Tag Archives: This is life

The Bishwa Ijtema Special Trains – the Most Crowded Trains in the World


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This year, the three-day Bishwa Ijtema, began on January 12 in Tongi, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Bishwa Ijtema meaning  ‘Global Congregation’ in Bengali is one of the largest peaceful annual gatherings of Muslims in the world that takes place in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees take part in prayers and listen to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Holy Quran. The number of devotees exceeds 5 million with an estimated 20,000-50,000 foreign devotees.

The Bishwa Ijtema culminates in the Akheri Munajat or the Final Prayer, when millions of participating devotees raise their hands beseeching Allah (God)  for world peace.

To help the devotees attending the Biswa Ijtema, the Bangladesh Railway (BR) made arrangements to run special trains on different routes of the country.

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The above video shows the Bishwa Ijtema Special Train 2018, one of the most crowded trains in the world operated for Bishwa Ijtema 2018. However, this is not a regular occurrence during the normal train services run by the Bangladesh Railway.

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Wearing Helmets in Tamilnadu


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

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Helmet a must for pillion riders (Photo: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

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As per the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and the Rules made thereunder, the wearing of helmets is mandatory. As per Section 129 of this Motor Vehicle Act, two-wheeler riders and pillion riders should compulsorily wear helmets. So, The City Traffic Police have decided to strictly enforce this rule and impose fines from ₹100 to ₹200 for not wearing helmets.

Now the helmet rule has been made compulsory for both the two-wheeler rider and the pillion rider.

On August 23, 2018, TK Rajendran, the Director General of Police, Tamilnadu, issued a circular to all police commissioners in cities and superintendents of police in districts to implement helmet rules strictly and book more cases on pillion riders not wearing a helmet.

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Two-wheeler riders try to evade the police by stopping the vehicles on road margin in Visakhapatnam. (Photo Credit – K R Deepak)

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The Court has made it compulsory for both rider and the pillion rider to wear helmets. I accept that wearing a helmet is a safety precaution but feel that it should be left as a safety guideline only and not be made a law and is against the basic concept of freedom.

If a rider and the pillion rider are not wearing helmets, then they in no way are causing any problem to other commuters or the flow of traffic.

Normally, wearing a helmet is very uncomfortable for old people like me and women in general, and it is excruciatingly harrowing for both young and old during the arid Indian summer.

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This would not have happened if he had worn a helmet!

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The above incident happened on one of our well-maintained International Standard Indian roads. Was it due to the rider not wearing a helmet?

 

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The Turnspit Dogs


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

Since medieval times the British have delighted in eating roast beef, roast pork, roast turkey. They sneered at the idea of roasting meat in an oven. For a true Briton, the proper way was to spit roast it in front of an open fire, using a turnspit dog.” – Jan Bondeson, author of Amazing Dogs, a Cabinet of Canine Curiosities.

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Roasted beef . (Credit: joyofkosher.com)

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The Roast Beef of Old England” is an English patriotic ballad written by Henry Fielding for his play “The Grub-Street Opera” which was first performed in 1731. The lyrics were added to over the next twenty years.

The Roast Beef of Old England

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good
Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

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Large chunks of beef prepared in the oven are usually referred to as roasts, but in a strict sense, only meats cooked on an open coal fire are truly roasted. The radiant heat of the coals gives the beef roast a richly browned crust and a hint of smokiness that can’t be achieved with oven roasting. Cooking the roast on a fire though not difficult entails a bit more work than cooking in an oven.

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Cooking meat on a spit turned by humans dates back to the 1st century BC.

A roasting jack is a device which helps to rotate the roasting meat on a spit. It is also called a spit jack, a spit engine or a turnspit. While roasting meat on an open fire the person who turns or rotates the turnspit had to pay constant attention to turning of the spit and he or she was also subjected to burns and blisters. This tedious and exhausting job was usually assigned to the lowest ranking member of the household – invariably a small boy.

The term ‘turnspit’ can also refer to a human turning the spit or a Turnspit dog.

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The Turnspit dog

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In the 16th century, households in Europe employed special breeds of dogs called Turnspit dogs to turn or rotate the spit. They were long-bodied, short-legged but compact and muscular. Turnspit dogs were named quite literally to run on a wheel called a turnspit or dog wheel.

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To roast any meat, a Turnspit dog was hoisted into a wooden dog wheel mounted on the wall near the fireplace. The dog wheel was attached to a chain which ran down to the spit. As the dog ran, like a hamster in a cage, the spit turned.

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A turnspit dog at work in a wooden cooking wheel in an inn at Newcastle, Carmarthen, Wales, in 1869.

