The national imagination has had a long, productive career as our guide to historical research, but other modes of thought now need more nurturing. National maps mechanize research by putting all our data in their pre-assigned place. Spaces that elude the national sensibility disappear when scholars heap all data from all times and places into national containers. All the histories of all the peoples in the world currently appear in the cage of some national past or another, but some need their own space. It is a pressing challenge to imagine at least some history in non-national terms, and particularly for scholars who want to write about old geographies that became spectres in a world of nations.
geographies are spectral in several senses.
Archaic and out of place in the present, they seem imaginary and only
make sense inside routines of national mapping.
Some are quaint and benign but others are scary spooks that conjure up
places outside the national order of things.
Eerie ghosts emerge when old geographies refuse to die yet resist
substantiation. Some old and barely
visible regions of human activity remain vital for people inside them. Spaces that offend national sensibilities
stimulate intense cartographic anxiety, as for example among the Indian
officials who censor and regulate the circulation of maps depicting
"border areas" and "sensitive regions." Paxtun territory,
Bengali Assam, and Tamil Indo-Lanka are but three of the many old historical
spaces whose living legacies haunt nations in
Many old geographies did however die in the past and their death haunts the nation with the prospect of mortality. Relics of old territories have been caged in national states to serve as spectacles of national heritage, but their archaic forms embody the future of national landmarks as relics of a by-gone day. National efforts to unearth old geographies must therefore prevent the new discoveries from undermining the nation's power to inhabit all the ages of history. Thus the national past comes to life in a suspended vitality. The spectres that roamed earlier times insert annoying question marks willy-nilly into national history's confident narrative. In the past as in the present, archaic spaces acquired new meaning and substance over time as ruling ideologies and authoritative textual practices endeavored to bury old geographies under the weight of records we use to write history. In each epoch, human living spaces lurk in shadows cast by the same light that illuminates the past.
The spectral qualities of archaic geographies should not deter us from exploring their history. Reading historical data into spaces that are not depicted on modern maps is most imperative for scholars who wish to understand disorderly worlds of human activity that almost disappeared inside the mechanical certainties of national modernity. Appropriate data abounds. Pre-modern space did not disappear when modern minds began to standardize and homogenize geography; in fact, early nineteenth-century texts shed new light on old territories that still survived then to haunt a new regime that was digging their grave.
I explore the
history of pre-modern spaces in three ways: by tracing their modern legacy and
contemporary vitality; by peeling back the temporal layers of historical
documentation that cover old geographies in each epoch with the ideas that cage
them in new environments; and by locating the origins of specific forms of
geographical order and tracing their transformations over time. In this essay. I do a little of each by focusing on the
geographical grounding of social identities inside agrarian territories in
The Substance of Territory
geography of agrarian
In the study of
historical space, three methods are most prominent, which we can call
distributional, cultural, and social.
Like Daniel Thorner and the Census, most
geographers locate variables on maps and describe spatial distributions. Like Ranajit Guha, cultural historians depict representations of space
by inhabitants and by people who seek to control territory with coercive force,
words, surveys, maps, and other technologies. Like Burton Stein, social and economic
historians describe spatial circuits and networks of activity and
relationships; that is, geographies of mobility, settlement, transaction,
alliance, and institutions like states, temples, and markets. Agrarian geography looks different in each
perspective and they are most usefully combined. For instance, the contrasting geographies of
tribal regions in western
My goal is to spatialize social and economic history in geographies of human activity that are also described by distributions of variables and by cultural representations. I make a basic distinction between "space" and "territory" in agrarian history. I define agrarian space as being an area in which all the various elements combined in agriculture circulate geographically. Such spaces can be described even when they cannot be mapped or otherwise controlled by humans. Agrarian territory is that part or a feature of agrarian space under some human control: it needs be marked and bounded, physically and culturally; and its boundaries mark spatial domains for organizing social power in everyday agricultural production. In the world of representation, words can capture any space that humans imagine but maps in the mind or on the page are for controlling space inside territory. Traces of maps-in-culture are strewn across a vast variety of historical documentation from ancient times to the present. Using the various traces to depict space-in-time poses many methodological challenges that I have not yet overcome.
We can begin this exploratory exercise by proposing that agrarian territory is produced, reproduced, and transformed over time by social powers constructed culturally in social institutions that leave records behind for charting agrarian territory-in-time. Social power is distributed unequally in amount, in quality, in society, in space, and also in time. For example, the tinai in Sangam poetry represent spaces that seem to have been territorialized primarily through the operations of the poetry itself. Medieval nadu represent substantially more territorial force and social inequality but in very small territories compared to those in later centuries. Social powers that define territory appear in various forms and combinations in records depicting negotiation, alliance, exchange, conflict, and accommodation as well as command, control, and subordination. The spatial institution of social power defines the geographical contours for agrarian territory by using texts, landmarks, and social identities attached to the land.
state is one kind of agrarian territory. Even at the national level, agrarian
territoriality -- like nationality -- is a project, rather than a fixed
fact of life, because all the moving elements in agriculture resist control;
and within territory, control is always relative. Natural phenomena like monsoons, topography,
evaporation, photosynthesis, and soil type resist control absolutely. Prices, knowledge, beliefs, and migration can
be as hard to control as wind, but controlling them is an ancient
ambition. Humans do control things like
crops, wages, marriage, occupation, taxes, property, and agrarian settlement
patterns. Controllable items mark the
territoriality of agrarian space.
