This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
really are, how did we get here and what we are capable of. Unfortunately many of us are unaware of our ancestors, let alone our history.

To write this cover story, the authors researched and stumbled upon a wealth of information on our community from 1909 till date. This triggered a separate line of thought on conserving what is left of our culture, something in the lines of a Museum.

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t some y w ysical museum

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in the heart of Chettinad displaying arts, artifacts, motifs, historical records and portraits of patrons who have contributed immensely to our community.

A museum on that scale is an ambitious project: it would be a great effort to amass the artifacts, gather historical records, accumulate the funds … it can be achieved only if it is a collective dream of our community, with everyone pitching in. This would also be a good opportunity to rekindle the “give-and-take” spirit that was so noticeable in us a hundred years ago, and place our collective interest above our individual interests.

Until then, a more practical solution is a Virtual Museum. Wikipedia has a webpage on ‘Nattukottai Nagarathars’ which had 704 hits in December 2011. What if this page can be expanded to a web portal with a wealth of information on our community? This could be an ideal platform to launch our virtual museum, since it is free, secure, without deadline pressures, catering to individual interests, and best of all - it preserves information in the form that the Facebook generation can relate to. Who knows, may be the future generations could relate to our ancestors better than we did!

Volume 13, issue 1

But for this to happen with a modicum of success, we need to act fast, since everyday this project is delayed, we keep losing old, priceless, irreplaceable documents, photos, etc. Not only the documents are under threat these days, but also the Chettiar artifacts. It is common to find Chettiar artifacts (bed frames, wall-murals, balustrades, vessels, jewelry, etc) sold away for meager sums to pawn shops and foreign collectors. What we are advocating for is to photograph and document these items in Wikipedia. The need to preserve is immediate, the threat of loss is great.

The above would be preserving at a community level. But at first, the change should start in within our homes. As parents, we are entirely responsible for making our children perceive the significance of learning our language, our customs, and our history. Our Nanal team brainstormed and has come up with ideas which are listed in a separate inset. These are some examples of how we can integrate our identity into daily routines, so that they become ingrained characteristics of everyday lives.

Today, if Thurston were to re-conduct his survey by sampling Chettiars world -over, he will find many similarities and differences. This should most likely prompt him to view us as sub- groups sharing the same ancestors but divided along our differences. Singapore-settled, Malaysian-settled and US-settled Chettiars might have common ancestors, but the environment has shaped us differently. But it’s the similarities that bind us together as Chettiars: Pillayar Nombu, Kalutheeru and Vellai paniyaram, no matter where we are, it will be with us forever!

References [1] 1909, Edgar Thurston, Caste and


Tribes of Southern India, Volume V, pages 249-271

[2] 1929, L C Jain, Indigenous Banking In India, pages 36--38

[3] 1929-1930, Burma Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee Report (BPBEC), pages 189-248

[4] 1978, Raman Mahadevan, Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Colonial Burma - An Exploratory Study of the Role of Nattukottai Chettiars of Tamil Nadu, 1880- 1930, Indian Economic Social History Review, Vol 15, page 329

[5] 1985, Ramdas Menon, Banking and Trading Castes in the Colonial period: The Case of the Nattukotai Chettiars of Tamil Nadu, South Asia Bulletin, Vol. 2

[6] 1990, Davis West Rudner, Caste and Capitalism in Colonial India. The Nattukottai Chettiars

[7] 1995, Nishimura Yuko, Gender, Kinship & Property Rights. Nagarattar Womenhood in South India

[8] 2004, Sean Turnell, Fiery Dragons? The Chettiars in Burma, IUAES Inter Congress on Mega Urbanization, Multi- Ethnic Society Human Rights and Development, Volume 2: Urbanization and Multi-Ethnic Society, New Delhi

[9] 2005, Sri Devi, Local Banking and Material Culture Amongst the Nattukottai Chettiars of Tamil Nadu, PhD Dissertation, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2005.

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