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According to Jan Bondeson, “Turnspit dogs were viewed as kitchen utensils, as pieces of machinery rather than as dogs… The roar of the fire. The clanking of the spit. The patter from the little dog’s feet… The wheels were put up quite high on the wall, far from the fire in order for the dogs not to overheat and faint.”

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John Caius, Master of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.

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The very first mention of the Turnspit dog is in the first book ever written on dogs in 1576 titled “Of English Dogs” by the English physician, John Caius. He mentions the breed under the name “Turnespete“.

In 1809, the William Bingley’s Memoirs of British Quadrupeds also mentions a dog employed to help chefs and cooks. Hence, Caira Farrell, library and collections manager at the Kennel Club in London says, “They were referred to as the kitchen dog, the cooking dog or the Vernepator Cur.”

In Linnaeus’s 18th century classification of dogs, it is listed as Canis vertigus or “dizzy dog”.

Since the Turnspit dogs were considered to be common and lowly, no records were adequately kept about them and soon the breed was lost. The “Complete Dog Book” (20th ed.) of The American Kennel Club published in 2007 considers the Turnspit as a kind of Glen of Imaal Terrier and on May 13, 2014, The Kitchen Sisters in “Turnspit Dogs: The Rise and Fall of the Vernepator Cur” make it a relative of the Welsh Corgi.

According to Jan Bondeson, “One way of training the dog was to throw a glowing coal into the wheel to make the dog speed up a bit.” This type of horrific treatment of the Turnspits is reportedly what inspired Henry Bergh (August 29, 1813 – March 12, 1888) to start the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in April 1866.

In 1750, there were Turnspit dogs everywhere, especially in Europe and for a short time in America. By 1850 they became scarce, and by 1900 they disappeared altogether and considered extinct.

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All Men Are Same!


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

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The traditional Chinese New year holiday is absolutely the worst time to travel anywhere in China when millions head home to spend the traditional Chinese New year holiday at their parental homes, and railway stations like Guangzhou in Guangdong, a province in South China, see around 175,000 passengers daily.

The phrase “All Men Are Same!” was coined after a Chinese woman lost her husband in a crowd during the festive season.

It was a nightmare for the Chinese woman and her husband to reach their cosy hotel in an alleyway off the main tourist thoroughfare. They had to push and shove their way through the thick crowd of people who all looked the same, and got separated.

She desperately searched for her husband and ultimately went with a man to his home who too had lost his partner in the crowd.

Mansa Musa I – the Richest Human Being in All History


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

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When we talk about the world’s all-time richest people, we immediately come up with names like Rothschild Family, John D Rockefeller, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.

The Celebrity Net Worth website compiled a list of the world’s 26 richest people in the last 1000 years. Oddly, there are no women on the list, only three members are alive today and 14 of the top 25 are Americans.

Here is the list of  the ‘26 richest people of all time’ (courtesy:  independent.co.uk):

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion

2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion

3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion

4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion

5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion

6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion

7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion

8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion

9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion

11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion

12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion

13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion

14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion

15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion

16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion

17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion

18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion

19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion

20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (landowner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64billion

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Mansa Musa I

Topping the list is Mansa Musa I (c. 1280 to c. 1337) was the tenth Mansa of the wealthy West African Mali Empire making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. The term ‘Mansa’  translates to “sultan“, “conqueror” or “emperor”.   

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Detail from the Catalan Atlas Sheet 6 dated 1375 at Bibliothèque Nationale de France showing Mansa Musa sitting on a throne and holding a gold coin. (Artist: attributed to Abraham Cresques)

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As a young man Mansa Musa I  built many mosques which still stand today.

After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

Click here to read more about –> Mansa Musa I 

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Update: The Case Against the Dentist Husband Quashed


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By T. V. Antony Raj

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On July 14, 2012, I re-posted an article under the title “Isn’t this lady an ignoramus? Well, she is a typical Indian woman …” that appeared in the prestigious news website IBNLive.com (now rebranded as News18.com) on the same date titled “Karnataka: Husband forces wife to drink his urine“. This same news was posted on other prestigious news websites too such as The New Indian Express, hindustantimes.com, ndtv.com, and many others under various titles.

On October 12, 2017, five years and four months later, I received an intimation dated October 10, 2017, from Mr Raju Devdiga, advocate for the accused in the case that on June 12, 2014, the high court of Karnataka quashed the complaint of the wife against her former husband.

“… this court feels that investigation into the complaint in crime no. 274/2012 may not enure to the benefit of either complaint or the first petitioner in as much as both have separated their ways and tried to start their life afresh with different spouses and this court feel that continuation of investigation into the complaint in crime no; 274/2012 would not be to the benefit of any one of them,” the HC said in its order.

