WHO ARE THE PARAIYARS (PARAIYA, PARAYA, PARIAH)?

 

                Pariah is the name of a caste in Tamilnadu, India. The people of this caste were treated as Untouchables from 13th Century A.D. until mid 20th Century A.D. in India. In English the word was first recorded in 1613 and means an Outcaste, Untouchable, social outcast and was derived from the caste name Pariah because the people of the caste were treated very low when British came and ruled India.

 

The Tamil word Paraiyan means a drummer.

 

The following article discusses the roots of Paraiyan caste and how they became Untouchables and the shocking truth about the origins of Untouchability in India.

 

Paraiyas were Buddhists. They may be the descendants of Paradas or Mauryas who were Buddhists and came to South India after the collapse of Buddhism and raise of Brahmanism in North India. Owing to their Buddhist allegiance and refusal to adopt Brahmanism they were separately distinguished and later ex-communicated with the raise of Brahmanism.

 

BACKGROUND

 

In ancient India Dravidians did not have caste or Varna but there were many tribes and the people were identified by the individual tribal names. Tamil was the major language throughout India and most civilized Indian (at that time Dravidians) spoke Tamil (Damita). The old Tamil Scripture was completely different than the current Tamil Scripts. (Note: Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680-1746), later called as Veera-ma-munivar, an Italian Jesuit missionary learned Tamil and formed the current Tamil letters to make it easier to write).

 

( Note: The original Vedas might have been writen in Tamil or similar Dravidian language. The original Vedas did not specify about caste. They are collection of songs praising their King – Indra and sang the then state of affairs. The Upanishads, Sastras and Smrithis including the Manu Smrithi were written in Classical Sanskrit after the Mauryan Era. The German historian Max Muller and English historian James Mill saw the similarity in syntax and vocabulary between Classical Sanskrit and Greek and Latin and tied that to the language of the Vedas and called it Vedic Sanskrit to give a superiority link to the Greek and Europeans and a so called Aryan civilization. The so-called Vedic Sanskrit is completely different from Classical Sanskrit and has no connection. Max Muller called the language of the Vedas as Vedic Sanskrit and gave an artificial connection between the original Vedas and Classical Sanskrit that was developed after the Maurian Era.)

 

In Ancient Tamil Literature Aryans were called as Mlecchas – meaning uncivilized and the ones that did not learn the Tamil Language well.

The arrival of Greeks and other Central Asian settlers to India brought the concept of slaves and class division to India. Thus the Aryans brought /made the 3 class system in line with Plato’s ideas of an egalitarian society. Thus before Ashoka converted to Buddhism there were only 3 classes (Varnas – Kings, Priests and Merchants) among the Aryans. After Ashoka converted to Buddhism, Buddhism was dominant in most / major parts of India for about 300 years under the Mauryan Empire. Hence the followers of the 3-class system lost their relevance and were becoming out of place in dominantly Buddhist society. This prompted them to plan an attack on Buddhism and took extreme measures. One of the Commanders of the Buddhist Mauryan Emperor Brihadratha murdered him and took measures to prevent Buddhism from coming back. As it is common to form a new constitution, adopt a new language with the formation of a new nation (especially when the new nation is formed out of hatred for an existing nation), a new language was formed which was classical Sanskrit. A new constituition evolved in the form of Smrithis. The new language called as Sanskrit was used to write the Upanishads, Sastras and Smrithis and to rewrite MahaBaratha and Ramayana to suite the needs of the new formed order that was called Brahamanism. The Guptas were the pioneers to adopt and propage Brahamanism, Sanskrit and the new Constitution – that was later called the Manu Smrithi. The people that did not adopt Brahamanism were termed as Vrathyas (Meaning Ignoble) and were made gradually as UNTOUCHABLES over a span of several centuries as and when opportunities arouse to subdue the so-called Vrathyas.  The Kings, Priest and Merchants that adopted Brahamanism were absorbed as Ksatryas, Brahamins and Vaysyas. The commoners that lived in those Kingdoms that adopted Brahamanism were termed as Sudras and were used as workers of various types. The Kings that opposed Brahamanism and refused to accept the class system and refused to accept Brahamins as their advisors were ex-communicated and when these kingdoms fell from power the people inthose Kingdoms that adopted Brahamanism were absorbed as Sudras and the people that still opposed Brahamanism were made as UNTOUCHABLES.

