and greens. These have also been given to her by the villagers.

Dhoby Wages!

A dhoby receives as wages from every village house an average of six pence per annum. If in the house there is a large family the wages are increased to a shilling per annum (written in the year 1897).


Besides this allowance, he gets a small gift of grains, probably  a few measures, at the time of harvest. If he goes to the fields when they gather the crops, he also will get a small bundle of ears. At wedding festivities and at funerals he is entitled to a fee of four pence. When the villagers offer a blood-sacrifice to the gods, they generally kill a fat ram by severing the head from the body, and this head goes to the waiting dhoby as a part of his wages. In some villages the dhoby is used as a messenger to communicate ominous intelligence to the parties concerned. For this he gets, in the form of gold and silver bangles, or a pair of new cloths, or a pagoda, about the value of four shillings. This is all that the dhoby receives in the form of wages.


Faithful Wife used as a Pillow!

Now let us turn back to the place where we left the dhoby washing the clothes. He has been beating them against the stone one after another, from early morning until 10 a.m., and he is now quite exhausted, and quite ready for his morning meal. The wife, who has brought his meal, joins her husband, and the children also partake of it. They all sit on the grassy slope of the riverside or pool. The dhoby and his children sit facing the woman, who holds the earthen pot in her hand. They fold their hands together, so as to serve them instead of a cup, and the watery meal is poured into their hands. The woman first stirs up the contents of the earthen pot with her right hand, and adds some butter milk and salt. This luxurious food satisfies the tired and hungry dhoby and his children, and refreshes them so that they cheerfully resume their work. The woman after serving the meal to her husband and children supplies her husband with betel-nut, chunnam, and tobacco to chew having received these, sits beside his wife, and gossips with her, while she helps herself to the remaining food. When she has done the dhoby lays his head on her lap and rests awhile.


She relates to him some incidents of the village life which have recently come to her knowledge. In half an hour the dhoby and his wife, with their children, get up to resume their work. They hurry on the bleaching of the clothes till 2 pm, then they begin to wash the beaten clothes in a large earthen pot, which is filled with pure water. In this small portion of indigo is dissolved, or a little piece of lime. In this mixture all the clothes are dipped and rinsed well. Then they undergo another process of dipping in a similar pot filled with water, in which a small quantity of starch, prepared from rice or other Indian grain, has been put. This process makes the clothes somewhat stiff. All these processes cleanse the clothes very thoroughly. If the clothes are new they have to go twice through all these processes, and in addition to this they are also dipped in water mixed with cow-dung or goat-dung. This process gives the clothes a smart appearance.


Most of the villagers wear white clothes, consisting of a pair of cloths of three or three and a half yards each. Some of them have also turbans or headpieces.


As the day is getting on the dhoby his wife and children now hurry off to dry the clothes either on grassy meads or sandy banks. At about three o’clock the dhoby and his family go up together to some shady banyan or margosa tree or tamarind tree; one or other of these is sure to be found near an Indian village. Here they partake remainder of the meal, seated in the manner which has been described. At about five o’clock they gather together the clothes and fold them up.


Now the children go to find the donkeys, who are to carry the loads of bleached clothes back again to their home. The dhoby and his wife bundles themselves carry bundles of clothes on their heads and on their backs; they go slowly back to their village.


The following morning the dhoby and his wife unloose the bundles of the  washed clothes, and arrange them for delivery; both of them are very busy making up the piles according to the marks on the clothes. As a rule, the dhobys are very skilful in sorting the clothes according to the marks given them. There is no such thing as the marking of the clothes by their owners with coloured threads or the initials of their names. All marks on clothes are made by the dhobys themselves, and they cannot usually write their own names. lf any one of the villagers is in a hurry for his bleached clothes he has to go to the door of the dhoby and fetch them for himself. Generally, the dhoby delivers at each house.


The Indian villagers never use linen or any form of dress that is made by tailors, and therefore there is no need for Ironing.


(This book was published in 1897)



Dhoby – the Torch Bearers!

The dhoby not only washes the clothes of the villagers, but he also provides them with torches, made out of the rags which he gathers and stores up from the worn-out clothes given to him. These torches are generally used in festival and marriage processions and he also renders service by holding the torches on such occasions. The poor people of the village, by courting his friendship, get from him Maathu, the loan of cloths for little or nothing. At the time of funeral processions he spreads cloths on the way leading to the cremation ground. His services are also sought to decorate with cloths the roof of the Marriage pandal or booth.


on all these occasions he uses the cloths of the villagers. When the village dramas are held in the open-air at night he spreads on the ground a few bleached cloths for the more respectable men of the village.


