Wednesday, May 20, 2009

History of Nair Community from Kerala

Theories of origin
Ancient South Indian history, historians, and foreign travellers referred to the Nairs as a dignified martial nobility. The earliest reference to Nairs comes from the
Greek ambassadorMegasthenes. In his accounts of ancient India, he refers to the "Nayars of Malabar" and the "Kingdom of Chera" . However the earlier origin of the Nair caste is uncertain and several alternate and sometimes conflicting theories exist.

Dalawa Velayudhan Chempakaram Thampi (1765-1809)
Some sociologists are of the view that the Nairs are not indigenous to
Kerala, as many customs and traditions distinguish them from other Keralites. According to one theory, Nairs are descendants of the Newars of Nepal, who joined the Munda exodus and later migrated to Kerala. The most prominent arguments given in support of this theory are the presence of distinct pagoda-like architectural style of Nair Tharavaadus and Temples and the practice of Marumakkathaayam (matrilinial) system of inheritance similar to both Nairs and Newars.[6]
There is also a hypothesis on the basis of mythology that the Nairs are Nagas and were Kshatriyas belonging to the Serpent dynasty (Nagavansham) who removed their sacred thread and migrated south to escape the wrath of a vengeful Parashurama. The affinity of the Nair community towards serpent worship, their martial past, and the absence of the sacred thread lends support to this theory. In addition, the Travancore State Manual states that there were indeed serpent-worshipping Nagas in Kerala who fought with the Namboothiris till they reached a consensus.
According to
Chattampi Swamikal, who interpreted old Tamil texts, the Nairs were Naka (Naga or Snake) Lords who ruled as feudal lords in the Chera kingdom. Therefore this theory proposes Nairs to be descendants of the rulers and martial nobility of pre-brahmin Kerala who, after the arrival of the Namboothiris (and establishment of the Varnas/Caste System), got categorized as sat Sudras.[7]. One finds mention of the Nairs during the reign of the King Rama Varma Kulashekhara (1020-1102) of the second Chera dynasty, when the Chera Kingdom was attacked by the Cholas. The Nairs fought by forming suicide squads (Chavers) against the invading force. It is not clear whether the Cheras themselves were Nairs, or if the Cheras employed the Nairs as a warrior class.[6]

Nair Lady (Panapillai Amma Srimathi Lakshmi Pilla Kochamma of the Chempakaraman Arumana Ammaveedu Family of the Thampi clan and wife of Visakham Thirunal Maharajah of Travancore)
The Kerala Mahatmayam, an ancient Sanskrit
Purana, calls them the progeny of NamboodiriDeva, Rakshasa and Gandharva women. men with
The 17th century the Brahmin-inspired
Keralolpathi and Grama Padhati describes the Nairs of Kerala and the Bunts of Southern Tulu nadu as descendants of the Sudras who accompanied the Brahmins to Kerala and Tulu nadu respectively from Ahichatra/Ahikshetra in southern Panchala. In addition, Manual of Madras Administration Vol II (printed in 1885) notes that the Nadavas/Nairs of Malabar and the Bunts of Southern Tulu nadu are same.
Irrespective of the different theories that seek to explain the origin of Nairs, it is clear that till the early 20th century, Nairs exerted their influence in medieval Kerala society as feudal lords and owned large estates. Nairs dominated the civil, administrative and military elite of the pre-British era in Kerala.[
citation needed] The decline of Nair dominance came about in multiple stages. During colonial times, the British perceived that Nairs were an inherent threat to their hegemony in the region and therefore outlawed their right to bear weapons and by banning the Nair martial art of Kalaripayattu.[8][9] Weapons were integral to the Nair psyche and power, and combined with repressive legislation led to a loss of social standing for Nairs. Later during post-colonial years, the Land reforms of 1950's led to massive loss of land-ownership by Nair feudal Lords and some Nair gentry were relegated to poverty overnight. Thus the decline of Nair dominance came to a full circle by mid the 20th century.

Etymology
The word Nair lends itself to two etymological interpretations. The first interpretation is that the word Nair could have been derived from the
Sanskrit word Nayaka which means leader. The Sanskrit word Nayaka which appears in various forms in southern India (Nayakan/NaickerNayak in Karnataka and Maharashtra, and Nayudu in Andhra Pradesh) could have been corrupted as Nairs in Malayalam. The second interpretation is that the word Nair is a corrupted form of the word Nagar- serpent men because Nairs practiced snake worship.[10] in Tamil Nadu,
The word Nair also occurs in other parts of the world - although no direct linkages with the Nairs in Kerala have been established.

Typical Nair last names
Nair surnames were traditionally carried through
matrilineality, although most modern Nairs follow patrilineal nomenclature. The surname Nair is commonly used by all sub-castes belonging to Nair caste. However, there are surnames which are reminders of the honours conferred upon individuals by the powers that be from time to time in acknowledgement of exceptional acts of valour, erudition and scholarship, or excellence in chosen field of endeavour. The families of these individuals inherited the titles. It is also possible that in the majority of cases, such honours were bestowed by the Royalty in return for services rendered and in recognition of a display of loyalty. In general, the system of conferring honours points to the ruling Monarch's dependence on the Nairs who provided them with military and administrative support. While most of these are ranks and positions in a feudal set up (similar to the Mughals' Mansabdari system), such royal patronage was crucial to the development and promotion of strikingly singular forms of dance and drama such as Kathakali of which, the Nairs were exponents.
Achan
Adiyodi
Asan
Elayidom
Eradi
Ilayidam
Kaimal
Karnavar
Kartha
Kunnath
Kitavu
Kurup
Mannadiar
Menokki
Menon
Nambiar
Nayanar
Nayar
Nedungadi
Padanayar
Panicker
Pandala
Pillai
Saamoothiri
Thampi
Thankkal
Unnithan
Valiathan
Vallilath
Vazhunnor
Vellodi

