Who are pattinavars?

Updated: 9/21/2023
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Meenas are fishermen community of North India, who could be a variant of kolis. The meenas, who are from Rajastan were warriors and erstwhile rulers. The meenas of North India and Meenavars of South India seems to be one and the same people. The western ganga rulers ( Muttarasas = Mudiraj ) of South India , who are believed to be the migrants from North India could most probably be the people belonging or relating to Meena tribe of Rajastan.

The Sangam literature such as Patthupattu, Ettu thogai, Purnanooru, Agananooru and other works in Tamil language are clearly vouching the status and predominance the Paravas ( Meenas ) enjoyed in the earlier centuries of B.C & A.D.

While Meenavar community is listed listed in official records as Most Backward Class (MBC) in Tamilnadu, the Meenas of Rajastan are listed as Scheduled Tribes. While the meenavar community is the one that takes the boats out to sea, the jobs listed below are carried out by dalits and members of the pazhankudi community: (i) Manual labour that lifts the fish catch from the sea on to the boat, (ii) Manual labour that lifts the catch on to the shore and sorts it, (iii) Truck drivers who transport the fish to different regions for export/sale, (iv) Those who sell fish on the shore in baskets or on bicycles, (v) Those who repair/paint boats, etc, (vi) Those who do inland fishing, (vii) Labourers who form part of fish-packing activities and (viii) Prawn farm labourers.

The people of the sea-shore were Meenavar. They were all simple people climbing on Palmyrah or Coconut-trees, feeding their cattle in the grassy lands or catching fish from the sea. Some were engaged in picking up pearls from the depth of the sea. They were a simple people. The Meenavar community constitute the majority of fishermen in Nagapattanam and Eastern coast of Tamilnadu. The subects of Meenavars are - Agnikula Kshatriya, Mukkuvan including Chinna Pattinavar Paravar, Parvatharajakulam Pattinavar Periya, Pattinavar Sembadavar.

Neydal was the coastal region in Tamilnadu. The people of this region known as Parathavar or Meenavar. Fishing was their natural occupation. They were also famous sailors. A few people of this region produced and sold salt. They were called as Umanar. The God of the Neydal region was Varunan or the God of the sea. There is one Mutharayer Meenavar Colony in Tuticorin. This indicates sections of Meenavars are part of Muthuraja community. The people of Meenavars (Parvatharajakulam) also worship Goddess Angalamman as Mudiraj worship Goddess Ankamma. Goddess Ankamma is known as Angamma or Ammanga in Tamilnadu

Meenavars might have mixed with Parada or Paratarajas or Parvata Raja Kulam, an Indo -Scythian clan and got alienated from the Villavar and Nadalvar (Nadar) clans. Mudirajus or Mutharaiyar a Kalabhra aristocracy who once ruled Chera, Chola and Pandyan kingdoms as Muvendars regard Paratas as one of their own clan. Now at the present day, Meenavar caste has been spread up to eight divisions, the major tribes are Maravar and paravar(parathavar), who were ancient rulers of land and seas of Pandya kingdom. Nagas seem to be more related to the Kalabhras or Kalapirars or Kalavar who invaded the Pandyan kingdom around 350 AD.

The Paratarajas ( Indo-Parthians ) are an almost unknown dynasty who ruled in what is now the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, probably during the first through the third centuries. The Paratarajas ( meenas ) are a dynasty of Indo-Scythian kings who ruled in the Baluchistan region of today's Pakistan and Iran, from the 1st century to the 3rd century CE. The dynasty of the Paratas is thought to be identical with the Paradas of the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other Indian sources. They are essentially known through their coins, which typically exhibit the bust of the ruler on the observe, with long hair within a headband), and a swastika within a Brahmi legend on the reverse (usually silver coins) or Kharoshthi (usually copper coins). The coins can mainly be found in the Loralai area of modern Pakistan. Paratarajas were local Indo-Parthian Satraps, who ruled an area between todays Loralai in Baluchistan and Multan. Their coinage and history has not been fully understood, but hopefully with the discovery of more coins, more insight into their history will come to light. Parvati is the daughter of Parvataraja, the King of the Himalayas.