Agrarian territories are filled with ideas that people use to control
the order of things in space-and-time.
Many kinds of agrarian territories have emerged historically in
Agrarian territory thus includes elements
which have been separated from one another intellectually in dominant
disciplinary methods for studying Indian "society" and
"economy," respectively. This
alienation emerged in the late nineteenth century and still marks a boundary
between methods attached to political economy and socio-cultural studies.
Agrarian territories emerge in geographies of entitlement and subalternity that organize agricultural production in physical and cultural sites. We can take from Sen the idea that markets produce a kind of power called "exchange entitlement" that people use to buy, sell, consume, and produce. Exchange entitlements rest on another kind of entitlement, which Sen calls "direct" and arises outside the market in social institutions that give people power over things they take to the market to sell. In Sen's work, direct entitlements are legal property rights, including tenant rights, but the idea of direct entitlement can be extended to include powers over things that people gain through various social institutions, such as inheritance, kinship, and caste. In Sen's analysis of famines, herders have direct entitlements over animals, as farmers do over land; but craft producers also have direct entitlements, and family producers in general have direct entitlements to the family labour they use to make commodities. "Directness" is a feature of entitlement arising from its origin outside the market; it comes from social relations of power among people who gain capacities to control things through institutions other than the market.
entitlements animate all markets.
Property rights are most visible, but agrarian societies also produce an
array of other direct entitlements that sustain agriculture as well as
markets. In capitalist economies, direct
entitlements from an array of non-market institutions sustain capital accumulation. Direct entitlements typically involve complex
transactions and cultural symbolism. In
combinations of exchange and direct entitlements erase intellectual boundaries
between political economy and culture.
Thus they allow us to explore the history of capitalism in
made the antiquity and pervasiveness of markets in agrarian
Amartya Sen defines entitlements in the framework of modern state law. We need to extend this idea into a wider realm of legitimate social power, and to expand legitimacy beyond legality in modern states. Legitimate "direct" (non-market) entitlements include those sanctioned by custom and by cultural institutions like the Hindu temple, where gifts to god entitle donors to honors that can be "cashed" to form exchange entitlements. Marriage customs provide direct entitlements to gifts and inherited property that enter into market exchange. Patriarchal authority provides entitlements to control female and subordinate male labour. Caste rules entitle high caste families to direct the labour of lower caste people. Such "direct" and culturally embedded entitlements move legitimately into markets where they sustain exchange entitlements, even when they are not explicitly sanctioned by law.
Agrarian territory is thus a physical space where people obtain entitlements in market and non-market institutions that have a definite geographical reach. In such territories, subalternity enters entitlement. Ranajit Guha and his Subaltern Studies colleagues insist that all entitlements include subordination and resistance. Entitlements subordinate and exclude. Property rights exclude non-owners and subordinate labour. Inheritance excludes and subordinates people who are not entitled to inherit. Coercive institutions like the army and police maintain entitlements. Markets operate in discourses of power and resistance that secure entitlements with law and custom. The legitimacy of entitlement represents power that is not inherently stable but is held in place ideologically and by the use and threat of force, as it is constantly met by resistance.
resistance is also a positive force defining entitlements; though this feature
of subalternity is not well developed in Subaltern Studies. In market exchange, unequal buyers and
sellers resist each others' demands in conflicts of bargaining. Direct entitlements emerge historically at
the same time as subordinates resist superiors' demands in conflicts of
negotiation. For instance, the tenant
subalterns typically struggle against domination and for
entitlements at the same time. Agrarian territories thus emerge as geographical
spaces defined by social power and resistance that together
produce and transform entitlements.
Property rights are paradigmatic subaltern entitlements in
agriculture. People with higher ranks
and more authority grant, confirm, legalize, and secure property rights for
people below them who resist constraints and fight for rights at the same
time as they use entitlements obtained by subordination and loyalty. The
history of landed property includes a vast array of subaltern struggles for
entitlements among people who both accept and resist proprietary claims.
