Yerukala people

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Yerukala
Classification Tribals, and Indigenous.
Religions Hinduism and Christianity
Languages Yerukala, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada
Populated States Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka
Subdivisions 6

Yerukala, Yerukula, Erukala, Erukula, or Kurru is a community found largely in the Southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Yerukalas are indigenous people of South India. They call themselves ‘Kurru’. They are called as ‘Yerukula’ in Andhra Pradesh after their women’s traditional profession of fortune telling (Eruka cheputa). Yerukala is also known as Kaikadi - Kuchikorve (Makadwala) in Maharashtra.[1]

Ancient history[edit]

The earliest reference of Yerukalas can be found in the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. Ekalavya, the extraordinary expert and skilful archer of Mahabharata times, belongs to Yerukala society. Yekalavya achieves a skill level parallel to the great Arjuna despite Drona's rejection of him. As he was a member of a low caste, he was denied to study in the Gurukul of Dronacharya.

Many historians have stated that they found some references on some pillars stating that the Kakatiyas were originated from the nomadic tribe called Erukala. Ekalavya is one of the inspiring characters of the epic Mahabharata. Ekalavya is said to belong to Nishadha tribe of North India. The Nishadha caste is known as Erukula in Telugu speaking lands. This tribe is also known as Kiratas in some places of North India.

The Kiratas or Erukalas are expert hunters who can hit the running animals and the flying birds. It is widely accepted by historians that the Kakatiyas of Warangal and Bastar belonged to this Erukala caste to which the great archer Ekalavya belonged. The Erukalas are a variants or a branch of bhils of India.

In the Indian mythology, Eklavya occupies an important place as someone who exemplifies the nature of Guru-shishya tradition of teaching in India, showing extreme reverence for his guru. It is said that Ekalavya learned archery through the statue of Guru Dhronacharya and excelled Arjuna. When Drona went to Ekalavya and demanded that Ekalavya turn over his right thumb as a teacher's fee (Guru Dakshina), the loyal Ekalavya crippled himself and thereby ruined his prospects as an archer by severing his thumb and giving it to Drona. This act of Ekalavya is nothing short of a suicide tendency which can be seen hidden in dravidian bhil races. For this reason, it is said that the bhil descendants of Ekalavya of Madhya Pradesh shoot their arrows using their middle finger instead of their thumbs. They are highly revengeful and can kill their enemy by secretly following them like a wild cats. Because of this ferocious behaviour of Erukalas, they were declared as criminal tribes by the British

The Nishadhas are a branch of Dravidian Bhil races of North India. In the days of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the land from Sindhu to Sri Lanka was inhabited by dravidians and they spoke a language which was a mixture of present day Telugu & Tamil languages. This language was spoken from the country of Sumeria, Babylonia, Israel to India. In Telugu, the Ekalavya's caste is known as Erukala or Yerukula. In Telugu, Erukala means sooth sayer or fortune teller. In Telugu language, Bhil means bow.

Bil = Bhil = Vhil = Vhillu = Bow Eruka = Fortune telling or Sooth saying Erukala = One who does the job of a fortune teller

The Bhils form an important group, which inhabits mainly the southern districts of Rajasthan and the surrounding regions of Udaipur and Chittaurgarh. The generic term, which describes their tribe apparently, derives its name from bil, meaning bow, which describes their original talent and strength.

History corroborates the legends, which tells about their superiority in archery. From the Mahabharata emerges Eklavya, a Bhil who surpassed the skill of Arjuna only to be repressed by the command of his guru. The Ramayana tells of Vail, the Bhil bandit who reformed with the blessings of the Saraswati, the goddess of learning, to become Valmiki, the renowned poet sage.

The Bhils gained in strength by intermingling with rebellious, outcast Rajputs who sought shelter with them. Most of the Rajaputs had their origins in the bhil - koli blood. Rajput rulers came to value the guerilla tactics of the Bhils, particularly since they were at ease in the hilly terrain. Various fierce invasions could not be repelled without their active support. Even today, the accepted head of all the Rajput clan of Rajasthan, the Maharana of Udaipur is crowned by anointing his forehead with blood drawn from the palm of a Bhil chieftain, affirming the alliance and loyalty of his tribe.

Ekalavya, belonged to the Nishadha clan, but Drona rejected him because he did not belong to the Kshatriya Varna. Prince Ekalavya was undaunted by this rebuff from Drona and practiced archery in front of a clay model of Dronacharya, his Manaseega Guru. By this application of mind, body and determination, Ekalavya became a warrior of exceptional prowess, at par with the young Arjuna.

