Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing
with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.
Henry Miller (1891 - 1980)
Athikkottai is a neighboring village to Pattukkottai, which is a small town
in Tanjavur district in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India. Tamil Nadu is situated on the south eastern side of the Indian
peninsula. It is bounded on the east by Bay of Bengal, in the south by the Indian ocean, in the west by the states
of Kerala and Karnataka and in the North by the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
In Athikkottai, the settlements range from tiny hamlets of thatched huts to
larger settlements of tile-roofed stone and brick houses. Here, in the face of vicissitudes of all kinds, farmers follow time-tested
as well as innovative methods of growing rice, vegetables, fruits, and many other crops in order to accomplish the challenging
task of feeding themselves and the nation. Here, too, flourish many of India's most valued cultural forms.
Viewed from a distance, an Indian village such as Athikkottai, may appear
deceptively simple. A cluster of mud-plastered walls shaded by a few trees, set among a stretch of green or dun-colored fields,
with a few people slowly coming or going, oxcarts creaking, cattle lowing, and birds singing--all present an image of harmonious
simplicity. Indian city dwellers often refer nostalgically to "simple village life." City artists portray colorfully garbed
village women gracefully carrying water pots on their heads, and writers describe isolated rural settlements unsullied by
the complexities of modern urban civilization. Social scientists of the past wrote of Indian villages as virtually self-sufficient
communities with few ties to the outside world.
In actuality, Indian village life is far from simple. Each village is connected
through a variety of crucial horizontal linkages with other villages and with urban areas both near and far. Most villages
are characterized by a multiplicity of economic, caste, kinship, occupational, and even religious groups linked vertically
within each settlement. Factionalism is a typical feature of village politics. In one of the first of the modern anthropological
studies of Indian village life, anthropologist Oscar Lewis called this complexity "rural cosmopolitanism."
Throughout most of India, village dwellings are built very close to one another
in a nucleated settlement, with small lanes for passage of people and sometimes carts. Village fields surround the settlement
and are generally within easy walking distance. In many areas of the south, Brahmans are major landowners, along with some
other relatively high-ranking castes. Generally, land, prosperity, and power go together.In some regions, landowners refrain
from using plows themselves but hire tenant farmers and laborers to do this work. In other regions, landowners till the soil
with the aid of laborers, usually resident in the same village. Fellow villagers typically include representatives of various
service and artisan castes to supply the needs of the villagers--priests, carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, weavers, potters,
oilpressers, leatherworkers, sweepers, waterbearers, toddy-tappers, and so on. Village religious observances and weddings
are occasions for members of various castes to provide customary ritual goods and services in order for the events to proceed
according to proper tradition.
Aside from caste-associated occupations, villages often include people who
practice nontraditional occupations. In villages near urban areas, an increasing number of people commute to the cities to
take up jobs, and many migrate. Some migrants leave their families in the village and go to the cities to work for months
at a time. Many people from Athikkottai, as well as other villages, have temporarily migrated to the Persian Gulf, Singapore
and London for employment and send remittances back to their village families, to which they will eventually return.
At slack seasons, village life can appear to be sleepy, but usually villages
are humming with activity. The work ethic is strong, with little time out for relaxation, except for numerous divinely sanctioned
festivals and rite-of-passage celebrations. Residents are quick to judge each other, and improper work or social habits receive
strong criticism. Villagers feel a sense of village pride and honor, and the reputation of a village depends upon the behavior
of all of its residents.
(Adapted from Country Data; A country study)