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
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.
Refer "The original houses of these families were located in the areas now
known as Muthaliar Valavu, Cheddiar Valavu, Seemar Valavu and Ramar Valavu"
Even the Eeelam - Yazhppanam Naallur Kandasamy Temple
land was once called as "Kurukkal Valavu"
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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