Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creators and consecrators : a potter community of South India Inglis, Stephen Robert 1984

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
831-UBC_1984_A1 I54.pdf [ 32.97MB ]
Metadata
JSON: 831-1.0096412.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0096412-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0096412-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0096412-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0096412-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0096412-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0096412-source.json
Full Text
831-1.0096412-fulltext.txt
Citation
831-1.0096412.ris

Full Text

CREATORS AND CONSECRATORS: A POTTER COMMUNITY OF SOUTH INDIA by STEPHEN ROBERT INGLIS B.A., The Univ e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1973 M.A., Calcutta University, 1977 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES The Department of Anthropology and Sociology We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August 1984 © Stephen Robert I n g l i s , 1984 In presenting th i s thesis in pa r t i a l fu l f i lment of the r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an advanced degree at the Univers i ty of B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , I a g ree that the L ibrary shal l make it f ree ly ava i lab le f o r r e f e r e n c e and study. I fur ther agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scho lar ly purposes may be granted by the Head o f my Department o r by his representat ives. It is understood that copying o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f th is thes i s for f inanc ia l gain sha l l not be allowed without my writ ten pe rm i ss i on . The Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook P l a c e Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5 Date A.U6-. 3^ , 1^84" A B S T R A C T This thesis presents the f i r s t extended ethnographic account of a potter community i n India. The research material which i s presented and analysed was gathered during 1979-1980 i n the South Indian state of Tamil Natu. The c u l t u r a l context of the craftwork of the potters i s described and interpreted through a d e t a i l e d study of a potter community. The ce n t r a l aim of t h i s thesis i s to demonstrate, through an i n v e s t i g a t i o n of c u l t u r a l meaning, the ways i n which the diverse aspects of the potters' c r a f t are bound together. An attempt i s made to demonstrate how the potters' work of pot making, image making, and p r i e s t l y service a l l address a single core of the ideas and how these are deeply rooted i n a more general pattern of Indian b e l i e f about existence. The s p e c i a l s k i l l of potters to manifest these ideas, and the r o l e of t h e i r c r a f t i n helping to regenerate and sustain them i s discussed. The i n t e r p r e t a t i o n and analysis presented in t h i s thesis i s informed by a number of sources: the views expressed by potters and those of people who u t i l i z e t h e i r services, sources on Indian h i s t o r y and ethnology, and those on the study of art i n anthropology. The thesis presents an analysis of one of the most ancient and broadly-based c r a f t t r a d i t i o n s i n India and interprets i t s c u l t u r a l meaning in South Indian l i f e . TABLE OF CONTENTS L i s t of Tables v i L i s t of Figures v i i i Note on T r a n s l i t e r a t i o n ix Acknowledgements x Preface x i i INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER ONE: THE STUDY OF INDIAN CRAFTSMANSHIP 11 (a) Overview 11 (b) Settings 14 i) The Court 15 i i ) The Guild 16 i i i ) The V i l l a g e 18 iv) Summary 18 (c) Rank 22 i ) P o s i t i o n 22 i i ) The F a l l 23 i i i ) Summary 25 (d) The Ideals 27 i) The Source: Brahma/Visvakarma 27 i i ) A Sacred R i t u a l 30 i i i ) Summary 32 CHAPTER TWO: POTTERS OF SOUTH INDIA 36 (a) Archaeological Records 39 (b) Texts 44 (c) Inscriptions 47 (d) Early Foreign Accounts 50 (e) Recent Accounts 58 CHAPTER THREE: THE PANTIYA VELAR 61 (a) Potters of Tamil Natu 61 (b) Potter Castes 63 (c) The Velar 65 (d) The Caste and i t s Region 68 (e) The Subcaste and i t s T e r r i t o r y 72 - i i i -( f ) The V i l l a g e Community - Arappalaiyam 91 i ) The V i l l a g e 93 i i ) The Velar and t h e i r V i l l a g e Neighbours 95 i i i ) The Velar of Arappalaiyam 101 i v ) The Lineage 112 CHAPTER FOUR: THE OCCUPATIONAL RIGHTS OF THE VELAR 138 (a) The Jajmani System 140 (b) The Rights of the Velar 144 i ) Pots 145 i i ) Images 152 i i i ) P r i e s t l y Services 154 (c) Tenancy Rights 158 (d) C o n f l i c t 166 CHAPTER FIVE: THE CREATIVE PROCESS - POTS 173 (a) Domestic Use of Pots 173 (b) Ceremonial Use of Pots 180 (c) The Pot Making Cycle 192 i ) Gathering the Earth 193 i i ) Forming 195 i i i ) Drying 207 i v ) F i r i n g 210 (d) The Process 216 CHAPTER SIX: THE CREATIVE PROCESS - IMAGES 221 (a) The Use of Images 221 (b) The Image Making Cycle ' 227 i ) C r e a t i o n 227 i i ) P r e p a r a t i o n 235 i i i ) P u b l i c Consecration 236 i v ) I n s t a l l a t i o n 244 (c) V a r i a t i o n s 257 i ) U n f i r e d Images 257 i i ) Massive Images 260 i i i ) Summary 272 (d) The Process 274 CHAPTER SEVEN: CONCLUSION - POTTER AND PRIEST 278 (a) The Velar Priesthood 278 (b) The Camiyati 283 (c) The C r a f t of the Ve l a r 301 - i v -Bibliography 315 Appendix I: Work. Outside T r a d i t i o n a l Service 331 Appendix I I : A u x i l i a r y Claywork 335 Appendix I I I : Inventory of Production: Velar Potters of Maturai/Vaikaikkarai Natu 1979-1980 338 Appendix IV: Potter Ancestors - From the Kulala Purana 381 T r a n s l i t e r a t i o n Index 383 -v-LIST OF TABLES Table I Lineages Represented at Arappalaiyam 118 Table II Lineage Hierarchy at Arappalaiyam 123 Table III K o v i l V i t u 125 Table IV Koccatai Lineage - Service to Landowners 147 Table V Exchange Involving Marriage Pots 151 Table VI Koccatai Lineage - Tenancy Rights 163 Table VII Koccatai Lineage - D i v i s i o n of Tenancy Rights Among Lineage Segments 164 - v i -LIST OF FIGURES FIGURES Figure 1 Segments of Koccatai Lineage 130 Figure 2 D i v i s i o n of Tenancy Rights - V i l a n k u t i Lineage 161 Figure 3 Two Stages of Pot Making 200 Figure 4 Parts of a Pot 200 Figure 5 Annual Cycle of Earthen Images 228 Figure 6a, b Two Local Temples 252 MAPS Map 1 Maturai/Ramanatapuram D i s t r i c t s 75 Map 2 Maturai City 92 Map 3 Arappalaiyam V i l l a g e 96 Map 4 Maturai City - Locations of o r i g i n a l V i l l a g e s - Arappalaiyam Lineages 119 Map 5 Maturai City - Main Service Area Temples -Arappalaiyam Lineages 155 PHOTOGRAPHS * Photograph 1 Potters' Work Area - Vayalceri V i l l a g e 71 Photograph 2 The Annual "Great Assembly" - Korippalaiyam 78 Photograph 3 The Main Velar Street - Arappalaiyam 103 Photograph 4 Pri e s t s and Camiyati of Koccatai Lineage -Arappalaiyam 116 Photograph 5 Leading Members of an A g r i c u l t u r a l Community -K o i l Pappakuti 141 *A11 photographs taken by the author - v i i -Photograph 6 Photograph 7 Photograph 8/9 Photograph 10 Photograph 11 Photograph 12 Photograph 13 Photograph 14 Photograph 15 Photograph 16 Photograph 17/ 18 Photograph 19 Photograph 20 Photograph 21 Leading Patrons of the Tevar A g r i c u l t u r a l Community - Koccatai 157 Pots, Dishes and Country Stoves - Arappalaiyam 175 Pot Making: The Forming Stage (turning and beating) - Arappalaiyam 197 Pot Making: The Drying Stage -Arappalaiyam 208 Pot Making: The F i r i n g Stage (packing the heap) - Arappalaiyam 211 Pot Making: The F i r i n g Stage (tending the heap) - Arappalaiyam 214 Image Making: Modelling the Image of a Goddess - Arappalaiyam 230 Image Making: Bodies of Votive Horses -Arappalaiyam 234 Prie s t s of Villapuram Lineage Prepare an Image - Arappalaiyam 238 Earthen Votive Offerings of Infants and Bulls - Arappalaiyam 245 Velar P r i e s t Standing Before Massive Images -Koccatai 262 A Young Camiyati - Koccatai 289 Camiyati Dancing - Arappalaiyam 293 Camiyati Stopping - Arappalaiyam 295 - v i i i -NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION OF TAMIL WORDS Tamil terms are t r a n s l i t e r a t e d according to the widely used system of the Madras Uni v e r s i t y Tamil Lexicon (1932). Exceptions occur i n the case of personal names for which there i s an English s p e l l i n g established i n p r i n t and when a term has a widely known English s p e l l i n g , eg. "Brahman" rather than the Tamil "Piramin". In order to avoid the complicated Tamil p l u r a l forms, the names of castes and other groups have been used i n the singular, even when the group i s referred to as a whole. D i a c r i t i c a l marks appear only i n the T r a n s l i t e r a t i o n Index. Names of pots and other products made of earth are t r a n s l i t e r a t e d i n Appendix I I I . Other Indie terms are given according to s p e l l i n g s used i n contemporary academic w r i t i n g on India. According to the Tamil Lexicon system, " t " , "n" and "1" are a l l r e t r o f l e x i v e . The l e t t e r "I" as in Tamil i s a r e t r o f l e x continuant which often sounds l i k e " r " as pronounced by North Americans. The l e t t e r s "n" and "n" are both pronounced l i k e the English n. The l e t t e r "c" i s most often pronounced l i k e the English "s". The l e t t e r s " r " and " r " are both pronounced l i k e a s l i g h t l y r o l l e d r. Long vowels are indicated by a macron. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My doctoral studies and the f i e l d research upon which t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n is based were supported by generous scholarships from the Soci a l Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am gr a t e f u l to a l l those associated with the Shastri Indo-Canadian I n s t i t u t e who helped me complete the f i r s t stages of my graduate studies i n India. In Maturai, Professor M. Shanmugam P i l l a i and his daughter, S. Muthu Chidambaram offered advice and assistance, e s p e c i a l l y with regard to Tamil language and c u l t u r a l h i s t o r y . M. Thiagarajan and other o f f i c e r s of the P.S. Udaiyar Society and the Tamilnadu Kulalar Association provided useful s t a t i s t i c a l and technical information, as did Koteshvara Rao of the Tamilnadu Ceramics Corporation. To the Velar of Arappalaiyam go my warm thanks for t h e i r gracious co-operation and h o s p i t a l i t y . For some, th i s involved a good natured acceptance of my constant presence and for many others i t meant sharing ' t h e i r knowledge and f e e l i n g s . M. V i l a y a t a , M. Yerumalai, S. Muttukumar and R. Cinnatampi were p a r t i c u l a r l y h e l p f u l . They accompanied me on travels i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y and included me i n various a c t i v i t i e s . K. Muttucami, Y. Kantimati and t h e i r c h i l d r e n took sp e c i a l care to f i n d a place for me in t h e i r d a i l y l i v e s . Throughout the enti r e course of my graduate studies I have benefited from the encouragement and advice of my committee chairman, Professor Michael M. Ames. Professor Brenda E.F. Beck has been a constant guide and i n s p i r a t i o n . Professor Kenelm O.L. Burridge took an i n t e r e s t i n my f i e l d research which included a welcome v i s i t while I was i n India. -x-I am indebted to the many other teachers and fellow students at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, and e s p e c i a l l y at the Museum of Anthropology, with whom so much has been shared. In p a r t i c u l a r , I wish to mention my dear f r i e n d , Walter Huber. Dr. T e r r e l Popoff offered comments on an early d r a f t of the d i s s e r t a t i o n . The assistance, encouragement and insight of my partner, E r i c a Claus, both i n India and i n Canada, has been invaluable. - x i -PREFACE This study i s based on f i e l d w o r k c a r r i e d out between August 1979 and August 1980 i n the region surrounding the ancient c i t y of Maturai i n Tamil Natu s t a t e , near the southern t i p of I n d i a . Although most of the data presented here was gathered during that year, a c t u a l preparations f o r the p r o j e c t were begun i n 1974 when, as a scholar sponsored by the S h a s t r i Indo-Canadian I n s t i t u t e , I was able to spend a year studying Tamil language at Maturai U n i v e r s i t y . I t was during frequent t r i p s to various parts of the s t a t e , which were encouraged by the u n i v e r s i t y f a c u l t y members, that I f i r s t became aware of the work of Tamil p o t t e r s . While i n I n d i a , I used c l a y pots every day, p r i m a r i l y to store d r i n k i n g water, yet the objects which f i r s t a t t r a c t e d my a t t e n t i o n were massive c l a y images of d e i t i e s mounted on horses which stand at small r u r a l temples. From what could be observed from the window of a t r a i n or bus, these were d i f f e r e n t i n c o n s t r u c t i o n and s t y l e from the well-known stone sculptures which embellish the great temples of the s t a t e . At f i r s t , I made l i t t l e progress i n l e a r n i n g about these e x t r a o r d i n a r y images. Even l o c a l s c holars knowledgeable about the a r t and h i s t o r y of the r e g ion knew l i t t l e about the f i g u r e s or who made them. F o r t u n a t e l y , through the help of Mr. A.V. Jeyachandrun, then D i r e c t o r of the Meenakshi Temple A r t Museum, I was introduced to Mr. K. Muttucami, and the process began by which t h i s t h e s i s was researched and w r i t t e n . Mr. Muttucami i s a drawing master ( a r t i n s t r u c t o r ) at an elementary school near Ma t u r a i , and c r u c i a l f o r my i n t e r e s t , a member of a p o t t e r community which uses the t i t l e " V e l a r " . I soon became aware that i t was p o t t e r s and, i n the - x i i -Maturai region, the Velar, who b u i l t the temple images about which I wished to learn. During days when neither of us was i n c l a s s , Muttucami and I rode our b i c y c l e s into the countryside, v i s i t i n g temples at which the images stood and meeting potters i n the v i l l a g e s . The notes made during these excursions became the basis f o r a short research paper on clay image making which f u l f i l l e d a requirement of the u n i v e r s i t y programme. At the conclusion of my language study, I l e f t South India and entered a graduate programme in Museology at Calcutta U n i v e r s i t y . While studying in Bengal during 1975 and 1976 I v i s i t e d Maturai several times, on each occasion spending a few days or weeks with Muttucami and seeing more of Arappalaiyam, the v i l l a g e where he l i v e s on the western edge of the c i t y . This v i l l a g e , I was l a t e r to learn, i s the home of the largest community of potters i n the region. It was here that I eventually returned to study not only images, but the e n t i r e c r a f t of the potter and i t s r o l e i n South Indian l i f e . INTRODUCTION Approaches to art i n the l i t e r a t u r e of anthropology are many and diverse, yet the study of art has f a l l e n behind the study of other aspects of c u l t u r a l l i f e . A fter a comprehensive survey of wri t i n g by anthropologists on art i n 1960, H.D. Gunn concluded that "probably i n no other f i e l d have anthropologists contributed so l i t t l e , notwithstanding paragraph upon paragraph, page upon page, chapter upon chapter, and a goodly number of volumes by anthropologists dealing with a r t ; and i n no other do they appear to be more complacent with t h e i r achievement" (1960:106). Since t h i s was written, much progress has been made, nevertheless the approaches of many anthropologists to the subject of art have been one of unc h a r a c t e r i s t i c "uneasiness" (Berndt 1971:100). Art remains "notoriously hard to tal k (or write) about" (Geertz 1976:1473). Discussions of art seem to ri n g hollow, become d i l u t e d and to intrude on appreciation of the creative expression i t s e l f . A question arises c o n t i n u a l l y ; i f others chose to express themselves i n carving, painting or dance, can we grasp the meaning of these expressions through verbal or written statements? There always exists the underlying suspicion, well c u l t i v a t e d by our own recent a r t i s t i c t r a d i t i o n s , that i f a creative expression has to be discussed, i t w i l l never r e a l l y be understood. Many anthropologists decorate t h e i r homes or o f f i c e s with works of art c o l l e c t e d from people whom they studied, people who yielded d e t a i l e d information about kinship, economy or r e l i g i o n . The objects i n t h e i r new context, more than mere mementos or possible testaments to a universal sense of beauty,-are for the owners immediate l i n k s to a personal f e e l i n g for the c u l t u r a l l i f e of the people with whom they l i v e d and who they t r i e d to understand. The objects become an accepted feature, even a symbol of the c u l t u r a l s e n s i b i l i t y of a p a r t i c u l a r t r i b e or people. Yet, while other features of c u l t u r a l l i f e are meticulously documented and integrated into a conception of this s e n s i b i l i t y , questions of a comparable depth are r a r e l y asked about art objects. One reason for t h i s may be that the early development of anthropology did not favour the discussion of questions involving the r e l a t i o n s h i p between art and culture. The early phase of the study of art i n anthropology was c l o s e l y associated with archaeology and museology and the study of objects i n these d i s c i p l i n e s was c a r r i e d out without d i r e c t access to t h e i r creators or o r i g i n a l consumers. U n t i l the turn of the century, what were c a l l e d "primitive a r t s " were mainly objects in museum c o l l e c t i o n s , and these materials were c l a s s i f i e d , compared and analysed with l i m i t e d reference to t h e i r o r i g i n a l s i t u a t i o n or meaning. Throughout the early part of t h i s century, art objects were seen l a r g e l y as "by-products or instruments of other categories of s o c i a l phenomena more amenable to analysis or st r u c t u r i n g , for example, p o l i t i c a l , economic or kinship a c t i v i t i e s " (d'Azevedo 1958:703). Information about the o r i g i n a l use and meaning of objects was gathered as a secondary function i n the course of fieldwork on subjects considered more relevant to anthropological inquiry. Often such information was simply ignored. Raymond F i r t h has suggested that despite an early recognition of the " u n i v e r s a l i t y of art i n man's s o c i a l h i s t o r y " , i t was u n t i l recently a commonly held b e l i e f i n anthropology that while "economic a c t i v i t y (for example) i s a necessity... art i s a luxury" and thus less c r u c i a l an object of study ( F i r t h 1951:155). While art as a subject of study was simply of l i t t l e i n t e r e s t to many anthropologists, for others i t constituted a threat to the ongoing quest of the d i s c i p l i n e to adopt more rigorous standards i n order to be recognized as a science. Talk of c r e a t i v i t y and the ephemeral realm of aesthetics presented the spectre of a human a c t i v i t y which might be impervious to the more prestigious quantitative and s c i e n t i f i c methods of anthropology (see comments by Otten 1971 and Dutton 1977). With a renewed i n t e r e s t i n the emic approach, phenomenology, and the epistemological foundations of the study of man, the consideration of art has recently gained a new foothold i n anthropology. An enthusiasm for contemporary, f o l k and t o u r i s t arts and the i n v e s t i g a t i o n of t h e i r s o c i a l meaning has breathed new l i f e into the more conventional consideration of p r i m i t i v e arts from small s o c i e t i e s . There remains, nonetheless, a legacy of overwhelming emphasis on art as object rather than as human behaviour. Frequently, "the processes of art are obscured by emphasis upon i t s formal product" (d'Azevedo 1958:703, also Merriam 1964:234). A very sophisticated technical language has developed along with a methodology which stresses formal a n a l y s i s . Too often, i s o l a t i o n of the 'grammar' of colour, l i n e , composition and harmony tends to become an end i n i t s e l f , and these formal rules alone are used to explain the source of aesthetic power. It i s the main premise of t h i s thesis that an anthropological understanding requires that i n the study of a r t , the object must be incorporated into the context of other expressions of human endeavour. To be comprehended, creative expression must be assimilated within the course of c o l l e c t i v e s o c i a l existence. An attempt w i l l be made to demonstrate that forms of art not only exemplify a c u l t u r a l sense but j o i n with other modes of s o c i a l a c t i v i t y i n generating that sense. From the outset the assumption w i l l be made that aesthetic power i s based i n more than v i r t u o s i t y or i n t r i n s i c appeal, and the locus for the meaning of art l i e s beyond technical appreciation. In addition, i t w i l l be assumed that the r e l a t i o n s h i p between art and society i s not merely an instrumental one, that i s , that art i s not only a functional mechanism for defining, strengthening or sustaining conventional values. Works of art w i l l be explored as manifestations of a t t i t u d e s , b e l i e f s , and p o s s i b i l i t i e s brought into being i n a way which can be encountered and experienced. This encounter consists not only of the contemplation of c e n t r a l ideas, but also t h e i r ongoing regeneration and elaboration. The work of art becomes a focus and c a t a l y s t for c u l t u r a l l y meaningful experiences. This perspective i s informed by the concept of works of art as "primary documents"''' in r e l a t i o n to society rather than merely i l l u s t r a t i o n s of messages already i n force. A r t i s t i c expressions become meaningful in conjunction with other s o c i a l expressions and none can be f u l l y explained only by d i r e c t reference to another. According to Geertz, " a l l c u l t u r a l expressions connect to a s e n s i b i l i t y they j o i n i n c r e a t i n g " (1976:1480). The strategy for e l i c i t i n g the c u l t u r a l meanings embodied i n works of art has at i t s core the study of the a r t i s t at work and of the object i n use. On the one hand t h i s complements approaches which have r e l i e d on the contemplation and c l a s s i f i c a t i o n of objects. On the other, i t suggests another d i r e c t i o n e n t i r e l y , one i n which the study of the process of creation and use of the object i s the key to understanding s i g n i f i c a n c e and meaning. The most s t r i k i n g t r a i t of recent c r i t i c a l appraisals of art in A f r i c a , according to Fabian and Szombati-Fabian, i s the "increasing subtlety and complexity in tr a c i n g the contextual determinants of art production. Even more important are the signs of an epistemological This concept, f i r s t outlined by Goldwater (1973:10), has been discussed by Geertz (1976:1478) and by Fabian & Szombati-Fabian (1980:257). breakthrough, the r e a l i z a t i o n that new and s i g n i f i c a n t knowledge in t h i s f i e l d can be generated when the ethnographer in t e r a c t s through objects with t h e i r producers and consumers" (1980:263). This study involves the c a r e f u l documentation of the a r t i s t ' s c apacities of c r e a t i v i t y and of the audience's ca p a c i t i e s to experience meaning i n that c r e a t i v i t y . The a r t i s t r e l i e s on the contribution of the audience or consumer in responding to his creation. His work i s designed to s o l i c i t that response. It i s from t h i s perspective not only something that s t a t i c a l l y depicts c u l t u r a l ideas but also something that enriches them with each manifestation. Thus our focus i s not only objects but also the sit u a t i o n s which are the source of t h e i r power, the factors which make them meaningful. These factors have, in each culture, a p a r t i c u l a r form and content, and t h i s thesis has taken as i t s focus the art of a community in South India. The members of this community are potters whose s k i l l s and services are a prominent part of South Indian v i l l a g e l i f e . The thesis w i l l explore the ways i n which the potters' creation of pots and of r e l i g i o u s images, which we might i n i t i a l l y tend to d i s t i n g u i s h as d i f f e r e n t realms of c r e a t i v i t y , are in South India expressions of an in t e g r a l set of s k i l l s and ideas about l i v i n g . It w i l l go further to show how a series of r i t u a l s performed by the potters u t i l i z e s a set of s k i l l s and meanings profoundly related to those used i n pot and image making. The purpose i s to demonstrate how the i n t e g r i t y of seemingly disparate facets of the work of a community of a r t i s t s can be established at the l e v e l of c u l t u r a l meaning, and how d i f f e r e n t forms of c r e a t i v i t y are u n i f i e d by a common sense of existence. The t h e o r e t i c a l perspective of t h i s presentation, while drawing on discussions by Geertz and Fabian, and the ethnographic studies of anthropologists such as Forge (1967) and Thompson (1973), has developed through a perspective d i f f e r e n t from previous studies. Whereas others have sought the ways in which a type or form of a r t i s t i c expression becomes meaningful i n a wider c u l t u r a l context, the object here w i l l be to seek the basis of integration among several d i f f e r e n t types of creative a c t i v i t y i n the work of a single community of a r t i s t s , how they address i n d i f f e r e n t ways, a fundamental set of issues. It w i l l then be my task to l i n k these to wider Indian c u l t u r a l ideas and b e l i e f s . The following gives a b r i e f summary of a theme to be developed according to this perspective. In Tamil Natu, culture i s moulded by the apprehension of l i f e as being generated in a closed set of matter, that i s , a f i n i t e amount of l i f e productive substance. Thus, every creation of a material object, a human being, or the world i t s e l f , i s thought to have emerged from a previous destruction. A l l creation i s e s s e n t i a l l y a re-creation predicated on the destruction of what went before. Every farmer has a way of r i t u a l l y 1 acknowledging t h i s p r i n c i p l e i n the course of the yearly a g r i c u l t u r a l cycle, every family i n l i f e cycle r i t e s , and every craftsman in the course of h i s work. The potters' c r a f t represents a potent expression of this b e l i e f , and through both the potters' products and services, people of South India a c t i v e l y address th e i r conception of the creative cycle. The moulding of earth into pots and images, the consecration of these objects, t h e i r use and i n e v i t a b l e destruction are elements of the potters' s p e c i a l s k i l l s . These s k i l l s are p a r a l l e l e d by t h e i r a b i l i t i e s as p r i e s t s of the s a c r i f i c e i n l o c a l shrines. Each product contains l i f e f o r a set period of time, but must be destroyed so that l i f e can be renewed. The products 'melt' back into the earth from whence they came and become the raw material of new creation. The r o l e of the potter i s dangerous and involves r i t u a l p o l l u t i o n . As every b i r t h and renewal i s considered p a i n f u l and vulnerable to e v i l so i s the c r e a t i v i t y which underlies the c r a f t . The remains of past creations are the raw materials of new creations and the t a i n t of previous destruction l i n g e r s . The potter moves on the boundary between raw materials and e s s e n t i a l products, and more importantly along the boundary between the chaos of the unformed and d e t e r i o r a t i n g and the control of the useful and v i t a l . His c r a f t demands that he constantly pass between. Earthen pots and images are a primary means by which South Indian people locate, contain, and supplicate the l o c a l d e i t i e s who are believed to be the e s s e n t i a l patrons of the flow of the creative c y c l e . It i s the a b i l i t y of the potter to work c l o s e l y with the ever-recurring process of c r e a t i v i t y that enables him to approach the dangerous d e i t i e s most important for f e r t i l i t y , health, and l i f e i t s e l f . In the most intense expression of this extraordinary r e l a t i o n s h i p , the potter, may p e r i o d i c a l l y become, l i k e the pots and images he creates, a container for the deity. His own body, prepared, dressed, and consecrated, becomes l i k e his work in earthenware, the temporary locus of divine power and a further expression of his creative s k i l l . In South India, the concepts of periodic re-creation and renewal are part of a c e n t r a l c u l t u r a l s e n s i b i l i t y , one in which a l l people and forces of nature and the divine are believed to p a r t i c i p a t e . The important ro l e that the potter plays in the domestic, a r t i s t i c and r i t u a l l i f e of this society l i e s i n much more than the i n t r i n s i c u t i l i t y or beauty of the products of t h e i r c r e a t i v i t y . It l i e s also i n t h e i r contribution toward the processes by which materials, and ultimately l i f e i t s e l f may be 8. created, broken down, and r e c o n s t i t u t e d . Although my research i s p r i m a r i l y ethnographic, the anthropological study of art i n India demands an approach which i s d i f f e r e n t from that applied in many other parts of the world. The f a m i l i a r method of s o c i a l anthropology, a single fieldworker engaged e x c l u s i v e l y i n p a r t i c i p a n t -observation with a small group, needs to be modified i n a complex society l i k e India. Although the focus may be, as i n t h i s case, a si n g l e group, "the r e a l object becomes a more widely shared, complex pattern of values and s o c i a l p r i n c i p l e s " (Dumont 1966:327). In complex s o c i e t i e s with a long recorded past and an i n t r i c a t e s c r i p t u r a l t r a d i t i o n , such as India, i t was soon recognized that the study of a p a r t i c u l a r group had to take into account the o v e r - a l l c i v i l i z a t i o n , and therefore, the findings of c l a s s i c a l studies (Heesterman 1966:336). The impetus toward a research strategy which balances textual and ethnographic material comes from both the c l a s s i c a l scholar (Biardeau 1966:330, 1977:55) and the anthropologist (Singer 1972:39-50). Given the d i f f i c u l t y of mastering both approaches, each has come to' recognize the value of co-operation. For the student of South Indian c u l t u r e , t h i s co-operation seems c r u c i a l given the apparent gap between Brahmanical ideas expressed i n the texts upon which many s o c i a l and h i s t o r i c a l theories about Indian culture are based and the observations of l o c a l and regional habits and customs. The seeming d i s p a r i t y between "high" and "low", ancient and modern, urban and r u r a l which struck early observers as a major stumbling block i n understanding culture i n South India has been suc c e s s f u l l y bridged i n such f i e l d s as mythology (Shulman 1980), h i s t o r y (Stein 1968, 1969, 1980), f o l k l o r e and r i t u a l (Beck 1972, 1982), and i n general theories of caste (Dumont 1970a, b). In each case the research delineated basic p r i n c i p l e s and the ways i n which they operated or were elaborated i n p a r t i c u l a r circumstances. In every instance the research involved intensive fieldwork and the knowledge of contemporary South Indian l i f e projected against a background of textual t r a d i t i o n s . In t h i s t h e s i s , texts and information gleaned from them are offered "not as h i s t o r i c a l evidence with which i t i s presumed the present must accord, but rather as o f f e r i n g c e r t a i n systems of ideas with which the present can be compared" (Dumont & Pocock 1958:27). Informed of t h i s perspective, Chapter I of t h i s thesis reviews conventional notions about Indian craftsmanship i n a broad perspective and then works through progressively t i g h t e r c i r c l e s to focus on South Indian potters i n Chapter II and a p a r t i c u l a r community of potters i n Chapter I I I . These f i r s t three chapters describe the s o c i a l framework within which potters l i v e and work. Chapter IV i d e n t i f i e s the c r u c i a l " r i g h t s " by which the c r a f t i s exercised. Chapters V, VI, and VII document the pot making, image making, and p r i e s t l y aspects of the potters' c r a f t . These f i n a l three chapters become progressively broader in perspective to reveal the i d e o l o g i c a l framework within which the work of potters has meaning. As a f i n a l note to t h i s introduction, something must be said about my use of the terms 'art' and ' c r a f t ' . The study of c r e a t i v i t y i n anthropology has for the most part centered around what has been c a l l e d 'primitive a r t ' . This and other terms such as 'folk a r t ' , or ' t r i b a l a r t ' have generated substantial debate (Gerbands 1957:9-24, Haselberger 1961, Graburn 1976:5). Their use i n r e l a t i o n s h i p to the development of the study of c r e a t i v i t y within anthropology has been extensively discussed (see f o r example S i l v e r 1979). The study of art i n anthropology has been l i m i t e d 10. for the most part to those s o c i e t i e s where a r t i s t i c c r e a t i v i t y i s uniform and uncomplicated by a m u l t i p l i c i t y of forms or s t y l e s , or by a v a r i e t y of s p e c i a l i s t s . The primary i n t e r e s t of anthropologists i n small scale s o c i e t i e s generated i n t e r e s t s i n s t y l e , personal c r e a t i v i t y , and motivation. There has been less study of c r e a t i v i t y i n complex s o c i e t i e s , where the c r e a t i v i t y of the past or the e l i t e i s commonly referred to as 'art' and that of common people as ' c r a f t ' . There has been a general devaluation of the term c r a f t and the c r e a t i v i t y associated with i t , and l i t t l e i n t e r e s t i n what i s considered i t s q u a l i t y of du p l i c a t i o n , workmanlike s k i l l s and mass production. In t h i s thesis I am concerned with the process of c r e a t i v i t y i n i t s s o c i a l dimension. As s h a l l become apparent, t r a d i t i o n a l Indian c l a s s i f i c a -tions make l i t t l e d i s t i n c t i o n between 'sacred' or 'profane', ' u t i l i t a r i a n ' or 'specialty' or what we might lab e l a rt and c r a f t i n the work of Indian creators. Today, the potters' work may be c a l l e d 'art' i n a museum or ga l l e r y , ' c r a f t ' by an Indian government agency or 'mud work' (man v e l a i ) by potters themselves. For the purpose of th i s t h e s i s , I w i l l r e f e r to the work of the Indian potter by the term which i s most widely used by those who have written on the subject, that i s , ' c r a f t ' . The potters w i l l be referred to as 'craftsmen'. The words used by potters to describe themselves and the i r work in i t s various phases w i l l be introduced i n subsequent sections. CHAPTER I THE STUDY OF INDIAN CRAFTSMANSHIP (a) Overview Journals and reports of e a r l y t r a v e l l e r s to I n d i a take frequent n o t i c e of the q u a l i t y and v a r i e t y of the work of Indian craftsmen. V i s i t o r s marvelled at the monumental scale of the great temples and the d e l i c a c y of woven f a b r i c s . Foreign traders of ancient periods brought raw m a t e r i a l s to the Indian seaports and returned to the Middle East, or China, not only wi t h spices but w i t h f i n i s h e d products of a l l kinds. According to C e l e s t i n Bougie, " I t was not only the g i f t s of i t s s o i l , but a l s o the work of i t s a r t i s a n s which perpetuated India's r e p u t a t i o n throughout the c e n t u r i e s " (1908:164). Indian a r t and c r a f t has r e t a i n e d i t s r e p u t a t i o n i n the world market. There are Indian craftsmen who c o n t i n u a l l y adapt t h e i r working processes, m a t e r i a l s and products to the needs of the export and t o u r i s t trade, as craftsmen have since at l e a s t the s i x t e e n t h century. Yet there are a l s o i n I n d i a vast numbers of craftsmen whose work i s d i r e c t e d e x c l u s i v e l y toward l o c a l consumption and which never leaves a l i m i t e d t e r r i t o r y . Very l i t t l e has been w r i t t e n about these l o c a l craftsmen or the r o l e they play i n Indian c u l t u r a l l i f e . Most of what i s known about Indian craftsmanship can be c r e d i t e d to I n d o l o g i s t s and a r t h i s t o r i a n s , whose study of temples and s c u l p t u r e , augmented by reference to c l a s s i c a l t e x t s and i n s c r i p t i o n s i s w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d . The primary locus of t h e i r work has been the a r c h a e o l o g i c a l s i t e , a r c h i v e , l i b r a r y and museum. The persp e c t i v e which has developed and to some extent i n f l u e n c e d the perceptions of scholars i n other- f i e l d s , i n c l u d i n g anthropology, has been formal, m a t e r i a l , and d i r e c t e d toward the past. An o p i n i o n s t i l l p r e v a i l s among many people who study Indian a r t and c r a f t that the best t r a d i t i o n a l c r a f t work died out some time before the end of the Mughal Period (seventeenth century) and that by the time the B r i t i s h were e s t a b l i s h e d i n I n d i a , there were few l i v i n g c r a f t t r a d i t i o n s worthy of study.''" The use of d i s t i n c t i o n s between the terms " a r t " and " c r a f t " based on ideas formulated through the legacy of the European Rennaissance made i t v i r t u a l l y impossible f o r I n d o l o g i s t s to draw u s e f u l connections between the Indian "craftsmen" they saw at work and the "great a r t i s t s " of e a r l i e r periods who b u i l t the great temples.