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Saiva Vellalar Pillai 'Valavu' housing system
[Ancient Real Estate Management, Ancient Apartment System]
திருநெல்வேலி சைவப்பிள்ளை வளவு வீடு அமைப்பு முறை

article by webmaster Pasupati K Pillai

Tirunelveli [Thirunelveli or Nellai] Saiva Pillai Housing System as 'VaLavu'


Introduction
Valavu is a Old Tamil word. It is still used in Kerala, Tamilnadu to indicate Group living or urban colony or living in a common compound. Vellala Pillais traditionally lived around the Temples, in small vazhavu homes, or in big independent houses, along with the Nagpurhara Brahmins. See the following story in B.C 1188 [1000 years Before Christ] at Varalaru.com

வேளாளர் குடியிருக்க, வெள்ளான் தெருவில் அனந்த நாராயண பட்டர் விலைக்குப் பெற்றுத் தமக்குரியமையாகக் கொண்ட மனை ஒன்று வழங்கப்பட்டது. இம்மனை இருந்த தெரு, 'வெள்ளான் தெருவில் தெற்குத் தெருவில் தென்சிறகில் கீழைத் தெரு' என்று கல்வெட்டில் குறிக்கப்படுவது நோக்கத்தக்கது.  http://www.varalaaru.com/Default.asp?articleid=142

Refer "The original houses of these families were located in the areas now known as Muthaliar Valavu, Cheddiar Valavu, Seemar Valavu and Ramar Valavu" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Surbit100

Even the Eeelam - Yazhppanam Naallur Kandasamy Temple land was once called as "Kurukkal Valavu"

[refer: http://www.nallur.org/Intro.html and http://www.geotamil.com/ctamils/chapter6_nallur.html]
means the "Compound of the Brahmins or the Gurukkal or the Kurukkal [the Gurukkalaiyya caste is also a sub caste of the Saiva Pillai community; there is a doubt that the entire Brahmin caste might have originated from this priestly community]".

The Valavu word is also used by all the Tamils irrespective of their caste / creed. In Chettinad, the houses are built according to Vasthu with Mugappu [entrance], Valavu [compound] , Irandankattu [second room], Moonakattu [third room] , Thottam. The Thottam is also called as Nandavanam where the daily flowers for use in God's worship is plucked from choicest plants.

Most of the Nagarathar culture / Karaikkudi Chettiar culture is borrowed from Saiva Pillai community. So the Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai houses have these "Irandam kattu" "Moonamkattu" also. "Kattu" means construction, a square or a rectangular room. Also add Varandtha [Veranda - the first room or the drawing hall], Tharsa [the second room or the head room], munkattu [the front side pavilion], pinkattu [the back side pavilion], poravaasal [the backyard], anganam [the kitchen utensil cleaning place] to this list of unique words.

Madakkuli is one of the important part of Old Tamil Pillai houses. This place is used to keep an Oil Lamp at the entrance to the house at both sides so that during night times the houses are decorated with lovely godly lights. Also this makes the walking easy. Now a days in villages these madakkulis are used by children to explode the "Pattasu", as the madakkulis provide some acoustical BOOM sound to even small crackers.

Indians always lived in groups from Indus valley times. These groups formerly based on caste system. The Brahmins lived in Nagpurharams, [see the link of 'Harems of the Moghuls' and 'HARAMs' - I tend to think Brahmins-Aryans were once upon a time kept as Keeps or Woman consorts by Dravidian kings of the times of yore then by the Moghuls. The Krishna, a Dravidian Dark God, kept so many White fair colored Aryan ladies as his Harem. Lord Shiva again a Dravidian Lord, who were hated by the Aryan nomads as Rudra and his fortified Towns had lots of captured Aryan fair color ladies as his wives. The famous Parvati herself is a WHITE aryan lady, daughter of the nomadic Aryan King Dakshan of Kankhal near Rishikesh]. The Pillais of the Indus Valley to this day various Pillais of the Dravida Country live in various kinds of settlements called VaLavu murai, or the Vellalak kudiyiruppu.

VaLavu Housing system is a Unique system of Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai community. No where else in india it is to be found. Still followed in the Tirunelveli Town, this is an age old indifference given to the Vasthu Housing System, to suit the needs of the Urban homing system, perhaps only equalled by the latest Apartment homing complex. It provided security, safety, unity, togetherness, economy of conservation of land/water and other resources. This housing system can be compared with "Bul Bulaiyah" of Northern (esp. Lucknow) and the maze of the Tanjore Maharaja's Aranmanai (Tanjore Palace) or the ziggurats/maze of the Europe.

Construction
The VaLavu housing system followed no patterns. It is born out of natural urbanization and full utilization of the land. We will start our journey from streets. First you enter a VaLavu from a 'Mudukku' a by-lane, from the main road. Mostly the PillaivaaL homes are built around the Shiva Temple of the Town. In this case, the Nellaiappar - Kandhimathi amman temple. This ensures that the people who worked at the temple, treasury, govt offices, bazaar, santhai, market, banks and the rice fields all are just a walking distance from the home. So commuting is fast and enriching. Even people used to go to the Tamirabarani River for Early morning bath by walk [just get up at 4.30 am, go a brisk walk to the banks of the river, return by 8 am, reach office by 9 am - all by walk]. If people can't walk to the river, then they are presented with a branch of the river called "Vaaikkal" just behind their houses. Now a days these vaaikkaals have turned dirty, but still I remember people using it till 1984 - 1985 at the Barathiyar Street, a prominent street on the Vahaiyadi mukku, Tirunelveli Town. This Vaaikkal also catered to the needs of people like bathing/toilet purposes. Elderly people also found it useful as they cant walk up to the distant Tamirabarani river.

