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A SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY ON VELLALAS AND PALLAS IN SRI-LANKA

 

Rev.Fr.M.G.Arulpragasam Department of Sociology HD/M.Phil/06/07/157

INTRODUCTION
feast-in-torontoOppert considers Vellalan to be etymologically connected with the Pallan and palli. Deva Asirvatham states that the Mallar became Pallar and Dr. Guruswamy Siddid states that the Tamil Illakiathil Pallar(Mallar) became Devandrakula Vellalars. Muthuthampipillai states that the Mallar are the inhabitants in Maruthanilam. Mallar became Pallar and Pallar gradually became Vellalas.Pallars were the original tillers whose emblem was plough and they were known as Ulavar.A child was found in the flood while the Pallan was working in the paddy field of his master. He took him and named him Vellalan.He brought up him as his own brother. The Vellalan’s wife was wicked lady as such made the Pallan as slave. (Pfaffenberger: 1982:55) Pallar were the tenant and original agriculturists in ancient time. (Muththuthampillai(2nd edtion) :2001: 61)
The descendents of this Pallankaipillai Vellalas are the original Vellalars, but not all the people who are pretending to be Vellalas. They are imposters. It is mentioned that the Vellalas were Agricultural Coollies. (Boake: (1888): 19) Many Scholars conclude that these coolly Vellalas(Pallas) began to claim for themselves a higher rank during 19th Century. Vaipava Malai states that Coviyas are also Pallas.Today amongst the Tamil Diaspora across the world Pallars are found as part of Vellalas

Velirs were not Vellalas(Pallas)
The people who identified themselves as Vellalas with the connection of the Vels or Velirs of the Sangam tribes are not original Veliers. The emblom of these Velirs is the fish i.e Maharam which is a royal emblem. Velirs were also one of the Naga clans who had five-headed and seven-headed serpents to indicate their clans. (Xavier: (1977): 16) Some of them worshiped Velan (Murugam). (Xavier: 228) The Nagas were known Kurukulavamsa who built a Temple to their God Murugan, settled the warriors around the Temple and ruled Batticalloa before Vijayan had been arrived in Sri-Lanka.(Kamalanathan : (2005) : 35) Velirs are the kings of kuru-land. (Kathiravetpillai 2002)7th Reprinted: 1316) The Velirs have connection with the Kurukula People. So Vellalas have close connection with Pallas.

Vellalalization
According to Bryan Pfaffenberger, the rise to complete dominance by the Vellalas began with the capture of Portuguese holdings in Sri Lanka by the Dutch. Vellalan was a title. Jaffna Vellalas are descendents of Kallar, Maravar, Agamudiyar, Koviyars, Ottars, Parathesikal, Portuguese, Pallars, Nadduvars, Malaiyalikal, Panikkans, (mudaliyarship given to these Pannikans in Jaffna) Karukumatti Vellalars(Sandars), Sempadavers, Irkuli Vellalars( Vannars) and the children of dancing girls.(Raghavan : 181)
The Dutch interpreted the local laws later codified as Thesavalamai and allowed these pretending Vellalas to own slaves. Thus empowered many tobacco plantations were created by the pretending Vellalas with the help of imported Indian workers from the Pallar caste who were held as slaves. In later period the people belonging to other castes such as Maravar, Kallar, Pallar, and Akampadiyar also eventually associated them with the Vellala identity. It is called Vellalaization.

