in Transition Kerala Bratrmins - Journal

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STUDIA ORIENTALIA PUBLISIIED BY TTIE FINNISH ORIENTAL SOCIETY 9l Kerala Bratrmins in Transition A Study of a Namputiri Family by Marjatta Parpola HELSINKI 2OOO
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Kerala Bratrmins in Transition A Study of a Namputiri Family
Marjatta Parpola
MarjaraParpola Kerala Brahmins in Transition. A Study of a Nampútiri Family Studia Orientalia Vol. 91. 2000
Copynght @ 2000 by the Finnish Oriental Society,
Societas Orientalis Fennicq
P.O.Box 59 (Unioninkatu 38 B) 00014 Univenity of Helsinki
Arli Hurslcainen (African Studies)
JulwJønhune¿ (Altaic and East Asian Sodies) P etteri Koskilcallio (Rrblication Secretary)
Kaj Ôhrnberg (Secretary of the Society)
Heikki Palva (Arabic Linguistics)
Símo P arpola (Assyriology)
Reín Raud (Japanese Studies)
I got my introduction to the lndian subcontinent in January-May 1971, when,
together with our two daughters aged 5 and 2,I followed my Indologist husband Asko Parpola on his ftrst field trip to that a¡ea. This experience made me radically change my future plans and I became a student of general ethnology and
archaeology æ the University of Helsinki. I staned working in the ethnography
section at the National Museum of Finland n 197 4.
From l97l to 1983, going to the field had to remain a dream for me for family and employment reasons. The support from the Academy of Finland for my husband's proþt 'Domestic rituals of the Jaiminîya Sãmaveda' included a grarit
for me to assist him in the field-work and in fhe arrangement of the field material in 1983 and 1985. I continued field study in 1990, 1992, and 1995-96,not assisting in that project any more, but concentrating on my own research. The Nordic Instin¡te of Asian Studies financed my retum air ticket to Kerala in 1990. I direct my thanks to these two institutions. However, I have done most of my research at home and in the field as a hobby during my arurual leave and other leisure time without any financial help. For that reason my work has repeatedly had to remain dormant for long periods of time.
I wish to thank my husband for leading me to India and to my subjert, and for his invaluable advice in questions of Indology. Likewise my Indian informants for their patience, hospitality, and thei¡ laborious attempts ro satisfy my curiosity. I thank Matti Sarmela and Jukka Siikala for advice given in their semina¡s. I also owe thanks to otso Kantokorpi, Peneri Koskikallio, Anna-Maria viljanen, and Kaj ÖtrmUerg for thei¡ help in ttreoretical or practical problems. I thank Henri Schildt for measuring Ravipuram and drawing its floor plan as well as the maps of Kerala, Michael vollar for revising my English, and Juri Ahlfors, påúvikki parpola and Pekka Jussila for advice in problems conceming computer technology.
My healty thanks go to Pauline Kolenda for reading the manuscript for this publication, and for giving me many helpful suggestions conceming Indian anthro- pology and style of presentation. I also thank Karen Armstrong for reading the manuscript for my licentiate's dissertation and for giving valuable advice; Lea shamgar-Handelman and Don Handelman for shaking off the dust from an early draft, and bringing it to active preparation by giving me useful suggestions; v. K. Ramachandran and Madhura Swaminathan for personal encouragemenq and Valen-
tine Daniel, who looked æ my field description in 1989, suggested some reading
and assu¡ed me thatthe material could be used, apart from my museum work foran independent study as well.
I know that I am not as deeply inæresæd in a theoretical angle as my advisors
might wish. None of these illustious scholars are responsible for the shoræomings
of the result
Note on orthography and transliteration
While speaking of pan-Indian matters, I have, as a rule, used the Sanskrit orthogra-
phy for names of gods and other concepts, while tlre conesponding orthography of Malayalam, the language of Kerala is used when speaking about speciñcally Kerala
contexts. Generally,I have used the standad international tanscription system in
Indian ærms and names. The English spelling is followed in geographical names,
and Indian names and terms that have become curent in English, and the names that
Indian authors use of themselves. ln citations the spelling chosen by ttrc authors is
often reproduced, but in othercases the inæmational transcription is adopted for the
sake ofclarity.