Unique Features
1. Emotionally close - well knit - networked people
The VaLavu system is only caste based, not class based. So all kinds of people from lower middle class, middle class to upper class people freely, closely lived together. This faded the class differences and a 'brotherly' attitude to help each other. Usually the rich people constructed "Marriage Stages" (மண மேடை) a precursor to the fully built Kalyana Mandapams. At these Holy function stages, functions like Sadangu, Drama, Marriage and others took place with active attendance of all the relatives, setting aside the problems and bringing them together.

2. Security: Economical and Social
In any VaLavu system of houses, through out the night one can enter the dark mudukku's and darker sandhu's without the fear of being robbed. Because it is rare to find thieves in that area, second even the thieves will not dare to do their job as all the people are just a call away, they cant escape. Even now i see many people in Tirunelveli town leaving their homes wide open all the day and night when they are inside, or when they go out, they just tell the neighbors "to look after the Kitchen" or just "switch of the gas" so that they can come back from the market.


3. Fast commuting by walk or by cycle.
Commuting to the offices, banks, markets, temple, cinema theatres, river, book shop, pan shop, vegetable shop, grocery store, temple, Teppakulam [holy water tank of the temple], vaikkal, public bath room, public toilet, Halwa store, clothing store are all just a walk away. I remember to do all of Tirunelveli Town from Tili bus stand to Flyover to Railway station to Tamirabarani river to Popular Theatre all by walk.

4. Easy Networking, Friendly atmosphere
People knew the whole VaLavu people. Everybody mostly knew the private lives of others, this brought less privacy, but more transparency. This helped solve problems, very rarely created problems also. I feel it has more advantages tan disadvantages. A lawyer, politician, farmer, bank employee, teacher, govt clerk, govt officer all lived close to each other and there are more relatives around. This solved day to day needs of the people, to clear the doubts, to seek ideals, ideas.

Disadvantages of VaLavu System
1. No Privacy or very less privacy
2. More Copy cats
3. Jealousy, groupism, revenge taking by close people/relatives.
4. Health problems, hygienic problems reported
5. Vasthu system is more good and better than this crowded living system.

More and more news on this VaLavu system is needed. Reader kindly contribute to the article.

We can compare this Ancient Valavu system with modern day Apartment Living. It is interesting to note that this type of Valavu system born only in Urban Towns of Erstwhile Tamilnadu, where the real estate is a premium. So the Security, Safety, Network, Group Living advantages of today's Apartment living was practiced by Tamils in Tirunelveli.

Nilaththan Kovil or the Land Lord's Temple


In those times, the Pillai people esp. the land owned masses lived in the Fields. They constructed small temples at the centre of the field which is called the "Nilaththan Kovil" or the Landlord's Temple. Some percentage of the produce is gifted to the Temple. Thus the culture started to grow around the temples. The Streets born around the temples are called the North Car Street (Vadakku Ratha Veethi), South Car Street (Therku Ratha Veethi), East Car St and West Car St.

Here the CAR means the Temple Ther. Ther or Ratham is the vehicle which is pulled by the devotees around the Upper Caste people's streets. As the upper caste people owned the lands, the temple and the streets, they did not allow the lower castes to enter either the Temple, or the streets or the Ther (car).

The Nilaththan Kovil of the Vellalars slowly popularise, depending on the income from the lands, and this causes Big temples to form in the formerly Nilaththan Kovil. Some Kings also help the local landowner by making the small Nilaththan Kovil to evolve into the traditional, Dravidian architecture. Many stories / legends are there in Tamil Literature to show how poor devotees of Tamilnadu go to the Kings to construct a Gopuram Temple in their locality. They take the help of God who comes in the dreams of these devotees. Also we see all the present GREAT temples of Pandiya, Chera & Chola are all built over an already popular Temple in those places. Example the Madurai Meenakshi Temple was once upon a time a small makeshift Temple of Shiva under a Punnai Tree.

So still along the river sides of Tirunelveli and Tanjore one can see lots of Nilaththan Kovil amidst the glorious green paddy fields. Example are Alwarkurichi Narayanasamy Kovil, Ambasamudram Sivan kovil, Kalakadu Sivan kovil and so many others.

Like the Vellalas brought the Shiva Temple, the Thevars built Muniyandi, Mari amman, Isakki amman, Madurai Veeran, temples as their tour of duty often involved as protecting these fields, and they are also non veg meat taking people, so they offered cocks, goats to the gods before eating them. They also offered the Arrack and Toddy to the gods, just like the Brahmins offered the Soma Sura Banam to their Aryan gods. The Murugan temple also was once upon a time accepting the cock as a "Bali" offering. Till it is reformed as one of a Saivaite God, then purified with vegetarian food offerings.

The Sambavar or the SC community people also had their own gods like Sudalai madan, Chokka madan etc. These gods were never disliked or disowned by other community people. These gods were considered as part of the Hindu Pantheon and the upper castes took it as a God of the folks or the God for the commoners.

Further Readings
 

Tretises on Thevaram       Saivaite way of Living