Vaniyar is a Hindu community of agricultural labourers from Tamil Nadu. 

Vaniyar is a Hindu community of agricultural labourers from Tamil Nadu. But in Kochi they were mostly into the extraction of food oils, mostly sesame and coconut oils. They used wooden mills for the extraction process, a cultural icon of the community, which currently is found nowhere in Kochi. 

According to the oral accounts of the community members they migrated from Madurai region in Tamil Nadu. Even though it is difficult to locate the exact period of migration, it could have happened centuries back. 

There are approximately 65 Vaniyar families that live in the area. The part of Kochi they inhibit is called Pandikudi, which literally means the abode of those from Paandya Naadu (this might well be a reference to Pandya Kingdom). 

Despite their Tamil origin, they are currently a highly indigenised community. Two generations back Tamil was their mother tongue, which now has been replaced by Malayalam. But their temple festivals bear an overwhelmingly Tamil stamp. They younger generation has long abandon their traditional trade and are currently working in multiple sectors. 

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY BIJU IBRAHIM: COMMUNITIES OF KOCHI

Places have souls and Mattancherry in the city of Kochi has a mystic one. Biju Ibrahim discovered this while documenting the lives of Kochi’s 38 communities through black and white pictures. Distinct in layers of identities – caste, faith, language, ethnicity and region – these communities have been welcomed over centuries and have, in turn, infused Mattancherry and Kochi with a rare and rich heritage. Historically, it has been home to Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus. The sea and port attracted sailors, traders from Arabia and Gujarat, preachers of Semitic faiths, colonisers such as the Dutch and Portuguese, political refugees and migrant labourers. A cross-section of India lives here in a radius of 5 kilometers. 

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AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER

BIJU IBRAHIM

He captures the essence of rustic geographies, the people who are now becoming archive of the earth, the mythic & mystery of spaces & places, alleys of now filled with the density of then or before.

ART ORGANISATION

URU ART HARBOUR

URU art harbour is a cultural hub situated at Kochi. URU seeks to be a space for collaboration and a continual hub for artistic, cultural, and intellectual exploration. Founded by Riyas Komu and Zoya Riyas.

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