Vellalas are not Paddy Cultivators
According to Vaiyapadal which was written two centuries before Yalpana Vaipava Malai after Nagas, the Varunakula descent, who were known as cultivators, was the first batch of Karaiyars settled in Jaffna. It further added that Kulakoddan got down fifty one Vanniyars, a caste of agricultural experts from Pandiyan coasts. (Sivaratnam: (1968): 108-113) These Vanniyars were not somebody else, but they were Varunakulather.
After that Vanniars, Agampadiars and other low caste groups of 18 classes of Kudis, settled in Jaffna. Only a few that is a handful of Vellalas(Pallas) in Jaffna have a plot of lands. But the other Vellalas(Pallas) are very poor than the barbers, Pallas, and Paraiyas. Jaffna Peninsula was formerly lacked land for cultivation of rice, the staple food of those parts. Nagas had colithie(agricultural) and maritime culture. Velier are also one of the Naga clans who had five-headed and seven-headed of cobra or snake to express their groups. The Velier of Samgam period had connection with the Kuru-land which belonged to Kurukula Karaiyars. The Kurukula people had a Giant’s tank built by Rakshas who were the slaves of them and irrigation facilities in Mantota. Kurukula Nagas of Manthai were the inventers of paddy cultivation in Ceylon. Jaffna geographically is a barren land except for the steady supply of underground water remains hostile for human habitation. (Nagalingam: 25) Hence the Jaffna Vellalas(Pallas) are not inventers of Paddy cultivation. Pushparatnam says that the Vellalas couldn’t be connected with cultivation and they have no connection with the agricultural tracts too. The Cultivators who were much later called Vellalas. (Rajanayagam: (1984) Reprint: 155)
Lower castes practices
The habits of teetotalism and vegetarianism were imitated by lower castes with a view to raising their status and gaining acceptance. (Srinivas: (1966): 6) Some of the Pallis( ferminine gender of Pallans) have become vegetarians and also some of the Ambattans ( Babers) have become Vegetarians and teetotalers.( A gender Specific Analys : 18-20). Sudra Vellalas of Jaffna had taken up these practices in order to rise up their status from Sudra Coolly concept. Warriors were probably land-owners; they did not cultivate their lands themselves but got them cultivated by the Palla caste farmers as payment for protection. (Sri-Lanka: Society and Culture: 2-3). The Kurukula people do not marry these Vellala farmers because they are Pallas. It is also true that the Kurukula people try their best to avoid marrying other castes.

Vellalars were Sudras

The ancestors of the Vellalans were Sudras and in their ancestry were debarred from the Temple. (Holmes (1980):227) They were born from the foot of Brama, thus can’t chant the Veda. According to the Tholkapiyam the Vellalas are Sudras. These Sudra Vellalas have to worship the twice born namly the three highest castes such as Brahmins, Kurukulam i.e Kshathriyas and Vaisiyas. They have to do coolly work under these three castes. (Kathiravetpillai 2002): 888). Many Scholars conclude that these Coolly Vellalas began to claim for themselves a higher rank during 19th Century. Melongi Kurukula Karaiyars of Singai dynasty families, Madapallis, and Barathavers consider Vellalars are lesser breeds.
Mannar Vellalas
The Vellalas at Nanattan division were from Pannaivedduvan where the earliest inhabitants were Odders who were chiefly engaged in the quarrying of stones, in the sinking of wells and in the construction of the Tank bunds. The earliest inhabitants of Kankanithevu at Nanattan were Potters. Now the Pallankaipillai Vellalas are living. Parapandandal Vellalas are Maravars and Koviers from Poovarasankulam and Vavuniya. There are three divisions in Suriya Kaddaikadu village. The centre place is called Thiru Mudi Suriya Kaddaikadu, because the earliest inhabitants of this place are SuriyaKulam i.e., Kurukulam. Other two divisions are Periyakaddaikadu and Sampankaddaikadu. According to Baptismal register few people of Periyakaddaikadu were Padaiyardchi, a Tamil caste, who came from India and assimilated into Vellalar identity. The former settlers of Sampankaddaikadu were Sampan means Pariars. Now Sinnakulathar from Karisal settled there and call them Vellalas. The descendents of Annamalai group of India call them Vellalas at Kaddaikadu. According to one of the Vellala(Palla) informants the “Annamalai “ families are not original Vellalas( Pallas). He informed me that the refugees who went to India traced their origin and found that they belonged to Nalava caste. That was why they try their best to avoid using the surname “Annamalai”. There are some Vedha Vellalars in Batticalloa.

