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.



  1. Perhaps it is the free ranging people who has the right views to life, protecting their people and loved ones, honoring fair play, non biasness, living and sharing most their bounty hunts, and more social interactions that is very much lacking now. I’m even wondering if human evolution is an irony.

    1. Hello Windy,

      You might be right but in the absence of detailed information regarding the way of life back then, it is quite difficult to draw conclusions, I reckon.

      But you’re right about one thing – man does not learn from his forefathers. He thinks he knows better but ends up inventing the wheel again and again.


  2. Much of Kerala, I understand, is a matriarchal society till date. It is fascinating to try and uncover the history behind practices and customs. I wonder how they manage to make history so boring in school…

    1. Hello Ankur,

      Yes, Kerala in the south western part of India comes to mind. I believe there might be some pockets here and there and even then toned down considerably.

      Leave it to the school systems in every country to render every subject boring. It is supposed to be history – stories – but that misses the experts of education. Their idea of history is to force students to memorize names and dates of rulers and empires – and how many wives they had. LOL.


  3. Always interesting to stop by and read your interesting posts Eric. Cross cultural marriages have their challenges. I’m married to a Hungarian and their ancestors broke into Europe to carve out a nation from Central Asia, some claim from the western borders of Mongolia but that’s probably because Genghis Khan occupied the same territory in Europe and almost swallowed territory through to the Eastern coast of Europe before he was killed in battle a little before the Magyar tribes moved in. Lots of speculation there but their language is supposed to be related to the Fins and tribes in Siberia not to Indo European language groupings.

    1. Thank you, Ian

      The history of the Magyars and their roots in Central Asia are stuff of wonder, admiration, conjecture, and legend. I’ve read some but do not know more than the most superficial of their history.

      Thank you for your presence here and trust the weekend is going well,

  4. Your family history that includes your maternal grandfather as one of the Kallan tribe makes your history even more interesting. I want to learn more from my daughter-in-law about her Indian roots.

    1. Hello Ina,

      My wife is ethnic Chinese. One of my sons-in-law is of African descent, the second of Chinese ancestry, and my daughter-in-law has Caucasian heritage. My younger sister is married to an Afghan (born in Singapore but now residing in Australia). Cross-cultural marriages break down stereotypes and brings us all closer, I reckon.

      Your daughter-in-law must have fascinating stories to share – as I’m sure you do too regarding your lineage.

      All good wishes,

  5. Their name definitely didn’t have a good association in Colonial times, and I also agree with what Charles said. I’m enjoying these posts, Eric, but I’m wondering how you’re finding the time for research and compiling them. 🙂
    Enjoy your weekend, my friend!

    1. Hello Lauren,

      I see that you’re into binge reading all my posts 🙂 Thank you very much 🙂

      Well, I already did all this research when drafting my forthcoming literary historical novel Song of the Ankle Rings. And I am writing these posts mostly from memory – LOL!

      Enjoy your weekend too,

      1. Yes, binge reading is sometimes the only way for me, Eric. So you have not been forgotten. Okay, that makes sense about the research. Still, a lot of time, but time spent doing something that you enjoy makes all the difference. But writing from memory? Wow! I’m impressed!

I like to hear your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: