Sedentarization, the State, and Its Citizens
One of the most important aspects of Indo-British civilization was the rise in esteem of sedentary agriculture as a form of culture. This judgment separated those who practiced agriculture from groups who wandered and traveled across the land in search of a livelihood, to pursue commerce, to beg, or to become saints. It also, ultimately, separated those seen to be “authentic Dravidians” from cultural interlopers—an immensely significant distinction to which we will return. The privileging of sedentarization resulted from an attempt on the part of both British and Indians to define citizenship strictly in terms of a society whose members possessed given places of residence, who were embedded, and who did not move about. The focus on sedentary society emerged as part of a general development in which the British and local agricultural groups interacted to create a high place for agriculture as the basis of the state. This meaning formed a bedrock of agreement to which many British, Indians, and others came very early in the relationship; it cannot be explained by the imposition of European values on a weaker India.
In essence, European and local groups shared a conception about the quintessential mark of citizenship in a modern unitary state. Agriculture and the transferability of land, then, became the basic form of economic life in India and elsewhere. It became sharply differentiated from all those forms of social and economic activity marked by peripatetic movement. The preceding chapters have examined key epistemological moments in the dialogic process surrounding this sedentarization to create a modern state.
An integral part of a British and Indian definition of a normative village included the notion that people who were citizens of the same nation did not move. They had a residence. Moreover, this construction, this “truth” also presumed that when agriculturalists were forced by circumstances to temporarily move away from their villages, they nonetheless always returned to the same villages, the same houses, the same lands, and once there engaged in the same exchanges and other ritual activities to maintain the status quo. These rituals, perceived retrospectively by both Europeans and local individuals in the Jagir and elsewhere, aided the process of preventing people from moving about and helped to bind people together into sedentary, embedded structures. It gave them an address.
We have seen in the previous chapter how the Board of Revenue in the 1890s invoked the existence of ritual exchanges between Mirasidars and the paraiyars in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The Board conjured up the benign aspect of master-slave relations to shape future figurations for the society. In the nineteenth century and before, the golden age and utopian ideas of Indian commentators expressed themselves in similar ways. We have seen in the Introduction how a “native revenue officer” from Madras presidency in 1858 wrote of a time “not far back when universal content, concord and mutual sympathy reigned amongst the landholders and their labourers.” This was repeated in many other contexts and shows that the golden-age ideas relating to the Indian village simply formed another part of the dialogic creation of a normative, utopian face-to-face settlement. Nor was this activity a naive and artless one; it was an attempt to shape the “truth” for the future.
This intellectual and discursive interaction proved particularly vigorous whenever British and Indian agrarian groups sought to describe why and how these groups had migrated to the locations where British and Indian participants in the debate said they found them. Although we can say that the interaction resulted from the British attempt to gain juridical power and to control the Indian population, it is also true that the British sought to identify who they themselves were by using the Indian environment to work out ideas about citizenship and the precise nature of the European nation-state. Therefore, the kinds of information that they developed in the Jagir in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries formed part of a general cultural production that related as much to British self-definition and self-ascription as to the specific description of a colonized India or even to the Jagir or, later, to the Chingleput district. Hence, we can no longer accept Said’s contention that the cultural categories of the colonized operated in a willed, unidirectional, top-down way on an unthinking and unresisting colonized group, an inert object. Despite the juridically dominant position of the British, who theoretically had a monopoly on the use of violence, these kinds of knowledge were not imposed. Rather, categories emerged from interactive, heteroglot cultural formations that had no author. To put it in another way, these formations were so multiauthored that the ideas and interactions that went to make up these cultural productions made it impossible to locate any real provenance for them.
The development of an embedded society and a nonsegmentary state in India, as we saw in Chapter 2, led to the diminution of the ritual reversals among Indians themselves and between the Europeans and the local population. Once the state ceased to be segmentary, peasants could no longer engage in rituals of flight to reduce the state to impotence. Moreover, as this sedentarization process proceeded, the kind of emotional swings between caution and restraint followed in many specific situations also diminished or took on new meaning. These extremes of emotional behavior became less and less structurally possible and less and less tolerable in the bureaucratic state toward which British India headed.
