LEGENDS OF MADIGAS
There are many legendary accounts of the origin of the Madiga. The etymology of the name Madiga is uncertain, although attempts are made to derive it from the word Matanga, the name of an aboriginal tribe, mentioned by ancient authorities.
The legends of the Madiga probably of recent invention give no clue to their origin or early history.
1. The Madigas trace their parentage to Jambavant, who was believed to be the premeval creation of Narayan, the supreme god, and to have existed when the whole world was water and there was neither the earth nor the Sky nor other luminaries. Janbhavant once perspired and from the perspiration came forth Adi Shakti, who laid three eggs, from which sprang Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha. Brahma created ten sages who became the progenitors of mankind. The names of these Maha Munis are (1) Chapala, (2) Tamila, (3) Brahma, (4) Nella, (5) Pala, (6) Bhadnichi, (7) Raktachi, (8) Gola, (9) Jamadagni and (10) Parshuram and from the first sprang the Madigas.
2. Jambavant had seven sons, Brahma, with a view to create the world and people he killed Heppu Muni, one of the sons, and from the mixture of his blood with water evolved the solid earth. Brahma then killed another son named Jala Muni and his life stream changed into a stream of water. The mountains were created from Ghata Munis blood, blood from Rakta Muni, milk from Pala Muni, and an indigo colour from Neela Muni, until at last from the blood of Gava Muni came the Madigas, the first representatives of mankind.
3. Once upon a time, when Parvati and Parameshwar were on a ramble, Parvati becomes unclean, was obliged to leave her menstrual clothes under a tree and from these garments sprang Chinnaya, whom the heavenly pair engaged to tend their divine cow, Kamadhenu. Chinnaya once tasted the cow’s milk and found it so delicious that he was tempted to kill the cow itself and eat its flesh. He immediately carried his impious desire into effect, but the carcass of the cow was so heavy that none, not even the gods, could move it. Siva thought of Jambavant who was practicing penance and called out to him Maha digira (tata great one come down). Jambavant, who thus obtained the name Mahadiga or Madiga, appeared on Sivas call, lifted the dead body and cut it into pieces. Siva ordered Chinnaya to dress the beef and invited all the gods to a feast. But Chinnaya, unfortunately, while trying to blow down effervescence, spat into the cooking pot and the gods, observing this, left the dining hall. Siva, in anger, cursed both Chinnaya and jambavantha for their negligence and degraded them. Chinnayas descendants are called Malas, while Jambavant became the ancestor of the Madigas.
4. Once the gods were in difficulty. Only Jambavant, the mythological ancestor of the Madiga, could help them. They summoned him with the following words Tata, maha digi ra. Jambavant acceded to their request. From then on he was also known as Mahadige the great man who came down. His descendants were called maha digewaru which later corrupted into Madiga.
5. Siva had a Divine Cow called Kamadhenu. His wife Parvati milked this cow, and feasted the gods with the milk and milk products. This milk had the quality of nectar, and was meant only for the gods. To look after this cow and to take her out to graze in the forest, Parvati appointed a boy named Chennayya. One day Chennayya had an irresistible temptation to taste the milk, which had so far been denied to all mortals. At first Parvati refused, repeated requests of the boy, however moved her. She asked him to go to the cow and request her for some milk. The moment the boy did this the cow fell down on the ground and died. When Parvati and Siva heard of the death of the Sacred Cow, they summoned all the gods to help them to cut it and feast on its flesh. The gods tried but failed to move the carcass. Then they advised Siva to seek the assistance of Jambavant, who was the senior most among the gods and was born six months before the creation of the Earth. Reaching the spot where Jambavant was performing penance, Siva ordered the chennayya to call the old man. Obeying Siva, the boy said to Jambavant, Tata maha digi ra (Grandfather come down). The old man came down. He lifted the carcass with his left hand and carried it to a convenient spot where the gods could cut and skin it. When they had done this the gods requested Jambavant to put the flesh into two heaps so that after they had cooked and eaten one heap, they could bring the cow back to life with the help of their powerful chants. However, Jambavant put all the pieces in one pot and lighted a fire under it. While cutting a piece of flesh fell down on the ground. Chennayya the boy, picked it up, cleaned it to remove sand and dust and put it again in the pot. Siva and the other gods were very angry with Jambavant as he had not divided the meat into two parts and kept apart one half for bringing the cow back to life. They were also annoyed with Chennayya for having picked up a piece from the dust and put it back in the pot. They cursed both Jambavant and Chennayya in Kaliyugam, they were to have a degraded life and were to earn their livelihood by handling dead cattle and by sweeping village lanes. Jambavant, took the cowhide and gave it to his sons, they became leather workers. Chennayyas descendants took to cleaning village lanes. Jambavants descendants are the Madiga, and Chennayyas descendants are the Mala.