“Accordingly the present petition is allowed. Consequently, the complaint in crime NO;274/2012 registered with Jnanabarathi Police and pending on the file of IX ACMM Court, Bangalore, for the offences punishable under sections 498(A), 504, 506, 323 read with Section 34 of IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of D.P. Act is hereby quashed,” the court ordered.

On October 12, 2017, as requested by Mr Raju Devdiga, the honourable advocate, I deleted the post titled “Isn’t this lady ...” from my WordPress blog.

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The Paravars: Chapter 4 – The Paravar Caste


Myself

 By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando

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Previous: The Paravars: Chapter 3 – The Pearl Fishery Coasts in the Gulf of Mannar

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In South India beaches are very much the preserve of Parava fishermen
In South India beaches are very much the preserve of Parava fishermen

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In Chapters 1 and 2, I dealt with the Hindu myths and the Jewish lore respectively that were readily accepted and endorsed by the affluent Paravars, who wish to remove the stigma placed on the occupation of their caste namely, fishing, diving for pearls and chanks, and producing salt which were considered “low and ritually polluting occupations.” From this chapter onwards I will be writing about what we know historically and from ancient Tamil literature about the origin of the Paravar community.

From the earliest recorded times, the Paravars were an independent, seafaring people, involved in sea-related activities such as fishing, specializing in the seasonal harvesting of pearl oysters and chanks, navigation, boat building, and production of sea salt. In ancient times, being seaborne traders, they were occasionally given to piracy and smuggling.

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, it is noted:

… there are in reality three castes which answer to the name Paravan, and which speak Tamil, Malayalam, and Canarese respectively. Probably all three are descended from the Tamil Paravans or Paratavans. The Tamil Paravans are fishermen on the sea coast. Their headquarters is Tuticorin, and their headman is called Talavan … The Malayalam Paravans are shell collectors, lime burners and gymnasts, and their women act as midwives. Their titles are Kurup, Varnkurup, and Nurankurup (nuru, lime). The Canarese Paravans are umbrella-makers and devil- dancers.”

It has been further speculated that the splitting of the latter two groups from the first may have been as a consequence of a desire to flee from the ancient tribal areas in Tinnevelly to avoid the oppression by the Muhammadans.

In the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume 4 in Art. V, “Remarks on the Origin and History of the Parawas” Simon Casie Chitty wrote:

In the classification of the Tamil castes, the Parawas rank first among the tribes of fishermen, and they are generally allowed to have been the earliest navigators in the Indian Ocean, like the Phoenicians in the Mediterranean. They are described in the Tamil dictionary, entitled Nigundu Sulamani, under the head of Neythanilémakkal, or inhabitants of the sea-coast. In Sanscrit, they are called Parasavas, or Nishadas, and in Tamil, Parathar, Parathavar, and Paravar.

Little is known about the Paravars from the 5th to the 15th century.

Robin Arthur Donkin (1928–2006), an English historian and geographer who in 1990 served as a reader in Historical Geography in Cambridge University’s Department of Geography has argued that with one exception, “there are no native literary works with a developed sense of chronology, or indeed much sense of place, before the thirteenth century”, and that any historical observations have to be made using Arab, European and Chinese accounts.

Pandyan king Arikesari Maravarman (r. c. 670–710 AD), also known as Arikesari Parankusa, ruled parts of present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. According to the Velvikkudi grant (stone inscription), he won battles at Pali, Nelveli, Uraiyur and Sennilam. Except for Uraiyur, the identity of these places is not certain. E. Hultzsch identified Nelveli with modern Tirunelveli. The larger Chinnamanur grant states (stone inscription) that Arikesari Maravarman won battles at Nelveli and Sankaramangai, and also defeated the Pallavas. The inscription further states that he ruined the Paravar (a southern fishing community).

Though works in the Tamil Sangam literature such as Ettuthokai, Paththupaattu, Ahanaanooru, Madurai Kaanchi and Pattinappaalai refer to the lives of the Paravars, there are different views regarding events up to the early 16th century among the investigators of the Paravar history.

Madurai Kaanchi (Tamil: மதுரைக் காஞ்சி), a Tamil poetic work in the Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology of Tamil literature, belonging to the Sangam period (spanning from c. 3rd century BC to c. 3rd century AD) contains 583 lines of poetry written by the poet Mankuti Maruthanaar in praise of the Pandya King Nedunjeliyan II on the occasion of his victory at the battle of Talayanankanam. In this work, the Paravas are described as being most powerful in the country around Korkai:

“Well fed on fish and armed with bows, their hordes terrified their enemies by their dashing valour.”