 

In order to create a new order (Like a new Constitution for a new Country) many Brahmins (followers of Lord Brahma and were the principal revolutionary) wrote several rules and regulations and tried to use the ancient Vedas as a ground for their base work. But this resulted in so many contradicting theories about the Vedas, origin of Vedas, Origin of Gods, and lead to numerous new stories in the name of Smritis, Puranas, Upanishads, and Bhagawat Gita.

They also re-wrote Baratha (added / modified Baratha) to make it Mahabharata, added/modified Ramayana to support their new-formed religion. (Now-a-days we see movies dubbed from other languages or countries edited / modified according to the local culture and philosophy. This happened with Baratha and Ramayana. In order to get support for Brahmanism, the Brahmin writers added new stories to the epics to suite their Brahmanism Philosophy). As so many new laws (aiding and contradictory) were written by numbers authors in the name of Smritis, there was confusion on what to adopt and what not to. The set of rules written by Sumati Bharagava after 185 B.C. in the name of ‘Manu Smriti’ was adopted as the constitution for Brahmanism as this gave lot of advantage and upper hand to the Brahmins and Kings that adopted Brahmanism. (According to Manu’s law: When there was conflict and contradiction between the rules of different Smriti then only the Manu Smriti must be used.)

 

The out come of these extreme measures were the creation of two more new classes – the Sudras and Untouchables. As the Gutpa dynasty adopted Brahmanism and expanded in the North, the Pallava Empire adopted Brahmanism and expanded in the South, the new phenomenon – the 4 + 1 Varna system spread through out India. North India and northern part of South India was directly under Mauryan Buddhist Empire for about 300 years. Hence the Kingdom that sprang with the collapse of the Mauryan Empire awaiting vengeance on the Buddhists, adopted Brahmanism.

 

NOTE: The Pallavas were descendants of Cholas. Illantirayan the grandson of Karikallan the great (ancient Cholas) was the originator of Pallavas.  When Chola capital Kaveripukumpattinam was destroyed by Sea, the Cholas made Kanchipuram as the temporary Capital. In order to accommodate the Cholas (their forefathers and relatives), the Pallavas moved towards the North. The collapse of the Mauryan Empire and the revolution gave Kalabras and Satavaganas in Andra an upper hand. So the Pallavas became satraps under the Satavaganas and adopted Brahmanism. Then they moved south and expanded and fought with their original ancestors, the Cholas, who did not adopt Brahmanism at that time.

 

Though the Aryans had only 3 Varnas, one may wonder, how it became a 4 Varna + 1 Untouchable system. As the new system spread, obviously one has to find place to fit the new comers. The Brahmins did not want to give up there position. Obviously the Kings will not take a lower position. So Kings and his warrior class were absorbed as Kshatryas at the same time they were not treated low in status to the Brahmins as long as the King was powerful (In those circumstances the Brahmins were servile to the Kings). But when a King was weak they took full advantage of it and tried to enforce supremacy of the Brahmins over Kshatryas (Like in a Parliamentary Democracy if the Prime minister did not have majority then he has to dance to the tunes of all MPs and supporting parties; but the MPs act servile when the Prime minister has more than absolute majority). The rich Merchants were absorbed as Vysas but then all other working classes were made Sudras.

 

The Kings that did not support Brahmanism were branded as degraded Kings (Vratya Kshatriyas meaning degraded Kshatriyas). These so called Vratya Kshatriyas were great devotees and followers of Lord Shiva (Shivism), Lord Vishnu (Vishnavism), Lord Buddha (Buddhism), Lord Mahavira (Jainism) but they did not adopt Brahmanism. (The criteria for a noble Kshatriya is to take the sacred Brahmanical rituals/codes and to heed to the Brahmanans, to perform sacrifices from time to time and giving rich gifts to the Brahamin priests at these sacrifices and to follow the laws of Manu – It does not matter whether a King is a great devotee of God Shiva, God Vishnu or any of the other Gods but should basically heed to the Brahmanans. This is also emphasised by the Manu law – Do not follow even God in their good deeds, if they are contrary to the rules of Shurti, Smriti and Sadachar! ).

