Saturday, July 08, 2006

A few facts about Nattukkottai Chettiar community

A friend pointed me to an orkut community of Chettiars. Having been born into the community, I was naturally curious as to what it was all about. Online communities are supposed to broaden your horizons and all that stuff, but we Indians specialise in forming Iyer community, Chettiar community online too. But that is a separate rant.

While going through the community description, I found a few points that I had to comment upon. First was this contention

"Nattukottai chettiars or "nagarathars" like how they ought to be addressed ,are the sole rulers of the kingdom of chettinad.They are both regal and regale. hailing from this royal clan..."

Leave aside the nausea inducing content in this statement. Notice the point about sole rulers of kingdom of chettinad and royal clan. I have seen many people outside the community too think that Chettiars are rulers and Chettinad was a princely state under the British Raj.

NO.

It is absolutely wrong. Chettiars as a community were traders, initially (1700s) trading in salt from coastal districts to interior districts. The area today called Chettinad was under the Principalities of Ramnad (Karikkudi, Devakottai) and Pudukkottai, whose rulers were not chettiars. Chettiars developed their influence under the British, acting as moneylenders and slowly growing along with the Raj. They ventured out to Srilanka, Singapore in early 1800s and to Burma in 1850s. It was in Burma they grew tremendously as moneylenders. They went into interior Burma where the European bankers wouldn'nt venture, and became an important part of Burmese economic growth. Their wealth too grew, and they became powerful in India. The British were doling out titles by the dozen, and conferred the title of Rajah in 1929 to Annamalai Chettiar for his contribution and founding of Annamalai University. This was only over the newly created village of Chettinad and not over entire 96 villages which Chettiars consider as their hometown. It was a largely symbolic title. There is nothing royal or regal about the community. Chettiars are a mercantile elite community, nothing more, nothing less.

And another contention "Chettiars are highly ethical and ethnical". I will leave out the ethnical part of it, I seriously don't understand what it means. As for ethics, Chettiars are as ethical as any other community. We might talk to ourselves about how great we are, how much Chettiar Philanthropy has built the state of TN (yes, we do talk like that), how ethical Chettiars are, till the cows come home. Just google Chettiars in Burma and see what the Burmese think of us.

So please dispel any notions of superiority.

52 comments:

Nilu said...

And please tell me there isn't a Raapi analogy in that group too.

Abi said...

Good post. I learnt something new about how the association wtih 'Rajah' came about. Is Annamalai Chettiar the only 'Rajah' among the Nagarathars?

Can his descendents too claim that title?

I know that a lot of Indians were thrown out of Burma in the early and mid sixties. Were the wealthy Nagarathars among them? Did they come back to India? What happened to the wealth that they earned in Burma?

Sorry for asking too many questions. Your post just triggered a train of them!

D.N.A. said...

Adada....chenthil, I had a similar rant filled conversation with a frined (may be the same one who showed you that community ;) ). Formation of online communities based on caste is an excellent set-up for some socialogical experiments.

That aside, I would like to know more about 7 temples and "arai pulli"/"muzhu pulli" funda. The role of koil dharmagartha etc. I think Tamil need a Jeffery Archer like author to document the rise of such "business minded" communities of TN. Why don't you give it a shot?

Anonymous said...

on a related note, there is not just an iyer community there is a palghat iyer community as well ;-)

varun

Sri said...

good one man, i dont post comment often on blogs(infact i have only posted one comment till date). I appreciate the way you are hitting out people just glorifying our own castes. It is getting really ridiculous that we are not able to move forward with elimination of castes as we could possibly be..

tilotamma said...


Book on Nakarattars
which can answer most of your questions.

You can read the entire book online.

And Chen just out of curiosity did you find anything by Burmese on Chettiars, which you want to draw the orkut group to? It will make interesting reading.

Chenthil said...

Nilu, there must be. I didn't delve deep into the group.

Abi - you are asking me a Chettiars 101 primer. Let me try

Raja title was conferred only on Annamalai Chettiar. He was first conferred Dewan Bahadur and then knighted, but the Brits conferred Dewan Bahadur on a handful of others too. He wanted to stand out, and founded Annamalai University for which he was conferred the Raja title. It was a hereditary title, so the descendants too can claim it.