Historical change in proprietary institutions involves authoritative state
action and also subaltern struggles against domination and for
legitimate entitlements. Thus, Dipesh Chakrabarty describes
subaltern consciousness inside a “composite culture of resistance to and
acceptance of domination and hierarchy.” One illustrative case of entitlement-changing
subaltern action is the Agrarian League of Pabna in nineteenth century
Territories in Time
medieval territories emerge in stone and copper inscriptions in the ninth
century on routes of river drainage near the
spectres survived to modern times, but medieval territories faded away. Inscriptional records of the nadu decline rapidly after 1300. The last inscription recording an action by
the best-documented sabha, in Uttaramerur, near Kanchipuram, came in 1434. In later centuries, nadu
legacies entered larger agrarian territories, as agricultural expansion
accelerated, new warrior alliances conquered the coast, and old entitlements
entered new warrior regimes. The title
of nattar remained, and in 1801, the Nattawars of Uttarmerur were
three Brahmans who may have had ancestors in its sabha. But medieval nadu,
territorial forms emerged uniquely in later medieval centuries. Their creation
is not so well documented but some inscriptions and substantial lore indicate
that they were built after 1300 on frontiers of agricultural expansion in
upland and interfluvial areas by lineages and clans
embracing warriors and farmers. Such territories developed distinctive ethnic
identities. Some were built by peasant
warriors who moved out from old nadu on the
coast, like the Kammas and Kapus
who colonized the Krishna-Godavari uplands and Kongu Vellalars
who settled the
territories of this later medieval ethnic kind also appeared in the
territories of warrior-farmer frontier colonization had long lives. They obtained their spectral appearance when
uniquely early-modern form of agrarian territory emerged after 1500 and became
more visible after 1750 in texts produced by the English East India
Company. Territories around urban
centres of capital accumulation combined direct and exchange entitlements in
compact territories strategically placed in expansive networks of military and
market activity. Cotton cloth was the product that best typified urban territories
that brought together social power in agriculture, manufacturing, war,
taxation, and trade. This early-modern
textile urbanism thrived where military and financial power combined to secure
entitlements to land and labour amidst social institutions of capital
accumulation at the intersection of farming and textile production. Two urban territories surrounded Kanchipuram
and Tirunelveli, respectively, in the ambit of ports
robust they might have been in 1800, early-modern urban territories were
spectres from the outset, because the same documents that record them also
break them up into administrative localities called "villages." This classification guided modern
territorialism and erased the urban complexity of the early-modern
economy. The concentration of locational privilege and resource control in big cities
during the nineteenth century erased the old urbanity of the country around
Kanchipuram and Tirunelveli. The ruralization of
agrarian space then laid intellectual basis for
all the spectres of these three kinds of archaic territory inhabit present-day
Tamil Nadu, they elude the history of Tamil Nadu, which is a national artefact. In 1956,
Territories in Space
We can peel
back the layers of time to reveal many non-national geographies, some still
quite alive. In the early nineteenth
century, literature and folklore indicate that medieval terms were still in
use. Three names found in medieval texts
describe parts of the coastal plains: tondaimandalam
spread north of the Kaveri, with its core in the old Pallava heartland, around
Kanchipuram; cholamandalam surrounded the
Kaveri delta, with its old Chola centre at Tanjavur; and pandyamandalam
spanned Vaigai and Tampraparni river basins, with its
Some spectres visible in 1800 died thereafter. Accounts from Tirunelveli show that Tamil Vellalars then uniquely used mandalam terms to designate their own ethnic identities, which were attached respectively to the Pandya country, Chola country, and Tondaimandalam, as well as to Karaikkadu (in Marava country) and Tulu country in the interior mountains. Such naming practices reflected ethnic divisions among immigrants and "natives" in the Tirunelveli region of the southern Pandya country. Names of this kind faded in later times, but the spectre of the mandalam did not die. Narendra Subramanian has recently shown each of the old regions has made its own distinct contribution to Tamil ethnic identity through its particular pattern of electoral politics. (More on this below.)
New spectres of old geographies came to life in the 1890s, when U.V.Swaminathaiyar recovered texts dating from early centuries of the Common Era, which came to be called Sangam literature. These texts were then turned into "classical Tamil," though they long pre-date the separation of Tamil and Malayalam. Turning Sangam space into "ancient Tamil Nadu" prevented ancient spectres from disrupting the nation, but other readings of the ancient poems can also be used to give their spectres life.
Sangam authors seem to have lived in tribal societies scattered across the peninsula, from coast to coast, mostly south of the Kaveri. Their poems assert that social identities live in particular places: mountain people, plains people, forest people, seacoast people, and wilderness people have distinctive characters that represent their home environment. Social identity is part of the land. Each Sangam environment (tinai) appears in the poetry as a kind of cultural island. The poets and their subjects move among islands and also outward into the wider world. The wider world of travel and danger is an integral feature of poetic imagery but remains outside the tinai as an open space into which people embark, leaving loved ones to wait anxiously at home. Though accounts of travel to the outer world most often depict inland journeys across the wilderness (palai), where fearsome hunters and robbers live, the seacoast (neythal) is the place where worried lovers pine. The poets of ancient tribes depict a habitus in the peninsula where the coast and the sea merge with the land.
