The threat to the livelihood of the Parathavas, in Tirunelveli from the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project resembles the ancient fishing community’s historic fight for survival several centuries ago. This was with a section of Muslim tradesmen, said well-known Tamil novelist Joe D Cruz.
In an interview with City Express, Cruz traced the origins of one of the oldest fishing communities in South India. “The present threat in a sense is a continuation of the fight of this community over the ages for survival,” he noted.
Joe D Cruz brought out his debut novel, Aazhi Soozh Ulagu in 2003 that captured the turbulent lives of the fishing community.
In 2009, he came out with another novel Korkai, which talked about an olden day harbour with the plot rivetted on the sea-faring community. It also serves as a well-researched historical document. The author whose father was a seafarer nurtured the interest of documenting the lives of seafarers and the fishing community of Parathavas.
He recently addressed the Sangam-4 talk series in Chennai. “From Pulicate to Neerodi all the coastal villages are my villages,” he said, “There are no differences between the communities in any form, either as Muthiraiyar, Maraikkaayar, Pattinavar or Mukkuvar — all are Parathavas,” Cruz elaborated.
From Rameswaram to Kanyakumari, the coastal line was considered the ‘Pearl Fishery Coast’ and it was under the reign of Pandiyapathy, a small king in the hierarchy of the Pandiya Kingdom. The people in that purview worshipped deities like Santhana Muthu Mariamman and Kumari Annai.
The lives of Paamban Parathavas in the East and Neerodi Parathavas in the West and Pulicate Parathavas in the North and Koodankulam Parathavas in the South are interrelated with one another. They all had various kinds of problems at various times.
“In 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese arrived in India for trade opportunities” said Cruz. On their course, they followed the Pearl route — sea route linked civilizations of Asia, Northeast Africa and Europe.
“To support the Parathavas, the Portuguese asked them to convert to Catholicism. Unknowingly, they thought it was like any other deity and agreed to convert. They thought it would be similar to their deity, Kumari Annai, and agreed.
The Koodankulam Parathavas today are in a tangle, after their life is enmeshed between a struggle for livelihood and anti-nuclear protests. The people are participating in the struggle not for clothes, food or money but for the safety of their generations to come,” said Cruz.