Chettiars formed the bulk of the refugees from Burma. They walked all the way from Rangoon to Kolkata in 1941 when Japanese occupied Burma. After the war they went back in 1946, but Burmese Nationalism was strong under Aung San, (Su Kyi's father). By this time about 30% of all agrarian lands were under Chettiars. Indians set up a committee to negotiate with the burmese for financial settlement terms. AMM Vellayan Chettiar (elder brother of Murugappa Group founder AMM Arunachalam Chettiar) was heading the group and they had almost reached a conclusion of financial settlement. Then one day Vellayan Chettiar was shot dead in Burma and the negotiations collapsed. Later in 1948 Aung San himself was shot dead along with what would have been his cabinet, and all assets were nationalised. Chettiars who had assets solely in Burma were devastated. But there was a significant number who had assets in Malaya, Singapore and Ceylon and they managed the impact better. There were also others like my grandfather who had nothing anywhere, so not much impact on them.

I learnt most of these details from oral stories and "Looking Back from Moulmein", a biography of AMM Arunachalam written by S. Muthiah.

DNA - There is no arai pulli and stuff. As per Chettiar community set up, you are an independent member of the community only when you are married and you are called a pulli. Till then, you are treated as your father's dependent. Only if you are a pulli can you participate in community discussions, become part of the committees, etc. And I am no Jeffrey Archer, thank you.

Varun - here too there is a Devakottai Nagarathaar community :-)

Sri- I doubt whether caste elimination is possible in the current social set up of TN.

Tilo - I know the book byheart. I wanted to keep my source a secret :-).

Arun said...

Thankfully we Sindhi's have no such illusions about ourselves.

tilotamma said...

just out of curiosity did you find anything by Burmese on Chettiars..........

Hawkeye said...

chenthil,

a curious side question. are you from devakottai. my family is from devakottai and i couldn't resist asking this question.

i apologzie for the personal question and the sidetrack. you can answer me in email if you do not like to divulge personal info.

SLN said...

Very informative. I can also identify with your sentiments / rant. As for the nausea inducing prose, we Indians are masters of cliche (incl. meself) and thats the kind of prose we are taught (in school, media)

Has Jeffrey Archer written anything on the lines as mentioned by D.N.A?

Cheers
SLN

Chenthil said...

Arun, let me dig out something like this from Sindhi Mahasabha.

Hawkeye, no I am not from Devakottai. I am from the village of Konapet (கோனாபட்டு) near Thirumayam.

SLN, not only the prose, the tone and assumed superiority of that statement was nausea inducing.

Hawkeye said...

paavam makkal.. pogattum. brahmins do it all the time. it has to be taken in its own stride. these 2 communities can be spotlighted in this blog but if you dig deep - All human beings are the same. we like to feel we belong to a larger community that is simply awesome and has a great history.

i've given up trying to find fault in this. its the nature of the beast. cat purrs, dog barks, lion roars..like that we human do these sort of things.

there is no point in taking offense. puli'a thadava poneen kadichidchu ba oruthan sonnana. ithukellam kochikava mudiyum. Well thats the nature of the animal. i given up hope of enlightning people. if you stop on the road and abuse an autodriver, its for your own personal satisfaction. he wont change.

its not fate. its just the way of the jungle life.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Interesting post!
Didn't you think the title as "Rajah" conferred upon a certain one person and to his generations by the British, centuries ago make the common people think that everybody in that community ( i hate to even mention the word "caste") is also a " rajah" which puts us in the " high caste" and cause so much trouble for our youth to enter into professional colleges! What a shame!! We are neither "Rajah" by the title, nor "rich" enough to be a Rajah, but " high class" enough to be made difficult for admission into professional colleges. How unfair!!

Chenthil said...

Hawkeye, I am not trying to enlighten or change them. I gave up on all such ambitions long ago. I wanted to state the facts.

Anon, from your words I assume you are a chettiar too. Rajah title was not conferred centuries ago, only in 1929, about 70 years ago. And that is not the reason Chettiars are considered Forward Caste. The total population of Chettiars is close to 1,00,000 not more than that. Out of this almost 90% are literate, and quite a high percentage of people are above poverty line (based on my personal observations). The caste support system is quite strong with sangams helping out needy students. So on what basis can Chettiars be termed as Backward Caste?