Madurai Kaanchi describes Korkai as the chief town in the country of Parathavar and the seat of the pearl fishery, with a population consisting chiefly of pearl divers and chank cutters. When the Pandyan kingdom was powerful. the Paravas had grants of certain rights from the monarchy, paying tribute from the produce of the fisheries, and receiving protection and immunity from taxation in return.

Stephen Neill in his work, “A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707” says:

The Paravas lived in a number of villages, perhaps about twenty in all, strung out over a narrow strip of land about a hundred miles in length, from Cape Comorin to Vembar. A hardy race, they live by the sea in two senses of that expression. For most of the year their livelihood is fishing; because of the association of this trade with the taking of life, they are not reckoned by the Hindus as belonging to one of the higher castes. They have developed astonishing skill in the management of their catamarans, each with its single lateen sail. This stern and exacting labour gives them immense physical hardihood and a strength of character which at its best is courage but may take the form of a rather rough aggressiveness. For the most part, the boats remain not far from the shore and return with the off-sea breeze in the evening. But violent tempests can arise and sweep the boats far out of sight of land; every year a number of lives are lost.

What gave variety to Parava life, and importance beyond the local scene was the annual pearl-fishery. The collection of oysters begins in March and lasts for twenty to thirty days. The oyster beds lie at a distance of five to six miles from the coast. Fantastic tales are told of the length of time that a diver can remain underwater; observation shows that the time is usually not more than a minute, and in no case exceeds a minute and a half. The work is extremely exhausting; by midday, the diver has done his work for the day and is ready to return to shore for the sorting of the catch. In a good season, the profits can be very high; but the man who does the hard work is far from being the only beneficiary.

Isaac Rajendran and Freda Chandrasekaran have said in their work “History of the Indian pearl banks of the Gulf of Mannar”. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, that up to the 16th century the Paravars had held almost a monopoly of the rights to exploit the pearl fisheries, having negotiated with successive kings to achieve this.

The Pandyan kings allowed the Paravars to manage and operate the pearl fisheries because of their ancient skills in that activity, which required specialist seamanship abilities, knowledge of the location of the oyster beds and the art of tending them. The Pandyan kings exempted the Paravars from taxation and allowed them to govern themselves in return for being paid tribute from the harvested oysters.

Theodore Maynard in his work “The Odyssey of Francis Xavier” has claimed, the south Indian coastal areas around Kanyakumari were “the greatest pearl fishery in the world”, and that the Hindu people who fished for oysters there “… were known as the Paravas, a caste sufficiently low, although not of the very lowest.”

Although Robert Eric Frykenberg, in his book “Christianity in India: from beginnings to the present” has described them as a “… proud and venturesome seafaring folk engaged in fishing, pearl diving, trading, and piracy,” Adrian Hastings in his book “A World History of Christianity” has pointed out that the piracy (and some smuggling) was only an occasional activity and that their more normal occupations demanded courage, strength and stamina, which made them “hardened adventurers”.

During the reign of the Pandya kings, the Paravars had their headquarters at Korkai harbour and were spread out into several fishing hamlets in the pearl fishery coast of Gulf of Mannar and adjacent Comerin coast:

Alanthalai, Chethupar, Idinthakarai, Kanyakumari, Kootapuli,  Kovalam, Kumari muttam, Kuthenkuly, Manapad, Mookur,  Muttom, Palayakayal, Periathalai, Periyakadu, Perumanal, Pozhikkarai, Pudukarai, Punnaikayal, Puthanthurai, Rajakamangalam Thurai, Thalambuli, Thanumalayan Pillai Thoppu, Thiruchendur, Thoothukudi, Uvari, Vaippar, Vembar, Virapandianpatnam.

In some villages, Karaiyars, a sub-sect of Paraiyars, and Mukkuvars also lived along with the Paravars. The Mukkuvars were found mostly in Kanyakumari and in the villages west of it. Members of these three castes – Paravars, Karaiyars and Mukkuvars – on the Fishery Coast were illiterate fisherman and divers who harvested pearl oysters and chanks.

The Paravar fishermen, with dark-brown complexion, wore only a kovanam (loincloth) and a white scarf around their head. Most of them were poor and addicted to intoxicating brews such as coconut toddy and arrack distilled from the juice of the palmyra palm.

Adultery was rampant among the Paravars.

The affluent males Paravars pierced their earlobes and wore heavy pearl-studded gold ear ornaments. Some writers say that a few prosperous Paravars had slaves.

The funeral custom of Sati where a widow immolates (burns) herself on her dead husband’s pyre existed among the Hindu Paravars since they believed that the women who committed Sati would live along with their husbands when reborn. Those women who refused to (immolate) themselves were forced to leave their home and become public women. And those who opposed the custom of Sati, male or female, were killed.

The Paravars were superstitious and the soothsayers and necromancers played a significant role in their lives. They sought the shark charmers to ward off shark attacks during fisheries.

