CHENNAI: Professor C S Krishnamoorthy’s book The Migrant Silk Weavers of Tamil Nadu — A Study, delves deep into the history and migratory patterns of Saurashtrians, who are also known as Patnulkaran. The author, who was also a volunteer of the Saurashtra Seva Sangamam at the Hindu Spiritual Service Fair, spoke to CE about his work and the efforts behind it.
Krishnamoorthy, who is a scholar of Ancient history and Archaeology from the Madras University, says, “The intention of writing this book is to clear away the misconceptions prevailing among the public and scholars, about the Saurashtrians. The historical facts mainly are distorted and hence these wrong notions keep swaying the minds of people about the communities’ identity.”
Saurashtrians are the weaving community who migrated from the erstwhile Saurashtra to Tamil Nadu. They settled in Madurai, Paramakudi, Palayamkottai, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Salem, Trichy, Dindigul and in small numbers in Walajapet, Vellore, Arini and Kanchipuram.
He says that being a Saurashtrian himself made the research more feasible as it helped him trace back the roots of the community. He adds, “Language is the most important living institution to identify a Saurashtrian as it reflects a man’s history.”
In order to categorise a community and its language, one would expect that there would be several existing sources. However, he says that there was only one source which determined the whole group as belonging to Gujarat, which was a book titled Castes and Traits of Southern India by Edgar Thurston (vol 6:160). It stated that the language spoken by the Patnulkaran was a dialect of Gujarati. The author denotes that the existing sources led to many fallacies.
The book points out that Saurashtri is not a dialect of Gujarati, contradicting earlier findings of their migration to Tamil Nadu during Ghazni’s invasion in 1204 AD. He says, “While Gujarati has elements of Arabic, Urdu and Hindustani, Saurashtrians left the land by 800 AD, before the admixture of the elements in the language. He explains that this is why the Saurashtri language has a script of its own and has no resemblance to Gujarati. “It is an independent language existing from the Rig Vedic period,” he says.
When asked about what makes his book different from other books about the community, he claims that his is the only researched book about Saurashtra with inputs from the natives and inscriptions, unlike the other books which lack proper research.
For a devout historian like Krishnamoorthy, it took 30 years of research on the Saurashtrian language, their culture and lineage to bring his laborious research to light. He says that three years ago, he took to writing about the community on the basis of the language they speak, the crafts that they use and their religious practices.
The book which was launched in February this year, by Dr Nanditha Krishna, was also exhibited at the fair along with books on language and spirituality by other Saurashtrian writers.