^ To these s c h o l a r s , the i l l i t e r a t e and o f t e n low status craftsmen i n the v i l l a g e or s t r e e t presented a r e a l i t y i n c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the romantic image of craftsmen of the c l a s s i c a l past, one which d i d not f i t i n t o n a t i o n a l i s t hopes of a c l a s s i c a l " a r t i s t i c r e v i v a l being promoted i n the B r i t i s h - f o u n d e d a r t schools of Madras and C a l c u t t a . I t was the "sumptuary" a r t s , as opposed to the " v i l l a g e " or "savage" ones (Birdwood 1880:141) which a t t r a c t e d a t t e n t i o n and became a focus f o r study. Craftsmen who worked w i t h p r e c i o u s , r a t h e r than ordinary m a t e r i a l s were n o t i c e d , as were those whose work was d i r e c t e d toward the courts or c o l o n i a l r u l e r s r a t h e r than those who worked f o r t h e i r communities or neighbors. Subjects of i n t e r e s t were the systems of patronage and t o o l s or techniques At the turn of the century, the o f f i c i a l guide book of the V i c t o r i a and A l b e r t Museum i n London suggested that by the medieval p e r i o d , "higher forms" of a r t had become "unknown" i n India (Havell 1 9 1 1 : x v i i ) . This f i t w e l l w i t h i d e a l i s t i c notions of a gradual c o r r u p t i o n of ancient p u r i t y i n Indian philosophy, science, and p o l i t i c s which were a l s o prevalent at the time. These notions show a remarkable p e r s i s t e n c e i n contemporary s c h o l a r s h i p . 13. of the monument b u i l d e r s and wealthy g u i l d s of ancient c i t i e s . Because Indian a r t and c r a f t has been studied p r i m a r i l y through these monuments and remains, l i t t l e was recorded about c r a f t processes, e s p e c i a l l y those which i n v o l v e products of a temporary nature, the d e t e r i o r a t i o n or d e s t r u c t i o n and replacement of which are an i n t e g r a l part of t h e i r use and meaning. A widespread a t t i t u d e evident i n studies of Indian a r t and c r a f t was based on the b e l i e f that craftsmen have worked since time immemorial i n the same context, using the same techniques, and thus that there was l i t t l e need to go beyond the t e x t s which so d e f i n i t i v e l y o u t l i n e the formal parameters of c r a f t . I t was assumed that craftsmen are c o n s e r v a t i v e , anonymous and u n d i s t i n g u i s h e d , t h e i r work a d i r e c t r e f l e c t i o n of p r i m o r d i a l t a s t e s and values. "To seek f o r a l i k e n e s s to men, or the expression of t r a n s i e n t sentiments i n Indian a r t i s merely to seek f o r i t s weak moments" (Coomaraswamy 1964:21). Because of the b e l i e f i n the anonymity and conservatism of the Indian craftsman and the simple d u p l i c a t i o n s of standard forms from generation to generation, there was l i t t l e value attached to i s o l a t i n g i n d i v i d u a l s or groups of craftsmen f o r study. Ananda Coomaraswamy, the eminent a r t h i s t o r i a n was probably most i n f l u e n t i a l i n a s s e r t i n g t h i s p o s i t i o n by c o n c e n t r a t i n g on the "immutable", " e t e r n a l " and "absolute" laws of craftsmanship (1909). But what are these "laws" and how do they apply? This chapter o u t l i n e s some of the conventional i d e a l s of craftsmanship i n I n d i a , most of them drawn from c l a s s i c a l Hindu t e x t s , notably the Agamas, Puranas and Vastusastras. These i d e a l s are w e l l known i n Indian studies and are repeated i n one v e r s i o n or another by most w r i t e r s who have r e f e r r e d to craftsmen. The b a s i c sources are a c c e s s i b l e through the work of Coomaraswamy (1909, 1934, 1957, 1965). Based on these and the l a t e r works of Kramrisch 14. (1959, 1968), other scholars i n c l u d i n g Hocart (1950), Basham (1954), Weber (1958), Singer (1959, 1960) and more r e c e n t l y Maduro (1976) and Brouwer (1977) have r e i t e r a t e d and o c c a s i o n a l l y elaborated upon the i d e a l s of craftmanship. The purpose of summarizing them here i s not simply to provide a background to a d i s c u s s i o n of the work of a p a r t i c u l a r community of craftsmen, but a l s o to i d e n t i f y some ambiguous q u a l i t i e s which seem inherent i n these "immutable laws" and which have thus f a r provoked l i t t l e comment or d i s c u s s i o n i n Indian s t u d i e s . Moreover, when these conventional notions about Indian craftsmen are compared to independent h i s t o r i c a l and ethnographic sources, e s p e c i a l l y those which deal w i t h South I n d i a , a s e r i e s of c o n t r a d i c t i o n s or i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s i s encountered. By i d e n t i f y i n g some of these and r e f e r r i n g to them throughout the subsequent p r e s e n t a t i o n of my data, i t w i l l be p o s s i b l e to e s t a b l i s h how they r e l a t e to issues and dilemmas i n the l i f e of working craftsmen, and to wider issues i n South Indian c u l t u r a l l i f e . (b) S e t t i n g s Prominent i n the accounts of the h i s t o r y of craftsmanship has been a d i s t i n c t i o n between d i f f e r e n t s i t u a t i o n s or s e t t i n g s i n which the c r a f t s are e x e r c i s e d (Kramrisch 1959:21, Maduro 1976:77-78, Weber 1958:95). The three types which are d i s t i n g u i s h e d are: the court s e t t i n g , w i t h work done as a r o y a l servant f o r a k i n g , head of a r e l i g i o u s order or temple; the g u i l d s e t t i n g , w i t h work done as a member of an urban c r a f t a s s o c i a t i o n ; and the v i l l a g e s e t t i n g w i t h work done as a member of an a g r i c u l t u r a l community. 15. ( i ) The Court The f o u r t h century B.C. grammarian P a n i n i d i s t i n g u i s h e d between "grama s h i l p i n " , or v i l l a g e craftsman and " r a j a s h i l p i n " , or r o y a l craftsman (Kramrisch 1968:51). The r o y a l craftsmen were s e t t l e d by kings i n places adjacent to the courts or c o n s t r u c t i o n p r o j e c t s (Weber 1958:96-7). The k i n g was the patron of the a r t s and c r a f t s and no court was complete without i t s complement of craftsmen. Elaborate d e t a i l s of the economic arrangements and p r i v i l e g e s of r o y a l craftsmen i n the Sinhalese court of Kandy are reviewed by Coomaraswamy (1909). In the c o u r t l y s i t u a t i o n , a commission could be formal and h e r e d i t a r y or could be granted f o r a p a r t i c u l a r job. I n s c r i p t i o n s from South I n d i a provide extensive evidence of lands and other r o y a l p r i v i l e g e s granted to stone masons, goldsmiths, j e w e l l e r s , carpenters and p o t t e r s , to name only a few ( S h a s t r i 1976:319, Kramrisch 1959:21, S t e i n 1980:197-99). Craftsmen not only b e n e f i t e d from s t a t e patronage, but were a l s o subject to s t a t e tax. During c e r t a i n periods they were among the groups at court to provide troops f o r the king's armies ( S t e i n 1980:49). References to the c o u r t l y s e t t i n g of craftsmanship imply that patronage provided s e c u r i t y , h e r e d i t a r y r i g h t s , a f i x e d s a l a r y , food, and time to produce the f i n e s t work.''' Service by craftsmen to temples and other r e l i g i o u s establishments followed a s i m i l a r p a t t e r n to that of r o y a l s e r v i c e . In the c l a s s i c a l Cola period (10th - 12th C. A.D.) of South Indian h i s t o r y , f o r example, s e r v i c e i n the c o n s t r u c t i o n of the great temples was both w e l l regarded and See f o r example the story of a jade bowl which took a s i n g l e f a m i l y of craftsmen three generations to f i n i s h , recounted by Birdwood (1880), Coomaraswamy (1909) and others as an example of the " q u a l i t y of l e i s u r e i n o l d work which was one of i t s greatest charms" (Coomaraswamy 1909:26). 16. w e l l remunerated ( S t e i n 1980:481). Evidence from Buddhist t e x t s and records of the B r i h a d i s v a r a Temple i n Tanjavur i n d i c a t e p r o v i s i o n f o r m a t e r i a l s , food and e i t h e r c u l t i v a t i o n r i g h t s or harvest shares i n p l o t s of land (Coomaraswamy 1909:45-7). The p o s i t i o n of the k i n g as c h i e f patron of the temple and the c l o s e a s s o c i a t i o n between o r g a n i z a t i o n of c o u r t l y and temple l i f e i n terms of s e r v i c e shares or occupational r i g h t s suggests a c o n t i n u i t y between these s e t t i n g s f o r c r a f t a c t i v i t y . ( i i ) The G u i l d Much has been w r i t t e n about ancient Indian g u i l d s ( s r e n i ) , which are described as "powerful bodies, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the great c i t i e s " (Kramrisch 1959:22). They are known to have e x i s t e d before the time of Asoka i n the t h i r d century B.C. ( H a v e l l 1920:55). Birdwood describes a process by which v i l l a g e craftsmen, a f t e r having terminated t h e i r s e r v i c e i n a v i l l a g e , or i n an e f f o r t to provide f o r a son, sought work i n the towns which g r a d u a l l y grew around centers of government and f o r e i g n trade. Birdwood goes on to a s s e r t that "community i n t e r e s t would n a t u r a l l y draw together the s k i l l e d immigrants of these c i t i e s i n trade unions..." (1880: 137). E a r l y poems l i k e the Tamil e p i c , Cilappatikaram, r e f e r to the s t r e e t s occupied by c r a f t g u i l d s . L i k e those r o y a l craftsmen already r e f e r r e d t o , the g u i l d members worked under a u t h o r i t y of the k i n g , who e s t a b l i s h e d the g u i l d s according to law (Manu VII.41), or gave the a u t h o r i t y to h i s t r e a s u r e r (Kramrisch 1959:22, 1956:338). Un l i k e the independent r o y a l craftsman, the g u i l d member was r e s p o n s i b l e to h i s corporate o r g a n i z a t i o n . According to another Jataka t e x t , a g u i l d of p a i n t e r s l a i d down i t s own laws to be respected by the k i n g (Kramrisch 1959:22). Many accounts of the o r g a n i z a t i o n of g u i l d s r e i t e r a t e major c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s f i r s t summarized by Birdwood (1880:138-42). These include t r a d i t i o n a l o f f i c e s , f o r example, a "court of aldermen" composed of a l l the adul t workers of f u l l standing, two g u i l d " c h i e f s " and a c l e r k . These o f f i c e s were u s u a l l y h e r e d i t a r y . The g u i l d regulated hours of work, p r i c e s , and standards. In t h i s way g u i l d s safeguarded both patrons and members against incompetence or fraud. The g u i l d could c o l l e c t taxes from members, levy f i n e s , and expel deviants. Support was provided f o r the i n f i r m or d e s t i t u t e . I n s c r i p t i o n s are found throughout I n d i a which record donations by g u i l d s of t h e i r m a t e r i a l s and s k i l l s to r e l i g i o u s causes (Basham 1954:217, Kramrisch 1959:22). The g u i l d "had power not only over the economic but a l s o the s o c i a l l i f e of i t s members (Basham 1954:217). Most discussions on g u i l d s draw comparisons with caste o r g a n i z a t i o n . Basham maintains that " g u i l d and caste overlapped i n f u n c t i o n or were v i r t u a l l y synonymous...". He .goes on to suggest that "many g u i l d s turned d i r e c t l y i n t o castes (or subcastes) o r, as d i v i s i o n s of p a r i a h t r i b e s , were not separate from them i n the f i r s t p l a c e " (Basham 1954:218). Membership i n a g u i l d , although u s u a l l y h e r e d i t a r y , could be purchased on payment of a fee. On the occasion of f u l l membership i n the g u i l d , a f e a s t was given to the e n t i r e company by the new journeyman. The t r a d i t i o n a l number of g u i l d s at the time of the Buddha ( f o u r t h century B.C.) was given as eighteen (Coomaraswamy 1964:35) but we l e a r n from the same author that "each branch of ca s t e " a l s o had a g u i l d , among p o t t e r s f o r example: the b r i c k maker, t i l e maker and pot maker. 18. ( i i i ) The V i l l a g e Outside the towns and c i t i e s and beyond the d i r e c t or everyday c o n t r o l of the court or g u i l d , the craftsman was a member of a v i l l a g e community and i s described as an 'organic' part of the r u r a l scene. There are references to e n t i r e v i l l a g e s of craftsmen who followed one occupation, f o r example, f i v e hundred carpenters or one thousand smiths (Coomaraswamy 1909:49-50). One d e s i g n a t i o n of a s u p e r i o r d i v i s i o n of craftsmen i n S r i Lanka means "one who possesses a v i l l a g e " (Coomaraswamy 1909:55). I t i s assumed that those l i v i n g i n these " p r o f e s s i o n a l v i l l a g e s " worked under the pressure of "keen competition and uneven rewards" (Kramrisch 1959:21). According to another account, craftsmen i n the v i l l a g e community worked "by v i r t u e of a perpetual c o n t r a c t whereby t h e i r s e r v i c e s are given to husbandmen, from whom they r e c e i v e i n r e t u r n c e r t a i n p r i v i l e g e s and payments i n k i n d . Each has h i s d u t i e s to perform"(Coomaraswamy 1909:1). ( i v ) Summary Accounts of the s e t t i n g s of craftsmanship s t r e s s the r o l e of the court craftsmen and those of the g u i l d s working i n urban areas. Emphasis i s given to those craftsmen working at the centers of power i n formal o r g a n i z a t i o n s under systems of patronage. At the v i l l a g e l e v e l , mention i s made of large p r o f e s s i o n a l v i l l a g e s , but l i t t l e i s s a i d of the s i n g l e f a m i l y or small group of r e l a t e d s p e c i a l i s t s s erving the needs of a g r i c u l t u r a l i s t s and other r u r a l people w i t h i n a l i m i t e d t e r r i t o r y . Another " s e t t i n g " of c r a f t r e c e i v e s even l e s s n o t i c e . This i n v o l v e s men and women whose work and r e l a t i o n s h i p s spanned the boundaries of v i l l a g e , town and court as they moved between markets and f a i r s . Camped i n p i l g r i m s ' r e s t 19. houses or more o f t e n i n the open, outside the boundaries of permanent h a b i t a t i o n , these craftsmen p l i e d t h e i r s k i l l s f o r g i f t s of food or a few c o i n s . As depicted i n some of the e a r l i e s t Indian s c u l p t u r e (eg., from Sanchi and Amaravati, t h i r d to f i r s t c e n t u r i e s B.C.) and mentioned i n p o e t i c d e s c r i p t i o n s of f e s t i v a l s , these craftsmen included a c t o r s , musicians, acrobats and makers of ornaments, toys and r e l i g i o u s tokens. In a d d i t i o n to these, many Hindu v i l l a g e craftsmen worked almost e x c l u s i v e l y f o r t r i b a l or a b o r i g i n a l people i n the marginal areas of I n d i a (Kramrisch 1968 and Maduro 1976) . Many were i t i n e r a n t , p o s s i b l y spending the harvest or monsoon season among t h e i r own r e l a t i v e s , but otherwise on the move. They commonly included brass c a s t e r s , p o t t e r s , and smiths, and t h e i r work was commissioned, bartered f o r or purchased w i t h cash. Some were r i t u a l s p e c i a l i s t s who created and provided i c o n s , or who painted p i c t u r e s which were thought to give a s s i s t a n c e to the dead. I t i s these craftsmen who have elaborated the t r i b a l v e r s i o n of Hinduism i n s c r o l l p a i n t i n g s and other media. Through t h e i r c r e a t i o n and performance they remain a l i n k between widely s c a t t e r e d communities. Texts make reference to a degree-of m o b i l i t y among craftsmen, and to some movement between c o u r t , g u i l d and v i l l a g e " s e t t i n g s " . F a m i l i e s of a r c h i t e c t s and b u i l d e r s f o r example, would commonly r e l o c a t e i n regions f a r from t h e i r a n c e s t r a l home to undertake s p e c i f i c p r o j e c t s (Kramrisch 1959:24). The b u i l d i n g of l a r g e stone temples, which from the s i x t h century became widespread i n I n d i a and e s p e c i a l l y i n the south, r e q u i r e d the assembly of a wide v a r i e t y of craftsmen, o f t e n f o r months or years. The status of various groups of craftsmen improved as need f o r t h e i r s e r v i c e s increased during periods of intense b u i l d i n g (and r i t u a l ) a c t i v i t y , as during the height of the Cola Dynasty, n i n t h - t w e l f t h c e n t u r i e s , ( S t e i n 1980:481-200). 20. On completion of the temples, other craftsmen were needed to serve the temples' needs on a r e g u l a r b a s i s . Often large f a m i l i e s or lineages of craftsmen would undertake to provide these s e r v i c e s , which included both the supply of goods and p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n r i t u a l , d i v i d i n g the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s and b e n e f i t s among members who would s u c c e s s i v e l y r e l o c a t e at the s i t e f o r f i x e d periods (Coomaraswamy 1909:49-50). I n s c r i p t i o n s record the a g r i c u l t u r a l r i g h t s to land, housing p l o t s and tax exemptions g i f t e d to groups of craftsmen (Kramrisch 1959:20-1). The slow but c o n t i n u a l settlement of marginal areas and the h i n t e r l a n d i n the face of expanding kingdoms and i n c r e a s i n g p o p u l a t i o n provided a context f o r the m i g r a t i o n of craftsmen. These movements are p a r t i c u l a r l y w e l l documented i n South I n d i a , where l a r g e numbers of craftsmen s h i f t e d to f r o n t i e r regions at the request of kings (Beck 1972:32), and craftsmen, f o r example p o t t e r s and masons, were given land to induce them to stay ( S h a s t r i 1976:328). The r i g h t s of both p a r t i e s to these agreements were recorded i n d e t a i l on copper p l a t e i n s c r i p t i o n s (eg., those mentioned by S t e i n 1980:199) one of which w i l l be considered below (page 49). Craftsmen often enjoyed higher status and more p r i v i l e g e s i n o u t l y i n g regions than i n the c e n t r a l areas of the large kingdoms ( S t e i n 1980:139). M i g r a t i o n was, however, not always p r e c i p i t a t e d by increased opportunity. Craftsmen sometimes wit h h e l d s e r v i c e s during disputes and were forced to f l e e t h e i r homes when faced w i t h s i t u a t i o n s of c o n f l i c t , as f o r example, when taxes were c o l l e c t e d by force ( S t e i n 1980:487). During famine or s t r i f e , t h e i r l ack of d i r e c t l i n k s to land sometimes l e f t them expendable and v u l n e r a b l e , i n the words of Burton S t e i n , to "crushing status d e p r i v a t i o n and economic e x p l o i t a t i o n " (1980:10). 21. Textual sources on craftsmanship present a r e l a t i v e l y c o n f l i c t - f r e e h i s t o r y dominated by patronage, p r o t e c t i o n and i n t e g r a t i o n . I t i s evident from mythological and h i s t o r i c a l evidence however, t h a t , at l e a s t i n South I n d i a , d i v i s i o n s and c o n f l i c t s have a long h i s t o r y i n c r a f t communities. These are important f o r understanding the s e t t i n g s of craftsmanship and the o r i e n t a t i o n of craftsmen toward t h e i r work. Craftsmen are o f t e n c h a r a c t e r i z e d as d e c e i t f u l and treacherous i n popular s t o r i e s and epics (Beck 1972:34) and themes i n ancient Tamil l i t e r a t u r e , such as the e v i l goldsmith i n the Tamil e p i c , C i l a p p a t t i k a r a m , are w e l l known. There are a l s o numerous references to r i v a l r i e s between craftsmen and Brahmans over claims to superior s t a t u s , and e s p e c i a l l y over r i g h t s and p r i v i l e g e s (Weber 1958:62, Dumont 1970:288). There i s , on the other hand, evidence of a l l i a n c e s between craftsmen and merchants (Ananthakrishna 1935:453-68) and a general tendency to speak of those groups as a s i n g l e u n i t . Perhaps the deepest r i v a l r i e s e x i s t e d between c e r t a i n c r a f t groups and landowners. Throughout the subcontinent, the " a r t i s a n communities have attempted to counteract the power of the landed castes w i t h the a s s e r t i o n of s u p e r i o r s t a t u s . . . " (Beck 1970:789). In some recorded cases t h i s took the form of r i v a l r i e s w i t h farmers, as i n a famous dispute mediated by the Cola king (Hocart 1950:66, Thurston 1909:VII 362-64) and i n others w i t h the king himself (often a symbol of the land owners) (Ananthakrishna 1935:468). Craftsmen are o f t e n c h a r a c t e r i z e d as r i v a l s to other groups i n Indian s o c i e t y , and they have e s t a b l i s h e d v a r i ous kinds of a l l i a n c e s , depending on the type of c r a f t s e t t i n g i n which they worked, i n order to compete and s u r v i v e . As w i t h other groups who e x e r c i s e d no d i r e c t c o n t r o l over land, craftsmen were of t e n viewed as mobile and thus dangerous to more s e t t l e d people. In many of the s i t u a t i o n s of r i v a l r y and c o n f l i c t 22. r e f e r r e d to above, the craftsmen r e s o r t e d to magical power i n order to face the m i l i t a r y power of landed people. (c) Rank ( i ) P o s i t i o n In reviewing i d e a l s of Indian craftsmanship one encounters a deep concern with rank or status w i t h i n Indian s o c i e t y discussed i n terms of caste. The c l a s s i c a l S a n s k r i t l i t e r a t u r e tends to view caste i n terms of the t r a d i t i o n a l h i e r a r c h y of four main orders or s t r a t a c a l l e d varna. The r e s p e c t i v e d u t i e s of these varna are l a i d out i n the Laws of Manu (second to f i r s t c e n t u r i e s B.C.). The f i r s t and highest ranking order are Brahmans, p r i e s t s and teachers; the second are K s a t r i y a s , r u l e r s and w a r r i o r s ; t h i r d are Vaisyas, merchants; and the f o u r t h are Sudras, labourers and servants. A ' f i f t h group' c o n s i s t e d of those excluded from the system (avarna) and are today associated w i t h untouchables. "Each c l a s s had i t s own set of duties and o b l i g a t i o n s (sva-dharma) d e f i n i t e l y p r e s c r i b e d " and, f o r the sake of the s o l i d a r i t y and progress of the s o c i e t y as a whole, each c l a s s was expected to do i t s own duty (DeBary 1958:219). "According to the Parasara, a l l the four orders; Brahmans, K s a t r i y a s , Vaisyas and Sudras, may p r a c t i c e c r a f t s " (Kramrisch 1959:19). Texts such as the Sivapurana, f o r example, s p e c i f y the p a r t i c u l a r types of m a t e r i a l s to be used by each group i n the c r e a t i o n of images ( S h a s t r i 1970:135). Many examples of Brahmans who " l i v e d by h a n d i c r a f t s " are found i n the Jatakas. Some of these r e f e r to Brahman carpenters and the a r c h i t e c t - p r i e s t s who from the s i x t h century onward p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the c o n s t r u c t i o n of the great stone temples (Kramrisch 1959:19, 1956:337). 23. Sivaramamurti concludes from h i s study of t e x t s that i n the e a r l y p e r i o d of India's h i s t o r y the status of the p r o f e s s i o n a l a r t i s t ,was "of a very high and noble type" (1934:33-34). According to "Vedic and l a t e r Vedic sources", c e r t a i n craftsmen enjoyed an "ancient and honourable s t a t u s " ( S t e i n 1980:196). I t was a sage and teacher i n s t r u c t i n g a king i n the knowledge of the a r t s which forms the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e of the s i x t h century Visnudharmottara, 3 an important encyclopedia of the a r t s (Kramrisch 1956:337). In c o n t r a s t to the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of craftsmen w i t h the Brahman varna, the A r t h a s a s t r a and Visnusmrti ( t h i r d century A.D.) f i r m l y l i n k a l l branches of c r a f t w i t h the Sudras (Kramrisch 1959:19, 1968:99; Weber 1958:93; Singer 1960:264). According to Maduro, i t was i n the c l a s s i c a l Gupta age ( f o u r t h to s i x t h c e n t u r i e s A.D.) that the idea of the a r t i s t as Brahman became e c l i p s e d and a r t i s t s and craftsmen became stereotyped as Sudras (1976:81). S t e i n quotes sources that show that craftsmen of South I n d i a had come to be regarded as Sudras by the " e a r l y c e n t u r i e s of the C h r i s t i a n e r a " (1980:196). ( i i ) The F a l l According to the t e x t s , the con t r a s t between the o r i g i n a l 'high' status of craftsmen and t h e i r present g e n e r a l l y 'low' status can be accounted f o r by a moral t r a n s g r e s s i o n by craftsmen, e i t h e r i n the performance of t h e i r c r a f t or i n the conduct of t h e i r s o c i a l l i f e . There i s l i t t l e s p e c i f i c reference i n the t e x t s to craftsmen among the order of K s a t r i y a or Vaisya w i t h the exception of s e v e r a l kings who boast of t h e i r c r e a t i v e a b i l i t i e s . Best known i s the P a l l a v a monarch Mahendravarman, who speaks of himself i n an i n s c r i p t i o n as ' t i g e r among p a i n t e r s ' . 24. Craftsmen, as sons of Brahma, should be Brahmans, and the t e x t u a l e xplanation f o r t h e i r incongruously low s o c i a l p o s i t i o n i s o f t e n through a 'mixed' or i n t e r - v a r n a marriage. According to the Laws of Manu, the o f f s p r i n g of i n t e r - v a r n a unions have i n f e r i o r status to e i t h e r parent (Dumont 1970:126-29). An account of the ' f a l l ' , from the Brahmavaivartha Purana, i s repeated by Kramrisch: "Visvakarma, cursed by an Apsaras descended to e a r t h , was born by a Brahman woman, and became an u n p a r a l l e l e d a r c h i t e c t . He had nine i l l e g i t i m a t e sons, by a Sudra woman" (1959:20). These were the archetypal craftsmen. In other accounts, craftsmen are born of a Vaisya f a t h e r and a Sudra mother, or even a Sudra f a t h e r and Brahman mother by which they become untouchable (Kramrisch 1959:19). In both cases the p u r i t y of the l i n e was marred. This aspect of he r i t a g e was be l i e v e d to be the r e s u l t of a curse against craftsmen or the r e s u l t of an i l l - a d v i s e d act of compassion on t h e i r p a r t . There i s a strong emphasis throughout the conventional h i s t o r y of craftsmen on the c r u c i a l importance of c o r r e c t conduct i n c a r r y i n g out the work, and the s w i f t and i r r e v o c a b l e punishment f o r f a i l u r e . " V i o l a t i o n of the S h a s t r a i c r u l e s was a l s o a v i o l a t i o n of r e l i g i o n " (Singer 1960:267), and punishable by a l o s s of p u r i t y and status w i t h i n the caste h i e r a r c h y . The f a t e of both "good" and " e v i l " craftsmen i s documented i n d e t a i l i n the Mayamataya (Coomaraswamy 1909:69-70, Mukerjee 1916:49-50). The Samarangansutradhara contains d i r e warning f o r the craftsmen who would " r u i n the kingdom by proceding without c o r r e c t knowledge or w i t h f a l s e p r i d e " (Kramrisch 1956:336). In some accounts craftsmen became "degenerate" and mired i n "bad h a b i t s " (Sivaramamurti 1934:36-9). In othe r s , they contravened some s p e c i f i c r u l e of craftwork. 25. ( i i i ) Summary The t e x t s present a complex p i c t u r e of the rank of Indian craftsmen. They are described as being of high rank, f o l l o w i n g the "pure" h a b i t s and customs of Brahmans i n , for,example, dress and education, and yet are a l s o designated as Sudra, of low rank, subject to r e s t r i c t i o n s through which t h e i r " i m p u r i t y " may be temporarily suspended i n a r i t u a l context. This i s explained, i n a h i s t o r i c a l sense, by a " f a l l " , the v i o l a t i o n of r u l e s of s o c i a l p r o p r i e t y or of c r a f t procedures (which are a holy r i t u a l ) and a subsequent degradation of craftsmen to a low s o c i a l rank. Craftsmen are acknowledged as "pure" when they are at work and "impure" otherwise. As a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s , we seem to have developed, along with c l a s s i c a l s c h o l a r s , a p e r s p e c t i v e i n which "castes, e s p e c i a l l y those associated w i t h t r a d i t i o n a l occupations, appear as having a homogeneity, a d e f i n i t i o n which accords more w i t h the varna theory than with the s o c i a l r e a l i t y of e x i s t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s " (Pocock 1981:335). Others support t h i s view. I t has been argued that i n South I n d i a , castes l a b e l l e d Sudra (which includ e craftsmen), "exerted a profound i n f l u e n c e on medieval s o c i e t y , enjoying a rank and s o c i a l power f a r greater than that accorded them by the l e g a l and s o c i a l t e x t s of the period" ( S t e i n 1980:81), and that among a r t i s a n s , whose work was " t a i n t e d by a not always l o g i c a l set of p o l l u t i o n norms... the terminology d i c t a t e d by Brahmanical norms such as "Sudra", serves no a n a l y t i c a l purpose" ( I b i d . , 1980:212). I t appears that at l e a s t since medieval times, the s o c i a l p o s i t i o n of craftsmen i n l o c a l h i e r a r c h i e s has f l u c t u a t e d .according to such f a c t o r s as t h e i r r o l e i n the expansion of temple complexes and the settlement of marginal areas ( S t e i n 1980:197-99). Yet they have g e n e r a l l y been consigned 26. to a r e l a t i v e l y "low" p o s i t i o n i n Indian s o c i e t y . Some craftsmen today t e n a c i o u s l y maintain claims to a Brahman status and organize t h e i r l i f e s t y l e s a c c o r d i n g l y . In some cases, such as that of the Kammalar of South I n d i a , there has been continuous r e s i s t a n c e to these claims by other castes (Ananthakrishna 1935:468, Mandlebaum 1920:11,459, Heibert 1971:20). In others such as that of the C h i t r a k a r of Nathdwara, Rajastan, the c l a i m seems to have gained acceptance (Maduro 1976).