Brief notes on the Social Life of South India during 5th Century


The four varnas were recognised in South East Asia as in India, though the caste system as it prevails in India did not obtain there. Sati was practised in South East Asia by cutting off the head of the widow. Sati by fire was perhaps considered as a ceremonial way of performing the same ceremony.

The four wives of Harivarman, ruler of Champa, we learn committed sati by fire on the death of the king. Even the cutsom of shaving off the head of the widow-which was but an attennuation of the aformentioned practice of beheading a widow-was common in South East Asia. At the same time we find in certain regions like Java remarriage of widows allowed.

Among games and enjoyments many of them in South East Asia remind one of India and particularly South India. The cockfight is one such game. The Angor sculptures are replete with depiction of cockfights. Not only ordinary people but even kings reared cocks for the purpose of enjoying the sport.


We have evidence of kings rearing cocks in Sri Vijaya. King Amapathi of Singasari was lanced while enjoying a cockfight. The game next in importance to this in South East Asia was the pole flight-similar to the Indian fight with sticks which is particularly common in Malabar and is called Silambam in Tamilnad.

Then there was the innocent doll-fight (puppet show) as in India. But unlike here they were used in South East Asia to depict great themes like Arjuna’s marriage and other epic events. Eralanga’s marriage with the princess of Srivijaya was also depicted in doll-fights. What is called in Malaya Kathakat is the same as our Kathakalakshepam, i.e. musical discourses on religious themes.

Music and dancing were cultivated in the large measure in South East Asia and figures carved out in temples resemble the drums. The dances of the Bali Island as that of Java have today attained world renown. Dancing girls were kept and trained in temples as in India for the purpose of dancing before the god on festive occasions.

The common sight in South India of Velan Veriyadal in which the spirit of god is said to come down on the devotee is to be seen in South East Asia also. They like rites and ceremonies as we like them here; and believe in the sacredness of rivers as we do; and rivers in Bali are given names like Sindu, Gangai and Kaviri since they are considered to be sacred names. Like the Hindus the Malaysians also believed in ghosts.

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