Thursday, June 12, 2014



It has been commonly supposed by Anglo-Indians, that certain tribes
and castes inhabiting Southern India, especially the Pareiyas, Pallas,
Puleiyas, and similar tribes, belong to a different race from the mass of
the inhabitants. The higher castes are styled Hindus, or else Tamilians,
Malayalis, &c., according to their language and nation ; but those
names are withheld from some of the ruder and more primitive tribes,
and from the Pareiyas and other agricultural slaves. As this supposition,
and the use of words to which it has given rise, are frequently
met with both in conversation and in books, it seems desirable to
inquire whether, and to what extent, this opinion may be regarded as
It is necessary here to premise some remarks on the meaning of the
term Hindil. This term is used in India in a variety of ways, but its
most common, as well as its best authorised meaning, is that of an
adherent of the system of religion called Hinduism. It is true that
this use of the term is liable to serious objection, inasmuch as the term
Hindu originally meant, and ought still to mean, an Indian—an inhabitant
of India—irrespective of the religion to which he belonged. It
seems hardly fair to use a term which in itself has not a theological,
but a geographical meaning, to denote the adherents of one out of
several religions which prevail in the region to which the term applies.
There is no such inconsistency pertaining to the use of the terms
Buddhist, Jaina, Muhammedan, or Christian. Notwithstanding this,
in consequence of the difficulty of finding any other convenient term
to denote the followers of the Brahraanical religion, or the religion of
the Vedas and Puranas, and also in consequence of the followers of
this religion forming the great majority of the inhabitants of India,
people have been led to adopt the national name as a term of religious
nomenclature. This meaning has been made authoritative by its use
in official documents, and by a decision of one of the courts, to the
effect that the term Hindtis, as used in the ' Indian Succession Act,' is
meant to denote the adherents of the religion called Hinduism, in consequence
of which Indian Christians are declared not to be Hindtis in
the meaning of the Act. This being the case, it seems to have become
desirable that the term Hindii should now cease to be used in any
other sense. Consistency in the use of terms is of more importance
than accuracy of etymology. It may, therefore, be admitted—using
the word in this sense—that the Tudas, the Khonds, and many of the
Gonds are not Hindus, and also that some of the predatory wandering
tribes are probably not Hindus ; though, geographically, they have all
as much right to the name of HindU as the Brahmans themselves. In
some of these cases, however, it would be safer to say merely that such
and such classes are not regarded as orthodox Hindtis. As for the
Pareiyas and the lower castes generally in the more civilised districts
of the country, they are Hindus by religion, like the rest of the community.
The Brahmans and the Pareiyas equally worship Siva and
Vishnu, and therefore are equally Hindtis. The differences between
them pertain to caste, not to religion.
Many persons, especially in Northern India, have been accustomed
to use the term Hindti as synonymous with Aryan. They call the
Brahmans and the higher castes of Northern India Hindtis, but withhold
the name from the aboriginal races. This seems an improper use
of words, inasmuch as it denationalises not only the low-caste inhabi542
tants of the northern provinces and the rude forest tribes of Central
India, but also the whole of the Dravidian inhabitants of the Peninsula ;
notwithstanding the proofs that exist that they crossed the Sind, Hind,
or Ind-tis, and occupied the Sapta Sindhu, or ' country of the seven
rivers'—the Vaidik name of India, as far as India was at that time
known—before the arrival of the Aryans, and that they have therefore
a better claim to be called Hind-us than the Aryans themselves. To
deprive the Dravidians and other primitive races of the name of Hindu,
seems as unjust as it would be to deprive all persons of Anglo-Saxon
descent of the name of Englishman, and to restrict that name to the
descendants of Norman families.
Some again mix the two meanings^—the religious and the ethnological
—together, and thus, as it appears to me, produce inextricable confusion.
