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How the Parathvar were converted in Tamil Nadu ?

 

 

 

The following is the excerpts from a well-known Indian historian, George Mark Moraes, MA (Bom), D.Litt. (Rome), D.Litt.  (Strasbourg), D.A. (Vatican).

 

This is an exact reproduction of excerpts from his book titled, "A History of Christianity in India", published in the year 1964 and which was written with the assistance of Rev.Fr.E.R.Hambye, S.J,

Rev.Fr.G.Schurhammer, S.J,  Rev.A.D'Cruz and Dr.Simon Fernandes.

 

[This has repercussions in Sri lanka too as many Parathavar were converted in Mannar region. But in regions south of Puttalam this lead to their later acculturation as Sinhalese along with Karave. Further

this coastal Tamil fishers vs Muslim conflicts also has repercussions in West and East coast of Sri Lanka where Muslim armed groups supported one faction versus the other. The Mukkuva- Muslim combine was defeated in the West by the Karave. Where as in the East The Mukkuvas-Muslim combine displaced the Thimilar]  

 

QUOTE (START):

 

"…One such caste was that of the Paravas (Parathavar- a Tamil  fisher caste) who inhabited the fishery coast extending from Cape Comorin (Kanya Kumari) to the isle of Mannar  (Rameswaram) along the gulf that bears the name.

 

The Paravas plied the trade of pearl fishing, diving for pearls to the bottom of the deep where they could stay for many hours. The season for pearl-fishing came round once in three years in the

months  of march and November when, in the absence of the strong winds, they were able to carry on their operations undisturbed- for pearls in  March and for seed-pearls in November. They undertook

these  expeditions after elaborate preparations consisting of examination  and sounding of the ocean. At the spots where they selected for  beginning their operations- which generally in the vicinity of the  Mannar and Tuticorin – there they would spring during the season veritable colonies of these pearl-fishers only to be abandoned at the  end of the season. (Silva Rego Documatacao Vol.-II pp359-60)  

 

The Paravas paid a small tax to the state for permission to scour the  deep for pearls. In the first quarter of the 16th century, this contribution which was paid to the Pandyas (Tamils) till then, came to be shared by the two powers between whom the coast was divided – the king of Travancore, Chera Udaya Martanda, who annexed the southern half of the coastal territory and the Vanga Tumbichi Nayak, who possesed himself to the north. In 1516, however the state dues were farmed out by a Muslim who on account of the profits he has realized,  became the virtual master of the coast  Documentacao vol.- II p361).  

 

According to Barbosa, he was so rich and powerful that the people of the land honored him as much as the king. He executed judgement and justice on the Muslims without interference from the constituted authority. The fishers (parathavars) toiled for him for a  whole week at the close of the season, and for themselves for the  rest of the time except on Fridays when they worked for the owners of  the boats (Dames, The book of Duarte Barbosa Vol.-II pp123-24).  

 

The Portuguese, who were the masters of the seas, coveted this business and soon wrested it from the Muslims. In 1523, Joao Froles, whom the Portuguese king appointed as Captain and Factor of the 

fishery coast, succeeded in farming out the dues of 1,500 cruzados a year (Corea oriente Portuguese vol.-II PP 778-79,786-87). The Muslims couldn't yield to their rivals without a struggle. But the brunt of their attacks was visited upon the Paravas. For in their attempt to baulk the Portuguese of their gains, they constantly harassed the poor fishers. In consequence, the Portuguese had to maintain a flying squadron to beat off the attacks of the Muslim Corsairs-as they termed their enemies. Just at this juncture, Vijayanagar, which had earlier connived at the occupation of the coast by the King of 

Travancore and Tumbichi Nayak, vigorously intervened in support of the Pandya king. The Vijayanagar forces inflicted severe defeat on the Travancore army, and with the appearance of Vijayanagar on the

fishery coast there was cessation of hostilities between the Portuguese and the Muslims (Silva Rego –Oriente Portuguese Vol.-II pp362-65).

 

About the year 1536 an incident occurred which threatened to throw the coastal people into the throes of a violent internecine warfare. In a scuffle between a Muslim and a Parava at Tuticorin, the Parava had his ear torn out by his adversary, who out of sheer greed for the ring it bore, carried with him. Now there was in the estimation of the Paravas no greater affront than to have one's ears boxed and much  worse, to have the rings torn off. The incident sparked off a civil war between the Paravas and the Muslims, and it was soon apparent that the Paravas would be beaten in the struggle. A Muslim flotilla guarded the coast making it impossible for the Paravas to ply their trade, and offering five fanams (panam, the then currency, even today in Tamilnadu its common for the tamil to term money as panam) for a Parava head (Luceana , Historia da Vida do padre S.Francisco Xavier , vol.-I liv II , cap .VII).

