Sivakasi riots of 1899
The Nadar historian Samuel Sargunar claimed that the Nadars are the descendants of the ancient rulers of Cheran, Cholan and Pandyan kingdoms 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. 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 heir of the Early Pandyas. The two inscriptions at Kalladaikurichi suggest that in medieval times the Nadars served as administrators and accountants both in Chera and Pandya countries. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the Nadars were indeed the descendants of the ancient Chera,Chola and Pandya kings. This belief, that the Nadars had been the kings of Tamil Nadu, became the dogma of the Nadar community in the 19th century. 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.
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. 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. 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.
The mutual ill-feeling between the Nadars and Maravars reached its peak in 1899. 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.
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