As long as the Kings that did not support Brahmanism were in power the supporters of Brahmanism could not do any thing about them. Once these Kings were defeated by a King that supported Brahmanism, the King and his clan that lost power that did not support Brahmanism, were ex-communicated according to Manu’s law (Rationalism as a canon of interpreting the Vedas and Smritis is absolutely condemned. It is regarded to be as wicked as atheism and the punishment provided for it is ex-communication). So where did Untouchables come from? These ex-communicated communities, as they were deprived of any opportunity within cities and were prevented from bearing arms, gradually became poor and then were made Untouchables.

 

They were from 2 different groups.

  1. The existing strong supporters of Buddhism (Buddhists and Buddhist supporters within Mauryans were the first target) who were not ready to accept Brahmanism. The case of Paraiyars should be coming under this category.
  2. The King, his solders and their kinsmen that lost in Battle and those workers that were very loyal to the lost King and not ready to accept / embrace Brahmanism. The case of Mauryas, Nandas, Mallas, Chalukyas come under this category.

 

It should be noted that this change did not happen over night but it happened over a period of 300 to 500 years, gradually with the Brahmins tightening the noose at every available opportunity.

 

Initially robbed them of their wealth and status,

Then sent them out of towns and cities and excommunicated them,

Then prevented them from getting jobs other than as menial labourers,

Then prevented them from having education,

Then prevented them from accessing public places and

Then made them as untouchables.

 

But the Brahmins did not do it by themselves. They did it with the help of the Kings that won the battle (as this helped the winning King also, as his opponents were completely robbed of all their possessions and hence no change of comeback and be a threat) and with the help of others who embraced Brahmanism (Though others from the lost Kingdom that started to support Brahmanism after their previous King lost in battle, were included as Sudras, they did not have to go through the difficulties of the ex-communicated people and had a place in the Brahmin society and were able to earn a living and had the newly forming Untouchables to look down upon)

 

It should be noted that the ex-communicated communities, the descendants of the so called Vratya Kshatriyas were great devotees and followers of Lord Shiva (Shivism), Lord Vishnu (Vishnavism), Lord Buddha (Buddhism), Lord Mahavira (Jainism) but they did not adopt Brahmanism (Lord Brahma, laws of Manu, the four class system, Brahmin as the priest and advisor). There wasn’t any religion by name Hinduism at that time. It was the British government by passing a law in 1784 stated that all inhabitants of India except Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and Tribes as Hindus and stated that Manu’s law will be applicable to all the so called Hindus. There by giving a great boost to Brahmanism. By this Brahmanism became Hinduism and all those that opposed Brahmanism were also included as Hindus to the advantage of Brahmanism.

 

The British government also helped in other ways to aggravate the problems of the ex-communicated communities and to the advantage of the Brahmins by educating only the Brahmins, preventing ex-communicated community members from taking any position in the British government, passing law declaring all Indians except Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists of that time as Hindus, passing law declaring all Indians as Sudras except Muslims, Christians, Brahmins and Buddhists of that time, implementing Manu’s rules in the name of Hindu laws there by suppressing other until the Brahmins revolted against British asking for freedom. 

 

THE SPECIFIC CASE OF PARAIYARS

 

In Tamilnadu a casteless, Sangam period came to an end at about the 2nd or 3rd Century A.D. with the attack or upraisal of Kalavars. Kalavaram means upraisal, revolution, chaos in Tamil; The Kalavars were later on called as Kalabras. The raise of the Kalabras made sweeping changes in the South Indian Society. (Though there is no details on who the Kalavars / Kalabras were, Thiru.Devasirvatham thinks the Kalavars / Kalabras were internal revolters that revolted against the Tamil Kings to establish a new order). So the Kalabras may be part of a Brahamin campaign to destroy Tamil Kingdoms that did not support Brahamanism or can be Jain revolters or Robbery tribes that simply looted the well established and civilized non-Brahamin Tamil society and established a different order from 3rd Century A.D. to 5th Century A.D. After the 5th Century A.D. the Pallavas and Later Cholas who were Mallas, destroyed the Kalabras and rose to power but gradually and partially adopted Brahamanism because by the time Brahamanism became an unavoidable phenomenon.