^ There have been among craftsmen, various groups which are accorded widely d i v e r s e s t a t u s , based on such f a c t o r s as t h e i r customs, the q u a l i t i e s of the m a t e r i a l s they use, the extent to which t h e i r work i n v o l v e s contact w i t h substances considered pure or impure and the a l l i a n c e s which they have e s t a b l i s h e d w i t h other castes where they l i v e and work. In some cases, d i f f e r e n t groups of craftsmen have disputed t h e i r r e l a t i v e rank among themselves. The urban a r t i s a n , o f t e n a l l i e d with t r a d e r s , v i e d f o r precedence w i t h r u r a l craftsmen, a l l i e d w i t h farmers and were during d i f f e r e n t periods considered above or below them (Gough 1969:53). Groups of craftsmen have used various s t r a t e g i e s of emulating higher castes i n an e f f o r t to upgrade t h e i r r e l a t i v e rank, o f t e n drawing on elements of c o n f l i c t i n g models of behaviour (Mines 1982). Many groups of craftsmen maintain a t r a d i t i o n a l h i s t o r y which includes a v e r s i o n of the "ancient honourable s t a t u s " brought i n t o d isrepute by a " f a l l " . This may r e f l e c t n e i t h e r a simple i n c o n s i s t e n c y i n the sources Such claims have been a common part of i n t e r - c a s t e r e l a t i o n s , and w e r e p a r t i c u l a r l y evident during B r i t i s h C o l o n i a l r u l e . The B r i t i s h custom of drawing up ranked l i s t s of ca s t e s , which began w i t h the Census of 1867, l e d to a number of attempts by caste groups to " r e c l a i m " or "upgrade" t h e i r r e l a t i v e rank. 27. consulted nor an elaborate j u s t i f i c a t i o n or r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n f o r a low rank, but rather a deeply rooted ambiguity i n the very nature of craftsmanship, c r e a t i v i t y and the r e l a t i o n s h i p of people to the sacred i n Indian c u l t u r a l l i f e . Rather than attempt to "resolve" t h i s ambiguity, i t may be that craftsmen have co n t i n u a l l y exploited i t i n t h e i r r i v a l r y with other groups of people, often people more permanently s e t t l e d , more powerful economically and more f i r m l y established i n t r a d i t i o n a l systems of rank and status. (d) The Ideals (i) The Source: Brahma/Visvakarma The p r i n c i p l e s or laws of craftsmanship rest on a number of assumptions about the r e l i g i o u s o r i g i n and meaning of the c r a f t process. Hindu craftsmen throughout India have worshipped the deity Brahma as t h e i r divine patron, often i n h i s p a r t i c u l a r manifestation as Lord Visvakarma. As Brahma created the world, so i n the form of Visvakarma he practiced the manifold s k i l l s necessary to shape and materialize i t . Visvakarma appears in Hindu l i t e r a t u r e as an independent deity as early as the l a s t book of the Rig Veda (possibly composed in the f i r s t millenium B.C.). In the Brahmanas (prose interpretations of the Vedas) he i s i d e n t i f i e d with the creator Prajapati (Maduro 1976:73). Many craftsmen have also claimed Visvakarma as th e i r ancestor. He has been regarded as the o r i g i n a l craftsman, divine a r c h i t e c t or carpenter of the gods. A l l tools and s k i l l s have been passed down from the workshop where Visvakarma fashioned the world. His nature i s multi-faceted, serving the v a r i e t y of c r a f t communities who claim o r i g i n i n him. His four heads r e f e r to the four quarters of h i s s a c r i f i c e and his all-encompassing 28. c r e a t i v i t y i s c r y s t a l l i z e d i n h i s a s s e r t i o n , " I s h a l l be many" (Sukla 1957: 184). In some myths, he has f i v e faces and from each he produced a son. Each of those sons began a major " l i n e a g e " which followed a p a r t i c u l a r c r a f t : Manu, the bl a c k s m i t h ; Maya, the carpenter; S i l p a k a , the a r c h i t e c t and stone worker; Tvastar, the metal worker; and V i s v a j n a , the goldsmith.^ The sons of any of these lineages may p r a c t i c e the c r a f t of another. A r t i s a n groups have proclaimed t h i s h e r e d i t y by assuming the t i t l e s "Visvakarma Brahmans" or "Visva-Brahmans" (Brouwer 1977). In another v e r s i o n of h e r e d i t y , descent has been traced to nine sons of Visvakarma: the garland maker, bl a c k s m i t h , p o t t e r , metal worker, conch-shell c a r v e r , weaver, a r c h i t e c t , p a i n t e r and goldsmith (Kramrisch 1959:20). In more general terms, craftsmen have regarded Visvakarma as the d i v i n e source of i n s p i r a t i o n f o r t h e i r work. In t h i s sense, c r a f t s k i l l s are not the accumulation of c e n t u r i e s but flow d i r e c t l y from d i v i n e to mortal c r e a t o r . The craftsman meditated with h i s t o o l s i n h i s hand before the unformed raw m a t e r i a l . S t o r i e s are t o l d of craftsmen who, when faced w i t h a seemingly insurmountable problem, received the s o l u t i o n d i r e c t l y from god (Coomaraswamy 1909:73). As the " p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n of c r e a t i v e power" (Maduro 1976:74) and "sum t o t a l of c r e a t i v e energy" (Kramrisch 1959:18), Visvakarma has most o f t e n been depicted i n red, the colour of passion, a c t i o n and c r e a t i v e power. Visvakarma i s present at every act of c r e a t i o n , and t i e s each new piece of work to the o r i g i n a l c r e a t i o n of the world. Carved or painted images of Visvakarma, as of Brahma, show a s c h o l a r l y f i g u r e h o l d i n g , along with h i s t o o l s , a manuscript or t e x t . This represents the Sastras, i n p a r t i c u l a r the S i l p a Sastras which are From Kramrisch (1959:19), quoting the Manasara. For a d i f f e r e n t v e r s i o n of t h i s f i v e - f o l d d i v i s i o n , and there are many, see Thurston 1909, V o l . I l l : 106. 29. t r e a t i s e s d e s c r i b i n g the proper conduct of craftsmen and p r e s c r i b i n g r u l e s of c o r r e c t m a t e r i a l , measurement and procedure (see Maduro 1976:76). According to Coomaraswamy, "the s p i r i t of these uncompromising d o c t r i n e s (Sastras) l i e s at the root of the Hindu view of a r t " (1964:16). A wide range of a c t i v i t i e s are included under the t i t l e S i l p i n or craftsman. The name f o r any a r t or c r a f t s i s s i l p a . The meanings f o r t h i s word are ' m u l t i c o l o r e d ' and comprise a r t , s k i l l , c r a f t , labour, i n g e n u i t y , r i t e and r i t u a l , form, and c r e a t i o n . Neither the word ' a r t i s t ' nor ' a r t i s a n ' nor 'craftsman' are adequate t r a n s l a t i o n s of s i l p i n ; f o r the a r t s and c r a f t s i n I n d i a partake i n the nature of r i t e s whose t e c h n i c a l performance had magic power. S i l p a n i , works of a r t of man, says the A i t a r e y a Brahmana (V15.27) are "an i m i t a t i o n of d i v i n e forms; by employing t h e i r rhythms a m e t r i c a l r e c o n s t i t u t i o n i s e f f e c t e d of the l i m i t e d human p e r s o n a l i t y " . The range of the c r a f t s extends over the e n t i r e c u l t u r e and comprises the work of the wheel-wright and the s c u l p t o r , of p o t t e r and perfumer, weaver and a r c h i t e c t (Kramrisch 1959:18). A l l c r e a t i v e a c t i v i t y i s manifested i n the s i x t y - f o u r d i v i s i o n s of s k i l l or k a l a . Together w i t h the t h i r t y - t w o sciences (vidya) they comprise the t o t a l of s k i l l and knowledge. The d i s t i n c t i o n between k a l a and v i d y a " i s not r i g i d , and c e r t a i n border d i s c i p l i n e s are v a r i o u s l y assigned to one or the other" (Kramrisch 1956:335). The character of the i d e a l s h i l p a n ( s i l p i n ) or p r a c t i o n e r of one or more kalas i s described i n the S i l p a Sastras as, one who: should understand the Atharva Veda, the t h i r t y - t w o S h i l p a Shastras and the Vedic mantras by which the d e i t i e s are invoked. The S h i l p a n should be one who wears a sacred thread, a necklace of sacred beads, and a r i n g of Kusha grass upon h i s f i n g e r : one d e l i g h t i n g i n the worship of god, f a i t h f u l to h i s w i f e , a v o i d i n g strange women, true to h i s family, of a pure heart and v i r t u o u s , chanting the vedas, constant i n the performance of ceremonial d u t i e s , p i o u s l y 30. a c q u i r i n g a knowledge of various sciences - such a one i s a craftsman (Coomaraswamy 1967:43). ( i i ) A Sacred R i t u a l The word s i l p a has meant not only a r t and c r a f t , but a l s o r i t e and r i t u a l . The " p r i e s t l y character of a l l craftsmen" (Hocart 1950:16) i s considered a fundamental element i n the Indian c r a f t t r a d i t i o n . Craftsmen have been recognized f o r t h e i r s p e c i a l competence, both by v i r t u e of t h e i r t e c h n i c a l s k i l l s i n manipulating matter, but a l s o t h e i r competence i n r i t u a l . This competence i s manifest i n observances c a r r i e d out during the execution of t h e i r work, f o r example i n the worship and r i t u a l care of t o o l s , of m a t e r i a l s and of the work place. A l l c r e a t i v e work "has the sanctions of a sacrament" (Kramrisch 1959:20). Concerning the maintenance of a c r a f t , the young novice was considered a ' d i s c i p l e ' r a t h e r than an apprentice and o f t e n became a devotee of h i s teacher (Coomaraswamy 1909:85). The c r a f t i nvolved both a d o c t r i n e and a d i s c i p l i n e based on mastering s k i l l s both r i t u a l and t e c h n i c a l . There were c e r t a i n a u s t e r i t i e s to be observed as p r e p a r a t i o n f o r p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the c r e a t i v e process. These t y p i c a l l y i nvolved abstinence from sexual contact, from c e r t a i n types of food and from normal s o c i a l i n t e r a c t i o n . There was a s p e c i a l puja or w o r s h i p f u l o f f e r i n g to begin any new p r o j e c t or piece of work and another at i t s c o n c l u s i o n . The craftwork had to be c a r r i e d out i n a secluded p l a c e , o f t e n i n s e c r e t . A student, and i n some cases caste f e l l o w s , were allowed to be present, but not an o u t s i d e r (Kramrisch 1959:20, Coomaraswamy 1909:72). This assured the maintenance of r i t u a l p u r i t y . The workshop or workplace was, always f e l t to be i n a s t a t e of p u r i t y while the work was i n progress and precautions 31. had to be taken, as i n a temple, so that no v i o l a t i o n took p l a c e . E s s e n t i a l to the completion of a work was the i n a u g u r a l ceremony which "opens the eyes", a f i n a l stroke of c h i s e l or brush on wood, metal, stone or c l a y , "to b r i n g the image to l i f e " (Ananthakrishna 1935:435, Coomaraswamy 1909: 75-80, Singer 1972:122). This a p p l i e d to f l a t p a i n t i n g as w e l l as s c u l p t u r e . The i n a u g u r a t i o n of c r e a t i o n s other than images, from temples to dramatic performances, were i n every way as e s s e n t i a l . F i n a l l y , there was the p e r i o d i c worship of the t o o l s , or more a c c u r a t e l y worship of the god Visvakarma embodied i n the t o o l s . The s t r i c t e s t r u l e s p r e s c r i b e d that t h i s r i t e take place on a d a i l y b a s i s i n p r e p a r a t i o n f o r the work of the day. The worship extended to the raw m a t e r i a l s of the c r a f t process as w e l l . Most fundamentally, craftsmen i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the d i v i n e source of t h e i r c r e a t i v e power. I t was the god who created through the craftsmen. Their primary form of worship was expressed i n becoming the v e h i c l e of God's c r e a t i o n . Moreover, the c l a i m i s made that t h i s s a c e r d o t a l status was recognized i n the wider s o c i e t y . The Laws of Manu maintain that the hand of the craftsman engaged i n h i s work i s always r i t u a l l y pure (Kramrisch 1959:19). Even i f otherwise considered 'unclean', " a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h ceremonial objects give (craftsmen) p r e s t i g e and status i n the r i t u a l c o ntext" (Singer 1960:265). S p i r i t u a l merit was generated by the process of c r e a t i o n and v i r t u e of merit of any work of a r t was t r a n s f e r r e d to the patron. As he took possession, e i t h e r s y m b o l i c a l l y or i n f a c t , the s p i r i t u a l value generated by the c r e a t i v e process and embodied i n the product thus changed hands. In t h i s way the craftsman "conferred merit on h i s c l i e n t " (Singer 1960:269). The d i r e sanctions against i n j u r i n g a craftsman proclaimed i n the A r t h a s a s t r a , c a p i t a l punishment f o r one who caused the l o s s 32. of a hand or eye (Kramrisch 1956:341), were d i r e c t e d toward the r e l i g i o u s importance of craftsmen as w e l l as t h e i r purely t e c h n i c a l a b i l i t i e s . Impairing a craftsman endangered not only a piece of work at hand but u l t i m a t e l y t h e order of the v i l l a g e , s t a t e and universe. ( i i i ) Summary The i d e a l s of craftsmanship emphasize the ways i n which a l l craftsmen have claimed descent from Brahma as Visvakarma, the archetypal c r e a t o r . The character of t h i s d e i t y i s , however, oddly ambiguous. He i s portrayed, on the one hand, as a s c h o l a r l y Brahman p r i e s t and on the other, as the passionate "sum t o t a l of c r e a t i v e energy". I t i s through t h i s c onjunction between pious detachment and vigorous and d e f i l i n g involvement that Brahma draws on opposing models of i d e a l behaviour. In modern I n d i a , separate temples to Brahma or Visvakarma are r a r e l y seen. Most Hindus worship S i v a or Visnu i n various forms,, and Brahma, as the t h i r d member of the Hindu " T r i n i t y " i s a minor f i g u r e . In Hindu mythology, Brahma's c r e a t i v i t y i s a mixture of a s c e t i c i s m and a c t i v i t y (O'Flaherty 1973:111-138, 1967:51-53) w i t h h i s l u s t p e r i o d i c a l l y r e s u l t i n g i n the l o s s of c r e a t i v e power ( I b i d . , 1973:40-42). One popular myth t e l l s how t h i s l u s t l e d to an incestuous r e l a t i o n s h i p between Brahma and h i s daughter, the goddess, S a r a s v a t i , who a l s o possessed c r e a t i v e power of imagination and i n v e n t i o n (Maduro 1976:73). P a r a d o x i c a l l y , S a r a s v a t i i s a l s o seen as Brahma's consort, h i s s a k t i , or female counterpart. I f Brahma i s present i n every c r e a t i o n , then the work of the craftsman and the Hindu perception of the process of c r e a t i v i t y are tinged by the nebulous nature of h i s c r e a t i v e power. The broad d e f i n i t i o n which the t e x t s o f f e r f o r S i l p a makes i t 33. d i f f i c u l t to assess the status or r o l e of craftsmen. What we are accustomed to c a l l i n g the a r t s and c r a f t s , such as music, p a i n t i n g or scu l p t u r e are prominent, but some l i s t s a l s o i n c l u d e such d i v e r s e s k i l l s as making love (Kramrisch 1956:335), making lemonade (Monier-Williams 1891:461) and t r a i n i n g b i r d s (Ganguly 1962). The same values and r u l e s of conduct are sa i d to apply to both an a r c h i t e c t and a wheelwright. In t h i s sense, a question a r i s e s about the extent to which the craftsmen's work has a c t u a l l y been governed by tex t s or s a s t r a s . Many craftsmen have no doubt l a i d c l a i m to the respected s o c i a l s t a tus of a " S a s t r a i c " t r a d i t i o n . Some f a m i l i e s of image makers and a r c h i t e c t s , i n p a r t i c u l a r , possess a c t u a l documents, some i n the ancient form of palm l e a f manuscripts, c o n t a i n i n g b l u e p r i n t - l i k e d e t a i l s of proper dimensions, angles, e t c . , as w e l l as d e t a i l s of r i t u a l p r a c t i c e and s o c i a l conduct. These are c a r e f u l l y preserved, passed down through the f a m i l y and p e r i o d i c a l l y consulted or worshipped. They may be shown to a novice, but have more ceremonial than reference value (Singer 1972:118). In p r a c t i c e , however, r e l a t i v e l y few craftsmen have access to act u a l t e x t s i n which these ideas are c o d i f i e d and i t i s u n l i k e l y that most ever d i d . We know l i t t l e yet of the ways i n which s k i l l s and ideas upon which c r a f t s are based are passed from generation to generation among Indian craftsmen who make no reference to the Sas t r a s , nor the extent to which i n h e r i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s and a f f i l i a t i o n s of s o c i a l group and t e r r i t o r y oppose or balance p r e s c r i p t i v e knowledge i n the form of t e x t s . the t e x t s conceive of the craftsman's work as a r i t u a l process and document the stages by which the work i s consecrated. The work becomes l i k e an o f f e r i n g to god which generates r e l i g i o u s m e r i t , merit which i s absorbed by the patron, whether k i n g , c h i e f , or peasant landowner. This patron i s u l t i m a t e l y expected to r e c y c l e the merit among members of h i s 34. community. The craftsman i s i n t h i s way l i k e a p r i e s t , standing between h i s patron and the d i v i n e . Elaborate measures are described, both to prepare the craftsman f o r t h i s r o l e , to i s o l a t e him during h i s work, and prepare f o r the b e n e f i t of the c r e a t i o n to be t r a n s f e r r e d to the patron. A l l these measures ensure the p u r i t y of the c r e a t i o n . Yet the n e c e s s i t y to proclaim the p u r i t y of the hand of any craftsman engaged i n h i s work i n d i c a t e s the expectation of impurity. The craftsman's r o l e , h i s c r a f t and the priesthood which i s i n t e g r a l to i t , l i k e that of h i s ancestor Brahma, seems to combine r i t u a l p u r i t y and impurity. In commenting on the range of Indian craftsmen to whom such r u l e s and sanctions apply, some authors i d e n t i f y a "b e t t e r type" (Basham 1954': 218) or even an "upper c r u s t " (Weber 1958:99) of craftsman. These u s u a l l y include the cele b r a t e d a r c h i t e c t - s c u l p t o r s , the workers i n precious metals, and the members of large g u i l d s r a t h e r than those who p l y the "ancient l o c a l t r a d e s " , l i k e p o t t e r s and weavers (Weber 1958:97). Consequently the conventional i d e a l s of Indian craftsmanship deal with the ways i n which sanctions and values a s s o c i a t e d w i t h c r a f t apply to the high a r t s of a r c h i t e c t u r e and temple s c u l p t u r e , and i t i s e s p e c i a l l y d i f f i c u l t to understand the ways i n which these i d e a l s mould the l i v e s of v i l l a g e craftsmen. The p a r t i c u l a r r o l e of the an t h r o p o l o g i s t working i n a complex s o c i e t y such as India i s to t r y to understand the force of "the P r i n c i p l e " , as Kramrisch c a l l s i t (1959:18), i n the work of even the most common craftsmen, and how i t brings meaning to everyday objects and everyday l i f e . A p o t t e r community presents a c h a l l e n g i n g context i n which to undertake t h i s task. The work of p o t t e r s i s consigned by most observers to the realm of the u t i l i t a r i a n , the common and the b a s i c . Their raw 35. m a t e r i a l s are d i r t , r a t h e r than f i n e stone or precious metal. They are nowhere numerous or dominant p o l i t i c a l l y , but are spread more or l e s s evenly throughout I n d i a . Their products are found i n the homes of the poor as w e l l as the r i c h and i n the r u r a l as w e l l as urban areas. Among South Indian craftsmen, t h e i r rank and t h e i r r o l e i n s o c i a l l i f e i s among the most ambiguous. They are both honoured and despised, t h e i r products are among both the purest and the most impure of human c r e a t i o n s . Their work as both modellers of earth and p r i e s t s of the temples to l o c a l d e i t i e s encompasses the f u l l scheme of craftsmanship i n In d i a - and forms the b a s i s f o r an e x p l o r a t i o n of the nature of c r e a t i v i t y and of the d i v i n e i n Hindu c u l t u r a l l i f e . 36. CHAPTER I I POTTERS OF SOUTH INDIA To t h i s p o i n t I have discussed aspects of the c r a f t t r a d i t i o n which have some relevance to Indian craftsmen i n general. I w i l l now o u t l i n e some p a r t i c u l a r themes i n the t r a d i t i o n of craftsmanship drawn from South I n d i a , and e s p e c i a l l y those which r e f e r to p o t t e r s . By 'South I n d i a ' I here r e f e r to the Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam and Kanarese l i n g u i s t i c regions now encompassed by the s t a t e s of Tamil Natu, Andhra Pradesh, K e r a l a and Karnataka. P a r t i c u l a r emphasis i s placed on the region where Tamil i s spoken, e s p e c i a l l y the Tamil p l a i n , which i n terms of modern p o l i t i c a l d i v i s i o n s , includes almost the whole of Tamil Natu, south-eastern Karnataka and southern-coastal Andhra Pradesh. By narrowing the focus we not only begin to formulate a more immediate context f o r the p r e s e n t a t i o n of the work of a p o t t e r community, but are a l s o able to introduce r e g i o n a l issues which are not included i n conventional presentations of the a l l - I n d i a t r a d i t i o n s of craftsmanship. We w i l l encounter these issues throughout t h i s study, but there are a s e r i e s of b e l i e f s so c r u c i a l to the work of the p o t t e r that they must be introduced from the outset. These are b e l i e f s about the c r e a t i v e process and the sacred which have t h e i r roots i n the e a r l i e s t periods of South Indian c i v i l i z a t i o n . These have been d i s t i l l e d from the p o e t i c works i n Tamil known as the Cankam l i t e r a t u r e (discussed i n more d e t a i l on page 44) . According to George Hart, whose t r a n s l a t i o n s and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of these works have provided a p e n e t r a t i n g i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of l i f e i n ancient South I n d i a , the poetry i s of paramount importance i n understanding modern South I n d i a as w e l l (Hart (1975:81). This a s s e r t i o n has been supported by recent studies i n South 37. Indian h i s t o r y and economy ( S t e i n 1980), mythology (Shulman 1980), and r e l i g i o u s and s o c i a l l i f e (Beck 1972:198, Clothey 1977, 1981, Pfaffenberger 1982) i n which indigenous Tamil b e l i e f s expressed i n e a r l y poetry have shed new l i g h t on aspects of contemporary b e l i e f and behaviour. I t i s p a r t i c u l a r l y i n " v i l l a g e c u l t s " that "features known from the o l d e s t l a y e r of Tamil c i v i l i z a t i o n have been preserved" (Shulman 1980:5). Sacred power, according to Tamil b e l i e f s , i s immanent and saturates o b j e c t s , people, and p a r t i c u l a r places.''' D e i t i e s are dangerous a c c r e t i o n s of t h i s power, i n v o l v i n g themselves i n every aspect of d a i l y l i f e r a t h e r than remaining aloof or transcendent. The nature of these d e i t i e s i s c a p r i c i o u s and p o t e n t i a l l y malevolent. Their power i s c h a o t i c and capable of c r e a t i n g havoc. The sacred forces must be honoured, worshipped and s a c r i f i c e d to i n order that h e a l t h , f e r t i l i t y and the c o n t i n u i n g renewing processes of l i f e w i l l not be i n t e r r u p t e d , yet they can be approached only when they can be c o n t r o l l e d . This c o n t r o l or order (ananku), as i t i s c a l l e d i n the Cankam works, i s achieved by the p e r i o d i c c r e a t i o n of an e n c l o s i n g s t r u c t u r e which places a boundary around the sacred power. This boundary may be conceived as a temple w a l l , a c o n t a i n e r , or even a human body, but the boundary must always be erected or f o r t i f i e d by r i t u a l preparations performed by s p e c i a l i s t s . Those s p e c i a l i s t s who c o n t r o l the sacred forces are n e c e s s a r i l y of low status as they are rendered dangerous by c l o s e contact with the sacred i n the course of t h e i r occupations. Those who perform the ordering absorb the d i s o r d e r and can contaminate others by t h e i r presence. The i n f o r m a t i o n on Tamil b e l i e f i s taken from Hart 1975, 1979 and Shulman 1980. 38. • The sacred f o r c e s are c o n s t a n t l y i n v o l v e d i n renewal of the e a r t h , the crops, the seasons and of l i f e i t s e l f . In t h i s sense, they are i n t i m a t e l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h death and d e t e r i o r a t i o n as w e l l as b i r t h and increase. Both are encompassed by the sacred. Nothing new can be created without the d e s t r u c t i o n or transformation of something e l s e , so to a t t a i n new l i f e , the l i f e of a v i c t i m must be extinguished. The universe i s conceived of as a c l o s e d c i r c u i t . C r e a t i o n i s not a unique event at the beginning of time, but an e v e r - r e c u r r i n g event. These ancient Tamil b e l i e f s i n some ways complement and i n other ways c o n f l i c t w i t h those we have reviewed from the S a n s k r i t l i t e r a t u r e . South Indian p o t t e r s draw on both t r a d i t i o n s or r a t h e r on a c u l t u r a l background i n which the t r a d i t i o n s have merged. I use the word 'potter' to describe members of a group of castes whose primary p r o f e s s i o n has i n v o l v e d work w i t h e a r t h . Unless otherwise i n d i c a t e d , t h i s term i s used to r e f e r to a l l members of t h i s group i n c l u d i n g men, women and c h i l d r e n and to a l l who c l a i m a f f i l i a t i o n , whether they a c t u a l l y make pots or not. As we s h a l l see, the t r a d i t i o n a l c r a f t of the p o t t e r i n v o l v e s a complex range of s k i l l s i n a d d i t i o n to pot making. Today, as aspects of many c r a f t s become obsolete, there may be only a p o r t i o n of any community of craftsmen pursuing t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l occupation and t h i s s i t u a t i o n i s not n e c e s s a r i l y recent. We know, f o r example, that the vast pool of a g r i c u l t u r a l labour has p e r i o d i c a l l y drawn on members of c r a f t communities ( B e t e i l l e 1969:83, S r i n i v a s 1967:17, Dumont 1970:96). In f a c t there "may never have been a time when caste and p r o f e s s i o n c o - i n c i d e d e x a c t l y " (Dumont 1970:96). Being a member of a p o t t e r caste nonetheless invol v e s c e r t a i n b e l i e f s , a c t i v i t i e s , and r e l a t i o n s h i p s both 39. w i t h other p o t t e r s and with o u t s i d e r s which draw meaning from t r a d i t i o n a l c r a f t s k i l l s . Some of these are deeply based i n a perception of the h i s t o r i c a l r o l e of p o t t e r s i n South Indian s o c i e t y . P o t t e r s , as many other South Indians, place a great deal of emphasis on the a n t i q u i t y of t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l r o l e i n South Indian l i f e . To appreciate the nature of t h e i r c r a f t i n contemporary l i f e , i t i s e s s e n t i a l to have an idea ofisome of the sources upon which they have drawn i n the form u l a t i o n of t h e i r perception of the past. I n i t i a l l y some evidence of the importance of t h i s h i s t o r i c a l r o l e w i l l be summarized beginning w i t h the r o l e of p o t t e r y as revealed i n a r c h a e o l o g i c a l research and continu i n g w i t h references to p o t t e r s i n e a r l y t e x t s , i n s c r i p t i o n s , and i n the accounts of e a r l y f o r e i g n v i s i t o r s to the area. Some references to South Indian p o t t e r s i n more recent ethnographic studies w i l l a l s o be reviewed i n the course of commenting on the status of pot t e r s i n South Indian s o c i e t y . (a) A r c h a e o l o g i c a l Records Although the d e s c r i p t i v e study of ancient p o t t e r y i n In d i a i s now voluminous and continues to develop there has been almost no comparison made between modern techniques and those of ancient times. "The ethnographic and t e c h n o l o g i c a l approach to the study of ancient p o t t e r y has l a r g e l y been ignored i n I n d i a " (Ray & Chakrabarti 1975:227, a l s o see A l l c h i n 1968:290). Through surveying summaries of a r c h a e o l o g i c a l work i n South I n d i a we may nonetheless gain an idea about the c o n t i n u i t y and a n t i q u i t y of t e c h n i c a l aspects of the p o t t e r y t r a d i t i o n w i t h which we are concerned and describe an archa i c f e a t u r e , i . e . , the use of urns f o r b u r i a l , which as we s h a l l see, o f f e r s an i n t e r e s t i n g i n s i g h t i n t o the work of po t t e r s today. 40. By the l a t e N e o l i t h i c p e r i o d ( s e c o n d - f i r s t millenium B.C.) a type of p o t t e r y found i n many parts of I n d i a became common throughout the South. This i s known as 'black and red ware' because the pots were stacked w i t h the mouths down, thus the i n s i d e s and rims were o f t e n blackened through r e d u c t i o n w h i l e the outsides r e t a i n e d a red or reddish-brown c o l o u r . Other hallmarks of t h i s ware i n South I n d i a were i t s l o c a l v a r i e t y , predominance of u t i l i t a r i a n types (eg. f o r cooking and g r a i n or water s t o r a g e ) , round body, technology which i n v o l v e s a f i r s t stage thrown on a wheel and second stage beaten out wi t h paddle and a n v i l , a p p l i c a t i o n of s l i p and p o l i s h , and "open f i e l d " r a t h e r than k i l n f i r i n g ( A l l c h i n 1968: 290-91). A l l these describe p r e c i s e l y the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c u t i l i t a r i a n wares made today throughout South I n d i a . By the i r o n age or the s o - c a l l e d " M e g a l i t h i c " period ( c i r c a f i r s t m i l l e n i u m B.C.) t h i s red and black ware was an ubiquitous feature of South Indian l i f e (Kennedy 1980:409-410, Wheeler 1959:161-62), and i t appears at almost every s i t e . Mahalingam gives a d e s c r i p t i o n of each of the major ceramic types encountered (1969:224-28). So s i m i l a r are these e a r l y p o t t e r y types to those now i n use that the names f o r common modern v e s s e l s can be used to c l a s s i f y the a r c h a e o l o g i c a l f i n d s , as was done by Rea (1915) i n h i s excavations at A d i c h a n a l l u r and Perumpayur. I t i s to the middle of t h i s p e r i o d ( i . e . c i r c a f i v e hundred B.C.) that the spread of Dr a v i d i a n languages i s dated, as w e l l as r i c e a g r i c u l t u r e and other features by which South I n d i a i s considered to have become a c i v i l i z a t i o n (Kennedy 1980:409, Maloney 1975:8,33). Among the most i n t r i g u i n g f i n d s i n ancient South Indian p o t t e r y w i t h which red and black, ware i s a s s o c i a t e d are b u r i a l urns. The use of these c l a y c o n t a i n e r s , v a r i o u s l y c a l l e d j a r s , pots or urns, to i n t e r r the dead was e v i d e n t l y w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d long before cremation became p r e f e r r e d . In the ancient p e r i o d , according to e a r l y South Indian l i t e r a t u r e , both the "high and the low s t r a t a " p r a c t i c e d urn b u r i a l (Hart 1976:57). The urns range from an ordinary water pot s i z e , commonly used f o r the b u r i a l of a c h i l d , to those l a r g e enough to accommodate a f l e x e d a d u l t human body. The mouths of the urns are, however, small and i t appears from t h i s and the remains found i n s i d e that the bodies were excarnated or s t r i p p e d of f l e s h a f t e r death. Only p a r t s , f o r example the long bones and s k u l l , were placed i n the urn. The shapes of the b u r i a l urns are v a r i e d and some appear to be ordinary large pots of a type s t i l l used f o r storage. Many are large and p y r i f o r m , without l i d s , handles or f e e t . The urns were b u r i e d from one to twelve f e e t deep i n cemetary-like groups or " u r n - f i e l d s " . The a s s o c i a t e d stone monuments and lamps, i r o n weapons, ornaments and small c l a y v e s s e l s found with many of the b u r i a l s have spawned wide-ranging theories about the o r i g i n and e t h n i c i t y of the people buried i n them (Maloney 1975:7-8, Casal & Casal 1956:43, Parpola 1973). The o l d e s t examples of b u r i a l urns have been found i n Karnataka, and date from the second millenium B.C. These c o n s i s t of small pots placed mouth to mouth forming a chamber i n which the bones of i n f a n t s and grave goods were placed ( A l l c h i n 1968:311). A l a t e N e o l i t h i c s i t e between Madras and Bangalore y i e l d e d urns w i t h moulded g l o b u l a r b e l l i e s and b r e a s t s , e v i d e n t l y r e p r e s e n t i n g pregnant women (Maloney 1975:6). This may be an i n d i c a t i o n of the idea of r e b i r t h from the pot, which was to become prominent i n l a t e r South Indian b e l i e f and w i l l be discussed at length below. Some communities of South I n d i a , mainly of the lower castes, s t i l l bury t h e i r dead and many others have begun to cremate r a t h e r than bury t h e i r dead only i n the l a s t few generations. By the middle of the f i r s t m i l lenium B.C. urn b u r i a l was e v i d e n t l y widespread e s p e c i a l l y i n the f e r t i l e p a r t s of Southern Tamil Natu, where " i n almost every s i z e a b l e settlement, t a l i (pot) b u r i a l s have been uncovered" (Maloney 1975:7). At A d i c h a n a l l u r , thousands of urns spaced about s i x feet from each other were uncovered i n a f i e l d of over 114 acres. Some were buried i n p i t s cut from s o l i d rock and others i n g r a v e l l y s o i l (Rea 1915). Of s p e c i a l i n t e r e s t are those f i n d s w i t h i n the Maturai region which i s the home of the group of p o t t e r s who form the focus of t h i s study, a region i n which they c l a i m to have r e s i d e d and c o n t r o l l e d p o t t e r y production since w e l l before the b u r i a l urns went out of use, perhaps the f i f t h century (Devakunjari 1957:14). At four places on the northwest and southeast sides of Maturai c i t y , b u r i a l urns were uncovered i n v i l l a g e s to which the 3 Maturai p o t t e r group s u p p l i e s earthenware and serves as p r i e s t s . Recently, an excavation i n a suburb of the c i t y uncovered s i x massive b u r i a l urns thought to date from the f i r s t century B.C. The s i t e had been u n t i l r e c e n t l y a b u r i a l ground of an untouchable caste (Thirumalai 1980). While Caldwell found that "the n a t i v e s knew nothing whatever of the people by whom t h i s s i n g u l a r mode of sepulture was p r a c t i c e d , nor of the time when they l i v e d " (1877:280), p o t t e r s of the Maturai region do know of the t r a d i t i o n and have described the large pots as " o l d people pots" (mutumakkaltali). This term i s found i n e a r l y Tamil works from the t h i r d Excavations were c a r r i e d out by A. Rea i n 1887 and K.S. Srikantan i n 1930 (Devakunjari 1957:14-16). 