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The Pallar (also known as Mallar, Pallan and Devendrakula Vellalar) is a caste from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Pallar were and remain mostly agriculturalists, though some are labourers. They found among the Tamil diaspora and are densely populated in southern parts of Tamil Nadu.
Origin and name
The name of the caste has previously been spelled as Pallan; however, some caste members replaced the Tamil non-honorific terminal-"n" with an honorific "r", resulting in the name Pallar; a similar process was seen in the fellow Dalit Paraiyar (or Paraiyan) community.
The Pallar name may be derived from pallam, which means a pit or low-lying area. This aligns with their traditional occupation of cultivators of the low wetlands. However, there is literary evidence that suggests that Pallars are farmers who produced large quantities of food grains and they were traditional farmers.
The change of name from Mallar to Pallar is thought to have been imposed upon them after the decline of the rule, when the leaders (Nayaks) of competing tribes wanted to suggest a degradation in status. Some Pallars today prefer the Mallar name due to their belief that Pallar is a derogatory term.
The ancient people were described as farmers and warriors. The leader of the group, called the Vendan (Indran), was later called the god of their land. Nowadays, community members prefer to refer to themselves as Devendra Kula Vellalar (DKV), a name connoting that they were created by the god Devendra. In support of a name change to DKV, Pallars have undertaken hunger strikes and rallies. In January 2011, the Government of Tamil Nadu appointed a one-man commission to consider this latest change mainly for their votes.
In Tamil literature
Mallars are mentioned in Tamil literature from the ancient Sangam literature to the recent 19th century poems, including Purananuru, Kamba Ramayanam, Thirumurukkatruppatai, Silapathigaram, Agananuru, Pathirtrupattu, Kurunthogai, Aingurunooru, Kalithogai, Natrinai, and Paripaadal.
The Pallar are the focus of a genre of Tamil poetry known as Pallu. The genre developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and depicts the Pallar hero dealing with the jealousies of his two wives and the oppression of his landlord in a satirical depiction of Pallar Zeitgeist. The pallu, while maintaining its basic storyline, developed into many forms, with the Mukkudal pallu the oldest, including depiction of the struggles between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.[a]
Pallu poems are part of chitrilakiyangal in Tamil literature. Pallu poems were also known as 'aesal' (a kind of ironical poem). They were written during the Nayak rule. The first pallu poem was 'Mukkoodar pallu'. Many pallu poems were written which includes Vaiyapuri pallu, Sengottu pallu, Thandigai Kanagaraayan pallu.[clarification needed] All the Pallu poems consist of a Pallar who has got two wives. It also explains about the farming and the life of a Pallar farmer.[full citation needed][need quotation to verify]
- Among the Christian Tamils of Sri Lanka, the genre has been modified into nanapallu, a genre where the same story is told, but with the satirical and erotic elements replaced by Christian religious themes.
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- Gnanasekran, Thiru. Pallu ilakiyam maruvasippu.