The historical trend of a district and the natural and artificial forces shaping it could be understood in proper perspective only if we know the people living there well. The people are the human resources of the district. Their culture, religion, aptitude, habits, beliefs, talents etc., have a bearing on how the district presents itself to others. The schemes of Government have to be tailored to suit the special characteristics and aspirations of the people, in order to elicit their wholehearted cooperation and a positive interaction.

The old manuals and district gazetteers show how seriously the British administrators tried to understand the people of this country. Under their influence, the native States also took strenuous efforts to study the population and life style of the people.

A number of sociological and anthropological studies have been conducted of late; and, with the introduction of the concept of ‘welfare State’, the ‘People’ are given utmost importance in special studies conducted by Government, political parties and academic institutions. Though there is a vast area awaiting exploration, studies about ‘people’ are taken up right earnestly by students of Sociology and many other disciplines with a view to securing a deep insight about the problems of the people and possible solutions.

Among the studies, the most systematic, authentic expensive and well-organised is the decennial censuses conducted by Government. With modern methods of collecting data, tabulation and analysis, the census reports are extremely useful and informative. The students of various Universities and local scholars also make very useful contribution. A thorough study of linguistic peculiarities and folklores in Kanniyakumari district was also organised especially for the District Gazetteer.

The most interesting and puzzling aspect of any district can be only the people living there. It is wellnigh impossible to conclude and say fina word about the people as they represent a living force, with their own moods and aims, and changing always either voluntarily or under pressure. Any account on the people of a given area is, therefore, bound to be incomplete with considerable scope for further explorations ; that is how this chapter also has been shaped. This is only a single entry in an account which is never going to be closed.

Population : The first organized Census in former Travancore State took place in 1816 by the advice and under the direction of Colonel Munro’. According to this enumeration, the State had a population of 9,06,587. The population as per the next Census taken in 1836, was 12,80,668. In 1854, the third Census returned a population of 12,62,647 in the State. Nagam Aiya, however, dismisses these three Censuses as unreliable for purposes of statistical discussions and observes, ‘such a violent arrest to the law of increase in a period not marked by any extraordinary adverse seasons or exceptional visitations of droughts or epidemics is totally inexplicable except on the ground of its gross inaccuracy.’1

The next census in the State was conducted in 1875. This was followed by another Census in 1881. Afterwards decennial Censuses have been conducted. The increase in the population of the State from 1875 to 1901 may be seen from the following figures :-2

Year    Population       Difference       Percentages of Increase

1875    23,11,379        —        —

1881    24,01,158        + 89,779          3.9% for 6 Years

1891    25,57,736        + 1,56,578       6.5% for 10 Years.

1901    29,52,157        + 3,94,421       15.4% for 10 Years


The state’s population in 1901 has been given by Nagam Aiya as 29,52,157. Of this, the population of Kanniyakumari district alone was 3,59,248 (12.2 per cent). The details of population of decadal variations in the district from 1901 -1981 may be seen in Table -3:1.

From 9,96,915 in 1961, the population has moved up to 12,22,549 in 1971; and to 14, 23,399 in 1981. The increase of population registered in 1961 -71 was 22.63 per cent. In 1971-81, the percentage of increase has come down to 16.43.


Distribution of Population : Among the four taluks in the district, Kalkulam has the largest population of 4,76,633, followed by Vilavankodu (4,58,590)’.and Agasthiswaram (4,00,000). The Thovalai taluk has a meagre population of 88,176.

The details of distribution of population in these taluks may be seen in Table -3:2.

Sex ratio : The district has a female population of 7,06,441 (49.63 per cent) as against the male population of 7,16,958 (50.37 per cent). The male domination in numbers is common to both rural and urban areas. In rural areas, the strength of male population is 5,93,906 (50.42 per cent) while in urban areas it is 123,052 (50.12 per cent).

The numerical strength of female population in Kanniyakumari district is, however, more than State average. In Tamil Nadu male population is 50.67 per cent. In Kanniyakumari district it is slightly less, i.e. 50.37 per cent. At state level, we have only 977 females for every thousand males. In Kanniyakumari district, there are 985 females per thousand of males.

Migration :      Nagam Aiya points out that only 0.8 per cent of the

population (24,490) was enumerated as emigrants (in 1901) and adds, This small percentage points clearly to the Stay-at-homeness of the Travancorean. It is interesting to note that even of this small number, 15,442 or more than 63 percent have not gone beyond Cochin, while 83 persons have been enumerated outside Madras (74 in Mysore, 8 in Ooty and 1 in Baroda)’. Immigration was, however, more. There were, in 1901, 54,903 persons from outside the Travancore State. Of this, 724 were from outside India.

The subject ‘migration’ in the district has been studied in a more detailed manner during the Census 1961. It was found that 34,813 persons who were born elsewhere, were enumerated in Kanniyakumari district. Of this 14,476 persons were from other districts. 19,832 persons were from other states, and 522 persons were form other countries. Among the foreigners, 449 persons had come from Asian countries. 56 persons were Europeans. There were also two Africans, 14 Americans and one Australian.

It is worth mentioning that among the immigrants nearly 25,000 lived in rural areas of the district. The number of persons born in Kanniyakumari district, but enumerated in other districts was 25,287. As such, it is clear that the impact of movement of the people in and out of the district has been negligible. One more or less cancels the other, thereby the population of the district is not significantly affected.

Distribution between Rural and Urban areas : The percentage of urban population in the district was 15.06 in 1961. It went up to 16.72 in 1971. A further increase has been registered in 1981 taking the percentage of Urban population to 17.25. Though the urban population in the district is slowly increasing when compared with urban population at state level, the Kanniyakumari District is dominated by rural population. The percentage of urban population in the State is 32.9 and in Kanniyakumari district, the percentage is only 17.25.

The talukwise details of distribution of population between the rural and urban areas in the district may be seen in Table – 3:3.

Density : The density of population in Kanniyakumari district is more than State average. The Kanniyakumari district which has an area of 1684 sq. kms. (1.3 per cent of Tamil Nadu) supports a population of 14,23,399, i.e. 2.94 per cent of Tamil Nadu.

Languages : Only Tamil and Malayalam are the main languages of this district. Of these two, Tamil is spoken by 12,71,934 persons and Malayalam is spoken by 1,38,859 persons. The number of households and persons speaking different languages in Kanniyakumari district and in Tamil Nadu may be seen in Tables – 3:4 and 3:5 respectively.

The Malayalam speaking population in the State of Tamil Nadu is 5,77,890. Out of this, about 24 per cent live in this district. The percentage of Tamil speaking population in the district is 89.36. This means that the percentages of persons speaking Tamil and persons speaking Malayalam happen to be more in the district when compared with the State. The normal inference is, therefore, that the population speaking the languages other than these two, is considerably less in this district.

The close association with Malayalam speaking population and the traditional differences in the district have markedly affected the linguistic pattern of the district. In order to bring out these linguistic peculiarities of the district, a special study was organised for the Kanniyakumari district Gazetteer. This was conducted by the Department of Linguistics of Annamalai University. The distinct regional usages and the dialect variations have been studied in depth. The special report on this may be seen in the Appendix to this chapter. Simultaneously, a study of folklores of the district was also specially taken up. This report may be seen in Appendix – 2.

