Wednesday, August 17, 2022

People, Customs, Ceremonies & Rituals



The Parayas are known as remarkable exponents of black magic. In the rural areas they used to be consulted on problems connected with theft and the Paraya magician was supposed to help recover the stolen articles. Some times they would conduct rituals of extremely demoniacal kind and even cause the death to the involved enemies.

Their favourite deity which gives them the super natural powers is named 'Purakkutty' whom they propitiate with offerings. The occupation of Parayas was making baskets and mats with bamboo and grass, and umbrellas with leaves of the Palmyra tree. Skinning the animals and selling their hides too was a favourite occupation. The Pulayas and Parayas belong to the labour classes. They were once treated as the sole property of their landlords. They were attached to the soil for all their  work.  But the owner of the soil  had the right to sell them or transfer them to another land owner.

A Cheruman was bound to stand at a distance of 30 feet from a man of the Superior caste. He was not allowed to cross the prohibited distance and approach a village temple or tank, if this rule was broken, 'punyaham' or purification rite would inevitably follow. The Cherumars had to howl to produce a sound when they passed through the village roads, as a warning so that the others could avoid polluting themselves by keeping away.

Pulayas and Parayas enjoy certain strange privileges. One such privilege was known by the notorious name 'Parappeti'. Sanction was given to Paraya by his land lords to enjoy maximum freedom on a particular day in the year i.e. 28th day in the Malayalam month Makaram. On this day the untouchable Paraya was allowed to exercise maximum freedom on the village roads, where his action would never be questioned or retaliated by his master. No female members of the so-called respectable families was allowed by the elders to step out of the home. If any girl accidentally happen to be seen by the Paraya irupathettichar he had the license to carry her away and treat her as his property. Such girls were treated as lost forever by the parents. This practice was in vogue in places like Kuttanadu, where paddy cultivation was the main occupation of the people and the Pulayas and Parayas were to work hard throughout the year to feed the whole country. Now they enjoy a lot of privileges and reservation which they legitimately deserve and they are progressing rapidly.

Certain communities have inherited the legacy of the land and its culture to a high degree, but still remain denominated as inferior because of the Brahmin sponsored caste-system. They are thePulluvan pattu Pulluvans, Panas and Kaniyans who belong to the community of village minstrels, they sing in the village houses as harbingers of a prosperous culture. Pulluvans sing serpent songs with ardent faith in the superior varieties of serpents which are believed to be protectors of the land as its guardians angles. The Pulluvan and his wife, Pulluvati visit village houses on auspicious days like the first of every Malayalam month or the Aslesha (star) day in the month, which is the birthday of the serpent. They sing a song called 'navarupattu' to cast off the evil eye on the children. While singing, the Pulluvan plays on a small violin like instrument called 'Veenakkunju' (small veena) and the Pulluvati sings along with him providing the rhythm by strumming the kutam (an instrument made by covering a pot with a skin of a calf and fixing a string to it). By pulling the string and plucking with a piece of wood or stone a rhythm with tonal variations is created. They also conduct the ceremony of 'Pampin tullal' to propitiate the serpent gods and get their blessings. The Pullavas are not in a position to eke out a living in the present society and so they now go in search of other jobs.