43. century B.C. to the t w e l f t h century A.D. according to S r i n i v a s a n (1946: 1 0 ) . 4 The a r c h a e o l o g i c a l record of p o t t e r y production i n South I n d i a e s t a b l i s h e s a c o n t i n u i t y i n p o t t e r y type and technique which adds substance to the claims of p o t t e r s to an ancient c r a f t h e r i t a g e and e s p e c i a l l y to an ancient o r i g i n f o r t h e i r p o t t e r y making techniques. This long and w e l l -e s t a b l i s h e d p o t t e r y t r a d i t i o n i s p a r t i c u l a r l y w e l l documented i n the s o u t h - c e n t r a l region of Tamil Natu s t a t e , i n which the p o t t e r s who are the focus of t h i s study l i v e and work. Current a r c h a e o l o g i c a l research i s l i k e l y to y i e l d important new r e s u l t s i n t h i s regard, and a l s o to provide clues to the o r i g i n s of the use of c l a y images."' The d i c t i o n a r i e s give matamatakkattali (Fabricius112) and mudumakkattali ( L i f c o 566) f o r b u r i a l urn. Caldwell claims the f i r s t term means "pot which b o i l s over" and that a second term, which he c o l l e c t e d l o c a l l y , "madamattan-d a l i " , means "very l a r g e pot" (1877:280). Both are l o c a l v e r s i o n s of mutumakkaltali according to S r i n i v a s a n (1946:10). The b o i l i n g over comes from what Caldwell c a l l s a "rather f a r f e t c h e d " b e l i e f that " l i t t l e people who were placed i n them used sometimes to come out of the j a r s and s i t about, as i f they had b o i l e d over out of them".. That " l i t t l e people" were bur i e d i n pots i s explained by a myth which Caldwell found "current amongst the n a t i v e s " . "They say that i n the Tretayuga - that i s , about a m i l l i o n years ago - people used to l i v e to a great age, but that however o l d they were they d i d not d i e , but the older they grew the smaller they became. They got so small at l e n g t h , that to keep them out of the way of harm i t was necessary to place them i n a l i t t l e t r i a n g u l a r niche i n the w a l l of a n a t i v e house i n which the lamp i s kept. At l e n g t h , when the younger people could no longer bear the trouble of l o o k i n g a f t e r t h e i r dwarf ancestors, they placed them i n earthen j a r s , put with them i n the j a r s a number of l i t t l e v e s s e l s c o n t a i n i n g r i c e , water, o i l , e t c . , and b u r i e d them near the v i l l a g e " (1877:280). 'Such research i s c u r r e n t l y i n progress, under the d i r e c t i o n of Dr. R. Nagasamy of the Tamil Natu State Archaeology Department. 44. The a r c h a e o l o g i c a l record of the b u r i a l urn t r a d i t i o n , coupled w i t h the t e x t u a l references to be considered i n the f o l l o w i n g s e c t i o n , provide the f i r s t i n d i c a t i o n of the c o n t r i b u t i o n of the p o t t e r ' s work to l i f e c y c l e events, and the a s s o c i a t i o n of the earthen v e s s e l w i t h l i f e and death, which becomes a major theme i n t h i s study of the p o t t e r ' s c r a f t . (b) Texts The e a r l i e s t l i t e r a t u r e i n Tamil c o n s i s t s of a l a r g e body of p o e t i c works known c o l l e c t i v e l y as Cankam t e x t s . These includ e nine anthologies c o n t a i n i n g 2,279 poems of various lengths, the e a r l i e s t of which were composed during the e a r l y c e n t u r i e s of our era. Other works, composed a few c e n t u r i e s l a t e r , but u s u a l l y included w i t h the Cankam t e x t s are a grammar (Tolkappiyam) and two epics ( C i l a p p a t t i k a r a m and Manimekalai). This l i t e r a t u r e takes i t s name from the l i t e r a r y academy (Cankam) of Maturai at which, according to t r a d i t i o n , the poems were f i r s t presented by t h e i r authors. The poems t e l l of two e a r l i e r academies l o c a t e d i n c i t i e s c l o s e r to the coast which were destroyed by the sea. The Cankam poems b o l d l y claimed to describe events s t r e t c h i n g back over thousands of years previous to t h e i r composition, but are most u s e f u l f o r the overview of aspects of c u l t u r a l l i f e i n the c e n t u r i e s spanning the beginning of our era. According to George Hart, they are, despite t h e i r l y r i c a l q u a l i t y , among the "most important sources f o r the study of ancient I n d i a " because, u n l i k e most e a r l y l i t e r a t u r e i n S a n s k r i t , they give abundant d e s c r i p t i o n s of the l i v e s of ordinary people and of everyday l i f e (Hart 1976:41). F i r s t - second century A.D. ( S h a s t r i 1976:115-117). Hart dates them between the second and t h i r d c e n t u r i e s A.D. (1975:9, 1976:51). 45. Among the occupational groups which are described i n Cankam poetry are p o t t e r s , v a r i o u s l y addressed as Manmakan (earth person), Kalan Ceykove (potmaking king) or Vetkovar (p o t t e r k i n g ) . The most common terms include the a r c h a i c word ko meaning " k i n g " , " f a t h e r " , " p o t t e r " , or "great, man" (Tamil Lexicon, 1932:1190). Ko i s used today i n conjunction w i t h i l ( k o y i l or k o v i l ) , a term which means palace, sanctuary or temple. We a l s o see reference to the p o t t e r as kuyavar (earth person) i n the Cankam poems N a r r i n a i 200:4 & 293:2 ( P i l l a y 1969:207), a term which has remained i n common use up to the present. The place f o r f i r i n g pots, the p o t t e r ' s wheel and various pots and t h e i r uses are described i n the poem Akananuru, Akam 77-78 (Sridaran 1979:2,3, P i l l a y 1969:207). Numerous references are made to the p o t t e r ' s task of making b u r i a l j a r s ( t a l i ) . In the poem Purananuru 256, a widow t e l l s the p o t t e r how she has come s e c r e t l y , l i k e a l i z a r d , on the axle of the c a r t bearing the body of her s l a i n husband and begs him to b u i l d the b u r i a l j a r large enough to hold her too.^ In another poem from the anthology Purananuru (228), the poet A i y u r Mutuvanar p i t i e s the p o t t e r whose task i t i s to b u i l d the b u r i a l j a r f o r the Cola k i n g Netuma Valavan (Sridaran 1979:2). The black smoke of the p o t t e r ' s workshop hides the sky, but to enclose a k i n g so great, the p o t t e r i s t o l d he w i l l have to use the world as h i s wheel and a mountain f o r mud. Both poems address the p o t t e r as maker of water pots f o r the "wide o l d c i t y " . The b u r i a l j a r s themselves are mentioned repeatedly throughout the Cankam works. See a t r a n s l a t i o n by A.K. Ramanujan i n Z v e l e b i l 1973:82. 46. The p o t t e r ' s p r i e s t l y r o l e i s a l s o i n d i c a t e d by the e a r l y Cankam poetry. N a r r i n a i 293 describes a p o t t e r wearing a garland of n o c c i flowers (Lat. v i t e x nugundu) who conducts worship (puja) by s a c r i f i c i n g goats and i n v i t i n g demons and crows to attend the f e a s t (Shanmugam 1970:4). According to the poem, i t i s the p o t t e r ' s duty to inaugurate the r e l i g i o u s f e s t i v a l . P o t t e r s c l a i m many Cankam poets, heroes and kings as members of t h e i r caste and such claims are a common way i n which Tamils proudly l i n k themselves to t h i s ancient l i t e r a t u r e . One famous poem, Purananuru 66, about the war between the Cola k i n g K a r i k a l a n and the Cera k i n g Perun Ce r a l a t a n , f o r example, i s a t t r i b u t e d to V e n n i k k u y a t t i y a r , by her name a woman of the p o t t e r community (Basham 1954:178, Shanmugam 1970:4). The poet Kotan, who i n the Tolkappiyam, d u e l l e d w i t h another great poet before the Cankam assembly, i s a l s o c a l l e d p o t t e r poet (Vetkoppulavar) (Shanmugam 1970:4). Lat e r Tamil l i t e r a t u r e i s l i k e w i s e the source of many claims to i l l u s t r i o u s ancestors. Perhaps the best known p o t t e r of these t e x t s i s T i r u n i l a k a n t a r , one of the s i x t y - t h r e e Saiva s a i n t s (Nayanraar) whose l i v e s and e x p l o i t s are c o d i f i e d i n the t w e l f t h century anthology, P e r i y a Puranam (Shulman 1980: 13). These are some of the sources from which Tamil p o t t e r s draw to su b s t a n t i a t e t h e i r c l a i m to an important place i n Tamil h i s t o r y . The t e x t s suggest that from the e a r l i e s t p e r i o d of South Indian c i v i l i z a t i o n , p o t t e r s were considered to be a community w i t h a d i s t i n c t set of s k i l l s , and were recognized as such with f l a t t e r i n g t i t l e s . A p r e s c r i b e d p r i e s t l y r o l e i n l o c a l r e l i g i o u s ceremonies i s i n d i c a t e d . Most of the s t o r i e s and poems which have p a r t i c u l a r relevance to aspects of contemporary l i f e i n the p o t t e r community w i l l be t o l d or described according to the context i n which they are meaningful to p o t t e r s themselves. As such, the ver s i o n s of s t o r i e s from ancient l i t e r a t u r e most o f t e n used w i l l be those passed down o r a l l y or those drawn from the K u l a l a Purana, the p o t t e r caste h i s t o r y , o r i g i n a l l y w r i t t e n i n palm l e a f manuscript but here r e f e r r e d to i n a v e r s i o n published at Madras i n 1912? (c) I n s c r i p t i o n s Much of the s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l h i s t o r y of South I n d i a has been reconstructed on the ba s i s of stone and copper i n s c r i p t i o n s , thousands of which have been copied and studied i n d e t a i l . According to Murton (1979:6), "stone and copper i n s c r i p t i o n s have proven to be the most copious and authentic sources f o r the general h i s t o r y of South I n d i a " . Many castes i n South India have f u l f i l l e d a need to record and l e g i t i m a t e t h e i r h i s t o r i e s through having a Purana composed. These i n v a r i a b l y l i n k the caste to some c l a s s i c a l Puranic geneaology of k i n g s , sages or gods but a l s o express important symbolic perceptions of i d e n t i t y as w e l l as some h i s t o r i c a l experience of the caste (see Shulman 1982:29). I t took me almost a year to obt a i n a copy of the K u l a l a Purana, although p o t t e r s I met repeatedly r e f e r r e d to i t . There always seemed to be a hope of a copy " i n the next v i l l a g e " or at the house of a kinsman, which proved to have been misplaced or passed on. My f r u s t r a t i o n began when an ol d palm l e a f v e r s i o n was l o c a t e d f o r my use and mistakenly given to a l o c a l museum o f f i c i a l who then refused e i t h e r to r e t u r n i t to the po t t e r s or a l l o w me to see i t . A p r i n t e d v e r s i o n i n the possession of a p o t t e r i n Arappalaiyam where I conducted research was kept from me because the owner feared I would r e p u b l i s h i t , something he planned to do hi m s e l f . He subsequently t o l d me h i s ver s i o n s of most of the major s t o r i e s , some of which are r e f e r r e d to below. 48. P o t t e r s are one of the d i s t i n c t occupational groups l i s t e d i n these i n s c r i p t i o n s ( S t e i n 1980:213). They are c a l l e d by a v a r i e t y of names, the most common of which are Vetkovan or Vetkovar (p o t t e r king) and the shorter forms Vetko or Velko. P o t t e r s are a l s o addressed as Mannutaiyan, (owner of the e a r t h ) , and by various forms of a term s t i l l widely used to r e f e r to p o t t e r s , i . e . kucavan (p. 62). The most frequent context f o r reference to p o t t e r s i n i n s c r i p t i o n s are temple agreements which itemize the s e r v i c e s of s p e c i a l i s t groups and the b e n e f i t s they r e c e i v e d . From these i t i s p o s s i b l e to i n c l u d e p o t t e r s with groups which were e s s e n t i a l to the f u n c t i o n i n g of temples and monastic i n s t i t u t i o n s , both i n t h e i r supply of v e s s e l s and i n t h e i r attendance at assemblies. Grants to p o t t e r s from v i l l a g e assemblies are a l s o recorded (Sr i d a r a n 1979:4). For t h e i r s e r v i c e p o t t e r s r e c e i v e d lands and house s i t e s known as kucakkani, k u c a p a t t i , or kucavannilam ( a l l conjunctions of kucavan / p o t t e r / and words meaning l a n d ) . These lands were i n c e r t a i n cases c a l l e d k u l a l a v r i t t i . By the medieval p e r i o d the number of castes of occupational s p e c i a l i s t s h o l d i n g such s e r v i c e shares i n land i n r u r a l areas had become co n v e n t i o n a l i z e d to eighteen. These Ayakars included low ranking sweepers, barbers, and washermen as w e l l as high ranking s c r i b e s and a l s o the craftsmen: the smiths, carpenters, p o t t e r s and weavers , ( S t e i n 1980:25, 424, 453). P o t t e r s were sometimes donors of money or l i v e s t o c k to temples f o r the support of p a r t i c u l a r r i t u a l s . That t h e i r s k i l l s went beyond the manufacture of p o t t e r y i s i n d i c a t e d by an i n s c r i p t i o n .describing them as v i l l a g e accountants (Sridaran 1979:4). The l a r g e r Leiden copper p l a t e of Raja Raja Colan from the eleventh century records the grant of a v i l l a g e to support the b u i l d i n g of a s h r i n e . Of the twenty-six s i g n a t o r i e s r e p r e s e n t i n g major settlements of the l o c a l i t y , f i v e 49. are c a l l e d accountant p o t t e r (Karanattan Vetkovan) ( S t e i n 1980:119-121). • Cola dynasty i n s c r i p t i o n s of the eleventh century make numerous references to taxes l e v i e d on p o t t e r s , sometimes c a l l e d 'potter tax', (kucakkanam), o f t e n t i e d to the number of working u n i t s , eg. p o t t e r ' s wheel tax (cakkarakanikai or t i r i k a i - a y a m ) . A long h i s t o r y of disputes over payment from the regions of Daramapuri and Kaveripumpatinam are recorded. The f o l l o w i n g s t o r y , which i s s a i d to have o r i g i n a t e d i n the fourteenth or f i f t e e n t h century, summarizes such a dis p u t e . A member of the Calivakana p o t t e r s , one C o l a i C e t t i , d e f i e d the tax c o l l e c t o r s ( p a t t i r a ) of the Vijayanagara k i n g , arguing that p o t t e r s are exempt. The taxes, demanded on penalty of a ban on entry or e x i t to the offender's house (ranpavatam) included 'king's tax' (aranmanai v a r i ) , 'customs tax' ( c u n k a v a r i ) , 'tax f o r s e l l i n g c l a y d o l l s ' (pommai v a r i ) , and 'tax f o r supporting court e n t e r t a i n e r s ' ( k u t t a t i v a r i ) . The p o t t e r ' s daughter defeated the tax c o l l e c t o r s i n a contest to b r i n g a dead r o o s t e r back to l i f e . Each invoked d i v i n e help and only the g i r l was s u c c e s s f u l . The tax c o l l e c t o r s resigned t h e i r t i t l e s and signed an agreement r e l e a s i n g a l l Calivakana from taxes. Any p o t t e r who would continue to pay taxes was subject to banishment from the caste and r u i n by god (paraphrased from an a r t i c l e i n Tina Mani Cutar 1980:8). Probably the most important i n s c r i p t i o n f o r an understanding of the h i s t o r y of South Indian p o t t e r s i s the copper p l a t e of Matukkarai, copies of which have been taken down and se c t i o n s published, most completely by K. Canmukam (1974). This i n s c r i p t i o n records i n meticulous d e t a i l an agreement between the farmer/landowner caste (Kavuntar) of twenty-four regions of Konku Natu, the n o r t h - e a s t e r l y region of modern Tamil Natu, and p o t t e r s of Pan t i y a Natu whom the farmers had induced to s e t t l e i n Konku. Two dates, A.D. 1259 and A.D. 1385, c a l c u l a t e d by d i f f e r e n t c a l e n d r i c a l systems, are recorded i n the agreement but both are thought to be l a t e r than the a c t u a l event. The farmers' promises to p o t t e r s of status 50. p r i v i l e g e s , marriage and f e s t i v a l r i g h t s and l i v i n g expenses were f i r s t i temized. This was followed by the b a s i c annual exchange arrangements of p o t t e r y f o r a g r i c u l t u r a l produce and of the payments f o r p o t t e r y to be supplied f o r marriage, a l l l i s t e d according to the caste being s u p p l i e d . Next, the payments f o r making v o t i v e o f f e r i n g s and images, c o n s t r u c t i n g houses and excavating ponds were recorded. Various r i t u a l d u t i e s and the payments f o r them were a l s o described. The ways i n which t h i s i n s c r i p t i o n shows c o n t i n u i t y w i t h and helps e l u c i d a t e the a c t i v i t i e s of contemporary South Indian p o t t e r s , and e s p e c i a l l y those from Pa n t i y a Natu, from where the p o t t e r s of the Matukkarai p l a t e o r i g i n a l l y migrated, w i l l be developed below. The e a r l y i n s c r i p t i o n s provide evidence of the i n t e g r a t i o n of South Indian p o t t e r s i n the systems of s e r v i c e to temples, c o u r t s , and v i l l a g e areas. (d) E a r l y Foreign Accounts For many e a r l y commentators on I n d i a , European t r a v e l l e r s , m i s s i o n a r i e s , a d m i n i s t r a t o r s or s c h o l a r s , the v i l l a g e p o t t e r represented the a r c h e t y p a l craftsman, a symbol of the " p r i m o r d i a l " v i l l a g e system. One of the most powerful expressions of t h i s conception i s the d e s c r i p t i o n of the "Dakhan p o t t e r " by Birdwood (1880), which has been s u c c e s s i v e l y paraphrased by Monier Williams (1891:460-61) and Thurston (1909 V o l . IV:109), and thus was u l t i m a t e l y woven i n t o numerous gazetteers and census p u b l i c a t i o n s . For Birdwood, p o t t e r y was, i n i t s d i r e c t n e s s , s i m p l i c i t y of form and adaptation to use, the "purest" of the a r t s i n I n d i a (1880:301) and the p o t t e r , "one of the most u s e f u l and respected members of the community". "In the happy r e l i g i o u s o r g a n i z a t i o n of Hindu v i l l a g e l i f e , there i s no man happier than the h e r e d i t a r y p o t t e r " . The reason f o r the " d i g n i t y of h i s 51. l i f e " , "assured p l a c e " , h i s p r o v i s i o n f o r " l i t t l e food and l e s s c l o t h i n g " and "contentment of mind" was thought to be the "system of landed tenure which has p r e v a i l e d i n I n d i a from the time of the code of Manu... and has stereotyped the s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n and c i v i l i z a t i o n of the country" ( I b i d . , p. 312). The p o t t e r was at once the r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of an i d y l l i c conservatism and t r a d i t i o n a l i s m , "as l i t t l e a f f e c t e d by the coming and going of r e l i g i o u s or p o l i t i c a l r e v o l u t i o n s . . . as a rock by the r i s i n g and f a l l i n g of the t i d e " ( I b i d . , p. 320) and of the romantic n o t i o n of v i l l a g e community or . ..9 . . . r e p u b l i c as a s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t democratic u n i t . I f the r o l e of the v i l l a g e p o t t e r appealed to the romantic notions of some Europeans of the time, t h i s enthusiasm does not seem to have been shared by other South Indians, i n the o p i n i o n of e a r l y observers. A reference to the s o c i a l p o s i t i o n of p o t t e r s taken from H.A. Holder, r e f e r r e d to i n Thurston (1909:189) suggested that they are a "poor c l a s s " compared to the a r t i s a n s (Kammalar), " t h e i r occupation i s . . . somewhat despised by others". A l s o quoted i s the Madras Census Report ( S t u a r t , 1891), which claims that " t h e i r s t u p i d i t y and ignorance are p r o v e r b i a l " . These statements and others of a s i m i l a r tone from p u b l i c a t i o n s of the same period (eg. Dubois 1906:63 and Sherring 1974 V o l . 111:123) may have been drawn from a very e a r l y c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n found i n Nelson (1868:72). His only reference to p o t t e r s s t a t e s that "The Kusavans are p o t t e r s , men p r o v e r b i a l f o r ignorance and s t u p i d i t y and despised a c c o r d i n g l y " . In terms of more d e t a i l e d ethnographic i n f o r m a t i o n on South Indian p o t t e r s , the e a r l y accounts are l i m i t e d . P o t t e r s were s c a t t e r e d throughout See d i s c u s s i o n by Dumont 1957:23-41. the South Indian r e g i o n . In no place d i d they c o n s t i t u t e a bloc large enough to a t t r a c t p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t by the B r i t i s h a d m i n i s t r a t i o n and indeed were of t e n overlooked completely i n e a r l y census p u b l i c a t i o n s . P o t t e r s were considered "conservative by nature" (Ananthakrishna 1935 V o l . IV:16) and r a r e l y p a r t i c i p a t e d i n educational o p p o r t u n i t i e s or c i v i l s e r v i c e . At the same time they d i d not present any s i g n i f i c a n t p o l i t i c a l or s o c i a l challenge to the a u t h o r i t i e s or the p r e v a i l i n g order, a means by which some other castes had gained n o t i c e and n o t o r i e t y . " ^ The most complete summary of e a r l y notes on South Indian p o t t e r s i s found i n Edgar Thurston's famous ethnographic d i c t i o n a r y , Castes and Tribes of Southern  India (1909 V o l . IV, "Kusavan", pp. 188-197) and from t h i s we may assess both the extent and the l i m i t s of the a v a i l a b l e i n f o r m a t i o n . From Thurston we l e a r n some general c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the p o t t e r s ; the s i m i l a r i t y of t h e i r ceremonials to those of farmer/landowners ( " V e l l a l a " ) , and i n c o n t r a s t , t h e i r wearing of the sacred thread and r o l e as p r i e s t s to the d e i t i e s " P i d a r i " and "Aiyanar" i n which they were thought to show some a f f i n i t i e s to Brahmans. An e a r l y gazetteer of Maturai D i s t r i c t i s quoted f o r informa t i o n on the p o t t e r marriage ceremony and a few d e t a i l s on d i v o r c e . Thurston describes the operation of a p o t t e r ' s wheel and f i r i n g of pots, mistaking a r e g i o n a l v a r i a t i o n of p o t t e r technology f o r a general p a t t e r n and o m i t t i n g s e v e r a l c r u c i a l stages of the pot making process. The use of v o t i v e images of i n f a n t s and horses made by the p o t t e r i s described as i s the n e c e s s i t y of s p e c i a l pots f o r marriages and f u n e r a l s . Examples of the worship of the p o t t e r ' s wheel and See f o r the Natar, Hardgrave 1969 and f o r the K a l l a r , Blackburn 1978. 53. ceremony of ' p a i n t i n g the eyes' are provided. The making of s e p u l c h r a l urns i n the ancient period i s a l s o mentioned. According to Thurston, the p o t t e r caste i s d i v i d e d i n t o three t e r r i t o r i a l s e c t i o n s , corresponding to the ancient Tamil kingdoms "Chola, Chera and Pandya". They have the t i t l e s "Udayan and Velan". Legends are recounted l i n k i n g p o t t e r s by descent to Brahma, and to a Brahman f a t h e r through marriage, both of which w i l l be discussed l a t e r . Thurston's survey includes reference to a strange and f a r - f e t c h e d anonymous account of a s a c r i f i c e and f e a s t a s s i s t e d by p o t t e r s i n which Brahmans gorge on half-cooked meat''"''" and concludes w i t h the recounting of sev e r a l gruesome cases of amputation r e s u l t i n g from mistakes i n the s e t t i n g of broken bones, a s k i l l f o r which p o t t e r s were once w e l l known. Subsequent p u b l i c a t i o n s on South Indian r e l i g i o n and s o c i e t y have drawn on Thurston's account f o r information about p o t t e r s , as have most Indian government p u b l i c a t i o n s . The Maturai D i s t r i c t Gazetteer of 1960, fo r example, r e l i e s e x c l u s i v e l y on Thurston's info r m a t i o n . In the course of my study the b i t s of in f o r m a t i o n found i n Thurston's account w i l l reappear, not so much to be challenged, but to be expanded upon and brought together i n an e f f o r t to form a coherent p a t t e r n . Another group of e a r l y accounts which make reference to p o t t e r s are those which deal s p e c i f i c a l l y w i t h l o c a l gods and r e l i g i o u s t r a d i t i o n s of South I n d i a . Beginning with Caldwell (1849) and co n t i n u i n g through Elmore (1915) and whitehead (1921), these surveys o f f e r v a l u a b l e d e t a i l on r i t u a l p r a c t i c e , yet are so weighted w i t h h i s t o r i c a l and t h e o l o g i c a l polemics Also discussed by Biardeau 1971:34-5. 54. that the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the p r a c t i c e s and t h e i r s o c i a l context are d i f f i c u l t to a p p r e c i a t e . There was an e f f o r t made by these w r i t e r s to d i s t i n g u i s h indigenous ( s o - c a l l e d Dravidian) customs which were c h a r a c t e r i z e d as " d e v i l worship" or "demonolatry" (Caldwell 1849:19, 20) from Brahmanical Hinduism ("Aryan") and i t s p h i l o s o p h i c a l t r a d i t i o n s . According to t h e i r viewpoint, Brahmanical Hinduism was the mark of c i v i l i z a t i o n , and r e l i g i o u s p r a c t i c e s outside i t s s t r i c t domain, such as those i n which p o t t e r s played a prominent r o l e , were c h a r a c t e r i z e d as i n v o l v i n g l i t t l e s p e c i a l i z a t i o n and few coherent t r a d i t i o n s (Elmore 1915:4, Whitehead 1921:154). A f i n a l subject encountered i n e a r l y accounts which i s r e l e v a n t to the r o l e of p o t t e r s i n South I n d i a i n v o l v e s a l l i a n c e s among various castes. P o t t e r s , i n c o n t r a s t to most other craftsmen, were of t e n described as being a l l i e d w i t h a g r i c u l t u r a l i s t s , and t h i s a l l i a n c e w i l l become important to our understanding of t h e i r c r a f t . One way of ordering a l l i a n c e s and oppositions among castes i n South I n d i a has been through reference to a dual d i v i s i o n . Mention of such a d i v i s i o n f i r s t appears i n i n s c r i p t i o n s of the eleventh century (Beck 1970:177) and i n d i c a t e s one group having d i r e c t t i e s to a g r i c u l t u r a l i s t s and t h e i r a s s o c i a t e s , while the other group remains more independant, urban-oriented and mobile. The s e t t l e d a g r i c u l t u r a l and s e r v i c e communities were l a b e l l e d " r i g h t " or v a l a n k a i while more mobile a r t i s a n s and traders were l a b e l l e d " l e f t " or i t a n k a i . The o r i g i n s of the d i v i s i o n are obscure but may have been some ki n d of response to the high degree of t e r r i t o r i a l segmentation i n e a r l y South Indian s o c i e t y and to the complex and unstable s o c i a l status of non-Brahman castes ( S t e i n 1980:207). A large middle range of castes seems to have been even l e s s ordered by t r a d i t i o n a l h i e r a r c h i c a l schemes l i k e varna than i n other parts of I n d i a . I t was among them that the d i v i s i o n may have formed, e v e n t u a l l y encompassing 55. lower castes as w e l l . D e t a i l s recorded by f o r e i g n observers from the eighteenth century onward add much to our knowledge of the dual d i v i s i o n . Many were confused by what they encountered because i t didn't conform to the p r e s c r i p t i o n s of the ancient law books (Dubois 1906:24), and some were concerned because a r i s i n g l e v e l of c o n f l i c t between members of the l e f t and r i g h t c a s t e s , expressed i n r i v a l r y f o r r i t u a l p r i v i l e g e s , threatened to d i s r u p t order (Nelson 1868 Pt. 11:4). Burton S t e i n reproduces eight l i s t s of the r i g h t and l e f t castes drawn up by observers during the nineteenth century ( S t e i n 1980:474-77). Their i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , although not comprehensive and i n some d e t a i l s c o n t r a d i c t o r y , g e n e r a l l y confirm the independence from the d i v i s i o n of the Brahmans and the complex b i f u r c a t i o n of most other c a s t e s ; the r i g h t group c o n s i s t i n g of farmers and t h e i r a l l i e s , i n c l u d i n g p o t t e r s , and the l e f t dominated by urban commercial and a r t i s a n groups and g e n e r a l l y considered "lower" and more p o l l u t i n g ( I b i d . , p. 201). By the l a t e nineteenth century the c o n f l i c t between the two groups had died down and during t h i s century the f a c t i o n a l r i v a l r y and even the memory of the l e f t / r i g h t d i v i s i o n has a l l but died out. S u r v i v a l of elements of the d i v i s i o n i n the contemporary s o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n of a region of South India i s , however, explained i n a major a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l study (Beck 1972) and here we discover some of the underlying p r i n c i p l e s which are expressed i n the d i v i s i o n . The p a r t i c i p a t i o n of castes of the r i g h t i s e s s e n t i a l f o r the performance of a l l l o c a l f e s t i v a l s . The l o c a l o r i e n t a t i o n of r i g h t castes i s expressed i n k i n s h i p and marriage a l l i a n c e s r e s t r i c t e d to a l i m i t e d t e r r i t o r y . The customs f o l l o w those of the lan d l o r d s who lead the d i v i s i o n . These include s t r a t e g i e s d i r e c t e d toward p o l i t i c a l power and h a b i t s which resemble those of kings or K s h a t r i y a s of the c l a s s i c a l t e x t s . The castes of the l e f t , on 56. the other hand, have t r a d i t i o n s l e s s t i e d to p a r t i c u l a r t e r r i t o r i e s , maintain wider a l l i a n c e s , and model t h e i r h a b i t s on the c l a s s i c a l p a t t e r n of Brahmans. Most emphasize the caste p u r i t y and ceremonial orthodoxy of t h e i r group. The types of behaviour c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of each d i v i s i o n and the place of the major castes i n the system are recorded by Beck (1970: 793-98). Craftsmen are represented i n both d i v i s i o n s according to most l i s t s , although they are oft e n associated w i t h the " l e f t " because the prominent and powerful Kammalar a r t i s a n s are a lea d i n g caste of the b l o c . The Kammalar have t r a d i t i o n a l l y r e l i e d on t h e i r widely ranging t e r r i t o r i a l l i n k s , m o b i l i t y , and independence i n r i t u a l matters to challenge the power of landowning castes. C e r t a i n groups of weavers and other craftsmen who d i s t r i b u t e t h e i r products w i d e l y , impersonally, and outside the t r a d i t i o n a l a g r i c u l t u r a l d i s t r i b u t i o n system have been t h e i r a l l i e s . Most p o t t e r s , p a i n t e r s , some weavers and some carpenters and smiths have been most of t e n a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the castes of the r i g h t , r e c e i v i n g h e r e d i t a r y