 

Note: According to the Tamil Epic called ‘Sillapathigaram’ written by Elango-adigal (a Cheran Prince to Jain Monk convert), the Pandian Empire ruled by King Nedunchelian was destroyed by the wrath of Kannagi because the Pandian King wrongly put to death the husband of Kannagi – Kovalan, who was falsely accused or robbing the Queen’s ancklet. This incident happened about the 2nd or 3rd Century A.D. The Pandian King Nedunchelian was also called as Arya-Padai-Kathiratha Pandian (Meaning destroyer of the Aryan Army). This Pandian King also had Roman Body Guards. Connecting these together might suggest that Kannagi’s case might have been used as a trigger to revolt against a King that did not support Brahamanism and this may be part of the Kalavar attack.

 

 

There is no mention of the name Paraiyan in Sangam literature except at one occasion (crudely translated from Puram 335 below). (This one occasion may be a later insertion to support Brahmanism).

 

Without the following four - Varagu, Thinai, Koll, Avaarai the Food Categorization is not complete,

Without the following four - Thudian, Panan, Parayan, Kadamban the citizens’ Categorization is not complete. 

 

These 4 types of workers are considered as Music workers, Thudian – player of the instrument by name Thudi, Panan – Singer, Parayan – player of drum, Kadamban - player of the instrument by name Kadambu.

It should be noted that none of these classified workers are categorized under the list of people that lived in the 4 types of lands (Kurinchi, Mullai, Marutham, Neydal).

 

According to PERUMPANATTUPPADAI – a Tamil work of the 3rd or 4th century A.D, in the description of the city of Kanchipuram the Paracheri was isolated and was far removed from the city.

 

The Tamil Dictionary of 9th Century A.D, Divagaram, does not have a classification as Paraiyar (Parayar). The stone inscription of the later part of later Cholas have mention two categories of workers in the name of Parayar namely Oolu Parayar (Farming Parayar) and Nesavu Parayar (Cloth making Parayar).

 

At that time they had separate settlements by the name of Parai Cheyri, they had separate cremation centers, separate weaving centers. Paryars at that time helped to perform (Nanda veelaku) lighting in certain Temples. They paid taxes. They were in the army of Cholas and worked in the Chola Government administrative offices. Also it should be noted that several of them converted to Saivism following Nandanar and several of them converted to Vishnavism following Thirupaanallwaar.

 

At this time Pariars were citizens of Chola Empire, they owned lands, signed documents, they had right to property. The Pariahs at that time WERE NOT CONSIDERED AS UNTOUCHABLES. (It should also be noted that in ancient Tamil Kingdoms and until 14 century AD, only Pullayar who burnt dead bodies were avoided by public and were treated as Untouchables owing to the nature of their job and not due to any other means. The Untouchability of the Pullayar was much different than the Untouchability practiced by Brahmanism. Pullayar went to public places but blew a horn before they came to public places so that public can avoid contact with them. Also women were prevented from giving food to Pullayars – These were procedures for Biohazard prevention rather than suppression unlike the Untouchability practiced with Brahmanism.)

 

By the end of later Cholas period some Paraiyan’s were treated low but still were not untouchables. At this time the later Cholas supported Brahmins and partially adopted Brahmanism. There was no mention of Clash between the Parayars and any others until the downfall of Tamil Kings. By the end of 14th century with the downfall of the Pandyas – last of the Tamil Kings to loose power, the descendants of Tamil Kings – the Mallas were renamed as Pallas by Nayak Kings and were ex-communicated. (It should be noted that the Nayaks were great supporters of Brahmins and Brahmanism). As the Mallas were killed, driven out of their Kingdom and were robbed of their possessions, many left for Kerala, Ceylon, Malaysia and their links in the North were cut-off. The remaining Mallas humiliated as Pallas were forced as agricultural labourers in their ancestors land under the new landlords. The Nayaks at this time instigated all others to claim the title and ownership of the Mallas. With this there were numerous fights over claim of title between the Malla turned Pallas and Parayars. Though the Parayars lived in harmony with the Mallas during Chola and Pandya rule and occupied government jobs, owned lands, served the army, they rebelled against the Malla turned Pallas with the motivation from the Nayaks which lead the Mallas / Pallas to distrust the Parayas until today.