6. Jambavant was the king of Jambudweepam. He was the owner of a Divine Cow, the like of which no other king of the day was privileged to own. This, divine cow had the unique powers of granting any wish of the owner if he prayed to her. A neighboring king was visiting Jambavant. To extend to his royal guest hospitality, worthy of one great king to another, Jambavant prayed to the Divine Cow to anticipate and fulfill the wishes of the visitor. To the astonishment of the guest, the very instant there came forth almost everything he could desire. The king was very much impressed by the powers of the Divine Cow. He requested Jambavant to give away the cow to him, but the latter, after consulting his sons, declined. The king felt insulted, and ordered his men to capture the cow. The king’s men attacked Jambavants palace, and in the battle that ensued the king was defeated. After some time the defeated king once again attacked Jambavants palace, but this time the Divine Cow cursed him, and he was burnt to ashes. The king’s son was enraged and was determined to take revenge on Jambavant. Dressed as a poor man, he entered the palace in Jambavants absence and induced the latter’s son to kill the cow so that he could feast on the flesh. On knowing this, Jambavant took the offenders to the court of Siva for judgment. Fearing the wrath of Siva the two offenders did not enter the court; they stood outside by the two sides of the doorway. Siva cursed them to become Chandal or untouchable. The one who stood on the right hand side of the doorway became the ancestor of the Mala caste, while the one who was on the left became the ancestor of the Madiga.
7. Jambava Rishi, a sage, was questioned by Isvara why the former was habitually late at the Divine Court. The Rishi replied that he had personally to attend to the wants of children every day, which consequently made his attendance late where upon Isvara, pitying the children, gave the Rishi a cow (Kamadhenu), which instantaneously supplied their every want. Once upon a time, while Jambava was on Isvaras Court, another Rishi named Sankya, visited Jambavas hermitage, where he was hospitably entertained by his son Yugamuni. The extremely delicious gain, which formed a part of the meal tempted Sankya to taste the cows flesh, He tried to induce yugamuni to kill the divine animal, but the latter refused. Sankya killed the cow itself and upon Yugamuni to partake of the flesh. On his return Isvaras court Jambava found the inmates of his hermitage eating the flesh of the sacred cow. He took both Sankya and Yugamuni to Isvara for judgment. Instead of entering the court, the two offenders remained outside, Sankya Rishi standing on the right side and Yugamuni on the left of the doorway. Isvara cursed them to become Chandals or outcastes. Sankyas descendants came to be known as Holeya and Yugamunis as Madiga. Since Sankya stood on the right side of the doorway at Isvaras court, Holeya are the right hand caste whereas Madiga are known as the left hand caste by virtue of their ancestor standing on the left side of Isvaras court.
8. Certain king prayed to be blessed with a daughter and to answer the gods sent him a golden parrot, which soon after perching on an anthill and disappeared into it. The disappointed father got the anthill excavated, and was rewarded for his pains by finding his daughter rise, a maid of divine beauty and she comes to be worshipped as the Matangi, It is interesting to note that the Matangas were an ancient one of kings somewhere in the south, and the Madigas call themselves Matangi Makkalu or children of Matangi or Durga, who is their goddess.
9. In the epic of Ramayan there are several references to Jambavant and his valour and wisdom. He is described as having a bearlike form, and has been consistently portrayed as a wise, courageous and experienced general in the army of Ramas vaaly, Sugriva. In some villages of Telangana there is a tradition which indicates some probable connection of the Madiga with Jambavant. During the Holi festival, especially on the second day, a group of Madiga dress like bears and go round the village in a procession. It is said that Jambavant had engaged bears and monkeys to display acrobatic feats for Ramas entertainment.
11. According to kadambari a Sanskrit work by Banudu about matangudu is as follows The Chandala girl starts with her parrot to the palace of King Shudraka. King Shudraka is sitting in the Hall of Audience with his Chieftains. A portress enters the Hall and makes the following announcement "Sire, there stands at the gate a Chandala maiden from the South, a royal glory of the race of that Tricamku who climbed the sky, but fell from it at the order of wrathful Indra, She bears a parrot in a cage, and bids me thus hail your majesty: Sire, thou, like the ocean, art alone worthy to receive the treasures of whole earth. In the thought that, this bird is a marvel and the treasure of the whole earth, I bring it to lay at thy feet, and desire to behold thee. Thou, 0 king, hast heard her message, and must decide! so saying, she ended her speech. The king, whose curiosity was aroused, looked at the chiefs around him, and with the words Why not? Bid her enter gave his permission.
