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History of Pattusali Community :

The Saurashtra, also known as pattusali, are one of the important immigrant communities. The Community's name 'pattusali' is derieved from 'pattu', which means silk and 'Sali' is derieved from 'saleedu' meaning 'spider'. As the spider weave s it's web , so is the person engaged in weaving. According to Thurston (1909), the name Sali is derieved from Sanskrit salika or weaver. In Tamil Nadu they are called Saurashtras, meaning people of Saurashtra. The three endogamous communities traditionally engaged in weaving are Padmasali, Pattusali and Devanga. Of these, only the Pattusali are vegetarian and have many brahmanical practices.

Demography :

They migrated to Madurai and Tirunveli Districts. Hyder Ali forcibly took 24 families of Patnulkaran with him from Thanjavur and settled them in Ganjam near Srirangapatnam (Thurston 1909). In Andhra Pradesh, they are concentrated in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam Districts. They are distributed mainly in Madurai, Tirunelveli, Kamarajar, Anna and Thanjavur Districts in Tamil Nadu. According to 1901 Cencus, their population was 87,149.

Historical Account :

Concerning the origin of the Pattusali, it is stated in the Andhra Pradesh Parijatam (quoted from Thruston 1909), that “they are the result of a union between Kamsala man and a potter woman”. Thurston (1909) further quotes a legend which says that “upon the request of Devatas (celestials) and under the guidance of Vishnu, Markendeya performed a great sacrifice, and from the fire issued Bhavana rishi, with a ball of thread in his hands, which he has manufactured. With this he proceeded to make clothes for the celestials. He subsequently married Bhadravathi, the daughter of the Surya (Sun), who bore him a hundred and one sons, of whom a hundred became the ancestors of the Padmasali, while the remaining man was the ancestor of the Pattusales”. The inscription of Kumar Gupta (A.D.173) at Mandasore reveals that they called Pattavayaka, which is Sanskrit equivalent for Patnulkaran, Queen Mangammal of Madurai, in her Sasanam, also calls them by the same name (1901 Census). On the destruction of Mandasore by the Muslims, the Pattavayakas, the present patnulkaran, travelled south to Devagiri, the modern Doulatabad. Again, at the beginning of the 14th century, due to invasions by the Muslims.According to another version, the Saurashtra were originally Brahman from Surat, which was called Devagiri. There were 12 streets entirely peopled by them. For some reason, the residents of one of these streets were expelled from the caste by the rest. They travelled southwards and settled in Tirupathi, Arni and Vellore, as well as in Tiruchchirapalli, Thanjavur, Madurai and other towns where they carried on their trade of silk is paid. They observe monogamy, the polygamy is also permitted. The thali bottu and bindi are the marriage symbols. They follow the patrilocal rule of residence after marriage. Divorce and remarriages are not permitted. In the past, girls got married before attaining puberty. But at present only adult marriages take place. They place a lot of importance in selecting the right muhurtham for the marriage. The marriage ceremony resembles the Brahman one.

Death :

The Saurashtra cremate their dead. The ashes and bones are collected and disposed of in water. The body is covered with a white cloth if it is male or with a red cloth if it is that of a female whose husband is alive. The eldest son performs the death rites. Death pollution is observed for ten days and on the tenth day, the widow removes her thali. During the pollution period, the Saurashtra worship the deceased by performing nitya karma. And on the 11th day, they invite five Brahmans to perform a puja, and then serve them a feast. This puja is called kirihai obara. On the 13th day, they observe the navagraha santhi and ayush homam.

Occupational activities :

The major source of income for the Saurashtra is weaving. Some of them have their own looms and take yarn from the weaver's society or from private businessmen and supply the finished goods. For this they are paid according to the items woven, such as sari, towel, plain cloth and dhothi. Some of them work for private look owners of their community, others work in handloom factories. The women also weave and their children assist them. Girls generally stitch the borders of the towels or the labels and also help with dyeing. Of late, many are opting for other jobs and have also started their businesses, because working in the handloom industry is not remunerative. Also, people from other communities, are also seeking employment in the weaving industry. Bontala Koduru village was the original centre for this craftsmanship. Now, Ponduru village has gained eminence through Khadi Cloth ('Ponduru Khaddaru') produced by the Pattusali of this region.

Administration and Justice :

The Saurashtra have a caste association names the Saurashtra Madhya Sabha which was established 100 years ago. Its headquarters is in Madurai. The association runs schools and a college. They have their own Vedha Dhyana school to teach the sastras and mantras to their children. The association settles some of their disputes. They have their responsibilities in the municipal councils and in the local and district boards. Religion and Culture: The saurashtra worshop both the Saiva and Vaishnava deities. But, the Tirupati Balaji is their major deity and their main piligrim centres are Tirupati and Rameswaram. They wear the Vaishanavite's mark (three vertical lines) on their foreheads. But they also worship Lord Murugan and Meenakshi. They also pray to Kaliamman and Mariamman, the local deities. They have their own family priests. All of them wear sacred threads, like the Brahman. They celebrate a festival Panguni Uttiram (March-April). This is celebrated over three days in their Krishna temple. Other important festivals are Krishna Jayanthi, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Varalakshmi Vratam, Avani Avittam and Deepawali. They celebrate Pongal also, but not in a grand manner as the Tamils.

Modernisation :

The Saurashtra give importance to education. They have access to all civic amenities. They favour family planning. They use modern medicare. They avail of civic amenities.