 

Happily for the Paravas, there happened to arrive at Cape Comorin (present day Kanya Kumari) at this time Joao da Cruz, a horse  dealer who was high in Portuguese favour. He was a page of the  Zamorin who had sent him to Portugal towards the end of 1512, when he  was negotiating a treaty with Albuquerque. He was converted to Christianity while he was there and was admitted to the order of the Christ. He was now no longer in the service of the Zamorin, having incurred his displeasure for changing his religion.

 

Joao da Cruz, who was waiting payment for his deal at the cape (Kanya Kumari) , was approached by the Paravas for advice. Da  Cruz could see no way of saving them from their predicament other  than

conversion to Christianity. For then they would be entitled to the protection of the Portuguese and could, as a matter of right, invoke the aid of the Padroado Portuguese. The Paravas had no alternative

but to agree and Da Cruz led a deputation of twenty pattankattis (leaders) of the Paravas to cochin to wait on Pero Vaz,  the Vedor da Fazenda, and Miguel Vaz, the Vicar-General. These  pleaded the case

of the Paravas before Nuno da Cunha, the Governor, and it was decided that they be helped against their Muslim opponents. Accordingly a Portuguese squadron appeared before Cape Comorin (Kanya kumari). The Muslim flotilla sought safety in flight and the Paravas freed from bondage could from now on ply their trade independently of the farmers, both Muslim and Portuguese. In the meanwhile, Da Cruz persuaded the King of Travancore not to object to the conversion of the Paravas in a body to the Christian religion, assuring him that if he was friendly with the Portuguese he could depend on his supply of war steeds, the mainstay of the army in those days. ( we have to remember that there are other versions of  this `agreement' some mentioning that the Travancore king was  paid  some amount…most probably a part of the gratitude-money which was extracted from the Tamil fisher folks by the Portuguese, in addition to the conversions. The Paravas apart from getting converted also had

to shell out 60,000 fanams to Portuguese as protection money. This was further used to induce more conversions. I Miguel Vaz thereupon visited the Paravas accompanied by four priests and administered baptism to about twenty thousand people. In a few years, the number rose to eighty thousand men, women, and children and the Christianity spread among these people, settled both  on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts (Documentacao Vol.-II PP 257-59;  Schurhammer ,art

cit. pp304-07).

 

The Paravas now had the protection of the Portuguese fleet and could follow their profession undisturbed……..

 

QUOTE (END):    

 

Paravar, Parathavar, Bharatakula (amongst Sinhalese)

 

Paravar an important community of fishers in Sri Lanka also known as Bharatakula amongst the Sinhalese gets mentioned in a 3rd century

B.C inscription in Tamil Nadu

----------------------

MADURAI SEPT.14. A rare 3rd century B.C. Tamil Brahmi inscription found near Madurai recently has brought to light the fact that not

only Pandyas and Cheras but the chiefs of the coastal region in the State also patronised Jainism in the early period. The discovery by a team of epigraphists, who undertook a survey at Arittapatti in Melur taluk, is a remarkable evidence of history of early Tamil politics, culture and language, State Archaeology department sources said here recently.

 

The inscription was found engraved in a cave of a hillock, where early Jain monks stayed and preached their faith. It is just four feet away from another Brahmi inscription discovered by some scholars in 1971. "Since this new inscription is carved with very thin strokes and illegible, it had not attracted the attention of the scholars so far in spite of their frequent visits to this cave," say the sources.

 

The inscription, engraved as a single line with 33 letters and running for 3.10 metres, reads as follows: ilanjiy vel mapparavan makan emayavan nalmuzhaukai kotupithavan. It means, "Emayavan, son of Mapparavan, chief of Ilanji, has caused the carving of this auspicious cave." It has been written in the Bhattiprolu (Andhra Pradesh) casket inscription method and so all short consonants have long strokes. As the orthography of this inscription resembles that of Mangulam inscriptions (also in Madurai district), its date may be assigned to 3rd century B.C., say the sources.

