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The desert clans, the Maravar and the Kalvar, loved adventure and hunting. To supplement their hunts, they imposed levies on travellers who entered the arid lands.

They acquired skills with arms and hired themselves out to men of means—usually the budding chieftains of the Mullai who later acquired kingship. The clansmen were employed to lift cattle and carry out police actions.

In the absence of the men who were mostly away, family life revolved around the women and here too a matriarchal society developed.

The strict divisions of the caste system was yet to infiltrate from the Aryans of the north and that led to people mingling and intermarrying. Some tribes of the Paalai acquired statehood by grafting themselves to the established kingdoms. Many, relying on their martial prowess and attracting like-minded adventurers to their banners, became petty chieftains and kings in their own right.

Their political and family structures merged, and with ready influence from the first states of the Mullai, a patriarchal society developed among the Paalai clans.

But not all clans wished statehood. They were indomitable and many tribes remained as free ranging people right up to the advent of European colonizers.

The clans viewed their activities – lifting cattle and imposing levies – as their age old right and way of life. But under colonial rule, their name Kalvar which had morphed to Kalavar and Kallan – came to be associated with banditry and criminal elements.

(My maternal grandfather was a Kallan and he often spoke with pride when referring to his heritage.)

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

(Note: Treat these posts on Ancient Indian history as highly simplified introductions to a complex, often conflicting, and vague period mired in the mists of antiquity.)

Next Friday we peek into the lives of the ancient fisher folk of the Neydal (sea coast) regions.

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