Anthony Good, “’Mamul’ and Modernity in a South Indian Temple,” Modern Asian Studies 35/4 (2001): 821-870.
SUMMARY: Examines the history of British involvement in southern Tamil Nadu: the increasing British control of the military, the estate, and the temple of Kalugumalai—with most of the information centering around discussions of court cases. In addition, Good examines the reactions of Rajas and the citizens of in the area around the temple. He concludes that the zamindars were probably not stealing from the temples and the HRCE’s attempts to appoint an Executive Officer (an EO) went against the idea that they would only take over “public” trusts.
821-in January of 1951, the Raja of Ettaiyapuram had many legal actions against modernizing forces—“a writ petition questioning the legality of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act of 1948” which had just come into forces January 1951 and “authorized the government to take over his zamindari estate”; he also was bringing a case to prevent the HRE Board from taking control of the Kalugumalai temple (in the Tirunelveli District, a temple of which he was a trustee) and appoint its own employees as EO and 2 lawsuits in Kovilpatti Munsif’s Court, “questioning the authority of the newly-formed Kalugumalai Panchayat Board on the grounds that the entire town was temple property.”
-these were properties that had been slowly taken over by the British since the 1803 Permanent Settlement onwards—this paper looks at these processes, and (822) particularly tries to explain why the Raja’s family continues to defend its hereditary position regarding Kalugumalai temple.”; this process is, as Kaviraj said in 2000, “utterly central to the story of modernity in India”
822-India’s modernity did not come, as in many other colonized countries, with the colonizer imposing fully developed “modern” ideas and institutions, both sides underwent change, “both in their social practices and how those practices were conceptualized”, the E. India Co came in as “a revenue-raising organization” and gradually extended its control—complete by mid-19th century by which time it had European-style State Authority
-the colonial powers had a laissez-faire attitude to religious matters (though this was narrowly defined) and Hinduism wasn’t directly threatened, but it was changed, especially through the “intellectual engagement with Christian missionaries on the latter’s own, rationalist terms” and Hinduism “restructured itself using the European critique”; “The anit-devadasi movement exemplifies this (though notions of “Hindu spirituality” and “tantrism” played a part even there…), as much later, does the imposition of bureaucratic rationality by the HRE Board and its successors.”
823-“The history of the Rajas of Ettaiyapuram typifies that of many ‘little kings’ in sourthern India, whom the British called Poligars…”
-“The Ettaiyapuram Poligars were Vaduka Nayakkars, originating from Chandragiri in present-day Andhra in the ninth century. In the fourteenth century, legend has it, the 11th of the line killed ‘the athlete Soman’ but spared his eight brothers, for what feat Sambu Rajah awarded him the title Ettappan (‘father of eight’). The 14th ruler fled south to escape Muslim incursions, and was granted land near Sattur by Kind Adivira Pandyan, who gave him the title Jakavirarama. Around 1550 the vijayanagara agent, Viswanatha Nayaka, appointed 72 notional tributaries as guardians of the bastions of Madurai city; the 19th Ettappan was one of these, and was awarded the title Kumara. His son founded Ettaiyapuram in 1567.”
“Poligars derived their revenue partly from plunder and partly from land rents and duties. They were in turn liable to pay tribute to the sovereign power, whose demands were, however, resisted whenever possible. This brought Virapandiya Kattapomma, Poligar of Panjalamkuricci, into conflict with the British. Kattabomman had not paid his tribute, and when interviewed about this in 1798, he killed a British officer and escaped. After his capture and execution in September 1799, his deaf-and-dumb brother Oomadurai continued to fight until Panjalamkuricci fort was captured and (824) destroyed. The Ettappan fought on the British side in this conflict, no doubt b/c of enduring border hostility with Kattabomman.”
“The rebels’ lands were granted by the British to Poligars who had supported them, with the Ettappan as principal beneficiary. Almost immediately, however, the British began converting into zamindar landlords. They lost military and judicial rights except for ceremonial purposes, and their forts were destroyed…Ettaiyapuram pal aiyam was converted into a zamindari estate under a Deed of Permanent Settlement in 1803. The Settlement recorded the notional area, or ayacut…of each plot, but this was above all a revenue survey, and the land itself was not properly surveyed until much later. The estate then comprised 185 villages, including 79 formerly belonging to Panjalamkuricci, but subsequently grew by purchasing other estates, until by 1917 it was the largest zamindari in Tirunelveli District, comprising 422 villages in a total area of 647 square miles. Under the zamindari system, finally abolished by the 1948 Act, farmers paid annual land rents to the zamindar, who in turn contributed a fixed peshkash (peskas, ‘tribute’) to government revenue.”