Thus Mr Beanies, in a note to the Introduction to his '•' Comparative
Grammar of the Aryan Vernaculars of Northern India," p. 39, says,
" For the information of readers in Europe it may be necessary to
explain that the word Hindi! is always used in India as a religious
term, denoting those Aryans who still adhere to the Brahmanical
fiiith, and who in most parts of India constitute the majority of the
population." I should have considered this definition perfectly correct
if the word Aryans had been omitted ; but as it stands, it either
includes Dravidians amongst Aryans, contrary, I believe, to Mr
Beames's own opinion, or it refuses the name of Hindil to those
Dravidians in Madras and elsewhere, who consider themselves, and are
generally considered by others, amongst the most orthodox and zealous
Hindus in India. In Southern India, Dravidians are invariably called
Hindis in public documents ; and the University of Madras divides
candidates for its honours amongst the Hindu community into two
classes only, Brahmans and ' other Hindus ; ' by the term, other Hindus,
denoting all persons 'not Brahmans' who are adherents of tlie Hindu
religion. Notwithstanding this, in Southern India itself the term
Hindu has sometimes been restricted to the higher castes, and denied
to the Pareiyas and other castes supposed to hold an inferior place in
the social system. In this classification the term high-caste, without
distinction of Aryan or Dravidian, occupies the place of the word
Aryan in Mr Beames's definition. This restriction of the name of
Hindu to those of the higher castes who adhere to the Brahmanical
religion prevails chiefly, as might be expected, amongst persons who
belong to the higher castes themselves, but Europeans have sometimes
fallen into the same style of expression. For instance, in regard to
the Shanars, a tribe in Tinnevelly, a considerable proportion of the
members of which have become Christians, it has sometimes been said
by Europeans that tbey are ' not Hindtls.* This style of expression is
owing, I believe, to a misapprehension, inasmuch as the Shanars, in
their ori^^inal condition, before their reception of Christianity, were
adherents of the ordinary Hindil religion, though generally it was a
low type of that religion which they followed. They were certainly not
Aryans, except on the supposition that all Dravidians are Aryans, but
in this respect they were only in the same predicament as the rest of
the Tamil castes, whether higher or lower. The practice of demonolatry
does not make a man cease to be a Hindu by religion, the demonolatry
of the aborigines having been incorporated with the worship of E-udra
from very early, if not even from Vaidik times. The greater number
of the Buddhists in Ceylon are demonolaters—the origin of demonolatry
in Ceylon and India being no doubt the same ; yet, though
demonolatry is further removed from Buddhism than from Hinduism,
we do not think of saying that the Singhalese are not Buddhists.
There is an element of recognised demonism in the Saivism of every
part of India, in some places more, in others less. It is a question
only of less or more ; and the adherents of the more, as well as of the
less are Hindus. The notion that the Shanars are not Hindus is a
notion unknown to the Hindus themselves. By the Hindus they are
regarded as simply one caste out of many. We must now, however,
bring this digression to an end, and resume our inquiry respecting the
relationship of the Pareiyas.
The Pareiyas (called in Telugu Malavaiidlu = Malas) are not the only
caste or class of people in the Dravidian parts of India, who are commonly
regarded as outcasts, nor are they the lowest or most degraded
of those classes ; but partly because they are the most numerous servile
tribe (their numbers amounting in some places to so much as a fifth of
the population), and partly because they are more frequently brought
into contact with Europeans than any similar class, in consequence of
the majority of the domestic servants of Europeans throughout the
Madras Presidency being Pareiyas, they have come to be regarded by
some persons as the low-caste race of Southern India. Hence, besides
the above-mentioned discrepancies in the application of the name HindCl,
there are various errors afloat respecting the origin of the Pareiyas and
their position in the caste scale, which require to be noticed before
entering on the question now to be discussed, ' Are the Pareiyas Dravidians
Europeans were generally led to suppose, on their arrival in India
several generations ago, that the Pareiyas were either the illegitimate
offspring of adulterous intercourse, or were persons who had been
excluded from caste for their crimes. This notion appears to have
been invented and propagated by tlie Bralimans and tlie higher castes,
and must have originated, in part, in their wish to justify their exclusive,
unsocial behaviour towards the Pareiyas, on principles which they
supposed that Europeans would approve. In part, also, it may have
originated in an error arising from the uncritical habit of the Hindu
mind—viz., the error of transferring to Southern India and to the
Dravidian tribes, the fictions which were devised in Northern India to
account for the origin of the new castes, or so called mixed classes, of
the North. Those northern castes or classes seem to have come into
being through the operation of two causes ; first, through the subdivision
of the original castes of Vaisyas and servile or Sudra Aryans,
in accordance with the progressive subdivision of labour ; and secondly,
through the introduction of one aboriginal tribe after another within
the pale of Aryan civilisation, as the religion and civil polity of the
Sanskrit-speaking race spread throughout the country, and as the
primitive inhabitants were transformed from Dasyus, Nishadas, and
Mlechchas, into Sudras. In Manu and similar S'astras, no mention is
made of either of these causes ; but the new or mixed castes are attributed
exclusively to fictitious mixtures of the older castes. The more
respectable of the new castes are attributed to the legal intermarriage
of persons belonging to different castes of recognised respectability
another and inferior set of castes are attributed to the adulterous
intercourse of persons of equal respectability, but of dififerent caste, or
of high-caste men with low-caste women ; whilst the lowest castes of
all are represented to have sprung from the adulterous intercourse of
high-caste women with low-caste men, and are said also to constitute
the receptacle of persons who had been socially excommunicated for
offences against their caste.