Table -3:4

No. of persons speaking different languages in Kanniyakumari district

Languages       No. of Households      Males   Females           Total

Gujarati           301      844      794      1638

Hindi   25        96        56        152

Kannada          31        82        72        154

Malayalam       26539  69426  69433  138859

Marathi            11        29        16        45

Oriya   1          1          —        1

Punjabi            2          2          3          5

Tamil   249143            641620            630314            1271934

Telugu 416      1051    1036    2087

Urdu    73        211      195      406

Table – 3:5

No. of persons speaking different languages in Tamil Nadu

Languages       No. of Households      Males   Females           Total


Assamese        61        107      87        194

Bengali            977      1940    1775    3715

Gujarati           43620  110113            106925            217038

Hindi   20285  59531  52058  111589

Malayalam       122154            306278            271612            517890

Marathi            12777  33046  32150  65196

Oriya   336      755      625      1380

Punjabi            1203    2632    2450    5082

Sanskrit           56        130      114      244

Sindhi  1836    5048    4919    9967

Tamil   8,813176         20,683,066      20,362,525      41,015,591

Telugu 842,485           2,015,573        1,972,894        3,918,467

Urdu    152,697           438,292           426,519           814,811


Religion and Caste : The details of population are not published by the Census Department separately for various religions. The district had a dominant Hindu population as per 1951 Census. The Hindus formed about 60 per cent of the population; next to this were Christians who formed about 33 per cent and next to this were Muslims who accounted for 5 per cent of the population. The rest is covered by other religions. These figures might have undergone considerable changes in the last four decades. But, the Hindus obviously form the majority of the population in the district.

The caste system in the society has weakened to a great extent especially after independence because of growth of education and improvements in transport and communication. The rigid social divisions in terms of caste noticed and dwelt at length by the British historisns are no longer as significant as they were in those days. Mention may, however, be made of a few castes, which continue to be fairly dominant in the district. Generally, in the southern districts including Madurai and Ramanathapuram, Nadars form one of the major communities. A large section of this community has joined Christianity. The people of this community have been remarkably successful both in agriculture and business.

Nanjil Nadu Vellalas who are said to have come from Madurai in the first century A.D. also form another and major community in the district. As Kanniyakumari district formed part of the Pandya kingdom for a long time, probably these agriculturists might have moved southward from Tirunelveli district.

There are two Paravas Communities, of which one figures under the scheduled caste. The population of these Paravas is 1,472 as per the 1981 Census. The other paravas Community is the third chief community of this district. The people of this community mostly follow Catholism. They are sea-faring people who are believed to have spread in the coastal areas from Tuticorin.

There are Mukthavas, who specialise in pearl fishing. They are believed to have come from Sri Lanka. Most of them are Catholic Christians. Krishnavagaiyars trace their origin to Ambadi, the place,of Sri Krishnan’s birth. Their main occupation is agriculture. There are Nayars who were formerly engaged in Armies. Now they have taken mainly to agriculture, Government service and other professions.

The communities of Vilakkithalanayar, Kammalar or Asari and Chackarevars and Kerala Mudalis are some of the important communities of the district.

The district has a Scheduled Caste population of 4.23 per cent and a Scheduled Tribe population of 0.45 per cent. The taluk-wise details of the population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may be seen in Table – 3:6.

The structure of the Hindu society in the district is not different in any aspect. The same religious beliefs and practices are followed. There were 126 temples in the district as per 1961 Census. In Shri Thanumalayan temple of Sucindram, Shri Kanniyakumari Amman temple, Cape Comarin and the Nagaraja temple, Nagercoil, Kumaran Koil, Padmanabha swamy temble and Bagavathi temple of the district, Saivite and Vaishnavite shrines may be seen in the same temples in many places. For poojas in temples, generally Tantric systems are followed.

The chief deities worshipped are Siva, Vishnu, Pillayar, Murugar, Ambigai (Bhagavathi) and Sastha. The worship of Ambigai and Sastha and (in some places) Muruga is very popular. The famous Bhagavati temple situated on the shore at Kanniyakumari (Cape Comarin) attracts thousands of persons from all over India. The Subramaniaswamy temple (Kumara Koil) situated near Thuckalay is a famous shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga and attracts considerable devotees. Among the important Siva temples mention may be made to the Neelakantaswami koil at Padmanabhapuram, the Thirumala temple at Munchirai (the main deities here are Siva and Vishnu) the Thirunandhikkara temple on the way to Pechipparai and the Thirupparappu temple. The Thiruvattar temple and the Thiruppathisaram temple near Nagercoil are some of the noted Vishnu temples. The Parakkai temple near Nagercoil dedicated to Madhusoodanaperumal could also be mentioned. An annual utsavam is held in all the major temples of the district. In some temples, there may even be two or more utsavams in a year. Generally, the utsavams last for 10 days. The Utsavams attract a large number of devotees.


The Talukwise details of the population of Scheduled castes and

Scheduled Tribes.

Name of the Taluk/ Town 1    Total



2          Scheduled Castes        Scheduled Tribes


3          Females

4          Total

5          Males

6          Females

7          Total


  1. Vilavankodu taluk T 6383    6504    12887  1153    1157    2310

R         6170    6302    12472  1153    1157    2310

U         213      202      415      — ■ > ■          :(■ —

Kuzhitturai (M)           U         213      202      415                              —

  1. Kalkulam taluk T 8829    ‘8545   17374  1589    1481    3070

R         7608    7399    15007  1573    1472    3045

U         1221    1146    2367    16        9          25

Padmanabhapuram (M) U       973      902      1875    16        9          25

Kolachel (M)   U         248      244      492      : –         •

  1. Thovalai taluk T 4089    4118    8207    109      95        204

R         4089    4118    8207    1Q9     95        204

U         – ‘ —- ■           • _        ■          tin*y‘:              ‘cfftd— :

  1. Agastiswaram taluk T 10748  10957  21705  396      378      774

R         7645    7967    15612  146      157      303

U         3103    2990    6093    250      221      471

Nagercoil (M)  U         3043    2936    5979    200      175      375

Kanniyakumari (TS.)   u          60        54        114      50        46        96

* Source: Census of India, 1981, Kanniyakumari district, page-88


The observance of fasts (virathams) on particular days or the month is an important item in the religious life of the Hindus. The observance of fasts are spread all over all months of the year and are intended as occasions for intensive contemplation of God. Besides this, the followers of each sect have their own special days of fast in the year. Thus, the day known as Vaikunta Ekadasi is sacred to Vishnu and holy night Sivarathri is sacred to Siva. Dr. Padmanabhan adds : On Sivarathri, devotees wearing red coloured robes holding a fan of palmyrah leaves and uttering ‘Govinda, Gopala’ start from Thirumalai and finish their marathon pilgrimage at Thirunattalam covering a distance of nearly 100kms. within 24 hours. This is a unique festival in the district.

