Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Blogger Jayasree-Castes that helped Parashurama. (Mundas article -5)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Castes that helped Parashurama. (Mundas article -5) 

Previous articles in this series:-

Renuka cult and the importance of Navaratri puja for Renuka worshipers bring out the other side of Parashurama’s fury, in that it shows who stood by him in his killing spree. One of the reasons for this presumption is found in the traditional ideas connected with the much maligned Mang people of Maharashtra. 

Mang people.

The Mang people had originally lived in the Narmada regions. They had traditionally worked as hangmen – a job that is something odd to do as a traditional occupation. They were treated as ‘criminal castes’ by the British. A note on them recorded in the 1881 census report gives an interesting lead on their origins. It says: “At the Nauratra a Mang woman is still sometimes worshipped, a custom, the origin of which dates, according to the legend, from the time of Parasurama.”

Why should a woman of the detested Mang group known for killing people, of course by the order of the government, without any remorse or hesitation, become the object of worship at the time of Navaratri, right from the days of Parashurama? Probing this question, there is scope to believe that the Mangs had taken the orders from Parashurama in his pledge to kill warriors and executed them. Parashurama could not have killed the kshatriyas all by himself. He must have had people taking his orders in his military expeditions.  The Mangs fit with this category. Their legend as per the 1881 census record says that “the first Mang, Meghya, was created by Mahadeo to protect Brahmade from the winged horse which troubled him in his work of creating the world”. The name may be different but the job was to stop the enemy from attacking Brahmadev (here Parashurama).

The Renuka Cult which could have been originally propagated by Parashurama and formalised in various forms during Navaratri could have included a worship of Mang woman as a tribute to Mang tribes and also as a symbolism for Devi killing the wrong doers. This connection of Mangs with Parashurama as his executioners of his enemies had continued for ages and had degenerated in course of time into taking up killing as criminal activity.

Koli people.

Like Mangs, koli people seemed to be connected with Parashurama. Koli people are found in places surrounding the Mundari speaking tribes – such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. They are traditionally worshippers of Renuka Devi, mother of Parashurama.  Like Mangs they too have been regarded as criminal castes. But they have claimed themselves as kshatriyas which no one is ready to accept. As followers of Renuka cult, they could not have been varna kshatriyas but trained by Parashurama in attacking others and in warfare.

Kalaripayattu.

Yet another sect that reminds of Parashurama’s impact is the people who practice a martial art called “Kalaripayattu” in Kerala. {1}



This form of martial warfare that involves less weaponry and hitting the vital organs of the opponent is attributed to Parashurama as the founder of the art. The Cheru adivasis in Jharkhand following the Sarna Dhram of Karam festival look like the people displaced from or driven out of Chera nadu by the army of Parashurama trained by him in this martial art. 

Cheru people.

The earliest reference to Chera kings comes at the time of Mahabharata in a Tamil Sangam text {2}.  This Cheran king supplied food to the army of both Pandavas and Kauravas engaged in the Mahabharata war. Parashurama’s time coming before Mahabharata, there is no record on the kings of Chera lands at that time. But Pandyans were present at the time of Ramayana, as we find a reference to Pandyan Kingdom in the southern route described by Sugreeva to Hanuman in directing him to search for Sita {3}. There is no mention of Chera kingdom. The Cheras were perhaps subdued at that time. The Cheru tribes who claim themselves as warriors could perhaps be local chieftains of the Chera clan who shifted to Jharkhand along with other tribes in Andhra and Odhisha (Savaras) to escape from the fighting groups of Parashurama – who were trained by him in Kalaripayattu.

Apart from the phonetic similarity in the name Cheru, there are other words in their vocabulary having phonetic similarities with Tamil and with the same meaning. The use of ‘palaki’ (in Tamil ‘pallakku’ meaning palanquin) in their marriage ceremonies show that they were not originally ordinary people but were an elite class. They construct “marawa” where the groom and the bride will stay at the time of marriage– marawa sounding like “maraivu” in Tamil which means hidden. It is also the word in Tamil used to signify warriors. Cherus offer “vidai” when the marriage parties leave which means ‘send-off’ in Tamil. Their marriage ceremony is similar to Tamil marriage described in the Tamil Epic Silappadhikatam of the 1st century AD.

Kocch Mandai.

The Kocch Mandai people of Bangladesh and Bengal claimed themselves to be Kshatriyas who were driven out by Parashurama. In the census record done in 1881 in the British India, the Suraj-bansi or Surya-vansi tribes of East Bengal had identified themselves as Kocch Mandai people but took up an identity as Surya vanshi – as Chattri (kshtraiyas) who threw away the sacred thread to “escape from the death-dealing axe of parashurama”. The identity as Surya vanshi is important as that is how the Savaras or Sauras were known as.




In the census of 1901 also, the “Mongoloid Kocch of Northern Bengal” also identified themselves as Raj vanshis and as Vratyas or Bhanga (Broken) kshatriyas who were made so in trying to escape the wrath of Parashurama.

Aroras.

In the census of 1881:- “The Aroras claim to be of Khatri origin. The Khatris, however, reject the claim. Sir Greorge Campbell is of opinion that the two belong to the same ethnic stock. They say that they became outcasts from the Kshatriya stock during the persecution of that people by Paras Ram, to avoid which they denied their caste, and described it as Aur or another, hence their name. Some of them fled northwards and some southwards, and hence the names of the two great sections of the caste, Uttaradhi and Dakhana.”

Vanjari people

In the same census record, the Wanjaris of Maratha origin claimed that they were the allies of Parashurama in his war against Kshatriyas. “They assert that with other castes they were allies of Parasurama when he ravaged the Haihayas and the Vindhya mountains, and that the task of guarding the Vindhya passes was entrusted to them. From their prowess in keeping down the beasts of prey which infested the ravines under their charge they became known as the Vanya-Shatru, subsequently contracted with Wanjari. To confound them with the Banjara carriers castes, whose name “Vanachari” means “forest wanderers,” is to give them great offence

These references also speak about the way how varieties of ‘castes’ were developed over time. The basis of the formation of these castes was not religion – i.e., Hinduism. The first fillip to forced shedding of varna identity had happened in Parashurama’s times. That was followed by further variations on the basis of familial, social, economic and political reasons for people to have lived in groups as distinct from each other and had them perpetuated in due course.

There are references to people affected by Parashurama’s fury as having lived incognito only to come back to their previous life style after the threat from Parashurama had subsided. They have been listed in Mahabharata. There were others like the Mundari people who lost all touch with outside world and failed to get back to original life. There is however one group – a very famous group - which seems to have lived incognito in the forests but merged with the main stream in due course. 

But not everyone of this group could get back to their previous life. A part of them had strayed here and there and finally joined the Munda groups in Chota Nagpur. They are Kurukhs whom we discussed in Part 1. They are also known as Oraonsa name that was perhaps a corrupted form of “Vanaras”. They claim their lineage from Vanaras of Ramayana fame! As if this is not a myth, there are proofs to substantiate that Vanaras were indeed human beings living in disguise to escape from Parashurama. We will discuss it in the next part.

(continued in Part 6)

References:-
{2} Purananuru – verse 2.
{3} “कवाटम् पाण्ड्यानाम् – Valmiki Ramayana, chapter 41 -19

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