Sangam texts invite us to read the later history of agrarian territories that arose inside their space with ancient spectres in mind. They have three specific messages. The composition of the landscape spans the peninsula, from coast to coast. The localization of ethnicity in small islands of collective identity defines social life. The openness of the land and sea all around forms a space for travel, return, departure, and arrival that is part of everyday life.
historical sources with ancient spectres in view deflects us from the habit of
heaping all our data into national geography.
In southern Pandya country, we immediately notice that early medieval
inscriptions make one mandalam that is not
in Tamil Nadu (and not in Madras Presidency) quite prominent: cheramandalam, the realm of Chera
kings in Kerala. South of the
dynasties seem more influential than northern Tamil dynasties in early medieval
times. In later centuries, land west of
the mountains continued be an integral part of agrarian history in the
east. Routes through mountain passes
intimately linked east and west coasts overland. In the eighteenth century, banking and
textile trades ran along east-west routes more than along north-south routes.
These east-west routes led to and from
open space of land-and-sea spaces in the southern peninsula contrasts sharply
with the landlocked Sanskrit and Persian geographies that anchor ideas about
Indian tradition, which make the sea foreign territory.
in these open spaces, Tamils settled naturally in
Territories of Identity
The localization of ethnic identity in Pandya country became increasingly elaborate over the centuries. This (and other) features of its spatial history also characterized northern regions, but spectres of the ancient tribes tell us to resist the habit of reading early medieval data into the maps of modern states. The nadu territories in early Pandya inscriptions were small, scattered, and clustered around rivers running west-to-east from mountains to the sea. Mountain forests never lay more than a few day's walk from the beach. Surrounded by untamed land filled with untamed people, who often appear in epigraphy as enemies and threats to farmers, the nadu embraced tiny islands of farming. All around, scrub and mountain forests held hunters, pastoralists, and nomads who must have outnumbered farmers. In this context, inscriptions seem to record the settling down of lineages and clans to paddy cultivation. Dynastic alliances recorded in the inscriptions protected the nadu and extended its power over people and land in its vicinity. Rituals of patronage for Brahmans and deities held alliances together and also produced the cultural basis for controlling a workforce drawn from conquered tribes whose descendants became the underclass of the nadu.
nadu in Pandya country seems originally to
have been a novel ethnic territory in which jati and
Because inscriptions across Tamil country (and beyond) deploy one textual method, and because modern history strives to cover national territory with a single narrative, historians typically use inscriptions from all over to compose unified account of medieval history. In such accounts, nadu territories seem to cover the land in a coherent agrarian system across mandalam domains defined by medieval dynasties. Commonalities among inscriptions can seen however to reflect the spread of elite modes of documentation rather than a uniform agrarian system. The nadu territories differed inside and among mandalam areas. Medieval wars resemble wars among tribes with intense local ethnic attachments to land. These attachments appear in names and titles that denote individual identities for people in the nadu. Honorific titles reflect local entitlements among people whose names put them in very particular places. Spectres of this medieval ethnicity survived in naming customs designate a man's father, native place, and jati title. The original goal of this practice was to identity a person's place inside local institutions of entitlement. In the inscriptions, hundreds of thousands of local names and titles indicate the intense localism medieval territories filled with spectres of ancient tribes.
ethnic territory became more complex as warriors from the upland interior of
the peninsula conquered the coast from north to south under the banner of
Vijayanagar. Waves of warrior and
peasant migration marching south along the coast subdued tribes and took over
the old medieval frontiers. Meanwhile,
medieval warrior tribes settled down to farming in land they had long occupied
outside the nadu. By the fourteenth century, inland routes of
mobility stretching across the Silk Road of Central Asia extended their reach
south to the tip of the peninsula, where they met networks of mobility running
east-west, from coast to coast, and outward into the Indian Ocean. Rulers from the interior peninsula lorded
over the coast. The Rayas of Vijayanagar made the
novel claim to be “Lords of the Eastern
South of the Vaigai, the land outside the old nadu was occupied by new agrarian territories that emerged after 1300 under the Nayakas of Madurai. The old Pandya nadu elites and centres thrived, however, under initially foreign rulers from Andhra who assimilated quickly. Telugu Nayakas displaced Pandya kings and usurped their role as protector of local Pandya elites in the land of nadu. On former medieval frontiers, outside the nadu, two sets of ethnic alliances occupied most of the land: one was composed of Telugu warriors, peasants, and retainers who came south as Nayaka allies; the other, of Maravars. The term maravar has a spectral history all its own. In Sangam texts and medieval epigraphy, it denotes fearsome people. The maravar were hunters, robbers, and warriors. They lived outside the nadu. They were not incorporated into the family alliances among Vellalar jati in the nadu. The medieval exclusion of outsiders from nadu marriages and from residence in the nadu had maintained the tribal purity of Vellalar and Brahman lineage entitlements. The fearsomeness of the maravar threatened rulers of nadu and their Pandya kings. After 1300, Maravas fought Nayakas to establish kingdoms of their own, as Marava tribes settled down to farming, conquered other tribes, and built ethnic territories from Ramesvaram up the Vaigai to the mountains and south along the base of the mountains past the Tambraparni.
