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Sivakasi riots of 1899

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The Sivakasi riots of 1899 are a series of communal disturbances which occurred during 6 June 1899 in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India.


The Nadar historian Samuel Sargunar claimed that the Nadars are the descendants of the ancient rulers of Pandyan kingdom and that when Nayak rulers captured the Pandya country, they divided the country into several Palayams (divisions) and appointed Palaiyakkars as rulers. The Nayak rulers of Tamil Nadu, as per the claims of Sargunar, imposed Deshaprashtam (ostracism) on the ancient Pandyas (Nadars), to ensure that their rise wouldn't ever happen.[1][2][3][4][5] These claims are,however, not baseless. The traditions followed by the Nelamaikkarars and the existence of the ruins beneath the Teri palmrya forests of Tiruchendur and ancient Pandyan capital city of Korkai, where the Nadar population is predominant, suggest they could very well be the heirs of the Early Pandyas.[6][7] However, there is little evidence to suggest that the Nadars were the descendants of later Pandya rulers. [5] This belief, that the Nadars had been the kings of Tamil Nadu, became the dogma of the Nadar community in the 19th century.[6] The Nadars were a community mostly engaged in the palmyra industry, including the production of toddy and were therefore considered lower than other middle castes, but relatively much higher than the low castes in the 19th century. A small endogamanous group of aristocratic Nadars, known as Nelamaikkarars, were wealthy landlords.[8][9]

Some Nadar traders migrated to northern Tirunelveli and Virudhunagar to settle down in these regions. In course of time, these Nadars (Northern Nadars) became commercially skilled and therefore became upwardly mobile in the late 19th century. Mercantilism played crucial roles in facilitating their upward mobility. As the wealth of the Northern Nadars increased, they gradually began to adopt the customs of the North Indian Kshtriyas in order to improve their social status as well. This process is known as Sanskritisation. They also tried to disassociate themselves from their Nadar climber counterparts and many began to adopt the title ‘Nadan’, a title which was before only used by the aristocratic Nelamaikkarars. To punctuate their wealthy and powerful position in the society, the Nadars of Sivakasi hired Maravars as their palanquin bearers.[10] The upward mobility and kshatriya pretensions of the Nadars of Six towns of Ramanad caused resentment among, castes above them, the Vellalars and especially the Maravars,the military caste just above the Nadars.[11][12] Part of this change in the Nadar community resulted in some of them converting to Christianity, both Catholicism and Protestantism. However, a majority of almost 90% remained Hindus.[13]


+ The mutual ill-feeling between the Nadars and Maravars reached its peak in 1899. A group of wealthy Nadars tried to enter a Maravar temple by force. The temple authorities filed an illegal trespass notice against them in the Sivakasi District Court. The District Magistrate, who was a Muslim, ruled in favor of the Nadars. The Maravars responded by shutting down the temple, preventing all activity inside it. On 6 June, a group of 5,000 Maravars gathered into a mob from all parts of the surrounding villages and towns. During the night before the attack the Nadars felled trees onto the roads which led to the town and constructed barricades leaving a few places open to draw the attackers together. The Maravars were opposed by about 1500 Nadars. The attack lasted for nearly two hours. The Maravars were sent into retreat,carrying their dead in the dozen carts brought to haul away the loot. Eight hundred and eighty six Nadar houses were burnt. A total of 21 people were known dead. The Maravar retaliated by attacking the Nadars scattered around Sivakasi leaving 3 Nadars dead. Eventually the riots came to an end after the intervention of the military[which?] in mid-July 1899.[14][15][16]


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1] Gazetteers of India Tamil Nadu state: Thoothukudi district by Sinnakani: Copyrighted by the Government of Tamil Nadu,Commissioner of archives and Historical Research Page 233-242
  3. ^ Robert Hardgrave. The Nadars of Tamil Nadu. University of California Press. pp. 80–90.
  4. ^ History of Tamil Nadu, 1565-1982 Page 277 By K. Rajayyan
  5. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-11-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Deccan Chronicle March 1st 2007
  6. ^ a b Robert Hardgrave. The Nadars of Tamil Nadu. University of California Press. p. 87.
  7. ^ [2] Caste in Indian politics By Rajani Kothari Page103-104
  8. ^ Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr.(1969) The Nadars of Tamilnad
  9. ^ Bishop Stephen Neill: from Edinburgh to South India By Dyron B. Daughrity
  10. ^ Robert Hardgrave. The Nadars of Tamil Nadu. University of California Press. pp. 105–109.
  11. ^ [3] Society in India: Change and continuity By David Goodman Mandelbaum
  12. ^ [4] State and Society in India By A.R.
  13. ^ Clothey, Fred W. (2006). Ritualizing on the boundaries: continuity and innovation in the Tamil diaspora. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 978-1-57003-647-7. OCLC 255232421. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
  14. ^ Robert Hardgrave. The Nadars of Tamil Nadu. University of California Press. p. 118.
  15. ^ Caste in Indian politics By Rajni Kothari
  16. ^ "Current Topics". Star (Christchurch, New Zealand). August 1, 1899. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-11-08.

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