shares i n the harvest and s e r v i n g a t e r r i t o r i a l l y circumscribed group of patrons and c l i e n t s . In many castes of craftsmen, membership was probably s p l i t , some castes having long standing occupational and r i t u a l r i g h t s i n the p a t t e r n of the r i g h t castes and others, through displacement and m i g r a t i o n , r e t a i n i n g l i n k s to f a r o f f places and s e l l i n g t h e i r work by piece and on the open market l i k e most of the castes of the l e f t . There was always the p o s s i b i l i t y , through a c q u i r i n g land or r i g h t s to land on the one hand, or through going i n t o business on the other, of movements between the d i v i s i o n s . Changes i n the land tenure system during B r i t i s h r u l e , which d r a s t i c a l l y a l t e r e d the system of t r a d i t i o n a l shares and patronage as w e l l as making land a v a i l a b l e f o r s a l e , probably hastened the d e c l i n e i n importance of the dual d i v i s i o n as a manifest s o c i a l or p o l i t i c a l f e a t u r e . The a l l i a n c e s and c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o u t l i n e d w i t h reference to the dual d i v i s i o n are nonetheless u s e f u l i n a d i s c u s s i o n of the p o s i t i o n of p o t t e r s i n South Indian s o c i e t y , e s p e c i a l l y w i t h regard to the a l l i a n c e between p o t t e r s and a g r i c u l t u r a l i s t s and i n the emulation of patterns of behaviour. The e a r l y accounts f u r t h e r strengthen the image generated by the i n s c r i p t i o n s that p o t t e r s were an i n t e g r a l part of the v i l l a g e community. Their apparently ubiquitous raw m a t e r i a l , simple t o o l s , and humble demeanor a t t r a c t e d nineteenth century i d e a l i s t s who saw Indian v i l l a g e l i f e as an expression of p r i m o r d i a l s o c i a l values and o r g a n i z a t i o n . They were described as among the "most respected" members of the community. In c o n t r a s t to t h i s p o s i t i v e p o r t r a y a l , other e a r l y accounts a l s o began to evaluate p o t t e r s i n terms of c r i t e r i a being e s t a b l i s h e d by western-style education and occupation, according to which the p o t t e r s fared badly. The perceived "ignorance" and " s t u p i d i t y " of p o t t e r s was perhaps r e l a t i v e to other low castes who, having a much l e s s important r o l e to play i n the r u r a l s o c i a l systems of the nineteenth century embraced the emerging o p p o r t u n i t i e s of education or m i l i t a r y and c i v i l s e r v i c e . I t i s p o s s i b l e that those that "despised" the work of the po t t e r s were not the general p o p u l a t i o n , but the educated Brahman o f f i c i a l s and c i v i l a u t h o r i t i e s who provided e a r l y observers w i t h much of t h e i r information and acted as i n t e r p r e t e r s , t r a n s l a t o r s and a s s i s t a n t s . The r o l e of p o t t e r s as important l o c a l - l e v e l r e l i g i o u s s p e c i a l i s t s i n many parts of South India has t r a d i t i o n a l l y placed them i n competition and c o n f l i c t w i t h Brahmans. The condescension of Brahmans toward the l o c a l and r u r a l systems of worship has coloured much of what has been recorded about Indian s o c i a l l i f e i n the nineteenth and e a r l y twentieth centuries. Moreover, p o t t e r s were a c t i v e l y 58. involved and i n many places were the designated s p e c i a l i s t s i n the r i t u a l s of possession, s a c r i f i c e , and a s c e t i c i s m which B r i t i s h a d m i n i s t r a t o r s , m i s s i o n a r i e s , and gazetteers found to be an abhorrent part of South Indian s o c i a l l i f e . That p o t t e r s are reported to be both " h i g h l y respected" and "despised" i n e a r l y accounts i s probably i n d i c a t i v e of s h i f t i n g c r i t e r i a of e v a l u a t i o n of a v a r i e t y of p o i n t s of view, as suggested above, yet t h i s apparent c o n t r a d i c t i o n may o r i g i n a t e deeper i n the work of p o t t e r s . As we have seen, there i s an u n d e r l y i n g ambivalence toward the craftsman i n Indian s o c i e t y which has a long h i s t o r y and, i n the case of p o t t e r s , t h i s t e n s i o n becomes even more apparent i n more recent ethnographic reports and a key issue i n my own data on a Tamil p o t t e r community. (e) Recent Accounts Published information on p o t t e r s i n contemporary South Indian s o c i e t y i s extremely l i m i t e d . The period of growth of i n t e n s i v e a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l f i e l d s t udies i n I n d i a , which began i n the l a t e 1940's (Dumont 1970 a:22) has included d e t a i l e d ethnographies of s e v e r a l castes, but none has p r e v i o u s l y focused on p o t t e r s . Recent accounts of South Indian p o t t e r s c o n s i s t of a few t e c h n i c a l notes and a r t i c l e s (Behura 1964, Behura & Saraswati 1966, Dumont 1952), some research papers (Shanmugam 1970, S r i d a r a n 1979), and observations from general a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l s t u d i e s i n which p o t t e r s are included w i t h other castes i n the a n a l y s i s of o v e r a l l patterns i n v i l l a g e s o c i e t y . A l l these sources have been consulted i n the course of t h i s study, although p a r t i c u l a r a t t e n t i o n has been given to the work of Dumont (1957) and Beck (1972), whose p r e c i s e and d e t a i l e d observations include, the most u s e f u l i n f o r m a t i o n . 59. Most recent references to South Indian p o t t e r s focus on t h e i r p o s i t i o n i n caste s o c i e t y . When castes are considered from an ethnographic p e r s p e c t i v e , that i s as l a r g e l y endogamous ranked groups w i t h i n the r e g i o n a l sub-culture of South I n d i a , p o t t e r s appear to be as ambiguously ranked as were craftsmen g e n e r a l l y w i t h i n the t e x t u a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n of Varna. P o t t e r s have been described as a low " s e r v i n g " or " s e r v i c e " caste ( S r i n i v a s 1967:6, Beck 1979:181), and have o f t e n been grouped w i t h washermen, barbers, untouchables and other low caste " v i l l a g e s ervants" (Brubaker 1979). In some areas, they preside at f u n e r a l s and perform r i t u a l tasks which belong i n other places to untouchables ( I b i d . , 1979:139). In c o n t r a s t , they have been d i f f e r e n t i a t e d from other v i l l a g e servants and described as " r e s p e c t a b l e " (Pfaffenberger 1982:8). Behura and Saraswati found what they considered a " c l e a r cut ranking" of p o t t e r s i n South I n d i a ; they were below the A c a r i a r t i s a n s and above the washermen and barbers (1966:176). A s i m i l a r p o s i t i o n of p o t t e r s i n the caste h i e r a r c h y was observed by Heibert using as h i s i n d i c a t o r food and water t r a n s a c t i o n s (1971:56, 57), by Den Ouden usi n g l i n g u i s t i c i n t e r a c t i o n (1979:40), and by Beck using seating patterns at a v i l l a g e f e a s t (1972:5). Two studies done i n Tanjavur D i s t r i c t ranked p o t t e r s as equal or s u p e r i o r to the A c a r i ( B e t e i l l e 1969:16, Gough 1969:17). One i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the enigmatic status of p o t t e r s i n l o c a l h i e r a r c h i e s and t h e i r i n t e r a c t i o n w i t h castes both high and low has been that t h e i r c r a f t i s " r i t u a l l y n e u t r a l " (Gough 1969:24) and does not i n v o l v e the c o n f e r r a l or removal of r i t u a l impurity ( S r i n i v a s 1967:22, M o f f a t t 1975:116). The h i s t o r i c a l and t e x t u a l data which has been presented and my own f i e l d data which f o l l o w s , i n d i c a t e that p r e c i s e l y the opposite i s tr u e . Rather than being " r i t u a l l y n e u t r a l " , the c r a f t of the p o t t e r i s 60. r i t u a l l y charged and i s c o n t i n u a l l y addressing the c e n t r a l issues and dilemmas of p u r i t y and impurity. That i t does so i n such a way as to make i t d i f f i c u l t to f i t p o t t e r s i n t o the " S h a s t r i c ranking paradigm" (Pfaffenberger 1982:8) should be of no s u r p r i s e , c o n s i d e r i n g the vague and problematic correspondence between schemes of caste ranking and l o c a l South.Indian s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n s g e n e r a l l y . The extent to which recent references to p o t t e r s (and other groups) i n South I n d i a focus almost e x c l u s i v e l y on r e l a t i v e rank i n a h i e r a r c h i c a l s o c i a l system r e v e a l s as much about a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l preoccupations as i t does about those of South Indians. In my i n v e s t i g a t i o n of a p o t t e r community, I have taken note of the ca u t i o n advised by B e t e i l l e (1965, 1969), Pocock (1981), and many others about the exaggerated "caste-consciousness" of anthropology and the extent to which " s o c i a l a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s are prone to accept the ideology of caste as a s o c i a l r e a l i t y " (Pocock 1981:334). Rather than concentrate on the " f i x e d " or "immutable" rank r e l a t i v e to other groups i n a caste system, I w i l l d e l i n e a t e the tensions which I b e l i e v e are r e s p o n s i b l e f o r the ongoing dynamism of the c u l t u r a l r o l e of p o t t e r s i n South I n d i a . 61. CHAPTER I I I THE PANTIYA VELAR This chapter introduces the s o c i a l context and o r g a n i z a t i o n of the Pantiya V e l a r , the group of p o t t e r s who form the focus of t h i s study. From t h i s p o i n t onward, reference w i l l be made to my f i e l d data, c o l l e c t e d i n Tamil Natu. Secondary sources f o r t h i s data include d i s c u s s i o n s w i t h s c h o l a r s , government o f f i c i a l s and p o t t e r s i n various parts of South I n d i a . The primary source, however, was my i n t e r a c t i o n with the V e l a r , and p a r t i c u l a r l y those l i v i n g i n the region surrounding the c i t y of Maturai. (a) P o t t e r s of Tamil Natu "K u l a l a n , son of the Hindu c r e a t o r god, Brahma, prayed to Brahma to be allowed l i k e him, to create and destroy things d a i l y , so Brahma made him a p o t t e r " (Thurston 1909 Vo l . IV:188). Many Tamil p o t t e r s do c l a i m K u l a l a n as an ancestor and the p o t t e r caste h i s t o r y , a c o l l e c t i o n of mythological t e x t s and commentaries i s known as the K u l a l a Purana. P o t t e r s of Tamil Natu State are today c l a s s i f i e d as Kulalar''' i n government and other o f f i c i a l documents. P o t t e r s described themselves as K u l a l a r on a p p l i c a t i o n forms, school records and i n the p e r i o d i c a l s and announcements of state-wide p o t t e r a s s o c i a t i o n s . This formal t i t l e has, from the e a r l y part of the century, been promoted as "more d i g n i f i e d " than other terms (Thurston 1909 Vo l . IV:112). Some p o t t e r s consider i t s increased use to be an attempt by t h e i r people to 'hide' t h e i r i d e n t i t y and A l l t i t l e s are given i n t h e i r r e s p e c t f u l / p l u r a l than the f a m i l i a r / s i n g u l a r K u l a l a n ) . form (eg. K u l a l a r r a t h e r shed the derogatory a s s o c i a t i o n s of the more c o l l o q u i a l terms f o r p o t t e r s (Shanmugam 1970:1). Indeed, most Tamils today would not know to which 2 group of castes K u l a l a r r e f e r s . K u l a l a r has nonetheless been i n use i n Tamil Natu f o r c e n t u r i e s , at l e a s t at a l i t e r a r y l e v e l , as evidenced by medieval i n s c r i p t i o n s (Sridaran 1979:3) and has an ancient h i s t o r y as a term f o r p o t t e r i n the language from which i t d e r i v e s , S a n s k r i t (Roy 1969: 26, Singh 1969:307). There are i n Tamil Natu today about 200,000 people who are c l a s s i f i e d as K u l a l a r , although exact po p u l a t i o n f i g u r e s have been 3 d i f f i c u l t to acquire. The word commonly used by Tamils to r e f e r to a person of a p o t t e r caste i s Kuyavar, a combination of ku, the S a n s k r i t word s i g n i f y i n g earth (as i n K u l a l a r ) and the personal termination avar. Kuyavar i s u s u a l l y pronounced Kucavar or, i n a more casual form, Kocavar. These are the general terms by which p o t t e r s have most o f t e n been described by ethnographers (eg., B e t e i l l e 1969, Den Ouden 1979, Gough 1969). Although i n s c r i p t i o n s show Kuyavar to be an ancient and once honourable t i t l e , p o t t e r s today d i s l i k e i t and avoid i t s use. I was t o l d that "200 years ago, there was only one t i t l e , Kosavan, but because of our poor c o n d i t i o n , 2 . One could compare t h i s case w i t h examples of other South Indian caste groups who have adopted o f f i c i a l caste t i t l e s as part of an attempt to leave behind s t i g m a t i c a s s o c i a t i o n s , eg., "Shanar" to "Nadar" (Hardgrave 1969) and " K a l l a r " to "Tevar" (Dumont 1957). 3 Estimates which I c o l l e c t e d of the t o t a l number of p o t t e r s i n the s t a t e v a r i e d from 120,000 (P.O. Radhakrishnan-Khadi and V i l l a g e I n d u s t r i e s Commission) to 280,000 (Koteshvararao - Tacel Ceramics, Government of Tamilnadu). K. D u r i r a j , a l s o of the Khadi and V i l l a g e I n d u s t r i e s Commission estimated 200,000. The 1961 census l i s t s say that there are 70,000 "working p o t t e r s and r e l a t e d c l a y formers" (Nambiar, V o l . IX, 1964). As p o t t e r s c o n s t i t u t e l e s s than one percent of the s t a t e population they r a r e l y r e c e i v e separate n o t i c e i n government p u b l i c a t i o n s . i t became despised, l i k e ' H a r i j a n ' " (untouchable). That t h i s i s no exaggeration i s i n d i c a t e d i n a report by Thurston which states that i n one e a r l y census r e p o r t , "Kusavan" were l i s t e d as a d i v i s i o n of "Paraiyan", an untouchable caste (Thurston 1909 V o l . IV:188). One can appreciate the de s i r e of many p o t t e r s to forge a new i d e n t i t y , given expressions widely 4 used i n Tamil Natu which r i d i c u l e the Kocavan. The formal p o t t e r ' s a s s o c i a t i o n s of Tamil Natu, l i k e those of other caste groups, are faced with the i r o n i c s i t u a t i o n of promoting a b e t t e r image f o r t h e i r members and at the same time t r y i n g to r e t a i n the status of a 'backward c l a s s ' so that they may continue to r e c e i v e s p e c i a l b e n e f i t s from the government. Pot t e r s c o n t i n u a l l y p e t i t i o n e d the government so that, f o r example, " K u l a l a (Kosava p o t t e r ) " was l i s t e d as one of the 'backward c l a s s e s ' i n the Madras Educational Rules, 1950 (Saraswati 1974:213). This e n t i t l e s p o t t e r s to quotas of jobs i n government s e r v i c e and enhanced educational opportunity. (b) P o t t e r Castes Although p o t t e r s are known o f f i c i a l l y and at a s t a t e l e v e l as K u l a l a r and p o p u l a r l y as Kucavar, i n t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r regions and among people w i t h whom they i n t e r a c t f r e q u e n t l y , as w e l l as among themselves, more s p e c i f i c caste t i t l e s are o f t e n used. These t i t l e s are used g e n e r a l l y to r e f e r to the caste and a l s o to a man of the caste when s u f f i x e d to h i s name, although the l a t t e r p r a c t i c e i s dying out w i t h the current generation. The caste These include such admonishments as "you are doing things l i k e a p o t t e r " (Kocattanman kariyam ceyakiruye) and "potter c h i l d " (Kocappaiyan), both to be d i r e c t e d toward one who i s a c t i n g i n e p t l y or l i k e a f o o l . These may be a c o n t i n u a t i o n of sentiments expressed to e a r l y v i s i t o r s to South I n d i a (p. 37-38) and probably r e f e r to the p o t t e r s ' notorious l a c k of education. 64. t i t l e s of p o t t e r s i n Tamil Natu do not, as i n some other parts of I n d i a , r e f e r d i r e c t l y to p e c u l i a r i t i e s of p o t t i n g apparatus or technique (Ghurye 1932:58), yet most castes can be r e a d i l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d from one another by the type of p o t t e r ' s wheel or other t o o l s they use, by language, r e l i g i o u s b e l i e f , or patterns of s o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n . Each caste forms, at l e a s t i n theory, an endogamousgroup. The major p o t t e r castes of Tamil Natu can be i d e n t i f i e d according to the f o l l o w i n g t i t l e s . In the northwest of Tamil Natu and i n t o Karnataka, s e v e r a l groups of po t t e r s use the t i t l e U t a i y a r , short f o r Mannutaiyar or 'those who c l a i m the e a r t h ' (Beck 1972:72, Burkhart 1976:36). In the northern part of the st a t e and i n pockets throughout, the t i t l e C e t t i y a r i s used, a common merchant t i t l e and one adopted by a v a r i e t y of Tamil castes. Many C e t t i y a r p o t t e r s i n the southern r e g i o n of Tamil Natu are r e l a t i v e l y recent migrants. Few have t r a d i t i o n a l r i g h t s i n land or produce and most s e l l t h e i r wares f o r cash. According to Behura and Saraswati (1966:178), Telegu-speaking p o t t e r s i n Southern Tamil Natu use the t i t l e C h e t t i y a r and a l s o "Kwevar" (Kuyavar?) and "Kaura". Some p o t t e r s , e s p e c i a l l y those l i v i n g i n the c i t i e s , have f o r status reasons perhaps, adopted the t i t l e P i l l a i or V e l l a l a , commonly as s o c i a t e d w i t h the t r a d i t i o n a l l y high-ranking farming c a s t e s . Caste t i t l e s used by p o t t e r s i n Tamil Natu and r e l a t e d to devotion and worship are Paktar (bakhta - devotion) and Nayanar (denoting the t h i r t e e n Tamil S a i v i t e s a i n t s ) . An a d d i t i o n a l t i t l e used i n northern Tamil Natu i s "Ocean" (Moffatt 1975:116). Beyond that p e r i o d i c a l l y promoted by state-wide p o t t e r a s s o c i a t i o n s and by government agencies, there i s l i t t l e i n t e r a c t i o n of any k i n d among var i o u s p o t t e r castes. In the c i t y of Ma t u r a i , f o r example, there are communities of p o t t e r s from two ca s t e s , one community l i v i n g on the western 65. side and another on the east, separated by no more than two m i l e s . * They have v i r t u a l l y no contact and know very l i t t l e of one another. They speak d i f f e r e n t languages (Tamil and Telegu), use d i f f e r e n t p o t t i n g technology, and have d i f f e r e n t systems of community o r g a n i z a t i o n . Both communities c l a i m to have had a long and important r e l a t i o n s h i p to the great c i t y of Maturai. (c) The Velar Many p o t t e r s of c e n t r a l and southern Tamil Natu c a l l themselves Velar A number of o r i g i n s f o r t h i s t i t l e have been proposed and only a few of the most p l a u s i b l e from the poi n t of view of the Velar themselves are presented here. Shanmugam suggests that v e l r e f e r s to earth and that Velar simply means "those of the e a r t h " (1970:2). Vel can al s o r e f e r to a petty k i n g and i s a s s o ciated w i t h the legendary nine c h i e f s subdued by the f i r s t Cola k i n g . I t i s al s o l i n k e d to the eighteen V e l i r , f o l l o w e r s of the Tamil s a i n t Agastiya ( A k a t t i y a r ) who i s c r e d i t e d w i t h founding the Tamil language and whom p o t t e r s c l a i m as an ancestor. Indigenous c h i e f s or minor kings of the Ilanko lineage who r u l e d i n the K a v e r i River basin were known as "Ilanko Vel ( S r i n i v a s a Aiyangar 1914:86, S t e i n 1980:114) and p o t t e r s throughout Tamil Natu make reference to Ilanko as an important a n c e s t r a l l i n e . Velar became a popular t i t l e during the medieval Cola period and was used as a synonym f o r V e l a l a , a general landowning caste t i t l e . The "Muventa V e l a r , the V e l l a l a s (Velar) of the three (mu) kings (vetan)", f r e q u e n t l y seen i n i n s c r i p t i o n s , was an agent of the king's a u t h o r i t y , G. Vijayavenugopala (personal communication 1980). 66. possessing an esteemed status (Arokiaswami 1956:19, S t e i n 1980:113, 114, 135, 193). The V e l a r , as a p o t t e r caste c l o s e l y a s s ociated w i t h landowners and wi t h the centers of ancient kingdoms, may have adopted t h i s t i t l e as part of t h e i r c l a i m to an ancient h e r i t a g e . The V e l a r f u r t h e r d i v i d e themselves i n t o three s e c t i o n s named a f t e r regions dominated by the great Tamil kingdoms of c l a s s i c a l times: The Cola of the c e n t r a l Coromandel p l a i n and K a v e r i b a s i n , the Cera to the west (and of t e n d i f f i c u l t to s p e c i f y but i n reference to the V e l a r , the f a r southern region of Tamil Natu), and the Pantiya throughout the c e n t r a l - s o u t h e r n c o a s t a l region but centered i n the V a i k a i River b a s i n . The d i v i s i o n s may be more complex. Behura and Saraswati c l a i m that "Vehlars" are d i v i d e d i n t o " f i v e mating groups: Cera; Chola; Pandy; C h o l i a r ; and Koshar" (1966:178). These may be f u r t h e r separated according to p a r t i c u l a r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , f o r example, c e r t a i n C h r i s t i a n p o t t e r s of Tanjavur D i s t r i c t c a l l themselves " K i r a s t a V e h lar" (Behura 1964:19). P r e f i x i n g a caste t i t l e with the name of a t r a d i t i o n a l r e gion i s widespread among other p o t t e r castes as w e l l . U t a i y a r p o t t e r s of Konku Natu, another t r a d i t i o n a l region of Tamil Natu, c a l l themselves Konku U t a i y a r (Beck 1972). According to S r i d a r a n , some p o t t e r communities other than Velar use r e g i o n a l t i t l e s : "Konkar, C o l i y a v a r , P a n t i y a r , and f o r Telegu p o t t e r s , Vatukar ("northerners")" (1979:3). There i s minimal contact or i n t e r a c t i o n among the various Velar castes and l i t t l e i n d i c a t i o n of any o r g a n i z a t i o n by which they consider themselves a s o c i a l u n i t . A c l a i m that among the Cola, Cera, and Pantiya V e l a r , the Cera are "highest", comes, not s u r p r i s i n g l y , from the Cera This s u b d i v i s i o n i s common among other groups i n Tamil Natu, see f o r an example Kammalan (Thurston 1909 V o l . IV:106). 67. (Census of I n d i a , 1 9 6 1 : v i i - a - v i i i ) . A l l that can s a f e l y be s a i d about status ranking among Velar castes i s that each group considers i t s e l f s u p e r i o r i n i t s own region. P a n t i y a Velar of Pantiya Natu, f o r example, have very l i t t l e to do w i t h p o t t e r s of other castes who have s e t t l e d i n the r e g i o n , and tend to l a b e l them a l l as some v a r i e t y of Ve l a r . One Pantiya Velar group near Maturai r e f e r s to sc a t t e r e d groups of p o t t e r s who l i v e nearby and a large community on the other side of Maturai as "Ceran V e l a r " ; a c t u a l l y they c a l l them "Chairman". These other p o t t e r s r e f e r to themselves as C e t t i y a r . The Pan t i y a Velar of Arappalaiyam c a l l one small p o t t e r group who l i v e near t h e i r v i l l a g e " C i t t i V e l a r " a f t e r small f e s t i v a l lamps ( c i t t i ) which, with small pots, are a l l they are considered capable of making. Pa n t i y a Velar o f t e n g e n e r a l i z e about other p o t t e r castes by c a l l i n g them "Cakkaram V e l a r " , cakkaram being the la r g e c a r t - l i k e wheel they use. "Chairman" and " C i t t i " may be terms used to poke fun at these more recent migrants who do, to some extent, compete with the Pantiya Velar f o r cash s a l e s of pots.^ A caste or s e c t i o n of a caste may a s s o c i a t e i t s e l f with the t r a d i t i o n of an ancient kingdom and yet not l i v e w i t h i n i t s t r a d i t i o n a l boundaries. For example, we f i n d groups of Cola Velar i n Maturai D i s t r i c t (Pantiya Natu) and Kannyakumari D i s t r i c t (Cera Natu) as w e l l as i n Tanjavur D i s t r i c t (Cola Natu) (Behura 1964). The a s s o c i a t i o n of the caste with a region i s nonetheless a c e n t r a l feature of i d e n t i t y f o r most p o t t e r s , and as we s h a l l I t i s u n l i k e l y that t h i s phenomenon i s l i m i t e d to p o t t e r s . The lack of s o c i a l contact between castes w i t h the same occupational s p e c i a l t y and t h e i r sparse knowledge of one another has been n o t i c e d elsewhere i n South I n d i a (Beck 1979:108). 68. see, i t i s the expression of the a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h a t e r r i t o r y and u l t i m a t e l y w i t h the earth of that t e r r i t o r y which forms a c r u c i a l part of the p o t t e r ' s c r a f t . (d) The Caste and i t s Region The Pantiya V e l a r are a large p o t t e r caste of southern Tamil Natu. As a group they are e a s i l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d from other Tamil p o t t e r castes i n the region by t h e i r use of the small d i s c - t y p e p o t t e r ' s wheel as opposed to g the more common large c a r t - t y p e wheel. Other aspects of Pan t i y a Velar p o t t e r y technology are as d i s t i n c t i v e but have r a r e l y been described, p a r t l y because l i t t l e of t h e i r p o t t e r y work i s c a r r i e d out i n p u b l i c view. This c h a r a c t e r i s t i c , coupled with t h e i r image making and r o l e as p r i e s t s i n the r u r a l r e l i g i o u s system may account f o r the assumption of previous observers that Velar are " p o t t e r - p r i e s t s " i n co n t r a s t to "ordinary p o t t e r s " (Dumont 1957:322, Biardeau 1971:33, Reiniche 1979:8, 119). Pantiya Velar are proud of what they consider t h e i r dominant p o s i t i o n among other p o t t e r castes i n the region and t h e i r status as o r i g i n a l i n h a b i t a n t s . P a n t i y a Natu includes much of the modern d i s t r i c t s of Maturai, Ramanatapuram, and T i r u n e l v e l i , the core being the area between the V a i k a i and Tamiraparani R i v e r s . This region shares with Cola Natu a t r a d i t i o n i n c l a s s i c a l a n t i q u i t y and a c i v i l i z a t i o n which probably goes back to the f o u r t h century B.C., and which drew on i n f l u e n c e s of the e a r l y kingdoms of North I n d i a , S r i Lanka and beyond (Maloney 1970:603, S t e i n 1980:299). The h i s t o r i c a l l y documented Pantiya l i n e of kings emerged at the end of the s i x t h century A.D. and continued to r u l e u n t i l the Muslim i n c u r s i o n s of the The small wheel i s a l s o used by some other groups of Velar and some U t a i y a r . 69. e a r l y fourteenth century. There were, during these c e n t u r i e s , periods of wide-spread Pantiya power, as w e l l as defeat and e x i l e , yet even during the height of power of t h e i r arch r i v a l s , the Cola, (tenth-eleventh c e n t u r i e s ) , the Pantiyan region was only p a r t l y subdued ( S h a s t r i 1929:100). Many people i n the region take p r i d e i n t h i s r e g a l period and t h e i r o r a l h i s t o r y and mythology as w e l l as points of reference such as temples and shrines r e f e r to the Pantiyan h e r i t a g e . Also important to the s e l f image of the Velar and other r e s i d e n t s of Pantiya Natu i s the h i s t o r i c a l legacy of the Nayaks, powerful c h i e f s who r u l e d much of the region from the l a t e fourteenth to seventeenth century. O r i g i n a t i n g as agents of the Hindu Vijayanagara kings but becoming p r o g r e s s i v e l y autonomous, the Nayaks i n i t i a t e d t r a d i t i o n s of a r c h i t e c t u r e and r e l i g i o u s p r a c t i c e , and brought s p e c i a l i z e d groups of people to the re g i o n , i n c l u d i n g many types of craftsmen, who helped to shape the character of the region. The most important Nayak r u l e r was T i r u m a l a i (1623-1659), whose r u l e i s a common poin t of reference among Velar and other castes of Pantiya Natu when d i s c u s s i n g the h i s t o r y and c o n s o l i d a t i o n of t h e i r r i g h t s and p r i v i l e g e s . Throughout much of the h i s t o r y of the re g i o n , l a r g e t r a c t s of f e r t i l e land were c o n t r o l l e d by a g r i c u l t u r a l i s t s known by the caste t i t l e , V e l l a l a r . Forms of t r i b u t e , o f t e n r i t u a l i n nature, were extended to c e n t r a l points of a u t h o r i t y and large assemblies of important men such as those i n powerful v i l l a g e s dominated by Brahmans (Brahmadeva), maintained l i n k s with the countryside. To a large extent, nonetheless, s o c i e t y was organized i n t o " r e l a t i v e l y i s o l a t e d , l o c a l l y o r i e n t e d networks of r e l a t i o n s among corporate groups and a s s o c i a t i o n s " ( S t e i n 1980:81). Although d e t a i l s of the nature of these r e l a t i o n s changed i n some respects over time, and e s p e c i a l l y since 70. the massive land tenure r e - o r g a n i z a t i o n under B r i t i s h r u l e , the people of the region s t i l l make frequent r e f e r e n c e , e s p e c i a l l y i n t h e i r mythology and ceremonial p r a c t i c e s , to r e l a t i o n s forged i n these l o c a l s e t t i n g s . One focus of r e g i o n a l power and the s i n g l e most important center p o l i t i c a l l y and r e l i g i o u s l y f o r the people of Pantiya Natu throughout i t s h i s t o r y has been the c i t y of Maturai. Popular i n Tamil mythology, Maturai i s described as the " i n d e s t r u c t i b l e center of the u n i v e r s e , a s i t e of c r e a t i o n and home of Tamil poetry" l i n k e d by a p e r s i s t e n t t r a d i t i o n to the " f i r s t f l o w e r i n g of Tamil c u l t u r e " (Shulman 1980:74). The present Maturai (Utta r a Maturai) i s b e l i e v e d by people of the region to be the l a t e s t of three great c u l t u r a l c a p i t a l s , the f i r s t two, south (ten) Maturai and Kapatapuram having been inundated by the sea. Each i s known f o r an academy of poets (Maloney 1970:612). A r c h a e o l o g i c a l evidence i n d i c a t e s that Maturai was a r e l i g i o u s and l i t e r a r y center by the second or t h i r d century B.C. (Maloney 1976:21) and i t has r e t a i n e d i t s r e p u t a t i o n as a center of Tamil c u l t u r e up to the present. So c e n t r a l was the c i t y of Maturai to the r u l e r s and people of Pantiya Natu that during some periods of i t s h i s t o r y the e n t i r e region became known as the "Maturai Country" (Nelson 1898, Rajayyan 1974) . Today Maturai i s the second l a r g e s t c i t y i n the s t a t e a f t e r the c a p i t a l , Madras. S i t u a t e d 345 miles south of Madras, Maturai forms the a d m i n i s t r a t i v e , business and t r a n s p o r t a t i o n center of the southern part of the s t a t e . The municipal core p o p u l a t i o n of over 550,000, or 711,500 i n c l u d i n g suburban populations (1971 census), i s augmented by a constant stream of p i l g r i m s and t o u r i s t s , drawn to the c i t y by the great temple of M i n a t c i Cuntaresvara. During the annual f e s t i v a l s , people of surrounding v i l l a g e s of Pantiya Natu f l o o d the s t r e e t s of the c i t y and c l a i m t h e i r r i g h t s to honour the d e i t i e s . Among these people are the P a n t i y a V e l a r . (e) The Subcaste and i t s T e r r i t o r y W i t h i n the P a n t i y a Velar caste there e x i s t l a r g e l y endogamous groups whose members are spread throughout a number of v i l l a g e s w i t h i n a l i m i t e d t e r r i t o r y . This study r e l i e s to a large extent on data c o l l e c t e d from people of one such group l i v i n g i n the Maturai area. The group i t s e l f i s not named. When a V e l a r i s asked "what i s your group?" he or she w i l l u s u a l l y r e p l y "Pantiya V e l a r " . What t h i s r e f e r s to i s not a l l P a n t i y a Velar but only that s e l e c t group w i t h i n which marriage i s considered a p o s s i b i l i t y For the purposes of t h i s study I w i l l f o l l o w the convention e s t a b l i s h e d f o r South India by Dumont (1957) and f o l l o w the major a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l studies of the region (Beck 1972, M o f f a t t 1979) i n d e s c r i b i n g t h i s group as a subcaste. From t h i s p o i n t , any reference to the Velar or P a n t i y a V e l a r , unless otherwise s p e c i f i e d , w i l l r e f e r to the p a r t i c u l a r subcaste of the Maturai r e g i o n . No s i n g l e Velar could s p e c i f y the s i z e of the subcaste or the exact number of v i l l a g e s i n which members r e s i d e , although everyone could devise a l i s t of v i l l a g e s i n which they had r e l a t i o n s , where members of t h e i r lineage r e s i d e d , or from where and to where marriages took place. By superimposing dozens of these l i s t s , and checking them against genealogies, i t was p o s s i b l e to a r r i v e at a rough summary of v i l l a g e s i n which marriages had taken place. With t h i s summary, and evidence derived from p a r t i c u l a r f e s t i v a l s and i n s t i t u t i o n s which have importance to the subcaste as a whole, i t could be concluded that the core of the endogamous group l i v e s i n See comments by M a r r i o t t and Inden (1973) and Beck (1979:97). 