Based largely on epigraphical material but also using literature in Tamil, Sanskrit and Marlipravalam, this pioneering study of the rise and growth of the brahmanical establishment in Kerala traces the way in which the brahmanical groups established themselves as the single most powerful section in society. It has many firsts to its credit: it identifies Cellar or Peruricellar as an early brahmana settlement; it locates all the 32 Nampatiri grams of tradition with the help of inscriptions and literature; it makes a detailed study of how the grAmas functioned, grew in space and range of economic, social and political activities and underwent transformation in the medieval period. In this second edition are added two more essays - on the congealing of new castes around the temples and the rise and growth of landlordism - each one of them making definitive statements on the problems taken up. A newly (re)discovered copper plate is edited and translated in a new Appendix.
Kesavan Veluthat (b.1951) was educated in Calicut and New Delhi. After teaching in a few Colleges in Kerala, he joined Mangalore University in 1982 from where he took retirement as Professor and Chairman of the Department of History in 2008. Currently Professor of History in the University of Delhi, he has been a Visiting Professor in many Indian and foreign Universities. His more important publications include The Political Structure of Earlyy Medieval South India (New Delhi, 1993: Orient Longman) and The Early Medieval in South India (New Delhi, 2009: Oxford University Press).
The bulk of the chapters included in this book were written at various points in time in the seventies of last century, starting 1973. First published in 1978, this book received considerable encouragement from the world of scholarship and went out of print not long after its publication. I am beholden to all those who encouraged me, although t am conscious that much of it was due to the fact that it had the nature of being the first academic study of the subject. I am the first to know the limitations of the book. However, encouragement also meant considerable pressure to bring out a reprint; but I was postponing it for various reasons. One of them was somewhat pious: I wanted to revise it. I realise, of late, that I am too busy - read "too lazy" - to do it and here I am, almost reissuing it as it is with no major revision. I crave the indulgence of readers for both the delay and the reissue; but I want to assure them that I have no intention to take them for granted.
I have not revised the Chapters which were part of the earlier edition in any substantial manner. The minor changes include adding a sentence or two here and there for the sake of clarity, tinkering with a few in my changed sensibility and suchlike. Beside, I have sought to identify the one settlement that was left identified in the first edition. The geographical co-ordinates of the gramaksetras have been given in the chart showing the details of the "original" settlements. So also, a map showing the location of the settlements and pictures of a few gramaksetras are included.
I have added two Chapters and one more Appendix. One of the Chapters added here tries to explain the relations of production obtaining in agriculture - especially what is called the janmi system of landlordism. I argue that this is a fall-out of the huge amount of land that the brahmaria settlements came to possess in the age of the Ceras of Mahodayapuram (A.D. c. 800-1100) and after. A second Chapter is on the emergence of the "temple-dwelling" castes in Kerala. I thought this is important because the process of the formation of these castes is invariably linked to the brahmanical temples and the landed wealth they controlled. Apart from throwing light on the process through which these castes congealed, it may also provide some clue to the process of the formation of castes in the larger context. The newly added Appendix III edits a copper plate inscription, which used to be in the possession of the Department of History, University of Calicut, when I was doing my research for this book, but which has been subsequently lost. It is now available in the British Library, London. Its importance for this study can hardly be exaggerated.
My friend, Venu, has been with me in this study from conception to conclusion. He also prodded me to bring out this new edition and suffered on account of it. This edition would not have come out but for his help in innumerable ways. I am greatly obliged to Professor Y. Subbarayalu for the map of Brahmana settlements, done with absolute professionalism. Manu, as always, went out of his way in preparing the Index. I am also grateful to M/s. CosmoBooks for bringing out this edition in this elegant manner. How do I thank them all adequately?
It is with great pleasure that I present to the academic world this work of Sri. Kesavan Veluthat. As a student of the post-graduate course in History (1972-74) he showed keen interest in the social history of ancient India which made me suggest that he could take up the "Early Aryan Brahmana Settlements of Kerala" for optional M.A. Dissertation, an item being introduced for the first time in that year. Fortunately that has proved to be the beginning of his ardent romance with historical research. In this first assignment he went far beyond the requirements prescribed for a tertiary level dissertation, picking up the Vatteluttu script, analyzing primary sources and exploring the possibilities of identifying some of the early settlements not yet identified. After passing out with first class and first rank, he continued this good work at the Jawaharlal Nehru University while pursuing his M. Phil. course. He has brought to bear on the subject a close acquaintance with Tamil, Sanskrit and Malayalam sources, both criptional and literary, and a modern scientific approach. The ;resent collection includes parts of his M. A. dissertation, a couple of separate research papers published elsewhere and further papers embodying his most recent work in the field. I am glad to Notice the gradual widening of scope and deepening of understanding which augurs well for the future of historical research in Kerala.
This is an area where academic work was held up for a long time due to a variety of factors. The field was opened up with the publication of a number of inscriptions in the Travancore Archaeological Series, Ramavarma Research Institute Bulletins, Kerala Society Papers and South Indian Inscriptions in the first half of the present century. Along with this came the editing and publishing of Tamil, Sanskrit and Malayalam literary works by various scholars like U.V. Swaminatha Aiyar, S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, M. Raghava Ayyangar, Dr. C. Kunjan Raja, Dr. V. Raghavan, Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja, Ulloor S. Parameswara Ayyar, Attoor Krishna Pisharodi, Vadakkumkur Rajaraja Varma, P.V. Krishna Varier, Suranad Kunjan Pillai, P.V. Krishnan Nayar, Dr. P.K. Narayana Pillai, Dr. K.N. Ezhuthachan and Prof. Elamkulam Kunhan Pillai. A few of the inscriptions were dated in local eras or the regnal years of kings whose place in history remained obscure. They were drafted in a transitional form of early Malayalam Language which often played tricks on the pioneering epigraphists like Hultzsch, Burnell, Kielhorn, Ellis, Gundert, Venkayya, T.A. Gopinatha Rao, K.V. Subrahmanya Ayyar, A.S. Ramanatha Ayyar and A. Govinda Warrier. Moreover, the epigraphists were not unduly concerned with political or social history in wider perspective.
The advent of Prof. Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai brought about revolutionary changes in the study of history in Kerala. He was able to group the early inscriptions according to their time sequence, identify the rulers up to the beginning of the le century as the Cera Perumals of Kodufigalltir (Makotai or Mahodayapura) and reconstruct the political and social history of the entire period between the 90 and centuries in outline. He used this knowledge as the key to open the mysteries of Nambudiri domination, matriliny, feudal practices and aver system or suicide squads in early medieval Kerala.
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