Simon Casie was a person turned up side down the caste system in Sri-Lankan Tamils. Every one of Mannarists and Jaffnies know that the Kuddathu Matha Kovil of Parapankandal is a ‘caste Church’ belongs to Kurukula Karaiyar. But he says that there are numerous Vellalas in Parapankandal. And he purposefully categories the Kurukula Karaiyar and Parathavas are Sudras. Gnanaprakasar accepts that the Kurukula Karaiyars and Parathavas are Kshtriyas. (Gnanaprakasar: (1924): 116) Simon Casie also wrongly mentioned that the two important Poets namely Lawrance Pulavar and Kumarasinghe Pulavar saying that they belonged the Sudra Vellalar community. But the Lawrance pulavar was from Pichchaikulam and Kumarasinghe Pulavar was from Periyanavatkulam. Right from the beginning both places belong to Kurukula community.(Velupillai : Reprinted( 2004) 166 )The Yalpana Vaipava Malai states that Pandi Maluvan, went to Madurai and bought a Prince of Suriyakulam(Kurukulam) to rule over Jaffna. There is a place called ‘Maluvarayar Kaddai Adampan” in Mannar. According to the baptismal register of the Catholic Church the people who live in this place are Pallas. Hence the descendents of Pandi Maluvan of Jaffna are Pallars. Pallancotti(Pallan Kottle) people also identity themselves as Vellalas but they were originally Pallas.

Dark Age in Tamils
According to Yalpana Vaipava Malai, from the 12th century to the 16th, many Sudra Vellalars from Tamil Nadu were responsible for organizing settlement groups from India into the Jaffna peninsula. During the Jaffna kingdom period and the following colonial period since the 16 the century, Vellalas were in constant struggle for supremacy with another caste now extinct called Madapalli. The kings belonging to the Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty of Kurukulam( Suriyakulam)would appoint leaders from both the factions to maintain peace in the kingdom. Kurukulam comes from the Kurus in Mahabharata and Kshatriya origin. In the eye of the people Kshatriyas, the ruling classes no doubt superior to the Brahmans.
During the British colonial period in Sri Lanka which began with the capture of the entire island nation and its unification by Great Britain in 1815, Sudra Vellalas began to look for education as the new opportunity to upgrade their livelihoods. Various Christian missionaries had made the Tamil dominated Jaffna peninsula as the best location in all of Asia for English education in the 19th century. Many Sudra Vellala families were helped by invaders to use this opportunity to educate their children and they provided the bulk of the British colonial civil servants in Sri Lanka and in British held Malaysia and Singapore. Slavery was also abolished in 1855 by the British colonial authorities, thus making agriculture less profitable. The Sudra Vellala domination of Sri Lankan Tamils in government services in post independent Sri Lanka eventually became one of the route causes of the Sri Lankan civil war. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
It is a known fact that Vellalars and Karayars compete for the dominance of Peninsular Jaffna since as early as the times of Portuguese. It is true that the Karaiyar general fought with Invaders and became enemies to them, but not to the Roman Catholic Church. But the Roman Catholic Church was always with them by electing Bishops from the Sudra caste people. There were lot of questions and arguments made by Kurukula Catholics regarding the electing of Catholic Bishops of Tamil places. This Sudra Vellala caste has no connection with the Kings, Nobles and the warriors of the Tamil people. These Sudra vellala people were simple ordinary people. Presently these Sudra Vellalas do not expose themselves as Vellalas because of the Kurukula people besides no invaders to help them except Rome.