The “son of the village, who is fed by the villagers , has also the privilege of clothing himself, as well as his family, with the clothes of the villagers. To-day he turns up in a new attire which he has got from Mr. A ……for washing; similarly his wife shines in the borrowed feathers of Mrs. C……; To morrow he walks in the street with the clothes of Mr. C and likewise his wife appears smart and tidily dressed with a beautiful sari or draping belonging to Mrs. R.


On the following day the husband and wife will carry all the clothes in which they dressed themselves on the previous day to the fuller’s ground, and will cover themselves with their worn-out ordinary clothes in a state next to rags. If any of the owners see these common children of the village wearing their clothes they take no notice of it. The village dhoby, who has this privilege of wearing other people’s clothes, has also the free use of the village clothes as his bedding. It is evident, therefore, that it costs little or nothing to maintain himself and his family.


The fuller’s ground becomes the centre for several villagers, and to it the young unmarried men and the young maids go to wash the clothes of their respective villages. These young people have thus opportunities of knowing one another better, and of forming close friendships. They cannot, however, have private conversations about their matrimonial affairs. Supposing the young man A has a tender regard for the young maid C, he sings some love songs while beating the clothes, and in these he describes to the best of his abilities the position, parentage, and beauty of the girl who probably stands close beside him, also beating clothes.  These love songs of the young dhoby, who is quite taken up with the girl whom he has in his mind have a charming effect upon thegirl, and she in return raises her sweet voice with songs of allurement. She assures him in an indirect way of her appreciation, alluding to his personal beauty.


When the parents of these young folk see their attachment to each other, they arrange to have them settled in marriage, and to follow the profession of a Village dhoby.

The washer men are a distinct class or caste. The son of a washer man is a washer man by compulsion. He cannot follow any other trade but the trade of his forefathers. (in the year 1897, not any more).


Source book: Indian Village Folk by T B Pandian, Year of publication 1897.




No Toilet, No Electric Light 150 year ago! What did they do? (Post No.3449)

Compiled  by London swaminathan


Date: 14 December 2016


Time uploaded in London:- 16-39


Post No.3449



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The house of Mr Raman lies in the centre of a village called Puduppatti. Its walls are built of sunburnt bricks and clay, and its roof covered with palm leaves. It has got two outer pials facing the street, one on each side of the entrance. Immediately on entering we find an open hall , which is known as Koodam. In this hall male visitors are received, and the inmates of the house meet and chat together in leisure hours. It is also used a s abed room for the elderly members of the family. After an open space of about fifty feet in circumference we come to the house proper, which faces the north, and has a large hall, a store room and a kitchen. The hall is used both as a dining and sleeping room, and there is seldom any furniture to be seen in it, save a common village cot in one corner, pillows rolled up and kept in another corner.


In the store room are the provisions of living preserved in earthen vessels, and the clothes and other valuables of the inmates. In the kitchen are various earthen vessels needful for coking, and the brass pots and vessels which are used for eating and drinking.  Near the kitchen there is a door way which leads into the backyard.  This is used as a kitchen garden, and has in it drum stick trees, peas, greens, pumpkins, cucumbers, onions etc.

On the eastern side of the house a cattle-shed is placed, and in it this the cows, bullocks and buffaloes are sheltered. All these buildings are encircled with mud walls, in which there is only one opening, and this is available for both man and beast. The apartments kept for the use of inmates receive the light and air only through the doors as there is not a single window in the entire building. There is however, quite sufficient provision for free ventilation through the bottom of the roof.


The inmates of the house get up very early in the morning. The male members of the family go for their morning ablutions, and while they are away the female members sprinkle cow dung over the outer and inner yards, and occupy themselves in sweeping the house, clearing the cooking and eating vessels. They draw Kolams (Rangoli) at the entrance with flour.


In their turn they then march to the watering places, where they bathe themselves, and wash their clothes, and bring water home for family use. The morning bathing is not , however universal among all the classes of the village community. While at the watering place they exchange lot of information with others.


In the house of Raman there are two females, Raman’s wife and his mother. When they have returned from the watering place, they attend to the work of feeding the men, and preparing for the lunch time meal. About 8 o’clock in the morning Raman and his brothers come in for their morning meal, which is generally some cold rice soaked in water the previous night, with butter milk and some pickle or chutney or some cold sauce. Having taken their morning meal, the superiors in the house leave in order to attend to the cultivation of the land or other works. As soon as the men have finished their meal female members help themselves to what is left of the dishes.


In taking their meals they all use the floor as their table, plantain leaves or brass vessels as their plates and their hands as spoons.