A principal historical project—focused on the nature of sedentary life, of work, and of agriculture as a productive activity—therefore became associated with how proprietary forms developed in India. Though this project appeared under the rubric of an attempt to understand the antique and “original” forms of proprietary usage, above all it represented an attempt to legitimize sedentary agriculture, which had higher status and more social and economic validity than the activities of urban or wandering elements of the population. The legislative and juridical apparatus developed to deal with land simply reflected discursive mediation required to create a sedentary, productive population. These requirements constituted the imperative to define who worked, who had a residence, and who did not.
Discussion about the critical nature of agricultural activity concerned the fact that “agricultural” settlers (whether they were the vellalas or the paraiyars) were defined both as being different from and superior to those who preceded them. Predecessors included both the so-called kurumbar or “forest people” prior to the rise of Tondaimandalam as a cultural region and those people who wandered about the country—styled by the Indo-British administration as “criminal tribes.” Similarly, people who practiced agriculture stood as very different from the brahmans of the Tamil country, who did not cultivate.
The discussion regarding the nature of the Tamil mirasi or coparcenary system set in motion by many British and local individuals in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, then, simply attempted to define what a sedentary, productive life should be. This project, often unwittingly pursued, claimed to foster various proprietary forms conceived to be the “indigenous” elements of local Tamil life. State support of these forms of proprietary behavior promoted sedentariness and raised the status of agriculture and productive labor among all of the Indian population while at the same time incorporating them into British law. It attempted to retain a coparcenary form of social, economic, and political behavior on the one hand while relating it to the British and European practice of individual ownership on the other. These activities were not a form of oppression or subjection. They were a way by which knowledge was created so that people would represent themselves in more interdependent ways.
They also promoted the definition of citizenship characteristic of a modern society based entirely on people who worked for their living and did not move. However, this interaction also encouraged the creation by Indian Mirasidars of a series of cultural productions designed to protect mirasi prerogatives, not only after the “insurrection of the Mirasidars” in the Jagir in 1795–96, but throughout the nineteenth century in Chingleput. One aspect of that “protection” took the form of providing oral histories in the Mackenzie manuscripts’ accounts of the vellalas coming into Tondaimandalam to displace the kurumbar. Indeed, part of the definition of the vellalas as an important sedentary group in the Tondai area emerged from the production of texts by Tamil writers such as Rāmaliṅgaswāmi, Maraimalaiyatikal, and hundreds of other people. These texts had as their basis the ideas in a Tamil text called the Toṇḍa Maṇḍala Satakam (Hundred Verses on Tondaimandalam) and sought to demonstrate that the vellalas of the Tondai cultural areas possessed all the essential ingredients of successful, productive agriculturalists.
Another way the Mirasidars helped to “protect” the definition of mirasi was by resisting the assumption of arable land by people who were not Mirasidars, people who were considered “outsiders,” such as sukavasis, and tenants or Payirkkaris. This general historical process intensified when Lionel Place in 1795–96 introduced cooperative tenants who paid taxes regularly. He could eliminate Mirasidars who did not support his attempts to raise taxes at the moment when the East India Company desperately needed money. Historically speaking, the cultural discussions arising out of and around the power struggle between the Mirasidars and the Payirkkaris or tenants became the single defining characteristic of Madras—specifically the Jagir, and later Chingleput—agriculture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Throughout the nineteenth century, this historical process had its main effect in gradually pulling the Mirasidars away from highly taxed lands in favor of lands that were less so. The Mirasidars pursued this policy to reduce the yearly income from land as a way to set long-term taxation rates at a low level. This occurred at the same time as the proposed “invasion” by tenants, some of whom had been paraiyar Pannaiyals.
Part of this “protection” also involved tracing elements of the society who did not move at all. Not the vellalas but the paraiyars themselves proved to be by far the most persistent and most sedentary element of the population from this perspective. This project was carried out by the paraiyars in the thousands of Tondaimandalam villages and also by Bri-tish writers such as F. W. Ellis, Mullaly in the 1880s, and J. H. A. Tremenheere shortly afterward. Ellis’s attempt clearly explicated the nature of the project when he argued that the paraiyars had lasted over the years in the Tondai country long after other elements of the population had been destroyed by invasions because nobody paid attention to them.
