Page images
PDF
EPUB

ductive here of its usual irregularities, and the priesthood have the .reputation of indemnifying themselves liberally for the restraint imposed on them ; they are not however diverted by those pursuits from the regular observance of their religious offices ; but they adhere more to the minutiæ than spirit of religion, and hope to atone by the repetition of puerile ceremonies for the sacrifice of important virtues. The Syrian priests better educated, and not so turbulent, are either less dissipated or more prudent, and (though not deserving the praise of any great purity,) enjoy a higher reputation. Their garment a loose white gown or shirt, reaching to the knees; clerical ton. sure and flowing beard (this only with the Syrians) distinguishes them from the people ; their ceremonial vestments display a good deal of tinselled finery.

The christians it has been seen, constitute about one eighth * of the population, but they are of so varied a character, that it may be desirable to discriminate the materials of which this body is composed. The Syrian share is split into two parts, the Pootuncoort or Syrians, Piencoor or Romo Syrians, both these classes are found scattered in the tract lying between the northern limits and Quilon, and constitute infinitely the most valuable share of the christian population. That portion of it who chiefly belong to the latin church inhabiting the coast must be ranked greatly below the Syrians; they consist in a great measure of Moocoos, or fishermen, whose ancestors, the Portuguese extending their religion with their power, have forced or persuaded into christianity. The Dutch may have been more judicious in its promotion, they at least have been less violent or less zealous, having made but few converts, and it is only in the district of Agust Eshwur, that we find a large protestant congregati. on: converts from the Shanaurs. They are under the spiritual di. rection of an English Missionary, as also are the few of that parti. cular creed found in the vicinity of Alleepey.

The Nassarenes (the Syrians claim and deserve the high rank) are superior to any natives of India who profess christianity, they are of a mild tractable disposition, ignorant but susceptible of improvement, and free from prejudice, might perhaps in time be taught (could such an object be desirable) to adopt our manners, to which however theirs at present does not make the slightest approximation,

* But with reference to the extent of country, in which they are found they bear a much larger proportion.

+ They are collectively known by the term Maupulays or Nussarene (Nazarines).

$ In allusion to some distinction as to the elements used in taking the sacrament.

Partially at least free from the prevarications that characterizes the Nairs, they have an infinitely franker deportment, and seem capable of a more lasting attachment than them, if they have less capacity their greater integrity might argue the possession of superior virtues. Peaceable and valuable subjects, they return obedience for toleration and protection, nor would it appear they ever evinced symptoms of uneasiness at the control of the Nairs; accustomed to their pretensions, they willingly submit to their ascendency: a passiveness that does not accord with the martial spirit they are said to have possessed, but of which the character now exhibits as few remains, as their condition does traces of the higher consideration they are represented to have held at a remoter date. Whatever may have been their former situation, they at present rank below the Nairs, in estimation, but they are not subject to the humiliation that so often attaches to the profession of christianity in Asiatic countries. The Syrians are much disposed to commerce, but they are generally seen as cultivators, some possess considerable property, they are laborious from necessity, and to their industry many of the finest districts owe their fertility. There is little to indicate the gradations of society amongst them. Turragan is a distinction conferred on a few of the principal men, but the rank carries with it no authority, and but little influence. Their domestic ceremony need only be incidentally noticed, unlike the Nairs, the rights of filiation are fully acknowledged amongst them. The women are free from any sort of restraint, a singularity belonging almost peculiarly to this part of India. Marrying if possible at an early age, they are not chargeable with the dissolute manners of the Nairs, as regards the commerce of the sexes. Like the Nomboories the bride must bring a dower, which as also with them always forms an important preliminary in every connubial treaty, for passion has but little influence in dictating the union, this custom however has not the effect of frequently imposing celebacy on the females, whose relations consider it a duty to promote their marriage; the soJemnities common to this occasion are performed in the church, always on sunday, and particular periods of the year are considered propitious. It is unnecessary to describe the ceremonies as they do not materially differ from those observed by Europeans, except only that the Tally is the symbol of union. The different sects do not often intermarry; divorces are unknown, as the church interposes its authority to reconcile family feuds--widows are permitted to remarry after the lapse of a year-children are baptized (all have scriptural names) on the 13th day. They lay great stress on consecra

we

ted burial. This feeling leads them to make charnel houses of their churches, almost all of which exhale a sepulchral odour, nor is the practice likely to be abolished as it is found profitable. The cost of interment is graduated by the distance from the altar, and the solicitude evinced to be laid near this sanctuary, would indicate that they thought it their best chance for salvation.

The exterior distinctions, amongst the Syrians, are subject to much variety, but carry with them few traces of the mixture of a foreigu origin. They are generally of a better stature, and a more coarse and robust form than the Nairs, nor do scarcely ever among the women, observe the delicate features and

Alexible figure common to them ; some few of the more opulent however, are extremely fair, have a fine and more than ordinary marked expression of countenance. Cleanliness does not hold a place amongst their virtues, the dress of the men has nothing peculiar in it, they generally go bare headed, their black luxuriant but greasy locks floating to the wind, or tied in a knot behind. The female costume is more decorous than that of the Nairs, altho' they display no reluctance to copy their nudity. It consists of a cloth (white is the invariable colour) wound round the middle, fixed in several folds at the hip, and reaching to the knees forms a petticoat ; the person is concealed by a jacket on which some finery is occasionally lavished by embroidering the seams; it falls loosely below the waist, the sleeves covering the arm to the wrist. They often however dispense with this garinent for a less cumbersome vesture; necklaces of venetians, a cross, and silver rings round the ancle compose the ornaments of the more wealthy.