Telugu Nayaka and Marava warriors and peasants carved out separate ethnic territories. Their major leaders eventually became palaiyakkarar (Poligars) of the Madurai Nayakas, who could not defeat them and made them subordinate allies. Maravars and Nayakas held their own territories as Madurai Nayakas maintained personal authority in the old Pandya territories along routes of drainage irrigation and intensive paddy cultivation. The new ethnic territories that covered most of the land between the Vaigai and Tambraparni divided agrarian space in an east-west pattern, with Maravars mostly in the west and Nayaka warrior-peasants entirely in the east. These separate ethnic territories remained in place in 1801, when rebel Poligars finally fell to the British, who were based in the old Pandya territories and met no resistance from the old Pandya Vellala and Brahman elites. (See below.)
After 1800, Maravar and Nayaka ethnic territories took different routes to the present. Telugu Nayaka farmers remained on the land, but the ethnicity of Nayaka territory died. Telugu ethnicity became irrelevant for entitlement under the British and became a positive disadvantage in modern Tamil territory. By contrast, Maravar (Tevar) territory thrived. Many of its rulers became Zamindars, the largest being the Raja of Ramanathapuram, king of all the Tevars. Among the Maravars and Kallars, "little kings" used transactions of fealty and gifting to build authority inside their own state segments; and jati sub-castes and lineages controlled specific sub-regions within royal domains. After 1920, leading Maravarss became paragons of Tamil ethnic identity and leaders in the politics of Tamil territorialism. In 1938, the radical nationalist Ramanathapuram Raja, Muttu Ramalinga Tevar, founded the South Indian Branch of Subash Chandra Bose's Forward Bloc; brought Maravars into the Indian National Army; and, in opposition to Congress, led Tevars into the Dravidian Movement. Since 1980, a Tevar voting bloc has supported the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. By 1990s, the Kallar Raja of Pudukkottai and Tevar Raja of Ramanathapuram were official exemplars of Tamil kingship. By that time, Maravar warriors and patriots had also inspired the career of Veluppillai Pirapakaran and became heroes for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam. Spectres roam the Marava past, however. The Tamil term maravar continues to connote hunters and robbers, and the British made Maravars and Kallars "criminal castes" in 1911, a label they lost only in 1947.
I discovered Maravar territory in 1975, in a large village in southwest Tirunelveli, where my host put his hand on my shoulder, turned me to face north, and said, “Look, from hear to Madurai is Marava country!” This country appears on no official map. Drawing on experience and historical research, my guide described a land where Tevars have now exercised personal power locally for centuries. Relics of Tevar territory include old fort towns of palayakkarar; its lore recounts battles against the British in the Poligar Wars. In the nineteenth century, Tevar Zamindars, most famously Chokkampatti Raja, became notorious for resisting the British territorial order. Territory preoccupied Zamindari Maravars who fought pitched battles for land that officials took to be worthless. By 1900, Marava country also included a particular pattern of caste conflict -- a local version of communalism -- pitting Tevars against upstart competitors for entitlements, honours, and privileges. In the 1890s, caste riots broke out in market towns as Tevars fought Nadars who were fighting in the courts and on the streets to put spectres of their own toddy-tapping Shanar past to rest by gaining new rights of temple entry.
Soon after I discovered the old Marava country, conflicts broke out in its current environs between Tevars and upstart Dalits. Dalit conversions to Islam at Meenakshipuram occurred in this context. "Statue wars" erupted in the 1990s when Tevars broke statues of Dr.Ambedkar and Dalits broke statues of Muthu Ramalinga Tevar. Struggles typically concern Dalit entitlements protected under the law, which Tevars seek to control and pass on to the next generation in Marava country. Youth are at centre-stage in caste conflicts, which often erupt in school, on the school bus, or on the road to and from school. As Pamela Price says, "honour is a preoccupation in Marava country." Some Tevars are still living and fighting inside their spectral territory.
Another kind of spectre
appeared after 1763, when the Arcot Nawab addressed his solvency crisis by selling the English
Company a rich Jagir in tondaimandalam
(Chinglepet District). Company officers gathered detailed local data
for revenue administration in the Jagir and special
investigations followed its Permanent
Settlement (which turned out to be temporary) in the 1790s.  At the same time, intense local inquiries
also ensued in areas taken from Tipu Sultan in
Rayalaseema (the Ceded Districts of
Early Company records describe territories of a uniquely early-modern, pre-industrial kind, which had evolved for several centuries to embrace economically specialized localities in compact areas of pre-industrial capitalist development. Cities in these territories later became landmarks of modern Indian urbanism, but spectral urbanity of their surroundings faded into rusticity. Early-modern urbanism -- always a spectre -- faded away in the light of modernity, where cultural elites conceived all the countryside as a world where village people worked their farms inside the "social framework" of Indian tradition.
worked hard inside early-modern urbanism.
