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A TREMENDOUS TOME: The Malabar Manual
A TREMENDOUS TOME: The Malabar Manual

MALEEHA RAGHAVIAH

William Logan's love for the land is evident in the compilation of the Malabar Manual.

KOZHIKODEGazetteers are treasure troves of information, despite the fact that they are compiled on a routine basis, as part of Government machinery. But few gazetteers would have been discussed, or talked about as much as the Malabar Manual, the gazetteer compiled under the guidance of William Logan, the Collector of the erstwhile Malabar District during the British rule.

Varied detail

The responsibility of compiling the details was vested in the Collectors, the officers in charge of the district, and resulted in the publication of the gazetteers, which contain a wealth of information.Open the volumes of the Malabar Manual for details on the geographical features, religion, caste, customs of the people, language, literature, ports, shipping facilities, et al, when Logan was Collector here.What distinguishes the Malabar Manual from other similar Government Gazetteers of the British? Noted historian and former chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan opines "Logan was sincere and serious about the task entrusted to him. He was an efficient Collector who had an affinity with the people of Malabar. The personal contribution is evident all along. The details given by Logan with regard to dress, festivals and other social customs go a long way in providing insights on the social history of Malabar."

Unique features

Dr. Narayanan opines that though two chapters have been devoted to history, the second chapter on the Portuguese period is based on documents, but the first part "Traditionary Ancient History" was compiled when there was no proper documentary evidence. The manual also goes into detail of the educational level of people, and village associations that existed.The cultural heritage of Malabar, the race for hegemony in the trade of pepper and spices, the Mysorean invasion, and finally British supremacy find mention in the manual. Logan an Officer of the Madras Civil Service wrote in the preface "I shall consider that I have failed in one main object if I do not succeed in arousing a feeling of interest on many points whereon I have necessarily touched, but briefly in this work." He was appointed Collector of Malabar in 1875, at a crucial stage of the history of Malabar, and he was well equipped for the role, having served the area for more than 20 years as judge, special commissioner, and magistrate, and had gained a wealth of knowledge in the process.Logan loved the land and the people, and his tenure made him a real "Kerala man."He could handle Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.

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