Ekalavya was a young prince of the Nishadha tribes. The Mahabharata speaks of Nishaad (or Shabara) as forest hunters. The main profession of Nishaads were hunting the birds. . When A Nishaad killed one bird from a pair the other bird was crying and that inspired Valmiki to write the true story of Rama and Sita known as Ramayana. Ramayana the king of Nishaad named Guha was a very close friend of Rama. He helps Rama and Sita to cross Ganges river during exile to forests There were several Nishadha Dravidian kingdoms during Ramayana and Mahabharata periods. King Nala of Nala Damayanti was also a Nishadha king. King of Nishadha lost his kingdom in a game of dice and deserted his wife Damayanti because of a curse. They were all related to Mudiraj - koli - bhil people.

Ekalavya was born to Devashrava, who was the brother of Vasudeva. Since Vasudeva was the father of Krishna, Ekalavya was blood related brother to Sri Krishna. Ekalavya was raised by Hiranyadhanus, the leader (King) of the Nishadhas, who was a commander in the army of Jarasandha, the king of Magadha. Ekalavya's mother could be a Dravidian Bhil Nishadha woman. Vrushali, the only sister of Ekalavya, married to Karna. Nishadhas were treated as low caste people, as they were mixed race people.

Ekalavya wanted to learn advanced skills of archery from Dronacharya, the legendary weaponsmaster of and instructor of Arjuna and his brothers. Drona, however, rejected Ekalavya on account of the prince's humble origins and low caste.

After being rejected by Drona, Ekalavya embarks upon a program of self-study in the presence of a clay image of Drona. He achieves a level of skill equal to that of Arjuna, Drona's favorite and most accomplished pupil. Fearful that Ekalavya will excel him, Arjuna begs Drona to take action. Drona goes to Ekalavya and demands that Ekalavya turn over his right thumb as a teacher's fee. The loyal Ekalavya cripples himself, and thereby ruins his prospects as an archer, by severing his thumb and giving it to Drona.

According to some, Drona wanted to hamper Ekalavya's archery skills because he feared that Ekalavya would use them against Drona's employer, the King of Hastinapur (Ekalavya's father worked for Jarasandh, who was an adversary of the Hastinapur kingdom).

Others have alleged that Ekalavya learned all the archery skills by secretly observing the training sessions of Dronacharya. When Dronacharaya found out, he visited Ekalavya to verify his suspicions. Although Drona could have demanded an even greater punishment under the laws in effect at that time, he asked only for Ekalavya's right thumb, thus making useless the archery skills which he had learned secretly.

Others still have said that Dronacharya demanded Ekalavya's thumb because the latter was not a Kshatriya, and in those days only Kshatriyas were supposed to get a military education.

Later, Ekalavya worked as a confidant of King Jarasandh. At the time of Rukmini's Swayamvar, he acted as the messenger between Shishupala and Rukmini's father Bhishmaka, at Jarasandh's behest. Bhishmaka decides that Rukmini should marry Shishupala, but instead Rukmini elopes with Krishna. Ekalavya is later killed by Krishna, who hurls a rock against him, in a conflict against Jarasandh's army.

Various theories were propounded by various historians in respect of the origin and evolution of the 16 "ancient communities" or "Janapadas" in the Himalayan region. Saklani points out that there is strong evidence that they are in fact Raghuvanshi Rajputs, the descendants of the Bhill-Kirata tribe.

The people of Erukala or Nishadha tribes were also known as Kiratas in some places of North and North-East. Hidimbi was the sister of Hidimba. She later married Bhima and begot a son named Ghatotkaca. India. Hidamba and Hidimbi are said to belong to Kirata tribe.

Origins[edit]

The word yerukala derived from yeruka (sooth telling) and the main occupation yerukala is sooth telling this is practice by woman.we can see sooth telling woman in kurathi dance. yerukala have major two division kavadi(the people take kavadi of murgan god) and satpadi(the people who decorate murgan). yerukala=kurru=kurava.

so, yerukala from kuravars, Kuravar is an ancient clan mentioned in the Sangam literature, along with Kallar and Maravar. Kuravar were amongst the inhabitants of Kurinji land as "the hunters and the gatherers, the people of foothills" along with Poruppan (the soldiers), Verpan (the leaders of the tribe / weaponists), Silamban (masters of martial arts / the art of fighting), and Kaanavar (the people of the mountainous forests).

The kula theivam was a clan god in Kurava and was Murugan. it was assumed[by whom?] to be one of the gods of ancient Tamil country. the clan inhabited the mountainous regions of Tamil Nadu and used bamboo grass in large quantities. During their hunting and gathering stage, they used bamboos against animals. In a later Civilized settlement stage, Kuravas also used bamboos as a self-defence weapon which, later was transformed into silambattam of Tamil country. The self-defence art with a silambattam is still considered to be a known and appreciated fighting art of Maravars, Kallars who are the other native people of Tamil country.