Old techniques of entitlement remained effective. Individuals held direct personal powers to
control economic resources inside ethnic groups, called jati or caste,
many of which were defined outside the
In 1800, culturally indigenous commercial capitalism permeated agrarian societies in the peninsula. In the dry interior of Rayalaseema -- covering almost 20,000 square miles -- there were no major urban centres, but market towns typically served of about fifteen of its 4,000 villages. All major villages had permanent bazaars, supplemented by 187 weekly markets. Rich in commercial minerals, Rayalaseema was also a textile country. In 1810, land-owning farming families were well outnumbered by the total of craft workers (19%), merchants (12%), and soldiers (10%). Manufacturing and trades together employed 34%; the textile sector alone employed 18% in weaving, dying, cotton cleaning, loom making, and other jobs; and most landed families (23%) grew cotton. Thomas Munro described its farmers thus:
Almost every ryot has an account with a bazaar-man and a balance against himself. This account often runs through 2 or 3 generations and is rarely paid off entirely. It usually originates in small advances by the bazaar-man who probably gives seventy or eighty rupees and takes a bond for a hundred with interest at 2 1/2 p.c. monthly (or 30 p.c. annually). The ryot in return makes payment in grain, cotton and other articles, which are usually valued against him and he receives occasionally from the bazaar-man small sums for the discharge of his Kists ..... [In the case of default] the creditor has only to produce [before the court] a bond; an order for distraint usually follows and the ryot is at once stripped of his cattle, grain and implements of husbandry and will most likely never again rise above the rank of common labourer.
Commercial vitality did
not guarantee prosperity. After
centuries of growth under Vijayanagar and
In Rayalaseema and elsewhere, agrarian commercialism expanded in territories where ethnicity structured entitlement. In Rayalaseema's relatively open farming frontiers, hunters and shepherds had much more space to work they did in more intensively farmed places in the coastal lowlands. Like other regions of warrior-peasant colonization, Ralayaseema shows a spatial concentration specific landowning jati groups. In 1810, Kapus were the largest group (48%), concentrated in the east; Okkaligas were second (19%), spread more evenly but living mostly in the west. Reddys (10%) lived only in the west. As among Kallars, Maravars, and Vellalas in the Tamil country, named sub-groups among Rayalaseema farming jatis had more pronounced concentrations: all Kapus in the west called themselves Velanatis, and two-thirds of those in the east called themselves Gonas; and only Kapus in the east omitted sub-caste epithets. Ethnic identities also organized entitlements among all the many non-farming specialist groups who moved among early-modern locales and settled most numerously in expanding urban territories. The weavers in Rayalaseema were organized in twenty named ethic groups. Prasannan Parthasarathi has shown that weaver jati mobility and caste order gave professional weavers bargaining power and capacities for collective action that boosted their productivity, wages, and social status.
Rayalaseema, urban territories attracted many ethnically organized specialists
to live in compact areas which attained unprecedented population densities.
These were privileged territories, protected by dominant military force, where
commercial capital accumulated like nowhere else. Such urbanism depended on local agricultural
productivity anchored by irrigation. Tanks, wells, and canals watered farming
that was more intensive and diversified than anywhere else, financed by
commercial capital, protected by armies, and controlled by old village elites.
These urban territories were not ravaged during eighteenth century wars, like
Rayalaseema and all the Kaveri basin below
One very large urban territory developed in tondaimandalam, in what became the Company's Jagir, and another, much smaller one developed in southern pandyamandalam, along the Tambraparni, around an urban cluster composed of Tirunelveli, Palamkottai, Pettai, and Melapayalam. Both were defined as territories of state authority under the Arcot Nawab and then Company (though Tirunelveli remained under Madurai Nayakas to the 1750s).. They were both based in old irrigated areas of continuous agrarian development stretching back to early medieval times; and both were privileged, protected, and governed subsequently by rulers who depended upon and invested in the wealth of the old nadu elites, Vellalas and Brahmans. Both had old connections with long-distance and overseas trade, and boasted major temples with huge endowments, many pious patrons, and widely scattered agricultural "estates." These were not urban centres confined by cities; but rather, urbane territorial agglomerations of big and small towns, villages, and hamlets in close proximity, where specialist communities lived separately in ethnic enclaves that structured direct entitlements. Because I have elsewhere described Tambraparni urbanism, I will concentrate here on the Jagir.
manufacturing, war, finance, and commodity trades came together in a coherent
geographical pattern in the Jagir, but the pattern
different than around Tirunelveli. The
The Jagir was bigger and depended on tank irrigation that did
suffer distress during wars that visited tondaimandalam
regularly because of its strategic geographical position. A basic similarit
is however symbolized in the specialization of central Tambraparni settlements.