Surprisingly, the Paravars did not slaughter cows for meat.

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The Rajagopuram of the Murugan Temple at Thiruchedur (Author: Vickyavw; Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

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The Paravars believed the unsubstantiated myth that god Kartikeya, also known as Murugan and Subramanian married a Parava lass named Deivanai and so they had a special affinity to the Murugan Temple at Tiruchendur which is considered as one of the six holy abodes of the deity. During the religious festivals of the temple, the inhabitants of the seven Paravar villages – Manapadu, Alanthalai, Virapandiapattanam, Punnaikaval, Thoothukudi, Vembar and Vaipar – took an active part along with the people of Tiruchendur. The Parava headman of Virapandianpattanam was given the first honour of pulling the vadam (Tamil: வடம்; rope) attached to the ther (Tamil: தேர்; festival car) of the deity during festivals.

Some writers say that the palanquins of the prosperous Paravars of Virapandianpattanam were borne on the shoulders of Idayars (shepherds) who bore the idols of the deities during festivities at the Murugan Temple in Tiruchendur.

The Paravars had a succession of chiefs among them, distinguished by the title ‘Adiarasen‘, later, the leaders were known by titles such as: Thalaivan, Pattankattiyars, Araiyars and Adappannars.

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Next:  The Paravars: Chapter 5 – The Pre-Muhammadan Period

Previous: The Paravars: Chapter 3 – The Pearl Fishery Coasts in the Gulf of Mannar

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume 4 in Art. V, “Remarks on the Origin and History of the Parawas” Simon Casie Chitty, Maniyagar of Putlam, Ceylon, M. R.A. S. &c., &c., &c.
  • Isaac Rajendran and Freda Chandrasekaran, “History of the Indian pearl banks of the Gulf of Mannar”. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India. 18 (3): 549–550,
  • Donkin, Robin A. (1998). “Beyond price: pearls and pearl-fishing: origins to the age of discoveries”. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society. American Philosophical Society. 224. ISBN 978-0-87169-224-5.
  • Maynard, Theodore (1936). The Odyssey of Francis Xavier. Longsman, Green.
  • Frykenberg, Robert Eric (2008). Christianity in India: from beginnings to the present (Reprinted ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-19-826377-7.
  • Hastings, Adrian (2000). A World History of Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 166–168. ISBN 978-0-8028-4875-8.
  • Stephen Neill F.B.A., A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS.
    Library of Congress catalogue card number: 82-23475 ISBN 0 521 24351 3 hardback, ISBN 0 521 54885 3 paperback.

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The Paravars: Chapter 3 – The Pearl Fishery Coasts in the Gulf of Mannar


Myself

 By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando

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Previous:  The Paravars: Chapter 2 – The Jewish Lore

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The most ancient sources of pearl, the queen of jewellery, are believed to be the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Mannar that lies between India and Sri Lanka. Pre-historic people of these regions were probably the first to find the first pearls known to mankind, obviously during their quest for food.  However, to pinpoint an exact region where the discovery and appreciation of pearls first began may be difficult.

In 315 BC, the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, pupil and successor of Aristotle in the Peripatetic school wrote that pearls came from the waters off the coast of India, and certain islands in the Red Sea and in the Sinus Persicus (Persian Gulf).

Megasthenes, the Greek geographer and writer, who accompanied Alexander’s general Seleucus Nicator in his Asiatic conquests,  visited many regions of India, including Madurai, the capital of the Pandya kingdom. While in southern India, he also learnt about the neighbouring island of Sri Lanka which he called “Taprobane,” and its valuable resources, such as pearls and a variety of gemstones. Subsequently, in his famous work “Indica” he wrote that Taprobane was an important source of large pearls.

The Alexandrian-Roman geographer, Claudius Ptolemy ( c. AD 100 – c. 170)   wrote about the pearl fishery in the Gulf of Mannar, both on the South Indian side and the Sri Lankan side.

The Periplus Maris Erythraei (Periplus of the Erythrian Sea), written by an unknown Alexandrian-Greek author, in the second half of the 1st-century A.D (approximately 60 A.D.), mentions the route to the east coast of India, is through the Gulf of Mannar, between India and Sri Lanka. It provides an extensive account of the pearl fishery in the Gulf of Mannar, particularly on the Indian side of the Gulf, and the pearl fishery of Epidprus (Mannar Island) on the Sri Lankan side of the Gulf.

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The Gulf of Mannar

Gulf of Mannar (satellite image)

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The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay, a part of the Lakshadweep Sea. It lies between the southeastern tip of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka. The estuaries of the river Thamirabarani of south India and the Malvathu Oya (Malvathu River) of Sri Lanka drain into the Gulf of Mannar.