Subcastes
V.Nagam Aiya,
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore, in his Travancore State Manual states that although all the Malayala Sudras were classed under the general head of Nair, in reality there were only five "genuine" Nair castes. These included:
Kiryathil Nairs : They are the highest class of Nairs found usually in Malabar and Cochin and rarely in Travancore. The 17th century Keralolpathi [11] states them to be descendants of warrior Naga tribes who came to Kerala from the north along the western coast. It may be noted that the earlier Keralamahatmayam, a Hindu Purana, does not make mention of any subcastes among the Nairs but only states them to be the military caste of Kerala.
Illathu Nairs : They were brought in by
Parasurama, as per the Keralolpathi(it's a 17th century book written by Namputhiris to protect the cast intrest of them), to serve the Brahmins as tenants, servants, warriors, cultivators etc. Purificatory rites by the MararsElayatus distinguished the Illathu Nairs. and priestly service from the
Swaroopathil Nairs or Cherna Nairs : These Nairs were the warriors of
KshatriyaSwaroopams. In Malabar they are classed as Akathu ChernaPurathu Cherna Nairs. Royal Households known as Nairs and
Padamangalam Nairs : They were the Nairs appointed by
Parasurama to serve in Temples. They migrated from Tamil Nadu of the Pandyan kingdom as it was then known.
Tamil Padam Nairs : This class of Nairs, as the name indicates, were migrants from
Tamil Nadu who were embraced into the Nair community.

Paliath Govindan Achan (Paliath Achan from 1779-1825)

Nair customs and traditions
The following information has been condensed from the
Travancore State Manual by V.Nagam Aiya. The General appearance of the Nairs will be clear from the following quote, as noted by the author in 1901.

The Appearance of the well nourished Nair is perhaps among the finest in all
India...the men and women among the Nairs are models of neatness and simplicity particularly in their dress, food and living. The men keep a small tuft of hair hanging in front, tied into a knot which is thrown behind or on the side, quite similar to the Tamil Brahmins while women have long black hair growing luxuriantly which they keep neat and orderly by constant bathing, rubbing of oil and use of comb. They tie it in a large bun suspended on the left side or in front. This is a very pretty observance and one that is worth imitation in more civilised countries


Attire
Males wear a Kaupinam and a single strip of cloth, four or five cubits in length, known as the Mundu, round the waist and another one thrown over the shoulder or worn like a shawl(veshti). The lower cloth is not tucked between the legs as in northern India but is left to hang loose to the ground. The upper cloth is known as the Neriatu which may be tied as a turban on the head while walking outside.
The dress of the women is not generally distinguishable from the men. On festive occasions the Pudava is worn which is a gilt bordered mundu, also known as a Pattukara.
This dressing style of women is no longer practised and introduction of the Rauka blouse in the early 20th century made it extremely popular among the Nair women. The mundu is still widely used by almost everybody in
Kerala, though modern clothing, naturally, has found tremendous use as well.
Men usually, besides amulets and rings, had their ears bored and wore earrings studded with precious gems. Women had for the neck ornaments such as the Kantasaram, Nalupanti, Addiyal, Ponnu-Nool, Nagapadam (the most important ornament of a Nair lady), Arimbu Mani, Jnali Kuzhal, Minnum Maniyum, Arasillatali, Pachakkatali, Kasu Malai, Kuzhalmala, Rasi Tali, Padakkatali etc. For the nose, pendants called Mukuttis were worn set with ruby or diamond generally. For the arms, bangles such as Kattikappu, Maniyalakappu, Swarna-Sangala Muduku etc. were worn. For the waist, ornaments known as KacchapuramThanda or Padaswaram. The Nair ladies extended their ear lobes and the only two types of ornaments which were worn in the ears was a type of cylindrical ornament known as Takka or a two lipped biconvex disc considered more fashionable, known as the Toda. Jewels were not worn on the head. Tattooing was not favored among the Nairs and was considered derogatory. were worn. Young girls even wore ornaments on their feet, known as

Food and drink
Boiled rice and rice gruel known as Kanjee (pronounced kun-jee) form the staple food of the Nairs. The coconut, jack, plantain, mango and other vegetable products are widely used in cooking among the Nairs as also coconut oil which is used widely for frying. Ghee was used in well to do families and on festive occasions. Kanjee was had thrice a day at mealtimes and formed the major part of the diet of the Nairs. Animal food was not objectionable and fish was the most commonly consumed commodity, fowl being less in demand. Beef was barred for the Nairs. Alcoholic drinks as a rule were prohibited.