The rites and forms of worship of the scheduled tribes, (kanis)in general exhibit an elaborate and complex religious consciousness. Animism is the most elementary and universal concept in primitive religions. Animism is defined as including the belief in souls and in a future state, in the controlling deities and subordinate spirits. The Kanis God is iegion. The Kanis believe in spirits of diverse kinds which are supposed to haunt houses and villages. They are malevolent spirits able to damage crops and cause epidemics and famine. The propitiation of these spirits is the essence of the religion of the kanis. The kanis particularly propitiate the hunting spirit. They also worship ‘Agasthya’ and ancestor – spirits. The chief object of worship among the kanis is said to be ‘Sasthan’ a forest God. But they also worship a variety of deities like Amman, Poothathamman etc., Generally, in the month of February, a festival called Kodai is held at which all the Kanis assemble. Worship and offerings are made to the sylven deities in a consecrated place.

Kanis : The religion of the kanis shows sign of Hinduism in it as they worship Gods like Sastha.

By the frequent contact with the people of the plains, the primitive customs and habits of the hill tribes are fast changing and they are becoming more and more civilized. For instance, till recently the kanis were in the habit of sending all their women into the seclusion of the dense jungle on the arrival of a stranger near their settlements. But, this is now seldom noticed.

The kanis are nomadic agriculturists. Rice is their staple food and they cultivate it besides topioca, various kinds of cereals, pulses, sweet, potatoes and vegetables, plantains and tobacco. The jungle kanis also

eat birds, reptiles and beasts. They also eat a kind of a bread prepared out of the fruits of a palm tree. They also collect honey for consumption and fish in the jungle streams.

The kanis use the bill-hook for loosening the soil for cultivation, for cutting firewood and for various other purposes. The Kanis are also adepts in the use of the bow to kill wild animals which destroy their crops. The bow is made of wood or bamboo and the arrow, or reed, with the help of the pellet-bow.

Pellets of stone are flung with great force. The kanis make fire by means of a hand-drill and also by the “flint and steel method” which they call “chakku mukki”. The use of safety matches is now fast coming into vogue. Some of the kanis are also engaged as coolies on planters’ estates or in felling timber or cutting bamboos for contractors.

The kanis are fond of sports. They are good trackers. They render help willingly and guide persons and officials who travel through the forests.

Christianity :   The Christian community forms the second major

community in the district.

Among the Christians in the district, the Roman Catholics constitute the major group. There are also followers of the Church of South India and of the Salvation Army. The number of Syrian Christians in the district is, however, very few. The Christians are mostly converts from the Hindus, especially from the then so called low-castes. The Christians are found in all the taluks of the district, which have been in early times the centres of the activities of the various missionaries like the London Mission Society, the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church.

It is believed that Christianity was first introduced in the Kerala region by St. Thomas (52-68 A.D.) one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. By about the 16th Century A.D. Latin Christianity began to take roots in the district mainly due to the effort of the Jesuit missionaries. St. Francis Xavier began his missionary enterprise on the coast of South India by about the middle of 16th century A.D. He received considerable help from the Portuguese authorities for his missionary activities. St. Francis Xavier, who worked for sometime in the Tuticorin coast came to Travancore in 1544 A.D. Dr. S. Padmanabhan however, observes: “St. Francis Xavier landed in 1542 at the port of Goa and came to Kanniyakumari in 1544. He went to Tuticorin from Kanniyakumari.” The king of Travancore allowed

St. Xavier ample scope for his evengelising mission. St. Xavier converted a large number of Hindus to Christianity.

*          St. Xavier’s method of conversion was simple ; he did not wait for the erection of costly chapels and commodious churches. Wherever he made conversions he erected first cross and then a booth of branches and palm leaves which was in time replaced by a church build of stone and cement. St. Xavier had his headquarters at Kottar and it is held that his work accounts for the large element of Latin Catholics in the composition of the Christian population in and around the place.

The Catholic Mission have been very active in the District. The Church at Kottar where St. Xavier had worshipped is held sacred by the Catholics of South India. The annual festival of the Church is held in December and attracts huge congregation of Catholic Christians from all over South India. Formerly, the Catholic Churches in the district were under the Quilon Bishopric, but later on, a separate bishop was consecreted at Kottar.

With the turn of the 18th Century various Western Christian missions gradually increased their activities for spreading Christianity in the region and among them the protestant Missions were the more numerous. The London Mission Society, which is now one of the constituent bodies of the church of south India, started its work in this region as early as Travancore had erected a Church, for Protestants of Mylaudi near Kanniykumari. It worked with its headquarters at Nagercoil and did yeomen services to the people both in the fields of education and medical services.

In 1905, the London Mission Church in this district entered a union with the Churches associated with the American Missison in Madurai. Later in 1908, Churches of the Presbyterian and Congregational traditions came together to form the South India United Church. The South India United Church (S.I.U.C.) on the one hand wanted to be truly Indian and on the other hand to be stronger by uniting with the other Churches in India. In keeping with this attitude, negotiations with the Anglican Church in South India were made in 1920 and with the Methodists resolved to form part of the church of India, Burma and Ceylon accepted the scheme in 1945. The Church of South India and the Anglican church of South India came into being in 1947, and for the first time, the above Church in the district came under a Bishop. The diocese of Kanniyakumari of the Church of South India has its headquarters at Nagercoil.

* Please see V. Nagam Alya’s Travancore State Manual,1906 Vol. II, p. 135

The Salvation Army is also very active in the district. The Salvation Army had its headquarters at Krishnan Koil, a suburb of Nagercoil in the Agasthiswaram Taluk. The Salvation Army concentrated their work mainly among the Parayars and other depressed classes of Hindus. Thuckalay is their chief centre of work in the Kalkulam Taluk.

The Seventh Day Adventist Mission also has many Churches in the district. There are a few Syrian Jacobite Christians in the district, their activities are not, however, very prominent in the district and they are mostly confined to Trivandrum, which was the Capital of the former T ravancore-State.

Muslims : The Muslims who are the third major community in the district form about 5 per cent of the population. From very early times, the ports on the West Coast attracted many sea-faring peoples of the world. It is held that the first batch of Muslims reached Malabar by about 712 A.D. They came as traders and settled in the Coastal regions. They not only respected the customs and usages of the country but also maintained cordial relations with the native population. They erected mosques in convenient places and slowly made many converts to Islam.

The General structure, customs, and manners and religious beliefs of the Muslims of the district are basically the same in other parts of the State.

The Muslims are fairly distributed in all the taluks of the district. However, at Thiruvithankodu, Thuckalay and Colachel in the Kalkulam taluk, Thittuvilai in the Thovalai taluk and Edalakudy in the Agastiswaram taluk, there are large number of Muslims mostly engaged in trading activities. The two major sections of the Muslims at this place, are the Shiahs and the Sunnis.

New Religious and Social Reform Movements and Leaders : There have occurred no independent religious or social reform movement in the district. The Movements that originated in other areas have spread to this region also and influenced the society. All India Organisation like the Ramakrishna Mission, the Arya Samaj and the Theosophical society contributed a great deal to the break down of severe caste barriers.

