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Experience file Dossier : Human Rights in India

March 2007

The pig eating: Goundars conspiracy against Arunthathiyars

The file contains the narrative of a horrible ritual in which the Dalits are forced to eat raw pig with banana.

“Then these six pigs would be taken to the temple and they kill them in front of the idol, open its abdomen and insert bananas into it and make a paste out of it. All the people, of course only the Arunthathiyars, would then eat it. This is the festival. This is the conspiracy of the Goundars” said one of the inhabitant of Vizhuthugal Panchayat in Tamilnadu, who belongs to the Dalit community, Arunthathiyar.

History of the Aunthathiyar community

There are two theories about the history of Arunthathiars in Tamilnadu. The first theory tells that, these people were brought by Naickars from Andhrapradesh during the Vijayanagar Empire some 500 years ago to make shoes and other kinds of leather works. They are said to have come here from Kadappah District of A.P. and spread over Tamilnadu during the Naickar Rule.

The other theory is that, before the Indian States were linguistically re-organised in 1956, all the southern States were under one Presidency. The people would go from one place to another for their livelihood. When famine or severe atrocities were meted out to them or when a human sacrifice from their own fold was offered, they managed to learn Telugu or Kannarese and moved over to Andhra or Karnataka. The Arunthathiars speak three languages – Tamil, Telugu and Kannarese. Considering these factors, one can infer that they were living a nomadic life and learning Telugu and Kannarese was a necessity to cope up with the situation. Otherwise, they were originally the inhabitants of Tamilnadu.

The Cult and Rituals

The culture of the Arunthathiyar people is closely linked to Madurai Veeran who was a General in the army of Vijayanagar Empire. One of his legs and an arm were cut off because he had married a dancer in the Empire who belonged to the upper caste. As a token of revenge the Arunthathiar (Madhika) people rallied together in Madurai against the Empire. This was the first time when they came together seeking redressal of their grievances. They claimed Madurai Veeran as their God and started worshipping him. They also worshipped a female deity who was a woman leader of the Arunthathiar community. She gave them training in using weapons in war. All these stories are part of the oral tradition of the community.

The Goundars’ Plot

Apart from these two deities the Goundars introduced Annanmar Swamis (Brothers) in the western Districts to counter Madurai Veeran and the female deity of the Arunthathiyars. In order to belittle the social status of the Arunthathiyars these Big brothers invented a new ritual of raw pig eating. Several months before the festival, the Goundars would give two pigs to an Arunthathiyar family in the village. Each family following a routine would feed those two pigs. During the year, those two pigs would multiply into about six pigs. Then these six pigs would be taken to the temple where they would be killed by piercing a dagger in to the head. Then they would open the abdomen and insert bananas and make a paste out of it. All the people, of course the Arunthathiyars only, would then eat that disgusting substance. This is the festival. This is the conspiracy of the Goundars against the Dalits using a religious festival to cover up the heinous intention behind it.

The Goundars introduced this practice with an ulterior motive of debasing the Dalit people in public eye. Even today they follow this ritual. The people of the community refuse to abandon this practice because they think that it is god-given. They would say, “Don’t talk to us about this. Call us for an agitation. We will come. Don’t talk about the god”. They call this ritual Annanmar Nombi or Pig piercing Nombi.

This happens in almost all the Arunthathiyar villages. “My father and mother used to eat that. I brought them out of the temple and told that they should not eat that. Then I took them to a church and left them to worship there”. One of the social activists of the community said

The Arunthathiyars spend more for this festival than other festivals. Goundars collect Rs.10, 000/- to 15,000/- from each family towards the expenses of the festival. The Dalits generate this amount as a loan from persons of other communities. They have to repay that loan with interest or work as bonded labourers until the next Annanmar Nombi comes.

The original festival

Originally the Anaanmar Nombi was the festival of the Goundars. The Goundars left it to the Arunthathiar to celebrate it telling them that rain had started and so they had to go to take care of the sowing in the fields. Thus the Nombi was thrust upon the Arunthathiars. If the Dalits go to the Goundars and ask for coconuts and bananas for the Nombi, they would readily give them. They will be at the temple until the pig is caught hold of and brought to the temple. The Goundars are in charge of erecting the Pandal and all other arrangements for the festival. Only the priest of the Dalit community does the killing. When the killing is finished, the Goundars leave the temple. They would never take part in the eating of the pig-banana paste. They just accept the holy ash but do not receive it from the priest’s hands. The holy ash will be in a tray and the Goundars help themselves.

Another cast atrocity is that the Arunthathiar women are not allowed to enter the temple. Men and women of the Goundars caste can go, and so also the Arunthathiar men. They have maliciously thrust such a horrible ritual among these illiterate Dalit people. The village Goundar controls the finance of the festival and he operates by his own discretion. After the festival is over, the Goundar submits an account. But no one dares to ask questions or demand any clarification.

It takes time..

Now in some villages, people have become independent and operate the account by themselves. But in ¾ of the villages in the vicinity, it is the village Goundar who controls the finance of the festival. Attempts have been made from the part of a local NGO to educate people about this gruesome ritual and the injustices behind that.


It is disgusting and painful.


Goundar – One of the dominant castes in Tamilnadu, India

Arunthathiyar – One of the sub-castes or scheduled caste in Tamilnadu, India