Whatever amount of truth may be contained in this representation
of the origin of the castes of Northern India (and I think it most
probably a fiction throughout), it may confidently be affirmed that the
Dravidian castes had no such origin. The only 'mixed caste' known
in Southern India, is that which consists of the children of the dancing
girls attached to the temples. Of this class the female children are
brought up in the profession of their mothers, the males as temple
florists and musicians. In all ordinary cases, when children are born
out of wedlock, if there is no great disparity in rank or caste between
the parents, the rule is that the caste of the child is that of the less
lionourable of the two castes to which its parents belong. Where
considerable disparity exists, and where the dereliction of rank is on
the woman's side—as, for example, where a high-caste woman, or even
a woman belonging to the middling castes, has formed an intimacy
with a Pareiya man, neither the caste of the father nor any other caste
has much chance of being recruited or polluted by the addition of the
woman's illegitimate offspring. The child rarely sees the light; the
mother either procures an abortion or commits suicide. To suppose,
therefore, as Europeans have sometimes been led to suppose, that the
entire caste of Pareiyas (including its siibdivisions, and the ' left hand
castes corresponding to it) has come into existence in the surreptitious
manner described above, or that it is composed of persons who have
been excluded from other castes for their crimes, is a baseless dream,
which seems too preposterous for serious refutation. Though it is probable
that it was from the statements of natives that the Anglo-Indian
community originally derived this notion, yet I never met with any
natives, learned or unlearned, by whom the notion appeared to be
entertained ; and the Pareiyas themselves, who regard their lowly caste
with feelings of pride and affection, which are very different from what
might be expected of them, would resent this representation of their
origin, if they had ever heard of it, with indignation.
Anglo-Indians who are not acquainted with the vernacular languages,
often designate Pareiyas as outcasts, as persons who are
without caste, or as persons who have no caste to lose. It is true
that the Pareiya servants of Europeans will sometimes vaunt that they
belong to ' master's caste
' and some masters are said to have found
to their cost that their Pareiya servants practise no scrupulous, superstitious
distinctions respecting meats and drinks. Notwithstanding
this, to suppose that the Pareiyas have literally no caste, is undoubtedly
an error. The Pareiyas constitute a well-defined, distinct, ancient
caste, independent of every other; and the Pareiya caste has subdivisions
of its own, its own peculiar usages, its own traditions, and
its own jealousy of the encroachments of the castes which are above
it and below it. They constitute, perhaps, the most numerous caste
in the Tamil country. In the city of Madras they number twenty-one
per cent, of the Hindu population ; the Vellalas, who come next to
them, numbering fourteen per cent. Though the Pareiyas themselves
will admit that they belong—or, as they would prefer to say, that
they belong at present—to the lowest division of castes, and are not
fabled to have sprung from even the least noble part of BrahmS,;
nevertheless, they are not the lowest of the castes comprised in this
lowest division. I am acquainted with several castes in various parts
of the Tamil country, which are considered lower than the Pareiyas in
the social scale ; and in this enumeration I do not include the Pallas,
a caste between whom and the Pareiyas there is an unsettled dispute
respecting precedence. The treatment which the Pareiyas receive from
2 M
the castes above them, is doubtless unjust and indefensible ; but it is
not generally known by those Europeans who sympathise in the
wrongs of the Pareiyas, that, whenever they have an opportunity, the
Pareiyas deal out the very same treatment to the members of castes
which are inferior to their own
e.g., the caste of shoemakers, and the
lowest caste of washermen ; that they are, equally with the higher
castes, filled with that compound of pride of birth, exclusiveness, and
jealousy, called ' caste feeling
' and that there is no contest for precedence
amongst the higher castes of longer standing, or of a more
bitter character, than that which is carried on between the Pareiyas
and the Pallas. In the insane dispute about pre-eminence, which is
always being carried on in Southern India between the ' right hand
and the ' left hand ' castes, the Pareiyas range themselves on the right
hand, the Pallas on the left ; and it is chiefly by these two castes that
the fighting part of the controversy is carried on. Now that Europeans
are better acquainted with Indian affairs, the theory of the illegitimate
origin of the Pareiyas is more rarely found to be entertained ; and, as
the study of the native languages extends, the supposition that they
are outcasts, or that they have no caste, will soon disappear likewise.
