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THE KAVAL SYSTEM IN COLONIAL TAMIL NADU

THESIS SUBMITTED TO MANONMANIAM SUNDARANAR UNIVERSITY IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE AWARD OF THE DEGREE OF

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

BY

S. RAVICHANDRAN

(Reg. No.0763)

OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY BY S. RAVICHANDRAN (Reg. No.0763) Department of History Manonmaniam Sundaranar University

Department of History Manonmaniam Sundaranar University Tirunelveli

DECEMBER 2008

ii

Dr A.R. VENKATACHALAPATHY Professor

Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

CERTIFICATE

This thesis entitled THE KAVAL SYSTEM IN COLONIAL TAMILNADU

submitted by Mr

S. Ravichandran for the award of Degree of Doctor

of

Philosophy in History of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University is a record of

bonafide research work done by him and it has not been submitted for the award

of any degree, diploma, associateship, fellowship of any University / Institution.

Chennai

Date: December 2008

diploma, associateship, fellowship of any University / Institution. Chennai Date: December 2008 (A.R. VENKATACHALAPATHY)

(A.R. VENKATACHALAPATHY)

vi

CONTENTS

LIST OF MAPS

ix

LIST OF TABLES

x

GLOSSARY

xvi - xx

COINS-DENOMINATIONS

xxi

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

1 - 25

Historical Background Theories on Crime Terms Defined Aims of the Study

3 - 9 9 - 17 17 - 18 19 - 20

Relevance of the Study

20

Methodology Organisation of the Thesis Source Materials

20 - 21 21 - 23 24 - 25

CHAPTER II

KAVAL SYSTEM

26 - 59

Functions Categories

30 - 33 33 – 39

Men Kavalkarars and Kudi Kavalkarars

33

Sthalam Kaval or Kudi Kaval Desa Kaval Other Kaval Systems Kaval Fee: Mode of Payment Thuppu Cooli Regional variations Arasoo Kaval Men Kavalkarars

33 - 34 34 – 36 36 - 39 39 - 42 43 - 47 47 - 49 47 - 48 48 - 49

Kaval Deeds

49 - 51

Caste and the Kaval System

51 - 59

vii

CHAPTER III

CONFRONTATION WITH THE

CHAPTER IV

BRITISH EAST INDIA COMPANY Company and the Kavalkarars - Early Experiences Sivarama Thalaivar Periya Waghaboo Maravars of Tirunelveli Kallars of Madurai Abolition of Desa Kaval

60 - 92 62 - 81 62 - 64 64 - 72 73 - 78 78 - 81 81 - 92

THE COLONIAL STATE AND THE KAVAL SYSTEM New Criminal Justice System

93 - 134 93 - 110

Regulation of 1802: Introduction of Darogha Police and the Kavalkarars

93 - 105

Regulation of 1816 and the New Police Establishment

106 - 110

The Colonial State and the Kavalkarars, 1816-1859 110 - 116 The Colonial State and the Kavalkarars, 1859-1896 116 - 134

CHAPTER V

ANTI-KAVAL MOVEMENTS Anti-kaval Movements in Madurai and Tirunelveli Anti-kaval Movement in Madurai District, 1896 Anti-kaval Movement in Tirunelveli District

135 - 191 136 - 144 145 - 171 171 - 191

CHAPTER VI

THE CRIMINAL TRIBES ACT AND

THE DECLINE OF KAVAL SYSTEM

192 - 219

Criminal Tribes Act, 1871

192 -

200

Kallar Reclamation Scheme 200 - 212

Criminal Tribes Act in Tirunelveli and Ramnad

212 – 219

viii

BIBLIOGRAPHY

229 – 238

APPENDICES

239 - 264

Appendix I

:

Statement showing the number of Cavilgars and Poligors in the District of Chidambaram with Former and Present Revenue

239

Appendix II

:

Petition of the Inhabitants of Sirkali

240 - 244

Appendix III

:

Notification to the Maravars of Nangunery

 

20 th September 1801

245 - 248

Appendix IV

:

Notification to the Maravars of Kalakad

 

15 th October 1801

249 - 250

Appendix V

:

Statement showing the Number & Classes of various officers employed in the Kaval Police in the Province of Thanjavur and Thiruchirapalli 251 - 252

Appendix VI

:

Statement of the Present Public Police Establishment sanctioned by the Government of Zillah of Madurai

253

Appendix VII :

Statement of Cattle Thefts (true cases) committed in Tanjore, Thiruchirapalli, Madurai and Tirunelveli Districts during

 

1892, 1893 and 1894

254 - 257

Appendix VIII :

Notices issued by J. Twigg District Magistrate Madurai both in English and Tamil during anti-kaval movement.

258 - 262

Appendix IX

:

Compromise deed regarding Kaval in

iv

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This thesis presents the results of my research undertaken with the

guidance

of

Dr

A.R.

Venkatachalapathy,

former

Lecturer

in

History,

Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, and at present Professor,

Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. His constructive criticism has

given shape to this study. I remain beholden to him.

I thank the late Dr S. Kadhirvel, former Professor of History, University of

Madras, Chennai who was a constant source of inspiration and encouragement

in my research endeavours.

My thanks are due to Thiru A.A. Subbaraja, President of College

Committee and Secretary Thiru V.K.Subramaniya Raja, President of our College

Governing Council Thiru P.K.R. Vijayaragava Raja and Secretary Thiru N.R.

Subramaniya Raja and the Principal Dr V. Venkatraman for their constant

encouragement in my research endeavours.

My heartfelt thanks to Prof. V.Suresh Taliath, HOD, Department of

English, Rajapalayam Rajus’ College, Rajapalayam for having patiently gone

through the manuscript and making necessary corrections.

I thank Dr K.A. Manikumar, Professor of History, MSU who kindly went

through the manuscript at the final stage and made valuable suggestions.

v

I am thankful to Thiru S. Venkatesan, well-known Tamil writer and Joint

Secretary of Tamilnadu Murpokku Eluthalar Sangam (Tamilnadu Progressive

Writers’ Forum) who shared his knowledge of Piramalai Kallars of the Madurai

region and their Kaval system.

I gratefully thank the Commissioner and staff of the Tamilnadu Archives,

Chennai for permitting me to consult the records available there.

My thanks are also due to those who responded positively when I

interviewed them during my field study.

I thank Mr. P. Sundararaj of Devi Computers, Rajapalayam for the neat

execution of typing this dissertation.

S. RAVICHANDRAN

x

LIST OF TABLES

Table 2:1

:

Palayakarars and Kaval Collections

41 - 42

Table 3:1

:

Statement of Desa Kaval Collections in the District of Tirunelveli, 1800-1805

87

Table 3:2

:

Statement of Allowances Annually paid to Men Kavalkarars by the Collector of Zillah of Chittor [Extract]

90

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

Kaval system was an ancient and indigenous system of policing in

Tamilnadu.

The functionaries of this system were known as Kavalkarars.

Protecting

the

people

and

their

properties

was

the

primary

duty

of

the

Kavalkarars.

Apart from this duty watching the movements of strangers,

particularly

during

festivals,

and

protecting

the

travellers

were

the

other

responsibilities of the Kavalkarars. In return for their services they were paid by

the inhabitants either in cash or in kind, mostly the latter.

As the traditional

custodians of the village they were bestowed with well defined rights and duties.

The Kavalship was hereditary.

Most of the Kavalkarars were from the martial

communities of Tamilnadu with a long history of recruitment in the army, such as

the Maravars, Kallars, Agamudaiyars, Naickers, Padayachis and Udayars though

the participation of other communities like the Kuravars, Valayars and Parayars

cannot be discounted.

As protectors of people and their belongings these

Kavalkarars tended to enjoy special privileges and considerable power.

As a consequence of political changes through the centuries, these

Kavalkarars over a period of time gained political power and occupied a tertiary

position next to the kings and the Palayakarars in the immediate pre-colonial

political power structure of Tamilnadu. As minor partners of political power they

made common cause with the Palayakarars during their struggle against the

2

Nawabs of Arcot and the British East India Company (1780-1801).

In the

non-Palayakarar

tracts

they

were

rather powerful

and

behaved

often

like

independent rulers which explains their fairly frequent violation of the socially

accepted norms of Kaval system.

