Peter J. Claus pclaus at haywire.csuhayward.edu
Tue Oct 8 13:51:24 UTC 1996

Date: October 8, 1996 
Indology List
indology at Liverpool.ac.uk
Dear Members
"What do we know about such fenced villages from
post-Vedic and medieval evidence? Is there a good
historical description of the topography of Indian
Fenced villages (or hamlets, or seltements, sections of
a 'village') are common in the areas of the southern
Indian Deccan where I have been working. Many are
associated with herding communities, but not all.  The
fences encircle the group of houses (conical-shaped,
incidentally) of the community and are usually made of
a tangled mass of the thorny branches of several
species of readily available bushes and plants.  

Although there are obvious utilitarian functions for
the fences---to keep animals in, to keep males from
females, to protect from wild animals and theives---
there are also a strong symbolic significance to the
fences: it defines the community, sets inside-outside
parameters for various kinds and levels of purity and
sacredness (as walls might). 
The fenced settlement can be found widely (Africa,
having ones most similar to those still found in South
India) among the world's herding communities.  I would
speculate that, along with the stupa fences and others
which might be mentioned by Members, structures such as
the Deccan (and maybe the West Indian) durga (fort) of
the BeDa Nayakas (Telugu Boyya) Palegars and the Myees
BeDas might well be derived from such 'fences'. Along
the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka border, at least,

these stone walls seem to have originally enclosed one-
caste communities.  Within a mixed-caste settlement
(ie. 'village') there are still physical dividers
(usually stone walls) and the name for the settlement
of each (or at least some) communities is distinct. 
kaDu gollas, eg., have haTTis (<DED 'paTTi',
settlement, >paTnam?), the migrant LambaDis (also
called Banjara or Suukkaliga) live in hamlets called
taNDa, etc.
I have recently written a paper (not yet published) on
the significance of these fences among the Kadu Golla. 
I any one would like a copy of it, I would be happy to
mail it to them: please include a postal address with
your request.  I would imagine there is a lot of older
ethnographic literature describing such 'fences' among
the "tribal" peoples of Western and Central India
(Bihar, Orissa, eastern Maharashtra, etc).  
Whether these "fences" are "the same" as the ones
mentioned in the Vedas entails our usual problem of
whether common forms (physical and symbolic [semantic,
structural]) are Dravidian or IE or otherwise. Given
the distribution, I would think African, but I suspect
that will not be a popular sugestion!
Peter J. Claus                        
fax: (510) 704-9636
pclaus at csuhayward.edu

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