Nobody is genuine Vellalar in Sri-Lankan Tamils. These people were given lands by Invaders such as Portuguese, Dutch and British to do tobacco cultivation. Kings period all the lands belonged to Kings and nobles. These Pallan and Vellalan had to work in the kings’ land. During the Jaffna kingdom period and the following colonial period since the 16th century, Sudra Vellalas were in constant struggle for supremacy with another caste called Madapalli. The kings belonging to the Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty (Singhi dynasty) of Sooriyakulam(Kurukulam) would appoint leaders from both the factions to maintain peace in the kingdom. Melonghi Karaiyars and Vellalars had constant struggle for supremacy at the parish of St.John’s in Jaffna town. In order to solve this problem the parishioners of this Church came to an agreement to appoint the lay president from the Melonghi people continually. (Matthis: (1992): 114-115)

Father.D.J. Chrysostom the first Catholic priest from Karaiyar caste died in 1896, allegedly poisoned by Sudra Vellala priests.(N.Maria Saveri (Undated):293) The Roman Catholic Church was always with the side of them by electing Bishops from the Sudra caste people. Most of these Bishops are from Kayts where these Vellalars were called Parathesis i.e., foreigners (Pathmanathan: (1978):67) Sudra Vellalas are importers. There were lot of questions and arguments made by Kurukula Catholics regarding the electing of Catholic Bishops of Northern and Eastern provinces. The Eelam War and the appointment of non Vellalar Catholic Bishops namely Rt.Rev.Dr.Thamas Saundranayagam and Rt.Rev.Dr.Ponnaiya Joseph the domination of this Sudra Caste is fading away from the Sri-Lankan Tamil Society. The period of Sudra Vellalars was Dark Age in Sri-Lankan Tamils. It is better for the Govigama of Sinhalese caste not to equate them with the Vellallars because they are mixed crowed and not traditional farmers.

In 1834, Simon Casie Chitty recorded in his Ceylon Gazetteer, that Kallar, Maravar, Ahampadiyar and Palli (Vanniyar) were sub-divisions of the Vellala caste. Many Kurukula Vanniyars have marital relationship with Kurukula Karaiyar of Mathoddam especially at Suriyakaddaikadu. The informants conveyed this interesting message to me. But the Vanniyas do not have a connecting with the Sudra Vellalas of Mathoddam.

Conclusion

Hence Vellalas were Pallas and Coollies thus unable to co-op up with the Tamil Kshtriyas namely Kurukula Karaiyar. They still search support from Sinhalese and foreigners as such prefer to cling with them in order to defend the native Tamil administration. They are not equal with the Sinhalese Govigama.

In Sri- Lanka there were four divisions of caste groups namely “Wisemen”, “Kings”, “Merchants”, and “Cultivators”, as well as attendants, the articians and other service group. The fourfold caste model in Sri Lanka’s pre-British period Sinhala history and literature was: Raja, Bamunu, Velenda and Govi. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) These four groups were the warriors of Vijaya. (Ryan; 1953: 6) Hence the Sinhlese Govigamas were warriors but the Tamil Vellalas were Sudras. After becoming cultivators the Govigamas were also considered as Sudras. The Kshtriyas claim highest status in Sri-Lanka. Some members of Karaiyar caste believe that they are desendent of warrior caste, the Kshatrias and are therefore higher in rang than any of the other Ceylonese castes. (Argus John Tresidder: 1960: 43) During British period the cultivators claim highest status in Sri-Lanka. Therefore the landownering Sudra Vellalas, Govigama of Sinhalese caste, Kurukula Karaiyar of Mathoddam and vannai, land ownering Mukkuvars of Batticalloa claim highest status in Sri-Lanka. The Class of nobles were classified as Kshtriyas in Sri-Lanka.(Ellawala : 1968 : 12) Likewise the Kurukula Nobles of Nallur and Manthai should be classified as Kshtriyas.( Velupillai: 2002 : 180) Kurukula Karaiya communities are scattered throughout Sri Lanka including the interior of the island but they are predominantly resident on the southern, western and northern districts of Sri Lanka .

Vellalas are Pallas. Jaffna Sudra Vellalas are the original Pallas brought to do tobacco plantation. Tobacco cultivators of Sudra Vellalas (Pallas) of Jaffna are inferior to the paddy cultivators of Kurukula Karaiyars of Mathoddam in the district of Mannar.

According to Ryan Vellalas were “tillers of the soil.”(Tennent., “Ceylon”, :1859 (1999) : 426) Hence the Vellalas are Pallas and untouchables.

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