For the Kavalkarars, Kavalship was not only a source of income.

It was

considerably more than that.

They considered it as their traditional right, a

symbol of political power, prestige, social status and an instrument of social

dominance.

Hence any challenge from within or out to the Kaval system was

vehemently resisted and violently responded by the Kavalkarars.

When the

British East India Company emerged as the superior power in the South Indian

Politics in 1801 the Kavalkarars were a power to reckon with.

The British East India Company, after a prolonged armed struggle against

the power centres of Tamilnadu, had established its firm control over Tamilnadu

by the turn of the nineteenth century.

In consolidating their position the British

started to replace the native form of administration with modern models borrowed

from the west.

But the transplantation met with much resistance from the pre-

modern Kaval system.

Any move on the part of the native people to resist was

branded as crime.

The colonial state abolished the different forms of Kaval system through

its regulations. In 1802, the Desa Kaval system was abolished and a new police

establishment was introduced.

Similarly in 1816, the Kudi Kaval system was

abolished and in its place a new police system came into being. Finally in 1859,

3

the modern police administrative machinery was introduced.

The tax-free lands

allotted to the Kavalkarars were also appropriated by the colonial state in the

name of new land revenue policies.

Despite these stringent measures the

Kavalkarars were tenancious in safeguarding their rights and resisted every

move of the colonial state. Having failed in all its attempts, as a last resort, the

colonial state implemented the infamous Criminal Tribes Act.

In consequence of the anti-kaval measures adopted by the colonial state,

the traditional power and status enjoyed by the Kavalkarars were at stake and

their avenues of income were also closed.

These circumstances prompted the

Kavalkarars to indulge in crime.

They started preying on the inhabitants who

were formerly under their protection.

Historical Background

Nilakanta Sastri in his celebrated work The Colas (1935) based on his

extensive study of Chola inscriptions made a brief and value loaded description

of Kaval system in ancient Tamilnadu.

by him is as quoted below.

The most interesting observation made

The term Padi-Kaval occurring more than once in the list of

taxes and dues deserves more attention than most of the other

items mentioned; for it refers to a universally prevalent system of

safeguarding property from theft, especially at night.

This was the

system by which each village maintained its own Kaval-karan who,

in

return

for

certain

regular

payments

to

him,

held

himself

4

responsible for the security of the property in the village to the

extent of either recovering lost property or making it good; this

system survived in some measures almost till the other day in the

Tamil country, and it seems to have been indeed of very ancient

origin. 1

Natana Kasinathan, in his article, “History of Kaval System in Tamilnadu

from 300

A.D. to 1600

A.D”

(1973) traced the history of Kaval system in

Tamilnadu upto 1600 A.D.

Based on literary and inscriptional source materials

this article is more narrative than interpretative in nature.

In S.Kadhirvel’s, A History of the Maravas (1977) which deals elaborately

with the history of the Maravar community in the eighteenth century and its

relation with the Nawabs of Arcot and the British East India Company, there is a

separate chapter, on the Kaval system of pre-colonial period. This work provides

detailed information regarding the differences between Desa Kaval and Kudi

Kaval systems, the duties of the Kavalkarars, and the payment made to the

Kavalkarars.

However all these details are pertaining to the Kaval system in

Tirunelveli district that too of the Nanguneri and Kalakad region. Moreover since

the author himself belonged to a Desa Kaval chief’s family one could feel a touch

of hyperbole in his treatment.

In addition to these works cited above there are some other works like

K.Rajayyan’s Rise and Fall of the Poligors of Tamilnadu (1974) providing little

1 K.A.N.Sastri, The Colas, 2 Vols, 1935 & 1937; revised edition in one volume, University of Madras, Madras, 1955, p.533.

5

and general information regarding the Kaval system since their main thematic

interests are different.

Another category of works such as The History of The Madras Police,

published by Government of Madras during the centenary of the Madras Police

(1959) and Law and Order in Madras Presidency 1850-1880 by P.Jegadeesan

which extensively deal with the genesis and development of modern police

administrative machinery and incidentally provide a brief discussion on Kaval

system.

Another important work in Tamil which deals with Kaval system is

V.Manickam’s Pudukottai Varalaru (up to A.D.1600). The major objective of this

work is to trace the history of Pudukottai region. However in this work there is a

separate chapter on the Padi-Kaval system, in which the author has made an

analytical study over the socio-economic and political circumstances which

favoured the genesis of the Padi-Kaval system in Pudukottai region during the

later part of 12 th century, and traced the development of this system upto 1600

A.D.

He also elucidates the nature of the system and changes it underwent

during the process of its development through the centuries with critical outlook,

and justifies his arguments by citing number of inscriptional sources. Apart from

other things the most important observation made by him was the sale of Kaval

rights. During the times of economic crisis and inability to withstand the frequent

raids of Muslim invaders the Kavalkarars of a particular villages sold and handed

over their Kaval rights to other Kavalkarars who were more powerful.

He also

6

records that in some cases, Kaval system was nothing but setting a thief against

a thief.

Yet another important secondary source material in Tamil which deals with

the Kaval system in Tamilar Salbhu (Sanga Kalam) (1980) by S.Vidyanandhan of

Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Based on Sangam literature, he provides a vivid picture about

the Kaval system during the Sangam period (200 B.C-200 A.D) and how the

cities, villages and streets in them were protected by the Kavalkarars.

His

portrayal about the physical appearance and vigilant nature of the Kavalkarars is

very interesting.

However his work is confined to Sangam period.

Apart from these works there are some other works in Tamil like Kallar

Charitram (1928) of N.M.Venkatasamy Nattar, Maravar Charitram (1938) by

Asirvatha Udaya Thevar and Muventarkula Thevar Samuga Varalaru (1976) by

Muthu Thevar.

The main objective of these works seems to be provide a

parochial history of the castes and therefore they only superficially touch upon

Kaval system.

Among the works on Kaval system by western scholars “The Kallars: A

Tamil ‘Criminal Tribe’ Reconsidered” (1978) an article by Stuart Blackburn

occupies a prominent place. It traces the early confrontation between the British

and the Kallar community of Madurai region and tries to dismantle the thievish

image of the Kallars.

The opening paragraph of this article cited below is self

explanatory about the aim of the author.

7

This article examines the history of a south Indian caste, the

Kallars of Tamilnadu, in order to re-assess their identification as a

thieving caste and a “Criminal tribe”. I wish to demonstrate that this

is distorted and that the roots of the distortion lie in the early British

military contact with the Kallars. It will be shown, furthermore, how

this image continued to underpin the British administrative policy in

the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 2

However this scholarly article of Blackburn though dealing with the Kaval

system of the Kallars of Madurai

region its concentration is more on the

implementation of ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ and its aftermath.

Another interesting work is the recent unpublished Ph.D thesis of Anand

Sankar Pandian entitled “Landscape and Redemption: Cultivating Heart and Soil

in

South

India”

(University

of

California,

Berkeley

2004).

Basically

an

anthropological work it exclusively deals with the Piramalai Kallars of the western

parts of Madurai region.

It also deals elaborately with the anti-kaval movement

which broke out in Madurai region against Kallar Kaval and the implementation of

Criminal Tribes Act over the Kallars and the consequences. In his opinion it was

the agrarian elite who with the support of the colonial state were behind the anti-

kaval movement in the northern and western part of Madurai region.

The monumental work of Louis Dumont, A South Indian Sub Caste (1986),

an ethnography on Piramalai Kallar, concentrates on the social organization and

2 Stuart H.Blackburn, “The Kallars: A Tamil ‘Criminal Tribe’ Reconsidered”, South Asia, Journal of South Asian Studies, New Series, Vol.1, No.1, March 1978, p.38.

8

religion of Piramalai Kallar of selected villages.

Kaval system in his study.

Little reference is made to the

However the commanality between all these three works mentioned above

is that all of them have explained how the colonial state, having failed in its

attempts against the Kallar Kaval, branded them as criminals and brought the

entire community under the infamous Criminal Tribes Act.

David Arnold in his scholarly article “Dacoity and Rural Crime in Madras

1860-1940” (1979) and in his book Police Power and Colonial Rule in Madras

1859-1947 (1985) [especially chapter 4, ‘The Policing of Rural Madras’] provides

a

vivid

picture

of

the

problems

related

to

Kaval

of

the

colonial

period.