Then the portress, immediately on the king's order ushered in the Candala maiden. And she entered."The King and the Chieftains did not at first take notice of her. To attract attention she struck a bamboo on the mosaic floor to arouse the King. Bana then proceeds to describe her personal appearance
"Then the king, with the'words, look yonder* to his suite, gazed steadily upon the Candala maiden, as she was pointed out by the portress. Before her went a man, whose hair was hoary with age, whose eyes were the colour of the red lotus, whose joints, despite the loss of youth, were firm from incessant labour, whose form, though that of Matanga, was not to be despised, and who wore the white raiment meet fora court. Behind her went a Candala boy, with locks falling on either shoulder, bearing a cage, the bars of which, though of gold, shone like emerald from the reflection of the parrot's plumage. She herself seemed by the darkness of her hue to imitate Krishna when he guilefully assumed a woman's attire to take away the arnritit seized by the demons. She was, as it were, a doll of sapphire walking alone; and over the bine garment, which reached to her ankle, there fell a veil of red silk, like evening sunshine falling on blue lotuses. The circle of her cheek was whitened by the earring that hung from one ear, like the ace of night inlaid with the rays of the rising moon: she had a tawny tilaka of gorocana, as if it woe a third eye, like Parvati in mountaineer's attire, after the fashion of the garb of Civa. She was like Cri. darkened by the sapphire glory of Narayana reflected on the robe on her breast; or like Rati, stained by smoke which rose as Madana was burnt by the fire of wrathful Civa: or like Yamuna, fleeing in fear of being drawn along by the ploughshare of wild Balarama; or, from the rich lac that turned her lotus feet into budding shoots, like Durga, with her feet crimsoned by the blood of the Asura Mahisha she had just trampled upon.
Her nails were rosy from the pink glow of her fingers; the mosaic pavement seemed too hard for her touch, and she came for placing her feet like tender twigs upon the ground. The rays of her anklets, rising in flame colour, seemed to encircle her as with the arms of Agni, as though, by his love for her beauty, he would purify the strain of her birth, and so set the Creator at naught.
Her girdle was like the stars wreathed on the brow of the elephant of Love; and her necklace was a rope of large bright pearls, like the stream of Ganga just tinged by Yamuna. Like autumn, she opened her lotus eyes; like the rainy season, she had cloudy tresses; like the circle of the Malaya Hills, she was wreathed with sandal; like the zodiac, she was decked with starry gems; like Cri, she had the fairness of a lotus in her hand; like a swoon, she entranced the heart; like a forest, she was endowed with living beauty; like the child of a goddess, she was claimed by no tribe; like sleep, she charmed the eyes; as a lotus pool in a wood is troubled by elephants, so was she dimmed by her Matanga birth; like spirit, she might not. be touched; like a letter, she gladdened the eyes alone; like the blossoms of spring she lacked the jati flower, her slender waist, like the line of Love's bow, could be spanned by the hands; with her curly hair, she was like the Lakshmi of the Yaksha king in Alaka. She had but reached the flower of her youth, and was beautiful exceedingly. And the king was amazed; and the thought arose in his mind placed was the labour of the Creator in producing this beauty! For if she has been created as though in mockery of her Candala form, such that all the world's wealth of loveliness is laughed to scorn by her own, why was she born in a race with which none can mate? Surely by thought alone did Prajapati create her, fearing the penalties of contact with the Matanga race, else whence this unsullied radiance, a grace that belongs not to limbs sullied by touch? Moreover, though fair in form, by the basenness of her birth, whereby she, like a Lakshmi of the lower world, is a perpetual reproach to the gods, she, lovely as she is, causes fear in Brahma, the maker of so strange a union.'
While the king was thus thinking the maiden, garlanded with flowers, that fell over her ears, bowed herself before him with a confidence beyond her years. And, when she had made her reverence and stepped on to the mosaic floor, her attendant, taking the parrot, which had just entered the cage, advanced a few steps, and, showing it to the King, said: 'Sire, this parrot, by name Vaicampayana, knows the meaning of all the castras, is expert in the practice of royal policy, skilled in tales, history, and Puranas, and acquinted with songs and with musical intervals. He recites, and himself composes graceful and incomparable modern romances, love stories, plays, and poems, and the like; he is versed in witticisms and is an unrivalled disciple of the vina, flute, and drum.
He is skilled in displaying the different movements of dancing, dextrous in painting, very bold in play, ready in resources to calm a maiden angered in a lover's quarrel, and familiar with the characteristics of elephants, horses, men, and women. He is the gem of the whole earth; and in the thought that treasures belong to thee, as pearis to the ocean, the daughter of my lord has brought him hither to thy feet, O king! Let him be accepted as thine.' For Bana speaks of the Chandala girl as a Chandala princess, Bana wrote some time about 600 A.D.