Parvatarajas = Paratarajas = Indo-Parthians = Pardhis = Erukalas

Along the Coromandel coast of Tamil Nadu (between the districts of Thiruvallur and Nagapattinam), the Pattanavars ( Parvathrajas ) are the main caste involved in fishing, while Kanyakumari is dominated by the Mukkuvars. Kanyakumari also has the Paravas. Among the Pattanavars, where the predominant religion is Hinduism, the most important institution at the community hamlet (kuppam) level for the fishing community is the caste panchayat, with the talaivar as the head. Its most important role is in the realm of conflict resolution in fishery and / or related social issues in the village. This institution is a nested structure working from the village upwards.

Parvatar => Paravar => Parava

Parava or Paravas, also known as Bharathar, Paravar is one of the oldest Tamil castes. For centuries the Paravas had been pearl divers. The Paravas later diversified into fishing, salt-making and other maritime professions. Paravar also refers to the people living on the coast of the Indian state of Tamilnadu and in parts of northern and western Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The Paravas in Sri Lanka migrated from India during the British colonial days; many prospered in trade and business in Sri Lanka and now generally speak Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka.

As in other old Tamil caste such as Devars, Paravars are also are very proud about their caste heritage. There are many historic reasons for the closer relations with the Pandiyan kingdom of Madurai. Tuticorin the port city of the Pandiyan kingdom, has always been a stronghold of the Paravars. The Paravars were the chiefs of the coastal region and they ruled their areas as subordinates of the Pandyas of the Sangam age. The Paravars head quarter was Korkai harbour during the regime of Pandiyan Kingdom and they all spread into 22 fishing hamlets in the pearl fishery coast of Gulf of Mannar and adjacent Comerin coast. The paravas once a very powerful people and no doubt derived much of their ascendancy over other tribes from their knowledge of navigation and pearl fishery. They had a succession of kings among them, distinguished by the title Adiarasen Some of these chiefs seem to have resided at Uttara Kosmangay near Ramnad. In olden days paravars were engaged in trading with Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, Java, Burma and Ceylon. Korkai pearl was the most famous item exported from Tamil land.

The Paravas were a Tamil fisher caste who inhabited the fishery coast extending from Cape Comorin Kanya Kumari to the isle of Mannar (Rameswaram) along the gulf that bears the name. The Paravas plied the trade of pearl fishing, diving for pearls to the bottom of the deep where they could stay for many hours. Bharatars (paravas) worked at the Fishery Coast, which is also known as the Pearl. Fishery Coast in India. The pearal fishing most probably gave them the name Mutthuraja.

Mutthu = Muttu = Pearl

Raja = King

Mutthuraja = Muthuraja = Kings from community of pearl fishing

There were two subdivisions in the Paravars. Pagal Paravas and Nila Paravas, i.e. Sun Paravas and Moon Paravas. The Paravas of South India and Ceylone are Moon Paravas. The Moon Paravas seem to have been the more important of the line. They constituted one fourth of the whole Mina stock. The country where the Paravas lived was sometimes called Paravanad � once only in the inscriptions � on account of their political importance and their riches. Their main city was called Paravarpalli, the city of the Paravas. The king of the Paravas always received the title of Minavan and his banner had two fishes on it.

They are the Bharatar or the Paravas. Parava pearl (incidentally pearl fishing was done only for 20-30 days in March, every year) fishermen inhabited the sandy coast from Kanyakumari to Rameswaram in South India, concentrating around Thoothukudi - Tuticorin. Early in the 16th century, they were virtually reduced to slavery by Muslim rulers who took over the pearl fishing rights, and the Hindu rulers who did not quite support their cause, till finally the Portuguese came to their salvation. They were the first to embrace Christianity in the 16th century.