Geological evidence suggests that in ancient times India and Sri Lanka were connected by land. An 18-miles (30 km) long isthmus composed of limestone shoals, and coral reefs, popularly known as Adam’s Bridge or Rama’s Bridge or Ramsethu, lies between the Rameswaram Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and the Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Adam’s Bridge separates the Gulf of Mannar in the southwest from the Palk Strait in the northeast. The sea in the area is very shallow, only three to 30 feet (1 to 10 metres) deep in places, and hinders navigation. Some of the sandbanks are dry. Some claim that up to the 15th century, Adam’s Bridge was completely above sea level and people travelled between India and Sri Lanka on foot. The bridge they say was breached, fissured and the channel deepened by storms when a cyclone devastated the region in 1480.

In ancient times, this coast was known worldwide for its natural pearls. Greeks, Romans and Arabs sought the beautiful pearls harvested in these waters. From the time of the known history of the Tamils, pearl trading became one of the principal sources of revenue of the Tamil kings.

The bed of the Pearl Fishery Coast in the Gulf of Mannar is a fertile breeding ground for pearl oysters. There were two distinct fisheries in the Gulf of Mannar – one on the South Indian coast, the other on the northwestern Sri Lankan coast.

On the Indian side of the Gulf of Mannar, the Pearl Fishery Coast of southern India extended along the Coromandel Coast from Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin). This fishery coast has been known in different periods of time in various languages as the Cholamandalam coast, Colkhic Gulf, Comorin coast, Coromandel coast, Fishery Coast, Kuru-Mandala coast, Ma’bar coast, Paralia, Pescaria, Fishery coast, Tirunelveli coast, Madura coast, etc. The coast took its name from the presence of natural pearls in the bed which is a fertile breeding ground for pearl oysters.

The pearl banks on the Sri Lankan side of the Gulf of Mannar stretch from the island of Mannar, off the northwestern tip of Sri Lanka, south to Chilaw.

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Map of the Pearl Fishery Coast (1889)
Map of the Pearl Fishery Coast (1889)

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The Pearl Fishery Coast in Southern India and in Sri Lanka were predominantly populated by the Paravar caste. The Paravars were fishers, seamen and maritime traders. Majority of the Paravars specialised in the seasonal harvesting of pearl oysters and chank and for thousands of years.

The Pandyan kings allowed the Paravars to manage and operate the pearl fisheries because of their ancient skills in that activity, which required specialist seamanship abilities, knowledge of the location of the oyster beds and the art of tending them. The Pandyan kings exempted the Paravars from taxation and allowed them to govern themselves in return for being paid tribute from the harvested oysters.

In ancient times,  this Pearl Fishery Coast was known worldwide. Greeks, Romans and Arabs sought the beautiful pearls harvested in these waters by the many Parava fisheries that operated to exploit them. From the time of the known history of the Tamils, pearl trading became one of the principal sources of revenue of the Tamil kings. By the first century AD, pearls and shanks were among the important exports from southern India.

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Royal Flag of the Jaffna Kingdom.
Royal Flag of the Jaffna Kingdom.

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In the late 1270s, Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I sent an expedition to Sri Lanka under his minister Kulasekara Cinkaiariyan Aryachakravarti near the end of the Sri Lankan king Bhuvanaikabâhu I’s reign (1272-1285 AD). Aryachakravarti defeated Savakanmaindan of the Jaffna kingdom, a tributary to the Pandyans. He plundered the fortress of Subhagiri (Yapahuwa) and brought with him the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Bhuvanaika Bahu’s successor Parâkkamabâhu III went personally to King Kulasekaran’s court and persuaded him to return the tooth relic.

Most historians agree that on later expeditions it was this Arayachakravarti who stayed behind to create the Arayachakravrati dynasty in the Kingdom of Jaffna,  and raided the western Sri Lankan coast. From then on, the pearl banks came under the sole dominance of the Aryachakravarti line of kings of Jaffna kingdom.

Political and military leaders of the same family name left a number of inscriptions in the modern-day Tamil Nadu state, with dates ranging from 1272 to 1305, during the late Pandyan Empire. According to contemporary native literature, the family also claimed lineage from the Tamil Brahmins of Rameswaram in the modern Ramanathapuram District of India.

In 1450, a Tamil military leader named Chempaha Perumal under the directive of the Sinhalese king Sapumal Kumaraya of the Kotte kingdom  invaded  the region which remained under the control of the Kotte kingdom up to 1467. After that, the region once again came under the Jaffna kingdom.

The Arayachakravrati dynasty ruled the Jaffna kingdom from the 13th until the 17th century,  when the last ruler of the dynasty, Sankili II, also known as Sankili Kumaran confronted the Portuguese. Thereafter, the entire pearl fishery on both the Sri Lankan and the Indian side of the Gulf of Mannar came under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Portuguese.