Mey said...

An economics research paper "The Chettiars in Burma" by Sean Turnell is another excellent source of info on nattukkottai chettiars, apart from David Rudner's, S. Muthiah's, and others'. A google search will take an interested reader to many sources.

I don't know of any credible writing by burmese on chettiars, though I have read that some burmese loathe chettiars. The ruling military junta calls Suu Kyi a chettiar, an effective way to torment her and to set at least some of the burmese public against her.

Chenthil, as far as I know, a widow or a widower (without an unmarried son / daughter) is treated as a half family unit, and hence "arai pulli." Please correct me if you find any better information on this.

Yes, Chenthil's reply to anon is right. If you leave out some of the appathas and aayas who are illiterate, I would say that the literacy rate may not be anything but 100%. It would suffice to say that it is almost impossible for anybody to argue against classifying nagarathars as "forward," of course assuming that such classifications are right in the first place. I would also wish not to make nausea-inducing statements (however truthful they may be), so I said it would suffice.

A not so nauseating fact about nattukkottai chettiars is that there is hardly any chettiar or achi who would treat a person of another community as inferior and make him/her uncomfortable, in day-to-day dealings (though chettiars are very proud of themselves and resist inter-marrying). A servant maid in a chettiar household is (often respectfully and many times affectionately) addressed "akka."

By the way, David Rudner's and Sean Turnell's are anything but nausea-inducing (as far as I have found), and hence will likely make very good reads to most people.

Anonymous said...

this is alamu ( anon in the previous post)....i beg to differ...i am not sure if the literacy rate is that high amongst nagarathars (except for the immediate past/existing 2 generations)....our forefathers/greatgranparents may have been very knowledgeable and smart, but for most of them, it did not come from structured school/college/university learning...it came from being taught by the elders or other successful business leaders in the community...
who defined what a "forward caste" constitutes of?...is it by literacy, wealth, infrastructure of the caste, occupation or somethingelse?
I have seen many a nagarathar person, selling their house or property to buy provisions...i have seen many a nagarathar give away their 30 year old daughter in marraige to a 60 year old chettiar to be a second wife, but would not give her in marriage "out of caste"...
Is any of this to be proud of...or to be called as "forward".....????
Having said all this, there are many many nice things to be said about the nagarathar community.

anon2 said...

Atlast, its getting interesting. Thank God for that.

Chenthil, as to people below the poverty line, you do hear of a lot of old people and single women who are struggling for the basic food etc in the villages. But then again maybe they are a very small percentage I don't know.

Mey, that is a nauseating generalisation to say the least. In fact I would go to the other extreme and say majority dont treat others as equals.

And BTW why so much hype over David Rudner's book?

I am so glad that you have the anonymous commenting option enabled. Thanks

anon2 said...

Alamu question for you, do we need paper certificates to prove our literacy? What is wrong with what seems to have been a pretty effective apprentice scheme which seems to have created many entrepreneurs. It certainly didn't make them any less literate than us today.

rc said...

Is it true that some Justice Party members offered to classify Nagarathars as backward, but were soundly rebuffed by Rajah ?

Alamu has an interesting point. The Mudaliars had many british titles too (esp the Tuluva Vellalars), they were also a mercantile and an elite community, yet they are classified as backward. Since the 1930s they have dominated the medical profession in TN and were patrons of music and were philanthropists (donated land to found the Stanley Medical College and founded Pachiappas college). How did they get to be backward ?

Next time you are in Bangalore, just wander around the MG road area. Look at the old bungalows there on sprawling lands. All those are owned by Mudaliars. That is the amount of wealth, educational, and political capital they had.

In TN, backwardness is not based on *actually* being backward. Now I am being captian obvious :-)

Anonymous said...

This is Alamu again...
Answer to anon2 :In those days apprenticeship was accepted and they prospered well in their accounting/pawning/loaning business. But in this day and age ( where the pawning/loaning business has fallen down) you DEFINITELY need a paper ( certificate) to get a decent job ( other than starting your own business. By calling us as "forward" , our younger generations are given a very tough time to enter professional schools. Does it mean that we have to stay as bankers ( you need a degree for that too) or "adagu kadai" owners? Should we be given a hard time to beome physicians or engineers?
Agree with you RC: Several other communities are smart enough to call themselves backward or most backward and enjoy the benefits, whereas nagarathars want to take a false pride or ego and be called as "royal, forward, high class ..whatsoever" This title is not going to help us in the long run, it is the door that opens us to oppurtunities ( for education, jobs) that is going to help us...