In the Trivandrum district itself, of which the present Kanniyakumari was a part then, two religious leaders namely Sri Chattampi Swamigal and Sri Narayana Guru, were born. Sri Chattampi Swamigal (1854-1924) worked for the betterment of the major Hindu Communities like the Izhavas and the Nairs and brought about a radical change in the social order. Sri Narayana Guru was contemporary of Sri Chattampi Swamigal. He worked throughout his life for the moral and social advancement of the Harijans, Izhavas and other backward classes. The Swami campaigned for mitigating the severities of the caste system. He consecrated many shrines in various parts of Kerala, not only to the memebers of his own community, but also to others. He successfully carried on a campaign against the animal sacrifices which were freely indulged in by the Izhavas, Harijans and others in the name of religion. He spoke against various irrational practices of the Izhavas which had been responsible for enormous waste of money. He persuaded them to give up the observance of the customery rituals and cermonies like Talikettu, Tirandukalyanam, Pulikudi, etc., He was of the firm view that religion should not consist of external and meaningless rites and practices but that it should lead to the orientation of the individual to a nobler and more virtuous life. He also advocated inter-marriages between the various castes so that caste barriers may break down and a classless and casteless society may evolve.

Among certain of the Muslims in the district, the Ahamadia Movement in Islam that was started in East Punjab in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Gulam Ahamed, had spread. This Movement has over 150 organised branches all over the Indian Union. The Jamati-Ahamadia at Kottai established in 1945 is one such branch. A newly built Ahamadia Mosque with a mission house was opened in 15 June 1954 at Edalakudy, Kottar. The followers of the Movement consider Hazrat Gulam Ahamed as Prophet after Mohammed. They number very roughly 50 families at Kottar.

The name of Muthukutti Swamigal deserves a mention here. His influence against conversion of Nadars into Christianity has been remarkable (Please also see the Note on Folklore survey).


Property and Inheritance : Both matrilineal (Marumakkathayam) and Patrilineal (Makkathayam) Systems of inheritance and succession were prevalent among the people of the district. The matrilineal system of inheritance is considered to be peculiar to Kerala. In the Marumakkathayam system the descent is through the female line or through the sister’s children. The family or tharawad, as it was called, consists of all the descendants of a common ancestress in the female

line only. The tharawad was joint family. Its property was the joint property of all the members and every one of them was entitled to maintenance from it, but was not entitled to claim partition. A partition could be effected only with the concent of all the members of the tharawad. The eldest male member of the family was known as the Karanayan. He had the absolute right of managing the family property. The only limitation on his power was that he could effect alienation of the family property only with the consent of the anantharayana or junior members. The junior members who had no property of their own succeeded to the Karanayasthanan property by the seniority. They could sue for the removal of the Karanayan from his position, if he was found guilty of proved mis-management of family property.

Marriages : From very early times, marriages have been cosidered a sacrament by the Hindus. Generally speaking, the approved rule was monogamy though polygamy existed here and there. In 1955, the Hindu Marrriage Act was enacted. This codified and reformed the law relating to Hindu marriages all over India. Monogamy was made both general and compulsory among all classes of Hindus. Among Christians, polygamy is taboo both by law and religion. Though among the Muslims polygamy is not prohibited by law or custom, public opinion has always been against it.

An interesting feature of the joint family property, under Marumakkathayam was that the wife of the Karanayan (Ammavi) exercised great influence over the affairs of the tharawad, though she and her children had no legal claims to the family property of the Karanavan. The Ammavi, was often a cause of tension within the tharawad and was never popular with the Anantharawans. The joint family system never worked harmoniously; Consequent on the revolt of the younger generation against the uncontrolled authority exercised by the Karananyan in the joint family, the Marumakkathayam system had undergone considerable changes in recent times. A series of legislative measures have made vast sections of the Hindu Community Makkathayis.

Originally, the Nancinad Vallalas were Makkathayis. But later on, they conformed to the usages of Malayans by adopting the Marumakkathayam law. Edgar Thurston reports that the laws of inheritance of the Nancinad Vellalas in these days was a curious blend of the Makkathayam and Marumakkathayam system. Sons were entitled to a portion of the property, not exceeding a fourth of the self acquired property of the

father and also a fourth of what would have descended to him in a Makkathayam family. This was called Ukanthutams because it was property given out of love as opposed to right.

The need for legislation relating to marriage, family management, and inheritance, was felt by Nancinad, Vellala Community and the demand for a law on the subject arose as much from a desire to legalise the existing forms of marriage and regulation the vogue, The Nancinad, accoridng to traditions was originlally colonised by people from the Coromandal Coast. They began to change the social and domestic constitution due to the influence of the Malayalis. Their inheritance became modified, their matrimonial ideals altered, and their caste structure became in course of time an interesting model of Tamil and Malayalam social characteristics

if the the traditional account is to be believed, the change from

the Makkathayam to the Marumakkathayam system of inheritance was an act deliberately undertaken by the Community. There is no doubt that the community originally followed the Makkathayam system and that the features of the matriarchal system were subsequently grafted on it. There having come under the sway of a royal house following the matriarchal system of succession, a rupture with their brethren in the Tamil Country, the influence of environments, certain advantages which that system cenfers on a pre-eminently agricultural community and later the influence of the Judiciary appear to have contributed, each in a greater or less degree, to their repudiation one by one of the principles of Hindu law and acceptance of those of the Marumakkathayam law.

Nancinad Vellala Act, 1926 enabled the members of the community to adopt ‘Makkathayam’ instead of ‘Marumakkathayam’. With this, the Marumakkathayam system was given up by most of the Nancinad Vellalas in favour of the Makkathayam and along with it, the system gradually disappeared. Among the Nadars who are governed by the Nithakshara system of Hindu law, the form of succession has always been strictly Makkathaya,.

Among the Nairs, the law of inheritance was Marumakkathayam, but the Nair Regulations made it virtually Makkathayam by making the widow and the children of a deceased Nair heirs to his self-acquired property and also sanctioned the partition of the Tharawads, the shares being calculated per capita. The Nair Act of 1925 completely deprived the nephews of all claim to the properties of their uncles.

The Izhavas had a mixed system of Makkathayam and Marumakkathayam but with the passing of the Ezhava Regulation in Travancore in 1925, inheritance had become patrilineal.

The Kammalars always followed the patrilineal system of inheritance.

Among the Krishnavakkakar, there are two divisions. One division follows the Makkathayam system of inheritance and the other follows the Marumakkathayam.

The Kanikara followed a mixture of Makkathayam and Marumakkathayam systems. But most of the Kanikaras in the Kanniyakumari district were only Makkathayis. The scheduled castes of the district who are mostly Parayars have always been only Makkathayis. The system of. inheritance among the Christians and Muslims, in the district has always been patrilineal.


Dwellings : The total number of occupied houses in the district is 2,57,300. Out of this, 2,13,123 houses are in rural areas and 44,177 in urban areas. The following figures show the information collected at the Census of 1981 with regard to the dwelling houses in the district. On a average, there are about six inmates per house.

The pattern of location of houses in the district differs fundamentally from those obtaining in the neighbouring Kerala State. In the Kerala State, a continuous expanse of isolated houses, is the striking feature, whereas in the district and on the east coast in general, close aggregation of houses is the common feature.

