‘Paniya is the largest community amoung tribals of kerala and they consists 30% of tribal population . This community is habituated in Wayanad, Kannur, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts of the state. The word “Paniya ” means “Coolie” . Standard of living , literacy and economic status of the group is very backword than the PTGS of the state, Even then they are included in the PTGS list. These people have nohouse to live, no land for agriculture, and no job. This shows the pitiable of their day to day life.
By the anthropologists ‘paniya’ people are included in the Negorid category . Ther is a story prevalling among this people, about their orgins is that are offspring of Lord ‘Siva ‘. If we look into the practices and rituals which are following by this community shows that this stiory has some relevance . Pzaniya people are worshiping supper natural powers as shiva boothas . They had the believe of rebirth also.it means Hindu and Paniya thinking are the same.
Like all other Hindus from birth to death Paniya also hav same customs. Birth, marriage and death ant, celebrated very extensively by them. In such occasions the whole hamlet people will celebrate the festivity very enthusiastically. For these functions traditional lamp will be lighten. The village mentor (Grama mooppan) will be the chief of all such functions. Even though the Paniya community is taking non-vegetarian food they are not having the habit of eating beef that means they are against cow slaughter. Every hamlet have a sacred place of worship known as "Gulikanthara" all the fore fathers and other ancestors were worshiped in that place. every year some rituals will be conducted on this Tharas. For that whole family members of that hamlet will participate. Name of the functions is Gooliyatt.
For all celebrations traditional dance will be and item and whole community without any difference between men and women will participate in that. A small drum called Thudi and a flute like equipment called Cheenam were used for the dance and songs which were sung in this dance are fully about Devadas and agricultural activities this is an indigenous dance. Through out the night the dance will continue. Theirs customs of marriage is very simple and least expensive. The traditional neptical knot will be tied between bride groom and bride. Father, mother and other relatives were perform the marriage rituals and they had no any practice of giving dowry or gold. On occasion of death body will be cremated in the common place of the community with custom and traditions. All personnel belongings of the dead also will be cremated along with the body.
The whole paniya population is engaged in the agriculture labour and they only knew the traditional ways of paddy cultivation and menuring. To cope-up with the modern periods and the advance technology are very difficult for them. So that a social transformation and economic development of this community is very difficult., Already we have seen most of this community members are not having land property. All the colonies (hamlet) are crowded with small huts and every but is having two or more families. These huts have no power, no good drinking water, and no proper sanitation. Total community health is also very poor.
We have passed 60 years of independence. Even than 57% of this community is still illiterate This is the main lacuna for their progress .The second major problem is the heavy alcoholism. Recent survey by a Government agency had revealed that 90% of youth and above age group both men and women are addicted to alcoholism. Because of that their economic development is also curtailed . Too much addiction they are having the decease of anemia and incapability of giving birth to children so the :r population also coming down.. Even though every men and women are going for daily labour and earning money, but not having the effective habit of savings. Basic laziness and inertia are other problem which this community facing.Only through education we can help them to over come these problems. For that NGOs had a very crucial responsibility.