Customs followed in India’s villages range from the mundane to the strange to the bizarre but one village in Virudhunagar district has been following a unique practice, which even applies to both genders. For nearly 10 generations, residents of Valayapatti village have been naming their firstborn child, irrespective of gender, ‘Kuttiyan’ or giving any name that starts with ‘Kutti’ in honour of their ancestral deity Sakthi.
Currently, there are around 50 people whose name starts with Kutti living in Valayapatti. While earlier there used to be many Kuttiyans in the village, in recent times, the need to avoid confusion and complications associated with certificates, villagers have preferred to use Kutti as a prefix. There are currently around eight children at the Kannappar Hindu Primary School, a government-aided institution at Valayapatti, who are named Kutti Priya, Chinna Kutiyan and so on, while the school’s headmaster is, you guessed it- Kuttiyan!
One among the many other Kuttiyans says that there are about 60 houses in the village. Kuttiyan explained that their ancestors, who were cowherds, had migrated from a village called Mavoothu near the Mahalingam temple in Virudhunagar. Another Kuttiyan said that the people carried over the worship of Sakthi from their ancestral village, where there is a temple to the deity as well.
“About 10 generations ago, three of our ancestors- Periyasamy, Ponmalan and Podukalam- went hunting and caught a deer. It is believed that when they were cooking its venison in three different vessels, they found elephant calves in one vessel, baby snakes in the second and baby deer in the third vessel,” Kuttiyan explained adding that his ancestors attributed this as a miracle by Sakthi. He claimed that the custom of naming the firstborn child Kuttiyan began since then.
T Dharmaraj, the head of the folklore department at Madurai Kamaraj University said that the residents of Valayapatti belong to the Moopar community, a tribal group.
“It appears that the custom of naming children as Kuttiyan started as some ancestor of the villagers may have killed a cub or pregnant animal and named their first child as Kuttiyan out of a guilty conscience,” said Dharmaraj.