Henry Baden-Powell also demonstrated the nature of this project when, in his Land Systems of British India, he claimed that the authors of the passage by Ellis quoted above were the Mirasidars themselves. Behind this argument lay a system of heteroglossia in which Ellis argued views that had been constructed collaboratively with local individuals to produce “truth.” These statements were then taken over by C. S. Crole in his Chingleput Manual, who quoted them in a changed form. Baden-Powell next quoted these remarks from Crole as being authored by the “new Mirasidars,” who had wheedled mirasi rights away from the vellalas, who were said to be their “original owners.”
The Voices that Help to Create "Authentic Tamils"
When the Madras Native Association formed in 1855, it asserted that a village tax settlement, rather than the individual settlement that had been newly brought in by the ryotwari system, was “consonant to native usage.” The project in which many individuals and groups—Ellis and his brahman assistant Shankarayya, Place and his Tamil and Telugu informants, and hundreds of other people from Mirasidars to paraiyar Pannaiyals and Padiyals—had been engaged now had a formal Indian political voice.
One of the main goals of the ryotwari system had been to give each cultivator a title deed or patta and to assess each cultivator for taxes he owed the government in cash. In 1796, Mirasidars in the Jagir numbered 8,387 out of a total population of 271, 371. By 1850, however, out of a population of 583, 462, the number of individual assessed holdings in the district had risen to 28,396, held by 33,124 persons. As opposed to this, the idealized system of mirasi that had been “exhumed by Place” from the rubble of the war of 1780, and which the ryotwari system of tax assessment was seeking in part to alter, always presumed the necessity for a “productive, sedentary village community” where the Mirasidars acted in common to deal collectively with the state’s tax demands. We can therefore say that the combined effect of the interaction of “ryotwari” with the “common village system of mirasi” generally provoked reasons for retaining the Mirasidars as the land controllers even though their existence complicated the tax collection process immensely and greatly impoverished the state. Retention, in its turn, both presumed and fostered a sense of collectivity that could be translated into political action. Even in 1891, Tremenheere felt that the combined effects of British legislation and mirasi manipulation of that legislation had perpetuated a sense of Mirasidar commonality that excluded outsiders. He wrote that “the mirasidars form a close body accustomed to act together, and consolidated by tradition, prejudice and self interest. Surrounded for a century by ryots hungry for an extension of holdings, they have succeeded marvelously in keeping these at bay.” One of the main effects of British and Indian practice, legislation, and thinking about the “sedentary village community” in the Tondai area, then, was to help to perpetuate the boundary between the Mirasidars and the rest of the agrarian community.
Mirasidars did not speak alone on the Indian side of this dialogue. An early attempt by an Indian to relate the vellalas to agriculture was made by a religious leader named Ramalingaswami (d. 1875). More famous for his formulations of a new kind of civil religion (marking the transition toward a new civil society) that he articulated in his Tiruvaruạ Pā (Song of grace), Ramalingaswami also wrote in 1855 a commentary on the Tonda Mandala Satakam. The first line of introduction to that is about “vellalas who are like a cloud” that brings prosperity. Besides the contents of the poem itself, Ramalingaswami’s commentary provided a sustained attempt to describe the vellalas of the Tondai country in terms of their peculiar abilities both as agriculturists and as persons of great generosity. In addition to their ability to overcome all opponents, Ramalingaswami wrote that the vellalas “through agriculture produced wealth both for this mandalam [or sociocultural region] and for the other groups who live there.” According to him, the vellalas were “benefactors who give without limit…without dreaming of a reward.” Because of their agricultural equipment and what they produced in agriculture, not even the most powerful could do without them. They supported all forms of life wherever they were. They were persons of deep learning and high morality and were also successful warriors. They had aided kings who had ancient lineages. They were people of honesty and compassion:
The vellala group through their good behavior, that is their competence [as agriculturists], leads the cloud to make it rain here and there, and of all the five tiṉais [Tamil emotive-cultural areas differentiated by land use, ecology, and behavior], they make the marutam tinai [paddy land] prosperous that gives life and protects it. They become the kings of the agricultural sacrifice and are those who possess the instruments for agriculture that give results and never fail.