Marumakkathayam and Tharavadu
Main article:
Tharavadu
Main article: Marumakkathayam
Nairs followed the Marumakkathayam (Matrilineal) system of inheritance and lived in units called Tharavadus ( matrilineal joint-family ). The tharavadu referred to relations of property (mudal sambandham) shared by a group tracing descent from a common ancestress. The outer boundary of tharavadus seems to have been defined by relations of pollution (pula sambandham), whereby a wider matrilineal kin group was knit by symbolic ties prominently in sharing birth and death pollution and a memory of common descent. However there are indications that when expediency demanded it was possible to even break off pollution ties. For instance, in the case of a numerically large tharavadu, comprising a considerable section of the population of territory, death and birth pollution spelt a great inconvenience. In such cases it could be decided to terminate pollution ties, even while the related groups continued to share a cremation ground.[12]
Architecturally wealthy tharavadus encompassed a Naalukettu or Ettukettu, a KulamSarpa Kavu‎ (a sacred grove with trees and thick foliage for worship of the Nagathaan (Serpents) while in the case of some exceptionally wealthy families a private temple as well. The water body served the purpose of ritual baths, followed by Tantric worship in the Sarpakavu, phased out into rituals and ceremonies that repeated in cycles of days, months, and years often accompanied by feasts that witnessed a grand assembly of kin. (fresh-water pond) and a

A typical Nair Tharavadu
Interestingly, even though tharavadus existed based on descent from a common ancestress, it was comparatively rare for a remembered founder of a tharavadu to be a woman alone
[13] and it showed a "structural" patriarchy of the Karnavar (seniormost male member). For instance in management of the tharavadu, Nair women managed domestic affairs in their natal tharavadus[14] and the senior woman’s decision making role was restricted to the inner domain of larger tharavadus in central and north Kerala.[15] However it was also not that the Karnavartharavadu, but unlike in patrilineal families there was more than one node of power and a plural authority structure.[16] In practice, the senior woman, was not necessarily determined by seniority and might well be the oldest competent woman and yet seniority was a crucial factor in determining power relations between the Karnavar and the senior woman.[17] If the Karnavar was the son or younger brother of the senior woman, she might indeed be the de facto head of the group keeping accounts in her own hands and counseling him; but were he the older brother of the senior woman then she was subordinate to him.[17] In some wealthy tharavadus lands were set aside for women as stanum (a special status) property or otherwise over which they enjoyed varied claims does not in any way suggest ‘separate rights’ or access to their own separate revenues and properties.[18] In the matrilineal Tharavadus customary practice, rather than any religious precepts embodied in written sources, was the source of personal/family law. In the words of William Logan, an administrator-historian with extensive experience of Malabar: had absolute powers in the

If it were necessary to sum up in one word the law of the country, that word would undoubtedly be the word "custom". In Malayalam it would be "Maryada", "Margam", "Acharam" all signifying established rule and custom
[19]

The marumakkathayam system and tharavadu system are not viable any more and has declined in tune with the social and cultural changes which have taken their toll on many old institutions. Social reforms spread with modern education. In other words, Nairs switched over to the patriarchal model of kinship and inheritance. The partition of tharavadus into individual shares (Alohari Bhaagam) followed the enactment of Land Reforms Ordinance that stipulated upper limits on land holdings. Many tharavadus, already bursting at the seams with internal dissensions and strife, collapsed under the pressure. The matrifocal system disintegrated. Fathers took charge of their sons and daughters and husband and wife started living together with their offspring. The "Marumakkathayam Law" which sanctioned dismantling of the tharavadus and the partition of property, came into vogue in the year 1933. 32,900 families were partitioned in
Travancore alone by 1938. The tharavadu system of living became a thing of the past by the 1940s. Naalukettu and Ettukettu structures began to collapse, or were sold off.[20]

Kalarippayattu
Main article:
Kalarippayattu

A Kalari Poothara shrine
The Vadakkan, or northern, style of Kalarippayattu is associated with the Nairs. In earlier times, Kalarippayattu was an essential component of education for Nairs. Nair men and even women learned the art of Kalaripayattu at an early age and used their skills in war and combat. From Kalaripayattu, comes
Marma Adi. Marmam shastra was an advanced way to temporarily or permanently disable or kill an opponent through a tap with a finger on a specific nerve. Marma Adi capitalised on the knowledge of acupuncture points. In recent times, however, Marmam shastra and Marma Adi have been used only for therapeutic purposes.[21] The Nair subcastes known as Kurup and Panicker were traditionally teachers of the Kalari Martial Arts. Kalari may have given rise to Kung Fu [22] according to ancient documents. It was outlawed by British in 1793, leading to great loss of self esteem among Nairs.

Marriage
In the past Nairs had three major marriage/rite of passage ceremonies.

Kettukalyanam (Mock marriage ceremony)
Main article:
Kettu Kalyanam
The thaali tying rite took place before the onset of puberty. During this ceremony the girl was married to a man, preferably a Namboothiri Brahman. The ritual husband had no further duties to the girl after the completion of this ritual, although she had to observe a period of death impurity upon the death of her ritual husband. The thaali ceremony was a female centered ritual which emphasized fertility and household prosperity.[23][24] This ceremony had to be performed on pain of excommunication.

Thirandukalyanam (Announcement and Celebration of puberty)
The Thirandukalyanam ceremony was the puberty ceremony, during which femininity is celebrated as women occupy the parts of the household typically inhabited by men
[25].