During the first quarter of the 12th century AD, areas of Kanyakumari district was brought under the fold several kings: Konanki Kuravar, Bommayya Kuravar and Nanchil Kuravar. A Classic Period of the Kingdom of NanjilNadu ( modern day Nagercoil Region of Tamil Nadu)started with the accession of a Konanki Kuravar, who was an alchemist establishing his way over Kottar, Suchindram and other places. There are literary evidences that the Kingdom of NanjilNadu was Ruled by "Kurunji Nattan NambiRajan", also called as Naga Raja, a Kurava king. Historical evidences can be traced back from the spots of Idukki District in Kerala. Places like Ramakkalmedu, kuravanmala, Kurinjimala, Idukki arch dam (it is the largest arch dam in Asia) are the places showing the Early ages of Kuravas of South India . Among these group of people,the most disadvantaged section is Narikuravar who still live as gypsies now placed under Most Backward Community list of Tamil Nadu. They were once travelers on the high roads of freedom, crafting their own destinies as hunters, gatherers, traders, transporters and craftsmen, but exist today in the no-mans-land of the settled world. Nevertheless they persist. People of this community are called with different names in different parts of South India . They are called as Sidhanar in Kerala. In essence, all these communities form a big community from south India. The gothras among all these communities is the same, i.e. Kavadi, Sathupadi, Maanupadi and Mendraguthi. The main occupation of the people, who originally belong to the indigenous tribes, is hunting. But as they were prohibited entry into the forests to pursue this livelihood, they were forced to take up other alternatives. Many historians have stated that they found references on some pillars stating that the Kakatiyas were originated from the nomadic tribe called Erukala.

Modern history[edit]

British rule[edit]

In times past, the Yerukalas lived in the forests and were satisfied with the forest economy of hunting and gathering. In 1878, the sale of forest produce was strictly prohibited by the British government and the Yerukalas were forced to the plains. The tribes lost everything they had and rebelled against the government, who in turn forced them to settle on small portions of land that were insufficient for survival. This displacement had a detrimental effect on their lives, which led to maladjustment and a loss of self-respect in society. In 1911, a revised Criminal Tribes Act of Madras Presidency, placed them under the category of "criminal tribes", leading to their long term stigmatization and ostracism, after independence however they were denotified in 1952.[2] Today, they remain bound by poverty.

During the British Imperial rule in India, Yerukalas settled in agriculture or petty trades, such as making ropes, mats, and baskets. Unfortunately, the introduction of railroads brought a setback to their businesses. Due to their desperate situation, subsequent police oppression, harsh punishments, and torture, the Yerukala have been driven to a sub-human standard of living.

Republic of India[edit]

Today, most of the Yerukalas are settled in the villages/towns and trying to make their way out of the poverty by getting education to obtain financial freedom which has been evading them since ages. Yerukalas are using reservations and other benefits from the government to a greater extent to obtain the freedom they used to have long long time age. Even though they live in a free democratic country like India, they are still living under harsh social conditions because of the Indian caste system and face social discriminations time and again.

Most of the Yerukalas have been alloted land for agriculture at some places by the government of Andhra Pradesh. They are making good use of the opportunities provided to them. They get loans for the investing in the land. But its success is entirely dependent on timely monsoons. Some make mats, baskets, and ropes to sell. They no longer practice their old methods of earning money, such as fortune-telling and tattooing.Yerukulas of Andrapradesh are same as kuravar of Tamil Nadu which should be understood well by, properly by registered general of India where the file for inclusion of kuravar in scheduled tribe sent by Tamil Nadu state government of Tamil Nadu is pending before it.

Population[edit]

Environment : Primarily plains, but also tropical rainforest and mountain.

Lifestyle : Were semi-Nomadic, now settling in villages and towns.

Subsistence : Agriculture, animal Husbandry, handicrafts.

Literacy  : The total literacy rate among Yerukula as per 1991 Census reports is 25.74.

Census[edit]

Estimated total Yerukala population in India: 746,000

  • Andhra Pradesh (531,000)
  • Tamil Nadu (13,000)
  • Orissa (1,800)
  • Karnataka (198,200)
  • Maharashtra (600)
  • Delhi (200)
  • Gujarat (200)
  • Pondicherry (200)
  • Chhattisgarh (100)
  • Jharkhand (87)

Location[edit]

Few parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh; Nilgiri, Coimbatore, Periyar, Salem parts of Tamil Nadu; Orissa; Delhi; Karnataka; Kerala; Maharashtra; Gujarat; Pondicherry; Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Language[edit]

Yerukalas speak a language of their own - the Yerukala language, which is also called ‘Yerukula basha’, ‘Kurru basha’ or ‘Kulavatha’. It is closely related to Ravula and Irula, and belongs to the Tamil subgroup of the Dravidian languages.

