ok next on my list was to blog about a cultural night i attended and also volunteered to help in. The event was titled Nagarathar Nite 08'. I get it, Loads of are confused with the term "Nagarathar", right? So if i was to blog on the event, most of you'd be a little lost. Therefore, i thought I'd give a short intro to this term and my immediate community of people.
A little more on history class yeah, bare with me, please. Nagarathars are Hindus whom originate from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. They have been trading with Southeast Asia since the heyday of the Chola empire, but in the 19th century they migrated to countries throughout Southeast Asia. Nagarathars, also known as Nattukotai Chettiars, were an important trading class of 19th and 20th century South East Asia. Chettiars were traditionally involved in occupations like money lending and wholesale trading. At this moment we have a population of 1 million worldwide!! (not too big, but still its a large number of people..)
To the Dressing, Chettiars those days were Very well dressed and loaded with jewelery. They were always well dressed, even at home. As they were very well respected people in the local communities in India. Even in Malaysia, Chettiar traders from India got special good attention from the Brits during their rule here. Advantages were there when you said you were a Chettiar. Houses were Mansions or a smaller scale of castles with magnificent carvings and expensive building materials. Such pride did they carry in portraying wealth...
Religious activities? Nagarathars spread Hinduism in Asian countries as well as business. Even today, one can find temples dedicated to the Hindu deity, Murugan, spread throughout Asia.
Malaysia- 15 Temples
Singapore - 2 Temples
Myanmar- 50 Temples (yes! thats alot!!)
Ho Chi Minh City- 2 temples
well, these are a few of the countries outside India who have built and are maintaining Temples of their own.
Proud to say, The Famous Thaipusam Festival in Malaysia, is also celebrated at a grand scale in Penang! (besides Batu Caves). Nattukotai Waterfall Temple in Penang is the Temple which organises this event in Penang. (pals, now you know why i go All the way to Penang waaay before Thaipusam, and that by skipping class too!)
This community has over the time flourished in agriculture and trade. The community is famous for its trade in spices and hotel industry. Now it also has a large number of banks in India which was founded by Chettiars. There are Universities also in India founded by Chettiar ancestors, famous Indian poets too. Sides them, there are alot of Chettiars in the Film Industry in India and media channels. Indian Minsters also do we have, and many Indrustiallists too both in India and Malaysia. In Malaysia we have Dato' P.Kasi, one of Malaysia's richest man i must highlight.
Now to the delicious food, chettinad chicken and fish curries are extremely famous throughout south India! Well, those are the real famous dishes, sides that there are Loads! Chettinad Cuisine is very famous among local indians too. Now, there are even cookbooks on em'! (There is also a book on our heritage...)
Now to the Interesting thing for my friends now, Marriages. yeap, in this community its a complicated thing to explain! Let me try, but first a little history first, The king of Pandiya gave the Nagarathar community nine villages. They built a temple in each of them and created the "9 temple" division of the community. Initially, the Nagarathars lived in 96 villages surrounding the temple. Members of each temple society treat each other as brothers and sisters or "pangalis" and thus marriage is not allowed amongst members of the same temple. Men and women of different temples marry, and the bride automatically becomes a member of the groom's temple. get it? pretty simple come to think of it. i'll skip the temple names, it will be hard to pronounce, most of them.
In todays community, the thing which has still maintained is the must of a person to get married within the Chettiar community, and we Chettiars still strongly follow it and also of course the not-from-the-same-temple rule above as these both are a matter of pride and honour for parents and relatives.
Hope this answers the tonnes of questions I have gotten in the past few years from my mates whenever i use the term "my community", "Chettiar" and on, Marriages. ;)
I am proud to be a member of- Nagarathar / Chettiar Community. Very.
(Especially with the Youth Wing kicking into gear!)
Next Up: Nagarathar Nite 08' :)