Sambandham/Podamuri (casual marriage alliance)
Main article:
Sambandham
The Sambandham ritual is less auspicious than the thaali and puberty rites, and literally means "alliance" or "relationship". It was the customary institution that framed casual marriage alliances between men and women following marumakkathayam. This ritual marks the union of the bride and groom and was not necessarily a permanent arrangement.[23][26][27] However it was this innate weakness of sambandham that helped maintaining the integrity of the matrilineal tharavadu.
Sambandham denoted hypergamy between Nair women and Namboothiri men as well as reciprocal marriage among Nairs.
[28] However such an alliance was not recognized as constituting marriage by Namboothiri Brahmins as well as by colonial courts but was seen as comparable to concubinage.[27]. Two reasons cited for this were that dissolution of sambandham was fairly easy and that it did not give rise to property relations. Though viewed by Namboothiri Brahmins and European commentators as immoral, allied with polyandry, or even prostitution, sambandham was nothing of that sort for the Nair women. Sambandham essentially gave a Nair woman the liberty to initiate, consent to, or terminate a sexual relationship with any man and thereby formed one of the foundations of matrilineality.
In case of sambandham with Namboothiri men, the system benefited both the Namboothiri Brahmins as well as matrilineal castes like the Nairs for two reasons. First, Namboothiri brahmins had institutionalized primogeniture, permitting only the eldest son to marry within the caste. Younger sons (also called aphans) in Namboothiri families were expected to establish
sambandham with Nair and Ambalavasi (temple service castes) women. Secondly, Nair families encouraged the sambandham arrangement with Namboothiri men, thereby increasing their tharavadu and caste status.[29] Such alliances between Nair women and Namboothiri men came to an end after the efforts of V.T Bhattathirippad in 1933.
In case of sambandham with Nair men, The Malabar Marriage Act, 1896 (Act IV of 1896) succeeded to alter by statute, the personal law of the Hindu matrilineal castes of Malabar and South Canara districts of the erstwhile
Madras Presidency. It was a permissive legislation that made it possible for people following marumakkathayam and aliyasantana law (matrilineal law) to register their marriages, if they so wished. The Act enabled people to be legally married, something that was not possible under matrilineal law as interpreted in the colonial civil courts. Similar legislations in the southern parts followed much later as is evidenced by Travancore Nair Act of 1912, 1925, and the Cochin Nair Act of 1920.

Vivaham (Older Form)
Presently the Nairs do not practice either of the three forms of marriages described above but perform Vivaham (Marriage) recognized by the Hindu Marriage act of 1955. It is ceremonially the shortest in comparison to its counterparts from other Indian castes and regions. The marriage ceremony among Nairs has changed considerably over the past two hundred years. Originally, the process started with the examination of the
horoscopes of the bride and bridegroom to see if their respective stars agree astrologically. This is still done today in some conservative Nair families. If the stars do not match, families may go so far as to cancel the marriage and seek another prospective bride or groom. If the astrological predictions are favourable, further examination is undertaken to appoint an auspicious date and time for the ceremony. During the celebration, there would be a presentation of danom (wealth or alms) to Brahmins, and a sadhya (feast). The bride and bridegroom would meet in the central room of the house, rice would be sprinkled on their heads. This was the essence of a basic Nair marriage about two hundred years ago. In addition to these general ceremonies, there are local variations.
In North Malabar (Northern Kerala), there is a Podamuri or Vastradanam ceremony. In this ceremony, the initial examination of horoscopes takes place at the house of the bride in the presence of the bride's and bridegroom's families. The astrologer writes his calculations and opinion on a piece of palmyra leaf and hands it over to the bridegroom's relations. If the horoscopes match, a day is fixed for the ceremony. This date is also written down and handed to the bride's Karnavar and to the bridegroom's relations. The astrologer and the bridegroom's party are then invited to a feast in the bride's house. The astrologer also receives gifts in the form of money or cloth.
Three to four days prior to the wedding date, the bridegroom visits his Karnavars and caste-elders to receive permission to leave for the wedding. The bridegroom presents them with betel leaves and areca nuts and obtains formal sanction for the wedding. The bridegroom then proceeds, accompanied by a number of his friends to the house of his bride. He is received at the gate of the house by the bride's relations and is led with his friends, to seats provided in the thekina (southern hall) of the house. The bridegroom distributes gifts to all the Brahmins present. After this, the whole party is invited to take part in another sadhya. The astrologer then announces the auspicious hour that has been fixed and leaves after receiving his dues. The bridegroom is then taken by one of his friends to the padinitta (principal/western room of the house, where religious ceremonies are conducted). New clothes, betel leaves and areca nuts brought by the bridegroom's party are placed in this room. The room is decorated and turned into a bedroom for the occasion. In this room are placed a number of lamps as well as the ashtamangaliyam (eight articles symbolizing mangaliyam or marriage). These are rice, paddy, the tender leaves of the coconut tree, an arrow, a looking glass, a well-washed cloth, a burning fire, and a small rounded wooden box called a cheppu. The bridegroom with his groomsman enters the room through the eastern door, while the bride, dressed in beautiful clothes and jewelry, enters the room through the western door accompanied by her aunt or another elderly lady of the family. The bride stands facing east with the ashtamangalyam and lamps in front of her. The groomsman hands over to the bridegroom a few pieces of the new cloth and the bridegroom puts them into the hands of the bride. After this, the lady who accompanied the bride sprinkles rice over the lit lamps and over the heads and shoulders of the bride and bridegroom. The bridegroom then leaves the room to go to the thekina to present his elders and friends with cakes, betel leaves and areca nuts. After the guests have left, the bride and bridegroom retire to the bedroom. Next morning, the vettilakettu or salkaram ceremony is conducted and the bridegroom's female relations take the bride to the husband's house, where a feast is held in honour of the occasion. After marriage, the bride remains in her tharavaadu, and her husband will often visit her, while remaining a member of his own tharavaadu. The children, of course, will belong to their mother's tharavaadu in accordance with the marumakkathaayam system.