Deepa said...

Interesting history.

Chenthil said...

Mey, the paper by Turnell is here . I am not saying the community is all bad or all good. It is like any other community.

Anon (Alamu), I sriously don't get what you are trying to argue. If you want to argue that Chettiars should be categorised as Backward Caste, I disagree with you. Do you think because of reservations, Chettiars are not able to get into professional colleges? In my extended family, everyone of my generation is an Engineer (it doesn't make any difference, just for argument's sake) - and we were one of those families who didn't even have a mugappu to their home.

Anon 2, you are welcome.

RC - I thought Mudaliars are classified under Open Competition (Sengundhar Mudaliar), maybe I am wrong. Do you have any links?

Deepa - it is interesting.

anon2 said...

Alamu - I really should join that class on how to write clearly in English. Lets restart and hope that I make myself clearer this time around.

You mentioned earlier that only in the last couple of generations the chettiars have become literate. My question to you was and still remains who says so? In my case both my grandads were professionally qualified but thats besides the point maybe they were a minority, but even going one generation further back why should you consider the great grandads who might have just had elementary education but did numerous years of apprenticeship learning administration and entrepruenarial skills along the way as illiterates. They were probably a lot better educated than some of today's graduates is what I am trying to say. Again I am not saying that every one of them was educated, but I strongly disagree that people two generations before us were illiterates. All I am saying is that just because people didn't have a paper certificate doesn't mean that they were illiterates.

And regarding your current comment, I never said anywhere that we should go back to the old system and stay there. I personally prefer the way things are right now, I don't wanna go back in time.

And as to the reservations, I really don't want to be getting into a discussion over reservations right now. Firstly because I am amongst the minority who feel that reservations is necessary. Not because of a false sense of pride in anyway, but more so because I think there are people who need a helping hand. I do agree that the system needs an overhaul but making the chettiars and brahmins BC will not solve the problem nor will abolishing the reservations totally. Lets leave it at that I really don't want to be getting into a debate on reservations.

Hawkeye said...

i think chenthil just tried to rectify something that he perceived as misinformation.

that does not mean this can turn into a free for all bash on chettiars. konjam edatha kodutha madatha pidungara kathaiya pochu .

chen,

like pillai's mudaliar's too have a loop hole that allows them to become BCs. there is one sect of mudliar that is BC.

anon2 said...

Naataamai soleetaaha.

Mey said...

Alamu, consider reservations as one more hurdle if you wish. In general, it is idividuals' belief in themselves that is door to opportunities, not favorable branding of communities.

Anon2, I am not so sure if chettiars don't treat other communities equally. Can you give any example or instance? But, I have seen many rich chettiars not treating other chettiars equally. If that is what drives your opinion, then that is not the issue here. The issue is inter-community treatment. The truth is probably somewhere inbetween the two extremes, where exactly is anybody's judgment.

Anon2, your opinion about chettiars' apprenticeship systems is something I fully agree with.

Alamu, as regards literacy rate, what counts is current generations (which you admit are literate).

Hawkaye, if it is free for all, you are free to counter. I think people are speaking their minds, especially those with active minds.

Alamu, you said there are many good things about chettiars, which is precisely the reason for being branded "forward."

Anon2, there is hype about Rudner's book (if you wish to call it that way), because any credible information deserves hype. Rudner is no blogger, his work is serious research. (I don't intend to berate bloggers; I just mean that bloggers can tell not so credible things and some times get away with that; academics like Rudner are not so lucky)

The discussions are enlightening, not only interesting. As host, chen should be enjoying.

rc said...

Chen-

- Warning long post -

As an outsider familiar with the Nagarathars. My lifelong best friends are from this community, let me add my thoughts.

