One Hundred Years of a local Logan
Logan’s Malabar Manual (1887) has inspired many of his successors to study the customs, traditions and the economy of the area in great detail. The most notable of these were Malabar and Anjengo (1905) by Evans and Innes; Malabar Gazetteer (1908) by C.A. Innes; and A Descriptive Memoir of Malabar (1906) by Lts. Ward and Conner.
Local writers were also inspired by Logan’s example to write on Malabar. The pioneering work in this vein was T.K.Gopala Panikkar’s Malabar and Its Folk (1900). Panikker’s book was a sociological study of essentially South Malabar and was aimed at removing some of the preposterous notions on Nair polyandry that existed among the colonial masters. The writer showed great foresight in analysing the root cause of the Moplah unrest which had been plaguing Malabar for more than sixty years at the time of his writing.
Two decades before the final outbreak in 1921, Panikker had correctly identified the reasons for the protests and the possible remedies : One cannot resist the idea that these riots are at least partly, though not wholly, due to the oppression of the tenantry by the land-owning classes; and the possible remedies towards their eventual and permanent suppression appear to lie only in some definite scheme whereby the intellectual and moral status of the Moplah population in the backward Taluqs will be raised by means of the imparting to them of free and compulsory education, the suppression of the present defective and dangerous system of Moplah religious instruction and the substitution in its stead of some method based upon a rational and scientific foundation, the permanent reversal of the policy of coercion and the adoption of a policy of concession, but of course within limits, in political dealings with the Moplah classes and their conciliation by other and last but by no means least, the final settlement of the Malabar Land Question which has all along been looming large on our legislative horizon and to which the people have been so eagerly looking forward.
A work, more in line with Logan, was that of Rao Bahadur C. Gopalan Nair, Deputy Collector, Malabar, published with a foreword from Mr.R.B. Wood, ICS, then Collector of Malabar. The book, Malabar Series : Wynad, Its Peoples and Traditions (1911) attempted a detailed study of the political and social history of the place, its people (both the rulers and the ruled) and a study of the beginnings of plantation in Wynad. The most valuable portion of this book is an anthropological study of the tribals and a good summary of the various non-tribal communities of Wynad. The author, who was posted at Mananthawady (Manantoddy, as it was then called) as the Deputy Collector, reveals the instinct of a social scientist in his analysis of the symbiotic relationships in this remote part of Malabar which had known peace only for a generation, after the bloody Pazhassi wars.
The introduction by R.B. Wood is equally erudite. He recalls the existence of ‘Granthams’ in the old houses – ‘ the actual daily diary of the daily life of the ancient people and the Princes of Malabar’ –and wonders : ‘I do not know, and I have met no one who can tell me, exactly how far back the Granthams go: but I understand that it is for several hundred years ... perhaps from beyond the time when the Chinese first sent their annual fleets to Quilon and Calicut. These records are of priceless historical interest: yet the cadjan files are tied up and bundled away in old cupboards and almyrahs, ready to be the prey of the first fire that chances’.
One hundred years after these fears were expressed by a colonial administrator about the possible loss of ‘our’ heritage, are we today able to salvage what remains of these precious records from white ants, fire and pulp factories?