Vivaham (Newer Form)
These days, a number of the individual ceremonies have been abandoned or condensed. However, one can still see elements of the older ceremonies in the new ones. Families may observe all or part of the following ceremonies. The first ceremony is the Vivaha Nischayam or simply Nischayam. In this ceremony, an astrologer is consulted to set an auspicious date for the wedding. Horoscopes may or may not be compared depending on the wish of the individual or their families. After both families consent to the marriage, the couple visits the bride's home. This meeting may be a simple affair, or a large celebration. During the celebration, there may be a mothiram mattal (ring exchange) ceremony. This ceremony may also be conducted later, during the actual vivaham ceremony. If it is done at bride's house, it is usually done around a lit nila vilakku (brass oil lamp).
On the evening before the wedding the families of both the bride and the groom, gather in their respective homes to bless them. On the day of the wedding, the bride and the groom will separately visit a temple near their homes. The temple can belong to any God except
Lord Ayyappan or Lord Hanuman as they are bachelors. The bride's parents carry the mangalyasutram or taali, a necklace that is a symbol of eternal union, to be blessed by the priests. Upon returning home, the bride and groom touch the feet of the elders of the family and receive blessings. This is called Namaskaaram.
The actual wedding may take place in a kalyana mandapam (a hall rented for the occasion), temple, or hotel. The bride's family receives the groom's family at the entrance of the venue to the tune of nadaswarams (long wind-instruments) and the beats of the thayli (large drums beaten with curved sticks). The groom stands on a wooden plank while the bride's younger brother washes his feet. The bride's aunts perform aarti for the groom with a thaali (platter), on which are arranged wicks made of twisted cotton. The groom is then escorted to the mandapamchangala vatta (sacred oil lamp), while another carries the ashtamangaliyam. The girls following the first two, carry the taala phuli (platters of rice, turmeric, and flowers on which oil lamps made of coconut shells are placed). With his parents on either side, the groom follows the girls around the mandapam and seats himself on the right side of the canopy, which is decorated by flowers, fabric, palm fronds, and banana stalks. The bride is then escorted by her aunt to the mandapam to the sound of the nadaswarams and thaylis. All those who are present on the mandapam stand when the bride arrives. She stands facing to the east, with the groom facing her. At the auspicious moment set by the astrologer for the muhurtham (the most auspicious time), the groom ties the thali around the bride's neck to the beating of drums. He is assisted by the bride's uncle because on no account should the thaali be allowed to fall. In some Nair communities, the traditional thaali is a gold pendant strung on a yellow thread. The bride has to wear this for three days after the wedding ceremony. After the three days have passed, the thread is replaced by a golden chain. (platform constructed to perform the wedding rites) by two rows of young girls. One girl carries the
After the tying of the thaali, the groom gifts the bride a sari and a blouse on a platter. This signifies that he will now assume the responsibility of providing for her. The groom's mother also gifts the bride with some jewelry at this time. The couple then exchange garlands accepting each other as life partners. The bride's father then places the bride's hand in the groom's, thus handing over his daughter to the groom in holy matrimony. The couple is then escorted to a room by their older relatives, who bless them. After the marriage ceremony, the bride gets a send-off from her house. The couple leaves for the groom's house escorted by a few people from the bride's family. The groom's mother and older female relatives perform aarti with an oil lamp (which rests on a platter heaped with rice mixed with turmeric) and receive them at the entrance. Both bride and groom enter the house, right foot forward. The bride is then required to kick over a large pot containing rice, symbolizing prosperity.
After the wedding ceremony a wedding reception may be performed if the families so wish.

Other customs
Nair have customs and rituals which are an amalgamation of indigenous rituals and the rituals of Nambothiri Brahmins. Generally, there are local variations for such customs. However, the basic framework of many of the rituals is more or less the same.

Seemantham
Seemantham (also known as Pulikudi or Garbhamthozhikkal) denotes the preparation for childbirth and is performed between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy. On an auspicious day, after being massaged with homemade ayurvedic oil, the woman has a customary bath with the help of the elderly women in the family. After this, the family deity is worshiped, invoking all the paradevatas and a concoction of herbal medicines prepared in the traditional way, is given to the woman. The woman is dressed in new clothes and jewelry used for such occasions. Among some Nairs of Malabarm two local ritualistic additions called ariyidal and Garbha Prashnam are performed. In the ariyidal the seated pregnant lady is given rice and
appams in her lap. In the Garbha Prashnam, an astrologer prescribes ritualistic remedies (if needed) for the protection of the mother and child as well as for smooth child birth in the event of any astrological obstacles. Afterwards, the pregnant lady visits four temples, including her own ancestral temple and prays to the deities for a healthy child and for a smooth delivery. After this she begins to observe Pula or birth pollution, which extends up to 15 days after childbirth. The family then holds a feast for all the relatives. Medicines and routines are prescribed for the woman, which are to be followed till childbirth.

