Two to three thousand years ago, the life of the common people was not
based on caste distinctions and prejudices. There was a broad division
of the population on the basis of occupation, which was again based on
the nature of the land they occupied. Kurinchi (mountain land ), Palai
(arid land ), mullai (pastures), marutan (west land) and neytal (coastal
land) were the divisions based on the nature of the land. The Kuravar
(hunters) of Kurinchi, the maravar (fighting men) of Palai, the idayas
(cowherds and shepherds ) of Mullai, the Uzhavas (agriculturists)
of Marutam and the Paravas (fisher men) of the Neytal were all from the
Most of these ancient tribes are of Negritto origin.
The ancient Dravidian tribes following different occupations could be
identified from their black colour. Kadars, the Muduvans and the Malayans
belong to the early Dravidian race. The Kadars are said to be black, short
and strongly built with flat nose and long black hair which they tie.
They retain their primitive customs and manners.
The Kadars, Ullatans, Paniyans and Malayans always kept
themselves in hills and forests away from the later Aryan invaders. They
live in groups and depended mostly on nature for all their needs. The
religion of the Kadars was
rude animism. They propitiated demons for sickness and calamities.
Worship of Amman or Kali and Ayyan or Ayyappan was very common.
Ancestor worship was also in vogue. They did a lot of dancing, singing
and merry-making on festive occasions. The Malayas are taller than the
Kadars, but they too have flat nose and thick lips.
Certain observances of pollution, are meticulously adhered
to under strict discipline of the 'moopan' or head-man in religious and
temporal matters. There is a belief which prevails among most of the hill
tribes that if the pollution period for woman is not observed, the whole
tribe will be exposed to disastrous consequences from the Maladaivangal
or hill gods. They believe that the neglect of worship will lead to disease,
failure of crop and other calamities. The touch of Malayan will pollute
the Kadars and vice versa. Every tribe entertain such beliefs. The Parayan,
Pulayan, Nayadi and Ullatan are all treated as Chandalas. But Nayadis
are treated as superior to Ullatas. But no tribe will accept the superiority
of the others.