Translated from Tamil by Nisha Felicita
The Paliyars are a tribal population, some of them living in the mountains of the Western ghats in a charming village called Kadugu Thadi, near the better known Thandikudi, in the Kodaikanal taluk of Tamil Nadu. Paliyan, as our tribe is also known, is a Scheduled Tribe. Recently, there have been news reports about our community and the loss of the right to our land due to encroachers. There are a lot of problems that we are facing, from loss of land to illegal poaching.
For a long time, members of our tribe were hunter-gatherers and lived in caves in the mountains. Now, many of us work as daily-wage labour, engage in beekeeping, cultivating food and selling forest products.
There are many stories narrated to us by our elders and fellow tribals about the historical incidents that took place with the Paliyars. One such story is the one of Andipaliyar, who lived in my village. Murugan, who now lives in the Kadugu Thadi village, is one of the direct descendants of Andipaliyar. He told me the story about his great great grandfather.
Andipaliyar lived in a cave near the forests with his parents. They were living in a cardamom estate owned by the Chettiars and Mannadiyars. They employed Andipaliyar to guard the estate.
During the time when Andipaliyar was employed by these landowners, he and his parents were not allowed to move around or do as they wished. If they did not obey the orders of the estate owners, they would physically assault them. While living under these circumstances, during one similar incident of physical assault, Andipaliyar’s parents passed away. He then went on to live with his 12 brothers, a few of them being Sinnandiklavan, Periyandiklavan, Rasabuliyan, Bhoothambalian and Mayantibalian.
After his parents passed away, the 12 brothers each moved to a new place in rock and mud caves. However, Andipaliyar stayed back in the same cave where his mother and father had lived and continued his job as the estate guard. There was no house to live nearby, which led him to make this decision. The cave he lived in could house up to 30 people and protect them from the sun, rain, wind and even wild animals.
In the cave, he had a stone statue of the deity he worshipped, called Palachi Amman. This is how he came to be known as Andi Andialai by the people in the estate.
Note: This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.