Approaching

the

subject

matter

from

the

dimension

of

crime,

his

well-

documented studies make a thorough analysis of various kinds of crimes

prevailing

in

the

Madras

Presidency

and

classifies

them into

four

major

categories such as i) famine crimes;

ii) professional crimes;

iii) Kaval related

crimes and iv) Dacoity as a prelude to insurrection.

Regarding Kaval-related

crimes his period of coverage commences from 1859 (the year in which the

modern police administration based on Irish and British constabulary was

introduced).

A brief academic survey over the works and their contribution cited above

indicates the important fact that there is an ample scope for an exclusive

research study on the Kaval system in colonial Tamilnadu that too from the

dimension of crime.

9

Reconnaissance of the problem of Kaval from the dimension of crime

inevitably involve the study of law, police, judiciary and punishment of the period

concerned, because all of them are closely related to crime and interlocked with

each other and they are different links in the same chain. Hence the study about

the Kaval system automatically involves the study of the other related areas

mentioned above. An insight into different ideas of crime will enable us to have a

better understanding of the relation between the Kavalkarars and the colonial

state.

In this connection, two things are essential for any researcher working in

the domain of Kaval system.

The first one is the familiarity with the changes

related to approaches to the historical study of crime in the eighteenth and

nineteenth centuries. This will help to understand how the colonial officials were

influenced by these theories and how the measures adopted by the colonial

officials

in

tackling

crimes

were

conditioned

by

them.

Secondly,

an

understanding of the major theories regarding crimes propounded by scholars

during twentieth century is necessary. This aids re-examination of the prevailing

notions of crime, in a proper perspective.

Hence a discussion of some of the

major theoretical frameworks related to the field of crime is attempted in the

following pages.

Theories on Crime

During the eighteenth century, in general, the criminologists were of the

opinion that rationality and freewill determined the acts of the criminals. So they

10

approached the problem from the dimension of costs and benefits. 3

Based on

this the penologists used to impose cruel punishment, with the hope that, it would

make the criminals realize that the cost of violating the laws was greater than the

benefits they received from indulging in crime and induce them to refrain from

criminal activities. Influenced by this approach the officials of the colonial state in

the Madras Presidency implemented the same kind of punishments, such as

whipping, pillorying and hanging in public places.

The following report made by

Thomas Harris a British official regarding the hanging of a prisoner, to the

magistrate of Madurai district, demonstrates the above said fact.

According to your instruction I, this morning proceeded to put into

execution

the

sentence

of

the

prisoner

Vellayan

which

was

performed with every necessary attention to the solemn occasion in

the midst of thousands of spectators.

It is my duty to report the apparent impressions the death of the

criminal

had

on

the

surrounding

multitude….

It

would

have

especially as no such public execution had taken place in the

district of Madurai (sic) forty years. 4

Anand Yang emphatically suggests that, “The surveillance of crime and

criminality by social

historians begins by rejecting the ‘givens’ of modern

3 Sumanta Banerjee, Crime and Urbanisation Calcutta in the Nineteenth Century, Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2006, p.x.

4 Thomas Harris to District Magistrate, Madurai, 28 May 1804, Madura District Records, Vol.1190, pp.73, 74.

11

criminology”. 5 Surface level views of crime as aberrant behaviour should not be

accepted at their face value, otherwise there is a danger of even important kinds

of social protest being labeled as crime.

With the emergence of the ideologies of socialism and anarchism in

Europe, crime was redefined.

Rationality and freewill were replaced by socio-

economic factors as the reasons behind crime.

Karl Marx viewed crime as an

offshoot of competition for jobs in a market economy dominated by capitalist run

factories.

He suggested that the extension of factory system is followed

everywhere by an increase in crime. When Marx was writing this, the traditional

oriented occupational structure of the European society was suffering under the

problem of occupational change due to the emergence of capital intensive mode

of production.

The factory system could not accommodate all the people.

A

section of them got employment in the factories, others in a long run took to

crime.

In his final analysis Marx said ‘Crime, too, is governed by competition’

and ‘society creates a demand for crime which is met by a corresponding

supply’. 6

On the other hand, Max Stirner, representing the anarchist camp, viewed

crime as the assertion of the individual self against the legal code of the state

which tends to violate his / her free existence and movements. While Marx and

Max Stirner were of the same opinion regarding the socio-economic factors

5 Anand A.Yang (ed.), Crime and Criminality in British India, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, 1985, p.2.

6 Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, pp.190, 191.

12

which were controlled and governed by all powerful state as the causes behind

crimes, Max Stirner attached added importance to the freewill of individuals and

their acts and viewed them as their protest against the state. 7

Diverging considerably from the view points of Marxist-oriented British

historians, Michel Foucault, who was a professor of History and Systems of

Thought at the College de France, provided another major theoretical framework

in studying crime.

Among other things his views regarding the birth of prisons

and the changes in the forms of punishments between 1750 and 1850 - i.e. when

Europe was becoming a modern, capitalist society - is fascinating.

He explains

that during this period torture as a form of punishment was replaced by

incarceration.

He argues that this change had taken place not because of

human consideration but with the motive of disciplining the human body.

Incarceration aimed at disciplining and controlling the human body while the

former punishments were directed towards torturing the body.

Finally he

extended this theory and applied it to schools, hospitals and asylums, etc. 8

However, he was criticized by others for not accounting for the forces which

opposed and resisted it.

Notions of crime were not only located and developed in the socio-

economic spheres; sometimes they were located and developed in the sphere of

science too. Parallel to the theoretical framework of socio-economic explanation

7 Sumanta Banerjee, Crime and Urbanization, Calcutta in the Nineteenth Century, Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp.x, ix.

8 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison, Trans. Alan Sheridan, Vintage Books, New York, 1995, pp.293-308.

13

of crime in the nineteenth century Europe, another novel theoretical stream

rooted in biological determinism, registered its growth.

This concept explained

that crime was a genetic trait transmitted from one generation to other in a family.

Francis Galton the founder of this concept gave a name to it as “Eugene” (good

genes).

This view was shared by the Italian physician Cesare Lombroso.

This

theory emphasized that some individuals are born with anti-social tendencies that

were inbuilt in their minds, handed over from the barbaric stage of human

evolution.

The developing disciplines of anthropology and anthropometry were

brought in to rationalize this view. Accordingly the physical features of prisoners

were measured and the bodies of hanged convicts were postmortemed and a list

of common physical features was prepared to prove that they hailed from a

common criminal stock. The horrible and astonishing consequence of this theory

of biological determinism was that, all over the world including England, criminals

in prisons were forcibly sterilized in order to avoid passing on the gene for crime

to the next generation. 9

Regarding the impact of the above said theory over the Indian Penologists

Sumanta Banerjee observes that,

The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 embodied, in a large measure, the theoretical propositions on crime that were current in contemporary England. The English administrators in India who drafted the code adopted the methodology designed by those theorists of criminology in the west who, while explaining crime,

9 Sumanta Banerjee, Crime and Urbanization Calcutta in the Nineteenth Century, Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp.xi, xii.

14

were inclined towards concepts like biological determinism rather than socio-economic rationale. 10

This development ultimately paved the way, for the enactment of ‘Habitual

Criminal Act of 1869 in England and ‘Criminal Tribes Act of 1871’ in India.

In

the second half of the twentieth

century inspired by Karl Marx,

E.P.Thompson and others associated with the then Centre for Study of Social

History at the University of Warwick, started re-examining the given concepts of

crime in the light of Marxism.

They located crime and criminality in the wider

context of the evaluation of an economic order and its social class relation.

In

particular they viewed ‘law’ as an instrument in the hands of the state or the

ruling elite to serve their needs.

According to them the prevailing notions of

crime and contemporary value judgement should be approached with utmost

caution and critical outlook, otherwise there is a danger of becoming prisoners of

the assumptions and self image of the rulers. If not, free labourers will branded

as spontaneous and blind, and important kinds of social protest become lost in

the category of ‘crime’. 11

They viewed crime as rational behaviour, closely

related to the character and will of the ruling class and the defence and priorities

of the capitalist system. 12

The concluding remarks of E.P.Thompson regarding

the ‘rule of law’ in England is that,

10 Ibid, p.xiii.

11 E.P.Thompson, “Eighteenth Century English Society: Class Struggle Without Class?” Social History, 3, 3, 1978: 150 cited in Anand A.Yang (ed), Crime and Criminality in British India,

p.2.