Irupethi Ettu
This ceremony is performed on the 28th day after birth of the child, as this is the first time the nakshatram (star) of the child repeats according to the
Malayalam calendar. During the ceremony, charadu (thread), one in black cotton and the other in gold are interwined and tied around the waist of the child. The child's eyes are lined with mayye or kannumashi (Kohl). A black spot is placed on one cheek or asymmetrically on the forehead, to ward of evil eyes. A mixture of ghee (melted and clarified butter) and honey is given to the infant as a base for its various foods in the future. This is similar to the Jaathakarmam ceremony of the Namboothiris. In many instances, honey is rubbed with gold on a stone, which is then mixed with Vayampu, a herbal medicine. This mixture is then applied on the tongue of the newborn. In certain areas, the child's horoscope is usually made out between the birth and the Irupethi Ettu so that a name based on an ideal first letter prescribed by his horoscope can be used to name the child. This name-giving ceremony is similar to the Naamakaranam ceremon of the Namboothiris. In some instances, piercing of the lower lobes of the ears for both boys and girls (Karnavedham) is also done on the same day. Otherwise, it is done separately on an auspicious day. Unlike the Namboothiris who perform Jaathakarmam and Namakaranam as separate rituals, Nairs mostly tend to perform them together on the Irupathi Ettu.

Choroonu
Choroonu is the ritual of feeding rice to the child for the first time. Rice is the primary food of Nairs, which is why the first intake of purified rice is celebrated on an auspicious day. After
manthrams are chanted to request Agni to purify the food, a mixture of melted ghee and honey, followed by boiled rice is served to the child. This ceremony is performed during the 6th month or after the 7th month of birth.

Thulamasakkuli
During the Malayalam month of Thulam (October - November) all the women and girls in the family bathe in the river or family pond before sunrise. They will then perform rituals of worship at home, or visit a temple for Nirmalyam (viewing the deity for the first time for the day).

Thiruvathirakkali
Thiruvathira is observed on the full-moon day of Dhanu Masam, on the day of the Thiruvathira
Alpha Orionis). It is believed this is the day, the Goddess Parvathi finally met Siva, after her long penance. It is believed that observing Thiruvathira vratham or Thiruvathira nonbuthiruvathira) would ensure that a woman's husband would have a long life. The Nair women, including little girls, would get up early in the morning during the whole of Dhanu masam and go to the Kulam or river to take a bath. They will go in a sort of procession, singing various songs. They sing and play while taking bath. This is called Thudichukkuli. After bathing, they go to the temple dressed in their finest clothes. Thiruvathira is a day of fasting. No one eats rice preparations, but they are allowed to eat things made of wheat and all types of fruit. The practice of presenting bunches of bananas to the elders was common. During this season, huge swings (oonjal) are erected in the backyards of most of the houses. These swings are hung from the branches of tall trees such as mango trees or jack-fruit trees. The swings are made of ropes hung from the branch with a wooden plank for the seat. They can also be made from a well grown bamboo tree shoot, which is vertically split into two. After lunch, the ThiruvathirakkaliThiruvathirapaattu) are written in Malayalam and are set in a specific meter. The dance is also called Kaikotti Kali (dancing while clapping hands) and is also performed during the festival of Onam. star ( (fasting during danced would be performed. The accompanying songs (

Poorakkali
Pooram means "festival" in Malyalam. In regions south of
Korapuzha, this is mainly a temple celebration. However in regions north of Korapuzha, especially north Malabar, Pooram is predominantly a Nair household festival during the month of Meenam (March-April). The festival lasts for 9 days, starting from Karthika day to Pooram day. Among unmarried Nair women of north Malabar, Pooram was celebrated to praise and please Kamadeva, the God of Love. On each of the day an idol of Kamadeva made out of clay, is worshipped at different locations starting from the steps of the pond (first day) to the inner house (ninth day). The song sung by the group leader is repeated by the others and the song begins Thekkan dikkil povalle kamaa. Eendola panayil iruthume kamaa. (Do not leave us and go the south and various reasons are provided as to why he will be treated better in the north. These are sung in the form of puns). Dances are performed around a sacred lamp with elegant steps resembling thiruvathirakkali. While dancing, the players clap their hands uniformly to the tune of the song and to the thaalam (rhythm or beat) of the group leader. Poorakkali has 18 different forms.
Stories from the epic Ramayana often constitute the subject matter of the ritual songs. The ritual dance form warrants intense training and good physical stamina. The forward and backward movements and the abrupt variations in the speed and directions enthralls the spectators. Invariably, Poorakkali is followed by a duel of wits staged to test the intellectual capacity of the rival group leaders. This is known as Marathukali. During the debate, intriguing questions are put by one leader to the other side.
In central and south Kerala, several poorams or festivities during this season are observed in all important temples of the different deshams. The most famous of all these, is the
Thrissur Pooram. Before the advent of the Thrissur Pooram, the largest temple festival during summer in central Kerala was the one-day festival held at Aarattupuzha. Temples in and around Thrissur were regular participants of this religious exercise until they were once denied entry by the responsible chief of the Peruvanam area of Cherpu, known for its Namboothiri supremacy. As an act of reprisal, and also in a bid to assuage their wounded feelings, Prince Rama Varma (1751-1805), also known as Sakthan Thampuran (ruler of the erstwhile Cochin state ) invited all these temples to bring their deities to Thrissur where they could pay obeisance to Lord Vadakunnathan, the deity of the Vadakunnathan temple. Further, he directed the main temples of Thrissur, Thruvambadi and Pamamekkavu, to extend all help and support to these temples. It is this historical background that determined the course of the Thrissur Pooram program and it is specifically because of the ruler's antipathy to the Brahmin aristocracy, that he opened Thrissurpooram to the common man[citation needed].