As the Nayaks were great supporters of Brahmanism, the Pallas and Parayas were ex-communicated and gradually made Untouchables.

 

As indicated earlier, anyone that did not support Brahmanism were ex-communicated and later made untouchables. The Mallas did not adopt Brahmanism and were branded by Manu as degraded Kshatriyas. So once they lost power they were ex-communicated.

But then why the Paraiyars were ex-communicated?

 

The answer to this is the Paraiyars were Buddhists.

 

What are the evidences that support Paraiyars were Buddhists.

 

As mentioned earlier, in Tamil Sangam literature there was no mention of Parayars except at one song as cited earlier. The PERUMPANATTUPPADAI – a Tamil work of the 3rd or 4th century A.D, mentions that the Paracheri was isolated and was far removed from the city of Kanchipuram. The Tamil Dictionary of 9th Century A.D, Divagaram, does not have a classification of people as Paraiyar (Parayar). The stone inscription of the later part of later Cholas mention two categories of workers in the name of Parayar namely Oolu Parayar (Farming Parayar) and Nesavu Parayar (Cloth making Parayar). During the period the Paraiyars had separate settlements by the name of Parai Cheyri, they had separate cremation centers, separate weaving centers. Pariahs at that time helped to perform (Nanda veelaku) lighting in certain Temples. They paid taxes. They were in the army of Cholas and worked in the Chola Government administrative offices. Many Paryars also converted to Shivism and Vishanavism at that time. They were citizens of Chola Empire, they owned lands, signed documents, and they had right to property. The Pariars at that time WERE NOT CONSIDERED AS UNTOUCHABLES.

But according to the census of 1891 there were 348 different divisions of Paraiyars and were treated as UNTOUCHABLES.

 

So how there was no Paraiyan in Sungam Period to several types of Paraiyans during Chola Period, without the stigma of lower class or untouchable, to numerous types of Paraiyans with the stigma as untouchables after 16 century AD?

 

Now let us check what is the relation between the Paraiyah caste and other castes in Tamilnadu (For details please review: Who are Vellalar? and Tamil Moovendar Marabinarana Devendrar Thaal Nilai Eythal. In Tamil (Translates to: Three Tamil King’s kinsmen - Devendrar become low in society and status) - By Thiru. R. Deva Asirvatham)

 

From Abbe J.A. Dubois: ‘In very early days how ever the separation between the Parayas and others do not appear to have been so marked as at present. Though relegated to the lower grade in the social scale Parayas were not then placed absolutely outside and beyond the line of demarcation between them and the Sudras being almost imperceptible and they are even today considered to be direct descendants of the better class of agricultural labourers. The Tamil Vellalas and the Vockalikas (Vockaliyar) do not disdain to call them their children’.

 

Pann Chery –> Pannar->later called themselves as Pandaya Vellalas in cities, in villages they were called themselves as Pannar or Pann Mestri. They do stritching as their Job. They have marriage with Pariyars.

 

Seynai Kudaiaar mostly do Weaving job. In Middle ages Pull Porriki Parayar had their living by collecting grass for Horses. They were dependent on Horse solders (cavalry).

Later they called themselves as Kuddirai Sevakar (Care taker of Horse), then to Seynai Kudaiaar, and then to Seynai Talaaivar.

 

The Pariyar who were in Chola army also called themselves as Seynai Talaaivar. Later the Seynai Talaaivar called themselves as Chettiyar, Muddaliyar, Pillai, Muppan – (From Castes and Tribes of South India Vol VI Page 360 – E. Thurston)

 

Saaliyar came from Paraiyars.

 

KaaiKollar and Sengunthar were from Paraiyars during Vijayanagar rule.

 

Nessavu Paraiyar in Middle ages. Kolliya Paraiyar do weaving job.

Some of the Nessavu Paraiyar were used for Temple related work during Vijayanagar reign. They later called themselves as KaaiKollar.

 

Kolliya Paraiyar, Sengunthar and KaaiKollar call themselves as the descendants of Veerabaku – one of the Commanders of Lord Muruga (Karthkeya / Subramaniyan)

 

Semman, Seyniyar, Sengaar, Ponnaari Vellalar converted themselves from Pariayar during Vijayanagar reign.