12 David Jones, Crime, Protest, Community and Police in Nineteenth Century Britain, London, 1982, p.31, cited in Anand A.Yang (ed) Crime and Criminality in British India, p.3.

15

Thus the law (we agree) may be seen instrumentally as mediating

and reinforcing existing class relations and ideologically as offering

to these a legitimation.

But we must press our definitions a little

further. For if we say that existent class relations were mediated by

the law, this is not the same thing as saying that the law was no

more

than

those

relations

translated

into

other

terms,

which

masked or mystified the reality. This may quite often be true but it

is not the whole truth.

For class relations were expressed, not in

any way one likes, but through the forms of law; and the law, like

other institutions which from time to time can be seen as mediating

(and masking) existent class relations (such as church or the media

of communication), has its own characteristics, its own independent

history and logic of evolution. 13

Another interesting observation is made by David A. Washbrook regarding

the functioning of Anglo-Indian Law.

Its main purpose, so far from protecting private rights of subjects,

may be better seen as providing a range of secondary services for

the company, both as ‘state’ and a ‘shield’ for European business

interests, which helped to translate political power into money. 14

13 E.P.Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of Black Act, New York, 1975, p.262, cited Anand A.Yang (ed), Crime and Criminality in British India, p.3.

14 D.A.Washbrook, “Law, State and Agrarian Society in Colonial India”, Modern Asian Studies, Vol.15, No.3, 1981, p.668.

16

Yet another school of sociologists derived their inspiration from Emile

Durkheim and elaborated his theme of anomie. He argues that anomie develops

when modern societies fail to provide suitable occupational avenues to the

people according to their talents and traditional skills.

This theory was further

developed and applied by Robert Merton in his analysis about deviance and

crime. According to him whenever there is such an anomic disjuncture between

the culturally defined goals and the socially approved means to achieve them

available to the individuals or groups the later resort to four types of behaviour

i) ritualism, or following the approved means in mechanical way without any hope

of reaching the goals; ii) retreatism, or opting out from the struggle; iii) rebellion,

or desire to redefine goals and means, and change the entire socially approved

system and iv) innovation or devising new means-outside the socially approved

framework to achieve the socially approved goals, which include crimes. 15

The problem related to Kaval system and the Kavalkarars fits well into this

theoretical framework. When the colonial state abolished the Kaval system and

replaced them with modern police administrative machinery the demand for

traditional Kaval system shrank.

There was no suitable occupational avenue

available to suit the traditional skills of the Kavalkarars.

Hence they took to

crime.

Another important area of study, intimately associated with the field of

crime is the institution of police, an administrative mechanism by which authority

15 Sumanta Banerjee, Crime and Urbanisation, p.xv.

17

and control is maintained by the state.

Many works have already been

undertaken probing its nature and functions in the West. Majority of them viewed

that, “The police and its functions are always determined by the nature of state

which they serve and the theory upon which such a state is based”. 16

From the above discussion it is clear that at the international level there is

a considerable and growing body of literature on crime in the pre industrial

societies at the verge of modernization.

In the Indian context Anand Yang’s

Crime and Criminality in British India (1985) occupies an important place by

providing valuable information.

Radhika Singha’s A Despotism of Law (2000)

deals with the link between knowledge and power in the colonial context.

Another recent work of Meena Radhakrishna, Dishonoured by History ‘Criminal

Tribes’ and British Colonial Policy (2001) deals with the Kuravar Community in

Madras Presidency; how the economic policies of the colonial state affected their

occupation and later on they were branded as Criminal Tribes and covered under

Criminal Tribes Act.

Terms defined

Kaval was an ancient and indigenous system of policing in Tamil Nadu.

Tamilnadu is one of the federal states located at south-eastern corner of India.

During the British administration this was a part of Madras Presidency.

The

Presidency of Madras had some territories which are at present in the states of

Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala. For the present study the word

16 Anand A.Yang (ed.), Crime and Criminality in British India, p.19.

18

Tamilnadu means the present day geographical and administrative entity.

This

study covers a period of one hundred and forty six years starting from 1801 to

1947. The year 1801 is a significant year because in that year the Palayakarar

Wars against the British East India Company had come to a conclusion and

Tamilnadu was brought under the firm grip of the Company’s government.

The

year 1947 is the year of Indian independence.

However it does not mean that

the Kaval system was completely suppressed by 1947. In spite of all the efforts

taken by the colonial state the Kaval system managed to survive even after 1947

particularly in Madurai and Tirunelveli districts; however it is sporadic and

considerably less vibrant.

The Presidency of Madras was one of the most extensive territories of the

British colonial state. Tamil and Telugu were the principal languages spoken by

majority of the people. After attaining independence in 1947 with the formation of

the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1953 and with the linguistic reorganization of

states the size of Madras Presidency was reduced to considerable extent. Some

areas of Kannada-speaking population adjoining the district of Dharmapuri and

Nilgris were ceded to the newly formed Mysore state. The areas with the Oriya

speaking people went to the state of Orissa.

Madras state got the Tamil

speaking regions of Kanyakumari district and Shenkottai from Tiruvancore

kingdom. The name Madras State was changed into Tamilnadu in 1969.

19

Aims of the Study

Kaval system was an ancient system of policing in Tamilnadu and the

Kavalkarars were the functionaries of the Kaval system. In the modern history of

Tamilnadu the Kaval system and the Kavalkarars as an interesting and vital area

of historical investigation continued to remain as an unexplored area for reasons

unknown. As shareholders of political power at the tertiary level, the Kavalkarars

played a major role, in the socio-economic and political spheres of Tamilnadu.

They also made common cause with other anti-colonial forces, during their

struggle against the colonial state. Hence this study aims at tracing the history of

Kaval system confining to the colonial period and tries to locate the place of the

Kavalkarars in the modern history of Tamilnadu.

This study also aims at analyzing the prolonged struggle for power

between the colonial state, the new-comer, and the Kavalkarars, the yester

masters of political power.

eradicate

Kaval

system

It traces the efforts taken by the colonial state to

through

enacting

Regulations

and

Acts

and

by

establishing modern police administration, and the consequent response of the

Kavalkarars who were driven gradually, over a period of time, towards the world

of crime. This study also identifies and analyses the various factors responsible

for the failure of the colonial state in suppressing the Kaval system including the

mindset and psychological underpinnings of the Kavalkarars.

Another

important

aspect

on

which

this

study

concentrates

is

the

examination of the factors responsible for the outbreak of anti-kaval movements

20

in Madurai and Tirunelveli districts towards the closure of nineteenth century and

in the early decades of the twentieth century, and its consequences.

Yet another important aim of this study is to evaluate the circumstances

which shaped the enactment of the famous Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 (CTA);

how it originated in the minds of scientists and administrators in England, how it

was imported and implemented in the north Indian provinces, reaction of the

Madras

provincial

administrative

circles

Tamilnadu and its impact.

and

Relevance of the Study

how

it

was

implemented

in

Much research has already been carried out and secondary sources

dealing with different aspects of the history of Modern Tamilnadu are also

available.

So far there has been no such exclusive study undertaken on the

problem of Kaval system during the colonial period focusing from the viewpoint of

crime.

Thus there is amble scope for research.

The Researcher has made a

sincere attempt to probe further the problem of Kaval.

Methodology

Kaval

system

was

an

ancient

and

indigenous

system of

police in

Tamilnadu which survived through the ages and was in practice to a very limited

extent even after 1947. So, tracing and presenting a brief narration of the Kaval

system and its salient feature is essential.

method is adopted.

In attempting this, a descriptive

21

In assessing the nature of the colonial state, the conflict between the

colonial state and the Kaval system from 1800-1947, the anti-kaval movements

in the last decade of the nineteenth century and in the early decades of twentieth

century, the analytical method is adopted.

Regarding the genesis and development of modern police system and its

prolonged struggle against the Kavalkarars a chronological as well as analytical

method is followed.

As far

as the enactment of the

Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and its

implementation in India in different phases analytical method is followed.

