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Regions with significant populations
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, South Africa, Guyana
Tamil, Malayalam
Mainly but not exclusively, Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Tamil people

Paraiyar or Parayar (in the past, anglicised as Pariah; translated as "slave") is a caste group found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They are also known as Adi Dravida ("Original Dravidian"), which was a title encouraged by the British Raj as a substitute for Paraiyar because the British believed that their colonising of the country had ended slavery in India.[1]

The Indian census of 2001 reported that in Tamil Nadu the Adi Dravida population was about 5,402,755 and the Paraiyar population as 1,860,519.[2]


Some scholars presume that Paraiyars must have been followers of Buddhism, constituted the original population and after the invasion by Brahmanical conquerors, they lost their culture, religion, wealth and status in the society and become destitute.[3]

Right-hand caste faction[edit]

Paraiyars belong to the Valangai ("Right-hand caste faction"). Some of them assume the title Valangamattan ("people of the right-hand division"). The Valangai comprised castes with an agricultural basis while the Idangai consisted of castes involved in manufacturing.[4] Valangai, which was better organised politically.[5]

British colonial era[edit]

In the second half of the 19th century, there were frequent descriptions of the Paraiyars in official documents and reformist tracts as being "disinherited sons of the earth".[6][7] The first reference to the idea may be that written by Francis Whyte Ellis in 1818, where he writes that the Paraiyars "affect to consider themselves as the real proprietors of the soil”. In 1894, William Goudie, a Weslyan missionary, said that the Paraiyars are self-evidently the "disinherited children of the soil".[7]

Sakya Buddha Society and Theosophical Society[edit]

Iyothee Thass, a Siddha doctor by occupation, belonged to a Paraiyar elite. In 1898, Thass and a large number of his followers converted to Buddhism and founded the Sakya Buddha Society (cākkaiya putta caṅkam) with the influential mediation of Henry Steel Olcott of the Theosophical Society. Olcott subsequently and greatly supported the Tamil Paraiyar Buddhists.[8]

Adidravida Jana Sabha and the term Adidravida[edit]

The Parayar Mahajana Sabha was founded by Rettamalai Srinivasan in 1892. In 1895, Thass founded the “People’s Assembly of Urdravidians” (Adidravida Jana Sabha) in Madras. Michael Bergunder says that those associated with Thass claimed the description Urdravidian or Adidravidan, still a common synonym for Paraiyars in South India, and Iyothee Thass was the first to introduce the concept of Adidravida into political discussion and in the 1920s and 1930s. E.V.Ramasami ensured the wide dissemination of this term.[9]

Notable people[edit]


Religious and spiritual leaders[edit]

Social reformers and activists[edit]

  • M. C. Rajah, (1883–1943) was a politician, social and political activist from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu
  • Rettamalai Srinivasan (1860–1945), a Dalit activist, politician from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu
  • Iyothee Thass Pandithar (1845–1914), founded the Sakya Buddhist Society (also known as Indian Buddhist Association)



  1. ^ Irschick (1994), pp 168-169.
  2. ^ Tamil Nadu — Data Highlightst: The Scheduled Castes — Census of India 2001 (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Bergunder (2004), pp. 67 - 72.
  4. ^ Siromoney, Gift (1975). "More inscriptions from the Tambaram area". Madras Christian College Magazine (Madras Christian College Magazine) 44. Retrieved 21 September 2008. 
  5. ^ Levinson, Stephen C. (1982). "Caste rank and verbal interaction in western Tamilnadu". In McGilvray, Dennis B. Caste Ideology and Interaction. Cambridge Papers in Social Anthropology 9. Cambridge University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-52124-145-8. 
  6. ^ Irschick (1994), pp 153–190.
  7. ^ a b Bergunder (2004), p. 68.
  8. ^ Bergunder (2004), p. 67.
  9. ^ Bergunder (2004), p. 69.
  10. ^ Mylapore Institute for Indigenous Studies; I.S.P.C.K. (Organization) (2000). Christianity is Indian: the emergence of an indigenous community. Published for MIIS, Mylapore by ISPCK. p. 322. ISBN 978-81-7214-561-3. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraiyar — Please support Wikipedia.
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46 news items

The Quint

The Quint
Tue, 15 Sep 2015 05:00:00 -0700

“He is a paraiyar, we are kallar. With that feeling, you must go,” says a man on the audio WhatsApp message, adding, “You will definitely have to go, don't compromise on this.” Paraiyars in Tamil Nadu are Dalits and Kallars consider themselves superior ...
The Hindu
Sun, 30 Aug 2015 17:22:30 -0700

Padseri is a place where Pallars lived and Paraiseri is the habitat of the Paraiyar community. The settlement of Aayar(shepherds) was known as Aaiseri, according to the author. Sethu Pillai, however, agreed that in modern times Seri has become a ...
Business Standard
Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:45:24 -0700

The word Pariah (originally Paraiyar) is derived from the Tamil word Parai, referring to the hand-held circular drum made from cow-skin, an integral component of festival and funeral orchestras. Equally derisive in Tamil and English, today, the word ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Sat, 04 Jul 2015 03:30:00 -0700

Krishna Paraiyar has converted to Christianity and is named Peduru. The protagonist, Seeni, who belongs to Pallar community, mocks at that name punning on the Tamil word 'peththuru' (cull out) thus: “Sounds like someone's knees being pulled off … or ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:10:27 -0700

“Only one road has been laid in the last three years and roads in several areas including, Chettiar Street, Mudaliar Street, Vinayagar Street, West Street and Paraiyar Street, have to be re-laid,” the councillor said. Sullied river poses health hazard ...

The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:45:00 -0800

Pallar, Paraiyar, and Arunthathiyar are the major Dalit groups in the State. A 2010 survey was conducted among 200 Arunthathiyar families, the group engaged in manual scavenging and considered lowest, the 'Dalits among Dalits'. This survey conducted by ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:03:45 -0700

The word "pariah" originally comes from "Paraiyar," the name of a low caste in southern India. Scholars of Indian languages trace "Paraiyar" back to the Tamil word for drum, "parai." Traditionally, members of the caste had a ritual duty to beat the ...

Wall Street Journal (blog)

Wall Street Journal (blog)
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 23:33:45 -0700

The word “pariah” originally comes from “Paraiyar,” the name of a low caste in southern India. Scholars of Indian languages trace “Paraiyar” back to the Tamil word for drum, “parai.” Traditionally, members of the caste had a ritual duty to beat the ...

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