 

`Ilanji' denotes the name of a place, while `Vel' means chieftain. Ilanji Vel might have been a ruler of a small territory around Ilanji. There is also a village near Courtallam with the same name. Emayavan, chief of Ilanji, was the son of Mapparavan. `Paravar' denotes the people of coastal region settled in southern districts of Tamil Nadu. `Muzhaukai' means the cave in which the inscription is found and the prefix, `nal' auspiciousness.

 

The same word, `Nalmuzhaukai' occurs in Varichiyur Brahmi inscription also. The previous inscription found at Arittapatti also bears the word `Muzhagai', which also means cave. One of the Sangam works, `Madurai Kanchi' refers to the Paravar defeated by Padyan Nedunchezhian. Even the Velvikudi copper plate speaks of the defeat suffered by Tenparavar at the hands of a Pandya king, the sources point out.

 

All this evidence makes clear that the Paravars were the chiefs of the coastal region and they ruled their areas as subordinates of the Pandyas of the Sangam age. The previously discovered Brahmi inscription at Arittapatti also mentions about a chief from Nelveli (now Tirunelveli region). The inscription throws light on the proximity the chiefs of Nelveli to the Pandyas of Madurai in the Sangam age.

 

As many as 60 Tamil Brahmi inscriptions were found during the past over 100 years from 15 villages including, Mangualm, Anaimalai,

Azhagarmalai, Tiruvadavur, Keezhavalavu, Tirupparankundram and Varichiyur

.

The epigraphists, comprising P. Rajendran, V. Vedachalam, C. Santhalingam and R. Jayaraman, as per directions of the Commissioner

of Archaeology, R. Kannan, undertook the survey.

 

http://www.hindu.com/2003/09/15/stories/2003091503060500.htm

 

History of Paravas: Caste that straddles both Tamil & Sinhala identity in Sri Lanka

History of Paravas:
As in other aristocratic tamil caste such as devars , Paravars are also are very proud about their caste heritage. There are many historic reasons for the closer relation with Pandiyan kingdom of Madurai and the Tuticorin the port city of Pandiyan kingdom, which was the stronghold of paravars.The Paravars were the chiefs of the coastal region and they ruled their areas as subordinates of the Pandyas of the Sangam age ([1] [1]. The Paravars head quarter was KORKAI harbour during the regime of Pandiyan Kingdom and they all spread into 22 fishing hamlets namely Rajackal Mangalam, Kovalam, Kanyakumari, kumariMuttam, Kootapuli, Perumanal, Idinthakarai, Kuthenkuly, Uvari, Periathalai, Pudukarai, Manapad, Alanthalai, Thiruchendur, Virapandianpatnam, Thalambuli, Punnaikayal, Palayakayal, Tuticorin, Vaippar, Chethupar, Vembar & Mookur in the pearl fishery coast of Gulf of Mannar and adjacent Comerin coast. The paravas once a very powerful people and no doubt derived much of their ascendancy over other tribes from their knowledge of navigation and pearl fishery. They had a succession of kings among them, distinguished by the title ADIYARASEN. Some of these kings seem to have resided at UTTARA KOSAMANGAY near Ramnad. The story of this city itself is clear evidence to this fact. Later, the leaders were called by names Thalaivan, Pattankattiyars, Adappannars etc.,

History of Conversion of Paravas to Christianity:
The Paravas were a Tamil fisher caste who inhabited the fishery coast extending from Cape Comorin Kanya Kumari to the isle of Mannar
(Rameswaram) along the gulf that bears the name.The Paravas plied the trade of pearl fishing, diving for pearls to the bottom of the deep where they could stay for many hours. The season for pearl-fishing came round once in three years in the months of march and November when, in the absence of the strong winds, they were able to carry on their operations undisturbed- for pearls in March and for seed-pearls in November. They undertook these expeditions after elaborate preparations consisting of examination and sounding of the ocean. At the spots where they selected for beginning their operations- which generally in the vicinity of the Mannar and Tuticorin – there they would establish whole colonies of pearl-fishers which would be abandoned at the end of the season. (Silva Rego Documatacao Vol.-II
pp359-60)

The Paravas paid a small tax to the state for permission to scour the deep for pearls. In the first quarter of the 16th century, this contribution which was paid to the Pandyas (Tamils) till then, came to be shared by the two powers between whom the coast was divided – the king of Travancore, Chera Udaya Martanda, who annexed the southern half of the coastal territory and the Vanga Tumbichi Nayak, who possessed himself to the north. In 1516, however the state dues were farmed out by a Muslim who on account of the profits he has realized, became the virtual master of the coast Documentacao vol.- II p361).

