Indigenous technology of climate prediction among a Tamil Dalit community

by Thamburaj Dharmaraj


Valluvar community is referred extensively in ancient Tamil literature as ‘masters of astronomical calculations as well as predictions based on that’.  The author of the renowned classical Tamil text ‘Thirukkural’, Thiruvalluvar, is believed to be the offspring of this community.  Though it has valid literary and historical evidences of being a literate and scholarly community, it is culturally branded as ‘untouchable’ within the Tamil social system. 

According to 1891 Madras Census Report and Manual of the North Arcot District Valluvars are referred as ‘the priests of the Parayars and Pallars’.  The Divakaram and Chudamani Nikandu pointed out that ‘they were priests of the Pallava kings before the introduction of the Brahmans, and even for some time after it’. 

Hence they undergo all kinds of ailments and sanctions prescribed by the greater society upon the so called ‘untouchables’.  Nevertheless the ‘untouchable’ section of the Tamil society recognized these Valluvars as their traditional priests.

It is said that valluvars satisfied the spiritual, vis-à-vis the religious requirements of the dalit communities.  They were the ritual masters in life cycle and religious ceremonies of dalits.  Hence, they are called as Brahmins (priests) of ‘untouchables’.  Apart from the religious role, Valluvars played an important role within the entire Tamil social system, i.e. ‘as repertoire of climatic change’.  In his book ‘South Indian Castes and Tribes’ Edgar Thurston described them in following manner. “Each of them had a collection of panchangams, or calendars for determining auspicious dates, and a bundle of palm leaf strips (Chudamani Ullamudayan) inscribed with slokas for astrological purposes”. 

Traditional societies have maintained a register of climatic changes in order to predict the forthcoming natural calamities such as flood and drought.  These predictions are mostly done by deciphering the changes occurred in nature such as blowing of the wind, movement of clouds, appearance of the constellation of stars, behaviors of animals and plants, etc.  Agrarian communities traditionally rely mainly on these indigenous predictions of climatic change for its food production.  In Tamil society, the knowledge of climatic changes has been well organized in the form of a written register, ‘Panchankam’ (almanac).   Valluvars are traditionally assigned the work of keeping that register of climatic change and of updating it.  Therefore, they have to identify the key signs of nature and should engage in the process of deciphering them to predict the pattern of climate in the near future.

Until recently Valluvar community delivered the service of predicting rainfall for the agrarian societies of Tamilnadu.  Peasant folk still remember a cultural ceremony on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai (April) in which the Valluvar submits the climate report of the forthcoming calendar year.  It is said that Tamil peasants organized their agricultural practice with respect to the report rendered by him.  However, presently these exist only as memories.  According to oral sources, for the past two or three decades there was no such practice of submitting the climate report.  The socio-cultural bond between the Valluvar and the agrarian communities has been broken.

One can easily list out the reasons for the disappearance of a native knowledge about climatic conditions as well as the insignificance of Valluvars in the public sphere. Introduction of centralized agricultural practices in the name of green revolution, systematic dominance of state in the water management, advent of modern science in the prediction of climate change, creation of a popular opinion that tradition is superstitious, and of course, disastrous changes in the pattern of climate due to global reasons are some of them.  The Valluvars are the immediate sufferers of all these socio-cultural interventions.  As the result, they are forced to migrate from their original habitats to nearby towns and cities.  As they do not know anything other than keeping the register of time and space, they have become soothsayers, wandering in the streets in search of wounded souls.


