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Fr. Adrian Caussanel – on Paravas

Rev. Fr. Adrian Caussanel ( 1850- 1930 ) was one of the French Jesuit missionaries who began his mission in Tuticorin in 1889 –and served in erstwhile Tinnevely District till 1930. Fr. Caussanel sj, took up recording history of the communities he served and wrote “storical notes on Tinnevely district.” Two chapters of this document deal with Paravas. And these were written between 1910 and 1916.

Fr. Caussanel was the founder of the order of brothers of Sacred Heart of Jesus and one of the founders of St. Xaviers college , Palyamcottah through the portals of which many of our boys have passed through.

We reproduce a paragraph from this document. — Editor

Another remark truly worthy of notice — so extraordinary it is —, should be drawn from the fact that Paravas alone have survived all kingdoms, rulers, disasters, all persecutions, oppressions and contempts. The Cheras , Cholas, and Pandyas have vanished away, the mighty powers the Carnatic and Bisnagar (Vijayanagar) have gone, the empires of Delhi do exist only in annals of the times. The formidable armies of the great Moghul the Maharattas, the Naiks, the Nawabs of Arcot, have gone for ever. Portuguese and Dutch domination have come to a close. Hundred times the surface of India has changed ,its rulers and ruled. What caste could claim a single corner of the territory not for the last 3000 years but for one thousand and less. The Paravas alone remain on their Paralia amongst the universal ruins accumulated all around. They continue to be fishermen and fishers of pearls. You may dispossess the Poligars. and Pattadars of their estates, You may deprive the ghats of its forests, You will not deprive the Paralia of its Paravas. You may free their villages and reduce to ashes their boats and do as Salmanasar and Nabuchodosor did with the inhabitants of Israel of Judea who were dispersed in Assyria, and Mesopotomia by these tyrants. You may replace the Paravas by what sort of people you like; the Paravas will not lose their Paralia……. England lost its Aborigines ; so did Spain; and Italy and all countries. The Paralia keeps its aborigines. The Gulf of Mannar is still their kingdom. Contemplate one morning the the whole sea from Cape Comarin to Manapad covered with boats mounted by Paravas who joyfully sing the powers of God and say whether the Paralia has passed to strangers.

It is on record that the Pearl Fishery was going on from the first century after Christian era.

One famous Greek Mariner by the year 80 A.D. went round the whole Arabian Sea from the mouth of the Red Sea to the Bay of Bengal and wrote the details of this circumnavigation in a book known as Periplus Maris. This book describes the Paralia as starting south of Quilon and proceeding to the Korkai emporium through the Cape of Comarin. The ghats ridges are called Pyrrhos. He calls Korkai, the head quarters of the pearl fishery. We have gone through the Christian centuries,but before Christ the Pearl Fishery did exist on the Paralia.

The Geographer Ptolemy who wrote by the year 130 AD assures us that the Korkai emporium is mentioned in all ancient geographies and repeats what has been said by Periplus that the emporium is the headquarters to the King of Pandiya. It has been proved historically that the king of Pandiya had sent an embassy to the Emperor Augustus of Rome.

It is also incontestable that the Greeks were in constant touch with Paralia at least 400 years before Christ. The Embassy of Selukas Nicator to the Pandiya king is an historical fact and Periplus frequently refers to the writings of Megastenes who was the personage deputed by the successor of Alexander the Great, to India by the year 305 BCc . Megastenes narrates what he saw, the pearl fishery is held in the Pandiyan kingdom and the Malabar coast also belongs to Pandiyan king. Had not the Paralia been known to the Greeks, there should have been no reason to send an ambassador to Pandiyan.

We possess historical proof in favour of the acquaintance of the Phonetians with the Paralia in our sacred writings both in the third book of Kings and in the second book of the Paralipomenon. We see Solomon constructed a fleet at Asiongabar on the banks of the Red Sea ;and this fleet, once in three years was going to Ophir with the Phenitians who were the most experienced navigators of the world. Salianus states that Ophir is the same as Taprobanum and we know that Taprobanum is the Greek name of Tambaraparani at the mouth of which stood the emporium of Korkai. Besides in both the aforesaid books, it is stated that the vessels when coming back from Ophir were carrying amongst most valuable products splendid pears, gemmas, precious issimas.

The Queen of Saba or Arabia had also offered to Solomon beautiful pearls , and Marco Polo says that all the pearls of the world were coming from Paralia and that there was constant mercantile exchange between several people of Arabia and the people of Paralia. Again in the same holy books it is said that all the the princes of Arabia were paying tribute to Solomon.

Therefore we are irresistably brought to the conclusion that thousand years before Christ there were fishers of pearls and the sailors of Indian ocean were the inhabitants of the Paralia and the sailors of Indian ocean were inhabitants of the Paralia and were keeping commercial intercourse with the mariners of Phenicia who once in three years were coming for exchanging products.The fact of going along the coast rendered at that time the navigation between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea most barbarous and tedious. But the Greek Mariner Hippalus having successfully attempted to go straight assisted by South West monsoon , the Greeks from the time were used to go frequently to India. Did the Phenitian navigators exist or learn the profession of mariners before the Paravas , this is what could not be decided historically.Were the Paravars merely a colony of Phoenicians who after the discovery of the richness of The Gulf of Mannar settled themselves on that coast. This is merely possible but it seems more probable that the discoverers of the pearls were the aboriginal fishers of that coast. None could conceive the fishery of pearls and the Paralia without Paravas.

It is not out of place to make a few remarks in respect of the Paravas . Are the Paravas mixed race? The opinion advanced by writers is certainly untrue and ungrounded historically. Not a single caste in India is more cautious in matrimonial union. The supposition that there had been intermarriages with Portuguese is merely a fable. Any man who has deeply examined matters comes to the conclusion that Paravas are scrupulous to excess in their contracting marriages and this results from the autonomy of the caste before their conversion.

If the Paravas are so strict in their marriage matters, it is not only by the spirit of their caste. They are moved by the same motives the Jews had to marry in their tribe. They are Paravas and want nothing but to remain as Paravas. Other castes are in need of caste titles. The Paravas need no titles, but wish to be Paravas simply. The addition of Pattangatti or Fernadez etc in some place is given, as it is customary now to say SIR. But the Paravas acknowledge it as a title of their caste. So by caste denomination the Paravas are quite different from the rest of Indians.

(This was written by Fr. Adrien Caussanel in 1901. Now there is a change noticed due to migration from shores, education, employment, erosion of commitment to Faith and above all due to regressive dowry system– Ed)

(Paralia ;- The coast between Trivancore back waters near Kanyakumari and as far as Adams Bridge.)
[The spellings and words are reproduced as found written by Father. Ed]

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