The question before us having been cleared of popular errors and
extraneous matter, we now come to the consideration of that question
itself. Are the Pareiyas Dravidians % Are the forest tribes, the lower
castes, and the so-called 'outcasts,' that speak the Dravidian languages,
especially the Tamil Pariahs (properly Pareiyas), the Telugu
Malas, and the Malayalam Puleiyas (who may be taken as the representatives
of the class), of the same origin and of the same race as the
Dravidians of the higher castes? Whilst both classes have a right
to be called Hindiis, are the higher castes alone Dravidians, Tamilians,
Malayans, &c. ? and are the Pareiyas and people of similar castes to
be regarded as belonging to a different race 1
On the whole, I think it more probable that the Pareiyas are Dravidians
; nevertheless, the supposition that they belong to a different
race, that they are descended from the true aborigines of the country
—a race older than the Dravidians themselves—-and that they were
reduced by the first Dravidians to servitude, is not destitute of probability.
It may be conceived that as the Aryans were preceded by the
Dravidians, so the Dravidians may have been preceded by an older,
ruder, and perhaps blacker race, of whom the Doms and other Chandalas
of Northern India, and the Pareiyas, and other low tribes of the
Peninsula, are the surviving representatives. If this primitive race
existed prior to the arrival of the Dravidians, it would naturally
happen that some of them would take refuge from the intruders in
mountain ftistnesses and pestilential jungles—like the Rajis or D6ms
of the Himalayas, the Weddas of Ceylon, and the Mala-(y)-ara8as of
the Southern Ghauts; whilst others, probably the majority of the
race, would be reduced to perpetual servitude, like the Pareiyas,
Puleiyas, and Pallas. The history of the subjection of the Prae-Aryan
S'udras of Northern India, would thus form the counterpart and supplement
of the history of the subjection of a still older race. Though,
however, all this may be conceived to be possible, and though there
may not be any ^ priori improbability in it, it is more to the purpose
to state such circumstances and considerations as appear to be adducible
in its support.
(1.) The Pareiyas, the Pallas, the Puleiyas, and several other lowcaste
tribes, are generally slaves to the higher castes, and most of them
appear always to have been in an enslaved condition ; and it is more
natural to suppose that they were reduced to a servile condition by
conquest, than to sup"pose that entire tribes were enslaved by the
operation of ordinary social causes. If, then, the castes referred to
were a subjugated people, they must have settled in the country at
an earlier period than their conquerors, and probably belonged to a
different race.
(2.) The low-caste inhabitants of Southern India are distinguished
from the entire circle of the higher castes by clear, unmistakable marks
of social helotry. The title of 'S'Mra,' which has generally been
assumed by the higher castes, or which was conferred upon them by
the Brahmans, is withheld from the low-caste tribes; they are not
allowed to enter within the precincts of the temples of the Dii majorum
gentium; and wherever old Hindii usages survive unchecked, as in the
native protected states of Travancore and Cochin, the women belonging
to those castes are prohibited (or were, till lately) from wearing
their ' cloth ' over their shoulders, and obliged to leave the entire bust
uncovered, in token of social inferiority. It may be argued, that
broadly marked class distinctions like the above-mentioned, which
separate the people of ten or twenty different castes or tribes from
the rest of the population, are incompatible with the supposition of an
original identity of race.