72. . . . . > . . i , i . r , i , . . « , < , . i TtTL SKI Photograph 1 The p o t t e r ' s work area of one of the many small v i l l a g e s i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , f e a t u r i n g d r y i n g and completed pots, raw m a t e r i a l s d r y i n g , and f u e l stacked f o r f i r i n g . - V a y a l c e r i V i l l a g e 73. c l u s t e r of approximately forty-two v i l l a g e s . From personal v i s i t s to Velar i n twenty-nine of these v i l l a g e s and discussions with people who l i v e d i n most of the others, i t appeared that the subcaste population consisted of approximately 440 households or j u s t less than two thousand p e o p l e . ^ The t e r r i t o r y i n which the forty-two v i l l a g e s are located was referred to as a natu. As early as the Cola period natu r e f e r r e d to a g r i c u l t u r a l land and designated, according to Stein, a "micro region and i t s assembly" (1980:90). It was at that time a fundamentally independent and self-governing unit i n many regions of South India (Beck 1979:25). Throughout much of South Indian h i s t o r y , the natu has been recognized as the l o c a l unit of greatest consequence, both " s o c i o l o g i c a l l y and e c o l o g i c a l l y " (Stein 1980:80). As we have seen, natu has subsequently come to designate t e r r i t o r i a l units of various size and s p e c i f i c i t y , f o r example Tamil Natu (the land of the Tamils), and Pantiya Natu (the land of the Pantiyas). At i t s most s p e c i f i c , natu may be used by a subcaste to describe the t r a d i t i o n a l region inhabited by i t s members.^ In each case, the natu i s v i s u a l i z e d from the inside and so i s better defined i n terms of i t s units or constituents, that i s , the v i l l a g e s and people who'live there, rather than by i t s boundaries. Today, most Velar The si z e and s p a t i a l d i s t r i b u t i o n of subcaste populations i n South India vary considerably according to caste and region. Beck found that i n the Coimbatore region, one subcaste was as large as 75,000 people spread over a vast region (Konku Kavuntar). Another consisted of several hundred f a m i l i e s concentrated i n ju s t four v i l l a g e s (Cenkuntam Mutaliyar). Beck was able to locate empirical boundaries for the Okaccanti Pantaram, a subcaste of approximately three thousand people with members l i v i n g i n 105 v i l l a g e s (Beck 1979:96, 97, 100). See also Montgomery (1977). For an example see Dumont (1957:153). 74. know the t e r r i t o r y of t h e i r subcaste only as Pantiya Natu and, as i n the case of the subcaste i t s e l f , cannot name i t more s p e c i f i c a l l y . There were, however, two other more s p e c i f i c names which were occa s i o n a l l y used by the Velar with reference to t h e i r subcaste t e r r i t o r y , e s p e c i a l l y during marriages. These were Maturai Natu and Vaikaikkarai (on the bank of the 12 Vaikai) Natu. There was l i t t l e consensus among Velar as to which subcaste v i l l a g e s were located i n which natu but there was a general understanding that those around the c i t y of Maturai could be grouped under i t s name and those to the south and east were part of the Vaikai Natu. Beyond t h i s , there was l i t t l e d i s t i n c t i o n made between v i l l a g e s or f a m i l i e s of these t e r r i t o r i e s and there existed deep marriage l i n k s among people from throughout the two t e r r i t o r i e s . I t seems evident that i f once separate, these two t e r r i t o r i a l groups have merged and are considered a single natu. Map 1 i l l u s t r a t e s the extent of Maturai/Vaikaikkarai Natu based on the l o c a t i o n of the forty-two v i l l a g e s . The t e r r i t o r y extends from northwest of Maturai i n a south-easterly d i r e c t i o n following the course of the Vaikai River to a point near Manamaturai. In no place does i t extend beyond a few miles on either side of the r i v e r . The v i l l a g e s constitute a t e r r i t o r y approximately t h i r t y miles long and nine miles wide. One reason, perhaps, why Velar hesitate to s t r i c t l y delineate what I have termed the subcaste i s that marriages do occasionally take place with people l i v i n g beyond t h i s group, and t h i s seems a well-established 12 A l i s t , purportedly taken from an i n s c r i p t i o n and published i n a Kulalar journal (Kalimuttu Velar 1980:4) gives the names of twenty-five natu-like d i v i s i o n s of the Pantiya Kulala l i n e or race (vamccattarkalin). These include "Maturai" and "Vaiyakkarai" (Vaikaikkarai?) as well as other names commonly seen i n l i s t s of the natu of other castes (eg., Ka, Kavi, Ko). The Velar I know were able to i d e n t i f y the approximate l o c a t i o n of only two of the other natu. practice,, at l e a s t f o r the past four generations. In the large Velar • community of Arappalaiyam, for example, there are women who have married i n from twenty v i l l a g e s outside the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . Of these, most come from v i l l a g e s near the boundary of the t e r r i t o r y and represent the continuation of well-established a l l i a n c e s . There are long-standing marriage l i n k s between a few Arappalaiyam Velar f a m i l i e s and those of Manamaturai where Arappalaiyam Velar buy pots for resale i n Maturai. There i s a very large and well known community of Pantiya Velar there, and they are d e f i n i t e l y of another subcaste. Many Velar comment that, u n t i l recently, a l l marriages took place within the subcaste t e r r i t o r y but that now contact i s being made with ? 'unknown' people. This i s a source of concern for Velar, who l i k e many other groups of people i n South India, tend to f e e l that a p r o h i b i t i o n against mixing with 'outsiders' preserves the p u r i t y of the subcaste. The increase i n outside marriages was a t t r i b u t e d to a lack of d i s c i p l i n e and breakdown of order within the group. Increasing urbanization, wealth, and education 13 were also indicated. As for marriage with people of other castes, these too have occurred, i f very infrequently. Five such marriages during the l a s t few decades of which I became aware were a l l the r e s u l t of some desperate circumstance, a l l were second marriages, and although two ended i n tragedy, the others brought happiness and those involved l i v e r e l a t i v e l y normal l i v e s . It seems that although marriage within the subcaste t e r r i t o r y An example i s the case of a boy from a family of the subcaste who recently married a g i r l from Madras, something unheard of previously. The g i r l , although from a potter family, was not a Pantiya Velar, much less one of the subcaste. People were nonetheless sympathetic. The boy i s the f i r s t M.A. graduate of the subcaste and there was not even a g i r l of B.A. standing a v a i l a b l e for him. People asked "who could he marry here who could s a t i s f y him?" continues to be the i d e a l , there has always been some f l e x i b i l i t y . The forty-two v i l l a g e s and t h e i r Velar inhabitants form only the core of the endogamous group. An aspect of the formal organization of the subcaste i s evident during the annual f e s t i v a l s of C i t t i r a i (April/May). On one day i n p a r t i c u l a r , hundreds of Velar from throughout the subcaste t e r r i t o r y gather at a p i l l a r e d stone h a l l (mantapam) to witness the great procession of the god Alakar (a form of Visnu) as he approaches Maturai from hi s temple twelve miles to 14 the north. The h a l l i s located at a major i n t e r s e c t i o n next to Korippalaiyam v i l l a g e , j u s t across the r i v e r from the northerly entrance to the c i t y core, and on the main procession route. Like many other subcastes who maintain h a l l s on the procession route, the Velar annually' finance a 'halt' and worship (mantapappati) of the deity at t h e i r h a l l . ^ Although the actual h a l t takes place i n a matter of seconds, the opportunity to experience the deity at close quarters and to o f f e r him honour amidst thousands of spectators provides the most intense and s i g n i f i c a n t public experience for 16 Velar as members of the subcaste. When the procession has passed, food i s prepared and d i s t r i b u t e d to the assembly. The Velar eat together as subcaste members and o f f e r the surplus to the crowds. 14 The entire f e s t i v a l i s described by Hudson 1978. ^Such h a l l s are maintained at major centers of r e l i g i o u s pilgrimage throughout Tamil Natu (see discussion by Appadurai & Breckenridge 1976: 194). Dumont mentions one owned by the K a l l a r at Tiruparankunram (1957: 139). There are dozens along the Alakar K o y i l Road leading into Maturai and many more throughout the c i t y . "^The Velar present Alakar with an i r o n s t i c k (cuttukkol) and a flower garland. 78. The h a l l dominates a piece of property which includes a b u i l d i n g with several rooms, storage areas, and a large enclosed courtyard with small shrines arranged around the perimeter. This courtyard i s , i n theory, a place for a l l Velar of the subcaste to meet and t a l k , although for most of the year i t i s rented to outsiders. The yard i s c a l l e d the 'common place' (matam) of the saint (cuvamikal) Mayanti of Kattikulam. This Velar holy man (1860-1930), born i n the small v i l l a g e of Kattikulam to the south of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , i s said to have i n i t i a t e d the a c q u i s i t i o n of the property and overseen i t s development, probably with the assistance of subcaste funds and wealthy patrons. The courtyard i s the s i t e of an annual meeting of subcaste leaders held one or two days a f t e r the Alakar f e s t i v a l . This great assembly (makacapai kuttam)is t r a d i t i o n a l l y composed of representatives of twenty-six v i l l a g e s of Maturai Natu and twenty-seven v i l l a g e s of Vaikaikkarai Natu. These v i l l a g e s are l i s t e d on a painted sign hung over the entrance to the courtyard. Of these f i f t y - t h r e e named v i l l a g e s , I was able to i d e n t i f y representatives of about t h i r t y among the men assembled, although people did come and go. As described above (page 73) I was f i n a l l y able to confirm the presence of Velar of the subcaste i n only forty-two v i l l a g e s . Of the other eleven v i l l a g e s l i s t e d at the courtyard i t was possible to e s t a b l i s h that some had been abandoned by Velar. About the others I remain unsure. The assembly meeting was chaired by a manager or 'custodian of the property' (nirvakam), backed by a c o u n c i l of eleven, a l l of whom are elected Some writers on South Indian s o c i a l organization have pointed to the fo r m a l i s t nature of numbers of v i l l a g e s enumerated i n a t r a d i t i o n a l subcaste t e r r i t o r y (Beck 1979:95). In a more general sense, Dumont maintains that the importance of having a " c o r r e c t " l i s t i s greater than the exact nature of i t s contents (1957:148). 79. Photograph 2 The annual "great assembly" of r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s from v i l l a g e s i n the M a t u r a i / V a i k a i k k a r a i Natu, the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . - Korippalaiyam. 80. annually. These are senior men of the subcaste of whom most are prosperous and some are educated to highschool l e v e l . Both the present manager and h i s predecessor are very highly respected within the subcaste. The meeting began with a d i s t r i b u t i o n of b e t e l , the t r a d i t i o n a l greeting of s o l i d a r i t y and i n i t i a t i o n of important events, and proceeded with the e l e c t i o n of new o f f i c e r s . The assembly dealt with the year's business i n a single day, the major item being a lengthy statement of accounts for the property, the substantial r e n t a l income from tenants of the upstairs rooms and from the cement company which occupies the h a l l f o r most of the year. Most of the revenue goes toward the f e s t i v a l c e l e b r a t i o n , but some i s used for maintenance and investment, and there i s constant suspicion among the representatives 18 that i t i s being i n c o r r e c t l y used. At the 1980 assembly meeting, p e t i t i o n s to the c i t y corporation regarding the property's use and taxation were drawn up. The mantapam and property are j o i n t l y owned by a l l members of the subcaste and the celebration of the f e s t i v a l and assembly meeting are the . most important expression of the s o l i d a r i t y and i n t e g r i t y of t h i s group. It i s not clear what r o l e the subcaste assembly played i n regulating rules of conduct and s e t t l i n g disputes. Most of these functions are now and have i n the recent past been handled as much as possible at the l e v e l of the lineage, or i n the case of large communities of Velar l i k e at Arappalaiyam v i l l a g e , by a v i l l a g e community assembly. Contentious issues are r a i s e d , however, and the assembly r u l i n g has a considerable force i n issues of I t was i n t h i s context that I heard comments i n d i c a t i n g a continuing consciousness of a d i s t i n c t i o n between the two natu. A man from Arappalaiyam (to the north, Maturai Natu) good-naturedly accused one from V a y a l c e r i ( i n the f a r south, Vaikaikkarai Natu), "you southern fellows are so expert at embezzlement". 81. special importance to the e n t i r e subcaste. A frequently used example occurred "about f i f t y years ago", when a very large community of Velar l i v i n g to the north of Maturai i s said to have been forced out of the subcaste and prevented from c o l l e c t i n g i t s share of the revenue from the h a l l and property at Korippalaiyam. This was punishment for an i n f r a c t i o n involving the remarriage of a widow. There has been l i t t l e contact with t h i s community since and as f a r as Velar of Arappalaiyam are concerned, i t i s now as i f they did not e x i s t . In t h i s way the decisions of the subcaste assembly may have influenced the extent of the natu t e r r i t o r y and c o n s t i t u t i o n of the subcaste. A second event which involves the subcaste as a whole also owes i t s i n i t i a t i o n to the saint Kattikulam Mayanti. This i s also a processional f e s t i v a l to the god Alakar, but one which originates at Tirukutalmalai next to the Murukan pilgrimage at Tiruparankunram (to the southwest of Maturai) and one which i s celebrated p r i m a r i l y by Velar. Rather than drawing members of the subcaste together at a single point, t h i s f e s t i v a l c i r c u l a t e s to a l l the major subcaste v i l l a g e s i n succession during the month of A t i (June/ J u l y ) . The image i s c a r r i e d on a palanquin from v i l l a g e to v i l l a g e , spending a night at each place so that during the course of a month, the e n t i r e subcaste t e r r i t o r y has been circumscribed. At each v i l l a g e contributions are s o l i c i t e d from Velar households toward maintaining the long f e s t i v a l procession and for providing the o f f e r i n g s , flower garlands, sandal, g i f t s and food required to celebrate the h a l t i n t h e i r own v i l l a g e . In t h i s way the god's journey symbolically defines the boundaries of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y and the p a r t i c i p a t i o n of the members of the group at each place where they l i v e l i n k s them together through the b l e s s i n g of the deity, Lord Alakar. 82. The annual f e s t i v a l s described above are the two times of year when the e n t i r e Velar subcaste unites i n a co-operative venture. The choice by the Velar of f e s t i v a l s i n honour of Visnu as Lord Alakar i s , as w i l l become apparent, c l o s e l y t i e d to t h e i r c r a f t . Lord Alakar i s very c l o s e l y r e l a t e d , i n h i s dark and c h i e f l y demeanor, to the nature of h i s devotees, and through the r i t u a l s that surround h i s worship, to the l o c a l d e i t i e s f o r whom the Velar make images and work as p r i e s t s . The Velar, as a subcaste, are associated both h i s t o r i c a l l y and occupationally with both the temples at which the forms of Lord Alakar of the two f e s t i v a l s reside. In a wider s o c i a l perspective, the f i r s t f e s t i v a l , of C i t t i r a i , during which the Velar are only one of a multitude of groups who gather to celebrate and worship, exemplifies the tendency of a l l l o c a l castes of Pantiya Natu, and e s p e c i a l l y those who consider themselves to be o r i g i n a l inhabitants, to l i n k themselves to the h i s t o r y and pagentry of the region. By p a r t i c i p a t i n g , the Velar are claiming an honour which they consider part of t h e i r c o l l e c t i v e b i r t h r i g h t , that i s , to be among the castes to o f f e r d i r e c t worship to (and receive d i r e c t benefit from) one of the region's major d e i t i e s . In t h i s multi-caste f e s t i v a l context, the Velar project the image of a large and u n i f i e d group worthy of consideration by a great deity. The second f e s t i v a l , which i s l a r g e l y organized and patronized by the Velar themselves, exemplifies a tendency which i s perhaps even more c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the Velar, that i s , to p a r t i c i p a t e i n r i t u a l events over which they can exercise c o n t r o l , and from which the various Velar communities within the subcaste can benefit without a c t u a l l y having to get together. The second Alakar f e s t i v a l sends the deity around to each v i l l a g e community of the subcaste i n turn, rather than n e c e s s i t a t i n g the communities to assemble. For the Velar, with t h e i r work so c l o s e l y t i e d to 83. p a r t i c u l a r areas within the subcaste t e r r i t o r y and supervised almost e x c l u s i v e l y through t i g h t l y defined lineages, getting together as a subcaste once a year i s quite s u f f i c i e n t . The r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f or the r i t u a l supervision of Velar p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n both the f e s t i v a l s and for conducting a l l major subcaste l e v e l r i t u a l s l i e s with the subcaste p r i e s t or v a t t i y a r . This s p e c i a l i s t prepares and administers the c r u c i a l r i t u a l s which mark stages of infancy and youth, puberty, marriage and death. His knowledge and s k i l l are superior to that of the common Velar p r i e s t (pucari) and, unlike the common p r i e s t ' s s k i l l s , they are d i r e c t e d e x c l u s i v e l y toward the needs of the subcaste group. It has been noted by others that some potter castes have t h e i r own p r i e s t s while others employ Brahmans (Thurston 1909 Vol. IV:188, Behura & Saraswati 1966:177), and they have assumed that t h i s i s because the former are of a very low status and are consequently refused Brahman service. Velar deny any need or desire for Brahman p r i e s t s and disdain other ( i . e . , non-Velar) potter castes who employ them, pointing to the s i m i l a r i t y of the Velar v a t t i y a r system to that of Brahmans, as well as to the A c a r i and 19 Cettiyar castes. The term v a t t i y a r i s commonly used today to mean "teacher", and more s p e c i f i c a l l y school teacher, but also has wider connotations of "learned person" which are appropriate to the p o s i t i o n under consideration. The Velar consider the most outstanding s k i l l of the V a t t i y a r to be h i s a b i l i t y to r e c i t e Sanskrit verses (slokhas) which accompany various l i f e cycle The one exception i s the Velar's use of a Brahman's services for a b r i e f part of the funeral ceremony (see page 86). 84. 20 r i t u a l s . It i s apparent that his knowledge of the correct procedure for complex l i f e cycle r i t e s , which are often performed amid a frenzy of interruptions, arguments and excitement, i s every b i t as e s s e n t i a l . This knowledge i s acquired by a process of apprenticeship to an established v a t t i y a r . A novice i s often accepted because of h i s enthusiasm and i n t e r e s t rather than for any family or lineage r e l a t i o n s h i p . A boy who s i t s q u i e t l y by the ceremonial p a v i l l i o n (pantal) and i s quick to a s s i s t the v a t t i y a r with errands may be recognized as a s u i t a b l e p u p i l . Some pupils learn informally and are simply appreciated f o r being useful and knowledgeable assistants throughout t h e i r l i v e s and for helping out at ceremonies for close r e l a t i v e s and f i l l i n g i n where needed. Others leave t h e i r v i l l a g e to l i v e with a v a t t i y a r , as i n the case of two young v a t t i y a r who now serve the 21 subcaste. At the conclusion of the apprenticeship, a ceremony of bathing 22 the v a t t i y a r with holy water from a pot ( v a t t i y a r kumpapicekam) i s performed, and the apprentice i s i n i t i a t e d into the group of f u l l - f l e d g e d practioners. A recent enactment of t h i s ceremony involved the novice and hi s wife being seated together on a platform as done for marriage and having holy water poured over them by senior v a t t i y a r . At the death of a v a t t i y a r , i t was customary to c a l l a group of v a t t i y a r and arrange s p e c i a l worship i n 20 On the other hand, I have heard good-natured joking about how l i t t l e a v a t t i y a r understands of the Sanskrit he r e c i t e s . During a delay i n a Velar wedding for example, someone drew my attention to the f a c t that the v a t t i y a r was nervously repeating the same phrase. None of the Velar understand Sanskrit. I t i s l i k e l y that very few Brahmans know the meaning of a l l the verses they r e c i t e e i t h e r (Ingalls 1959:4). 21 One spent four and the other six months i n the constant company of a senior v a t t i y a r . Apprenticeship on a part-time basis usually continues f o r years. 22 Compare t h i s to a ceremony performed for images (page 186). 85. the presence of a large number of pots of holy water ( s i x t y or 108) which represent an assembly of d e i t i e s . The body was prepared i n the usual manner, but a f t e r the cremation, s p e c i a l worship was performed c o n t i n u o u s l y f o r f o r t y - e i g h t days. This s p e c i a l f u n e r a l ceremony i s no longer w i d e l y p r a c t i c e d . For a V e l a r , a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h a v a t t i y a r o f t e n begins j u s t t h i r t y days a f t e r b i r t h when he i s c a l l e d by the parents to the c h i l d ' s name g i v i n g ceremony (peyar v a i t t a l ) . The v a t t i y a r must be the f i r s t to u t t e r the name i n the presence of the c h i l d ' s l i n e a g e d e i t y ( k u l a teyvam). The 24 parents suggest the name through r i t u a l i z e d h i n t i n g and prompting. The v a t t i y a r may again be c a l l e d f o r the earboring ceremony (katu k u t t u t a l ) during which a c h i l d r e c e i v e s a f i r s t set of e a r r i n g s and f i r s t h a i r c u t (muti e t u t t a l ) . These ceremonies u s u a l l y take place simultaneously at about one year of age (but can be done at up to f i v e or s i x years of age). The ceremonies r e f e r r e d to so f a r apply to both g i r l s and boys, but a boy u s u a l l y i n s p i r e s a bigger c e l e b r a t i o n as he w i l l c a r r y on the name and r i g h t s of th e l i n e a g e . The c o n t r i b u t i o n of the maternal r e l a t i o n s , important i n a l l Velar l i f e c y c l e c e l e b r a t i o n s , i s e s p e c i a l l y evident i n these r i t e s of childhood and i t i s the c h i l d ' s mother's brother ( t a y maman) who holds The p a r t i c i p a t i o n of man and w i f e i n the i n i t i a t i o n i s a l s o an important theme i n the caste p r i e s t h o o d i n a neighbouring r e g i o n of Tamil Natu, as i n wider t r a d i t i o n s of p r i e s t h o o d (Beck, personal communication). Funeral r i t e s i n the presence of an assembly of gods represented by pots i s a l s o standard procedure i n f u n e r a l s of p r i e s t s . I f the name i s "Muttaiyacami", the parents w i l l say " i t s l i k e the jewel of the sea shore" and the v a t t i y a r w i l l answer "muttai" ( p e a r l ) . The parents w i l l then say " i t s l i k e the god i n our temple" and the v a t t i y a r w i l l answer "cami" (god). In t h i s way the name i s revealed p u b l i c l y by the v a t t i y a r . 86. 25 the c h i l d during the ceremonies and o f f e r s a goat to be s a c r i f i c e d . The v a t t i y a r i n i t i a t e s a Velar boy into maturity by conferring on him, at age ten to twelve, the f i r s t set of three strands for h i s sacred thread (punul). He ushers the youth through manhood by presenting three more strands at marriage and a l a s t set of three on the occasion of the 26 b i r t h of the young man's f i r s t c h i l d . For g i r l s , the c r u c i a l and dangerous time of f i r s t menses i s marked by elaborate ceremonies, usually summarized as catanku, many of which are supervised by the v a t t i y a r . During marriage the v a t t i y a r proclaims and gives sanction to the a l l i a n c e which i s the s o c i a l foundation of subcaste l i f e . At funerals he ceremonially severs the t i e of the soul of the deceased to the body and 27 charts a path which the r e l a t i v e s can follow to overcome death p o l l u t i o n . At these major events, i t i s not unusual to have two or even three v a t t i y a r i n attendance. Among the Velar, the v a t t i y a r also p e r i o d i c a l l y leads the lineage pucari (common p r i e s t s ) i n s p e c i a l f e s t i v a l s , f o r example, those during which a neglected lineage temple i s renovated and reactivated. This requires a kumpapicekam, symbolically t r a n s f e r r i n g the d e i t i e s from the images to 25 In contrast to Behura & Saraswati's assertion that "among the Velar, i t i s the Wadiyar... who performs the s a c r i f i c i a l r i t e and slaughters the animal" (1966:184), among the Velar today t h i s i s seldom the case. The v a t t i y a r supervises the r i t e but i t i s a s p e c i a l i s t of another caste, usually a farm labourer who a c t u a l l y dispatches the animal. 26 More often today the e n t i r e nine strands are conferred j u s t before marriage, or at some other auspicious function, for example, a s i s t e r ' s marriage. 27 The only time when a Velar w i l l employ a Brahman p r i e s t i s during the karumati, an elaborate ceremony sixteen days a f t e r a death. If the deceased i s male, i t involves g i f t exchange between r e l a t i v e s , c u t t i n g the widow's marriage necklace, and making food o f f e r i n g s to the deceased and other ancestors. - Here the v a t t i y a r supervises u n t i l the f i n a l stage of food o f f e r i n g , at which a Brahman takes over. The Brahman alone has r i t u a l access to the realm i n which ancestors are l a i d to r e s t . 87. clay pots and then r e i n s t a l l i n g them, making of f e r i n g s to a sacred f i r e , and other r i t u a l s f o r which, among Velar, a v a t t i y a r alone i s capable. The v a t t i y a r i s paid for h i s services by the f a m i l i e s or lineages of the subcaste for whom the r i t u a l s are performed. Payments are not f i x e d but vary with ithe length and complexity of the service and the affluence of the sponsor. For most active senior v a t t i y a r , payments are s u f f i c i e n t to support a family. Others require a d d i t i o n a l means, and r e t a i n , f or example, temple p r i e s t duties as w e l l . R i t u a l payment to the V a t t i y a r includes coins placed i n the bottom of pots of holy water (kumpakanikai), towels ( t u n i ) , or body cloths ( v e t t i ) a l l of which are common payments to r i t u a l s p e c i a l i s t s i n South India. V a t t i y a r are expected to uphold the t r a d i t i o n a l dress and conduct codes of the Velar and so maintain a look and manner which exemplifies the conservative and correct approach i n the minds of most people. He can be recognized by the neatly shaved head, earrings and elaborately t i e d dhoti (body c l o t h ) , a s t y l e which u n t i l about 1940 was followed by a l l male Velar, but i s now out of fashion. For s p e c i a l events, v a t t i y a r often wear a waist sash of b r i g h t l y coloured material, which i s usually a g i f t from c l i e n t s . Among the Maturai/Vaikaikkarai Natu Velar today, there are at l e a s t s i x v a t t i y a r who are i n demand and work r e g u l a r l y . Chief among these i s C e l l a V a t t i y a r of Tirukkutalmalai, a man i n h i s s i x t i e s who i s recognized as senior most and thus most knowledgeable. His status rests on h i s age, experience and personal demeanor. His s p e c i a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f or the a f f a i r s of the natu i s symbolized by h i s residence at and custodianship of the camati or f i n a l r e s t i n g place of Kattikulam Mayanti Cuvamikal, the Velar holy man whose ex p l o i t s drew the subcaste together during the middle 88. of t h i s century. C e l l a V a t t i y a r serves the Velar i n v i l l a g e s throughout the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , but e s p e c i a l l y those i n the Maturai area, often a s s i s t e d by a younger v a t t i y a r of Arappalaiyam whom he trained. Another young student of C e l l a , who l i v e s i n a small v i l l a g e i n the Vaikaikkarai Natu, i s j u s t beginning steady work. Much of that area's work i s done by a senior v a t t i y a r i n Vayalceri v i l l a g e . The major Velar v i l l a g e of V i l a c c e r i i s home of a t h i r d experienced v a t t i y a r . There are times when a well-known v a t t i y a r from an area on the boundary of the natu, or even beyond, w i l l v i s i t the t e r r i t o r y and p a r t i c i p a t e i n some event, but the v a t t i y a r generally know l i t t l e of what goes on beyond the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . Within the subcaste, the v a t t i y a r are usually well-versed i n lineage and family r e l a t i o n s h i p s through t h e i r constant p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the events by which these r e l a t i o n s h i p s are a r t i c u l a t e d and dramatized. The v a t t i y a r must t r y to remain impartial to the competitive and par t i s a n aspects of Velar s o c i a l i n t e r a c t i o n and should i d e a l l y be able to perform services f or any group within the subcaste. Yet becoming a v a t t i y a r does not t o t a l l y preclude being a member of a p a r t i c u l a r lineage, and a family's choice of a v a t t i y a r f o r a p a r t i c u l a r event may be based on a number of kinship considerations. Most v a t t i y a r today are mild-mannered people, and seem genuinely service-oriented. As i n d i v i d u a l s they take pride i n the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of a s s i s t i n g the subcaste i n i t s s o c i a l events. None of the f i v e v a t t i y a r that I knew were o f f i c i o u s or f o r c e f u l but, to the contrary, were l i a b l e to be meekly, co-operative i n deference to over-bearing and over-anxious r e l a t i v e s during the ceremonies. The v a t t i y a r are the highest ranking p r i e s t s involved i n the r i t u a l s of the subcaste. They often supervise the l o c a l p r i e s t s whose r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s are l i m i t e d to l o c a l areas within the subcaste t e r r i t o r y and to s p e c i f i c 89. lineage or v i l l a g e populations. The v a t t i y a r embody the i n t e g r i t y of the subcaste group and t h e i r presence sanctions major l i f e - c y c l e events and r e l i g i o u s f e s t i v a l s . They are the primary r e l i g i o u s s p e c i a l i s t s of the subcaste and are summoned from v i l l a g e to v i l l a g e throughout the t e r r i t o r y . The i n s t i t u t i o n of v a t t i y a r f u l f i l l s the need of the Velar subcaste group for p r i e s t l y supervision of l i f e - c y c l e r i t u a l s and major f e s t i v a l events, a need which many other South Indians f u l f i l l through employing Brahmans. In t h i s way, the Velar control f i r m l y the ceremonial l i f e of t h e i r group, taking pride i n t h e i r s k i l l as r e l i g i o u s s p e c i a l i s t s and maintaining v i g i l a n c e against the perceived threat from Brahmans, who they see as i n t e r l o p e r s and p o t e n t i a l usurpers of t h e i r occupational r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . The Velar do not so much a c t i v e l y refuse the services of Brahmans through claims of s u p e r i o r i t y i n Brahman terms (as do Kammalar artisans,Ratnawira 1909, Thurston 1909 ), as i n s i s t that Brahmans have l i t t l e relevance to Velar needs or to the r e l i g i o u s complex i n which the Velar and t h e i r neighbours are involved. On one' hand, the Velar f e e l capable of providing the f u l l gamut of p r i e s t l y services to t h e i r own people (as Brahmans do), and on the other, t h e i r s p e c i a l r o l e as craftsmen requires a p a r t i c u l a r form of p r i e s t l y service which, the Velar f e e l , Brahmans would not be capable of providing. In h a i r s t y l e , dress, use of Sanskrit phrases, and involvement i n c e r t a i n r i t u a l processes, the v a t t i y a r follow a p r i e s t l y i d e a l f or which the Brahman i s the model i n the minds of most South Indians. Nonetheless, the Velar v a t t i y a r remains a meat-eater, one intimately associated with s a c r i f i c e , and