The Paravas, also known as Bharathar, Paravar, Meenparavar and Fernandos, are one of the oldest Tamil castes. (Paravar is a Tamil word refering to the people living in the sea shore and its closet Neythal thinai)- together with Maravar (Devar) and Kuravar. Marvars are also believed to be the descendants of Meenavars. The name 'Fernando', a predominant surname and other surnames were acquired from the Portuguese, under whose influence the Paravas came into, in the 16th century. The Parava tribes split into three categories namely Tamil Paravans who are Fishermen on the Sea coast ,Malayalee Paravans who are Sea shell collectors, lime burners& Gymnasts and thirdly Canarese (kannada) Paravans who are umbrella makers & devil dancers. The paravas once a very powerful people and no doubt derived much of their ascendancy over other tribes from their knowledge of navigation and pearl fishery. They had a succession of kings among them, distinguished by the title ADIYARASEN. Some of these kings seem to have resided at UTTARA KOSAMANGAY near Ramnad. The story of this city itself is clear evidence to this fact. Later, the leaders were called by names Thalaivan, Pattankattiyars, Adappannars etc.

Among the various categorisations of the sea environment, the Pattanavars ( Parvatarajas ) recognise eight kinds of current, wind and direction. Each current influences the fishing activities, depending on its direction and velocity, which are further influenced by the movement of position of the Moon, change of seasonality, etc.

The Hebrews may be related to the Rigvedic Aryan tribes of Bharatas. The Bharatas are mentioned in the Rgveda as a warlike race . The Bharatas appear to be specially connected with sacrificial rites in the Rigveda. The holy land of Bharatavars was on the bank of the Gan:ga river in North India. A.L. Basham states that Bharatas was one of the invading Aryan tribes, which settled in the region between the Satlaj and Jamna, which later became known as Brahmavarta.

Bharata's ancestors lived in the region of the Caspian sea in Central Asia; they were nomadic tribesmen of Aryan stock. Bharata's legendary capital lay in the Kabul valley, ie. Yusufzai territory of modern Afghanistan. From this base he descended with his hordes of Aryan horsemen onto the plains of India.There he defeated Indra, a descendant of the first Aryan invader Indra, earning himself the title "most renowned of the Lunar race". Bharata clan initially settled on the banks of the Saraswati river. There the Bharatas got mixed up with Dravidian Bhil koli fishing tribes. He then conquered the Upper Ganges valley, exceeding Indra's dominion. After the wars of annexation, the Raj of Bharata extended over the enitre doab between the rivers Ganges and the Jumna right up to the junction of these 2 rivers. It is thus obvious that Bharata's empire, Bharatavarsha, only included a few provinces in the Ganges Valley. Thus Bharatavarsha did not include the whole of India and never did, but only denoted the kingdom of the Aryan invader Bharata, who was a chieftain of one of the Aryan tribes that invaded India. This small region comprised only a small part of the upper Ganges valley.

Meena is a Sanskrit word meaning fish. It has been suggested that the Bharatas and some other tribes of the Rgveda later on merged in the Kurus. There are two Bharatas quite distinct from each other. One tribe of the Bharatas are the Bharatas of the Rig Veda, who were descended from Manu and to whom Sudas belonged. The other tribe of Bharatas are the Daushyanti Bharatas. The decline of the Kurus after the Bharata War brought in many tribes in the region who mixed up with and became part and parcel of the original settlers. The first story of reconciliation concerns the two tribes, the Bharatas to whom Vishvamitra belonged and the Tritsus to whom Vasishtha belonged.

This indicates that bharatas or meenas are more aryanised Indo-Aryan warrior clans having fishing background, who later came to South India. One of Arjuna's is Partha and this name seems to be derived from Bharata. Even the people of Pardhi tribe seems to be related to Bharats. Arjuna who was a descendant of Bharata tribe hits moving FISH in Matsya Yantra to win Draupadi. This too indicates that kurus and pandu were warrior clans from fishing background. There are several Mudiraj people who gotra is Pandavula.

Bharatha => Bhartha => Phartha => Partha

Partha => Parthi => Pardhi

The Bharatas, and their priestly aristocracy of Tritsus, the Vasishthas, appear to have joined the Kuru-Panchala confederacy about the time that the Brahmanas were being composed, and these were probably influenced by the ritualistic practices of the Vasishthas. There are references to Agni of the Bharatas, and a goddess Bharati is mentioned in connection with the Saraswati river.It appears highly probable that the Bharatas and the Kuru-Panchalas represent late invasions of peoples who displaced the earlier Aryan settlers in Hindustan.

