Book Review: Lankaparvam (Malayalam)

Lankaparvam by T. Damu, DC Books, 50 pages.

Recently the Malayalam book Lankaparvam was in the news for making the claim that Thiyyas were from Kyrgyzstan. Fascinated by this fact, I managed to get this book which is about the history of Sri Lanka.

The author of the book is T. Damu, who has published many novels, short stories and articles under the pen name T. D. Vadakkumbad. He has also worked as newspaper reporter and associate editor for various newspapers in India. Currently he is an officer in a big unnamed company, and it was on a business trip that he reached Sri Lanka.

The book consists of a total of 48 pages of which seven are color photographs, and can be finished within the commercial break time of That 70s Show. As the author starts on his flight from Thiruvanathapuram, he is reminded of the Hanuman’s flight to the prosperous Lanka of Ravana and this Ramayana theme runs throughout the book as the author travels to places like Seetha Eliya, which has the only temple dedicated to Seetha.

The book also talks about the origin of the SriLankan people from a princess in Bengal, moves to the arrival of Buddhism, talks about the origin of Nairs and Ezhavas, and skips directly to the LTTE, all within about thirty pages. Even though the chapters seem to suggest historical progression, most of the contents are mythological stories. The author takes them seriously and presents them as facts even without expressing a bit of doubt.

So when he suggests that in a place called Nuvara Eliya, the soil is black in color because Ravanas palace was burned down by Hanuman here or that the presence of Asoka trees in some area suggests that Seetha was held by Ravana there, you know these are without any basis. Such stories are prevalent all around India too and you have to accept them for what they are — legends.

The author says that Thiyyas are different from Ezhavas and for this he cites two stories. The first one says that that Lord Siva saw seven women taking a bath in a river and decided to get them. For this he made the place cold and convertedhimself to fire and when the women came to warm themselves near the fire, he gotall of them. The children born of that relationship are called Thiyyas since they were born from Thee (fire in Malayalam). The second story says that Lord Shiva wanted to booze and for getting someone to climb the coconut tree to get toddy, he created Thiyyas.

Once these, Intelligent Design, equivalent theories have been presented, the author kicks it up a notch and suggests that some people migrated from Kyrgyzstan in 7000 B.C to India. Since they were from Thiyyan mountain area (Tien Shan), they were called Thiyyas. According to him an ancient book from Finland called the Edda has a mention of Thiyyas, so it could be that Thiyyas were from Finland also.

This book does not provide a single reference for this theory or any research which confirms this theory. There is a Salem in Massachussets and does not mean that people living there are from Salem, Tamil Nadu. If you look at the world map, you can spot places and races many such similarities, but similarity in names is not sufficient to prove such migration theories. Who knows what Thiyya in Finnish means?

All these doubts did not prevent The Hindu from writing this, “The predominant Thiyya community of Malabar migrated to Kerala in 7000 BC from Kyrgyzstan in the erstwhile Soviet Union, says a fresh study revealing their disputed origins”.After reading the book, I found there was no study mentioned. It was just a casual statement in the middle of a bunch of mythologies.

For all you know, Thiyyas might be from Kyrgyzstan. But unfortunately the context in which this information is presented and the lack of any reference makes me a skeptic.

10 Comments

  1. The majority of Finns today (minority Samis are the indigenous population and very few in numbers) are believed to be the decendents of the tribes in western Urals…..Finnish language (Indo-ugric)is unique from other European languages,beares light resemblance only to Hugarian, and is in some ways related to Dravidian languages (at least some theories suggest) in forms of structure etc…. There are also some similarities between the Baltic languages and some Indian languages.

    So, the possibility that the Thiyyas might be the decendents of one such branches of the Central Asian tribes, may create a plausible link between them and the Finns ….But again, this is my speculation….and Thiyya dont seem to have any meaning in Finnish. Not aware of the Edda context though.

    But it’s intriguing to realise that both the Vikings and the Finns had some sort of pagan beliefs/gods/demons in the past(check the Finnish epic Kalevala for instance).

    Hopefully the maze might get sorted out when the geneological studies by NatGeo gets completed in 5 years time.

  2. Thiyyas are not from Northern or Central europe. The author seems to be mixing up the linguistic connection between Dravidian languages and Finno-Ugrian with that of the people and races.

    When some people migrated from Meditarranean during pre-historic times, the langauge groups separated. Indus Valley languages were non-Indo-European and ‘Brahui’ seems to be closer to Dravidian. This does not mean that the current people of South India really came from Central Europe. Instead the current population (darker skinned people) of South India are a mix of old Ausrtraloid people of the Tropical Islands (including those in the Pacific) and the people who migrated from the North (the original Indus Valley people)..

    The words like ‘Thiyya’ , ‘Ezhava’ etc are of more recent origin.

    Regarding the language similarity between Finnish and Malayalam please see the link http://www.geocities.com/geenath_2000/dravid1.html

  3. There have been many reasons not to confuse the Thiyyas with the Ezhavas. On the face of it both communities seem to have toddy tapping in common; other than that their customs are quite different.