Organisation of the Thesis

The

thesis

has

been

organized

introductory and concluding chapters.

into

seven

chapters

including

the

In the introductory chapter an academic survey has been attempted at on

the available secondary works contributed by eminent scholars of both Indian

and foreign origin, which have direct or indirect bearing over the central theme of

this study.

It also maps the theoretical frame works employed by scholars and

philosophers like Karl Marx, Max Stirner, Michel Foucault, Emile Durkheim and

E.P.Thompson in their studies on crime. The thrust area of this study is indicated

in this chapter.

The second chapter is entitled as ‘Kaval system’.

In this chapter, the

history of the Kaval system right from the ancient period is narrated.

Following

22

this the functions of the Kavalkarars, their duties and rights, the categories of

Kaval system and the Kavalkarars are explained in detail.

Moreover the

traditional rights and powers enjoyed by the Kavalkarars and their position and

status in the society are elaborately discussed.

Besides the condition of Kaval

system during the early stages of the British rule is also described. It also briefly

explains

a

peculiar

form of

crime

committed

by

the

Kavalkarars,

closely

associated with cattle theft and popularly known as Thuppu Cooli.

The third chapter entitled “Confrontation with the British East India

Company” deals elaborately with the relationship between the Kavalkarars and

the Company in the last quarter of the 18 th century which was marked by open

confrontations and rebellions of the Kavalkarars against the Company, the

emerging new power.

It also deals with the abolition of Desa Kaval and Men

Kaval by the Company in 1802 and the reasons for the caution exercised by the

Company with regard to the abolition of Kudi Kaval.

The fourth chapter is “The Colonial State and the Kaval System”.

For a

better understanding of the subject matter, this chapter has been divided into

three divisions i.e. from 1802-1815; 1816-1859; 1859-1896 wherein each phase

marked a specific development.

In 1802 the colonial state abolished the Desa

Kaval and Men Kaval system through its Regulation of 1802 and a new police

administrative structure with Daroghas and Thanadars as important police

officials was introduced.

This system was replaced in 1816 by another new

system of police operating under the direct control of Collector, at the district

level and Village Munsiff at the village level. In 1816 the Kudi Kaval system was

23

also abolished. The new police establishment of 1816 continued to operate until

1859 and in that year the modern police system with officials like Superintendent

of Police at the district level was introduced and the police administration was

completely separated from revenue administration.

It also discusses how the

new measures undertaken by the government broke the traditional occupational

structure of the Kavalkarars and pushed them into the world of crime. The year

1896 was a turning point in the history of Kaval system because it was marked

by violent anti-kaval movement in Madurai district.

The fifth chapter deals with “Anti-Kaval Movements in Madurai and

Tirunelveli districts”.

It examines the causes for the outbreak of anti-kaval

movements in the background of changing political and socio-economic scenario

effected by the British rule.

The sixth chapter is “The Criminal Tribes Act and the Decline of the Kaval

System”. Here an attempt has been made to evaluate the circumstances which

gave shape to the Criminal Tribes Act, the response of the officials of the colonial

state and explains how it was implemented in Tamilnadu.

The reasons for the

failure of CTA and the gradual decline of the Kaval system are analyzed in this

chapter.

The seventh chapter is the concluding chapter in which the researcher has

recorded his observations and justified them.

24

Source Materials

Source materials related to the topic of this study are available with

Tamilnadu State Archives at Chennai in the forms of consultations, proceedings,

reports,

correspondence

and

letters

pertaining

to

different

administrative

departments of the Government of Madras.

District Records and Manuals are

available

in

volumes

contain

so

much

of

valuable

informations

regarding

particular districts. Madurai District Archives at Madurai is a repository of source

materials

connected

with

the

topic

of

this

movement in Madurai district.

study,

pertaining

to

anti-kaval

‘Kummi on Sivarama Thalaivar’, a folk song is another important source

material having much bearing on the central theme of this study and about its

early history before 1800.

The folk song deals with Sivarama Thalaivar, the

Kaval chief of Thirukkurungudi in Tirunelveli district.

It traces the history of its

hero Sivarama Thalaivar, right from the migration of his ancestors from Ramnad

to Tirunelveli region.

It was a period of political instability caused by the efforts

taken by Nawab of Arcot against the turbulent Palayakarars with the help of

British East India Company.

It narrates the disputes related to Kaval rights

among the different group of Kondayamkottai Maravars of southern Tirunelveli

region and the exploits of its hero against the forces of British East India

Company and end with his death in a Kaval dispute.

Right

from

K.A.N.Sastri’s

outstanding

work

The

Colas,

secondary

materials in the form of books, periodicals and journals are available in good

25

number.

Though their thematic interests were different they throw occasional

light on the central theme and other aspects of this study.

An important Secondary study - basically an anthropological study on the

Piramalai Kallar community of Madurai district - is an unpublished Ph.D., thesis

by Anand Sankar Pandian entitled as “Landscapes of Redemption: Cultivating

Heart and Soil in South India” submitted to the University of California, Berkeley,

(1999).

It was of much help to understand the Piramalai Kallar community and

their Kaval system.

Apart from these materials mentioned above during the field study, the

researcher interviewed notable personalities and collected useful informations

pertaining to the study. Some of them were descendents of former Kaval chiefs.

CHAPTER II

THE KAVAL SYSTEM

The word Kaval means “watch”. It is also used to denote the functionary

who performs this duty. 1

It was an ancient and indigenous institution of

Tamilnadu. This was a hereditary village police office bestowed with well defined

rights and responsibilities.

Ample references are available regarding Kaval

system in Sangam literature, and in the inscriptions of Pallava, Chola and Pandia

kings.

The terms like Ur Kappar (Protector of the Village) in Purananooru,

(Sangam literature) 2 and Nadu Kaval (nadu means bigger or wider territorial

division), Padi Kaval 3 (Padi means

village or land) and Perum Padi Kaval

(Perum means bigger or wider) in the inscription of ancient kings of Tamilnadu

proved the existence of Kaval system in Tamilnadu right from the sangam period.

Those who were engaged in this duty were known as Kavalkarar 4 (guardian or

protector).

1 S.Kadhirvel, A History of the Maravas, Madurai Publishing House, Madurai, 1977, p.17; Natana Kasinathan, “Kaval System in Tamilnadu from 300 A.D-1600 A.D”, Damilica, Journal of Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology, Part-3, Madras, 1973, p.65.

2 S.Vithyananthan, Tamilar Salpu (Tamil), Kumaran Puthaga Illam, Colombo and Chennai, 1980, pp.37-40.

3 There are many villages with the word Padi as suffix in their names. Eg. Chandra Padi, Kannam Padi, Kanal Padi, Mahendra Padi, Pudhu Padi, Pullam Padi, Tamil Padi, Tharangam Padi, Vala Padi, and Vaniyam Padi.

4 Natana Kasinathan, “Kaval System in Tamilnadu from 300 A.D-1600 A.D”, Damilica, Journal of Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology, Part-3, Madras, 1973, p.65.

27

Regarding Padi Kaval, K.A.Nilakanta Sastri had made the following

observation which provides a clear picture about the Kaval system in ancient

(200 B.C. – 900 A.D) Tamil Nadu.

The term padi kaval occurring more than once in the list of

taxes and dues deserves more attention than most of the other

items mentioned; for it refers to a universally prevalent system of

safeguarding property from theft especially at night.

This was the

system by which each village maintained its own kavalkarar, who in

turn for certain regular payments to him, held himself responsible

for the security of property in the village to the extent of either

recovering lost property or making good; this system survived in

some measure almost till the other day in Tamil country, and it

seems to have been indeed off very ancient origin. A special staff

of officials entrusted with this duty, and maintained from the

proceeds of a special cess ear-marked for the purpose of the padi-

kaval-kuli as it is sometime called, formed a regular feature of the

Cola administrative system.

In the later Cola days we find these

duties increasingly falling in the hands of the over-grown vassals

whose rise was a symptom of imminent dissolution of the empire.

Humbler men in charge of relatively restricted area also carried on

their work more quietly and with less detriment to the well-being of

the central administration…

The terms perum padikaval and mer-

padi-kaval are sometimes employed and these are perhaps to

28

indicate the wider sphere of their police duties or their higher status

as compared to the ordinary padi-kaval of the village. 5

Nilakanta Sastri’s description of the Kaval system fits neatly into his ideal

vision of a centralized state as the epitome of civilization.