The pearl fisheries of the Gulf of Mannar were controlled independently of one another, by the Pandya, the Chola or by the regional rulers on the Indian side, and by the Sinhalese or Tamil kings on the Sri Lankan side. Sometimes, the two fisheries came under the jurisdiction of the same authorities, such as the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Portuguese (in 1619), the Dutch (in 1658), and the British (1796), whoever controlled the regions on both sides of the Gulf of Mannar.

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Previous:  The Paravars: Chapter 2 – The Jewish Lore

Next: The Paravars: Chapter 4 – The Paravar Caste

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The Origin of the Name ‘Perera/Pereira’


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando

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Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catatonia, in northeastern modern Spain. Pereira is a topographic name derived from Catalan Perera meaning ‘pear tree’.

There are other variants for Perera in the Iberian Peninsula meaning “pear tree”:

In Catalan: Perer
In Extremadura, Salamanca and Valladolid: Perero, Pereros
In Portugal: Pereira, Pereyra, Pereyras, Das Pereiras, Paraira 
In the Pyrenees: Pereire, Pereyre
In Galicia: Pereiro, Pereiros

The Portuguese colonists introduced the name Pereira to the Goanese in Goa and to the Paravars in Tamil Nadu in India.

Perera and its variants are common surnames in Portugal, Brazil, India, and Sri Lanka, and in most of the Lusosphere (regions where people speak Portuguese, either as native speakers or as learners).

After Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa in February 1510, the Portuguese converted the Hindu Goanese to Catholicism and gave them Portuguese names such as Fernando, da Souza, Pereira and so on.

In 1516, when the Hindu Tamil Paravars of the Pearl Fishery Coast in Southern India sought the help of the Portuguese to circumvent the oppression of the Middle Eastern Arab Merchants and their Muslim Paravar brethren, one of the stipulations laid out by the Portuguese was that the Paravars should convert to Catholicism.

The Middle Eastern Arab Merchants getting wind of these negotiations dispatched two envoys to Cochin to bribe the Portuguese Captain Pero Vaz de Amaral, to not allow conversion of the Paravars to Catholicism, but Pero Vaz refused to do so.

Pero Vaz immediately arranged for the baptism of 85 Paravar leaders in Cochin by the Vicar General, Miguel Vaz, probably in December 1535. The Paravar leaders were given  Portuguese names as surnames. Pereira was one of the names given to the   Paravars as a surname.

In 1505, Lourenço de Almeida, a Portuguese explorer and military commander made his first voyage to Ceylon and established a settlement there. From then on, the Catalan name “Perera” became one of the surnames among both the Catholics and Buddhist Sinhalese.

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Oh, Sweet Poison, Thy Name Is Sugar!


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.” – Richard Johnson, Nephrologist, University of Colorado Denver

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What does the word “sugar” mean to you?

To me, anything that tastes sweet: cane sugar (sucrose), beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, syrups, sugary drinks, molasses, agave the popular ingredient for tequila, chocolates, toffees, confectioneries, etc.

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Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)
Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)

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Most of us had our first singular experience of sweetness when we licked the dab of cake icing or a drop of honey from the finger of one of our loving parents.

Even though sugar tastes delicious it is not a food.

Though it is habit-forming it is not a drug, but many people get addicted to it.

The more sugar you taste, the more you want.

Sugar provides instant energy and quickens the muscles, but it is not a nutrient.

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Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)
Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)

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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates, derived from various sources.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent the protein from being used as energy.

Before learning to grow food, the carbohydrates that our ancestors consumed for energy must have come from whatever plants that were available to them according to the season.

Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea cultivated sugarcane. They drank the sweet juice by chewing the stalks of the sugarcane. The cultivation of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland. By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. By 600 AD sugar found its way to China, Persia, and northern Africa. Eventually, by the 11th century, it reached Europe. In England between the 18th and 19th centuries consumption of sugar increased by 1,500 percent.

By the mid 19th century, Europeans, Americans and the people of the civilized world became habituated to the use of refined sugar and considered it as a staple item of food.

Now, we consume sugar daily in one form or another because our body cells depend on carbohydrates for energy. An ingrained love for sweetness has evolved within us and we use sugar generously to sweeten almost all our raw, cooked, baked, frozen food and drinks.

There is good and bad food. Health experts point their finger accusingly at all foods that have sugar and brand them bad. They say that we are in fact poisoning ourselves by satiating our sweet tooth. Some even use the adjective ‘toxic’ to describe sugar and say it disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles and endangers our internal and external organs.

All experts say the use of sugar results in high rates of obesity, metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other ailments.