The dwellings of the poor are generally built of mud. They have no doors or windows and are thatched with planted cadjan or palmyra leaves. The houses of the middle classes have walls made of wood, or sun-dried or burnt bricks. They also have substantial roofs and also doors and windows. They may be either thatched or tiled. The richer classes have large houses built according to modern patterns. They are of brick or concrete and are also equipped with drainage and other modern conveniences. The houses of the well-to-do and the educated classes are well furnished, and also contain radio sets and other luxury articles. The poorer sections like the Scheduled Castes and Tribes live in huts

and their households generally have only a few earthernware pots and mats.

Dress and Ornaments : Simple and elegant dress is a characteristic feature of the people of the district. In the past, certain distinguishing features in appearance and dress helped one to identify the caste or class to which a person belonged. Nowdays, such distinguishing features in appearance and dress among the various castes and have disappeared, giving place to certain uniformity in dress and appearance. Western ideas of dress and manners have been found most convenient. The great majority of the official and school going population have taken

*          to wear western dress. The dress of women is undergoing a similar change. /Almost among all castes and communities today, in matters of dress, new fashions like the shirt, the bush coat, the blouse etc., have rapidly spread. The formal dress of the male is more or less similar now among all castes and communities. It consists of a dhoti and shirt and in some cases also an upper cloth over the shoulders. In the urban parts, the pants and the bush shirt or bush coat have also become popular. The quality of the material used for the dress generally varies according to the means of the individuals.

The pudavai (Sarees) and the rawikkai (Jacket) constitute the common female attire. There is, however, marked variation in the dress and the -manner of dressing among the women of the different communities. Some among the Muslims (both men and women) wear dress in their customary pattern which distinguishes their appearance from the members of other communtities. The Malayali women are generally fond of white dress. In recent years however, fashions ruling in other communities are being copied.

With the passage of time, the craze for heavy ornaments has


disappeared among women of most of the communities and the more fashionable among them now restrict ornaments to the minimum. Usually, they consist of a gold chain, a pair of Kammals (Studs for the ears), a pair or two of valaiyals (armlets in gold worn on the wrists), gold rings, and a pair of kolusus (generally in silver for the ankles).

Food : Rice is the staple food of the rich and poor alike in the district. Some among the poorer section also use tapioca. Among the Hindus, some sections are vegetarians. Generally, the Muslims and the Christians take more fish and meat than others. Beverages like tea and coffee have widely spread even into the rural areas of the district.

Festivals and Amusements : Festivals are held in all the taluks in connection with various celebrations in the temples, mosques and churches. The car festival at Sucindram attracts large crowds of people in the month of January. The Kodai festival in the month of March in the Mantakkad temple in the Kalkulam taluk draws a large gathering. The Thirukalyana Utsavam in the Kumarakoil temples in the Kalkulam taluk in the month of March – April is observed as an important festival. Pongal (in January) and Deepavali (in November) are also occasions for festivity and rejoicing among the Hindu Communities. The Malayalis celebrate Onam in August – September with feasts and sports. Muslims in all the taluks observe Muharram and Ramzan. Christmas is an important festival for the Christians. In the St. Xavier’s church at Kottar, an annual festival in the month of December is usually celebrated on a very grand scale and attracts Catholic from all over the South India.

While time-honoured amusements are still enjoyed by the less sophisticated people in the rural areas, the cinema has firmly established itself all over the district as the most popular form of recreation. Music is in great demand as also the dramas. Western games like football, tennis, volley-ball, badminton, etc., have also becomes much popular among the educated youth of the district.


Bow Song : Bow Song (Villu – Pattu) is an ancient form of musical-story-telling art of southern Tamil Nadu. This art is famous particularly in Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts.

Bow, the age-old weapon of warriors – paradoxically lends itself to be used as a primary musical instrument for the villu – p –          pattu    artists. They

use udukku (   ‘ Kudam, ( (§i—db) thala-k-kattai      (           )

etc., as supplementary instruments in their performances. Udukku mentioned in the ancient Tamil literature as thudi, ( giuf. ) is a small drum, with a slender middle portion which is held in the left hand and played by the fingers of the right hand. This, may be seen in the pictures and statues of the Lord Nataraja, – the Cosmic Dancer, adoring his left hand.

Kudam is         an        earthern pot, specially made   for       villu-p-pattu

performances.  Two     small blocks of strong abony  wood serve as

thalakkattai. Now-a-days, many modern instruments are added to the old

ones. Similarly to the list of conventional ragas like, Kalyani, Bupalam, Pilahari, Neelambari etc., employed by villu – p – pattu artists, are added cinema – tunes; and , it is not without reason that the people call it

Naveena villu-p-pattu (           eSIebguuuml®            >

From the time immemorial, villu-p-pattu has been an important part of rural festival, especially in village temples. These artists use simple traditional songs, effectively interlinked by conversational remarks. The main artist usually tells a story or a select episode from the Ramayana, the Mahabharatha. etc., by folk songs and also uses his bow in unison. With the accompaniment of the simple orchestra, the villu-p-pattu artist provides entertainment, often very educatively, to his audience. The villu-p-pattu performances normally go on till late hours in nights, sometimes even till Sun – rise.

Vil or villu in colloquial Tamil, means ‘bow’. As the vibration of the string of a prominent bow is used by the artist as ’base’ for his performance, this is called villu-p-pattu. There is a view that the plain bow-string is the precursor of various kinds of yazh (ujrrifi} In the Perumpanatruppadai ( Qu(r^Lburr<osrrrrbg)J^LJ<SS)L-\ we see a reference to a yazh ( turrtb) in the shape of a bow.

The bow is usually made’Of a piece of mature palmyrah tree – bottom, measuring about two yards, tapering at both ends. The full length of the bent rod is supported by a rope, coiled around it, in order to stand the strain of the tight string. It is decorated by coloured cloth and paper. Small bronze bells are attached to the rod through rings fixed on the rod. There are normally eleven bells; sometimes the number is increased to 13 or reduced to 9. The string is made of twisted hide.

The main artist uses two small sticks, one in each hand and gently strikes the string with the sticks. These sticks also have strings of small bells tied around their handles. So, when villu- p-pattu artist or his supportive artist plays upon the string of the bow with the sticks, a combination of sounds of bells and the vibration of the string results.

Sometimes, the villu-p-pattu team divides itself into two groups, each trying to prove opposite view-points of a subject ; and conducts the programme by exchange of questions and answers. This is called Lavani-p-pattu. These performances are full of jestful taunts and retorts, and their repertoire would seem inexhaustible.

The songs used by the villu-p-pattu artists are mostly traditional folk-songs. They introduce changes now and then to make them lively and relevant to the audience.

The themes for these performances are usually taken from the Puranas and traditional stories. The famous among them are



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Diwan Vetri written by Thiruvanantham Pillai of Shenbagaramapudur is the first villu-p-pattu, that was printed as early as 1795. This narrates the success-story of Dewan Raja Kesawadas, who secured a victory over Tipu Sultan in 1790 on behalf of the Raja of Travancore. Arumugaperumal of Agastiswaram and Dr. T. Nataraja of Madurai – Kamaraj University, have published a number of villu-p-pattu songs.

The list of popular villu-p-pattu artists of this century should be very long. To the early period belong veterans of this district like Osaruvilai Appavu Nadar, Theroor Andar Pillai, Thovalai Sundaram Pillai, Punnarkulam Kolappa Pillai, Kurunkulam Narayana Pillai, Mathivilai Ponnumuthu Asan and Kalanikulam Madasamy.