Like Indra who led the fertility-bringing cloud, Vishnu who protected, and Lakshmi who shone brilliantly as the goddess of wealth, the vellalas were endeared to everybody. “They give sweet tasting nectar to those who ask for it, they always stand [possessing the earth], and have a right to the earth goddess, they behave with the good quality of sattuvam [goodness, purity] and they are those who possess straightforwardness and courage.”
During the 1880s, discussions arose about the position of the vellalas in the Hindu varna system that formed part of the Indo-British definition of Hindu society (as perpetuated through the new census). Vellala groups in Madras asserted to the census commissioner that they formed part of the vaisiya varna group and were not sudras. They sought support for these claims through a wide variety of literary sources in Tamil, Telugu, and English. However, by far the most persistent attempt to define the ritual and cultural status of the vellalas came through a series of books and articles written by another Tamil writer named Maṟaimalaiyaạikaḷ (d. 1950). His thesis, explored in a book called Vēḷāḷar Nākarikam (Vellala civilization) published originally in 1923, asserted that it was “the vellalas themselves who had been responsible for correcting and ‘civilizing’ the Aryas [or Aryan Brahmans], [for] originating śaivite worship and the Tamil language, and through the civilization of our Sentamiḻ [pure Tamil] people, were living in a civilized way, [a style] which had existed from the earliest times.” After he had described how vellalas had given food, clothing, and shelter to what he says were uncivilized Aryans, he concluded that the meaning of the word “vellala” was “benefactor” and that the meaning of the Tamil word “vēlāṉmai,” which is usually taken to mean simply “agriculture” (on which the word “vellala” was based), meant, rather, “help and charity.”
He sought to eliminate the signification “agriculture” and replace it with “charity” or “generosity.” This replacement is important, given that the essential characteristic of contemporary Tamil society was considered to be generosity and charity. Later in the twentieth century, as Arjun Appadurai and Carole Breckenridge have noted, the Indian preoccupation with the connection between prosperity and generosity has given way to a preoccupation with prosperity and acquisition. In the 1920s, however, Maraimalaiyatikal said that the āryas, unlike the Tamil vellalas, showed little pity for the sick and the poor since they could not empathize with the difficult life that these poverty-stricken people led. The vellalas also helped to protect all forms of life instead of killing them. They developed the tradition of reciting the books that had been written by their forefathers. He concluded that the word “velanmai,” which he felt was a synonym for charity, in turn became a synonym for the instruments of productive cultivation.
Ultimately, then, these two qualities, charity and the instruments of agriculture, became the synonyms for the ruling vellalas. “During ancient times when the vellalas enhanced civilization and carried on agriculture, the Aryans were shepherds who herded cattle and sheep and lived by hunting.” The Aryas, that is, were mere wanderers and nomads and were not agriculturalists. They were, so to speak, the opposite of being productive according to his definition. By quoting selections of the Mānava Dharmaśāstra, a Sanskrit text that argued that good Aryans should deliberately not engage in cultivation, Maraimalaiyatikal sought to show that the Aryans had condemned the practice. By contrast, he wrote, all books in both Tamil and Sanskrit said that agriculture was peculiar to the vellalas. Maraimalaiyatikal also quoted a number of Tamil texts to prove the centrality of agriculture to the development of civilization in the Tamil area. He specifically referred to the Tirukural or sacred Kural, one of the most ancient texts in Tamil, to illustrate this point. It said that “those who practice agriculture are the most excellent in the world” and also that “those who have the character of eating (subsisting) by doing things with their hands/Do not beg and do not hide even a single thing from those who do beg.”