During the times of

political instability, it has been suggested by historians such as Y.Subbarayalu,

these Kavalkarars of different categories grew more powerful in their regions and

became practically independent of the higher level power centres. 6

This process of development of the Kavalkarars becoming more powerful

and independent in their respective regions, during the times of political instability

and administrative weakness, was a common phenomenon, finding expression

throughout the history of Tamilnadu.

Kaval system as a power to reckon with, continued its existence during the

reign of Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks and the Nawabs in Tamilnadu.

Nicholas B.Dirks observes that,

Below the regional kings of three great mandalams – ranged

from Ramanathapuram and Pudukkottai on the one hand to the tiny

estates of certain Tirunelveli Palaykarars on the other. At an even

lower level, the developmental process of becoming a little king

probably includes certain kavalkarars (protection chiefs) as well for

5 K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, The Colas, 2 Vols, 1935 and 1937; revised edition in one volume, University of Madras, 1955, pp.533-534.

6 Y.Subbarayalu, interviewed by A.R.Venkatachalapathy, Kalachuvadu, Tamil Monthly, 2004, Nagercoil, p.21; V.Manickam, Pudukkottai Varalaru (Tamil), Clio Publications, Madurai, 2004,

pp.375-395.

29

example the maravar kavalkarars of kalakkatu and Nankuneri

regions of Tirunelveli. 7

Pamela G.Price in her discussion of the political structure of Ramnad

Kingdom records that “Eighteenth Century Ramnad was a collection of numerous

domains, those of warrior chiefs of various designation (Palaiyakkar or aracu

Kavalkar)… 8

Before the establishment of British supremacy in Tamilnadu, Kaval system

was in operation throughout the Tamil speaking districts as well as other parts of

Madras Presidency.

In Telugu speaking regions Kaval was known as Kavili. 9

After the downfall of the Nayak kingdom of Madurai and before the establishment

of British East India company’s rule, when the Nawab of Arcot was struggling

with the Palayakarars to establish his supremacy, when there where many

conflicts

between

various

contending

parties

for

political

power,

these

Kavalkarars became a power to reckon with in their areas of control. Specifically

in the non-Palayakarar tracts they were highly independent, powerful and

extraordinarily influential.

A few of them even had their own fortifications and

armed retainers.

Some examples are Sivarama Thalaivar, the Kaval chief of

7 Nicholas B. Dirks, The Hollow Crown: Ethno History of an Indian Kingdom, Orient Longman, Bombay 1987, pp.154-155.

8 Pamela G.Price, “Raja-dharma in the 19th Century South India”, Contributions to Indian Sociology, Vol.13, No.2, July-December 1979, Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi,

p.210.

9 Even today among the Telugu communities of the southern districts of Tamilnadu this usage is in vogue.

30

Tirukkurungudi in Tirunelveli District 10 and Periya Wagaboo the Kaval chief of

Sirkali in Thanjavur district, during the closing decades of eighteenth century. 11

Functions

The primary function of a Kavalkarar whether, Men Kavalkarar or Kudi

Kavalkarar, was to protect the grain, cattle, standing crops and other domestic

properties of the inhabitants in the villages under their Kaval control from thieves

and petty plunderers and to guard the public places like temples, highways,

markets, tradefares, choultries and to keep an eye over the strangers and

travellers. If any robbery occurred, it was the responsibility of the Kavalkarars to

trace the culprit and recover the stolen properties, failing which he had to

compensate the loss. 12

Rous

Peter,

Collector

of

Madurai

district

while

reporting

about

the

functioning of Kavalkarars to the District Magistrate in 1811 made the following

observation:

The duties of a Cawolgar have always been considered, to

watch over the Crops on the Ground, to guard them when reaped,

and when threshed, the produce is measured in his presence, and

delivered over to his charge entirely; after which whatever loss is

10 Sivarama Thalaivar Kummi (unpublished); Bishop R.Caldwell, A History of Tinnevelly, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1881, p.144.

11 A.L.Grant, Collector of Thanjavur in his letter dated 30th September 1799 to Major Inns Commanding Thanjavur - Judicial Consultation, Vol.No.6A, pp.552-555.

12 S.R.Lushington, Collectors Report Regarding the Tirunelveli Poligors and Sequestered Pollams 1799 - 1800, Tirunelveli 1916, pp.2-3.

31

sustained, he is considered the accountable person for it.

To

protect the Village to which he belongs, and should any of the

inhabitants be robbed, he is obliged to make good from his own

Mauniam Lands, the value of whatever Articles may have been

stolen unless he can deliver up the offenders to Justice, and in that

case he is absolved from all responsibility. This method in the first

instance compels him to guard the village with the utmost caution

and in the latter occasions his being alert in the apprehension of the

people who had been guilty of the Theft.

He is also to watch over

the Circar (Government) Grain wherever it may be deposited within

the range of his Cawol, to be a guide to Detachments passing

through the Country if required, and to protect all Travelers as long

as they continue within his village.

These are considered the

principal duties of a Cawolgar, there are others of a Minor nature,

which it would be useless to mention. 13

It was the responsibility of the Kaval chief or the Men Kavalkarar to see to

it that it was enforced.

The Men Kavalkarar with the assistance of his Kudi

Kavalkarars launched an investigation and tried to find out the culprit and recover

what was stolen.

In case of failure, they had to compensate the loss.

In this

way, the head Kavalkarar assumed both police and judicial powers. 14

13 Rous Peter to District Magistrate, 28 November 1811, Madurai Collectorate Records,

Vol.1158.

14 S.Kadhirvel, A History of The Maravas, Madurai Publishing House, Madurai, 1977, p.18.

32

Frederick S.Mulally of the Madras Police made the following observation

regarding the function of rural police system in Tirunelveli district towards the

closing decades of the nineteenth century.

police in the Tirunelveli district. 15

There were three classes of village

a) Taliyaris – These are the government village police paid by the government at rates of ranging from Rs.2/- to Rs.4/- per mensem from the village cess fund levied at the rate of one anna per rupee on land revenue assessment.

b) Kavalgars – Zamindar and Devasthanam village Police. These receive no regular pay for their services. Some receive ‘Sutantrams’ fees and emoluments at intervals, others enjoy maniems or inam lands, which are supposed to support countless relations, and connections termed pangalies (share holders) while nearly all receive some payment in kind at harvest.

c) Kudi Kavalgars – These are private watchmen employed by villagers on their own account for the greater safety of their property. They are usually paid in kind in the understanding that they return an equivalent in values for anything stolen. An agreement to this entered into when the Kudi Kavalgars are appointed.

The popular method of investigation followed by the Kavalkarars to find

out the offenders was by tracing and following the footprints of the offenders and

locating their whereabouts.

In case the footprints of the offenders crossed the

15 Frederick S.Mullaly, Notes on Criminal Tribes of The Madras Presidency, Government Press, Madras, 1892, pp.113, 114.

33

borders of a particular village or villages, it became the responsibility of the

Kavalkarars of those villages to trace the offenders. 16

Another method was to

pass the information to the fellow Kavalkarars of the neighbouring villages.

By

using this Kavalkarar network, they were able to monitor the movement of the

offenders and locate their hiding places.

Categories

Men Kavalkarars and Kudi Kavalkarars

Towards the closing decades of the eighteenth century, there were two

important categories of Kavalkarars i.e. Men Kavalkarars also known as Mel

Kavalkarars or Mer Kavalkarars and Kudi Kavalkarars. Men Kavalkarar was the

superior one who had many villages under his control. Kudi Kavalkarars were of

the second category appointed by the Men Kavalkarars.

They were to perform

their Kaval duties as per the direction given by the Men Kavalkarars. 17

Sthalam Kaval or Kudi Kaval

Like the Kavalkarars the Kaval system too was also of two important

categories. They were known as Sthalam Kaval also known as Kudi Kaval, and

Desa Kaval. 18

Sthalam Kaval (or) Kudi Kaval was the Kaval system operating at the

village level or at the most in a cluster of villages having one Men Kavalkarar and

16 Tirunelveli District Records, Vol.No.3591, p.102.

17 Judicial Proceedings (Sundries, Police Committee Report), Vol.No.8B, p.1879.

18 Judicial Proceedings (Sundries, Police Committee Report) Vol. No.2A, p.59.

34

few Kudi Kavalkarars as functionaries.

