Leiden plates, other inscriptions, and potters

Sun Apr 26 14:18:44 UTC 1998

Carol Appadurai Breckenridge writes in
A. T. Embree, Encyclopaedia of Asian history, Columbia univ. press, 1988
" Vellala: In South India, the name vellala is borne by cultivators
whose fields are plowed usually by hired or socially bonded laborers.
The Vellala myths of origin suggest that they are among the oldest
Dravidian-speaking groups in Tamil nadu ..."

A majority of Tamil Vellalas are still engaged in agriculture.
They have prefixes depending on the region. There are
toNTai maNDala veLLaaLar around Madras (Manali Mudaliyaar
family that supported many doyens of music including
muttusvAmi diikshitar, M. Bhaktavatsalam, CM of Madras, ...)
tuLuva vELaaLar in Madras, S. Arcot, N. Arcot ..., Kongu
VELaLar in Coimbatore, Salem, Saiva vELaaLar of Tirunelveli
district, kAr kaattaar of  Thanjaavuur, Jaffna VELaalar, ...

The alliance between top section of vellalas and smartha brahmins
was accomplished as a result of the bhakthi movement. Cholas strengthened it.
Burton Stein has written extensively on this peasant-brahmin
alliance to form the medieval peasant state.

Two sayings in tamil:
1) No sambaar will be without brinjal;
    no village will be without a vellala.

2) There is no stalapuraaNam for Ayyanaar(Sasta);
    There is no caste puraaNam for a vellala.
    (Points to their ubiquity; Both are ever present)


Vijayanagar state and Nayak chiefdoms are martial ones, very
different from the peasant state. The value and velocity of
money, military techniques become much more important.

The origin story of Kammas, presented by S. Krishna, points to
the time of Vijayanagar to me. I have heard Kammas are the messangers
of the royal court, who passed secret, short messages by
making them into ear rings out of palm leaves.
Prof. Frykenberg is writing on 19th and 20th centuries.
So, the zamindari household myths collected in Colin Mackenzie collection
in 1790-1810 AD should have been used.

I think Velumas are the Telugu equivalent of Vellalas.
PaalnaaTi viruLa katha from Gene Roghair and
Brenda Beck's Annanmaar kathai (an oral epic on kong vellala heroes),
are so similar in many aspects.

What does Edgar Thurston say of Velumas? Does he draw
similarities between Velumas and Vellalas? Inscriptions
will tell a lot.

When Kammas were in ascendance during the Nayak chiefdoms, Velumas
opted to join with them. The story linking Kammas and Velamas should have been
invented then.

Are Belur and Belgaum related to vEL-uur and vEL-akam respectively?
I think so.

N. Ganesan

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