Thovalai Sundaram Pillai was the disciple of Sadavadani Sheikku Thampi Paavalar. He used his talent as villu-p-pattu artist, to spread a national consciousness among the people.

Villu-p-pattu has not been the prerogative of men artists only. Many women have been drawn towards it and have also distinguished themselves. It is said that the mother of Karunkulam Narayana Pillai used to perform villu-p-pattu balancing a pot on her head and braiding the beads by her mouth, which bordered the realms of magic.

Sattur Pichaikutty was responsible for having widened the scope of villu-p-pattu. He gave these performances in public functions also. However, the credit for spreading this art to other districts of Tamil Nadu goes to Kalaivanar N.S. Krishnan. He was a disciple of Thovalai Sundaram Pillai. His villu-p-pattu on Mahatma Gandhi became very popular among the people. Kothamangalam Subbu, Kuladeivam Rajagopal. S.S. Rajendran, N.S.K. Kolappan and many others became famous for villu-p-pattu after Kalaivanar N.S. Krishnan. Kalaimamani Subbu Arumugam learnt the art from Kalaivanar. He has modernised the art by including electronic musical instruments. Now-a-days, villu-p-pattu is no longer confined with kodai festivals in village temples.

It has grown as an effective multipurpose media of communication including political.

Folk arts and dances:  Many folk arts and dances are popular in this district. They are played during the time of festivals in temples, celebrations in schools, etc.,

Thlruvathirai Kali: Among the folk dances, Thiruvathiraikali occupies the pride of place. It resembles kummi and is played especially during the Onam festival. The Players are young girls. The necessary number of girls is 8,10, 12 or 16 for each dance. They move round and sing in chorus. Each girl strikes the stick (Kole) which she holds in each hand and the striking of the sticks and the steps, which she makes, are rhythmical to the tune.

Kalial: This is a folk dance played by group of men or boys in the country side. A group leader sings songs and keeps time with cymbals. The players stand in a cirlce with sticks in their hand and dance round a lighted lamp repeating the songs sung by the leader. They turn, twist, lean forward and backward, squat and move round singing to the tune. At the beginning the steps are elaborate and at times, they are also very quick and violent. When invited to perform at a function, the players generally begin the dance with an invocation for heavenly aid and conclude the dance with a torch – dance using lighted torches. This folk dance exhibits the artistic and recreative life of the country side.

Kathakali: Kathakali \s a unique form of drama, which had its origin in Travancore. Kathakali (story-dance) is a relatively recent (fifteenth or sixteenth century) development of earlier dances, which, like dances every where, arose out of religious expression through symbolical action. In this art-form, the characters express their ideas not by words, but by significant gestures. The movements are adopted from the Bharatha Natya with suitable modifications. The conversations between the character, as well as the narrative portion of the story, invariably in verse, are recited in a loud voice by the Bhagavathar to the accompaniment of musical instruments. The action is prompted by his. words. The costume and make up of the actor are also important aspect in Kathakali. There are standard make up for the different types of actors, but red, yellow, green black and white are the colours used. The head dresses are made of light-weight wood and are decorated with pieces of mirror, spangles, and coloured stones. Usually, a kathakali performance extends from eight to ten hours. With the advent of the cinema, the popularity of this art has declined. It is now played in the temples at Thiruvattar, Thirparappu, Ponmana, Kuzhithurai, Neyyoor and Munchira in the Kanniyakumari district twice a year during the time of festivals.

Ottam Thullal: Ottam Thullal is a form of story telling. It is a popular form of amusement, staged in the temple premises and Malayalam is the language commonly used. It combines dance, song and acting. The story – teller is aided by two musicians, one, who leads the song and plays on an instrument, and the other, who keeps tisne by beating cymbal. The actor wears a simple costume consisting^ a skirt, some arm and chest decorations and an elaborate head dress. ‘Ottam Thullai’ is now played in the temples of Thiruvattar, Thirparappu Ponmana and Thirunanthikara in the district during the time of festivals.

Karagam Dance: This is a kind of dance common in the .country side. It is played by both men and women during the time of festivals and marriages. Language commonly used. It combines dance, song and acting. The story-            teller is aided by two musicians, one, who leads the song and plays on an instrument, and the other, who keeps time by beating cymbal. The actor wears a simple costume consisting  a skirt, some arm and chest decorations and an elaborate head dress. ‘Ottam Thullai’ is now played in the temples of Thiruvattar, Thirparappu Ponmana and Thirunanthikara in the district during the time of festivals.

Karagam Dance: This is a kind of dance common in the country side. It is played by both men and women during the time of festivals and marriages.

Kalari: Kalari, also known as Adimurai in Kanniyakumari district, is an ancient martial art, still preserved in the villages of this district and also in Kerala. A tradition believed to have been founded by Parasurama is known Vadakkan Kalari: and another credited to Agasthiar is called as Thekkan Kalari. Kanniyakumari district is famous for Thekkan Kalari, in which emphasis is on striking at vital points of the body and not on weapons, even though sword, knife, urumi (rolling sword), mankombu (horns of a deer), Kandakkodali, (a kind of axe), mazhu (a kind of axe) etc., are also used.

There are inscriptional evidences to show that Thekkan Kalari specialists were employed in the Chola army. There is a reference to one ’Rajadhitya Devar Perumpadi Naickar Malaimattu Nandikkarai Putur Vellankumaran. From this, it is to be inferred that Chief Commander ot Rajadhitya Chola, Vellankumaran belonged to Thirunandikkarai, a village of Kanniyakumari district. The Venad King Marthanda Varma had to overcome a number of powerful enemies, before he could establish himself in the throne. His success is attributed mainly to his mastery in Kalari. Thalakulam Velu Thambi Dallavai, whose challenge worried the British in no small measure, was a kalari expert.

There are a number of similarities between the Kalari and the martial arts of China and Japan, like Kung-Fu, and Karate. It is said that many Japanese experts in Karate have come to Kanniyakumari district to study the Kalari system, which in all probabilities could be considered the mother of Karate and Kung-Fu. Even now, there are one or more Kalari schools in each village of the district. The utility of this ancient art to the police and defence personnel deserves careful study.


Pilgrim Centres: From historical times, the Kanniyakumari region has been famous for pilgrim centres. Kanniyakumari (Cape Comorin) has been one of the sacred pilgrim centres for the Hindus from very ancient times. This place generally known as Kanniyakumari (Cape Comorin) is at the confluence of the three seas – the Arabian sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean. The shore temple at Kanniyakumari is dedicated to the virgin Goddess Kanniyakumari. In the 984 A.D., Raja Raja Chola built a Siva temple here which is known Guhanatheswaram. The temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya, viz., Kumaran Koil in the Kalkulam taluk is also an important pilgrim centre and attracts a large number of pilgrims. The Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil is a famous one. There is a belief that a visit to this a temple removes Sarpa dosha.

Sucindram in the Agasthiswaram taluk is yet another pilgrim centre of importance in the district. There is a famous and ancient temple dedicated the Thanumalaya Perumal. The temple building contains numerous inscriptions of great archaeological importance. Traditon goes that Indira was absolved from his sins here and hence the name “Sucindranrl’. Tradition also has it that this temple here was built by Indira himself.