First, I cant understand why any community cannot be proud of its heritage and its achievements. What I found unique about this community was the extreme simplicity and approachability even when endowed with ginormous wealth. Very few communities have projected their influence so far outside their native lands. Some people feel proud of your achievements and are trying to perhaps kick it up a notch!. I dont see anything wrong with it. Why such a brouhaha over Orkut !

Second, about "backward" status.

By any measure, whether social, cultural, historical, or educational, Nagarathars can never ever be considered backward. Maybe just for petty quota benefits they do not want to lower their achievements and undisputable elite status in society.

Some might say that, since actually "being backward" is not a requirement for classification as backward, why not classify as one and make it much easier for our children (almost 50% easier).

Isnt everyone else doing it ?

There is no logic or socio-economic data behind these classifications. Take the case of Isai Vellalar (MKs caste), why is it an MBC instead of just a BC ? Has not a 5-time CM, Union ministers,the richest Tamil (Kalanidhi Maran), ownership of top newspapers, and dominance of media, and the top carnatic musician (MS) made any difference in its social standing ? As a comparison, both Narikuravar (yes the unfortunate sods who hunt to eat) and this community are classified together! Do you think there is any logic or fairness behind this ?


It is most surreal that we talk of "backwardness" like this, but this is what it has come down to.

--
Here is a link of BCs http://www.tn.gov.in/department/bclist.htm

of MBCs
http://www.tn.gov.in/department/mbclist.htm

Unfortunately, those lists are tough to read due to the use of synonyms and sub-groups. You need to get the help of people from individual communities to help out.

Anonymous said...

hi guys,
I(Alamu)do not know what blog etiquettes are. (The first blog i ever read was Chenthil's and his writing style was interesting that made me a frequent visitor of this blog). So i do not know if it is ok to carry on a conversation on this topic after the author of the blog has moved on to another post.
In my med school , there was always never more than 2 nagarathar students, in a class of 130. This is even less than 2% !!!. Is that all we are worthy of? or is this due to what we are deprived of????
I know of nagarathar friends/relatives/acquaintances who scored 0.5 0r 1 score less than the cut off for open quota and hence could not enter med school, whereas their counterparts who were sometimes from wealthier, educated/urban dwelling families, who scored less than them,entered med school on BC or MBC quota. Try telling this to those unfortunate nagarathar kids " be proud that you are born into an elite, rich heritage, FORWARD community!"
Bottom line, i mean to say that i am against the reservation quota ( for how long will they keep doing this, atleast the Govt. should have come up with a plan saying that this is going to be just for 10 years or so), reservations should be based on an individual's education/economic status or atleast to bring the reservation quoat % to a smaller %.
Sorry for stretching this far, but i had to say my point and yes, opinions differ!

Mey said...

Bravo, RC!

Alamu, the reservation system is certainly imperfect and mostly ineffective with respect to its original objective. It doesn't mean that it is not justified; in any case, it is at least understandable. It is based on the need for social justice (please see the larger picture, not just those losing out by 0.5 point). It is a social reaction to casteism. To condemn casteism and also the reservation system at the same time is hypocrisy. When casteism goes, there won't be any need for caste-based reservation system; and, it is doubtful if it will ever go, if casteism doesn't go.

What is wrong about the reservation system is the manipulation of the system, by some really "forward" communities, to their advanatage. This is what RC pointed out. Think who the real losers are. They are the really "backward" communities. Their opportunities are looted by "pseudo-backward" communities.

Please also note that chettiars will not probably be better-off with merit-cum-means reservation systems (this time, they will lose out on the economic criteria).

India can try rewarding kids of inter-marriage, with educational quotas; rewarding those inter-marrying, with job quotas ("quota" by itself need not be a dirty word). More importantly, India can (or rather, should) try criminalizing casteistic behaviours and actions (many of those who call others "sudras" all the time will then end up in prison cells). India should try doing every creative thing that will help achieve a homogeneous "indian" society from North to South. When every indian is of a single caste (if we imagine that way), then others won't feel wronged when a meritorious fellow gets a spot in the med school.

The above will probably remain an imagination for quite a while, if not for ever. Please don't ask me to give any practical remedy. Casteism is such a mess that it may take many more Gandhis to sort out. (Chen is trying to get the same message across from the beginning)

Sorry...I couldn't refrain from raising the issue of casteism when commenting about quotas. One thing leads to the other, but its okay as long as the "other" is relevant.