Testing urine by smelling and tasting was once the primary method used to diagnose diseases. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) of Kos noticed that a patient’s urine smelled differently as the course of fever changed. The Greco-Roman doctor Galen (131-201 AD) of Pergamon believed that urine revealed the health of the liver, where blood was supposedly produced. He stated, evaluating the urine was the best way to find whether or not the body’s four humours – blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile – were in equilibrium.

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Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)
Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

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In 1675, Thomas Willis (1621-1675), an English physician who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry, and a founding member of the Royal Society of London, was the first in modern medical literature to diagnose diabetes by the taste of urine. He observed that the urine of the diabetics tasted “wonderfully sweet, as if it were imbued with honey or sugar.” His taste test impelled him to append the latin word ‘mellitus‘ for honey to this form of diabetes. Ancient  Hindu, Chinese, and Arab texts also have reports of the same sweet taste in urine of patients suffering from diabetes.

Haven Emerson (1874-1957), Emeritus Professor of Public Health Practice at Columbia University, New York, pointed out that significant increase in deaths from diabetes between 1900 and 1920 corresponded with an increase in sugar consumption.

In the 1960s a series of experiments on animals and humans conducted by John Yudkin, the British nutrition expert revealed that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat that paved the way for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s warning was not heard because other scientists blamed the rising rates of obesity and heart disease to cholesterol caused by much-saturated fat in the diet.

Even though the Americans changed their diet by consuming less fat than they did 20 years before, obesity increased.

Why?

The culprit was sugar and fructose in particular.

Now, we eat most of our sugar mainly as sucrose or table sugar. Americans include high-fructose corn syrup as well.

One molecule each of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose, having the same chemical formula, but with slightly different molecular structures, bond together to form a molecule of sucrose.

Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets. In the 1960s, the U.S. corn industry developed a new technology to convert corn-derived glucose into fructose from which high fructose corn syrup was produced. Despite its name, the high fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and three percent other sugars.

The various avatars of sugar are metabolized differently in the body. Our body cells prefer the simple sugars fructose and glucose to the heavier disaccharide sucrose. Enzymes such as sucrase in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose instantaneously. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues.

The human body regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose reaches all the tissues in the body through the bloodstream. It stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, the hormone which helps remove excess glucose from the blood, and boosts production of leptin, the hormone which suppresses hunger.

All body cells convert glucose into energy, but only liver cells can convert fructose to energy by metabolizing it into glucose and lactate.

Too much fructose from sugars and sugary drinks including fruit juices taxes the liver by making it spend much energy on converting and leaving less for all its other functions. This leads to excess production of uric acid that induces the formation of gout, kidney stones and leads to high blood pressure. According to some researchers, large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need since it raises the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.

Sugar also triggers the body to increase production of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol often informally called bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol transports their content of many fat molecules into artery walls, attract macrophages, and thus drive atherosclerosis.

Also, excess fructose increases fat production, especially in the liver. The fat converts to circulating triglycerides that are easily stored in fatty tissue, leading to obesity and a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular diseases.

Some researchers have linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance – a condition in which cells become unusually less responsive to insulin, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to regulate blood glucose levels properly.

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Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado
Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado Denver

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Richard J. Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the disorders that often occur together.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic quotes Dr Richard J. Johnson:

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.

Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.”

Now, more than one-third of adults and nearly 12.5 million adolescents and children are obese in the United States. In 1980 about 5.6  million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. However, in 2011 more than 20 million Americans were found to be diabetic.

Dr Arun Bal, diabetic foot surgeon warns:

“India is facing an epidemic of diabetes. At present, confirmed diabetes patients in India are 67 million, with another 30 million in prediabetes group. By 2030, India will have the largest number of [diabetic] patients in the world. Diabetes is not only a blood sugar problem but brings along other complications as well.”

Dr Suresh Vijan, an Interventional cardiologist, also warns:

“The incidence of heart disease is increasing at a rapid rate. It was 1.09% in the 1950s, increased to 9.7 % in 1990, and 11% by 2000. This rising trend will make India the heart disease capital of the world… Indians face a dual risk of heart disease and diabetes. The risk of death due to myocardial infarction is three times higher in diabetics as compared with non-diabetics. Life expectancy too is reduced by 30% in diabetics as compared to non-diabetics; this translates into a loss of eight years of life… Increased consumption of dense-rich foods along with increasing sedentary lifestyle has increased the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.”

Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, is crusading against the use of sugar. His YouTube videos “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” and “Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0” have gone viral.

It’s not just the heart, diabetes takes a severe toll on vision too.

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Don't Lick the spoon !(Source: news.discovery.com)
Don’t Lick the spoon ! (Source: news.discovery.com)

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