Clubs and Associations: There are a number of good recreation clubs and other associations which popularise modern games and sports and promote healthy communal life. Besides these, there are also a few organisations devoted to the service of the community in general or for the promotion of particular interests.

Economic and Professional groups and classes in relation to Social Life: The picture of the society of the district at present is radically different from what it was a hundred years ago. There has been spectacular progress in all aspects of social and economic life, especially professions and callings. Today all sections of the society – the rich and the poor, the developed and the backward-have equal opportunties for self-expression and self development. Imbued with the concept of a welfare State, the present day Government provides all incentives and concessions for the education and the employment of the poor and the backward sections of the population. Unlike olden days, the members of any caste do not have to follow their ancestral professions. Members of many castes like the Nadars and Izhavas of the district have given up their traditional callings and have taken to other professions.

The increasing variety of occupations such as clerical, teaching etc., whose income is characterised by steadiness, has given birth to a district salaried class. The emergence of these classes modifying the caste system of occupation has been the most dominant featue of the changing pattern of the society in the district, as in many other places in the country.

KANNIYAKUMARI TAMIL (Linguistic Peculiarities)

The present linguistic survey report gives an outline of all those district regional usages and the dialect variations found in the speech behaviour of the Tamils living in the Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

The present study is based on the linguistic materials collected during the field work carried out by a team of experts from the Centre of Advanced Study in Linguistic, Annamalai University during Aug- September, 1980. The data have been elicited directly from the native speakers of the area who represent the various taluks and different social communities. The data have been elicited using ‘Sociolinguistic’ and ‘lexical’ questionnaires prepared by the CAS in Linguistics, Annamalai University. The data have been first phonetically transcribed and later on the same tape-recorded for the purpose of checking by the investigators.

Kanniyakumari district comprises of four taluks viz., Thovalai, Agastiswaram, Kalkulam, and Vilavancode and in all these taluks points were selected and field work was carried out by the team for the collection

of relevant linguistic data. Kanniyakumari district spreads over an area of 6184 sq. kilometers and has a population of 1,500,000 approximately. The district is surrounded by Kerala state in the north west, the western ghats in the north east, the Tirunelveli district in the east and by the three seas on the south eastern, southern and western sides. Kanniyakumari district has the highest rate of literacy in Tamil Nadu i.e. arround 58.1 per cent.

The main occupation of the people of the area is agriculture. However, considerable population is also engaged in small scale industries like cashew nut industry, weaving, rubber plantation, etc., There are many castes in this district. Major among them are Harijans, Nadars, Vellalas, Muslims, Nairs, Ezhavas, etc., There are three major religions viz., Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Different people of the same caste group are found both in Hinduism at Christianity, For example nearly 50 per cent of the Nadar caste professes Christianity whereas the other half owe their allegiance to Hinduism. Both these religious groups are found in almost all the villages and towns in the district. Likewise there are Christians and Hindus in castes like Vellalas and Harijan. The number of Christians in the Vellala and Harijian groups are low in percentage when compared to that of Nadar caste.

In one or two taluks the Vellala population is higher than some of the other castes. However the predominant community in Kalkulam, Vilavancode and Agastiswaram taluks is the Nadar community. The investigators selected information in such a way that most of the groups are given representation so that the final linguistic analysis will represent the over all description of the speech variety under investigation. Informants were also selected on the basis of certain social parameters like age group distinction, economic state, occupational status, educational status, etc.

The Kanniyakumari speech area is one of the five dialect areas as identified by the present day Dialectologists. The other dialect areas are

  1. Southern dialect area 2. Eastern dialect area 3. Western dialect area and 4. Northern dialect area. These dialect areas are demarcated on the basis of the dialect boundaries drawn. In order to demarcate the dialect boundary dialectologists use the concept namely “isoglosses” which means distinctive linguistic usages that are exclusively found in the area concerned. Sometimes we come across more than one isogloss in different levels of the language. All such isoglosses put together is drawn as bundle of isoglosses’. ‘If an area could be demarcated by one or more exclusive isoglosses than that speech area is called a dialect area. If s number of Isoglosses are responsible for differentiating a particulai dialect area then that type of dialect area is popularly known as ‘foca area’ We don’t normally find many such areas, but there are atleast some areas where we could find the concentration of bundles of isoglosses anc a number of exclusive isoglosses. It is interesting to note tha Kanniyakumari speech area is one such focal area as far as the demarcation of Tamil dialect areas is concerned. There are as many as thirty isoglosses in the phonological and grammatical levels and more than 300 exclusive lexical isoglosses that distinguish Kanniyakumari dialect area as different from other dialect areas. The following are the distinct isoglosses drawn with the help of all those identifiable peculiar linguistic features found in use.

In the section on linguistic peculiarities a detailed description of all those distinct peculiar features which occur in the speech varieties of Tamil as spoken in the Kanniyakumari district has been presented with suitable illustrations.

Kanniyakumari district as mentioned above is an adjoining district to the Kerala State. Moreover, this district was with Kerala till 1956. There are a number of places (like villages and towns) which are cent per cent bilingual in nature. During our survey work we were able to notice cent per cent bilingualism in practice in almost all the border areas of Kanniyakumari district. The Tamil accent which we heard in these areas is heavily influenced by the Malayalam intonation pattern. The speaker o Tamil who live in these areas pronounce many of the nasal plus plosvt clusters [N ] as nasal plus nasal [NN] cluster. Also the impact of Malayalam lexical features is heavy unlike the grammatical features. In the pronunciation vowels one can easily identify the occurrence of [o] in the word final position. The frequency of the occurrence of Velar nasal [n] and palatal nasal – [h] is also considerably high when compared to the situation in other dialects.

APPENDIX Folklore Survey of Kanniyakumari district Kanniyakumari, the southern most district of Tamil Nadu in India is blessed with places of legendary, historical and artistic importance. Within an area of 645 sq. miles there are more than 600 temples of which the temple of Kumari Bagavathi at Kanniyakumari, the temple of Thanumalayan at Suchindrum and Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil are considered most important among them. In addition, the temples of Subrahmanya at Veelimalai, Marungoor and Vellimalai, the Madusudana temple at Parakkai, Alagammankoil at Vadiveeswaram, the shrine of Sri Krishna at Krishnankoil, Meenakshi temple at Aralvoimozhi, Bhudalingaswamy temple at Bhoothapandi, the shrine of Bagavathi at Mandaikadu, Neelakandaswamy at Padmanabhapuram, the temple at Keralapuram, where the image Vinayaka changes its colour half-yearly, the cave temple at Chidaral and the rock-cut-cave at Thirunandikarai are also considered very important temples.

The shrine of Bagavathy at Karungal where the images of Sakthi, Vishnu and Siva holding deer and axe in His hands are enshrined together in one garbhagraha, the shrine at Thipparamalai which contains a rare image of Sri Krishna of 14 feet in height, the shrines dedicated to Awayar, the divine poetess of Tamil Nadu and the Agasthiyar temple at Agasthiswaram are some of the less known places of worship in the district.

