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Finding gamvkari across the ghats


Veluthat provides us a far stronger evidence of existence of gamvkari like institutions in the Deccan and the adjoining Tamil country, in his ‘Landed Magnates As State Agents: The Gavudas Under The Hoysalas In Karnataka’ (1989) The words ‘gaud’, ‘gavud’, and ‘gavumd’ figure in several inscriptions in ancient and early medieval Karnataka. Epigraphists and historians have taken these words to mean ‘a village headman’ or ‘an officer of the state’ or ‘the chief executive of the village assembly’. [Veluthat, 1989: ‘Landed Magnates As State Agents: The Gavudas Under The Hoysalas In Karnataka’, in ‘Proceedings Of The Indian History Congress’, Volume 50, 118]. Dikshit has suggested that it could also mean plain ‘farmer’. [Dikshit, 1964: ‘Local Self-Government in Medieval Karnataka’, 69]

Sometimes the word ‘odeya’ is used in place of gavud; for instance in the compound ‘urodeya’, which has been translated in Samskrt as ‘gramesvar’; ur + odeya = gram + isvar, thereby suggesting that ‘urodeya’ or ‘gramesvar’ was the ‘owner’ or ‘possessor’ of the village. That endows the gavud with the ownership or possession of the village. Expressions such as ‘ur-udayan’ and ‘ur-kilavan’ figure in the inscriptions from the Tamil country in the period from the ninth century onwards; ur-udaiyan literally means, like urodeya in Kannad, the ‘owner’ or ‘possessor’ of a village and ur-kilavan means the village elder. But the fact that more than one person – one inscription mentions 106 – is found to possess the same village, gavud and equivalent expressions need to be interpreted as ‘one who owns land in the village’ or ‘a co-owner of land in the village’. It can also not mean simply a resident of the village as not all persons in the village are mentioned as gavud. This suggests a strong likeness between gavud and gamvkar; or probably between gavud and gaudo, the headman among the kumlbi gamvkar. A term similar to gaudo is found among all aborigine groups, whom we have called kur community, across the Indian sub-continent.

Of the 119 cases where names of the members of different ur assemblies were mentioned in the inscriptions, more than 60 per cent bore a title indicating possession; even in the case of the remaining 40 per cent it is suggested that the udaiyan or equivalent title is left out in order to avoid repetition when two or more udaiyan of the same village are mentioned in quick succession. [Veluthat, 1989: 121].What it would mean is that they were all gamvkar. Even if we allow for the possibility that the title has been left out because it is not applicable, it would simply mean that 60 per cent of the persons in that village were gamvkar, the rest were not. This is common even under the gamvkaris. An analysis of personal names in the Cola inscriptions from Tamil country, taken from a concordance containing 9,590 names showed that about 20 per cent of the persons bore names which had a suffix indicating possession.

It appears that as time passed and some sort of higher control was introduced in the form of kings, the latter recruited the gavud as state agents. In the Chola domain there seems to have been a hierarchy among the udaiyan. The ‘velan’ was above the average udayan; above that was the ‘muventavelan’ and above that the ‘araiyan’. The hierarchy could have reflected the domain controlled by a person; say a ‘velan’ could have controlled an area consisting of areas controlled by several udayan, and so on. Obviously this could have been a later development, as the community moved from a system of fully autonomous villages to the precursor of the modern state.

 Probably such a development can be seen even in Goa, as the gamvkaris evolved; the formation of what came to be called later as the ‘camaras geraes’ was a stage in that process.

What needs to be noted is the smooth and effective convergence of the ancient system of village republics and the modern state, through the appropriation of the hegemony generated by the former. The term araiyan mentioned above gives an interesting insight into this process. Araiyan rose from the ranks of udayan in Tamil country, equivalent of odeya or gavud in the Kannad domain; or gaudo in Komkni. They essentially belonged to the kur community, which includes kumlbi, kunbi, kurmi, kurambi, kudubi, kurni, kanbi, kuruba, kurumba, etc. There is not much information available about the rise of araiyan in Tamil territory. But arasu, its equivalent in Kannad, can be traced throughout the history. Aluvarasa I (Aluva+arasu = the arasu of Aluva) was a king from the Alupa (Aluva) dynasty who ruled in the early seventh century. The kingdom he ruled was known as Alvakheda Arusasira – the ‘kingdom (principality) of the arasu of Aluva’. The Alupas were initially an independent principality, but later became feudatory to the Kadambas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, and Hoysalas. But there were other arasu who were not as successful. The Vaddarse inscription of Aluvarasa I mentions natu-mudime (headmanship of an nadu) held by a certain Gundannarasa (possibly the arasu of Gundanna). Similarly the Kigga inscription of the same king makes a mention of Kundavarmarasa. Two arasu families which prevailed into the 20th century were the Wodeyars of Mysore and the Arasus of Kalale; Kalale is a village in Nanjangud taluk of Mysore. According to the ‘Mysore Tribes And Castes’, there were 31 arasu families. [Nanjudayya & Iyer, 1928: ‘Mysore Tribes And Castes’, Volume 2, 47]

Arasus crop up even in Goa. We do not know much about them, except for a reference to them in a homily by Fr Miguel Almeida preached in Arossim in 1651and published in his collection ‘Vonmalyamco Molo’ (‘Jardim dos Pastores’). In this sermon he refers to a man named Arussu, who according to him was the ‘saibu’ of Arossim.

According to Almeida, he was the lord not only of Salcete, but had won over the kings of entire Komkan up to Miraj. His first son Cunvaranaicu had conquered the entire Kanara territory and ascended the throne. His second son Cunvaragauddu was the owner of vast arecanut and coconut orchards and rice fields. His third son Cunvaraxette built ships and traded across the oceans.

According to Almeida their descendants constitute the three extant vangod of the gamvkari of Arossim; he dates Arussu around the third century CE. [Pereira D’Andrade, 1898: ‘Documentos Konkanis Para A Historia De Goa’,Volume 1, 2]

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