MARAVA, a race in the extreme south of India, in the Madura, Tinnevelly, Ramnad, and Sivaganga districts, who differ from other neigh bouring races in personal appearance, and their language and customs also differ. They worship local deities, to whom they offer liquor, flesh, and fruits, and they practise divination. The men do not 'wear turbands. They possess lands. They arc a robust, hardy, dark-skinned, stalwart race, athletic, with well-developed muscles, active, of moderate height, the cranium rounded, narrow in front, forehead low, eyes large and full. They are employed as village watchmen, and are homiest to their employers, but have been largely given to thieving and gang robbery. They use as food the flesh of all animals except that of the cow. They wear their hair long, and arranged like the women of the Dekhan. In their marriages, disparity of age is not considered, nor is the presence or assent of the bridegroom necessary,—a blade of wood, in his absence, serving as proxy. They worship evil spirits, to whom they sacrifice, and, on the occur rence of a smallpox or cholera epidemic, the whole village is excited, and devil dances are common. The Maravar women of Ramnad and Sivaganga wear cloths of 25 or 30 cubits in length, folded in plaits, which they fasten behind. This is unlike other women of S. India, whose cloths do not exceed 20 cubits, and are fastened on the right side in front. They intermarry, some of the sub divisions not marrying into the father's family ; but Hindus in general intermarry with the mother's relations. Maravar means a warrior. In Ramnad and Tinnevelly, the titular surname of all the Maravar is Dever, also Thavan, which means God.
The Ramayana describes the forest or wilder ness of Dandaca as covering the whole extremity of the Southern Peninsula, and the rude inhabit ants are designated Rakshasa (monsters) or Vanara (monkeys), the former term meaning races or tribes hostile to the Aryan race. But Vanara is from Vana, a wilderness, and Nara, a man, that is a wild or uncivilised man, and to this sense, as to the wild races in the extreme south, the fable of Hultman, the chief monkey, and that of his army, Mr. Taylor thinks may be reduced.
He says that those who have seen the Colleri and Marava will readily consider them to differ from all family likeness of the Aryan Hindus, and as their visages often resemble baboons more than men, it would require even less than the ardent poetical imagination of a Valmiki to induce the employment of an equivalent word which would so aptly seem to convey the idea imparted by their appearance.
During the wars of the 18th century, the Colleri and Maravar adhered to the British or to the French standards, and evinced fidelity and devotion to the cause of the party they espoused. Orme, the historian, that the Maravar chief of the Colleri race in 1752 sent 4000 peons and Colleri to aid Chanda Sahib. Like the Ramusi of Sholapur and Bombay, the Marava are subsidized by being employed as watchmen of houses. The zamindar of Ramnad is a Marava. Maravar marriages are sometimes of an incom plete character, and they have a second and more complete one.
Marawar or Marava is perhaps the Marullo of Cosmas Indicopleustes, which was on the continent adjoining Ceylon, and produced conch-shells. The history of the race is obscure. Two centuries before the Christian era, we find Kirata, its reign ing sovereign, making war with Kula Bhushana Pandiyan, and reducing him to sad straits. The invader overran the whole country, but the Marava host and its commander were afterwards destroyed. The invasion of the country by the Muhammadans terminated the Pandiyan dynasty, and the Setnpathi threw off his allegiance to the ruler of Madura, and during the administration of the Nayakkans, the Marava sovereigns continued practically independent. Professor Wilson says : A few years after the irruption of Mujapid Shah (? Muzaffar), or about 1380, the governor of Ramnad threw off his dependence on Madura, and his successors extended their authority to the neighbouring provinces, since called the Great and Little Maravas.' The title Setupathi was conferred upon Wodeya Deva, the ruler of Ramnad, by Mutu Krishnapa Nayakkar, as an acknowledgment of the former's services in escorting a holy guru .to and from the shrine at Ramisseram.