Previous: The Paravars: A Preamble
In this and the next chapter, I will attempt to present in a condensed form some of the myths that pertain to the origin of the Paravars.
Myth #1: Paravars are offsprings of a Brahmin and a Sūdra woman
The word ‘Tantras’ refer to various scriptures of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.
Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765 -1837), an English orientalist and a former director of the Royal Asiatic Society, followed some of the Tantras while enumerating Indian classes, and he represented the Paravars as descendants of a Brahmin who consorted a Sūdra woman.
Myth #2: Paravars are offspring of a Kurava male and a Chetty female
Mudaliyar Simon Casie Chitty (1807-1860) of Sri Lanka, a writer of great repute, cites the Jātībēdi Nūl (a work of some celebrity among the Tamils) which describes the Paravars as “the offspring of a Kurava (or basket-maker) begotten clandestinely through a female of the Chetty (or merchant) tribe.”
Myth #3: Paravas descended from Varuna (the god of water)
Some Paravas have among themselves a different tradition about their origin. According to them, their progenitor was Varuna (god of water).
Soorapadman, the leader of the Asuras (evil spirits) after performing a tapas (an act of devotion through deep meditation) received a boon from Shiva that protected him from death except a being manifested from Shiva himself. Having gained immortality, Soorapadman vanquished the Devas (heavenly spirits) and made them his slaves. The Devas appealed to Vishnu, but he refused to help them. Next, they appealed to Shiva.
Shiva decided to take action against Soorapadman‘s increasing arrogance. He opened his third eye – the eye of knowledge – that started releasing flares. There were six flares in total. Shiva gave Agni, the god of fire, the responsibility to take the flares to Saravana Lake. Soon after, a beautiful child manifested on a lotus in the Lake with six faces.
Six sisters known as the Kṛttikā (constellation Pleiades) were given the responsibility of taking care of the child and thus the child came to be known as Kārtikeya.
According to an extension of the myth, the Paravars also manifested along with Kārtikeya and were nursed by the constellation Kṛttikā. Since the Paravars were born out of the water they naturally became the descendants of Varuna, the god of water.
Kārtikeya became the supreme general of the Devas. He led the army of the Devas to victory against the Asuras. On the fifth day of Kandha Sasthi, Soorapadman visited Kārtikeya and saw his Vishwaroopam.
Soorapadman faced Kārtikeya in battle and was defeated even though he used illusions. As a last stand when all his illusions had failed him, Soorapadman transformed himself into a mango tree hoping to escape death. Kārtikeya with his vel (spear) split the tree in two. One half became the peacock, the vehicle of Kārtikeya and the other half became the cockerel, the emblem on Kārtikeya‘s flag.
Myth #4: The fable in Valaivīcu kāviyam
In Valaivīcu kāviyam: Tiruviḷaiyāṭal kataippāṭal, an epic composed by the Tamil poet Ār̲umukapperumāḷ Cir̲avān̲, Parvati, the consort of Shiva, and her son Kartikēya, having offended the deity by revealing some ineffable mystery, were condemned to quit their celestial mansions, and pass through an infinite number of mortal reincarnations, before they could be re-admitted to the divine presence. However, when Parvati pleaded with Shiva, he reduced the punishment to one incarnation each.
About this time, Triambaka, King of the Paravas, and Varuna Valli his consort were performing tapas (acts of devotion) to obtain an issue. Parvati conceded to their prayer and incarnated as their daughter under the name of Tīrysēr Madentē.
Kartikēya transformed himself into a fish and roamed the North Sea for some time. He then entered the South Sea, where, after growing to an immense size, attacked the vessels of the Paravas and became a threat to their traditional fishing and seafaring trades.
An enraged King Triambaka publicly declared that he would give his daughter in marriage to whoever would catch the fish.
Shiva, assuming the character of a Parava fisherman, caught the fish, and was once again reunited with his divine consort.
Myth #5: Ancestors of the Paravars were fishermen of river Yamuna
Some Paravars believe that they migrated from the ancient city of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama and that prior to the Mahābhārata war, they inhabited the territory bordering the river Yamuna.
One day, Girika, the wife of King Vasu, bathing and purifying herself after her menstrual course, told him her state. But that very day the Pitris (spirits of the departed) of Vasu came unto him and asked him to slay a deer for their Sraddha (a ritual performed for one’s ancestors, especially dead parents). The king, thinking that the command of the Pitris should not be disobeyed, went a-hunting.
The whole forest was maddened by the sweet notes of the kokila and echoed with the hum of maddened bees. The king became possessed with desire, and could not keep his mind away from the thought of his beautiful wife Girika. Beholding a swift hawk resting close to him, the king, acquainted with the subtle truths of Dharma and Artha, said, “Amiable one, carry thou this seed (semen) for my wife Girika and give it unto her. Her season hath arrived.”
