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This article is an excerpt from
Castes and Tribes of Southern India
By Edgar Thurston, C.I.E.,
Superintendent, Madras Government Museum; Correspondant
Étranger, Société d’Anthropologie de Paris; Socio
Corrispondante, Societa,Romana di Anthropologia.
Assisted by K. Rangachari, M.A.,
of the Madras Government Museum.

Government Press, Madras


The Kakkalans or Kakkans are a vagrant tribe met with in north and central Travancore, who are identical with the Kakka Kuravans of south Travancore. There are among them four endogamous divisions called Kavitiyan, Manipparayan, Meluttan, and Chattaparayan, of which the two first are the most important. The Kavitiyans are further sub-divided into Kollak Kavitiyan residing in central Travancore Malayālam Kavitiyan, and Pāndi Kavitiyan or immigrants from the Pāndyan country.

The Kakkalans have a legend concerning their origin to the effect that Siva was once going about begging as a Kapaladhārin, and arrived at a Brāhman street, from which the inhabitants drove him away. The offended god immediately reduced the village to ashes, and the guilty villagers begged his pardon, but were reduced to the position of the Kakkalans, and made to earn their livelihood by begging.

The women wear iron and silver bangles, and a palunka māla or necklace of variously coloured beads. They are tattooed, and tattooing members of other castes is one of their occupations, which include the following:— Katukuttu, or boring the lobes of the ears.

Katuvaippu, or plastic operations on the ear, which Nāyar women and others who wear heavy pendant ear ornaments often require.

Kainokku or palmistry, in which the women are more proficient than the men.

Kompuvaippu, or placing the twig of a plant on any swelling of the body, and dissipating it by blowing on it.

Taiyyal, or tailoring.

Pāmpātam or snake dance, in which the Kakkalans are unrivalled.

Fortune telling.

The chief object of worship by the Kakkalans is the rising sun, to which boiled rice is offered on Sunday. They have no temples of their own, but stand at some distance from Hindu temples, and worship the gods thereof. Though leading a wandering life, they try to be at home for the Malabar new year, on which occasion they wear new clothes, and hold a feast. They do not observe the national Ōnam and Vishu festivals.

The Kakkalans are conspicuously polygamous, and some have as many as twelve wives, who are easily supported, as they earn money by their professional engagements. A first marriage must be celebrated on Sunday, and the festivities last from Saturday to Monday. Subsequent marriages may also be celebrated on Thursday.

On the night of the day before the wedding, a brother, or other near relation of the bridegroom, places the sambandham (alliance) by bringing a fanam (coin), material for chewing, and cooked rice to the marriage pandal (booth). Fruit and other things are flung at him by the bride’s people. On the following day the bridegroom arrives at the pandal, and, after raising the tāli (marriage badge) three times towards heaven, and, invoking a blessing from on high, ties it round the bride’s neck. When a girl reaches puberty, a merry celebration is kept up for a week. The dead are buried. Inheritance is from father to son. A childless widow is a coparcener with the brothers of the deceased, and forfeits this right if she remarries. Though in the presence of other castes the Kakkalans speak Malayālam, they have a peculiar language which is used among themselves, and is not understood by others.

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