(3.) There are various traditions current amongst the Pareiyas to
the effect that the position which their caste occupied in native society
at some former period was very different from what it is now, and
much more honourable. Wilks observes that there is a tradition that
the Canarese Pareiyas were once an independent people, with kings of
their own. The Tamil Papiyas sometimes boast that at an ancient
period tlieirs was the most distinguished caste in the country. They
say that they were reduced to their present position, as a punishment
for the haughty behaviour of their ancestors to some ancient king ; on
which occasion the Vellalas, or caste of cultivators, who are now
called Tamirar, or Tamilians, par excellence, were raised to the place
which had previously been occupied by themselves. There is a similar
tradition that the Kuravas, or gipsy basket-makers, were once kings
of the hill country in the south.
(4.) In various parts of the country Pareiyas and members of similar
castes enjoy peculiar privileges, especially at religious festivals. Thus,
at the annual festival of Egdttdl, the only mother—a form of K§,li,
and the tutelary goddess of the ' Black town ' of Madras—when a tdli,
or bridal necklace (answering to our wedding-ring), was tied round the
neck of the idol in the name of the entire community, a Pareiya used
to be chosen to represent the people as the goddess's bridegroom.
Similar privileges are claimed by Pareiyas in other parts of the country,
especially at the worship of divinities of the inferior class, such as the
village ammds, or mothers, and the guardians of boundaries ; and these
peculiar rights, which are conceded to them by the higher castes, may
be supposed to amount to an acknowledgment of their ancient importance
; like the privileges claimed at the coronation of Rajput princes
by the Bhills, a northern race of aborigines. It has always been the
policy of Hindu rulers to confer a few empty privileges upon injured
races as a cheap compensation for injuries ; and it has generally been
found, where an inquiry has been made, that such privileges possess an
historical signification. Mr Walhouse, in an article entitled " Archaeological
Notes," in the Bombay Antiquary for July 1874, adds a few
instances of the privileges enjoyed by the lower castes. "At Melkotta,
the chief seat of the followers of R^m^nuja Achdrya, and at the Brahman
temple at Bailur, the Holeyars or Pareyars have the right of entering
the temple on three days in the year, specially set apart for them.
In the great festival of Siva at Trivalur, in Tanjor, the head man of the
Pareyars is mounted on the elephant with the god, and carries his
chaiiri. In Madras, too " [in addition to the custom mentioned above
by myself], " the mercantile caste, and in Vizagapatam the Brahmans,
had to go through the form of asking the consent of the lowest castes
to their marriages, though the custom has now died out." The principle
underlying these customs is thus explained :—" It is well known,"
he says, " that the servile castes in Southern India once held far higher
positions, and were indeed masters of the land on the arrival of the
Brahmanical races. Many curious vestiges of their ancient power still
survive in the shape of certain privileges, which are jealously cherished,
and, their origin being forgotten, are much misunderstood. These
privileges are remarkable instances of survivals from an extinct order
of society—shadows of a long-departed supremacy, bearing witness to
a period when the present haughty high-caste races were suppliants
before the ancestors of degraded classes whose touch is now regarded
as pollution."
(5.) The strongest argument which can be adduced in support of the
Prse-Dravidian origin of the Pareiyas and similar castes, consists in the
circumstance that the national name of Tamilians, Malayalis, Kannadis,
<fcc., is withheld from them by the usus loquendi of the Dravidian
languages, and conferred exclusively upon the higher castes. When a
person is called a Tamiran, or Tamilian, it is meant that he is neither a
Brahman nor a member of any of the inferior castes, but a Dravidian
Sudra. The name is understood to denote, not the language which is
spoken by the person referred to, but the nation to which he belongs
and as the lower castes are never denoted by this national name, it
would seem to be implied that they do not belong to the nation,
though they speak its language, but belong, like the Tamil-speaking
Brahmans and Muhammedans, to a different race.
I may here mention an argument occasionally urged in support of
the same view of the case, which is founded, I believe, upon an error.