The swift hawk took it from the king and rapidly soared through the air. While thus passing, the hawk was seen by another of his species. Thinking that the first hawk was carrying meat, the second one flew at him. The two fought in the sky with their talons and beaks. While they were fighting, the seed fell into the waters of the Yamuna wherein dwelt an Apsara named Adrika, transformed by a Brahmana’s curse into a fish.
As soon as Vasu’s seed fell into the water from the claws of the hawk, Adrika rapidly approached and swallowed it.
Ten months later, Parava fishermen caught that fish. From the stomach of that fish came out a male and a female child of a human form. The Apsara after having given birth to the twins, and killed by the fishermen was freed from her curse. She left her fish-form and assumed her own celestial shape.
The fishermen approached King Uparichara, their ruler, and said, “O king, these two beings of human shape have been found in the body of a fish!“
King Uparichara took the male child under his wings who later became the virtuous monarch Matsya. The King gave back the fishy-smelling daughter of the Apsara to the fishermen, saying, “Let this one be thy daughter.”
That girl, named Satyavati, gifted with great beauty with tapering thighs and had a graceful smile – an object of desire even with an anchorite was also known as Machchakindi).
As was customary with the Parava fisher-women Satyavati ferried passengers over the waters of the Yamuna river. One day, while engaged in this vocation, the great wandering Rishi Parasara saw the celestial beauty and desired to consort with her.
He said, “Accept my embraces, O blessed one!“
Satyavati replied, “O holy one, behold the rishis standing on either bank of the river. Seen by them, how can I grant thy wish?“
The ascetic thereupon created a fog which enveloped the region in darkness. The maiden, beholding the fog became suffused with the blushes of bashfulness and she said:
“O holy one, note that I am a maiden under the control of my father.
O sinless one, by accepting your embraces my virginity will be sullied.
O best of Brahmanas, my virginity being sullied, how shall I,
O Rishi, be able to return home?
Indeed, I shall not then be able to bear life.
Reflecting upon all this,
O illustrious one, do that which should be done.“
That best of Rishis, satisfied with all she said, replied:
“Thou shall remain a virgin even if thou grantest my wish.
And, O timid one, O beauteous woman, ask for the boon that thou desirest.
O thou of fair smiles, my grace hath never before proved fruitless.”
The maiden then asked the rishi for the boon that her body might emit a sweet scent instead of the fish-odour that it had. The illustrious Rishi thereupon granted her wish.
Having obtained her boon, she became highly pleased, and her season immediately came. She accepted the embraces of that Rishi of wonderful deeds.
She thenceforth became known among men by the name of Gandhavati (the sweet-scented one); and since men could feel her scent even from a distance of a yojana (16 km), she was also known as Yojanagandha (one who scatters her scent for a yojana all around).
After this, the illustrious Parasara went to his own asylum.
Satyavati gratified with having obtained the excellent boon in consequence of which she became sweet-scented and her virginity remained unsullied conceived through Parasara’s embraces. She brought forth the very day, on an island in the Yamuna, the child begot upon her by Parasara and gifted with great energy. The child, with the permission of his mother, set his mind on asceticism. He went away saying, “As soon as thou rememberest me when the occasion comes, I shall appear unto thee.”
It was thus that Vyasa (the arranger or compiler), the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it, was born of Satyavati the fisherwoman through Parasara the ascetic.
Previous: The Paravars: A Preamble
- Remarks on the Origin and History of the Parawas by Simon Casie Chitty (jstor.org)
- Project Gutenberg’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Vol. 6 of 7 by Edgar Thurston (gutenberg.org)
- Paravar (en.wikipedia.org)
- பரத குல வரலாறு (globalparavar.org)
- The Bharathar Community (bharatharcommunity.blogspot.in)
- Demala Hatpattu (en.wikipedia.org)
- The Mahabharata Book 1: Adi Parva Section LXIII (Adivansavatarana Parva) Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr. [1883-1896] (sacred-texts.com)
- The Origin of the Name ‘Fernando’ (tvaraj.com)
- The Origin of the Name ‘Perera/Pereira’ (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: A Preamble (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 2 – The Jewish Lore (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 3 – The Pearl Fishery Coasts in the Gulf of Mannar (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 4 – The Paravar Caste (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 5 – The Pre-Muhammadan Period (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 6 – The Muhammadan Invasion of the Pandya Kingdom (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 7 – The Hazardous Occupation of Harvesting Pearl Oysters (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 8 – Arrival of the Portuguese in India (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 9 – Seeking Help from the Portuguese (tvaraj.com)
- The Paravars: Chapter 10 – Conversion to Catholicism (tvaraj.com)