Kammalar came from Kolliya Paraiyar. As Otanguthar, a Tamil poet, was a Kolliya Paraiyar and had influence with Cholan Kulothungan. So through the influence of Otanguthar, they got rights to wear sacred thread of Brahmanism and later called themselves as Kammalar.

 

Weavers from Northern districts of Tamilnadu were called as Sengunthar and from Southern, districts were called as Kaikollar.

The so-called Thevaradiyar that were employed in Temples were from these weaver classes. Later they called themselves as Pillai and Muddai.

So Semman, Seniyar, Kaikollar, Sengundar, Senai Kudaiyan, Senai Talaivar, Present day Vellalar, Pillai, Muddali and many other castes branched off from Pariyars during and after the Vijayanagar rule.

 

By the census of 1891 there were 348 different divisions of Paraiyars.

Some of the important / majority divisions of the Paraiyars out of the 348 divisions are:

 

  1. Valluva Paraiyar
  2. Dada Paraiyar
  3. Danda Paraiyar
  4. Tavalai Kaali Paraiyar
  5. Kuudi Paraiyar
  6. Teeya Paraiyar
  7. Murasu Paraiyar
  8. Ambu Paraiyar
  9. Vaduga Paraiyar
  10. Aliya Paraiyar
  11. Vallai Paraiyar
  12. Vetiyaan Paraiyar
  13. Kooliya Paraiyar
  14. Perum Paraiyar
  15. Agaali Paraiyar
  16. Tamil Paraiyar
  17. Pullai Paraiyar

 

(For details on the work done by each of the Paraiyar given above, please review ‘Tamil Moovendar Marabinarana Devendrar Thaal Nilai Eythal’ - In Tamil - Translates to: Three Tamil King’s kinsmen - Devendrar become low in society and status - By Thiru. R. Deva Asirvatham)

 

NOTE: The Tamil Kings had 18 classifications of workers to support them:

 

So why there were several classifications of workers in the name of Paraya after 9th Century AD in Chola Empire apart from the 18 worker categories that already supported the Cholas at that time?

 

 

From M.Srinivasan Ayyangar: “The Parayas who constitute nearly one seventh of the Tamil population will here after be shown as Eiynar, dislike to call themselves as Tamils thus suggesting that they belong to a different race altogether”.

 

From M.Srinivasan Ayyangar:”But by way of introduction, it is highly desirable to present before the readers a description of an ancient town or village in which the regional classification of the tribes explained above is clearly discernible. We shall first take the city of Kanchipuram described in the PERUMPANATTUPPADAI – a Tamil work of the 3rd or 4th century A.D. …Then far removed from these were situated at one extreme of the city the Pallis of Idayars and beyond them lay the isolated Paracheri of the Eyinars and their chiefs. Next to the Mallar street were the temples of Tiruvekka and the palace of king Illanthirayan”

 

NOTE: Eyinars are Palli class. They are neither Idayars nor Parayas (PERUMPANATTUPPADAI songs 83 to 94. So if Eyinars were not Parayas then why did the Eyinars live with the Parayas and regarded the Parayas as chiefs and respected them? )

 

So from the above it can be seen that there were no Paraiah in Sangam period. Then during 3rd or 4th Century they were in the outskirts in the city of Kanchipuram then they lived as citizens in the Chola Empire and were in the army and government position. Many of them converted to Shivism and Vishanavism. Then they were treated low by the end of the Chola reign when Cholas adopted Brahmanism. Then they were ex-communicated during Vijayanagar rule (that supported Brahmanism to the core) but the ones that left their names as Paraiyah and adopted the names as Vellala, Pillai, Muddali etc were absorbed as SUDRAS by Brahmins. But the ones that stayed, as Paraiah became UNTOUCHABLES.

 

Did the Paraiayas become Untouchables because they ate beef?

 

No. There were so many tribes and ancestors of the many current upper castes that ate Beef. But they did not become Untouchables. Arya Brahmins also ate Beef.

Originally Mallars (Mallas, Mala, Mallicos) did not eat Beef because agriculture was their profession during piece time and were warriors during wartime. As most of the ancient and South Indian Kingdoms until 14th Century A.D. were that of Mallas, Beef eating was not a practice among the citizens of those Kingdom. The Mallas used Ox for ploughing fields and Cow to get Milk and considered the OX and Cow as extension of their family. Hence did not eat it. But they ate meat like Goat and Chicken.