Socio-political movements among Nairs

Chattampi Swamikal
A number of socio-religious reform movements, which were also the earliest democratic mass movements in Kerala, took shape from late 1800 s.The Nairs also felt the need for reform in response to such changes. Throughout the medieval period and until well into the 19th century, the Nairs had a pre-eminent role in Kerala. By the middle of the 19th century, however, this dominance started waning. Institutions like the
sambandham and the matrilineal joint family system which had ensured the strength of the Nair community earlier, now became productive of many evils in changing socio-political background of Kerala. The impact of the market economy, the disappearance of traditional military training, the absorption of new values through the new system of education, the self-consciousness being generated among the lower castes and their cry for equality and privileges - all these factors brought about a decline of Nair dominance. The sense of decline gave an impetus to the spirit of reform that expressed itself in the work of religious men like Chattambi Swamikal, in literature, on the press and platform and later in legislative enactments in respect of marriage, inheritance, property rights, etc. Ultimately, the movements crystallized in the foundation of the Nair Service Society, in 1914.
The Nair Service Society (NSS) is an organization created for the upliftment and welfare of the Nair community. It is headquartered at Perunna in the town of
Changanassery in KottayamMannathu Padmanabhan. The NSS is a three tier organisation with Karayogams at the base level, Taluk Unions at the intermediate level and the Headquarters at the apex level. District, Kerala State, India. It was established under the leadership of
The Society owns and manages a large number of educational institutions and hospitals. These include the NSS College of Engineering at Palakkad, NSS Hindu College at Changanassery, NSS College at Pandalam, Mahatma Gandhi College at Thiruvananthapuram, Pazhassi Raja NSS College at Mattanur, Kannur and the Women's College at Niramankara, Thiruvananthapuram.
Taking the lead given by Mannathu Padmanabhan, expatriate Nairs both in other startes of India as well as in countries other than India have formed Nair Service Societies in their states and countries of domicile. Examples are Karnataka Nair Service Society with 21 karayogams in Bangalore, and the Calcutta Nair Service Society in Kolkata. These Societies of Non Kerala origin retain the cultural uniqueness of the Nairs at the same time adapting many practices to the times and country of their adoption. Efforts are on to bring together all Nair groups the world over under an umbrella " International Federation of Nair Societies".