824-the Permanent Settlement shifted life away from militaristic/dependant on agriculture to being a gentleman landlord society, “The new zamindars did their best to cushion this shock by viewing the British as simply the latest in a long line of superior rulers, whose validating presence…had always been needed as a backdrop to their own claims to regality, as the Ettappan’s continued for some time to see their relationship with the British as primarily defined by ‘services performed for their sovereign overlords’ and recognition of these through presentation of honours and privileges.” And (825) they continued to “maintain all the trappings of royalty” even w/out the army, and “never left their Palace except w/ pomp and ceremony”
825-“Increasingly, however, his pretensions appeared anachronistic.”, eg tradition dictated that he didn’t have to go to court, then when courts were modernized in 1862, he petitioned no to still, though the government didn’t allow it; (826) and extravagant household entertainers were seen by British as a waste and were stopped when it was under the Court of Wards management; (826) palace women’s movements also had much pomp and weddings were extravagant
827-in the 16th ce, the 20th Ettappan helped another ruler on a military mission, he was killed, so the ruler that asked for help gave the Kalugumalai village to his family to compensate, though its temple, the kalukacala murtti shrine, is not explicity mentioned in the story—and the priest of that temple claim it was a family shrine, and “they portray the Rajas as merely their wealthiest patrons and deny them any form of ownership. Although the Trustee concedes that this is not unlikely, there is not hard evidence; even under the stimulus of litigation, neither party could trace the temple’s history prior to 1802.” Though “several nineteenth century Rajas spent lavishly to extend the temple and upgrade its rituals.”
828-the 41st and last Raja, Jakavira Rama Muthukumara Venkateswara, is who made the lawsuits and petitions in the 50s, (829) “in 1968 he granted power of attorney to his eldest son, E. Thangaswami, who has continued the legal battles ever since”
829-“to all appearances, the Zamindari went almost undisturbed by Government until the 1860s.”
“The most dire of modernizing influence during the nineteenth century was certainly the Court of Wards, via the Collector as its local representative. The estate twice came under Court management b/c the heir to the estate was a minor…Both periods were traumatic in their different ways, but in terms of modernizing impact the first was more significant.”
-A Zamindar died in 1868 and his dying wish was that the minor ward’s uncle be made manager, the Court accepted, but still looked at the financial records and found its position unsatisfactory, w/ (830) wasteful spending on pagodas, ceremonies, and charities; and the uncle was annoyed with the probing and didn’t want to change; so the Collector got the Court’s permission to run the estate: he leased hitherto money-losing land; (831) he restricted all spending and gave uncle’s family an allowance, and in 1872 the estate was fully taken over and found out many other tenants were withholding rent, and he got them to pay (832) by using threats; he surveyed every village and stone boundary markers were put in place (increasing revenue b/c they found out the estate was bigger than originally estimated; reorganized public works, repaired irrigation tanks, repaired palace and other buildings, paved streets, the “estate’s credit balance had almost trebled since the start of Court management.”, though the Collector thought that things would still be hopeless w/out government overview or revamping views of what a zamindar truly (making it more as an administrator than landlord), (833) and the Court had tutors teach the ward English, Tamil and Telugu. The government’s control ended in 1878.
833-Collector took over again in 1890, (834) and at that time, the state was doing well, though he still found room for improvements, and by the end (1899) revenue demand and cash balance both increased
835-the Raja’s petition in 1951 was dismissed in Madras and later in the Supreme Court, and government “took possession of the whole estate on 26 September.
836-“At the time of Permanent Settlement, the Madras government deferred any enquiry into the validity of existing inams. These were grants, known locally as maniyams, whereby all or most of the “government” or upper share…of revenue of a plot of land, was granted to a person, institution, or deity…but not till 1859 did an Inam Commissioner begin looking at them systematically. Kalugumalai itself was not investigated until 1868.”
“The status of rent-free pre-Settlement inams was just the same in Zamindari estates as in ryotwari areas; their value had not been included in the Zamindars’ peshkash. Zamindars could not change this rent, however, and had no rights over the land itself since it had not been counted among their assets.”
“The Commissioner adopted the principle that 50 years’ enjoyment of an inam conferred valid title, even if no deed existed. Pre-Settlement inams were classed into grants for temple upkeep, Devadayam…; grants to temple staff…or village officers…in return for performing their duties; charitable donations… and “Personal” inams…providing subsistence for particular individuals.”
