(Last Updated on : 12-12-2008)
If one frequents the state of Kerala
, one can easily come across to multitudes of tribal communities who have settled down here in large numbers. Kanikkar is important, as it is one of the largest tribes of the whole of Kerala state. As per the Census report of India, brought out in the year 1981, the total population of Kanikkar tribes has been enumerated to be fourteen thousand. In several districts of Kerala including Thiruvananthapuram
, these Kanikkar tribes are residing in the forest areas.
These Kanikkar tribes are very attractive to look at with black body, circular head, and curled hair, broad nose.
Just like any other tribes of Kerala, these Kanikkar tribes have taken up the profession of cultivation. However, there are some Kanikkar tribes who even tried their hands in fishing and hunting.
The origin of these Kanikkar tribes has few interesting stories that are popular through out the region. Aryans who migrated from north to south are called Kanikkar . The word Kanikkar signifies landlords. These landlords are the descendants of the Kings and also gave their offerings to the famous Attingal King. The other story says that the term Kanikkar has been taken from the name Malayarayan who is the famous Hindu mythical sage, namely Agasthya.
The colony of these Kanikkar tribes comprises of huts made from tree leaves and bamboo. It is popularly known as Kani, with an aged man who has been given the responsibility of controlling the tribal community. He is called Kani Mooppan or Muttukani.
Agriculture is the primary occupation of most of these Kanikkar tribes. There is another reason for which the anthropologists have given so much of attention to these Kanikkar tribes. These Kanikkar tribes have the tradition of using herbal medicines in order to heal up their wounds as well as for curing diseases. According to them, these medicines have also got magical powers and so do not reveal the composition Traditionally, these Kanikkar tribes up leaves, supposing that these have got medicinal values. Nowadays, they have discarded it.
Food of these Kanikkar tribes too is quite sumptuous. Those who reside in forest areas devour 'root vegetables' and also 'wild honey'. They also consume alcohol, smoke profusely and chew betel leaves.
Some of these Knaikkar tribes too have developed faith on various hill deities. Sacrifice of chicken is done under the trees by the banks of the rivers.
Kanikkar tribes are very much fond of dance and melodious music, which enriched their cultural heritage. These Kanikkar tribes have got their own mother tongue, which is quite ancient. However there are few Kanikkar tribes who use various Malayam and Tamil dialects while conversing with one another. Even they have composed songs in order to drive away evil spirits and out breaks of diseases etc. These songs are called Chattu, which signifies sanctification. A special music instrument called Kokkara is played at the time of singing these songs.
For these Kanikkar tribes, special norms and rituals are followed mainly with the initiative of Muttukani. Usually a male Kannikar proposes to a female of the same community and the opinion of the females are not given due importance. Age of the groom also is not taken into account. After the engagement, the bride, with her eyes closed, is brought before the groom. Black thread act as wedlocks used for tying up with the bride. Wrapped in the garments the bride goes to the broom's place. Only at this time the bride can see the face of the groom. Even if there are possibilities that a Kanikkar groom is quite old in age. Nowaday the Kanikkar tribes have taken up the customs of a normal Hindu marriage after discarding their age-old customs.
Apart from mentioning the rituals of marriage, these Kanikkar tribes too have got special customs that are followed at the time of death ceremony also. There are ceremonies that continue at a stretch for twenty-one days and these Kanikkar tribes break their fast by devouring porridge. In the final sixteen-day, the Kanikkar tribes sing ceremonial songs.
Art forms, dances, attires are also very ethnic and exquisite. Generally, these Kanikkar tribes dance by hand clapping and also by pressing their heels. The ornaments that these Kanikkar tribes used to wear mainly are made up from stone pearls. These Kanikkar have the treasure of weapons like bows, arrows, and spears. However, there are several Kanikkar tribes who have still restrained from adopting the modern lifestyles of the present society.