 

Buddhism prohibited killing any animal. But at the same time did not prevent eating animal that was dead. Hence Buddhists that wanted to eat meat, ate meat after an animal died. So Paraiyas originally being Buddhists did not mind eating dead cow hence ate Beef. But with the raise of Brahmanism, when the non-supporters of Brahmanism were excommunicated, the Paraiyas were also ex-communicated. As their opportunity for work was gone with ex-communication, they had to depend more on dead animals rather than other agricultural products. So when a cow died the Paraiyas were willing to take it to eat it. The dead cow was of no use to the Hindu (coined by British to support Brahmanism) and disposing it became very easy for the Hindus when the Paraiyas took it away. So even though when the Pariayas were ex-communicated and barred from other social interaction with the Hindus, the Hindus let the Parayas know about dead cows in villages to dispose them and the Parayas were happy to take it to eat it. Over a period of several generations the truth was forgotten and the stigma of eating and carring a dead cow was considered as a cause for Untouchability. (Note the Mallas who were branded as Pallas and were made Untouchables do not eat beef but still they were ex-communicated and treated as untouchables. Also there are several other castes that eat beef but are not treated as Untouchables).  So with raise in Brahmanism, the criteria for becoming an Untouchable was influential class / Khastriyas that did not support Brahmanism. This may rise the question then why there are many castes, whose ancestors that did not support or adopt Brahmanism did not become untouchables. Though the members of such castes nowadays live in towns and cities at the time of the raise in Brahmanism, the ancestors of these castes were tribes that lived outside ancient cites – especially mountains and forests and hence the supporters of Brahmanism did not bother about these tribes at that time. The British law in 1784 that defined Hindus and Sudras excluded these tribes from the Hindu Corridor. But as the members of these tribes were absorbed into towns and cities, they were gradually merged as Hindus and Sudras.

 

What other evidence support that the Paraiyas were Buddhists?

 

Tamil Sangam Literature do not mention about the Paraiyas, as they did not come to Tamilnadu by that time. The Tamil Poem PERUMPANATTUPPADAI, written about the  2nd Century AD describes is the oldest (first) known Tamil work that describes about the Paraiyas settlement (Cheri) in the outskirts of the city of Kanchipuram. This is the period when Buddhism collapsed in North India and Buddhists spread out from North India.

 

According to PERUMPANATTUPPADAI, the Pariyas lived in the outskirts of the city of Kanchipuram with the Eyinars and Eyinars treated the Pariyas as thier chiefs.

Why would the Eyinars respect the Pariyas? The only possible explanation was Pariyas should have been helpful, useful to the Eyinars. As Buddhists the Pariyas should have been good and helpful people (though the Brahmins did not like them) with many skills as they came from a well-established state but as driven outs.

 

Paraiyas for a long time did not want to identify themselves as Dravidians or Tamils.

They wanted to separate themselves from others, probably because they were once Buddhists but gradually left their Buddhist habits over a period of time. About 12 Km from Thanjavure, on the way to Mannaarkuddi, in a small place called Prandakottai, the Pariyars of the village worship a 11th Century A.D. Buddha Statue in the name of Sambu Temple. The Paraiyas are also called as Sambavas.

 

Where the Paraiyas tribes or Eiyners or AdiDravidas?

 

Had they lived before the Dravidians came to Tamilnadu then the Tamil Sangum Songs would have mentioned about them. They did not. So they could not have come before Dravidians. So they are not Adi Dravadas (Before Dravidians).

Had they been tribes or Eiyners then they could not have been skilled in so many different work divisions in a short period of time. When they came to Tamilnadu, they should have come form a well-established society with skilled workers. This is the reason the Eiyners respected them and lived with harmony. This should have been the reason the Cholas took them in their army, as citizens as Farmers and Weavers etc. Note in ancient Tamil Kingdoms and during later Chola and Pandya Empire, Farmers were the first citizens and the well to do as mentioned in Kural and many ancient Tamil work. The Mallas were the Farmers and Warriors and their leader was the King. The Paraiyahs were also given the privilege of working as Farmers, which means they were well respected. This was possible only if the Paraiyas already had the skills of farming at that time. They could have got these skills only if they had come from an already established society. Also note the numerous Vellala castes came from Paraiyas indicating the diversified work skills they had.