Read Thamburaj Dharmaraj's bilingual articles in Tamil and English on topics of caste, Tamil folklore and related matters on his blog

Other Related Articles

MODI-fest or MODI-jest: Making of Deaf India
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
  Mangesh Dahiwale As predicted, the RSS/BJP Government is going for a massive public campaign to display the achievements of the Government after three years. The campaign will be run from a... Read More...
भारतीय सिनेमा का सुपरस्टार - जातिवाद और सामंतवाद का सहज उत्पाद
Monday, 22 May 2017
  संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe) विश्व सिनेमा में धाक जमाने वाले फ्रेंच निर्देशक गोडार्ड... Read More...
Dalit Bahujan Missionary Efforts in North Karnataka
Friday, 19 May 2017
  Rohan Arthur And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. - Matthew 19:24 Religion is for man and... Read More...
Release of 'What Babasaheb Ambedkar Means to Me' eBook: Get your free copy!
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
  The Shared Mirror Publishing House We are happy to share news of the release of our second book. 'What Babasaheb Means to Me' is an edited volume that compiles articles by authors on Round... Read More...
Guru's 'Ethics in Ambedkar's Critique of Gandhi': An exercise in rhetoric
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
  Mangesh Dahiwale Gopal Guru is an erudite scholar and a political scientist of high reputation. His command over political theories is a sign of his scholarship. However the above-mentioned... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Index of Articles in Features
Sunday, 07 May 2017
  2016 ~ Uniform Civil Code & Ashrafiya obsession with Triple Talaq by Ayaz Ahmad ~ Maratha Kranti (Muk) Morcha: When will Maratha women cross the threshold? by Sandhya Gawali ~... Read More...
Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's speech in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949
Saturday, 26 November 2016
  Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's speech in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949 Sir, looking back on the work of the Constituent Assembly it will now be two years, eleven months and... Read More...
Fight against the Misogyny & Casteism of 'Best Indian Memes for Creamy Teens', FB page
Friday, 06 January 2017
  Vinay Shende "My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a... Read More...
Presenting Angela Davis, the Savarna Style
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
  Sukanya Shantha On Friday, a friend and I walked into a movie hall to watch an American romantic musical, La La Land. Enticed by the cinematic beauty and the dreamy two hours spent in the... Read More...
Gangrape and Murder of a 16 year old Dalit girl in Sendurai, Tamil Nadu
Saturday, 21 January 2017
  (A condensed translation, by Trevor Jeyaraj, of Mr. Venpura Saravanan's Facebook post in Tamil ) N (16), daughter of Rajendran R of Sendurai taluk in Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu, who... Read More...

Recent Articles in Hindi

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

  संजय जोठे  इस देश में भेदभाव और शोषण से भरी परम्पराओं का विरोध करने वाले अनेक विचारक और क्रांतिकारी हुए हैं जिनके बारे में हमें बार-बार पढ़ना और समझना चाहिए. दुर्भाग्य से इस देश के शोषक वर्गों के षड्यंत्र के कारण इन क्रांतिकारियों का जीवन परिचय और समग्र कर्तृत्व छुपाकर रखा जाता है. हमारी अनेकों पीढियां इसी षड्यंत्र में जीती आयीं हैं. किसी देश के उद्भट विचारकों और क्रान्तिकारियों को इस...

Read more

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

(कृष्ण की लोक लुभावन छवि का पुनर्पाठ!)मानुषी आखिर ये मिथकीय कहानियां किस तरह की परवरिश और शिक्षा देती हैं, जहां पुरुषों को सारे अधिकार हैं, चाहे वह स्त्री को अपमानित करे या दंडित, उसे स्त्री पलट कर कुछ नहीं कहती। फिर आज हम रोना रोते हैं कि हमारे बच्चे इतने हिंसक और कुंठित क्यों हो रहे हैं। सारा दोष हम इंटरनेट और टेलीविजन को देकर मुक्त होना चाहते हैं। जबकि स्त्री...

Read more

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

संजय जोठे धर्म जो काम शास्त्र लिखकर करता है वही काम राष्ट्र अब फ़िल्में और विडिओ गेम्स बनाकर बनाकर करते हैं. इसी के साथ सुविधाभोगी पीढ़ी को मौत से बचाने के लिए टेक्नालाजी पर भयानक खर्च भी करना पड़ता है ताकि दूर बैठकर ही देशों का सफाया किया जा सके, और यही असल में उस तथाकथित “स्पेस रिसर्च” और “अक्षय ऊर्जा की खोज” की मूल प्रेरणा है, यूं तो सबको...

Read more