Patrick Olivelle jpo at uts.cc.utexas.edu
Fri Oct 31 15:11:33 UTC 2014

Dear All:

A while back I asked you about the 18 low castes, and I received very helpful pointers, some of which I append below. But I am now writing about a parallel list of these 18 that are called by Mādhava (Pārāśaramādhavīya, III: 46) and Devaṇṇa Bhaṭṭa (Smṛticandrikā, Mysore Editon, III: 65) in verses ascribed to Pitāmaha "prakṛti" castes that are outside the varṇas and āśramas. There is one verse containing probably 11 names (the first verse has 7 names and are easily identified). I am unable to decipher several of them, and the readings of the two texts also vary -- thus I am not sure what the right reading is. But here is the verse in the two versions:

वेमरस्थिरविव्याधहस्तलाक्षद्रुघट्टका: । कोसेदकाभीरपदमातङ्गाण्डोपगोपका: ।। Devaṇṇa  
मेथिकस्त्रिरवव्याल: हस्तलक्षदुघत्तिका: । कोसेदिक्वा: भारुपदा मातंगा: पदगोपका: ।। Mādhava (Bombay ed)
मेधिकस्त्रिरवव्यालहस्तौ लक्षट्टिघट्टिकौ । कोसेदिका: भारुपदामानगोण्डोपगोपमा: ।। Mādhava (Calcatta ed)

As you can see there is a lot of confusion, and I am not sure whether the editors themselves fully understood the passage. Any help greatly appreciated.



Here is what I gathered about the 18 low castes in South India from members of the list:

A passage ascribed to the Garuḍa Purāṇa in Hemadri's Caturvargacintāmaṇi (IV: 38) gives a list of 16 headed by washerman, calling them Caṇḍālas who live in the village. In Maharashtra today there are lists of 18 low-caste people, and this may have been true in other parts of southern India where Devanna Bhatta lived (personal communication by Ashok Aklujkar). A closer parallel is found in the Tamil country, where also we have 18 such castes, again beginning with the washerman, listed in the Madras Tamil Lexicon: vaṇṇāṉ [washerman], nāvitaṉ [barber], kuyavaṉ [potter], taṭṭāṉ [goldsmith], kaṉṉāṉ [brazier], kaṟṟaccaṉ [mason], kollaṉ [blacksmith], taccaṉ [carpenter], eṇṇeyvāṇikaṉ [oil merchant], uppuvāṇikaṉ [salt merchant], ilaivāṇikaṉ [betel merchant], paḷḷi [watchman], pūmālaikkāraṉ [garland maker], paṟaiyaṉ [drummer; Dalit, pariah], kōviṟkuṭiyāṉ [conch-blower], ōccaṉ [priest at a goddes temple; another Dalit community], valaiyaṉ [fisherman], pāṇaṉ [tailor]. I thank Whitney Cox for this reference.

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