Chenthil said...

Mey, RC, Alamu, anon2 - this post was not about reservations. It was to point out distortion of history in the Chettiar community.

RC- thanks for the govt links.

Alamu - thanks for the thumbs up. And about the percentage of people in colleges, just do the maths and see. TN population is 6 crores. Chettiar populations is 1 lakh. Even assuming that all chettiars are in TN, we make up 1/600 of TN population

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that todays youth are showing interest in the community.
Hope we make this a better place to live in.

But I believe in reality chettiyars are hypocratic society, with absolute no ethics and full of show off. They just want to show off to the outside world how rich they are, how hospitable they are and that they have a beautiful house.

They are creepy people, who fight like cats and dogs amongs themselves and live with fake respect in the society.

Atleast we youths should change our outlook unlike our elders. Being a part of the same community, I am one person, who is ashamed of my communitys bad values, though we have respect outside the society.

Anonymous said...

Hey this is mena,

You peoples have driven through out,

Just for your kind information.

1)
RAJAH is title given to Annamalai chettiar, he is not knitted (knit is a title given to social VIP on the birth day of King Edward).

Annamalai was titled SIR , this is a special title given to him by the time when queen Victoria came to India.

Since he can’t be simple introduced to queen, the local viceroy gave a title RAHAJ


2)
When the Govt is about to declare Chettiar as BC, rajah’s family was conflicting the issue.

3) we have aarai pulli, widow is aarai pulli. (I don’t know why don’t we say a guy widower as aarai pulli)


Mena(meiyappan_rm@yahoo.coM)
Project leader, ACtech.

Anonymous said...

hi,

yet another reply about your poston NK community that you wrote almost an year and half ago.

Interesting to read about chettiar's burmese venture. I have heard stories from my grandfather who escaped Burma with his Burmese wife and later lost her on the way when the ship he was travelling in was bombed by enemies(as he used to tell). Sure I agree, Chettiars might be ethnical but way too conservative, which I resent in this time and day.

Good post.
Thanks
Raj

Anonymous said...

This thread is a crap. True reflection of our present day Chettiar's mind of ignorance and opportunism. No one among today's Chettiar's feel proud of our community or our achievements. They are even embarrassed to be called as Chettiars. They generally and happily bash around the community and feel accepted by others. Bashing is in today's world is a fashion, or a cowardly embarrassment to be branded as Chettiars or we are plainly scared to claim we are Chettiars. Its a cowardly opportunistic tendency rampant in us. In todays world backward class is dominating, and unsaid that its a sin to be a forward community. So we easily accord with it and feel joined with the new power elite, the yester years backward communities.

Chettiars in the past have achieved monumental heights. From Cholas time, where they owned fleet of mercantile ships and palatial houses compared only next to the King's own palace to the British time where they uniquely contributed to the economy of several counties including Burma, Malaysia, Ceylon and even Tamil Nadu. Up until yesterday where building schools and colleges was thought of as dharma and duty to be done to society in which we thrive.

We will not think of all these. We will say Chettiars means .. "Adagu Kadai", "money lenders", "Chetty", every demeaning ways and have a rampant feast of "Ittaly", "Koasmalli" and "Vellai paniyaram" and speak very ill of the community.

Outsiders will say this is a grand community. But we dont see it. Because we are opportunistic rats waiting to jump ship at the slightest distress. Now the distress being caused by the Western way of thinking and on the other hand the elevation of backward classes.

Jump ship Chettiars, we are good in that too.

Narayanan O.

Anonymous said...

Thinking further I feel that this is not the trait we (Chettiars) alone show. This seems the trait of the entire Tamil community. We, Tamils, give in easily. We trait easily (without being the traitor to the society). New Year takes importance over our Tamil New Year. Valentine's day takes as much importance as Deepavali. Discotheques and night clubs takes precedence over our temples and worshipping.

So, being part of Tamil community we do as we do now. We need not be so harsh on us. I need not have felt as harsh as I felt.

None the less these need check. Who is going to do?

Narayanan O.

Anonymous said...

is mudaliar the same with mudliar ?

Sendhil said...