It is to be noted that the village called Swamitope is now considered as an important place for the Vaikundaswamy or Narayanaswamy worshippers. Nearly 150 years back, a sage by name Muthukuttiswamy was fighting against the Travancore king for the liberation of the people who were inhabited between Manakkudi and Leepuram in Nanjil Nadu area. Originally he might have come from composite Thirunelveli district (near Srivaikundam) to spread the cult of Vaishnavism as the people of that area have been suffering by the conversion of Christianity. He introduced new pattern of worship., i.e., idoless worship. He got many followers and he was worshipped by them, particularly the Hindu Nadars. After his death his graveyard has been developed as Swamitope, where festival takes place three times a year. Due to his influence most of the Hindu villages now have Narayanaswamy temples in addition to the shrines of local deities which already exist. Ampalapati, at Osaravillai is considered pati among many in this district. The Narayanaswamy temple

was named as pati Invariably In all Villages, in which no idol worship js found. Instead of the sacred ashes, they use lime-sand called na.mam to wear on the fore head upwardly. Muthukuttiswamy prepared many doctrines called Akilattirattu, which was being preserved in the form of palm-leaves and read by the villagers at the time of festivals in the patis. Even now the practice of reading this Akilattirattu is found and is known as e:tu va: sippu. This was published in a book form nearly 40 years ago, Muthukuttiswamy has referred the Village Manakkudi as Manavaipati and the area as Kurunaidu.

Regarding Christianity, Kanniyakumari district is considered as one of the first places for establishing the Christianity, for which the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier at Kottar stands as an evidence from 16th century A.D. The Home Church at Nagercoil locally called Kallukovil, which was built in Greek style in the year 1819 is also considered one of the largest protestant churches in India and Southern Asia. Further, an old church as old as Christ in ruins is found near Azhagiyamandapam which was started by St.Thomas one of Christ’s contemporary and apostle.

It is also said that the Muslim religion was established from early centuries, for which the Dharga a fine mosque at Thakkalai is considered as it is dedicated to a Muslim saint known as peer Mohamad Sahib, who was also a Tamil poet.

Though all the religions of India have thrived in this district, Hinduism is only pioneering from the early period. It is proved by Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil since it stands as an embodiment of the four creeds Saivism, Vaishnavism, Jainism and finally Buddhism. And also it is believed that the small stretch of land, Kanniyakumari district, is guarded by Parasakti in different names in the four corners of the district-as Goddess Kumari Amman (Bhagavathyamman) in Kanniyakumari, as Meenakshi in Aralvoimozhi, as Bhagavathy in Mandaikadu and as Mehalai in Kollankode.

Legendary importance is attached to the places named Mahendragiri, Maruthuvamalai and Thadakaimalai. Mahendragiri, a lofty peak of about 5500 feet in the western Ghats is referred to in Valmiki Ramayana as the spot from which Hanuman jumped over to Sri Lanka in search of Seeta Devi. Maruthuvamalai, the hillock of medicinal herbs is believed to have been formed by a piece of the hill Ozhathi, carried by Hanuman to Sri Lanka during the epic war between Rama and Ravana. Thadakaimalai near Bhoothapandi is considered to be the abode of Thadakai in Ramayana.

There are many historical assumptions regarding the period of Tamil poets like Agasthiyar, Tolkappiyar, Thiruvalluvar and Awayar. The only temple of Agasthiyar is found near Kanniyakumari and in the name of Agasthiyar a village is also there as Agasthiswaram. The inauguration of Tolkappiyam, an earliest Tamil grammar was conducted by Adangotasan (Atanko:t1a:sax\) in his assembly. He is considered as a chieftain of Atanko.tu province and this place is now found as a small village in Kanniyakumari district. Because a:sa:n is a term generally refers to a person who is a master of Cilambam art or Jotita art pr medicinal art in Kanniyakumari district. So Atankottasan might have been considered as an A:sa:n of AtankoXu. This is supported by the existence of nearly 50 village names found ending with ko.tu ‘maintain/bank’ in this district like Kollencodu (, Melangode (me:lanko:tu), Thirudangode (Thiruvita:nko:tu) Vilavancode (Vilavanko:tu) etc.

There is also a belief that the birth place of Thiruvalluvar called Thirunayanar Kuricci and the death place of Awayar near Thazhakudi are found in this district. Nanjil Nadu was once ruled by Nanjil Valluvan, whose name has been mentioned in Purananuru and to whom might have been related to Thiruvalluvar and the present Vilavancode might have been derived from vaffuvan Kottu.

Among the three Awayars of Tamil literature the first as well as the Sangam Awayar was believed to have Nanjil Nadu as her native place. There are three shrines for Awayar in the northern part of Nanjil Nadu. The first one is found in Kurattiyarai (Kurattiyarai) near Azhagiapandiapuram, the second one is near Thazhakudi, which is referred to as the graveyard of Awayar surrounded by Naval tress and Vanna:n pa: rai (Washerman rock), and the third one is at Muppandal. There is a version that the place called Muppandal was founded only because of Awayar, when she wanted to compromise the grievances among the three rulers viz., Chera, Chola and Pandya towards Atiyaman, a chieftain she arranged a meeting of the three in that place for negotiations where they constructed three pandals. The meeting place of the three kings was later called Muppandal. Even now one can see the three pandals (matams) and a shrine of Awayar. Avvai Viratam is strictly followed by the women of this area wherever the shrine is situated and they offer ku: lu (rice- broth) and Kolukkatiai (a sweet boiled rice cake) every Tuesday in the month of Adi (July-August).

The only river Palayaru of this district is also having a predictable version. Up to 1745 A.D. this river was mentioned as Paraliyaru ( So any one can easily predict that this may be Pahruliyaru (Pahrul iya::ru), which is mentioned in Tamil literature as having been once the southern boundary of the Tamil land, and afterwards submerged in the Indian ocean.

However it is proved that the three Tamil kings Chera, Chola and Pandiya were having close contact with this district for the past 2000 years. The villages viz, Keralapuram, Cholapuram and Azhagiapandiapuram stand as evidences for their contacts.

Avvayar said that no one should live in a village where there is no temple, likewise one can say that there is no village without palm leaves literature in this district. Most of the available palm leaves literature contain the folk stories regarding local deities such as lyakkiyamman, Mutharamman, Sasta, Pulankondalamman, Sudalaimadan, Mannar raja etc. In some’ of the literature we find mention about some historical events like Venkalarajan katai, Thambimar katai, Muthupattan katai etc. And also each and every village has many local deities for which they have separate folk stories. Most of the folk stories about the local deities are sung as and Kaniyanpa:ttu in many villages of this area.

Though many folk stories are in practice, now the story of lyakkiyamman is very common among many people, which is popularly known as Niilikatai. If one wants to trace out the origin of Niili, he has to link the shrines of Niili (lyakki) from Pazhavoor, Muppandal, Sitappal, Kaliyankadu, Manikattipottal etc. It is said that once upon a time there was a path for transportation through these villages. As the lyakki shrine was constructed by the side of the path, the above mentioned shrines are situated and given importance. Among many Puppandal lyakki is believed as very powerful. So all the vehicles coming from Nagercoil and going to Nagercoil via. Muppandal are stopped for a while for paying offerings by the travellers through that path. The story of Niili is as follows as it is used in Villuppattu.

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