Sunday, 30 June 2013

The 5 Landscapes of Tamilakam

The ancient Tamil people categorized their land into 5 different landscapes. These are collectively known as Aintinai, the 5 tinai. Each of these tinai has a patron deity.

Different tribes dominate each tinai. Interestingly the ancient Tamils also used the 5 tinais as genre for their poems as each tinai represents a particular human mood.

The concept of aintinai is unique to the Tamils and it was first mentioned in the oldest surviving Tamil text, the Tolkappiyam. This text is estimated to be 2,500 years old.

Let's take a look at the 5 landscapes of Tamilakam.

These are the hilly regions of the land. The patron deity is Muruga who was also known as Seyon. As the deity of the hills, Muruga is also worshipped as Malayandi. The associated mood of the kurinji tinai is romanticism. The kurinji tinai is inhabited by the Kuravar, Veddar and the Kanavar tribe. They were hunters.

The Kuravar people have various divisions. Some are not related to each other. There is also one known as Nari-kuravar due to fox hunting.

Nari is the Tamil word for fox and jackals.

There used to be a preserved carcass of a fox at the entrance of my late paternal grandfather's house in Sivagangai. He bought it from a Kurava tribesman.

Purpose? Well the older generation believed that if you see a fox as soon as you wake up in the morning, it is a sign of good omen. (Nari mugathil mulicha nalathu) My grandfather decided to just hang it at the entrance so that he sees it each morning.

The people of Kurinji were also experts in the art of staff fighting known as Silambam. They used their silambam skills to defend themselves against the wild animals. The staple food of the kurinji inhabitants are meat, roots, honey, milet and hill paddy rice.

The Mullai represents the pastoral regions of the land. The deity of this land is Mal, the dark god. Mal was also known as Mayon and this is none other than Vishnu. Hence Mal or Vishnu is also worshipped today as Tirumal or Perumal. Some of you would know that in the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu is portrayed as the maternal uncle of Muruga. This is why Muruga is also referred to as Mal-marugan (son-in-law of Mal).

In Tamil kinship, cross cousin marriage is allowed. Nephews (sister's sons) are often considered as suitable bridegroom for daughters.

The associated mood of this land is longing for loved ones. This region is inhabited by the Ayar and Idaiyar tribe. They are also known as the Yadavas. Have you seen surnames like Yadav, Konar or even Kone? It is their ancestors who lived in the Mullai region. They were mainly shepherds and cattle breeders.

We must also take note that Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu was born into a Yadava tribe. The name Krishna (Krsna) has the same meaning as Mal, the dark one.

The staple food of the mullai tinai consists mainly of milk, dairy products and food obtained from other tinais.

The agricultural region is known as Marutham. The patron deity of this region is Venthan who is also known as Indra. Venthan is also the god of heavens who provided rain. Rain is the most important element of this region as it is needed for agriculture.

The mood associated with this tinai is domesticity and infidelity. Infidility because the Parataiyar prostitutes also lived in this region along with other tribes. So infidelity was quite common.

This region was inhabited mainly by the Vellalar tribe. They were mostly agricultural landlords. The Pallar tribe worked the land of the Vellalars as agricultural labors.

Rice is the staple food of this region. This is the most fertile region. Many villages sprung in the marutham tinai.

The Paalai represents the dry arid regions of the land. It is hard to say that it was an entirely separate region. The paalai are pockets of dry land.

The patron deity of this land is Kotravai who is also worshipped as Durga, the goddess of war. Paalai is the only tinai which has a female patron deity.

This region with its harsh environment is inhabited by warlike tribes known as Eyinar, Maravar and Kallar (Kalvar). My ancestors belonged to these tribes.

The mood associated with this tinai is loneliness. The staple food is meat, grass rice and roots.

It is not the best region to live. The paalai tinai was infested with robbery and tribe wars. The victors of such crisis usually offer the heads of the looser to Kotravai.

The final region is the coastal region known as Neythal. Being right next to the sea, it will only makes sense if the God of Seas, known as Varunan becomes its patron deity.

The mood associated with this region is separation and union. This could be due to the lifestyle of fishermen. When they venture into the sea in the morning, their families will miss them and pray for their safe return. When they return after the day's catch, there will be happiness in the reunion.

The neythal tinai is inhabited by the Paravars (Parathavar), Valayar and Meenavar tribes. They were involved with activities like fishing, sea faring and salt making.

Fish is the staple food of this region.

These are the 5 different types of landscapes which exist in Tamilakam.
- Comments


  1. Good post. Can you explain something about marriage, courtship practices of aayar tribe