The people who settled along the fertile swathes of land along the river banks and in the valleys – the Marudam – graduated from hunting and gathering to sowing and harvesting. They planted sugarcane, plantain, and mango. In time, they ploughed the land and grew crops such as rice. These Ulavar – ploughmen – cut channels to irrigate the land.
The people also grew cotton instead of merely plucking wild cotton. They spun cotton thread and weaved cloth. In ancient times, cotton cloth was a much sought after luxury preferred by the wealthy. It wasn’t long before they discovered indigo – used for dyeing – which became another important commodity.
People cleared land for farming; and wood from felled trees became a ready fuel for cooking. As in the pastoral regions, the evening fireside became a venue for feasting and community.
The wealthier Ulavar built wooden houses for themselves and for storing their wealth—mostly grain and cotton bales—while the ordinary people erected huts using the ready availability of mud from the river banks.
The patriarchal family structure became entrenched and there was a permanent role reversal: instead of strong women having multiple partners (a practise that continued among the hunters of the Kurinji hills and wanderers of the Paalai deserts) the wealthy men of the Mullai (herdsmen), Neydal (merchants), and Marudam (farmers) had large families with multiple wives.
As the clans grew, their society became complex and led to the founding of states.
The five regions – Kurinji, Mullai, Paalai, Neydal and Marudam – did not develop in a straight timeline. Their growth into statehood overlapped, the people interacted and traded, and intermarriage was common.
The politics of caste and division came much later.
*** 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.)