The great epic Mah�bh�rata, "the Iliad of India", may have been founded on the hero songs which celebrated the Aryan tribal wars in India. Its action is centred in Kuru-kshetra, "the country of the Kurus", in which the Bharatas had settled. Two rival families contend for supremacy; these are the Kauravas (the Kurus) and the Pandavas who are supported by the Panchalas and others. The Pandavas and Kauravas are cousins and the descendants of the eponymous King Bharata. In the royal family tree the tribal names of Kuru and Puru appear as names of kings.

Mahabharata deals with story of Maha Bharatas or the Great Bharatas. It is possible that that these are the same or related people who assumed the title Maharayars and Mudirajas after their migration to South India. Here Mudi and Maha means Great.

Mudi = Maha = Great

The Bharatas (Paravars = Meenas ) are an Aryan tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, especially in Mandala attributed to the Bharata sage Vishvamitra and as a name of Rudra. Mandala mentions the Bharatas as taking part in the Battle of the Ten Kings, where they are on the winning side. They appear to have been successful in the early power-struggles between the various Aryan and non-Aryan tribes so that in post-Vedic ), the Mahabharata, the eponymous ancestor becomes Emperor Bharata, conqueror of all of India and his tribe and kingdom is called Bharata. "Bharata" today is the official name of the Republic of India .

Bharatakula also Bharathas are a Sri Lankan caste of Paravar immigrants from Tamil Nadu in India. Paravar are to be found all over Sri Lanka. Amongst Sri Lankan Tamils Paravar are still a fishing and trading caste. The Bharatas or Bharatakula identity is maintained by a relatively prosperous merchant group from India that settled amongst the Sinhalese in the Negombo area. is also noteworthy that the Bharatas in the Rig Veda were a clan among the Indo-Aryan Pauravas who fought away Iranian invaders. Many marchents and vaishyas were once belonged to warrior race but in due course of time they became specialised in trade & commerce under the patronage of their warrior ruling relatives.

The Vanaras could have been referred to as 'the monkeys' in asmuch as the Pandyans who fought under the banner emblazoned with an image of a fish were referred to iconographically with a symbol of the fish and their king, in older Tamizh literature, as 'meenavan', literally the fishman.

Meenans of South India are fishermen similar to Cholas and Mutharayars. From Kumbakonam Nageswaran temple / Tiruvottiyur inscriptions, we understand that one Meenavan Madevi was one of the consorts of Uthama Chozha.

The Pandiyan kingdom had the fish as emblem and the flag had the same motif on it. The kings were called Meenavan indicating that the kingdom had fishery and perhaps founded by fishermen. Their deity is "Meenaakshi" (or Meenaakshi or Meenakshi). "Meen" means fish, and "akshi" means Eye. Thus the name "Meenaakshi" means Goddess with fisk like eyes. The fish symbols in Harappan seals may refer to their ancestral king and / or the goddess.

Meen = Meena = Fish

Akshi = Eye

Meena + Akshi = Meenakshi

Meenakshi = One having eyes like fish

The History of Pandiyan Kingdom starts with early prehistory of India before 12000 to 15000 years ago. The ancient Pandiyan kingdom had soverignity over most of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Southern Karnataka and Srilanka. It is the oldest of all the kingdoms in India, founded by native Dravidians.

However the main ancient Pandian dynasty is from Mara Vamsam. Nadar community who descend from the ancient Pandian kingdom who descend from the Maravamsam hence called Maranadar /Mara Nadalwar, Nadar, Nadan, Nadava, Alwar, Maran all are abbreviations and synonyms of the same name. The Kings had the title Maravarman and Maran. Nelveli and Maveli and Chadayan were the titles of the Pandiyan kings. The Maveli Thamburan of Onam could have been a Pandiyan king as there was only Pandiyan king before 3000 yrs at Kerala. The onam festival was celebrated throughout Pandiyan kingdom ie Kerala as well as Tamil nadu in ancient times. The place called Mavelikkara and Thirunelveli, NenMara in Palakkad and Chadayamangalam all may indicate Pandiyan Soverignity. The titles of ancient Pandiyan kingdom. Maravars are a part of Mutharayar community and they are one of three clans of Mukkulathors.