An extension of this privileging of the vellalas came in Maraimalaiyatikal’s contention that, as opposed to those who performed other sorts of tasks, the vellalas as agriculturalists did not work for other people. They were dependent on nobody. Maraimalaiyatikal had previously called himself Swami Vēdāchalam and was preoccupied with discovering what were the origins of what he believed was Tamil culture. As part of his general project to characterize this civilization, he wrote that “the English authors of books concerning both the origins of people and the development of civilization have demonstrated clearly that from the very beginning it was from the people who had discovered agriculture that civilization originated and developed.”
One such British author was Baden-Powell, who remarked in his Land Systems of British India, in connection with the discussion concerning Mirasidars in the Tondai country, that
Further on, Baden-Powell says that the “colonists were of the Vellalar caste, or tribe, who are good agriculturists.” In a footnote, he says that the word “vellalar” is from “vēlaṉ,” which he says means “white.” Nevertheless, contrary to Maraimalaiyatikal, Baden-Powell also says they have some “Aryan blood: Their tradition derives from the North. It is possible that there may be some connection between them and the Kunbis or Kurmis, who are such excellent cultivators.”
we have an instance of the formation of joint-villages over a considerable area: the strength of the claim to the allotted areas and the principle of sharing it, being due not to the growth of particular chiefs grantees of the State, or scions of noble houses, but to the co-operative work of colonists, of a good agricultural caste, who in virtue of their conquest over natural difficulties, and of their equal rights, formed bodies which exhibited marks of coherence.
As we have seen, in the project to create a sedentarized peasantry, participants used techniques and ideas from a variety of times and places. The images and tactics of “General” William Booth and other reformers of urban life in nineteenth-century Britain were employed to “fix” the rural paraiyar and palli tenants in their houses. At the same time, the poverty of the tenants and Padiyals was used in Britain as a way to identify bourgeois values and requirements for citizenship in Britain. Simultaneously, this process resulted, in the period starting in the eighteenth century in South India, in banditry and nomadic behavior becoming totally unacceptable. Therefore, ancient values about agriculture were transformed by modern requirements into “essentialist” values. They were presented as though there had been no societal or structural change in two thousand years. In fact, the project to sedentarize the agricultural community in the modern period had a very different set of requirements, responding as it did to the demands of a unitary state with bureaucratic needs in an increasingly embedded society. Embeddedness altered fundamentally the nature of South Indian society: violence became more and more a prerogative of the center and could be used less and less openly; sacrality became less concentrated in the king or the deity and was dissipated into the bodies of the many individuals of the countryside (in a sense, anybody could be a king); people became more interdependent in society and were more restrained by these ties.
Implications of Heteroglossia and Historical Dialogue
Recognizing the epistemological moments important in the dialogic process by which South Indian history has been produced leads me to different conclusions than those reached by other scholars. The fact that Tamil Sangam literature exulted in the material culture of the time (c. a.d. 300), for instance, has been used by scholars such as Christopher Baker to argue a linear development between the fourth century and the nineteenth, when the project of sedentarization preoccupied those in South India. He rightly notes that three things stood out in this fourth-century enthusiasm. One he calls a celebration of the agricultural economy on which the civilization was founded; another, the classification of the ecological regions or tinais, firmly stressed the superiority of arable land; and the third, the combination of fertile agriculture and martial prowess, laid the basis for a proudly aristocratic culture. Baker is correct in emphasizing the importance placed on agriculture by Sangam society. However, the linear connection he seeks is more problematic. We must keep firmly in mind that the moral values that came to be associated with the immobile peasant in “ancient” villages were dialogically constructed evaluations produced in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, using the models of another time and place to deal with modern needs. In other words, because the society, economy, and polity had changed, the intellectual and moral requirements for those new structures necessarily differed as well. Therefore, we cannot equate the agricultural emphases of the Sangam period and those of the nineteenth century.