Tirunelveli was a temple town, endowed with rich
Brahman agraharam communities, and a capital
ruled by Pandya Vellala and Tondaimandalam Vellala
elites under the Nayakas. Pettai was a protected market town filled with rich
was a fort filled with soldiers. Melayapalam was a
textile centre whose weavers and traders were mostly Muslims. A similar combination enriched the Jagir, where Kanchipuram was a major temple town and a
textile centre, and where
Land revenue was big business in urban territory. Direct and exchange entitlements sustained one another in revenue operations. Mirasidars held direct (kaniyatchi) entitlements to shares of village assets; they held their property as individuals; and they secured and expanded their property both with cultural capital and with payments to state authorities. The importance of payments to the state became more visible in the 1790s when whole villages deserted the country to protest excessive increases in the Company's revenue demand. Revenue payments were part of the process of maintaining entitlement that were also secured by tradition, local elite power, and community solidarity. Under Nayakas and the Nawab, warrior grants of land in addition to local sales of kaniyatchi had diversified the ranks of Mirasidars and of other special (manyam) right holders, who by the 1770s included Telugus, Muslims, and merchants.
The more important change, however, was the vast expansion of the range of entitlements secured inside village revenue operations for specialist groups who operated in Mirasidar territory. The Barnard surveys of Jagir villages contain long lists of individuals paid during revenue operations in a dazzling array of payments, tax-free grants, and special fees. In the commercial nexus recorded in revenue accounts that confirmed direct entitlements for land owners, service providers, servants, labourers, and craft-workers, financiers played the key role. Most were landowners, merchants, and service elites whose local wealth and power -- including brute force -- sustained the state. For instance, local financiers held all but 4% of Arcot Nawab's debt (owed to Europeans); they were Brahmans (28%), Mudaliyars and Pillais (20%), Marwaris (16%), Rao and Roya (8%) Muslims 7%, Chettiars (5%), and other Sowkars (3%). These men and their peers would have expanded their financial operations in the Jagir as revenue demand increased. One indication of this trend was that average revenue collection per village in the Company's small Home Farm was four times the Jagir average in 1795.
The complexity of revenue transactions boggles the mind. The oldest English account comes from Uttaramerur in 1742. It shows payments by merchants, weavers, salt petre makers, and tobacco farmers into the village account. In the 1790s, Uttaramerur was one of nineteen "headquarters" in the Jagir; it held nine subdivisions (magans) and fifty-eight "villages"; its many castes of merchants, oil sellers, arrack sellers, paper makers, fishermen, betel growers, weavers, shroffs, and other specialists all paid something. In 1795, Uttaramerur had 1,486 Mirasidars and 1125 looms. It was an expansive complex of closely packed settlements that produced many varieties of grams and oilseeds in addition to fruits, tobacco, vegetables, and of course, large amounts of rice. Much of its produce entered the market by one route or another. "In-kind" revenue collection was one visible route by which the production of direct entitlements fed the market, and vice versa, in 1742 as well as in the 1790s.
Revenue collections began with advances to collectors from bankers (like those who owned the Nawab's debt) who reaped their reward (including collection fees) by selling "government grain" during the months of rising prices after the harvest. Demand was high in a territory where a growing majority of people could only get food in the market. Government grain came into the hands of landowner-banker-wholesalers at the division the grain heap in each of the Jagir's 2,189 villages, where payments were made in cash in kind to many individuals, some recorded by name: first to special (manyam) right holders (including Mirasidars), and then to servants, functionaries, dignitaries, and service providers, including carriers of water from wells and tanks to garden plots and dancing girls in local temples. Manyams and cash payments also entered the market through temples that claimed their share of the revenue at the same time.
This same institutional nexus appears in Tirunelveli, where it also provided a strong foundation with deep indigenous cultural moorings for increasing commercial capital accumulation. Commodity production in the textile sector and other manufacturing added to it. The overseas trade increased its value. The interlocking set of interests forged in this nexus between different ethnic groups, including Europeans, goes a long way to explaining how the Company established its Raj along the south-eastern coast of the Indian peninsula. Such a foundation was not available in other agrarian environments, where the Raj established itself in different ways.
kind of urban complex, social mobility led increasing numbers of diverse
peoples into novel negotiations over entitlements that periodically produced
conflict among ethnic groups. Such
conflicts were common and vociferous in the Jagir,
The Fate of Spectres
Old territories of identity, entitlement, conflict, and spatial order did not disappear in the nineteenth century, but the imperial state paid them less and less attention, industrial capitalism drained their resources, and modern legal and political institutions made them increasingly irrelevant. Land taxation became a bureaucratic transaction between state officials and private property owners, and most social transactions that generated direct and exchange entitlements in the countryside disappeared from official view inside a novel micro-territory called "the Indian village". As all the subjects of the state were homogenized under the legal status of "natives" in Indian society, the agrarian economy came to be understood as being compose of individual decision-making and class relations inside the "social framework" of the village. This modern village became the basic rustic fragment of national agrarian territory. Entitlements inside the village became objects of ethnographic study and theory. Chopped out of old territories and crammed into modern state maps, the village became the basic managerial unit for agricultural development. State territory supplanted all others, and in it, "caste" was redefined to make sense in new jurisdictions of governance.
institutions and sensibilities made archaic geographies increasingly
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 Thorner 1959. Also Thorner 1996.