List of figures
The Vedas and Hinduism
British rule
The ïVest and the nationalist movement in India Radical rcforms in Kerala
5. PnysIc¿¡-¡¡¡o socIALsETr]Nc
Settlement and cultivation in Kerala Panjal village
T1rc jãtis
Studying an ancient literate civilization Focus on the family and household
Sources and field-work Sources
The focus of my work Our way of life among the Nampttiris Field methods
4. IrrnooucronycoNsrDERATloNsABourpuRlrr, poLLuIloN, AnDRITUAL 57 Hierarchy andpower 57 IVhat is ritual? ó8
Sphere of life of the Nampûtiris
6. Tlæ rn¡ornox¡r Bi{sls oFpouiER: Tlm r¡¡o General development in Kerala
Family land
7. Dolæsrrcsplcs The house and compound as a microcosmos
The Panjal Nampütiri compound
Ownership of tenitory and privacy
Grãmaand gotra
Profits and losses
Purity of women
Unmaniedgirls he-pubeny Tira4lu-lcalyâ4a4r or the rite of the first menstn¡ation
t37 t4t 142
Namputiri women's ritual practices
I 0. I¡rrn¡nre PoLLUTToN
Indirect and touching pollution
Birth pollution Menstrual pollution Death pollution The temple is not a place for those who are under a pollution
I l. Fooo, DRINK At'¡D srIMUt-ANTs
Raw maærials and recipes
Rules concerning particular consumables
General attitude towards personal appearance in the light of ancient texts
Life stages and d¡ess in the light of ancienr rexts
Nampütiri bodycare and adomment
Nampútiri dress and omaments
l9l 192
Distanoe pollution Inærcaste relations, fuktip and dãna
Joint and separate culn¡ral efforts ofthe castes
Vfesæmization and globalization
E¡euneronv LIsroFNATwETER¡\ts AND NAMES
l. Sãnkara-Sqti 1.12.4 in Sanshit 2. The lvlalayalam prose commentary on S-anlca¡a-Smrti
1.12.4 by Ti. Si. ParamêSva¡an Mässa¡ava¡lcal
3. An annotated Engtish translation of Sankara-Smr,ti 1.124 by Asko Parpola
4. Setikara's ó4 n¡les quoted by Logan, with Fawceü's minor changes and comments
5. Examination of Sankara's 64 rules as tarislated and grouped by S. Venkiøsubramonia lyer
6. Kerala customs according to Gundert
Map of Kerala 4
T\e agnicaya¡n¿ ritual 12
Old Nampätiri reading a newspaper 30
Nampütiri studying his palmJeaf manuscripts 36 r9Vinding the cotton sting for a marriage badge 49
Caster family at work 59
Map of Panjal village in the early 1960s 73
Village goldsmith at work 80
The l^ãrãyaqta temple in Panjal 86
Village scene with paddy fields and c¡aftsmen's houses in Panjal 86
Namputiri performing apúja in the Ayyappan temple 89
Women worshipping the idol in the Ayyappan æmple 89
Men with tlreir æams of animals preparing the soil for planting 100
Tractor ploughing the fields 100
Labourer strengthening the paddy-field walls with mud 104
Women replanting seedlings 104
Women threshing paddy with rods 107
Rubber sheets drying ll2 Nampütiri house I l8 Granite image of a cobra and granite snake temples l2l Namputiri houses 124 Thatched house with palmleaf walls 126 Making of sun-burnt bricks, and a house built of them 128
Plan of a Nampûtiri house: the ground floor 130
Meal in the old style 132 Television-watching 132 Preparing food on the floor 135
Modem kitchen and eating space 135
l"heannaprãSanante 153
The Mumm¡kkãttu Mãmannu kin group 162 Family photograph 163
Namputiri lady dressed in the traditional way 178
Namputiri bride and bridegroom 193
Nampûtiri with his two wives 210 Namputiri ladies performtnganñ,ëdyam 218
l. 2.-3
4. Informants and resea¡chers
45. Staning tlre curds
46. T\esonfuarta¡wnæ 47. Nampûtiri performing his moming riual 48. The holy tank of aNampütiri house
49. Nampütiri lady taking her bath in ttte tank
50. Women's hairstyles
53. Vfashenvoman waiting outside the verandah
54. Nampätiritransacting with his family goldsmith
55. Disrics of Kerala
3ls 426