Following the female members in their daily routine, we find them busily engaged in pounding the rice and grinding the curry stuff, and dressing a few vegetables and greens in preparation for the lunch. Between twelve and one o’ clock the men return home hungry, and then there is placed before them a sufficient quantity of cooked rice, with some vegetable sauce, greens pulse – not to mention the attendant butter milk or curd/yogurt. The cooked food items are served very hot. The men cheerfully partake of this simple village meal, and then go to the outer hall and chew betel nut. Most of the times they sit on floor mats.

Then the females take their noontide meal; after which they rest for an hour, or even two, and during this time the men and the women converse together on common topics of the village. At about four o’ clock the female portion begin to occupy themselves with preparation for their evening meal, and in arranging the household things. At six o’clock Raman’s wife places a light in a hole, which is prepared for the purpose in the wall, and then prostates herself before the lamp, and smears a small quantity of ashes or kumkum on her forehead. The other members of the hose on first seeing the lamp do the same. Hurricane lamps and other portable lamps are used in different parts of the house.

About eight o’clock men take their supper, which usually consists of some pepper water (Rasam), rice and vegetables, and the remainder of the sauce that was prepared for the mid-day meal. Some people prefer light food like Uppuma, Idli or Dosa in the night. The female members follow the men in taking their supper, and all the eating for the day is over by nine o’clock and then they all retire to bed.

One day’s life of Raman and his family is a picture of all, for only slight differences are made even on festival days.


It is common among the women of the village to make their own fuel by making cow dung cakes. They use it in the fire place or mud ovens along with some fuel wood. Some are also engaged in in their leisure hours at the country spinning machine. Sometimes they go to the fields, and assist at the work which is being done by the labourers.


It is a very common thing to find uncomfortable relations prevailing among the village mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Perhaps ten out of hundred only have good relations and peace at home. Sometimes they may even be seen fighting like beats of the filed using vulgar village language, holding in their hands each other’s hair. Still, it must be understood they are not to be regarded as enemies until their death Today they fight one another, tomorrow they laugh together. One day’s fighting does not destroy another day’s peace.


observing the varied duties of and claims of our friend Raman, we cannot fail to admire the laborious spirit of this village cultivator. He is busy with many things. He has the care of his family, as he is the head of his house; and he has to direct his farm laborers and his brothers in attending to the work of the field. He must answer to the different calls of the village officers. He is invited to a wedding or to a funeral in his own village or to some distant village where he has relatives or friends. On some of these joyful or sorrowful occasions he takes his wife with him. Sometimes, if he is ill or otherwise engaged, he sends his wife or mother with one of his brothers to represent his family. There are many calls on Raman’s poor purse. The priest, the beggars, the poets, the pious, the guests, the village policemen, the medicine men, the weddings, the funerals of his relatives  — all of them have a share in Raman’s earnings. For all the transport between villages they use bullock carts. They are always kept ready for any emergency.

Source: Indian Village Folk by T B Pandian, Year 1897,London



Story behind Kammavar Naicker Proverb! (Post No.3444)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 13 December 2016


Time uploaded in London:-14-46


Post No.3444



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Most hard working, persevering farming community known as Kammavar Naickers live in South India. These people have several village settlements of their own in Tamil Nadu.  There is a proverb about them and there is a story behind it.


The bridegrooms of the community are treated like royals by the fathers in law and one of these bridegrooms, while he was staying with at his rich father in laws house (he was a man with about 400 acres of land), at the time of the harvest, saw his father in law busily engaged with his men in cutting the stalks. On a certain day, while they were having a meal, the bridegroom asked his father in law,

“How many acres of land of stalks to be cut?”

“Several acres”, said the father in law.

“Well then, I shall be glad to be engaged in cutting the stalks from a hundred acres of land” , said the b

The following morning the b was taken by his father in law, and went to the field . Standing on an elevated ground, he pointed out with his finger the four boundaries of the acres of land in which the b consented to work. The father in law left the young man in the field and went home.  There is unbearable heat in the months of April and May in India and unfortunately the task was taken in the month of April.



No doubt there was a great deal of good intention in him.  He commenced to cut the stalks for fifteen minutes, but the heat was so severe that it melted his fat. His whole body began to perspire.  The poor fellow felt altogether exhausted. He was like a dog inhaling and exhaling air through his mouth, his breath became short, but he kept up his courage for awhile. At about 10 am he returned home, having found himself quite unable to cut the stalks, even in a circumference of five yards!


In the house, his father in law was giving out that his son in law had undertaken the cutting of stalks from a large part of his lands. As soon as he saw him return, he was anxious to know how he had got on the field. The young man with shame replied that he was unable to cut the stalks to five yards, as the heat was so great and the day was burning hot.  So, he politely asked his father in law to set apart only ten acres of land for him, and to leave the rest for the farm labourers to cut.