It will not be desired further to pursue the detail of their manners, which bear in much of their minutiæ a resemblance to those of the Nairs, to whom (more especially the Syrians) in the aggregate of personal qualities they are not perhaps inferior; ameliorating the condition of the christian population generally is an object of enlightened benevolence, and it might be expected equally from our sympathy, generosity and interest. They of course have shared in the equal justice which a better government has dispensed during later times to the other classes, and since a judicious policy has within the past few years, peculiarly distinguished them, they have been in. troduced to office. This innovation has contributed greatly to soften the prejudices of the higher orders, may be attended with still more important results, and as uniting their interests, must fix their attachment to a domination that bas raised them from the oppression

wbich they shared in common with lower classes of the community to a respectable rank in it. Of the other portion of the inhabitants who profess christianity, it is superfluous to speak, they belong to the very lower orders, and present no peculiarities to discriminate them.

Shogamars-The Shogamars, or Eleevars, are not of the Shuder tribe. To the south this class is known as Shanars, to the north as Teeans: denominations carrying with them but slight shades of distinction, all may be considered as applicable to the same race; they are found throughout the country but in large numbers along the coast, performing in fact the chief horticultural labours of the cocoanut plantations, and employed in the various manufacture of the products. Always engaged in the more active operations of rural economy, they never hold office except of the lowest kind, in fact are rarely seen in any character than ryots of some description or other, martyrs to the distinction of casts, the higher order treat them with su. percilious scorn. Too poor to invite their rapacity, they hold them in bondage, at least their domineering temper awes them into a servitude mitigated to be sure when contrasted to that of the Prædial Slaves. During late

this class has been raised in some measure from the state of degradation in which they were held, the repeal of an oppressive poll tax from which the lowest poverty could not exempt, the abrogation of the Ooloogoo or forced labour, and many vexa. tious inhibitions and restraints, may have taught them their own rights and given them confidence to claim them. There is of course considerable variety in their condition and character, towards the south, they draw their subsistance from the palmyra, and enjoy some local advantages. The Shanars, bear a resemblance to the people of the other coast, and are not distinguished by that passive ductility of temper, that marks the character of those belonging to the more northern part. In so large a body some will possess considerable property, but the numbers of even the moderately affluent are exceedingly limited. All are allowed to hold lands and gardens, but they labour not, possession constituting the principal share of the under tenantry, paying a rent that allows but little profit. In fact their soil rarely ensures them more than a hut, affording an insuffi. cient shelter, and permits them to subsist or rather starve, throughout the year on cocoanut and fish. They are not remarkable as wanting intelligence, are indolent, harmless, tractable, and if deserving the charge of a timid pusillanimity, it must be ascribed to the state of vassalage in which they have been so long held. There are some distinctions of rank, each village has a Tundan, or principal of its Eeluvan population. The office is heriditary attended by some privileges, and exercises a domestic authority, which is extended over all the lower classes-to it belongs the investigation and decision of all controversies connected with caste expelling from which, and imposing small fines, is the limit of its power. The Tundan presides at all ceremonies, but the Punniken, a character of subordinate dignity, is more particularly their priest, his spiritual aid being necessary on all such occasions, while his secular exertions are directed to the education of the village youth.

years

Kunneans and Panans-The Kunneans, and Panans, are merely divisions of the Elewur tribe, the former derive the appellation from the science of divination, which some of their sect profess. The Kunnean, fixes the propitious moment for every undertaking and hysterical affections being supposed the visitation of some troublesome spirit his incantations are believed alone able to subdue it. Numbers are employed in making the chattries or parasols so generally used here. The manufacture belonging peculiarly to them, but agriculture is their more ordinary pursuit. As it is also that of the Panans, this class claims equality with the former one, from it are taken the musicians of the inferior orders, but to this profession they add that of players, pretend to a knowledge of medicine and the occult sciences. The two latter accomplishments are here generally united. A doctor being necessarily a musician, and almost equally skilful in both characters. The Panans, differ from all the corresponding classes in being married, and the children in every instance belonging to the father.

II.-An Account of the Island and Bridge of Sivasamudram

in the Cúverí River. By Rámaswámi Múdeliar, Júghírdár of the Island. (Extracted from the Transactions of the Royal

Asiatic Society Vol. 3. Part 2d.) (Communicated by the Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary

Royal Asiatic Society.)
Read 17th December 1831.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE,

BY

JAMES S. LUSHINGTON, Esq. . Secretary of the Asiatic Department of the Madras Literary

Society and Auxiliary Royal Asiatic Society. The materials for the following account of the island of Sivasa

« PreviousContinue »