-“The kalugumalai Register lists two grants to the brothers who shared the priestly duties in its temple.”, In 1868 they claimed the grants were temple staff/service inams in return for them performing puja, “the sub-text here being their wish to be recognized as hereditary arccakars of the temple. The Commissioner rejected this claim…partly b/c they had been classed as [“Personal” inams]…at the Permanent Settlement, but mainly b/c ‘The (837) incumbents do puja and receive separate pay for it’.”; there were many cases like this—the Commissioner decided grants were purely personal “for distinctly ‘modern’ reasons…he tended to define any financial reward as a salary, thereby riding roughshod over a complex set of local notions in a prime example of the lack of official concern with careful exegesis…The priests’ ‘pay’ was probably an honorarium rather than a salary; that is certainly true nowadays,” and a much later Tirunelveli District Judge agreed w/ the priests’ descendents
837-zamindars wanted them classified as service grants b/c that required reciprocal obligation that personal grants didn’t, plus in that case, services would have to be rewarded in other ways; plus the priests wanted it b/c then they couldn’t be dismissed by the Zamindar and “guaranteed them enjoyment in perpetuity of all honours and prerequisites associated with their office.”, so the priests sometimes even claimed they were the true owners, though this is a stretching of the idea of hereditary rights (miracu) which doesn’t necessarily include proprietary rights; (838) though traditionally, hereditary rights implied “partial” “ownership”/a “stake-holder” idea
838-“Grants made after the Permanent Settlement, so-called ‘subsequent inams’, were strictly speaking not legally valid, b/c the entire estate was treated as security for the settled revenue due to government…Even so, they [zamindars] continued to make such grants, and Government treated these flexibly in practice.”, Commission only looked at those in estates taken over by government and even then tried to keep the grants going, though they (839) were increasingly restricted though late 19th ce w/ many accepted b/c they were used as payments for village officials (though the Proprietary Estates Village Service Act of 1894 required a cess from zamindars to pay officials); (840) inams were abolished in the 1950s
841-the Devastanam owned most of the town and hill area, and franchises for the weekly markets and 2 X/year cattle fairs; though this was challenged after the zamindar donated the village to the deity
-The Nadars were a lower caste (with improving economic status) that was not let into the temple; they tried to go in and get (842) procession rights on nearby streets. When the Raja built car streets in mid century, they allowed the Nadars to use them a little, but Nadars wanted to go further, causing a riot in 1885, it led to an injunction and the Raja argued that car streets belonged to the temple who could restrict use (except for secular purposes) while the Nadars said they were public roads, though they lost every level of appeal; at that point, they converted to Catholicism (even the local Jesuits agree their conversion was mostly for social climbing) and, with his new parish, a Jesuit purchased a site to build a church near an important car street which itself caused riots; including in 1885 a big fight in which the Court manager was murdered, as were (843) several Nadars while only Nadars were convicted and Hindus were freed w/out trial. In their appeal to High Court, Nadars showed there was collusion w/ police and sub-magistrate and the High Court overturned the previous decision, though no further action against the magistrate was taken; then the Jesuit agreed to move the church in 1897 to a closer to the Nadar quarter; the Court approved it but Hindus objected saying it was on sacred land, so (844) they had to move to yet another site
845-the next dispute over the Devastanam’s hegemony was from 17 people “mainly from long-established mercantile castes” (including the man Tirumeni) who “brought a suit seeking to prevent the collection of brokerage and cess fees from market traders” in 1931; (846) and wanted a refund of “illegally” collected fees; 1933 judgment was that fees would decrease for locals but increase for outsiders and non recompense had to be paid; but it was noticeable b/c zamindars did compromise
846-for many years the Devastanam had resisted a town Panchayat b/c “this would provide a politicoeconomic framework through which opposition could be expressed, taxes levied on the Devastanam, and other controls exerted over temple activities.”, But one was formed in December 1948, immediately after independence; (847) one of their “first acts was to pass a resolution criticizing the running of the temple” in 1949, and submitted to the HRE Board; the Raja formally objected to its forming and, in 1949, the Inspector of Local Boards “served a notice asking the Panchayat to show cause why its formation should not be cancelled” and Raja filed 2 suits: both against the Panchayat President (Tirumeni, from the 1931 dispute); “one objected to the Panchayat levying union tax on temple property; the other challenged its right to tax the Raja’s personal property.”, and many people, even some from the Panchayat did not trust Tirumeni and his motives and passed a no-confidence motion against him (they thought he was bringing them in a private vendetta); (848) first case decided in 1961, the subordinate judge said the only street the temple had was the strip between its gate based on the Estates Abolition Act, but on appeal to High Court, they showed they took care of streets and altars were indeed along them (the streets were labeled as public because there was no evidence of religious practice on them), and the streets had never been dedicated to the public; (849) though the High Court upheld the original decision
-says deity is legal owner of temple and its wealth, though temple property is managed by Trustee (who is like a legal guardian), British took over temple overseeing until 1863 to prevent misuse of funds and gave authority to independent trustees, (850) though criticized by Raj and Indians in general b/c it gave trustees unrestricted control over temple assets; 1925 Madras made HRE Board, replaced in 1951 by HRCE Department, but the Kalugumalai temple administration wasn’t taken over b/c ever since 1925 “successive Trustees have fought a protracted legal battle to retain control.”