It has been said that the name Pareiya, or Pariah, is synonymous with
that of the Paharias (from pahdr, a hill), a race of mountaineers, properly
called Meiers, inhabiting the Bajmahjil Hills, in Bengal; and
hence it is argued that the Pareiyas may be considered, like the Paharias,
as a race of non-Aryan, non-Dravidian aborigines. It is an
error, however, to suppose that there is any connection between those
two names. The word Pariah, properly Pareiya, denotes not a mountaineer,
but a drummer, a word regularly derived from parei, a drum,
especially the great drum used at funerals. The name Pareiya is, in
fact, the name of a hereditary occupation, the Pareiyas being the class
of people who are generally employed at festivals, and especially at
funerals, as drummers. It is true that their numbers are now so great
that many of them are never so employed, and that the only employment
of the great majority is that of agricultural labourers ; but whenever
and wherever the din of the parei happens to be heard we may be
assured that a Pareiya is the person who is engaged in beating it. As
the whole ca^te, though perhaps the most numerous in the circle of the
low-castes, is denominated by this name, it appears probable that originally
drumming was their principal employment.
The origin of the term Mdla, applied to the Telugu Pareiyas, is
uncertain. Mdl means bl^ck in Tamil, but the corresponding word in
Telugu is not mdl, but nalla. The Pur^nas speak of a tribe of bar550
barians called Malas, but tbeir location has been considered doubtful.
I should be inclined to identify the Puranic name with that of the
Meiers, the primitive hill people of the Kajmahal hills; it seems
hazardous, however, to attribute the same origin to the name of the
Telugu Pareiyas. Mr C. P. Brown suggests, but does not adopt, the
derivation of the name from the Telugu verb mdl-utdi, to be without,
the meaning deducible from which, * the destitute,' would seem to suit
the circumstances of the case. The name of the Malayalam PulaycLS
(Tarn. Puleiyas), is derived from pula, flesh, pollution ; but the ultimate
root seems to be pul, little. The caste which is considered the
lowest in the Malayalam country, perhaps the lowest in any of the
Dravidian provinces, is that of the N^y^dis, or Nayaclis, a race of
dwellers in the jungles. N4yMi means one who hunts with dogs;
N^yadi, an eater of dogs. The members of this caste are required to
retire seventy-two steps from high-caste people, Pulayas thirty-six,
Kaiiiyars twenty-four. It seems difficult to suppose that tribes which
are now regarded as so degraded belonged originally to the same race
as the higher castes themselves ; but the difficulty, though one tha£'
requires careful consideration, may not be found to be insuperable. The
circumstances and arguments that have now been alleged in favour of
the non-Dravidian origin of the lower castes, possess undoubtedly a
considerable degree of strength ; but I proceed to show that they are
not perfectly conclusive, and that they are to some extent counterbalanced
by considerations adducible on the other side.
(1.) The argument which is drawn from the servile condition of the
Pareiyas fails to establish the conclusion : because it is certain that
there are many slaves in various parts of the world who do not differ
from their masters in race, though they do in status. The Eussian
serfs were Slavonians, and the Magyar serfs Magyars, equally with their
masters. Illustrations of the inconclusiveness of the argument may be
drawn also from Dravidian life. The more wealthy of the Sh^nars—
caste inhabiting the extreme south—have slaves in their employment,
some of whom belong to a subdivision of the Shanar caste. These servile
Shanars appear to have been slaves from a very early period ; and
yet they are admitted even by their masters to belong to the same race
as themselves. There are also servile subdivisions of some other castes.
Thus, a portion of the Maravas of the southern provinces are slaves to
the Poligars, or Marava chieftains; and even of the Vellalas, or
Tamilian cultivators, there are not a few families who are slaves to the
temples. Various circumstances might contribute to the reduction of
the Pareiyas, &c., to servitude, irrespective of difference or inferiority
of race. In the wars of barbarous nations, it often happens that both
conquerors and conquered belong to tlie same race, and even to the
same tribe. In a civilised age, the conquerors may be content with
governing and taxing the conquered ; but in a ruder age, and especially
in a tropical climate, where labour is distasteful, the vanquished are
ordinarily reduced to the condition of slaves. In such cases we shall
meet with a phenomenon exactly parallel to that of the Pareiyas—viz.,
a servile tribe speaking the language and exhibiting the physiological
peculiarities of their masters, and yet separated from them by an
impassable barrier. Other causes, however, in addition to that of war
may have been in operation, such as poverty, or a state of society
resembling the feudal system, or even a trade in slaves, like that which
in Africa sets not only nation against nation, but village against village.