In Andhra Pradesh, Yerukala language is increasing used in home, friends, religion. In Rayalseema and Telengana regions it is even greater. Some regions have low bilingual proficiency in Telugu, higher in Andhra Pradesh and among educated adults.

Sub-divisions[edit]

The Yerukalas are divided into a number of functional and endogamous sub-divisions and each such sub-division is named after the commodity, which they traded in and the occupation they adopted. The sub-divisions of Yerukula are Dabba Yerukala (those who make baskets from split bamboo), Eethapullala Yerukula (Date twigs) (those whom make baskets from wild date leaves), Kunchapuri Yerukala (those who make weaver’s combs), Parikamuggula Yerukala (sooth sayers and beggars), Karivepaku Yerukala (hawkers of curry leaves), Uppu Yerukala (salt hawkers rope hawkers rope makers )

Each sub-division is dividend into four phraties viz., Kavadi, Sathupadi, Maanupadi and Mendraguthi. The first two phratries Viz, Kavadi and Sathupadi are considered to be superior to the other two. Each phratry is further sub-divided into a number of exogamous surnames. Endogamy at community level and exogamy at phratry and surnameslevel are observed.

korama, koracha, kaniyan, kaniheluvavru, and other name the people who tells kani belongs to yerukula

Religion[edit]

Yerukalas worship Hindu Gods i.e. Lord shiva, Lord Venteswara, Narasimhaswamy, Narayanaswamy and Rama, which are common Gods in Hindu pantheon and appease deities such as Ankamma, Kollapuramma, Sunkulamma, Poleramma and Ellamma. The Yerukalas celebrate Hindu festivals such as Sankranthi, Sivarathri, Sreeramanavami, Dasara, Ugadi (Telugu New Year’s Day).

Yerukalas worship natural objects such as the sun, the moon and the fire, along with worshipping Lord Vishnu & Lord shiva. In some of the places, Yerukalas are not permitted to enter Hindu temples; hence they keep stones or mud idols under trees and give them offerings. Largest religion is Hindu. But Christianity is on the rise in this community.

  1. Hindu (95%)
  2. Nonreligious (3.6%)
  3. Christians (1.3%)

Social customs[edit]

The type of family among Yerukalas is usually nuclear. Descent is patrilineal, residence is patrilocal and authority is patriarchal. Cross-cousin (menarikam) marriages are preferred. Marriages between the maternal uncle and niece are also permitted. Monogamy is the common form of marriage, but polygyny is also socially permitted. Marriage through negotiation and exchange are the common modes of acquiring mates. Traditionally, the married women used to wear a bead necklace as the symbol of marriage. But now thali bottu or mangal sutram, the marriage pendent is being worn as a marriage symbol by most of the women. Divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery, barrenness and incompatibility between the spouses. Widows are permitted to remarry.

The Yerukala tribe has its own social control mechanism at each habitation inhabited by Yerukala to ensure proper observance of prescribed codes of conduct. This traditional council (Kula Panchayat) is headed by an elderly man whose office is hereditary traditionally. The traditional council (Kula Panchayat) try and decide the domestic disputes, disputes relating to theft, adultery, loans, property and land. The characteristic feature of deciding guilt or innocence of an accused among Yerukalas was through trial by ordeal, which was in vogue till recent times such as 1. Dipping of fingers in boiling oil, 2. Picking up the burnt iron crowbar and, 3. Walking bare foot through the fire bed. Apart from solving disputes, the Kulapanchayat is also competent to maintain the solidarity of the community by checking the behaviour of the individuals. If a person commit the breach of incest taboo he is excommunicated and denied all community rights. The defaulter is readmitted into the community after the purificatory ceremony is observed.

Yerukalas are non-vegetarians. Rice is their staple cereal in coastal Andhra Pradesh, while jowar is the staple cereal in Rayalaseema and Telangana regions.

The traditional occupation of Yerukalas include basket-making, mat weaving, pig rearing, rope-making,brooms making etc. The Yerukala women are specialized in sooth saying and fortune telling. Some of them also participate in the economic activities like basket making, mat weaving etc., and make baskets with wild date leaves.

The Yerukulas living in plain areas of Andhra Pradesh make different types of baskets with bamboo.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chaudhuri, Sarit Kumar; Chaudhuri, Sucheta Sen, eds. (2005). Primitive tribes in contemporary India: concept, ethnography and demography 2. Mittal Publications. p. 263. ISBN 81-8324-026-7. 
  2. ^ Dishonoured by History: "criminal Tribes" and British Colonial Policy, by Meena Radhakrishna. Published by Orient Blackswan, 2001. ISBN 81-250-2090-X. Page 2

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