Similarly, Nicholas Dirks has shown that where vellalas settled in the Pudukottai region south of Madras they became known as good agriculturalists. He also notes that, unlike many of the maṟavars and the kaḷḷars who were declared to be criminal tribes by the Indo-British administration, the vellalas stood as the caste that met British expectations as loyal and productive supporters of the administration. Here, Dirks has usefully pinpointed the importance of the vellalas for the eighteenth;n-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century project of constructing agriculture’s premier position in the Tamil area. However, he does not stress the fact that these ideas about the vellalas as good agriculturists were historical creations out of the past dialogically produced for contemporary requirements. Their characterization did not emerge as a product of the British alone but formed a project resulting from many voices, high and low, past and present. Nor was vellala loyalty and agricultural productivity important merely because it was supported and recognized by the British. Rather, the recognition granted to these concepts could not have the authority it gained without participation from all levels of society.
Projects to populate the Chingleput district had been undertaken by Europeans and Indians since the Company acquired the Jagir from the Nawab of Arcot in 1783. The intellectual work group included a wide variety of individuals. It involved the committee of assigned revenue, who supported the settling of a Telugu Christian population by the Jesuit Padre Manente from Guntur in the vicinity of the Jagir village of Mappedu; Place, who had bamboo and fruit groves planted near Karanguli; the local assistants of Colonel Colin Mackenzie and their active and interested informants, who were delighted or felt incited to speak about the arrival of the vellalas in the Tondai area; and the local informants of Ellis, who evoked the kurumbar souls in and about the mounds of mud at Nerumbur and other areas. Throughout the middle of the century, district officials interacting with the Mirasidars, Payirkkaris, and Padiyals became deeply involved in this activity. Mullaly in the latter part of the century wanted to destroy the perceived chaos of prickly pear and unruly paraiyar cheris to sedentarize and make the paraiyars more useful. Reverend Adam Andrew, a missionary of the United Church of Scotland in Chingleput town, established a village called Melrosapuram in 1894 as one of three pristine sites for Christians from the area created from the “chaos” of the scrub jungle. Henry Sumner Maine used the materials from the official publication Papers to create an imaginary Tondaimandalam from the verses of the Tamil paraiyar poetess Auvaiyar. The author or authors of the Tonda Mandala Satakam, Ramalingaswami’s commentary on that text, and Maraimalaiyatikal all sought to populate and make sedentary the population of the Jagir or the Tondai country. This list employs socially accepted ideas of authorship, but we must include in this group the many nameless individuals in the thousands of villages and towns of the area and elsewhere who participated in this cultural production. Maraimalaiyatikal later incorporated many of these heteroglot interactions in works published up to the present. Most significantly, these ideas have become an important part of the religious and political culture of contemporary Tamil Nadu during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Indeed, what later came to be called the Non-Brahman movement is an outgrowth of this general world project that linked ethnicity with sedentariness and culture. The Non-Brahman movement, in seeking to displace brahmans from positions in the administration and politics, hastened a general demographic project already in operation to move brahmans out of the villages to the cities of the region, to other cities in India, and elsewhere. Though it began as an elitist movement, during the 1930s and after World War II it became a mass movement that sought to make society more equal not only between men and men but also between men and women. By the years after World War II, the “land of the Tamils” had become firmly wedded to “the culture of the Tamils.” The Non-Brahman movement was therefore based in part on constructions interacting with two ideas of spatiality that operated in the area before the coming of the Europeans. One of those was represented by the right subcastes such as the vellalas, who had a strong sense of local connection whether they lived there customarily or not. Their institutions and temples placed them in a local regime. In a sense, the castes that belonged to this right hand were local agrarian communities that did not consider themselves to be a part of a wider psychic and intellectual community. Their perspectives were typically those that situated the local regime in a place of prime importance. Unlike these right subcastes, those in the left division had a special outlook that denied the prime validity of local division and local loyalty. The spatial orientation of these left-caste groups such as the sengunthars was to a much wider region. This involved their senses of both politics and religious practices. Not only did the subcastes of the left move much more, this mobility gave them a totally different idea of what constituted the total social and the political community, for the making of a modern nation. As noted in Chapter 2, one of these left groups, the kailolars or sengunthars, looked on themselves as having a particular responsibility to Tamil as a language and used it as a cultural tool to spread Tamil beyond the traditional boundaries of that language. In the case study to which we referred, these sengunthars still see themselves as performing a kind of sacred cultural role in reciting the Tamil Ramayanam.