At all events, taking into account the probability that these and similar
social evils may have existed at an early period, it does not seem more
difficult to account for the enslaved condition of the Pareiyas, without
supposing them to have been of a different race from their masters, than
it is to account for the serfdom, till lately, of the Russian peasantry, or
for the existence of slavery amongst nearly all the primitive Indo-European
races, without the help of any such supposition. It is worthy of
notice also, that whilst the Pareiyas, Pallas, and Puleiyas are generally
slaves, some of the castes that are included in the lower division
including some of the very lowest—consist wholly of freemen.
(2.) The traditions that have been mentioned respecting the honourable
position formerly occupied by the Pareiyas, do not establish the
point in hand. Supposing them to rest (which they do not appear to
do) on an historical foundation, they prove, not an original difference
of race, but only the -ancient freedom of the Pareiyas, and the respectability
of their social rank, before their reduction to slavery.
(3.) The circumstance that the entire circle of the lower castes,
including the Pareiyas, are separated from the higher by badges of
social distinction, and denied the national names of Tamilian, Malayali,
&c., is one which must be admitted to possess great weight. Though
the argument which may be deduced from this circumstance is a very
strong one, it does not appear to be absolutely conclusive, for it is in
accordance with the genius of Hindti legislation to punish poverty by
civil and social disabilities ; and high-caste pride might naturally take
the shape of an. exclusive appropriation even of the national name.
We find a parallel use of words in the Sanskrit S'astras, in which
nations that are admitted in those S'astras to be of Kshatriya origin
{e.g., the Yavanas and Chinas), are termed Mlechchas, not in consequence
of difference of ra^e, but solely in consequence of their disuse
of Brahmanical rites. There is a still closer parallel in the law of
Manu, that Brahmans who took up their aJ)ode in the Dravidian country
—probably in Manu's time an uncleared forest—should be regarded as
(4.) There does not seem to be anything in the physiology of the
Pareiyas, in their features, or in the colour of their skin, which warrants
us to suppose that they belong to a different race from their high-caste
neighbours. The comparative blackness of their complexion has led
some persons to suppose them to be descended from a race of Negrito
aborigines ; but this hypothesis seems to be unnecessary. The swarthiness
of the complexion not only of the Pareiyas, but also of the
Puleiyas of the Malayalam country (a still blacker caste), may be
accounted for by their continual employment for many ages in the
open air, exposed to the full force of the vertical sun. If the Fellahs,
or labourers, and Bedouins, or wandering shepherds, of Egypt, are
admitted to be Arabs of pure blood, notwithstanding the deep brown
of their complexion, it would seem to be unnecessary to suppose the
Pareiyas, who labour in a hotter sun than that of Egypt, to be of a
different race from the rest of the Dravidians, in order to account for
their complexions being a shade darker. In no country in the world
are features and complexion so variable as in India ; but caste, as it
exists in India, and especially as it affects the condition of the lower
classes, is unknown in every other country in the world. Separate
for ever from the society of their fellow-countrymen a class of agricultural
labourers or slaves : prohibit all intermarriage with families in
more easy circumstances : require them to live by themselves in
wretched wigwams, removed to a considerable distance from the
village inhabited by the respectable householders : compel them to
work hard the whole year round in the open air in an inter-tropical
climate—in a country where the sun comes twice in the year right
over head : let all possibility of their rising to a higher condition of
life, or obtaining a more sedentary, shady employment be for ever
precluded : prohibit education : pay them no wages : feed them scantily
and clothe them still more scantily : encourage drunkenness and the
eating of carrion : prohibit the women from dressing themselves with
ordinary regard for decency :—treat them, in short, for twenty centuries
as the Brahmans and high-caste Dravidians have treated the Pareiyas
and other low-castes, and it will be unnecessary to have recourse to the
theory of their intermixture with a primitive race of Africans or
Negritoes in order to account for the coarseness of their features, their
dwarfishness, or the blackness of their skin. Notwithstanding all
this, though the Pareiyas and Puleiyas, as a class, are darker than
any other class in the South, we find amongst them almost as great
a variety of colour as amongst other classes of Hindus ; and occasionally
we may notice complexions that are as clear as those of the
higher castes, together with considerable regularity of feature. When
Pareiyas have risen to a position of competence and comfort, and
S'Cidras have become impoverished, and been obliged to work hard in
the sun all day, their complexion is affected as well as their social
position ; and in a few generations the S'Mra is said to become dark,
the Pareiya fair.