 Stein 1960, 1965, 1977. Also Barth 1956.
 R. Guha 1983. Crane 1967. Cohn 1971
 Schwartzberg 1978. Habib 1982. Dutt 1987.
 Edney 1997. Ramaswamy 1999, 2000.
 Heitzman 1997.
 Skaria 1999. S.Guha 1999
 A.Sen 1981
 See Amin 1984. Hardiman 1987, 1996. Also Ludden 2002a
 See Kotz, McDonough, and Reich 1994. Hirschman 1970 also considers the fundamental role of non-market activity inside market institutions.
 Stein 1960. Rudner 1994. Bimnes 1999.
 See Gregory 1997, S.Sen 1998, Urban 2001, for examples of new work on these lines.
 Chakrabarty 1985.
 KK SenGupta 1974.
 Cederlof 1997.
 Epigraphica Indica, XXII (1906), p.5. Subrahmaniam and.Venkatraman 1980, pp.67, 91-108.
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 Gros and Nagaswamy 1970, p.36.
 Tamil Nadu Archives
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 Mines 1984
 Irrigation, rice farming,
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regimes in the interior peninsula.
Formed originally on the mountain fringe of the
 Schwartzberg 1978.
 For economic history, see Baker 1984, Bandopahdyay 1992.
 For histories (varalarukal) of these regions from Mackenzie Manuscripts in the Madras Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, see Soundarapandiyan 1997, 1999. See also Mahalingam 1972.
 Saktitevi 1978. Beck 1979.
 Karashima 1985. Price 1996. Narayana Rao et al 1992.
 Subramanian 1999.
 Khan 1983. Hindu,
 Nilakanta Sastri 1939
 Chakravarti 1998.
 Narayanan 1972.
 Cordiner 1807, vol.2, pp.39, 41-2
 1931 census figures are Schwartzberg 1978, p.96.
 Bayly 1981, 1990.
 Karashima et al 1978.
 Wagoner 1998, which clarifies the usage thus: "As Filliozat points out, the epigraphic record in fact shows considerable variation in the form of this title. In inscriptions belonging to the reigns of the first rulers of Vijayanagara’s first dynasty, one also finds the forms pärva-dakòiïa-paócima-samudrådhipati 'Lord of the Eastern, Southern, and Western Oceans', and pärva-dakòiïa-paócima-uttara-samudrådhipati 'Lord of the Eastern, Southern, and Western and Northern Oceans', and catus-samudrådhipati 'Lord of the Four Oceans.' Although I would emphasize that I have not done a systematic analysis of all relevant inscriptions, it is my impression that there is a gradual falling off in the use of these other forms, until by perhaps the early fifteenth century, the simple form “Lord of the Eastern and Western Oceans” becomes the most common way of expressing this idea of maritime lordship."
 Wagoner 1998 lays particular emphasis on "unguents ... as key components in a systematic public practice of the royal body .... (along with) other imported luxury commodities such as Chinese porcelains and silks ...."
 On Tirunelveli Maravars, see Ludden 1985. On Kallars, see Dirks 1987, p.153: "the political development of regional hegemony led to the development and elaboration of particular forms of subcaste organization ... among the dominant Kallars of Pudukkottai."
 Rajendran 1994.
 Exemplified in Dirks 1987, Price 1996.
 Rajayyan 1971. Kadhirvel 1977.
 Hardgrave 1969
 Price 1996, p.19.
 See C and
 A fifth district of
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 Murton 1973, 1977.
 See Ludden 2002b for
summary of territorial change in southern
 Ludden 1988, 1996.
 Classic statements are R.Mukerjee 1916. Mann 1923, 1967.
 S.Roy 1989, np.
 Haynes and Roy 1999.
 Washbrook 1994.
 S.Roy 1989
 Parthasarathi 2001.
 Ludden 1988, 1995, 1996
 Stephen 1997
 TNA, Board of Revenue, Permanent Settlement Records, Volume 34, "Privileges of the Pagodas."
 C and
 One list is in Mizushima 1997 pp. 124-5
 C and
 TNA Board of Revenue Miscellaneous. Volumes, Chinglepet, 38A-B, p.18054
 TNA, Chinglepet District Records, Volume 526, "The Oldest Teervai Account."
 TNA, Board of Revenue Miscellaneous Volumes, Chinglepet, 76, "Tarabady and Teervai Accounts for Outramelor"
 TNA, Board of Revenue Miscellaneous Volumes, Chinglepet, 64, Outramelor
 Lightman 1995
 C. and
 Dirks 2001