Chenthil, the bloggers were initially boring the later ones were better.
I have read Rudner's report on Burma, read and heard about our community extensively and hail from Devakottai.
Agree on many of the points you have raised.
There have been many who seem to have questioned the ethics of chettiars. Tell them to read Rudner's report. In practice many waive interest when the business breaks down and willingly accept write-offs as practised by Banks these days. They did business ethically and contributed to the society by their philanthropy and to the states exchequer with their enterprise.
It is only today I happened to read this blog. Shall return to see the additions and add my comments.
Sadly today that enterprise is the main missing factor amongst youngsters in the community today. All of them want to go into software jobs or do their MBA and join an MNC, this should change.

Vivek said...

This post is quite amusing!

Anonymous said...

http://www.econ.mq.edu.au/research/2005/chettiar.pdf

Vivek said...

FYI http://seap.einaudi.cornell.edu/system/files/2007fFeature-Chettiars.pdf

Nalla Karuppan said...

http://ehsanz.econ.usyd.edu.au/papers/Turnell.pdf

Anonymous said...

It is true that Chettiars have a glorious past. We are not definitely not backward and we should be proud for that. Chettiar is the community which supplied silk cloth and other things to China. Even the chinese used to have high regards for us because of chettiar's great sense of business. We should be proud to have brought this glory to India.

Anonymous said...

Chettiar have always been upheld for their business sense. they should be proud of themselves.

Anonymous said...

chettiars made & making hell lot of money exploiting others, b'cos of that sin only no chettiar is able to live a good family life. guys come out of this non-sense atleast in the next generation, so your kids & g.kids may have a good life.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that backstabbing their own "Pankalis" is a common character of Nerkuppai N.PL group?. I used to have a friend back in India who laments corrupted nature of his fellow nagarathars .Do they ill-treat fellow community members who are not as rich as they are ?
Do they spread rumor and indulge in character assassination of prospective brides and grooms just to procrastinate their marriages?
If so, I really doubt if their future generations would embellish.
I strongly suggest that instead of "bribing" the God by excessively donating to religious and temple functions and making a mockery out of everything , they can make an attempt to live a "Never Disturb and Never get Disturbed Life"

L said...

In the 1960s, the PM Indira Gandhi abolished all "regal" titles, so the descendants of Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar had no such claim to this title. Mr Annamalai was a shrewd businessman who ingratiated himself with the British for economic gain.

As for the Chettiars in Burma, they were the ones prepared to lend money to peasant farmers and collected interest from each harvest. Without the Chettiars, the poor subsitence farmers could not have bought grain, nor survived until the harvest. The British changed the land title laws so that the Chettiars could foreclose even small outstanding loans and claim the land from farmers. The Burmese perceived the Chettiars to be greedy, money hungry, heartless band of crooks.

I'm a Chettiar and am not proud of my caste nor this sorry history. Chettiars are not nice people.

Meyappan said...

When a Burmese farmers fell behind on his interest payments, the Chettiar would foreclose the loan and claim the land title deed. This is how the Chettiars accumulated so much land in Burma. They then pillaged the teak forests and sent back the timber to Chettinad to build their houses.

Communist rule in Burma and Vietnam meant all of the land held by Chettiars was confiscated. Many chettiars were too heartbroken to return home and stayed in Burma. Others returned penniless back to Chettinad.

One thing never openly discussed is that most of the Chettiars in Burma, Vietnam, Malaya etc had local wives in addition to their Chettiar wife back home. They only went back to India every 5 years or so, so it became acceptable to have another family with a local girl.

Akash Pokuri said...

Well said and nice blog about Nagarathars. For more details of Nagarathars check here.

Anonymous said...

Having been borne into a Chettiar family, I too was brainwashed into believing we were from some elite, regal caste. Pfft....what a load of rubbish. Chettiars were nothing but a bunch of greedy, grubby, opportunistic moneylenders.

Kalyani said...

Hello all, I am aware that this thread is 10 years old, but wanted to write in just in case someone was still reading. I am interested in speaking with/corresponding with Chettiar families that used to live in Burma and Ceylon but came back to India during the 1942 evacuation. This is for an academic book project. If you are / know someone who fits this description, please email me at kalyani@princeton.edu. I look forward to hearing your stories.

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