with service to l o c a l d e i t i e s who, by t h e i r nature, preclude Brahman association. The maintenance by the Velar of t h e i r own caste p r i e s t s i s an important part, almost a precondition, of t h e i r r i g h t to 90. serve other castes as f e s t i v a l and temple p r i e s t s . A second type of s p e c i a l i s t among the Velar, the mantiravati, plays a r o l e i n subcaste l i f e which i s l e s s public and predictable than that of the v a t t i y a r . The mantiravati uses sacred s y l l a b l e s (mantiram) i n a c t i v a t i n g a magical power (mantirikam) which may be used f o r e i t h e r good or e v i l . Velar seek out these s p e c i a l i s t s to cure i l l n e s s , e s p e c i a l l y mental disorders, or to bless a house and i t s occupants, but as frequently to i d e n t i f y enemies and to counter t h e i r influence. There are means to remove the e f f e c t s of a s p e l l or the e v i l eye. The mantiravati employs techniques and materials which draw on common Hindu symbolism, f o r example, d i s t r i b u t i n g holy ash, l i g h t i n g camphor or drawing sacred diagrams, but these are combined with secret s k i l l s which tend toward the dark side of the supernatural. The Velar have a reputation i n t h e i r region f o r producing powerful mantiravati and many of the p r a c t i t i o n e r s of t h i s century have become well enough known to b u i l d a following of people from other l o c a l castes. Inevitably, mantiravati come into c o n f l i c t with one another, and such confrontations are a common theme i n s t o r i e s about the past. During the c o n f l i c t s , the adversaries are known to make themselves i n v i s i b l e , erect magical b a r r i e r s , and send normally inanimate objects to attack t h e i r r i v a l s . Some e x p l o i t s of Velar s p e c i a l i s t s involving mantirikam are recounted on page 106. It was'my experience that ordinary people were usually apprehensive about unexpected encounters with a mantiravati, and while o f f e r i n g h o s p i t a l i t y were very anxious about the purpose of the v i s i t . In contrast to the meek v a t t i y a r , who are part of the "establishment" of Velar society, the mantiravati e x i s t on the periphery and are often characterized as being boastful and hot-tempered. Nonetheless, both the s k i l l s of the v a t t i y a r and the mantiravati are to some extent based on q u a l i t i e s which are the b i r t h r i g h t of a l l Velar and an i n t e g r a l part of t h e i r c r a f t , q u a l i t i e s which include the a b i l i t y to approach l o c a l d e i t i e s and to d i r e c t l y s o l i c i t t h e i r co-operation i n human endeavour. (f) A V i l l a g e Community - Arappalaiyam The Velar of Arappalaiyam v i l l a g e constitute the la r g e s t single residence group or community i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . Although the notion of a subcaste "community" i n a single v i l l a g e might not be useful i f applied to a v i l l a g e i n which there were only a few fa m i l i e s of the subcaste, i n Arappalaiyam, the Velar population i s large enough and i t s organization s u f f i c i e n t l y complex to warrant i t s consideration as a s i g n i f i c a n t s o c i a l u n i t . V i r t u a l l y every person i n the subcaste has close r e l a t i o n s here and as a r e s u l t , decisions made i n th i s v i l l a g e community can have far-reaching implications f o r the enti r e subcaste population. By i t s close proximity to the c i t y of Maturai, Arappalaiyam has been a bridge between the t r a d i t i o n a l Velar system of service r e l a t i o n s h i p s with a g r i c u l t u r a l communities and the modern suburban l i f e of mill-work, education, and growing p o l i t i c a l awareness. Yet i t s close a s s o c i a t i o n to the c i t y as an ancient c a p i t a l has also made i t a centre f o r Velar serving prosperous a g r i c u l t u r a l areas near the c i t y and p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n v i t a l and continuously patronized systems of r e l i g i o u s c u l t s and c r a f t work. I w i l l f i r s t b r i e f l y review the r e l a t i o n s h i p s between the Velar and other castes i n Arappalaiyam and then ou t l i n e the i n t e r n a l s o c i a l organization of the Arappalaiyam Velar community i t s e l f . Before turning to r e l a t i o n s h i p s among i t s people, a few things must be said about the s i t u a t i o n and growth of Arappalaiyam as a suburban v i l l a g e . ( i ) The V i l l a g e Arappalaiyam l i e s within the northwest corner of the modern boundary of the c i t y of Maturai (see Map 2). Maps of the c i t y , viewed sequentially over the decades of t h i s century show many such o ld and well established v i l l a g e s on the o u t s k i r t s which, as i n the case of other South Indian c i t i e s l i k e Coimbatore (Beck 1979:182), i n i t i a l l y impeded expansion of the core area of the c i t y but l a t e r became incorporated into the expanding urban 28 area. Thus, while the Arappalaiyam residence core, which I here c a l l the ' v i l l a g e ' , was once l i k e an i s l a n d i n a sea of paddy f i e l d s , i t i s now 29 wedged among government housing f l a t s , small industries,, and major roads. Considering the a n t i q u i t y of the c i t y of Maturai, t h i s development has been r e l a t i v e l y recent. The boundaries of Maturai began to expand well beyond t h e i r o r i g i n a l layout only during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that i s , during the period of B r i t i s h r u l e . Any expansion on the c l a s s i c a l square pattern of the c i t y which had occurred up to that time had followed the common South Indian Hindu r i t u a l preference f o r the eas t e r l y d i r e c t i o n and, to a les s e r extent, the northerly (Beck 1976:214-216). 'V. Kasi, D i r e c t o r of Town Planning f o r the Maturai Corporation, was very h e l p f u l i n describing these developments. V. Selvaraj, an a r c h i t e c t with the Town Planning O f f i c e , was also of assistance. The v i l l a g e (ur) of Arappalaiyam, which formerly consisted of a residence hamlet (and perhaps more than one), a g r i c u l t u r a l lands and adjacent property, has now been reduced to the residence core. Links with adjacent v i l l a g e s which formed a larger 'revenue v i l l a g e ' (kiramam) have been broken by the establishment of municipal organization. Vestiges of these l i n k s w i l l be i d e n t i f i e d , i n the discussion of the organization of the occupational r i g h t s of the Velar (see Chapter IV). Ancient c i t y boundary C i t y Corporation boundary - 19?8 Railway State Highway 94. I t was consequently on the eastern side that newcomers were i n i t i a l l y able to negotiate the a c q u i s i t i o n of land and i t was there that the e a r l i e s t European trading and c o l o n i a l i n s t i t u t i o n s were established. Later these were augmented with development to the north, where the c o l l e c t o r a t e , high court, race course and m i l i t a r y l i n e s are s t i l l located. The ancient boundary between urban and r u r a l areas on the inauspicious southern and western sides of the c i t y remained r e l a t i v e l y c l e a r l y defined during t h i s e a r l y phase of c o l o n i a l r u l e . As B r i t i s h control was consolidated and i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n increased, however, the a g r i c u l t u r a l lands on the western side of the c i t y became a prime focus for suburban development. The railway junction with i t s warehouses and spur l i n e s was b u i l t on the western side of Maturai and the great cotton f a c t o r i e s of H.F. Harvey M i l l s and Meenakshi M i l l s followed. So did the c e n t r a l j a i l and water works. With government support, C h r i s t i a n missionaries acquired land on the western side and b u i l t churches and schools. By the turn of the century workers' colonies had begun to spread over the farmland. Maturai c i t y became a municipality i n 1865. Although Arappalaiyam was included i n the c i t y planning area by 1907, i t was on the extreme outer edge and there was considerable open land on a l l sides f o r long a f t e r that. A survey map of 1928 shows the v i l l a g e s t i l l i s o l a t e d and accessible only by a cart track. During the l a s t two decades, things have changed quickly. Major roads now connect the area with the heart of the c i t y . In 1966, a bypass road for the major north-south highway was pushed through on the western edge of the v i l l a g e , a project involving a major new bridge over the V a i k a i River. In 1974,.the f i e l d s to the west of the v i l l a g e were also included within the expanding c i t y l i m i t s and the encirclement was complete. 95. Today Arappalaiyam i s included i n Ward Twenty of the Madurai C i t y Corporation. Drinking water i s piped i n f o r a few hours a day or delivered by l o r r y , bus service i s frequent, and taxes are assessed by the municipality. Despite t h i s urbanization, the i n t e r i o r of the v i l l a g e r etains much of the look and atmosphere of v i l l a g e s i n the r u r a l areas. The s t r e e t s , surfaced with d i r t or large uneven stones and l i n e d with open drains, are i n most places no wider than a bullock c a r t . Dwellings ranging from large b r i c k houses to small thatched mud huts are pressed side by side with an unevenness and overlap i n d i c a t i v e of a long and varied h i s t o r y . Arappalaiyam is both f i g u r a t i v e l y and l i t e r a l l y perched on the boundary between the urban and r u r a l areas. ( i i ) The Velar and Their V i l l a g e Neighbours Arappalaiyam i s a multicaste v i l l a g e with a large population of P i l l a i and Velar, s i g n i f i c a n t communities of eight other castes, and a few f a m i l i e s from many others. Map No. 3 shows a layout of the v i l l a g e with the major streets named a f t e r the communities l i v i n g on them. The r e l a t i o n s h i p s between Velar and these other castes i n Arappalaiyam depends la r g e l y on informal and personal contact. The Velar and other Arappalaiyam residents are as l i k e l y to be known to each other as class-mates, neighbours, or fellow m i l l workers as they are through a t r a d i t i o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p of co-operation, service or exchange. The majority of the c r a f t work of the Velar of Arappalaiyam i s i n f a c t directed toward places and populations outside the v i l l a g e i t s e l f and so t h i s o u t l i n e w i l l be b r i e f . Velar provide some domestic and ceremonial pots to other castes i n the v i l l a g e f o r cash payment or informal exchanges of goods and services, • K o v i l V i t u (temple bouse) C u l a i ( f i r i n g ground) 97. however, the formal g i f t exchanges which s t i l l characterize the smaller r u r a l v i l l a g e systems of service hardly survive within the v i l l a g e i t s e l f . The Arappalaiyam land which provided the produce to maintain the "nine 30 v i l l a g e workers " (onpatu k o t t i n t o l i l a l i ) has been sold o f f by the landowning and c u l t i v a t i n g P i l l a i and has been converted into housing plots and other developments. The multicaste c o u n c i l , or panchayat, dominated by the P i l l a i , which once maintained authority i n the v i l l a g e and was consulted before important decisions were taken, has been defunct f o r more than twenty years. Each caste now s e t t l e s i t s own disagreements i n t e r n a l l y and i f a serious dispute between castes cannot be resolved, the p o l i c e are c a l l e d . The P i l l a i , never a dominant caste i n the sense used i n the 31 l i t e r a t u r e on South India, have watched t h e i r authority i n Arappalaiyam being eroded by a growing population of r i v a l a g r i c u l t u r a l communities, and by the i n f l u x of other castes upon whom they can exert l i t t l e influence. The Velar of Arappalaiyam, for example, have cash sales and m i l l work to f a l l back on as well as patrons of other castes, i n the event of disputes with t h e i r P i l l a i neighbours. The hereditary v i l l a g e leader's p o s i t i o n (nattanmai) i s s t i l l held by a P i l l a i , but i f he were to be bold enough to demand something from a member of a large and r e l a t i v e l y powerful caste i n 30 In Arappalaiyam these included the Velar p o t t e r - p r i e s t (pucari), carpenter ( A c a r i ) , announcer/sweeper ( T o t t i ) , water attendant (Mataiyan), washerman (Vannan), messenger (kantalkaran), watchman (kavalkaran), barber (Ampattaiyan or Kutimakan), and leader (nattanmai). These workers symbolized the t r a d i t i o n a l v i l l a g e exchange system and had i d e a l l y to be c a l l e d to give approval for the c e l e b r a t i o n of any f e s t i v a l . (Other l i s t s c o l l e c t e d at Arappalaiyam replace kantalkaran and kavalkaran with Kanakkan and T a l a i y a r i . ) The 'dominant caste" i s one usually of r e l a t i v e l y .high status which i n terms of population and control of resources, dominates other castes (see Srinivas 1955:118, Beck 1979:55, Dumont 1970:160-161). 98. the v i l l a g e , such as the Velar, he would l i k e l y be ignored. The v i l l a g e c l e r k (kanakkuppillai), a p o s i t i o n also held by a P i l l a i , has been rendered obsolete by the c i t y administration. The v i l l a g e hierarchy of r i t u a l precedence, exemplified by posit i o n s of leading men (karaikarar), each of whom.would once have been honoured i n turn at every important v i l l a g e 32 gathering, lapsed at Arappalaiyam sometime during the l a s t twenty years. The system of "leading men" i s s t i l l an important part of v i l l a g e l i f e i n other parts of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . The most important expression of v i l l a g e i n t e r - c a s t e co-operation, an annual v i l l a g e f e s t i v a l held i n Pu r a t t a c i (September/October), was suspended four years ago because representatives of the various castes involved could not.agree on the f i n a n c i a l arrangements or the order of r i t u a l d i s t r i b u t i o n of f e s t i v a l foods. Velar had long since given up taking active part i n th i s event and had made t h e i r own arrangements f o r worshipping the v i l l a g e d e i t y (ur teyvam), a ferocious god named Muniyanti. This involved taking a handful of earth (pitiman) from the deity's main temple at the v i l l a g e square (mantai) and using t h i s as the basis for bu i l d i n g another Muniyanti temple on the Velar common meeting place 33 (matam). In t h i s way Velar worship the v i l l a g e deity but avoid the aggravating arrangements with the P i l l a i , and e s p e c i a l l y the P i l l a i p r i e s t According to M. V i l a y a t a , one of the senior p o t t e r - p r i e s t s of the community i n Arappalaiyam, there were t h i r t e e n places i n t h i s hierarchy. The f i r s t three positions were held by P i l l a i . The fourth (nalankkarai) was a Velar. The f i f t h was a Tevar and the s i x t h , Maravar. The r i g h t to positio n s seven to eleven i s a subject of debate. The twelfth and thirt e e n t h were P i l l a i , the th i r t e e n t h always a p r i e s t of the major P i l l a i - p a t r o n i z e d temple i n the v i l l a g e . For a discussion of pitiman see page 133. A comparable example of a caste (Kaikkolar) withdrawing from involvement i n a multi-caste f e s t i v a l and r e p l i c a t i n g the temple and r i t u a l s i s given i n Mines (1982:470). 99. of the main Muniyanti Temple. The roots of dissention run very deeply between the P i l l a i and Velar, the two major communities i n Arappalaiyam. The t r a d i t i o n a l tension between the two groups as craftsmen and landowners (see page 166) has been exacerbated i n the l a s t decade by a series of incidents, one of the most serious of which was a dispute involving a Velar boycott of a v i l l a g e temple during which several Velar p r i e s t s broke ranks with t h e i r community and sided with the P i l l a i . In t h i s way "seven (Velar) f a m i l i e s went against one hundred" and the b i t t e r n e s s that resulted both drove a deeper wedge between the two communities and fueled a feud among the Velar themselves. Some Arappalaiyam Velar s t i l l summon the T o t t i (a v i l l a g e Paraiyar caste member) to carry the news of a death to t h e i r r e l a t i v e s i n v i l l a g e s i n other parts of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . For t h i s the T o t t i i s given busfare, a meal, and a g i f t of a few rupees. Velar also h i r e members of v i l l a g e untouchable castes (Paraiyar and P a l l a r ) to do day labour. Velar have renovated some of the temples i n the v i l l a g e patronized by these communities. Descendents of Arappalaiyam's t r a d i t i o n a l barbers (Ampattaiyar) s t i l l v i s i t t h e i r Velar c l i e n t s at t h e i r homes, but young Velar go to the h a i r c u t t i n g 'saloon' on the main road. The payments are usually immediate and i n cash rather than annual payments i n grain or money which were once customary. Many younger men now shave themselves i n the modern way. The barber i s c a l l e d at the time of death, to shave the deceased and the chief mourners, but has no other r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s i n the Velar funeral. There are about ten households of washermen (Vannar) i n Arappalaiyam, several of which follow t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l work. Velar f a m i l i e s s t i l l c a l l them to wash the s o i l e d clothes of the dead, new born, or newly matured. 100. A t r a d i t i o n a l g i f t of food, o i l and some money i s given. For personal laundry, people choose a washer according to t h e i r preference, from the v i l l a g e or beyond, and the terms of payment are v a r i a b l e . Velar p r i e s t s administer ceremonies of worship f o r other v i l l a g e castes at a P i l l a i y a r and an Aiyanar temple i n Arappalaiyam. These p r i e s t s receive f i x e d annual payments of grain from temple lands (maniyam) for t h e i r p r i e s t l y service (to be discussed i n d e t a i l below), but the r e l a t i o n s h i p involves the other castes and a single Velar lineage rather than inter-community r e l a t i o n s as a whole. Despite the lack of regular co-operation between the Velar and t h e i r v i l l a g e neighbours there are nonetheless p e r i o d i c s i t u a t i o n s i n which Arappalaiyam residents band together, regardless of caste, to meet some challenge from an outsider. Recently a wealthy man from another place b u i l t a house on a vacant piece of land on the western side of Arappalaiyam. The newly marked boundary of h i s property encroached f i v e feet into what several Velar f a m i l i e s claimed was t h e i r land. The r e s u l t i n g dispute culminated i n a shouting match i n the street during which the outsider who had close contacts with c i t y o f f i c i a l s , threatened to make more serious trouble for the Velar. The shouting i n e v i t a b l y drew the attention of other Arappalaiyam residents, among them, members of the K a l l a r community, l o c a l l y known for t h e i r temper and toughness. When they r e a l i z e d what was going on, t h e i r response was immediate. They asked the newcomer how he could dare to threaten people who had l i v e d i n Arappalaiyam f o r generations. He was t o l d to continue h i s boundary claim at r i s k of having h i s arms cut o f f . The newcomer backed o f f . The l o c a l K a l l a r and Velar communities who have l i t t l e to do with one another i n the course of d a i l y l i f e had come together when faced with an outside threat. 101. ( i i i ) The Velar of Arappalaiyam The Velar community i n Arappalaiyam i s comprised of approximately 143 households, a population of about eight hundred people. My f i g u r e i s approximate because I was not able to survey every house and because the number of people varied during my stay. People came and went f o r jobs, t r a i n i n g , medical treatment, and to j o i n r e l a t i v e s , often f o r long periods to help with s p e c i a l projects or attend f e s t i v a l s . My primary i n t e r e s t i n the c r a f t work of the Velar drew me to those households i n which occupational r i g h t s were s t i l l f i r m l y established and pottery making s t i l l i n process. Each household (kutumpam) consists of a number of c l o s e l y r e l a t e d people who eat from one kitchen and pool t h e i r resources. T y p i c a l l y t h i s unit i s small and although varying i n c o n s t i t u t i o n usually includes only one married couple. Thus, when married brothers share a house, they tend to set up two kitchens and divide the rooms. The same applies when a son marries. The i d e a l i s for a son and h i s wife to be s e t t l e d i n accommodation separate from t h e i r parents. The 143 households of Velar i n Arappalaiyam are accommodated i n approximately one hundred houses, many of which include more than one kitchen. The Velar community i n Arappalaiyam i s f i r m l y established. Of the one hundred houses over seventy-five percent are owned by the people who l i v e i n them and v i r t u a l l y a l l the others are rented from other Velar of the community. Only four Velar households rent accommodation from members of other castes. The black dots on Map 3 (page 96) indicate the l o c a t i o n of Velar households on the Velar s t r e e t . The Velar street (teru) a c t u a l l y includes parts of several streets and a series of small lanes, wherever community houses, temples or other holdings are located. In t h i s sense, 'street' i s 102. used to describe the t e r r i t o r y of the Velar community within the v i l l a g e . The Velar street i s not marked o f f from the r e s t of the v i l l a g e by exact physical boundaries; i n f a c t , a few f a m i l i e s of other castes l i v e interspersed among the Velar households, and on the outer edges of the st r e e t Velar and other castes l i v e side by side. There i s , nonetheless, a strong f e e l i n g among the community of the i n t e g r i t y of the community t e r r i t o r y within the v i l l a g e and care i s taken to assure that i t i s accurately and completely defined by processions i n the course of r e l i g i o u s f e s t i v a l s and l i f e cycle ceremonies. The major features of the s t r e e t are two common places (matam) which mark the east and west sides. These are the gathering places for important community events and a place of shelter for wandering renunciants (cannaci). They are named a f t e r saints who taught there and i n i t i a t e d worship at the temples b u i l t there. The eastern common place i s a modest compound containing a well and two small shrines. The western one i s a large and elaborate area containing eight temples, three shrines to s a i n t s , and the Velar community a s s o c i a t i o n l i b r a r y . The northern side of Velar street i s the l e a s t well defined and the houses and lanes here blend into the t e r r i t o r y of P i l l a i s t r e e t . Beyond the P i l l a i s t r e e t , the v i l l a g e square, and a few streets of other castes l i e s the Vaikai River. The southern side of Velar s t r e e t i s bounded by the Velar earthenware f i r i n g grounds ( c u l a i ) . I r o n i c a l l y , a major east-west road which now connects Arappalaiyam to the center of Maturai was b u i l t j u s t to the south of the f i r i n g grounds. Thus, 'Arappalaiyam Main Road' through the center of the v i l l a g e has become a dead-end and the 'backside' of the v i l l a g e i s now the l o c a t i o n of the busiest communication with the outside. 103. Photograph 3 The main Velar S t r e e t crowded w i t h people c e l e b r a t i n g a f e s t i v a l . - Arappalaiyam. 104. The i n t e r n a l o r g a n i z a t i o n of the V e l a r community i n Arappalaiyam today r e f l e c t s problems of a continuously expanding p o p u l a t i o n , members of which owe v a r y i n g degrees of a l l e g i a n c e to communities elsewhere i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . P o t t e r s i n Tamil Natu are w e l l known f o r feuding and Velar say that even i f there are only two V e l a r households i n a v i l l a g e , 34 there w i l l be an ongoing q u a r r e l . With 143 households, as i n Arappalaiyam, the feuding i s extensive and i n e v i t a b l y i n v o l v e s large numbers of people i n disputes passed down f o r generations. V i r t u a l l y every misfortune which has b e f a l l e n the community i s i n i t i a l l y explained by saying that "we couldn't agree among ourselves". When the strong o r g a n i z a t i o n of the Velar lineages i s reviewed, and e s p e c i a l l y t h e i r m u l t i - f a c e t e d t i e s to p a r t i c u l a r areas, patrons, and p o p u l a t i o n s , reasons f o r t h i s w i l l begin to emerge. The p o p u l a r l y perceived s o c i a l d i v i s i v e n e s s has, i n the o p i n i o n of the Velar of Arappalaiyam, been c o n t r o l l e d i n the past by a strong community o r g a n i z a t i o n . The older men remember the community being under the c o n t r o l of a c o u n c i l (camukam), the members of which (camukattar) were acknowledged as the community lea d e r s . The c o u n c i l was based on a system of f i v e ranked p o s i t i o n s , each r e f e r r e d to as a ' c l u s t e r ' or 'bunch' (kottu) and c o l l e c t i v e l y known as a ' c o u n c i l of f i v e ' (panchayat). The f i r s t four c l u s t e r s were dominated by r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s of the four most complete and longest s e t t l e d lineages i n the community and the f i f t h by a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of a l l the others (see page 118). Each c l u s t e r could appoint a person to represent A w e l l known proverb of t h i s r e gion s t a t e s that "hunters apart w i l l p e r i s h w h i l e p o t t e r s together w i l l p e r i s h " (Valaiyan p i r i n t u k o t t a n , kuyavan k u t i k o t t a n ) , i . e . , that hunters must co-operate to succeed, w h i l e co-operation between p o t t e r s i s impossible. I once spent an afternoon i n a t i n y v i l l a g e i n the southern part of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y where there were three households of V e l a r r e s i d e n t s . The heads of these households were two brothers and a married son of one brother. None would speak w i t h the others. 105. them but i n many cases the p o s i t i o n s became h e r e d i t a r y . The c o u n c i l was headed by a learned person, u s u a l l y the r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of the f i r s t c l u s t e r , c a l l e d the P e r i y a V a t t i y a r . Although among the V e l a r the t i t l e v a t t i y a r now r e f e r s p r i m a r i l y to a subcaste p r i e s t , o l d people i n the Arappalaiyam v i l l a g e Velar community remember the 'Great (periya) V a t t i y a r ' as the leader of the c o u n c i l . This V a t t i y a r was i n v a r i a b l y a l e a d i n g member of 35 the most prominent lineage i n the v i l l a g e . A sub-lineage of the l e a d i n g Arappalaiyam l i n e a g e , V i l l a p u r a m , i s s t i l l known p o p u l a r l y as " V a t t i y a r 36 Vakaiyara". One well-remembered p e r s o n a l i t y of t h i s sub-lineage, Atimula, was " P e r i y a V a t t i y a r " of the Arappalaiyam V e l a r c o u n c i l f o r a p e r i o d s h o r t l y a f t e r the turn of the century. His son, Ayyaccami, i n h e r i t e d t h i s p o s i t i o n and b u i l t the c a v a t i , or common house of the Arappalaiyam Velar community i n the 1930's. Ayyaccami V a t t i y a r was the l a s t of h i s sub-lineage to hold the t i t l e . These p o l i t i c a l l y powerful V a t t i y a r are remembered not only f o r t h e i r i n f l u e n c e on the v i l l a g e c o u n c i l but a l s o t h e i r knowledge of m a n i t i r i k a m , or magical power through the use of sacred s y l l a b l e s (mantiram) (Diehl 1956:338). That the V a t t i y a r of the Compare w i t h the s i m i l a r arrangement f o r the c o u n c i l of the K a l l a r (Dumont 1957:139). Other Velar lineages i n Arappalaiyam are a l s o named according to famous V a t t i y a r who may have been lin e a g e e l d e r s , f o r example, Comacuntara V a t t i y a r Vakaiyara. 106. past were a l s o great sorcerers ( m a n t i r a v a t i ) i s w e l l remembered. The main duty of the V e l a r community c o u n c i l was to uphold caste customs w i t h i n the community. These included r u l e s governing the s t y l e s of men's and women's dress, types of j e w e l r y , and personal h a b i t s , r e g u l a t i o n s concerning marriage and r e s t r i c t i o n s on the behaviour of widows. The best remembered issues of caste p r o p r i e t y had to do w i t h marriage, re-marriage and d i v o r c e . The c o u n c i l would suspend a c t i v i t i e s w i t h a person known to have transgressed caste r e g u l a t i o n s , p r o t e c t the community from a deviant member and s t r i v e to f i n d a way of r e - i n t e g r a t i n g an offender. The c o u n c i l could l e v y f i n e s f o r t r a n s g r e s s i o n s , but the i n i t i a l amount was o f t e n reduced a f t e r a show of repentance, f o r example, a p u b l i c s e r i e s of obeisances (pranam) on the community common ground. Even marriage across caste was sometimes r e s o l v e d by the community c o u n c i l w i t h a f i n e , provided 38 the offender showed an a t t i t u d e of remorse and r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . In very Atimula V a t t i y a r , f o r example, was known to walk down a s t r e e t during midday w i t h a towel f l o a t i n g along above him, p r o v i d i n g shade. Ayyaccami V a t t i y a r would cough up coins and flowers and could conjure up sweets on a p l a t e . Most great V a t t i y a r of the past are remembered f o r comparable f e a t s . One V e l a r V a t t i y a r even dared to challenge the mantirikam of the neighbouring region of K e r a l a known as the source of such p r a c t i c e s . While v i s i t i n g a bathing tank near a temple i n K e r a l a , t h i s lecherous f e l l o w caused the s k i r t s ( l u n k i ) of the women bathers to f l y open, while pretending i n n o c e n t l y to be brushing h i s t e e t h . The women, s k i l l e d as they were, knew immediately who had caused t h e i r embarassment, and prepared a response. When the V a t t i y a r f i n i s h e d brushing h i s teeth h i s hand would not stop, f o r c i n g him to brush on f o r hours u n t i l the blood began to run. The l a s t formal case of t h i s k i n d of which I am aware took place i n the m i d - f o r t i e s when a Velar r e t u r n i n g from m i l i t a r y s e r v i c e had married across caste. His f a m i l y induced him to pay a twenty-five rupee f i n e , a considerable sum at that time. He and h i s c h i l d r e n were g r a d u a l l y accepted back i n t o the community. 107. serious cases, the c o u n c i l could decree a boycott "caste t i e c u t " ( j a t i 39 t a l i v e t t a l ) through which the offender was banished from the caste. The c o u n c i l was a l s o r e s p o n s i b l e f o r preventing encroachment by one lineage on the area served by another w i t h p o t t e r y and p r i e s t l y d u t i e s . Even more c r u c i a l was the p r o t e c t i o n of the occupational r i g h t s of the community as a whole against encroachment by p o t t e r s or p r i e s t s of other castes. Fines were deposited i n a caste fund under management of the c o u n c i l and were used f o r the c e l e b r a t i o n of f e s t i v a l s and f o r loans to community members at moderate i n t e r e s t . The fund was augmented by a s e r i e s of taxes ( v a r i ) . One pot i n every t h i r t y f i r e d was s o l d f o r b e n e f i t of the fund and twenty-five n.p. (about three cents) was c o l l e c t e d f o r every f i r i n g on the community f i r i n g grounds. For every c a r t - l o a d of pots taken from Arappalaiyam, the bearer was charged twelve n.p. A c o u n c i l meeting (catatikuttam) was c a l l e d at roughly two-month i n t e r v a l s to which each V e l a r household would send a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e , and i t was during these meetings that most community business was conducted. For very important d e c i s i o n s , a f u l l assembly of community members ( c a t a k o t i cankam) was convened. The c o u n c i l r e gulated the s o c i a l l i f e of the community through a system of r e q u i r i n g permission or a u t h o r i t y (kotu) fo r the c e l e b r a t i o n of major l i f e c y c l e ceremonies. One of the symbols of community involvement among Arappalaiyam Velar was the key to a temple of the V e l a r common ground. Up to f i f t e e n years ago the key was passed d a i l y from one V e l a r house to the next. The The l a s t time t h i s occurred may have been i n the m i d - f i f t i e s . The offense was marriage w i t h a widow. 