ETHNOGRAPHIC NOTES IN SOUTHERN INDIA
With 40 Plates
The indecent carvings on temple cars are introduced thereon to avert the evil eye.
During temple or marriage processions, two huge human figures, male and female, made
of bamboo wicker-work, are carried in front for the same purpose.
In Malabar, fear of the evil eye is very general.
At the corner of the upper storey of almost every Nayar house near a road or path is suspended
some object, often a doll-like hideous creature, on which the eye of the passer-by may rest.
A crop is being raised in a garden visible from the road.
The vegetables will never reach maturity unless a bogey of some sort is set up in their midst.
A cow will stop giving milk, unless a conch shell is tied conspicuously about her horns.
When a house or shop is being built, there surely is to be found exposed in some conspicuous
position an image, sometimes of extreme indecency, a pot covered with cabalistic signs, a prickly
branch of cactus, or what not, to catch the evil eye of passers by, and divert their attention
from the important work in hand.
Many of the carved wooden images recall forcibly to mind the Horatian ode ” Olim truncus eram.
. . Obscenoque ruber porrectus ab inguine palus.”
Monstrous Priapi made in straw, with painted clay pots for beads, pots smeared with chunam and studded with
black dots, or palmyra palm fruits coated with chunam, may often be seen set up in fields, to guard
the ripening crop.
When a new house is being constructed, or a vegetable garden or rice field are in a flourishing condition,
the following precautions are taken to ward off the evil eye :
a. IN BUILDINGS
1. A pot with black and white marks on it is suspended mouth downwards.
2. A wooden figure of a monkey, with pendulous testes, is suspended.
3. The figure of a Malayali woman, with protuberant breasts, is suspended.
b. IN FIELD AND GARDENS
1. A straw figure covered with a black cloth daubed with black and white dots, is placed on a long pole. If
the figure represents a male, it has pendent testes, and, if a woman, well developed breasts. Sometimes male
and female figures are placed together in an embracing posture.
2. Pots, as described above, are placed on bamboo poles.
3. A portion of the skull of a bull, with horns attached, is set up on a long pole.