ABOUT PANIYA COMMUNITY
Paniyas are the largest tribal community of Kerala and they are 30% of the tribal population. This community is habituated in Wayanad, Kannur, Malapuuram, and Kozhikode districts of the state. The word Paniya means “coolie”. Standard of living, literacy status and economic situations of this community is very poor than the PTGs of the state .Most of them have no house to live, no land for agriculture, no regular job and even no cremation places in some areas. This is the deplorable condition of their life.
Anthropologists had opinioned that Paniya people are having the trace of Afro Negroeids. By physical appearance this will be correct. Their curled hair, shining black color and shape of nose are illustrations for that. But socially and culturally Paniyas are clearly related to Sanathana Dharma. About their origin, community people believe that they are the offsprings of Ippi mala and Korapuzha. Both are connected to the nature. One is mountain and other is river. Ippi is male and Korappuzha is female. And customs and rituals which they follow show they are Hindus and their customs start from Lord Siva. The supernatural powers whom Paniyas are worshipping were originated from Lord Siva bhoothas. Their ‘Thudi’s shape is very identical to the ‘demaru’ of Lord Siva.
Like all other Hindus, Paniyas also have different rites from birth to death. In those occasions the whole people of the hamlet will come together and celebrate the festivity very devotionally. For every function traditional lamp will be lighten and the village mentor (Grama Moppan) will be the chief. In food habits they are non vegetarian but they are not having the habit of eating of Beef because they are against cow slaughter. Every hamlet has a sacred place of worship known as ‘Gulikanthara’ and all fore fathers and ancestors of the community were worshiped there. Every year some rituals will be conducted on this “Thara”. For that whole members of that hamlet will participate. Name of the function is ‘Gooliyatt’.
Traditional dance will be an item for these functions. Whole community without any difference of gender will participate in that. A small drum called Thudi and a flute like equipment called ‘cheenam’ were used for the dance as accompaniment and the songs which sung in this dance are about ‘Hindu Devathas’. For birth, death, marriage and other periodical ceremonial occasions and for agricultural activities also this indigenous dance will be performed. But the songs for this occasion are deferent. Marriage customs of this community is simple and less expensive. The traditional nuptial knot will be tied between bride and bridegroom. Father, Mother and other relatives will perform the marriage rituals and they had no any practice of dowry or gold for marriage. On time of death body will be cremated in the common place of the community with reverence and traditions. All personnel belongings of the dead also will be cremated along with the body.
THE whole paniya population is engaged in agriculture labor and they only knew the traditional way of paddy cultivation. Paddy and its cultivation are very much related to their blood and customs. As food grain is used in wedding ceremony and cremation time also. For finishing massive cultivation they observe a special feast .It is “Kambalam”. With the accompaniment of Thudi and Cheenam large number of paniyas both men and women will come together, dance together and carry out massive farming throughout day and night. Nowadays paddy cultivation is come to a decline position in Kerala so, livelihood of these people are in jeopardy. To cope up with modern times advanced technology is another problem for them. So a social transformation and economic development of this community is very difficult. Shifting this manpower to other economic zones is the way out. For that imparting new technological knowhow through advanced training to the youths of this community is a need.
We had seen most of these community members are not having any land property. Traditionally Paniyas had no land ownership. As casual labors they were shifted in groups by the employers at their will. So, living in a cluster form had become their convention. All colonies (hamlet) are crowded with small huts and every hut will have two or more families. These huts have no good drinking water, space to live and proper sanitation. So Community health also is very poor.
Customs and rituals are very strong, but superstitions, alcoholism and other social evils are still prevailing among them. There are customary ceremonies for birth, wedding and death. Traditional lamp is a must for every function. Other specialty if this community is they are users of nearly more than 100 types of leaves were used as side dish. These leaves they called “chappu”. For normal fever Paniyas will use local veg leaves and they are very experts in that.