108. household w i t h the key had the duty of p r o v i d i n g on that day a h a l f k i l o of r i c e f o r common feeding at the next f e s t i v a l , and would provide the d a i l y p r i e s t l y s e r v i c e s r e q u i r e d . When the key began to sk i p houses of people who claimed to be impoverished, the t r a d i t i o n c o l l a p s e d and today a Velar p r i e s t i s h i r e d by the c o u n c i l on a d a i l y wage ba s i s to look a f t e r the common place temples. A second important symbol of the s o l i d a r i t y of the community was the 40 community common house ( c a v a t i ) . This l a r g e s t and grandest house i n Vel a r s t r e e t was once the resthouse, 'courthouse', and meeting place of the e n t i r e community. I t s purchase was arranged by the leading .members of the f i r s t c l u s t e r of the caste c o u n c i l but was recognized as common property. Each n i g h t , a lamp was l i t i n the main room as a symbol of the v i t a l i t y of the community. As h i s personal fortune d e c l i n e d , however, the c o u n c i l leader i began to t h i n k of the common house as h i s own property and amid great c o n s t e r n a t i o n , he s o l d i t , and d i v i d e d the proceeds among four f a m i l i e s w i t h i n h i s l i n e a g e . I t i s now considered an unlucky house, has changed hands s e v e r a l times, and was again vacant and f o r sal e during most of my stay at Arappalaiyam. No Vel a r w i l l now buy t h i s house and the resentment against the lineage which d i s s o l v e d i t s common f u n c t i o n continues to simmer. As the Arappalaiyam Velar community has grown l a r g e r and more d i v e r s e , many of t h e v f u n c t i o n s of the community c o u n c i l have become obsolete, yet the general s t r u c t u r e of the c o u n c i l of f i v e l e a d i n g members p e r s i s t s . They help to arrange f e s t i v a l s by c o l l e c t i n g c o n t r i b u t i o n s , and 40 The term can apply to any p u b l i c meeting p l a c e , even a masonry p l a t f o r m under a shade t r e e . According to F r a n c i s (1914), c a v a t i i n Maturai D i s t r i c t ' s Melur Taluk are i n t i m a t e l y associated w i t h the worship of the d e i t y Karuppan. 109. administer the community fund, now known as the Kat t i k u l a m Mayanti Civamikal Fund a f t e r the Velar s a i n t (see page 78). Today the members are thought of as t r u s t e e s r a t h e r than c o u n c i l l o r s . Those who mourn the passing of a strong community c o u n c i l p o i n t to an i n c i d e n t which took place only a few years ago. A man who made a 'great mistake' against caste t r a d i t i o n was ordered by the c o u n c i l to pay a f i n e . In r e t a l i a t i o n the delinquent, who had some p o l i t i c a l connections, c a l l e d the p o l i c e . They a r r e s t e d the c o u n c i l members 41 . and created t r o u b l e . A common complaint i s that there i s now no c o n t r o l i n the s t r e e t and that every man must look out f o r h i m s e l f . I t i s a l s o o f t e n s a i d that the l a s t generation of c o u n c i l l o r s were re s p e c t a b l e leaders while the present group are u n r e l i a b l e or inexperienced. Recently only two of the f i v e t r u s t e e s have been a c t i v e , the others having resigned over a d i s p u t e . Disputes among community members are now s e t t l e d by p r i v a t e l y arranged gatherings and 'panchayat' i s l o o s e l y used to describe any assembly of r e s p o n s i b l e people. Velar o c c a s i o n a l l y i n v i t e f r i e n d s , acquaintances, or colleagues from other castes to s i t i n on the settlement of d i s p u t e s , e s p e c i a l l y i f they a n t i c i p a t e a lack of support from t h e i r own clo s e r e l a t i v e s ' or l e a d i n g community members. Several community o r g a n i z a t i o n s have been formed r e c e n t l y among Arappalaiyam V e l a r . The tr u s t e e s of the P.S. U t a i y a r Society (manram), f o r example, are made up of a group of educated young men. They are r e s p o n s i b l e People i n Arappalaiyam f e e l that those who c a l l i n the p o l i c e are troublemakers. C a l l i n g the p o l i c e i s a desperate measure, the r e s u l t of which i s unpr e d i c t a b l e and always c o s t l y ; o f t e n everyone i n v o l v e d s u f f e r s . The p o l i c e represent a way f o r someone w i t h money or s p e c i a l i n f l u e n c e to gain revenge - j u s t i c e has l i t t l e to do w i t h i t . 110. f o r the ' l i b r a r y ' i n the common pl a c e , where men go to read the newspaper and to sleep away from crowded houses. This s o c i e t y i s a branch.of a state-wide o r g a n i z a t i o n of the same name. In some ways, such groups present a challenge to the t r a d i t i o n a l a u t h o r i t y of the c o u n c i l i n that they include people who have no h e r e d i t a r y p o s i t i o n and who value youth and education. Today the community l i f e of the Arappalaiyam V e l a r centers around the western, or Ramalinka Cami common ground. Here the community worships the v i l l a g e d e i t y , Muniyanti i n P u r a t t a c i (September/October), and most impor t a n t l y , celebrates a milk pot (palkutam) f e s t i v a l on the f u l l moon day of Maci (March) (great f e s t i v a l - Macimakam). This f e s t i v a l has f o r sev e r a l decades been the most important community f e s t i v a l f o r V e l a r . I t inv o l v e s t a k i n g pots of m i l k , sandal paste and holy water i n procession from the small M i n a t c i Amman Temple on the common ground to the great M i n a t c i Amman Temple i n the center of Maturai. There worship i s performed, more water taken from the temple tank, and the pots brought back to annoint a l l the temple vimages and shrines on the Velar common ground. At one time each household i n the community sent a man with a pot, and although the number has diminished, most of the major lineages i n the community and c e r t a i n l y each of the f i v e c l u s t e r s are represented i n the procession. On i t s r e t u r n from the c i t y the procession v i s i t s every Velar house on the s t r e e t , where holy ash i s d i s t r i b u t e d to the r e s i d e n t s and women bathe the feet of the pot c a r r i e r s . Hundreds of Vel a r gather on the common ground to welcome the procession back to the v i l l a g e . The community fund provides loudspeakers, decorations and food f o r the event f o r which each household has made a c o n t r i b u t i o n during the preceding weeks. U n t i l r e c e n t l y many men i n the proce s s i o n drew small c a r t s by means of hooks impaled i n t h e i r 111. backs and some s t i l l walk on burning coals i n a p i t dug at the common ground. These f e a t s are performed i n a s t a t e of possession, confirming the presence and b l e s s i n g of the goddess M i n a t c i Amman. This f e s t i v a l renews and r e s a n c t i f i e s the l o c a l r e l i g i o u s shrines common to the community, and by l i n k i n g these shrines to the great temple of Matu r a i , reconfirms the community t i e to an ancient r e l i g i o u s t r a d i t i o n . As important i s the perceived indigenous status of M i n a t c i who, l i k e Lord A l a k a r , i s c l o s e l y l i n k e d to the h i s t o r y of the area around Maturai. I t has become a standard feature of the study of South Indian r e l i g i o n to s t r e s s the dichotomy between ve g e t a r i a n or "pure" gods ( l i k e M i n a t c i ) and non-vegetarian or "impure" gods (whom the Ve l a r worship r e g u l a r l y and f o r whom they are the primary p r i e s t s i n the Maturai region) (Dumont 1970:27-28). In the case of Alakar and M i n a t c i the V e l a r make l i t t l e d i s t i n c t i o n . The importance of M i n a t c i i s that she, l i k e the Ve l a r themselves and the darker, l e s s c e lebrated l o c a l d e i t i e s , i s indigenous. The Velar b e l i e v e that they were her o r i g i n a l p r i e s t s (page 167) and although she i s not o f f e r e d blood s a c r i f i c e , the Velar walk the f i r e p i t and s y m b o l i c a l l y s a c r i f i c e themselves through hook p i e r c i n g to honour her place i n the region and the l i f e of t h e i r community. Arappalaiyam i s considered a f i n e place to l i v e by i t s V e l a r r e s i d e n t s . There i s a f e e l i n g of s e c u r i t y i n l i v i t i g among so many r e l a t i v e s , which few other V e l a r ever experience. Women consider themselves very f o r t u n a t e to be married i n t o a lineage which i s r e s i d e n t here because there are many events to attend, and so many d i v e r s i o n s from d a i l y work i n the home. I t s close p r o x i m i t y to the c i t y of Maturai and long h i s t o r y of supplying labour to m i l l s and other i n d u s t r i e s has enabled many members of the Arappalaiyam 112. community to become wealthy, r e l a t i v e to other V e l a r of the subcaste. The r i c h a g r i c u l t u r a l v i l l a g e s on the periphery of the c i t y have pa t r o n i z e d large temples and r e g u l a r f e s t i v a l s which has provided a strong base f o r the c r a f t work of s e v e r a l major lineages of Ve l a r now r e s i d e n t i n Arappalaiyam. In t h i s , by f a r the l a r g e s t and most complex v i l l a g e i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , the i n t e r e s t s and s o c i a l dynamics of the e n t i r e subcaste are encapsulated. Nonetheless, due to t h e i r u n c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y l a r g e numbers, the V e l a r of Arappalaiyam have had to face the c h a l l e n g i n g s i t u a t i o n of l i v i n g i n c l o s e p r o x i m i t y to one another and co-operating - not the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c p a t t e r n of the subcaste. I f the mechanisms f o r i n t e g r a t i o n and community a d m i n i s t r a t i o n have been the focus i n t h i s d i s c u s s i o n of the Arappalaiyam V e l a r community, the i n t e r e s t s of p a r t i c u l a r groups and the inherent tensions w i t h i n the community, e s p e c i a l l y those r e l a t e d to c r a f t work, w i l l become prominent i n the f o l l o w i n g d i s c u s s i o n of the Ve l a r l i n e a g e . (g) The Lineage Although each Velar f e e l s at l e a s t some s o l i d a r i t y w i t h other members of the subcaste as a whole, and a p a r t i c u l a r a l l e g i a n c e to Velar neighbours i n a v i l l a g e community, the primary s o c i a l u n i t of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n among Ve l a r i s a lineage group. I t i s through t h i s descent u n i t that V e l a r most o f t e n i d e n t i f y themselves and are i d e n t i f i e d by other V e l a r . I t i s al s o i n terms of these groupings that t r a d i t i o n a l occupational r i g h t s and r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h other castes beyond the v i l l a g e may be defined and the t r a d i t i o n a l work of the Ve l a r examined. Although moveable property may be 113. d i v i d e d by the head of aUhousehold, according to personal preference, ( d i s t r i b u t e d f o r example to daughters who have married o u t ) , r i g h t s to making p o t t e r y , to p r o v i d i n g images to l o c a l temples, to p r o v i d i n g p r i e s t l y s e r v i c e s to other castes l i v i n g nearby, and i n general to a l l the work of the V e l a r are passed through the l i n e a g e . The nature of these r i g h t s w i l l be explored i n d e t a i l i n Chapter IV. The V e l a r c a l l these groupings v a k a i y a r a which, f o l l o w i n g Dumont (1957:167), I w i l l c a l l l i n eage. Vakaiyara i s a very general term, meaning .. .. .. 42 type or species and c o n n o t a t i v e l y a l i k e or s i m i l a r people . The lineage of the Velar i s exogamous and p a t r i l i n e a l and, as at other l e v e l s of s o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n , e x h i b i t s a strong sense of l o c a l i t y and t e r r i t o r y . A l l male members of the lineage consider themselves descended from a common ancestor and thus consider themselves brothers ( p a n k a l i ) . They have shares (panku) i n the p a t r i m o n i a l r i g h t s and p r i v i l e g e s and a l s o i n the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the w e l l - b e i n g and c o n t i n u i t y of the li n e a g e . Unmarried women trac e t h e i r descent through t h e i r f a t h e r ' s l i n e and at marriage become members of t h e i r husband's. Residence i s predominantly p a t r i l o c a l . Members of a lineage must seek marriage partners from beyond the line a g e group, and by doing so form a l l i a n c e s w i t h other l i n e a g e s . The strong preference f o r b i l a t e r a l c r o s s - c o u s i n marriage tends to perpetuate such a l l i a n c e s . 42 . . Dumont found that among the Pramalai K a l l a r , whose t r a d i t i o n a l t e r r i t o r y overlaps that of the V e l a r , the terms used to describe a lineage v a r i e d , even among members of the same subcaste (eg., K a l l a r of one v i l l a g e use "v a g e i r a " (vakaiyara) and those of another "kuttam" (Dumont 1957:167). The use of the term v a k a i y a r a i s als o reported i n Cenkalpattu D i s t r i c t among both farming castes ( V e l l a l a r ) and untouchables but here the term appears to describe broader exogamous d i v i s i o n s w i t h i n the subcaste d i s t i n g u i s h e d by c l e a r - c u t status ranking. Both Barnett (1973:184) and Mo f f a t t (1979:157) have t r a n s l a t e d v a k a i y a r a as "grade". 114. Lineage members support one another i n disputes w i t h other V e l a r and w i t h members of other castes. They share i n each other's f a m i l y r i t u a l s and group together at l a r g e r gatherings. They r e g u l a r l y s u b s t i t u t e f o r one another i n a wide range of everyday r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s . The bonds of lineage f e l l o w s are thought to be such that each lin e a g e can be c h a r a c t e r i z e d by c e r t a i n h a b i t s or q u a l i t i e s . Members of one line a g e at Arappalaiyam are known by others to be hot-tempered and v i o l e n t , members of another are thought to be d u l l , another c r a f t y , another m i s e r l y , and so on. A man from the V a y a l c e r i l i n e a g e , which o r i g i n a t e s i n the southern part of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , t o l d me that people had to be c a r e f u l when they attended marriages or other gatherings there; V a y a l c e r i lineage people were always ready to f i g h t at a moment's n o t i c e . The members of a lineage draw t h e i r occupational r i g h t s and p r i v i l e g e s from a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h a p a r t i c u l a r area w i t h i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . This area i n c l u d e s the v i l l a g e or v i l l a g e s i n which the lineage members l i v e or t h e i r ancestors o r i g i n a l l y l i v e d , and i t i s from these v i l l a g e s that most lineages take t h e i r names. Thus the lineage o r i g i n a l l y based i n Koccatai v i l l a g e i s known as "Koccatai Vakaiyara". In casual conversation one may a l s o hear a person of that lineage i d e n t i f i e d as of "the house of K o c c a t a i " ( K o c c a t a i y a r v i t u ) . The area i s a l s o the home of the people whom the li n e a g e serves as craftsmen and the s i t e of a number of temples at which the line a g e has occupational r i g h t s . These r i g h t s i n c l u d e the p r i v i l e g e of p r o v i d i n g and r e c e i v i n g compensation f o r earthenware containers and u t e n s i l s , images, and p r i e s t l y s e r v i c e (see Chapter I V ) . The area i s al s o the s i t e of a temple at which members of the lineage worship together. An important d e i t y of t h i s temple i s c a l l e d the 'lineage d e i t y ' ( k u l a 115. 43 teyvam). The lineage meets at t h i s temple to c e l e b r a t e together the important events i n the l i v e s of i t s members such as b i r t h , f i r s t h a i r c u t , female puberty, and marriage. I t i s the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of important members to s o l i c i t c o n t r i b u t i o n s from others i n the lineage to cover the costs of r i t u a l a c t i v i t y and to ensure the attendance of r e l a t i v e s by marriage. I n d i v i d u a l l i n e a g e members a l s o v i s i t t h e i r k u l a teyvam temples i n cases of s p e c i a l d i s t r e s s . A prominant V e l a r s c u l p t o r of the V i l a c c e r i l ineage who now l i v e s i n Madras, s a c r i f i c e s a goat at h i s k u l a teyvam temple during each v i s i t to Arappalaiyam i n an e f f o r t to suppress a chronic ailment. One V e l a r p o t t e r w i t h whom I became c l o s e f r i e n d s sent holy ash ( v i p u t i ) from h i s lineage temple to my bedside while I was i l l . Members of a lineage i n v o l v e d i n a dispute o f t e n meet at t h e i r temple and make claims of innocence or swear oaths i n f r o n t of t h e i r lineage d e i t y . Such d e c l a r a t i o n s are considered to be of more f o r c e than any o r d i n a r y agreements. The climax of l i n e a g e ceremonial a c t i v i t y i s an annual f e s t i v a l f o r the lineage d e i t y . I t i s during t h i s f e s t i v a l that the a f f i l i a t i o n between the lineage and t h e i r d e i t y and temple i s dramatized through processions i n v o l v i n g possessed dancers (camiyati) (see page 283). As the l i n e a g e d e i t y i s o f t e n l o c a t e d i n the most important temple i n the area, i t may a l s o be a lineage d e i t y f o r other castes who share the same area. Thus the s p e c i a l r i t u a l s of a Velar lineage i n honour of t h e i r d e i t y are i n t e g r a t e d w i t h those of other castes of the area. The co-operation and r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s i n v o l v e d i n these arrangements w i l l be discussed below. The s i n g l e term k u l a , used by Tamils of some castes and regions to describe c e r t a i n descent groups i s not used i n t h i s way by Velar ( f o r kulataivam see D i e h l 1956:174-175). 116. Photograph 4 P r i e s t s and camiyati of K o c c a t a i lineage lead a pro c e s s i o n through V e l a r Street on the way to t h e i r lineage temple. A woman bathes t h e i r f e e t . - Arappalaiyam. 117. T y p i c a l l y each v i l l a g e i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y i s the home of a s i n g l e V e l a r lineage w i t h occupational r i g h t s i n an area adjacent to that v i l l a g e . Due to a number of economic and s o c i a l f a c t o r s , however, some lineages have become s p l i n t e r e d w i t h members l i v i n g i n more than one area. In some cases members of d i f f e r e n t lineages now c l u s t e r together. In Arappalaiyam, s e v e r a l lineages and parts of lineages have c l u s t e r e d and the r e l a t i o n s h i p s among them and w i t h t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l areas has become complex. We w i l l f i r s t look at the lineage o r g a n i z a t i o n of the Velar community i n Arappalaiyam and then examine more c l o s e l y the h i s t o r y and composition of a few p a r t i c u l a r l i n e a g e s . In t h i s way we w i l l compare the i d e a l s of lineage o r g a n i z a t i o n w i t h t h e i r i n e v i t a b l e v a r i a t i o n s i n a c t u a l s o c i a l l i f e . A review of lineage o r g a n i z a t i o n w i l l l a y the b a s i s f o r the d i s c u s s i o n of the c r a f t of the V e l a r . Table I gives a complete l i s t of Velar lineages represented i n Arappalaiyam and the number of households i n each group. I have, f o r a n a l y t i c a l purposes, d i v i d e d them i n t o three c a t e g o r i e s or groups, according to t h e i r o r g a n i z a t i o n and status w i t h i n the v i l l a g e community. Group "A" are what I c a l l 'complete' l i n e a g e s , the e a r l i e s t s e t t l e r s , lineages of people whose ancestors moved wholesale to Arappalaiyam i n the d i s t a n t past, l e a v i n g no Velar i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s . Each of the o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s of "complete l i n e a g e s " and the areas of s e r v i c e attached to them are w i t h i n f i v e miles of Arappalaiyam and the t r a d i t i o n a l area of one l i n e a g e , K o c c a t a i , includes Arappalaiyam i , t s e l f . The o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s are i d e n t i f i e d on Map 4. V i l l a p u r a m , V i l a n k u t i , and Koccatai lineages maintain t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l occupational r i g h t s i n the s e r v i c e areas of t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e and a c t i v e l y maintain the use of t h e i r k u l a teyvam temple 118. TABLE I LINEAGES REPRESENTED AT ARAPPALAIYAM Lineage Name Number of Households 1) Vi l l a p u r a m 38 2) Ko c c a t a i 17 3) Ponmeni 5 4) Comacuntara Ve l a r 4 5) V i l a n k u t i 2 6) K i r a c e t t i 1 7) Rawaterppalaiyam 1 8) V a y a l c e r i 16 9) Pappakuti 13 10) Alakutaiyam 9 11) Tancakkur 8 12) Mankalakkuti 5 13) V i l a c c e r i 4 14) Melakkal 2 15) Y e n a t i 2 16) Kontakai 1 17) P a r t t i p a n u r 1 18) Vantiyur 1 19) Camanattam 1 20) N i l a i y u r 1 21) Kiranur 1 22) Alankulam 3 23) Manamaturai ( Mankuti 2 24) 2 25) K a l a t t u r 1 26) T e y v e n t i r a n a l l u r 1 27) Ramnat 1 'COMPLETE LINEAGES 'LINEAGE SECTIONS' (MIGRANTS) 'LINEAGE SECTIONS (OUTSIDERS) Tintukkal Maturai t I 9/^  T i r u n e l v e l i •Aruppukkotai MATURAI Cm scale: one inch = one mile (Location of o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s , Arappalaiyam lineages) Clvakankai •Ramanatapuram Ancient c i t y boundary C i t y Corporation boundary - 1978 ** ••* Railway State Highway 1. Villapuram 2. Koccatai 3. Ponmeni k. Vilankuti 5. Comacuntara 6. K i r a c e t t i 120. f o r most l i f e c y c l e r i t e s and important r e l i g i o u s f e s t i v a l s . Ponmeni lineage r e t a i n s with i n c r e a s i n g d i f f i c u l t y the r i g h t s i n i t s s e r v i c e area and i s i n the process of s h i f t i n g the s i t e of i t s lineage temple. These lineages c l a i m to be the major lineages of Arappalaiyam. Comacuntara lineage was once a major Velar lineage r e s i d e n t i n the Maturai c i t y core but has become detached from i t s s e r v i c e areas and occupational r i g h t s through a s e r i e s of misfortunes. K i r a c e t t i and Rayaterpalaiyam are lineages which are i n the process of dying out. Each of these dying lineages i s now represented by only a s i n g l e household. Neither has male heirs-and men belonging to lineages based i n other subcaste v i l l a g e s have come to l i v e u x o r i l o c a l l y w i t h daughters of both lineages to i n h e r i t t h e i r s e r v i c e r i g h t s . D i s t i n g u i s h i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the complete lineages w i l l be elaborated i n the d i s c u s s i o n of t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r occupational r i g h t s . Group "B" are s i n g l e f a m i l i e s or s e c t i o n s of lineages which have migrated to Arappalaiyam from other v i l l a g e s i n the subcaste t e r r i t o r y but have lineage members s t i l l r e s i d e n t i n those o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s . Thus, although p a r t i c u l a r f a m i l i e s of these migrant sec t i o n s may have been s e t t l e d i n Arappalaiyam f o r generations, t h e i r occupational r i g h t s remain w i t h p a n k a l i i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s and they must e i t h e r t r a v e l some distance to e x e r c i s e t h e i r shares, or give them up. For many, the long t r i p to the k u l a teyvam temple and the sometimes s t r a i n e d r e l a t i o n s w i t h lineage r e l a t i v e s i n o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s makes a continued p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n lineage a c t i v i t i e s i m p r a c t i c a l . For the l a r g e r migrant lineage s e c t i o n s such as V a y a l c e r i , Pappakuti, and A l a k u t a i y a n , the lineage p o p u l a t i o n i n Arappalaiyam i s much l a r g e r than that remaining i n the o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e and has become somewhat independant of i t . For example, there are only two 121. households'of the Pappakuti lineage l e f t i n the o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e , while there are t h i r t e e n i n Arappalaiyam, and although some Pappakuti people i n Arappalaiyam s t i l l r e t a i n some share of occupational r i g h t s at Pappakuti, most have l e f t i t behind. Members of V a y a l c e r i lineage have l i v e d i n Arappalaiyam f o r at l e a s t four generations and have e s t a b l i s h e d f i r m marriage a l l i a n c e s w i t h s e v e r a l of the 'complete' lineages of group "A". Although people of the V a y a l c e r i lineage i n Arappalaiyam used to walk twenty-five miles to attend lineage f u n c t i o n s i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e , contact i s now attentuated. The l a r g e s t lineage s e c t i o n s of group "B" come from v i l l a g e s i n the f a r southern part of the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , the d e s e r t - l i k e r e g i o j i of Ramanatapuram D i s t r i c t . Most came to Arappalaiyam to take jobs i n the nearby m i l l s and other i n d u s t r i e s and to escape the i n e v i t a b l e poverty of a growing lineage p o p u l a t i o n i n an area with u n c e r t a i n harvests and l i m i t e d occupational r i g h t s . Group "C" are r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s of lineages which o r i g i n a t e outside the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . The people of Alankulam and 'Ramnat' come from a considerable distance to the south of Maturai, f a r beyond the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , and although of the Panfiya Velar c a s t e , have no intermarriage with Velar of Arappalaiyam. They marry people from t h e i r own subcaste t e r r i t o r y . The people of Alankulam lineage own and run the shops i n Velar s t r e e t . Members of the other four group "C" lineages (nos. 22-25), although from beyond the subcaste t e r r i t o r y , have married i n and become in t e g r a t e d to some extent i n t o the Velar community. The people of Mankuti are long-time r e s i d e n t s of Arappalaiyam and over three generations have strengthened t h e i r a l l i a n c e s which began with a marriage i n t o Pappakuti i l i n e a g e . They s t i l l c l a i m a lineage d e i t y i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l lineage temple at Mankuti (near P u t t u k o t t a i ) but no one could remember the l a s t time i t was 122. v i s i t e d . The K a l a t u r household claimed that there were no Velar l e f t i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e , which i s not included i n those named f o r the subcaste t e r r i t o r y . Representatives of the other two " o u t s i d e " lineages maintain both clo s e contacts w i t h t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e s and lineage k i n , and w e l l -e s t a b l i s h e d marriage t i e s w i t h lineages i n Arappalaiyam. Given these broad c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of lineages represented i n Arappalaiyam, the b a s i s f o r the ranking of p o s i t i o n s on the Arappalaiyam community c o u n c i l , described on page 104, can be explained. The h i e r a r c h y of p o s i t i o n s on the c o u n c i l and that followed i n most community a c t i v i t y i s based on order of lineage settlement i n Arappalaiyam and the value of occupational r i g h t s which have been r e t a i n e d . That i s , the lineages which hold most of the d e c i s i o n making power w i t h i n the community are the "complete" lineages of Group "A", the e a r l i e s t s e t t l e r s , and those with access to e a r t h , to harvest shares and knowledge of l o c a l d e i t i e s . This i s diagrammed i n Table I I . The f i r s t place (muttakkarai) belongs to Vilapuram, by f a r the l a r g e s t of the Arappalaiyam lineages and probably the w e a l t h i e s t . The second place belongs to V i l a n k u t i , a small lineage which nonetheless holds l u c r a t i v e occupational r i g h t s i n an area near Arappalaiyam. The f o u r t h belongs to the large and powerful K o c c a t a i l i n e a g e . These are the major Arappalaiyam lineages and are considered the e a r l i e s t s e t t l e r s among Arappalaiyam V e l a r . The f i f t h place i s held by a j o i n t r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of a l l the migrant lineage s e c t i o n s plus Ponmeni l i n e a g e , which has no independent p o s i t i o n . Members of lineages based outside the subcaste t e r r i t o r y have l i t t l e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n . The anomaly l i e s i n the d e s i g n a t i o n of the t h i r d place to Tancakkur, f o r these people do not c o n s t i t u t e a complete lineage. They acknowledge lineage members and maintain r i g h t s i n t h e i r o r i g i n a l v i l l a g e f a r away. 123. TABLE I I LINEAGE HIERARCHY AT ARAPPALAIYAM P o s i t i o n Lineage Name 1 Villapuram 2 V i l a n k u t i 3 Tancakkur/Comacuntara Velar 4 K o c c a t a i 5 A l l other lineage (see Table I) 124. Some Velar suggested that the t h i r d p o s i t i o n was hel d j o i n t l y by Tancakkur and Comacuntara lineages but I could not discover an ex p l a n a t i o n f o r t h i s . The tendency of many Tancakkur lineage members to c l a i m a k u l a teyvam at a temple near Arappalaiyam which they worship j o i n t l y w i t h other lineages i n d i c a t e s that they are i n the process of e s t a b l i s h i n g t h e i r c l a i m to the status of a complete lineage at Arappalaiyam. The same a p p l i e s to Ponmeni lineage which, although a complete Arappalaiyam l i n e a g e , has l o s t many of i t s occupational r i g h t s i n i t s s e r v i c e area. Many Ponmeni people now cl a i m a k u l a teyvam at the same temple as the people of Tancakkur. The centers of lineage a c t i v i t y f o r the 'complete' lineages of Arappalaiyam are small shrines s c a t t e r e d through the Velar s t r e e t , each known as a "temple house" ( k o v i l v i t u ) . These temple houses are a c t u a l l y s p e c i a l rooms set aside i n the house of one member of each l i n e a g e , except i n the case of K o c c a t a i and Vi l l a p u r a m l i n e a g e s , each of which maintains a small b u i l d i n g as a temple house. Each temple house i s more or l e s s c e n t r a l l y l o c a t e d w i t h respect to the residences of f a m i l i e s of the lin e a g e . Each temple house i s dedicated to a female d e i t y who i s honoured as "house goddess" ( v i t u amman) of the lineage and each features a p a i n t i n g or image of t h i s goddess. A l i s t of these goddesses i s given i n Table I I I . The goddesses are held e s p e c i a l l y dear by the women and c h i l d r e n of the lineage who can turn to them f o r p r o t e c t i o n . Indeed they are s a i d to be Velar women who, during the Pantiyan p e r i o d , committed s u i c i d e r a t h e r than become concubines of the king. Their d i s t i n c t i v e method of s u i c i d e , burning themselves among the pots on the f i r i n g ground ( c u l a i ) , bound them forever to the s p e c i a l i n t e r e s t s of the Velar community (see d i s c u s s i o n on page 215). Despite t h e i r p r o t e c t i v e r o l e , the ambivalent nature and p o t e n t i a l l y dangerous 125. TABLE I I I KQVIL VITU Lineage (Vakaiyara) K o c c a t a i V i l l a p u r a m V a t t i y a r (Villapuram segment) Tanj akur Comacuntara Ponmeni V i l a n k u t i Temple House Goddess ( V i t u amman) Pataliamman Karupaiyiamman Kotacciamman Pecciamman/Karupayiamman Viraiyiamman No temple house s p e c i f i e d No temple house s p e c i f i e d 126. power of these house goddesses, as of a l l l o c a l d e i t i e s , was acknowledged by the f a c t that the houses and rooms used as a temple house were considered unlucky as residences. The temple houses are a l s o the storage places f o r the implements and r e g a l i a used by lineage p r i e s t s i n t h e i r d u t i e s at l o c a l temples, and e s p e c i a l l y t h e i r main lineage temple. This property i n c l u d e s c l o t h i n g and weapons to dress the images of powerful d e i t i e s during f e s t i v a l s , costumes worn by possessed dancers ( c a m i y a t i ) , and b e l l s , lamps, and other puja implements. A l l these are p e r i o d i c a l l y c a r r i e d by lineage p r i e s t s back and f o r t h to temples i n the area which they serve, u s u a l l y i n a t r u n k - s i z e box, which i s i t s e l f a symbol of t h e i r occupational r i g h t s . The box must not be kept i n an ordinary room because of i t s power and p o t e n t i a l danger. The temple house where the box i s stored becomes a sub-temple of 44 the a c t u a l temples i n the s e r v i c e area of the l i n e a g e . At Arappalaiyam, temple houses are maintained only by those lineages which have a lineage temple c l o s e by and which e x e r c i s e t h e i r occupational r i g h t s of image making and p r i e s t l y s e r v i c e i n nearby areas. Earthen images modelled at Arappalaiyam are worshipped p r i v a t e l y by lineage members at the temple house before t r a n s f e r to those who have commissioned them (see page 236). Members of a lineage gather at t h e i r temple house f o r worship on the f e s t i v a l n i g h t s of Ponkal, C i v a r a t i r i , and K a r t t i k a i , o f t e n before going to the temple of t h e i r lineage d e i t y (kula teyvam). On occasions such as the f i r s t v i s i t of an i n f a n t to the lineage temple ( u s u a l l y t h i r t y days a f t e r b i r t h ) , a s p e c i a l puja may be held at the temple house i n For a comparable example see Dumont 1956:341. 127. p r e p a r a t i o n . A man who has taken or i n h e r i t e d a vow to perform an a s c e t i c f e a t ( n e r t i k a t a n ) w i l l o f t e n hold a pu