 

Note: Farmers became poor and were treated as bonded labourers only with the fall of Chola and Pandian Empire, during Naiyak and Marata rule.

 

Do the Paraiya belong to a single tribe?

They should have come from a single country or dynasty. For example when Burmese left Burma due to war we considered all of them as Burmese refugees, all SriLankan Tamil refugees as SriLankan Tamils etc though they were from different background.

As mentioned earlier the many divisions indicate the wide range of worker division within Parayas indicate they were from different working groups of a nation with a common name as Paraiyas.

 

How did they get the name Paraiya / Paraiah?

 

They should have come from a dynasty named or sounds similar to Paraiya or they could have played the drums on a daily basis as a certain Buddhists ritual and got the name Paraiyan.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

As mentioned earlier, to destroy Buddhism the Mauryan Empire was over throne and Buddhism collapsed and Buddhists were persecuted. There was chaos, and a revolution through out India. Millions of Buddhist were killed, many fled to China and outside India. Many went into hiding in forests and Mountains and many kept a low profile.

In Tamilnadu, when Buddhism was prevailing in the Mauryan Empire, before the chaos started, the Tamil Kings adored Lord Indran, Lord Shivan, Goddess Amman (Goddess Meenakshi), Lord Perumal (Lord Vishnu), Lord Murugan and had secularism, with Buddhist and Jain citizens also. They also had friendly relations with Ashoka and the Mauryan Empire. But the revolution to topple Buddhism collapsed the Mauryan Empire and the Chaos spreading throughout India. In Tamilnadu the supporters of this revolution were called the Kalavars (later called as Kalabras). As the Tamil Kings were secular and had friendly relations with Mauryans and were not against Buddhists, the Kalavars attacked and toppled the ancient Tamil Kings (Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras), destroyed the Buddhist Temples and destroyed the existing civilization to ruins. With this the Tamil Sangam (Champaign to spread Tamil) also came to a halt.

 

When the Cholas and Pandyas came back to power after driving the Kalabras, their original secularist / democratic society that prevailed in ancient period was not restored.

They adopted a modified King based rule. The Cholas followed Shivaisim but let their citizens to be Secular to a limited extent and gradually adopted Brahmanism toward 12 and 13th Century A.D. The Pandyas adopted Jainism then Shivaism, Vishanvism but let their citizens to be Secular. They did not adopt Brahmanism. Until this time the Pariayas did not have fights with the Mallas (Cholas, Cheras Pandyas).

 

With the downfall of the Pandyan Empire, the Vijayanagar /Nayak Kings that took control of Tamilnadu adopted Brahmanism to the greatest extent. With this the Mallas and Paraiyas were ex-communicated and gradually became untouchables, as Brahmanism grew stronger with the help of Nayaks, Marathas and British. The Paraiyas that adopted Brahmanism were absorbed as Sudras in the name of Vellalas, Muddali, and Pillai and later became Upper and Backward castes depending on their Economic progress. The Nayak Kings also motivated other communities to take the title, land of the Mallas that lead to several clashes between the Mallas (then Pallas) and Parayas. As a result the misunderstanding and hostility between the Mallas (then Pallas) and Parayas exist to this day.

 

 

Based on   

 

1.     REVOLUTION AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN ANCIENT INDIA– By Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

2.     RIDDLE IN HINDUISM – By Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

3.     PHILOSOPHY OF HINDUISAM – By Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

4.     THE UNTOUCHABLES WHO WERE THEY AND WHY THEY BECAME UNTOUCHABLES? – By Dr.B.R.Ambedkar,

5.     Moovendar Yaar? In Tamil (Translates to: Who are the three Kings (Tamil Kings – Chera, Chola and Pandya)? – By Thiru. R. Deva Asirvatham

6.     Pallar alla Mallar aam mannar)? – By Thiru. R. Deva Asirvatham

7.     Tamil Moovendar Marabinarana Devendrar Thaal Nilai Eythal. In Tamil (Translates to: Three Tamil King’s kinsmen - Devendrar become low in society and status) - By Thiru. R. Deva Asirvatham

8.     Who are Vellalar? - By Thiru. R.Dev Asirvatham