Meena => Meenavar => Meenavar

Meenavar => Maarvar => Maravar

The Kalitokai, an ancient Tamil work, mentions the association of the Villavars and their allies Meenavars (fishermen) who fought a fierce battle (around 500BC to 1000 BC) against Nagas. The Nagas though Non Aryan lived in the North India and had heavy Aryan mixture. When the Villavars and Minavars were defeated by the Nagas in the Central India, the Present day Maharashtra, Chatthisgarh and Madyapradesh area was lost to the Villavars and Nagas occupied it. In the later days, Naga hordes moved southwards and infiltrated Southern India.

According to scholars, the southern region -- known generally as tamilakam, which included almost the entire region south of the Deccan -- was divided into five geographical segments. The people who inhabited the coasts, known as neithal, were described as meenavar or paravar in Sangam literature.

After theSaka or Indo-Scythian people who invaded India in the second century BC some Nagas mixed with the Scythians especially at North India. Keralolpathi, Keralamahatmiyam and Kerala Purana state the story of Naga migration from north to south in the first millennium.

Meenas are a tribe whom one would find only in Rajasthan. They are now having Scheduled Tribe status in Rajastan. The similarity between the gujjars and the meenas appear over the way in which the British treated them. Like the Gujjars, British found this community also as a thorn in their flesh, and one British chronicler even called them "revengeful and blood thirsty". And like they did with the gujjars, this community was also denominated as a criminal tribe. It may be seen that both gujjars and the meenas who had belonged to a much higher caste order were relegated into criminal tribes during the British times.

Originally Meenas were a ruling cast, and were ruler of Matsya, i.e., Rajasthan, but their slow downfall began with the assimilation with Scythian. and was completed when the British government declared them a "Criminal Tribe". Meenas are also found in north-western Madhya Pradesh. The Meenas, community of Rajasthan, are an agricultural people occupying one of the most fertile regions of the state. The Meena kings were the early rulers of major parts of Rajasthan including Amber (early capital of Jaipur).According to Britannica, "the Minas are possibly of inner Asiatic origin, and tradition suggests that they migrated to India in the 7th century with the Rajputs".

From Vedic period to the present, Meenas have seen many ups and downs. In ancient period they were a ruling tribe of Rajasthan. Coming to medieval period they were cut off from their own land, to the interiors of mountain and forests. The oral history preserved in the traditional folktales and folklores of this tribe affirm the kingdom of Meena (Mindesh) with its capital at Amber. Col. James Tod has written that, Meena was a great community which ruled over large part of Rajasthan. During the 10th century AD, Meenas were totally routed out from Amber and Jaipur and thus deprived of their privileges. Meenas were the original builders of Amber, which town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as `Gatta Rani' or `Queen of the Pass'

Later, with advent of the Rajputs and other invaders into their territory, the Meenas were gradually sidelined and pushed deep into the forests. Even so, they continued to be a threat due to their guerilla tactics against the Rajputs and the British. To arrest their power and strength, and to curb their spirit, the British notified them under the Habitual Criminal Act in 1930, referring to them as robbers and criminals. Under this Act, permits were issued to restrict and limit their movement in the area. As a result, historical literature has completely bypassed the Meenas.

These so-called criminal tribes were actually non-tax paying communities of singers, acrobats, musicians, and cattle grazers, amongst others, whose nomadic lifestyle was a constant source of suspicion for the British. Thereafter, they were confined to newly created ghettos, and put to work as cheap labour for industries. Infants were separated from their mothers, because the British insisted that their "criminal" strain should not be passed on. Thus the British sowed the seeds of unfounded prejudice, which continues to date. According to Devy, "Even the Meenas, who were coin makers, were notified as criminals, because the State wanted to convert coin production into a state venture. These tribes were stigmatised by the State and consequently by the people who received education from it � the middle class."