I admit that the features of the Pareiyas differ somewhat from those
of the high-caste VelMlas, or cultivators, as the features of every caste
in India differ somewhat from those of every other caste ; yet there is
no difference between the cultivator and the Pareiya in the shape of
their heads. Not only from their peculiarities of feature and dress,
but even from the shape of their heads, we are generally able to distinguish
Tamilians or Telugus from the Afghan or Turco-Tatar
Muhammedans of India. But looking at the shape of their heads
alone, and leaving complexion and features out of account, it is impossible
to distinguish a Tamilian, or high-caste Dravidian, from a
Pareiya or any other member of the lower castes. Difference in
feature is of little or no account in this inquiry, for it is notorious
that castes which proceed from the same origin differ from one another
both in features and in mental characteristics, as widely as if they
inhabited different and distant countries. The soldier or robber castes
of Kallas and Maravas, differ as much from the higher castes in their
features as the Pareiyas, and in habit of mind still more. Nevertheless,
they claim to be considered as pure Tamilians. The caste title of the
Maravas, * Deva,' is the same as that of the old kings of the Pandya
and Chola dynasties. Chieftains of their race still possess the principalities
of Shevagunga and KamnS,d, which are called 'the two
Maravas;' and the latter, the prince of Ramnad, has claimed from
an ancient period to be considered as Setupati, or hereditary guardian
of Eama's bridge. The other tribe, the Kallas, have a king of their
own, the Tondaman P^ja, or Raja of Puducottah ; they claim a
relationship to the ancient kings of the Chola country ; and they are
regarded by the Tamilian VeMlas, or cultivators, as next in rank to
themselves. It is possible—though not, I think, probable—that these
castes settled in the Tamil country subsequently to the settlement of
the mass of the population ; but it does not follow that they belonged
to a non-Dravidian race ; for the course which I have supposed the
Kallas and Maravas to have followed, is precisely that which was
followed on the decline of ^ihe power of the Pandyas, by various Telugu
and Canarese castes that are unquestionably Dravidians.
(5.) The essential unity of all the Dravidian dialects argues the
unity of the race, inclusive of the lower castes. The mixed origin of
the Hindtis of the Gaura provinces may be conjectured, not only from
historical notices, but from an examination of the component elements
of the northern vernaculars. In those vernaculars we can trace the
existence of two lingual currents, the Aryan and the non-Aryan, the
one running counter to the other; but in no dialect of the Dravidian
languages are such traces discoverable of any extraneous idiom which
appears to have differed in character from that of the mass of the language.
All the grammatical forms of primary importance in all the
Dravidian dialects cohere together and form one harmonious system.
If the Pareiyas and the other servile castes were supposed to be a
different race from the Dravidians, and- the only surviving descendants
of the true aborigines, it would be necessary to regard the isolated
mountain tribes, the Tudas, Gonds, &c,, as remnants of the same
aboriginal race ; and if this theory were correct, the languages of those
long isolated tribes should be found to differ essentially from Telugu
and the Tamil. On the contrary, no essential difference in gramma-"
tical structure, or in the more important names of things, has been
discovered in them ; but the Gond and Ku, Tuda and Kota dialects,
belong demonstrably to the same family as the more cultivated Dravidian
tongues. It is also worthy of notice that though the Pareiyas and the
other servile classes in the plains live in hamlets by themselves, removed
to a considerable distance from the villages in which their highcaste
masters reside, there is no trace amongst them of any difference
in idiom, of peculiar words, or of peculiar forms of speech. The only
difference apparent, consists in their mispronunciation of Sanskrit
derivatives, arising from their general want of education ; and in many
instances, even this difference is not found to exist.
On the whole, therefore, the supposition that the lower castes in
the Dravidian provinces belong to a different race from the higher,
appears to me to be untenable. It seems safer to hold, that all the
indigenous tribes who were found by the Aryans in Southern India,
belonged substantially to one and the same race. It is probable enough
that the Dravidians were broken up into tribes before the Aryan immigration,
and that the distinctions, not only of richer and poorer, but
also of master and slave, had already come into existence amongst
them. Those distinctions may have formed the foundation of the caste
system, which their Brahmanical civilisers built up, and which was
moulded by degrees into an exact counterpart of the caste system of
Northern India.