Social Scientist. v 15, no. 171-72 (Aug-Sept 1987) p. 73.


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URBANISATION IN SOUTH INDIA 73

the equilibrium being destabilised.40 In the marudam tinai a certain degree of diversity seems to have acccompanied the agricultural settlements through the evolution of crafts related to agricultural activities, and smiths, carpenters, jewellers, goldsmiths, weavers and metal workers are constantly referred to in literature. Evidence of a broad dual division of society is provided by the references to the Canror or Uyarndor and the Ilicinar. The position of dominance was occupied by the chiefs/kings and the landed local elite (Velir, Kilavan or Kilan, talaivan, entai) collectively referred to as Uyarndw and Canror (the superior ones) while the lower category generally termed as Ilicinar were engaged in various 'inferior' activities or subsistence production.41 It is only in the medieval commentaries on Sangam works that references to the superior Velalas [(land owning group) and inferior Velalas (cultivators)42 occur together with the Velir chiefs as the dominant land owning groups controlling fairly large area^of agricultural land,43 indicating that stratification based on land distribut^n and control was believed to have existed even in this early period. The Velir are described in the Sangam works as lesser chiefs, pastoral-cum-agricultural, but next in importance only to the Vendor as a dominant socio-political group and as patrons of the Tamil poets.

The differentiation became more marked in the marudam and neidal regions, where the capital and ports were located and where an increase in trade ventures introduced a further element of diversification such as individual traders, vanigaccattu or groups of merchants, king's officers or customs agents and warehouse guards in the market and port towns,44 leading to a more complex society. The relatively undifferentiated tribal' society was disintegrating and differentiation had set in.

The chief economic activities in the neidal tracts, apart from trade, were fishing and manufacturing and selling of salt, in which the Valatwr and paradavar were involved.45 The paradavar gradually diversified their interests to become pearl fishers and traders and their increasing parties pation in coastal trade dealing in expensive items like pearls, gems aod horses is indicated in the descriptions "of their commerce and life stylo,4^ Salt manufacture and trade also became a more specialised activity with a group called Umanar. However, the evidence on the whole suggests that craft specialisation was, with the exception of a few spheres,47 at a rudimentary level. Nor is there any evidence on craft guilds or artisan guilds. Merchant guilds are also not known to have been a regular part of the commercial organisation although there is a single epigraphic reference to a nigama from Tiruvellarai43 and literary reference to a merchant of Kaverippumpattinam as a Masattuvan {Sarthavahd)^ The producer was quite often also the dealer in the commodities manufactured50 and manufacturing activities were generally on a low level.

Money as an exchange medium was evidently used only in larger transactions and long distance trade and perhaps only by itinerant merchants, Numismatic for this period in the Tamil region is one of the most



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