On the following day, the young man went at about 8 O’clock in the morning, to the field and remained there till nine, but found himself utterly useless even to cut the stalks for two yards. When he returned home at 10 O’clock, he informed his father in law, with great reluctance, that the distance of ten acres of land was too great, and so he would like to have it reduced to four. The other parts of the lands must be given to other labourers. The father in law readily consented to the request of the young man, who went to the field in the forenoon, and was cutting the stalks when his father in law came to him.


The bridegroom took a stick, drew a line, and asked his father in law to permit him to cut that part of the land only, and leave the rest to the farm labourers. Late in the evening his father in law came to see him. By this time the young man was quite exhausted, and lying prostrated under a thorn tree. He got up when he saw his father in law, and told him that he was unable to cut even the few yards which he had marked out, and so he begged his father in law to allow him to cut the distance of land which was marked out by turning his head around, practically a few stalks which stood under his foot. Hence arose the saying in this country – Mappillai Naicker thattai aruththathu pola, i.e. “As the bridegroom of the Naicker caste attempted to cut down the stalks’.


Source:Indian Village Folk by T B Pandian, Year 1897,London



Kurathi- Tamil Soothsayer and Bull Fighting Floats in Tamil Procession (Post No.3430)

Compiled by London swaminathan


Date: 8 December 2016


Time uploaded in London: 13-28


Post No.3430



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Following are the floats (tableaus) in the Fifth World Tamil Conference held in Madurai in 1981

Kuravanchi is a conventional form of Tamil poetry which blends together some of the ways of life of the elites with those of the hunters. Tirukuta  Rasappa Kavirayar, a Tamil poet from Melakaram, near Tenkasi in Thirunelveli District, has composed Kutralakkuravanchi which is considered to be the supreme example of this genre of Tamil poetry.


It portrays Lord Siva coming in procession accompanied by his devotees against the background of the natural tapestries of the captivating hills of Courtallam, its flora and fauna and its beautiful waterfalls. With its excellent rhythmic beauty, sensuous style, flexible and tender poetic diction it also depicts the heroine Vasantha Valli falling in love with Lord Siva. She is so captivated by the charms of the handsome Lord that she suffers from insomnia and mental agony which a girl faces due to the pangs of separation from her lover. At this juncture, a woman soothsayer from the hunter’s tribe of Courtallam arrives there singing the beauty of Courtallam and the transcendental glory of the Lord. The words of the foreteller console Vasanthavalli and give her the hope of marrying the Lord. This tableau depicts the foretelling of the soothsayer.





The ancient Tamils have classified the landscape into five divisions namely Kurinchi (Hilly region), Mullai (Pastoral), Marutam (Plain), Neytal (Coastal region) and Palai (Wilderness). While dealing with the poetic conventions of the love poems, they have assigned the Mutarporul (i.e. time and space), Karupporul (i.e. the flora and fauna) as well the Uripporul (i.e. the human drama which forms the poetic theme) for each division of lands. This tableau depicts an event wh ich normally happens in the ancient Kurinchi poems. In the human drama of love, Kurinchi depicts love at first sight. Eventhough the damsel is anxious to embrace the hero, out of her feminine quality namely “nanam” (shyness), she feels reluctant to come near the hero. At this juncture, a ferocious tiger comes on the spot. The fear of the tiger makes her cast away her shyness. Without any second thought she takes refuge in the broad chest of the hero, who protects her and drives away the tiger by his arrow.



Bull fight is one of the heroic sports of the Tamils and has its origin in a very hoary past. In Mullaikkali of Sankam anthology we come across some instances of the hero grappling with a bull and conquering it as a test of bravery. The damsels of the ancient Tamil pastoral used to bring up wild bulls. They were given in marriage to the suitors who successfully conquered their bulls.


According to Mullaikkali, the girl of the pastoral land would not even think of the defeated man as her husband in anyone of her various births. This scene depicts a hero who tries to conquer the bull and a heroine who waits anxiously to garland him after his victory. This sport is in vogue in many parts of Tamilnadu, especially in some parts of Madurai as a sport under the popular name Manchu Virattu.



Thiruvalluvar, who glorified agriculture describes a heroic battle in one of his couplets as: “At elephant heads his lance, for weapon pressed He laughs and plucks the spear from his breast be Slaying the elephant in the battle is considered to a supreme kind of heroism by the Tamils. A hero who was nurtured in this heroic tradition fought with an elephant in a battle. He threw his lance on the frenzied elephant which fought fiercely with him. The elephant fell down. When he turned with pride, the victorious hero was hit by the spear of an enemy. At the same time, an elephant also attacked him. Finding no lance ready with him to attack the elephant, he removed the spear which had pierced into his body to throw it on the enemy elephant. Removing the spear, he gloats over the fact that he has a weapon to fight the elephant. Tirukkural describes this thrilling episode and the tableau depicts it.