Each Kudi Kavalkarar was assigned a

particular village, or a portion of a village as his zone of operation by the Men

Kavalkarar. 19

In some regions these Kudi Kavalkarars were assisted by

Visarippukarans, Koolapandis and Talayaris, a set of servants of lower order in

discharging Kaval duties. These Kudi Kavalkarars were usually transferred from

one village to the other or from one portion of the village to the other periodically

by the Men Kavalkarar. In the case of big villages having extensive tract of wet

land with irrigation facilities from reservoirs, the Kavalkarars were deployed

according to the number of water channels in the reservoir and the extent of land

under cultivation. 20

Thus the number of Kavalkarars was directly related to the

economic affluence of the villages.

Desa Kaval

The second category of the Kaval system was Desa Kaval. Here the word

Desa means district or country consisting of many villages.

This institution of

Desa Kaval denotes country watch in which a number of villages would be under

the control of a leader and he would be the head of the head Kavalkarars of

these villages. 21 The Desa Kaval chief commanded the respect and loyalty of the

Sthalam or Kudi Kaval chiefs.

Monitoring the boundary regions, jungle tracts,

mountain pass, highways and settling the disputes between villages were the

important function of the Desa Kaval chiefs. 22

The decisions and judgement of

19 S.Kadhirvel, A History of the Maravas, p.17

20 Interview with S.Kadhirvel of Tirukkurungudi on 5th November 2003.

21 S.Kadhirvel, A History of the Maravas, p.19.

22 Ibid.

35

these Desa Kaval chiefs appear to have been implicitly accepted. 23

These two

institutions were functioning side by side all over Tamilnadu, especially in the

southern districts of Tamilnadu.

In the Palayakarar region in general the Palayakarars were also invariably

the Desa Kaval chiefs. All the villages within a Palayam were directly under the

Desa Kaval control of the Palayakarars.

Apart from that depending on their

power and influence these Palayakarars had Kaval control over the Circar

villages too. As per Table 2:1, it is evident that the Palayakarars were regularly

collecting Desa Kaval fee from the Circar villages and a share from the Kudi

Kaval fee collected by Kudi Kavalkarars operating in the Circar villages.

These

factors indicate the power and influence exercised by the Palayakarars over

Circar territories.

The encroachment of the Palayakarars over Circar territories

and the huge amount collected by them in

the

name of Kaval fee

were

unacceptable to the British.

The income through the Kaval fee was directly

related to the extent of the territory under the control of the Palayakarars. Every

one of them was keen in extending his area of control.

It resulted in mutual

conflicts.

This was the same with non-Palayakarar Desa Kaval chiefs also.

In

the non- Palayakarar tracts there were several powerful chiefs who exercised this

function.

The striking example was the Arupangu Nadu Maravars of Nanguneri

taluk of Tirunelveli district. 24

23 Towards the closing decades of nineteenth century and in the following years, the power and authority of the Kavalkarars were challenged by the people on many occasions.

24 G.O.No.473, Judicial, 31 March 1897.

36

Arupangu Nadu 25 was a Desa Kaval unit consisting of six villages namely

Marugalkuruchi,

Manchankulam,

Kannimarmalai,

Pudur,

Thennimalai

and

Nedunkulam.

All these villages had their own Men Kavalkarars with dependent

Kaval villages and Kudi Kavalkarars.

invariably from Marugalkuruchi. 26

But the office of Desa Kaval chief was

In Thanjavur district Periya Wagaboo and Chinna Wagaboo the Kaval

chiefs of Sirkali regions were the other Desa Kaval chiefs who exercised control

over several villages. 27

In

the

Karur

region

though

the

Kallars

and

Kuravars

shared

the

responsibility of Kaval, it was the Kallars who were the Desa Kaval chiefs

exercising control over several villages unlike the Kuravar Kavalkarars who had

control over single villages. 28

Other Kaval Systems

Apart from these two general categories of Kaval - Sthalam (or) Kudi

Kaval and Desa Kaval - there were a few other special categories of Kaval like

Kondi Kaval, Thesai Kaval, Kovil Kaval or Dharma Sthapana Kaval and Pathai

Kaval.

Kondi Kaval was a peculiar system of Kaval widely prevalent in the

southern

districts

of

Tamilnadu.

Kondi

Kaval

meant

watching

the

fields

25 Arupangu in Tamil means six shares or six divisions.

26 S.Kadhirvel, A History of the Maravas, p.19.

27 Judicial Consultations, Vol.No.6A, pp.564-569; Vide Appendix I. In Tamil ‘Periya’ means elder and ‘Chinna’ means younger;

28 Kuravars whose occupation was Kaval were known as Kaval Kuravars.

37

particularly when the crops were ripening to harvest.

It was indispensable to a

cultivator in a land almost devoid of hedges and fencing. Here the primary duty

of the Kavalkarars was to protect the ripening crops from both cattle and

thieves. 29

Thesai Kaval meant protecting a particular area or region infested by

robber gangs or prone to frequent dacoities. 30

Kovil Kaval or Dharma Sthapana Kaval meant protecting the properties of

a particular

temple

for

which

the

temple

had

to

make

payments

to

the

Kavalkarars.

There is evidence that the Kallar were Kavalkarars at Kanchi,

Srirangam and Alagarcoil in addition to several other small temples. 31

The

Arupangunadu Maravars in the Nanguneri region of Tirunelveli district were the

Kavalkarars of the Vaisnavite temple and the religious mutt (which controlled vast

tracts of land) at Nanguneri. 32

Similar was the case with Nambiandavar temple

at Tirukkurungudi of Tirunelveli district which was under the Kavalship of a

Maravar family of Nambi Thalaivan Pattayam, a village very close by. 33

The

Kaval of Murugan temple at Tiruparankuntram and Alagarkovil was again the

29 In “A Note on the Marava oppression in Tirunelveli District” - by G.H.P.Bailey Esqi.p., District Superintendent of Police, Tirunelvely; Kondi in Tamil means robbery.

30 A.Ramasamy (ed), Tamilnadu District Gazetteer: Ramnad, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Madras, 1972, p.671.

31 Stuart H.Blackburn, “The Kallars: A Tamil ‘Criminal Tribe’ Reconsidered” in South Asia:

Journal of Asian Studies, New Series, Vol.1, No.1, March 1978, p.46; A.V.Asirvatha Udaiyar, Maravar Charitram, Devarkulam, 1938, p.65.

32 David Ludden, Peasant History in South India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1993, p.50.

33 Even today a Maravar family of Nambi Thalaivan Pattayam is the Kavalkarar of the Nambiandavar temple at Tirukkurangudi.

38

responsibility of the Kallars of Madurai region. 34 Moreover the Kaval chiefs who

was incharge of the temple Kaval were honoured by the temple authorities during

important festivals.

Pathai Kaval implied protecting the highways.

providing escort to the highway travellers as well.

Occasionally it referred to

Long distance travellers,

merchants, family members of rich families, Christian missionaries and bullock

carts loaded with goods were usually escorted by armed Kavalkarars. 35

While

escorting the travellers especially during the night the Kavalkarars use to talk in

raised tone always so that it was expected that the robbers hiding on the

roadside would recognize the voice of the Kavalkarar and dare not to attack.

When Burma and Sri Lanka came under the control of the British there

was mass scale of migration of people of Tamil Nadu seeking economic

opportunities to both the countries.

Among them the Nattukottai Chettiyars and

Vanika Chettiyars (Merchant Communities) of Karaikudi and Thirpathur regions

were prominent. The male members of these families when returning home with

their

hard

earned

money

and

valuables

used

to

employ

Kallars

and

Ambalakarars as Kavalkarars usually after reaching Karaikudi or Madurai from

34 Stuart H.Blackburn, “The Kallars: A Tamil ‘Criminal Tribe’ Reconsidered” p.46; Interview with S.Venkatesan, a Tamil writer and a native of Tiruparankundram on 10 th January 2004. When Criminal Tribes Act was imposed on the Piramalai Kallars of Madurai district, these Kallar Kavalkarars were given exemption.