-850-in 1935 the “Board asserted Kalugumalai was a public temple and should therefore come fully under its control, while the Raja contended that it was a ‘100% private’ temple which his family had largely built, and whose property they had donated. The Raja lost this arguemtn on the grounds that there was a Hundial collection box in the temple, whereby the general public contributed to its upkeep. However, the Board’s victory was not complete, as Kalukacalamurtti temple became officially classified as a ‘public excepted temple’ rather than simply a ‘public’ one.”
-“’Excepted’ temples were generally those whose hereditary trustees were wealthy landlords known to be hostile to any circumscription of their powers by appointed Temple Committees. To avoid antagonizing these worthies, such temples were ‘excepted’ from some provisions (851) of the Act.”
851-a 1935 Amendment to the Act said the Board could “notify” a temple concerned that it was planning on sending in an E.O. to replace the trustee, it notified 217 temples by 1940, though the proceedings were dropped in Kalugumalai b/c they “agreed to prepare registers of land, jewels, and other endowments.”
-in 1947, Nadars claimed to the Board that Trustee was mismanaging temple, an inspection was made in 1948 and they found temple funds were simply put into zamindar’s accounts and endowment records hadn’t been verified since 1938, buildings needed repair, and there was no reserve fund—so the Board recommended an EO, a (852) Scheme of Administration (based on the 1927 Act); when given the opportunity to respond to this, the Trustee said that when the temple’s fees are more than the money allocated by state (money given since the HRE was instituted), zamindar paid it, and the temple money was never used for the estate, and the local bank wouldn’t allow the huge withdrawals the temple needed; (853) and said he’d be willing to hear suggestions about building a reserve; then the President of the HRE Board inspected the temple at saw “unhealthy practices” and 10 residents (854) gave him a petition to have an EO, and said that the fact expenditures went over was a sign of bad handling
856-in 1951, the Court decided there had been no misappropriation and the trustee should do banking in Kalugumalai, though the judge felt a Scheme was necessary for other administrative defects; (857) that the trustee should be assisted by an EO (the EO got daily administration and supervising staff while the trustee could appoint, dismiss, punish, and pay staff, though subject to Board’s rules), plus the EO would prepare and submit accounts and balances—but it was still appealed b/c the zamindar said since no misappropriation was found, they couldn’t impose a Scheme under the HRE Act; judgment from High Court given in Jan 1956, but the Board had already been replaced by the HRCE Department by then (in which they modified the Scheme, reducing the power of the Board), (858) though the Trustee could appoint his own EO, plus it came out that the staff hadn’t been paid since the government had started controlling the money.
858-in 1959 the 1951 Act was amended making it easier for the HRCE to appoint an EO, without hearings and it didn’t need the previous trustee to have been dismissed; in 1981 HRCE tried to appoint an EO after noticing “administrative irregularities”, (859) though these were really petty issues and Trustee proved this, but the Commissioner still appointed an EO citing the 1959 Act; (860) then the trustee went to the Madras High Court to obtain a stay order against the Board pending final judgment, (861) and even as late as 1992 the HRCE hadn’t been able to appoint an EO
862-zamindars in 15th and 19th century, even after being reduced to “tax farms” spent lavishly on temple and expanding it onto town property, they did this b/c they thought gain of land was more important for power than profit; but (863) this practice fell off drastically for Ramnad mid 19th ce b/c it was bigger and on the wrong side of the Poligar war—so the British took it over faster and more completely, taking charge of all its devastanams in 1815—the Ettaiyapuram zamindar was a “favourite son” of the British
867-in trying to make temples “secular” rather than “religious” institutions, the HRCE is “at odds with virtually all temple ‘share-holders’ and interest groups, be they Trustees, priests, or donors.” And they tried to make temples profitable; “temples are seen as ‘public’ institutions in the sense that they are part of the Tamil cultural heritage, which should not be (868) restricted to serving particular interest groups or individuals.”, and it’s clear the Devastanam was not a public trust even when it was labeled as so