According to Barbosa, he was so rich and powerful that the people of the land honored him as much as the king. He executed judgement and justice on the Muslims without interference from the constituted authority. The fishers (parathavars) toiled for him for a whole week at the close of the season, and for themselves for the rest of the time except on Fridays when they worked for the owners of the boats (Dames, The book of Duarte Barbosa Vol.-II pp123-24).

The Portuguese, who were the masters of the seas, coveted this business and soon wrested it from the Muslims. In 1523, Joao Froles, whom the Portuguese king appointed as Captain and Factor of the fishery coast, succeeded in farming out the dues of 1,500 cruzados a year (Corea oriente Portuguese vol.-II PP 778-79,786-87). The Muslims wouldn't yield to their rivals without a struggle. But the brunt of their attacks was visited upon the Paravas. For in their attempt to baulk the Portuguese of their gains, they constantly harassed the poor fishers. In consequence, the Portuguese had to maintain a flying squadron to beat off the attacks of the Muslim Corsairs-as they termed their enemies. Just at this juncture, Vijayanagar, which had earlier connived at the occupation of the coast by the King of Travancore and Tumbichi Nayak, vigorously intervened in support of the Pandya king. The Vijayanagar forces inflicted severe defeat on the Travancore army, and with the appearance of Vijayanagar on the fishery coast there was cessation of hostilities between the Portuguese and the Muslims (Silva Rego –Oriente Portuguese Vol.-II pp362-65). About the year 1536 an incident occurred which threatened to throw the coastal people into the throes of a violent internecine warfare. In a scuffle between a Muslim and a Parava at Tuticorin, the Parava had his ear torn out by his adversary, who out of sheer greed for the ring it bore, carried with him. Now there was in the estimation of the Paravas no greater affront than to have one's ears boxed and much worse, to have the rings torn off. The incident sparked off a civil war between the Paravas and the Muslims, and it was soon apparent that the Paravas would be beaten in the struggle. A Muslim flotilla guarded the coast making it impossible for the Paravas to ply their trade, and offering five fanams (panam, the then currency, even today in Tamilnadu its common for the tamil to term money as panam) for a Parava head (Luceana , Historia da Vida do padre S.Francisco Xavier , vol.-I liv II , cap .VII).

Happily for the Paravas, there happened to arrive at Cape Comorin (present day Kanya Kumari) at this time Joao da Cruz, a horse dealer who was high in Portuguese favour. He was a page of the Zamorin who had sent him to Portugal towards the end of 1512, when he was negotiating a treaty with Albuquerque. He was converted to Christianity while he was there and was admitted to the order of the Christ. He was now no longer in the service of the Zamorin, having incurred his displeasure for changing his religion. Joao da Cruz, who was waiting payment for his deal at the cape (Kanya Kumari) , was approached by the Paravas for advice. Da Cruz could see no way of saving them from their predicament other than conversion to Christianity. For then they would be entitled to the protection of the Portuguese and could, as a matter of right, invoke the aid of the Padroado Portuguese. The Paravas had no alternative but to agree and Da Cruz led a deputation of twenty pattankattis (leaders) of the Paravas to cochin to wait on Pero Vaz, the Vedor da Fazenda, and Miguel Vaz, the Vicar-General. These pleaded the case of the Paravas before Nuno da Cunha, the Governor, and it was decided that they be helped against their Muslim opponents. Accordingly a Portuguese squadron appeared before Cape Comorin (Kanya kumari).

The Muslim flotilla sought safety in flight and the Paravas freed from bondage could from now on ply their trade independently of the farmers, both Muslim and Portuguese. In the meanwhile, Da Cruz persuaded the King of Travancore not to object to the conversion of the Paravas in a body to the Christian religion, assuring him that if he was friendly with the Portuguese he could depend on his supply of war steeds, the mainstay of the army in those days.

The Paravas apart from getting converted also had to shell out 60,000 fanams to Portuguese as protection money. This was further used to induce more conversions. I Miguel Vaz thereupon visited the Paravas accompanied by four priests and administered baptism to about twenty thousand people. In a few years, the number rose to eighty thousand men, women, and children and the Christianity spread among these people, settled both on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts (Documentacao Vol.-II PP 257-59; Schurhammer ,art cit. pp304-07). The Paravas now had the protection of the Portuguese fleet and could follow their profession undisturbed.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paravas