The Meenas who constitute almost half of the tribal population used to live on rocky elevations or in thick forests and their settlements were called Mewasas. The cluster of their houses was also called a pal and was named after the gotra to which most of the inhabitants belonged. The Meenas were settled in the villages of Jaipur, Sawai- Madhopur and Tonk districts. Of their two classes, the Purana Basi Meenas are mostly agriculturists while the Naya Basis belong to the light-fingered fraternity which prior to independence was subjected to daily attendance at the nearest police station under the Criminal Tribes.

Meenas, Meena or Mina is numerically the largest tribe mainly found in Rajasthan, India. It is a dominating tribe in the eastern part of the state (i.e. the Aravalli range) which is most fertile and ecologically rich. In the past, the greed for this fertile strip in the remaining arid Rajasthan led to constant invasions by the Aryans, Kshtriyas, Muslims and later by the British; but the Meenas did not succumb to these alien forces and retained their individuality by confining themselves to the interior areas of the region. Meenas are a rich land-owning community inhabiting the western districts of Rajasthan.

According to studies it has been found that Meenas originally seems to have been an aboriginal or pre-Aryan tribe of Rajasthan. About the ethnic identity and origin of Meenas, they recognize their progeny from the 'Meenaavatar', the tenth fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Indus Valley Civilization also seems to bear a link in the history of this tribe. Meena or Matsya cast was among the Dravids of Mohenjodaro and Harappan Civilization who were driven out after the advent of the Aryans.

The name Mina is derived from Meen, meaning 'fish' in Sanskrit, and the Minas claim descent from the Matsya Avatar, or fish incarnation, of Vishnu. Meenas celebrate Meenesh Jayanti in the name of Vishnu on 3 Tithi of Chaitra Shukal paksha according to the Hindu calendar. The main reference of this belief is based on the scripture of the Matsya Purana.

Meenas are considered as a Kshatriya cast equally as Rajputs, and having higher social status in the society. They are well integrated with other higher cast like Rajputs, Brahmins etc. Brahmin perform all rituals from birth, marriage and death for Meenas like for any other higher Hindu cast. In Tamilnadu, we can see Meenava Chettiyars among chettiyars.

At the time of great Epic Mahabharat was written there was a Janpad known as "Matsya Janpad".The capital of this Janpad was "Virat Nagar", now known as "Bairath" and renamed as Virata Nagar again.The Pandavas got shelter there for one year. Meenas are considered the brothers and kinsmen of Virata, the ruler of Virat Nagar. They ruled this area(Near to Virat Nagar) till 11 th century.

In the ancient times Rajasthan was ruled by a dynasty of Meenas which had the emblem of Fish like the Pandyan kingdom of the south. The Meena kingdom ruled the east of the river Jamuna roughly corresponding to the modern Jaipur and Alwar (ruler) areas. The meena kingdom (Fish kingdom) was called Matsya Kingdom in Sanskrit was mentioned in the Rig Veda. The Bhil Meenas could correspond to the Dravidian Villavar (Chera) and Meenavar (Pandya Kingdom)respectively and may descend from indigenous Dravidian rulers (Alwars) originally.

Most of the Bhil Meenavas were aryanised even during the Vedic Period (1500 BC) and were considered as Vedic Tribes and had adopted Indo Aryan languages but a minority of the Bhil (tribal) Meenas still talk Dravidian as their mother tongue. Bhils and Meenas are included in the Kshatriya Varna. In the later days the Bhils and Meenas mixed with the Pardeshis or Rajputs who were Scythian, Hepthalite or other Central Asian clans. The Scythian mixed Meenas and Bhils remain as Rajput subclans while the Meenas and Bhils who were displaced by the Scythian invaders and Muslims have mixed with the tribal Bhils and form the Bhil (tribal) meenas who still speaks a Dravidian tongue and still considered as Rajputs. Bhil meenas are also found in parts of North eastern India and Sind area of Pakistan.

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