35 J.H.Nelson, The Madura Country A Manual, Asian Educational services, New Delhi, 1989, Part No.III, p.169; also see Stuart H.Blackburn, “The Kallars: A Tamil ‘Criminal Tribe’ Reconsidered”, p.47.

39

Chennai or Tuticorin by train.

From there, they were accompanied by Kallar

Kavalkarars during their journey to their villages. 36

Kaval Fee: Mode of Payment

The services of the Sthalam Kavalkarars or Kudi Kavalkarars were

generally rewarded by a fee which consisted mostly of a portion of the crop that

they protected or monetary payment or allocation of agricultural land.

J.W.Cochrane, Collector of Tirunelveli district has recorded the mode of

payment of Kaval fee then existed in Tirunelveli region as mentioned below:

1. An allowance in grain taken from the gross produce before the

division of the crop take place between the Sircar and the

inhabitants.

2. The enjoyment of certain portion of land as Enam (tax free).

3. Fee in money from the inhabitants upon their ploughs, bullocks

and homes.

4. Fee in money from merchants at a certain rate of per bullock

and cooly load of goods.

5. An allowance of certain number of sheep and other articles in

kind from the inhabitants upon the performance of certain

religious ceremonies.

As the payment of this fee

from the

36 Interview with S.Somasekar, Professor of Physics, Rajus’ College, Rajapalayam, Native of Tirubuvanam, Madurai District, 20 January 2004.

40

inhabitants and merchants is made directly by them to the

Cauwelgars, it is difficult to form a conclusion of the exact

amount of these allowances. 37

Like the Sthalam Kavalkarars or Kudi Kavalkarars the Desa Kaval chiefs

were also rewarded by fees of different kinds. 38

1. Wumbalam or certain allotment of Punja (dry land) and Nanjah (wet land) in every kaval village, from which the poligor draws his share.

2. The second one was Vadikkai Venduhole (Solicitation of the inhabitants) consisting of certain fixed annual payment from the villages.

3. The last one embrace the fees on plough, a few Maracalls of paddy from the village Nanjah land, Suncooms (excise duty) levied in kaval districts, taxes on looms, market places etc.

4. Apart from these they also received a share from the kaval dues collected by the kudi kavalkarars of Circar villages. 39

The fee collected both by the Kudi Kavalkarars and Desa Kaval chiefs in

return of their services amounts to one fifth of the total revenue collection in a

district as per the rough estimate of the Company’s servants. (See Table 2:1)

37 Collectors Report Regarding the Tinnevelly Poligors and Sequestered Pollams 1779 - 1800, Collectorate Press, Tinnevelly, 1916, pp.3-4.

38 J.W.Cochrane to Secretary of Police Committee, 7 November 1805, Tirunelveli District Records, Vol.No.3600, p.184.

39 Board of Revenue Consultation, Vol.No.264, p.8779, Also See Table No.2:1.

41

Table 2:1

Poligors and Kaval Collections

Statement of the Revenue of Tesha Kaval in the Tirunelveli Province and

part of Madurai in Fusly 1209 (A.D.1800).

Sequested Pollams

Amount of Desa Kaval from the Circar Villages to the Poligar

Amount of Sthalan or Kudi Kaval from the circar villages by the Sthalam Cauvilgars to the Poligar

 

Chuly

Panam

Casu

Chuly

Panam

Casu

Chukkram

Chukkram

1. Panchalam Kuruchi

15517

6

21

2645

3

45

2. Kulathur

-

-

-

-

-

-

3. Nagalapuram

538

8

6

83

2

-

4. Kadalkudi

135

9

30

40

-

42

5. Yellayarampannai

852

1

03

49

9

45

6. Kolvarpatti

1960

-

36

37

3

39

7. Shaptoor

3095

-

30

40

-

-

Total

22099

6

30

1890

-

27

Poligors in Possession

           

1. Sivagiri

4980

9

-

324

6

15

2. Shethur

86

5

42

-

-

-

3. Kollamkondan

353

4

12

-

-

-

4. Alagapuri

522

4

39

7

-

36

5. Chokampatti

5756

5

9

9

-

-

42

6. Surandai

328

9

33

16

1

24

7. Naduvakuruchi

441

-

21

45

-

-

8. Talaivankottai

337

5

45

-

-

-

9. Avudaiyapuram

384

6

18

-

-

-

10. Wootumalai

3306

4

15

-

-

-

11. Woorcaud

431

6

42

2121

8

15

12. Singampatti

132

3

9

251

7

89

13. Ettayapuram

1199

4

21

15

8

12

14. Kadamboor

141

1

24

46

3

42

15. Maniyachi

501

3

45

119

2

36

16. Attankarai

204

-

-

4

5

21

17. Melmandai

3

7

18

-

-

-

18. Pauvely

867

-

27

75

3

1

19. Manarkottai

332

8

6

9

6

0

20. Colvarpatti

-

-

-

-

-

-

21. Chennelgudi

107

1

-

-

5

-

22. Peraiyur

1764

5

9

152

-

38

23. Sandaiyur

823

6

39

31

2

4

24. Yelumalai

297

4

36

12

-

-

Total

23245

-

12

366

7

12

(One Chukkram = Rs.2 – 1 ana – 11¼ paise)

Tiruchendur 5 th October 1800

Signed / S.R.Lushington

Source : Board of Revenue Consultations, Vol.264, p.8779.

Note : This table shows the collections made by the respective poligors previous to the assumption of the Cauvel subsequently made by the collector of the Southern Peshcush together with the balance outstanding in money and grain at the time of surrender to the Nawab.

43

Thuppu Cooli

Thuppu Cooli was an important and integral part of the Kaval system

closely associated with the crime of cattle theft committed by the Kavalkarars or

by others in connivance with the Kavalkarars, which was quite common and

great in number. This was the crime which agonized the authorities the most and

invariably occupied a prominent place in the colonial discourse. Moreover it was

the worst form of crime much feared by the people because in an agrarian

society, cattles occupied a pivotal place in the day to day economic life of the

farmers. For some communities in Tamilnadu cattle were their only property and

cattle rearing was their traditional occupation. Cattle theft was committed for two

important reasons.

It was the weapon frequently used by the Kavalkarars

against those who refused to accept their Kaval rights or to pay the Kaval fee.

The other reason was earning money by illegal means.

The monetary benefit

enjoyed by the persons who committed this crime was known as Thuppu cooli. 40

Thuppu in Tamil means information or clue. Cooli means the payment to

be made to the person for the work he has rendered. (e.g) B’ steals A’s bullocks

or property, C, B’s friend goes to A’ and promises to recover the bulls or the

property on payment of a certain sum.

A’ consents, D’ a friend of C’ shows A’

where to find the property. The amount paid by A’ was known as Thuppu cooli,

which is shared by others. 41 Invariably Kavalkarars play an important role in this

40 In the southern districts of Tamilnadu particularly in Madurai and Tirunelveli Thuppu Cooli system is prevalent even today.

41 E.Stevenson, Deputy Inspector General of Police to the Inspector General of Police, G.O.No.473, Judicial, 31 March 1897, p.37.

44

operation and receive his share.

The amount to be paid as Thuppu cooli

normally amounts to half of the value of the property stolen.

In the Tiruchirapalli District Gazetteer Thuppu cooli is described in the

following terms.

Tuppukuli means restoration of stolen property on payment of a

price. Kavalgars acted as intermediaries between the victims of the

robbery and perpetrators of crime to whom Mullikuli or thorn

payment and Kattukuli or payment for the upkeep of stolen cattle

were to be paid. Kavalgaras received kulukuli or the fee ordinarily

a quarter of the total amount paid. 42

Here the term Mullu cooli or thorn payment means the payment made to

the person who actually robbed the cattle and drove the animal to a safer place

through jungles during nights facing the task of crossing thorny bushes. In many

cases the actual robbers do not keep the stolen animals with them, instead they

leave the animals under the custody of any one of their relative or associate.

During such times the animals were looked after and fed by them in a nearby

village. The payment made for the upkeep of the animal is known as Kattu Cooli.

H.Tremmenheere, District Magistrate of Bellary served in the southern

districts earlier in his report to the Chief Secretary to Government dated 20