    The Thiyyas trace their descent through their mothers (something in common with Jewish tribe of the Middle East.

    Then there is the forty-day period of mourning whereas in the rest of India, it is either the 10th or the 13th day.
    Also, there is their great affinity for bakery and baked goods which niether the Ezhavas nor the Nairs have.Most of the baking has probably come from somewhere in the Middle East or the West. An interesting idea that!

  4. I came across an article by Manoj Night Shyamalans Father in Malayala Manorama (Sunday 2011 , Dec) in which he went to great extend to prove that Ezhava and Thiyya are not the same. He traces his origins to Thiyyan mountains from European region. I am happy that he can now sleep in peace. But what he should also know that as per the new genetic study that has been conducted in Kerala we all belong to European race. We need to understand one thing. Over the period of many 1000nds of years the exodus of people from various geographical regions was a continuous phenomenon. The influx still continues but in limited batches through immigration and emigration. During this process of human exodus the blood line also got mixed. This is inevitable. Now I am not sure if Mr Night Shyamalan Senior is a 100% European, genetically or does he have a mixed blood line. Well his physical traits point more to the latter. He also mentions that Thiyya’s were good looking. Looking at him or the great Shyamalan himself I don’t see any striking beauty that we can go gung-ho about. He looks like a very ordinary Mallu. Of course what he wears and the people he hangs out is different.

    Finally some thoughts – who are we? We cannot trace back to one single ancestry in terms of Race. It will have mixing of various bloodlines over a period of time. So if Shyamalan desperately wants not to be known as a a particular Caste and wants something unique he is free to associate himself. But I am happy and at peace with being associated with a God like personality that walked on this land and blessed are those people who can associate .connect with him in one way or the other.

    1. The question is not about disassociating with one particular community and to become one with another. The facts are quite obvious when comparing the Ezhavas of South Kerala & Thiyyas of North Malabar. There is no need to take any DNA tests or go for any Genome tests. They look totally different & behave different ! as simple as that. This is very simple for anyone, like what they do in the Police Station Identification Parades. Take 100 faces from Cannanore, Tellichery & Mahe/Vadakara upto Korappuzha(the main areas where Chekavars resided) to another 100 faces from Trichur, Quilon or Tivandrum. Do it your own ways and see. Man, they cannot be from the same races to tell you the truth.

      If you really want to compare the cultural backgrounds, there is no other community in entire India who got unique traditions. for eg: Thiyyas are the only community in India who can proudly say that they don’t give or take any dowries during their marriages. You take it as a challange to prove me wrong. A fact which our mainstream media don’t mention a word about it for the simple reason that they just don’t want to talk about it. Does anyone want to remember about the wrong things they do in their life?. It is considered to be inhuman for Thiyyas. Other thing about the caste system by their proffession, Thiyyas were into everything from top to bottom, they did whatever they could do for a living. Some of them did toddy tapping at the same time some of them or most of them were involved with martial arts and teaching, such as Kalari etc. a rare community who had access to vedic knowledges as well. They were certainly kept away from the mainstream ruling communities & the ambalavasis as they were obviously outsiders in the early stages, but not for a long period for their versatile characteristics. To be honest, you have to take them out of the OBC list as well. A thing which they will not revolt against, for sure.

  5. The question is not about disassociating with one particular community and to become one with another. The facts are quite obvious when comparing the Ezhavas of South Kerala & Thiyyas of North Malabar. There is no need to take any DNA tests or go for any Genome tests. They look totally different & behave different ! as simple as that. This is very simple for anyone, like what they do in the Police Station Identification Parades. Take 100 faces from Cannanore, Tellichery & Mahe/Vadakara upto Korappuzha(the main areas where Chekavars resided) to another 100 faces from Trichur, Quilon or Tivandrum. Do it your own ways and see. Man, they cannot be from the same races to tell you the truth.

    If you really want to compare the cultural backgrounds, there is no other community in entire India who got unique traditions. for eg: Thiyyas are the only community in India who can proudly say that they don’t give or take any dowries during their marriages. You take it as a challange to prove me wrong. A fact which our mainstream media don’t mention a word about it for the simple reason that they just don’t want to talk about it. Does anyone want to remember about the wrong things they do in their life?. It is considered to be inhuman for Thiyyas. Other thing about the caste system by their proffession, Thiyyas were into everything from top to bottom, they did whatever they could do for a living. Some of them did toddy tapping at the same time some of them or most of them were involved with martial arts and teaching, such as Kalari etc. a rare community who had access to vedic knowledges as well. They were certainly kept away from the mainstream ruling communities & the ambalavasis as they were obviously outsiders in the early stages, but not for a long period for their versatile characteristics. To be honest, you have to take them out of the OBC list as well. A thing which they will not revolt against, for sure.

  6. thiyyas are trying vehemently to distance themselves from ezhavas since ezhavas are obc.all they want in life is to substanciate they are equal to nairs.but the painful truth is that they are a backward class irrespective of their so called wealth,martial tradition and fair complexion.the sooner they come in to terms with it ,the better.

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