This is important for a study of the way in which cultural nationalism developed in the Tamil area before the availability of modern means of communication. The most publicized elements in the Non-Brahman movement were undertaken by individuals of the left division, many of whom later played dual roles in film and politics. Many of their forebears had relations to temples and to the performing arts. Their skills as orators and as showmen were directly related to these performance functions in society. These individuals took it upon themselves to propagate Tamil as the basis of a cultural movement, whether in the specifically nativist Self Respect movement or in the Indian National Congress. Significantly, these left subcastes—who were made a part of the sedentarizing process by a series of dialogic activities and felt themselves responsible for the propagation of Tamil—still had broad spatial orientations that predated the sedentarization process described in these pages. It is primarily these people who were effective in using spoken or written Tamil.
We can say that by the end of the nineteenth century the sedentarization of the Tamil population meant that the local constitutive cultural elements of the region were in place. At the same time, one of the main effects of the cultural discussions occurring during the nineteenth century over the cultural role of Tondamandalam was to create a center for Tamil culture. In other words, the dialogic process helped to formulate what was seen to be quintessentially Tamil in spatial terms. This provided the idea of the original Dravidians as having been in the territory from the time of the beginning of the Christian era. The identification of Tamil culture with agriculture helped to sacralize all villages as thousands of points of light on what came to be considered the broad and sacred map of the Tamil country. The creation of this sacred map and sacred community enabled C. N. Annadurai, born in Kanchipuram and a member of the sengunthar left-caste group, to proclaim that “everybody is a king of the country.” It was almost two centuries from the time when Place and his Tamil and Telugu informants undertook to make a new kind of more useful religion that related religiosity to pleasure and productivity. From that time until the time of Annadurai, both the villages as points of light and the broad canvas of the Tamil country were constituted into one continuous sociopsychic structure.
Therefore, though Tamil was given a new kind of sacrality in the course of the cultural discussions in the century between 1890 and the present, the place of “Dravidian culture” on which these discussions built referred back to an old set of relationships that combined spatial with sacral ideas over the use of Tamil. Thus, the rather facile connections scholars make between the creation of nationalism and the hegemonic discourse of the imperial state tell but a small part of the picture. If we are to understand the processes that created a sense of place connected to powerful cultural identities, we must look to a much broader and more inclusive dialogue. The example of South India shows us how a dialogue in history has prepared the way for a modern nation.
1. Native Officer, On Bribery, 15. [BACK]
2. Perhaps the work that best epitomizes this activity, aside from that of Henry Sumner Maine, is Baden-Powell, Land Systems. [BACK]
3. Baden-Powell, Land Systems, 3:121. He writes, “Brahman (and other) proprietors largely employed slaves to cultivate for them: and these slaves were looked upon as glebae adscripti. It is curious that these also called themselves ‘mirasidar.’…‘The Vellala,’ they said, ‘sells his birthright to the Sunar (goldsmith and moneylender); the latter is cajoled.’ ” [BACK]
4. The citation for Baden-Powell is Crole, Chingleput, 213. [BACK]
5. P. B. Smollett to BOR, 27 January 1855, CCR, vol. 5836, TNSA. This proposition was sent to the House of Commons by the Madras Native Association in 1854 or 1855. Several members of the Madras Native Association were Mirasidars from the Chingleput district. [BACK]
6. Ellis, Appendix, quoting Place, 1799 Report. [BACK]