12. According to one of them, the head of Renuka, the wife of sage Bhrigu, who was beheaded by her lord’s orders, fell on a Madiga house, and grew into a Madiga woman. A section among Madiga caste which likes to be associated with the name of Arundhati the wife of sage Vasistha and a well known auspicious woman are named as Arundhatiyas. Some regard Matangi as Jabavants daughter while others think of her as his son Yugamunis wife.
HISTORY OF MADIGAS
1. Purnagata patam: A Leather Worker's Contribution to the Mahastupa at Amaravati according to Karthikeya Sarma, the Purnaghatapata (the slab carved with the over-flowering vase), the front piece illustrated here, is an outstanding gift of a leather worker (Charmakara). This is carved in deep relief over a rectangular slab of gray limestone measuring 4’2” x3' with an inscription in the lower margin mentioning the details of its donations. It was first reported to by Jas Burgess in 1881 and the record was published by Hultzch in 1887. The text is given below in view of its topical interest.
Line-1: "Siddam Chammakarasa Nagaghari (ru) ya Putasa Vidhikasa Sammatukasa Sabhayakasa Sabhatu Kasa Putasachanagasa Samadhutu-kasa sanati Mitabamdhavasa Deyadhamma
Line-2: Punagataka (Pa) Pato"
Translation-"Suceess: Meritorious gift of a slab (pata) with an overflowering vase (Purna-ghata) by a leather-worker (Charmakara) by name Vedhika, the son of a householder Naga, (Naga ghariya), with his mother, his wife, his brothers, his son his daughter along with his Jrnaties (paternal cousins on the male line entitled to property), friends and relations".
This Purnaghata Pata stands as an outstanding and unparalleled artistic creation in the art history of South India. Andhra's natural bounty and beauty are both symbolised here and hence perhaps Purnaghata stood as an anka (emblem) of the present Government of Andhra Pradesh. There could be no better tribute to this humble, unknown donor Charmakara Vidhika who lived in the Satavahana-Ikshvaku times i.e. in Circa. 2nd-3rd Cent. A.D.
2. According to Edgar Thurston, a thousand years ago, there lived near the pool a king, who ruled over all this part of the country. The king had as his commander-in-chief a Madiga. This Madiga made himself powerful and independent, and built himself a residence on a hill still called Madiga Vanidoorgam rayachoti, kadapa district. At last he revolted, and defeated the king. On entering the king's palace, he found seven beautiful king’s daughters, to all of whom he at once made overtures of marriage. They declined the honour, and, when the Madiga wished to use force, they all jumped into this pool, and delivered their lives to the universal lord.
3. Inscriptions found in the Kanarese country speak of a Matanga dynasty as having been rulers there, and there is no doubt that the rulers of that dynasty and the Matangas of today, are from the same stock. It is of further interest to note that the capital of Sugriva, where Jambuvan lived, is reputed to have been near Hospet in Bellary district, the Kanarese country where according to the inscriptions the Matangas held sway. The Madiga were the oldest inhabitants of the land and that, they were at one time the rulers of the country. Invaded and defeated by some powerful neighbours, they were forced to accept the position in which they find themselves today. The Matanga dynasty of the Kanarese country from which he claimed his communities descent, has been mentioned as an aboriginal family of but little power, and not of sufficient importance to have left any record of themselves. Mangalisa, a Chalukiya king, invaded the Matangas of the Kanarese country. He defeated the Matangas and annexed the country to his kingdom. It is agreed that the name Matanga has been derived from Matangi, but they are not altogether clear or consistent about the latter’s identity.
4. The Madiga claim to be the children of Matangi. Mr. H. A. Stuart writes formerly a Matanga dynasty in the Canarese country and the Madigas are believed by some to be descendants of people who were once a ruling race. Matangi is a Sanskrit name for Kali, and it is possible that the Madigas once played an important part in the worship of the god. The employment of Chakkiliyans and Madiga women in Shakti worship gives some colour to this supposition.
5. When cattle died, the ancestors of the Madiga claimed them with the assertion madi goddu, this is mine. Thus they came to be called madi goddu. This name was corrupted into madigodu and eventually into Madiga.
7. According to Stuvert oppert the Tamil Chakkili the Telugu and Kanarese Madiga and the Maratha Mang all do belong to the same caste. Their occupation is connected with leather and rope making. In his Madura Manual Mr Nelson mentions the curious fact that in Madura the Cakkili women belong to the right hand and their husband to the left hand. The words mang and madiga are corruptions of Matanga.
8. Some writers like Thurston, Sirajul Hassan and others have tried to trace the origin of the term Madiga from Mahang of Maharashtra who correspond to the Madiga of Hyderabad in many respects. According to these writers the Madiga, take their name from their tribal goddess Matangi.