7. P. B. Smollett to BOR, 27 November 1854, CCR, vol. 5835, TNSA. [BACK]
8. Crole said that it was “clear as noon-day, from these papers, that the mirassi system and a gross rental are inseparable parts of the system he [Place] exhumed and introduced.” BORP, 25 May 1875, no. 1415, TNSA. [BACK]
9. Tremenheere, “Note on the Pariahs.” [BACK]
10. Toṇạa maṇạala sataka urai (Commentary on the Tonda Mandala Sataka) in Citambaram Irāmali;aznka Suvāmikaḷ, Tiru Aruạpā, 3 Viyakiyāṉam pakuti (Song of grace, part 3) (Madras: Arutpa Valakam, 1961), 154. It was originally published by the Ripon Press in Madras (p. 139). [BACK]
11. Ibid. [BACK]
12. Ibid. [BACK]
13. Ibid., 156. The quality of sattuvam was goodness or purity, rajas was passion or activity, and tamas was darkness, dullness, or inactivity. See commentary in Franklin Edgerton, trans., The Bhagavad Gita (Harper and Row: New York, 1944), 141. [BACK]
14. Toḻuvūr Vēlāyuta Mutaliyār, Vēlaṉ Marapiyal [Vellala customs] (Madras: Kudalur Kuppiyappillai, 1880). This was a translation into Tamil of an English petition presented to the Madras municipal commissioners. [BACK]
15. Maṟaimalaiyaạikaḷ, Velalar Nakarikam, 6–7. [BACK]
16. The contemporary dictionary meaning of “velanmai” was agriculture. [BACK]
17. Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge, “Public Culture,” Items (Winter 1990), 79. [BACK]
18. Velalar Nakarikam, 3. [BACK]
19. Ibid., 5. [BACK]
20. In 1905, Reverend Adam Andrew, a United Free Church of Scotland missionary in Chingleput, invoked the ideas of Kambar, the author of the Tamil Rāmāyaṇam in favor of agriculture. Andrew wrote: “Kambar, the Tamil poet has written beautifully in praise of agriculture. He has said, ‘Even students of the Vedas and in other branches of knowledge must wait at the door of the husbandman. The prosperity of powerful kings depends on the plough share. So who can describe the importance of the agriculturist?’ ” Andrew invoked the writing of Tiruvalluvar, the author of the Tirukural, in favor of the importance of agriculture. Tiruvalluvar, said Andrew, had written:
Howe’er they roam, the world must follow still the plougher’s team;Adam Andrew, “Indian Problems,” Indian Review (1905), 32; “Uḷavu” [Agriculture], Tirukural, no. 1035, quoted in ibid., 6 [BACK]
Though toilsome, culture of the ground as noblest toil esteem.
21. Maraimalaiyatikal, Velalar Nakarikam, 12. [BACK]
22. Baden-Powell, Land System, 3:111. [BACK]
23. Ibid., 112–13. [BACK]
24. Baker, Indian rural economy, 25–26. [BACK]
25. Dirks, Hollow Crown, 248. [BACK]
26. Ibid., 205. [BACK]
27. Padre Manente had brought a group of 351 families from the northern Telugu “circar” of Guntur, where there was a famine in 1787, to the Jagir where those settlements, even in the late nineteenth century, were still intact. Crole, Chingleput, 237; President’s Minute, 17 October, 1786, BORP, vol. 8, TNSA; Minute of the Board of Revenue and enclosures, 20 November 1786, BORP, vol. 5, TNSA. [BACK]
28. In writing about the visit of some church deputies from Scotland to the area in February 1902, Reverend Andrew said that he had taken them to Melrosapuram. He wrote, “On Saturday they visited the Peasant Settlement of Melrosapuram and saw the land that was jungle in 1893 now converted into a neat and prosperous village inhabited by Christian converts of the mission, where daily services are held morning and evening to meet the spiritual wants of the people. They saw the fine garden that surrounds the prayer hall and walked up the village street which is lined on each side with beautiful coconut palms.” Andrew to Smith, 22 February 1902, UFCSM, MS. 7845, NLS. Melrosapuram was a settlement that had seventy-two acres of land around it near the village of Senkunram, in the Chingleput taluk. It was called Melrosapuram after a certain Mrs. Melrose who had, along with other members of a congregation in Scotland, made a contribution of a hundred pounds for Andrew’s work among the paraiyars in Chingleput. [BACK]
29. Henry Sumner Maine, Early History of Institutions, new ed. (London: J. Murray, 1890), 70–72. [BACK]
30. Ci. Eṉ. Aṇṇāturai, Ellōrum iṉ nāṭṭu maṉṉar (Everybody is a king of the country), (Cennai: Tuyarmalar Patippakam, 1961). [BACK]