Quotes about Nairs
Here are some quotes from the works of foreign travelers in Kerala regarding the Nairs:
"Nairs are the savarna Hindus who constituted the warriors, landed gentry and yeoman of Kerala. Nayars are the largest and most important section of the society of Kerala. They were the lords of the country and guardian of public weal."- Robin Jeffrey, The Decline of Nair Dominance
280 BCE — "...(description of other lands)... Next follow the Nairae, (Land of Nairs according to Wigram) enclosed by the loftiest of Indian Mountains" (He also alludes to the rule of queens, in this land.) — Megasthenes (306-289 BCE) the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta writes in his description of ancient India; — (In Book: Travancore State Manual; 1906; V. Nagam Aiya Editor, Chapter VI, page 238)
1510 AD — "The first class of Pagans in Calicut is called Brahmins. The second are Nair, who are the same as the gentlefolk amongst us; and these are obliged to bear sword and shield or bows and lances." — Ludovico Varthema[
citation needed]
1755 — "The king has disciplined a body of 10,000 Naires; the people of this denomination are by birth the Military tribe of the Malabar Coast." — Orme[
citation needed]
1661. — "Olive colored they (Nair Women) grow their ears long and consider it fashionable, they wear gold and silver ornaments in the big ear holes... They grow hair and tie it in a peculiar fashion on the head. Chewing betel leaf is common and their teeth are thus often black in color. From a very early age they get military training, though fierce they are also well behaved, which is the custom here... These Nairs rarely laugh... They are born in Noble families and are adept warriors. They come out with sword in one hand and shield in the other. They are a proud and arrogant people." — Logan (Malabar Manual)
1661. — "... it is strange how ready the soldier of this country is at his weapon...they are all gentlemen and are termed Nayars ... they send their children to (Kalaris) when seven years old and their body becomes so nimble and bends as if they had no bones" — Logan (Malabar Manual)
1603. — "The men of war which the King of Calicut and all other kings have is Nair... each being a gentleman... their women be of great beauty and rare to catch sight of... possessing fine neat features... befitting the noble class" — John Kanding[
citation needed]
"...On the west coast there are a few curious distinctions that indicate, apparently, difference in racial origin. The first of these instances is that of the Nair, the military caste of Malabar. Their traditions point to the north as their native land; they are light in colour, in very great contrast to the rest of the castes of the tract, have retained the custom of polyandry, with a good deal of serpent worship. It appears that they advanced upon their present tract by way of the coast higher up, but how they got there does not appear. As with the Arya, they found a dark race in possession and enslaved them on their estates, where they labour to the present day. In the same tract, too, there is a class of Bráhmans, the Nambudiri, of remarkable fairness of complexion, and noted for their rigid ceremonial puritanism. Then, again, in the track of the Nair's alleged progress, we find a peculiar caste of Brahmans, partly occupied in the cultivation of spices and betel nut, but settled mostly above the Gháts, and not therefore so well sheltered from foreign influences as the Nair, who sought the coast. These Havig or Haiga Bráhmans show their connection with the Túlu country in their speech, and, like the Nairs, attribute to their caste a serpent origin in Rohilkhand, a statement borne out by their title. Between these we have a class of female temple servants of an equally light complexion amidst a universally dark population.."(Jervoise Athelstane Baines (1893), General report on the Census of India, 1891, London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, p. 184) ?
"Before quitting the country (Kerala) Hyder Ali Khan by a solemn edict declared the Nairs deprived of all (social and political) privileges and (ordered) not to carry arms. This ordinance was found to make the submission of the proud Nairs absolutely impossible because they would have thought death preferable to such humiliations and degradation. Therefore, Hyder Ali Khan by another ordinance, consented to restore all social and political privileges including carrying of arms, to the Nairs who embraced the Mohammadan religion. Many nobles had to embrace Islam; but a significantly large section (Nairs, Chieftains and Brahmins) chose rather to take refuge in the kingdom of Travancore in the South than to submit to the last ordinance" — Prince Ghulam Muhammad of Mysore
"The Nairs of Malabar who attained much celebrity in warfare....justly entitled born soldiers...by the virtue of their descent they must always bear arms..they constitute the third and the last of the honoured castes....a privilaged people....the Rajahs like the oriental monarchs are fond of exaggerating their importance and boast of the number of Nairs they have in their country and service to impress us (the Portuguese) with the idea of their wealth and power" — The Book, Letters from Malabar
"This strange law (
Sambandham) was established to prevent them (Nair men) from fixing their love and attachment on their wife and children. Being free from all family cares, they might be more willing to devote themselves to warlike services,for which they were born" wrote Wingram, Malabar Law and Custom.
"The peculiar deity of the Nair caste is
Vishnu but they wear on their foreheads the mark of Shiva... They describe the proper road to heaven as...must go to Benares and then afterwards perform the ceremonies for his ancestors at Gaya. He must take water from the Ganges and after journeyed over and immense space of country pour it on the image of Shiva at Ramaeshwara...after this he must visit principle places such as Jaganath in Orissa and Tripetty in Carnatic...must give charity to Brahmins..From the time of Cheramun Perumal until that of Hyder Ali Malabar was governed by descendants on thirteen Nair chiefs' sisters...there were no standing armies except the militias of the Nair households..." — The Book, The East India Gazetteer
James Lawrence's novel, The Empire of the Nairs, or, The Rights of Women: An Eutopian Romance (London: Thomas Hookham, 1811), while containing a number of factual inaccuracies and romanticisations about the Nairs, was instrumental in introducing many important figures of the Romantic era such as
Shelley to the Nairs and their society. Their matrilineal customs were important examples for early critics of patriarchy in support of the idea that patriarchy was not the inevitable order of society.
By the proud Nayars the noble rank is claimed, the toils of culture and of art they scorn, the warriors plumes their haughty brows adorn.... Luis De Camoens in his "The Lusiad"
The Nairs are rather a fair and comely race, with neat features, clean limbs and decidedly a high caste look....the Nair is as jealous as he is amorous and vindictive: many travellors have passed through the country without being able to catch one glimpse of their women and the knife would be unhesitatingly used if foreigner attempted satisy his curiosity by anything like forcible measures- Goa, and the Blue Mountains, Richard Francis Burton.
Rajesh NairA Good Nair promoting & highlighting the mightly Nair communityPune

27 comments:

  1. there is a place in malappuram near the boarder to kozhikode where kadlundi puzha joins the sea.its name is kottayil.there is a hill near by and a fort.also a palace or kovilakam and a devi temple ,kottayil devi shetram.at the top of the hill a smaller temple also is there.monkeys dominate there.a very large number.the main temple walls are painted with ramayana stories.samduris family members liv...ed in the palace till 1921.at that time samudiris sister was living there.during the mappila lehala ,the mappilas came ,surrounded the palace,closed all the doors from outside,shuting all inside-mainly ladies and set fire to the house.then they left.the people inside cannot find a way to escape nor a way to open the doors.they prayed to kottayil devi.suddenly with trembleing sound,the doors opened and everyone ran outside,thanking to devi.thus they all survived.because of these incidents people have greay faith in this temple.

    this is a strategical place in terms of military.there is a family named karippara near this place.during samudhiri rule,they were the most trusted family of samudhiri.the military and the administrative responsiblity was entrusted them.the fort cheif was from this family.when army moves to malappuram or to bharatha puzha during mamangam or when samudhiri forces move towards palakkad or kochi,the logistics was controlled from here.ship movemnts can be watched from the near by hill.another family named dharmoth was also held key roles in military in these area.even now karippara family have some privilages in the temple now understaken by samudhiri and malabar devasom.these two families are thiyyas.



    in 1766 haider ali attacked samudhiri.samudiri killed himself,his family fled to travancore.mamankam was held last time that year.from then to some 25 years mysore ruled malabar.many royal familes,bhrahmin families lived in exile in travanc...ore.in 1792 after the third mysore war ,tipu lost malabar to british.those fled came back.british took a general stand against mappilas.many or almost all the royal families were given pension and no authority was given to them.land revenue was the chief income.for collecting land revenue some familes were entrusted.they where chiefly bhrahmins or namboothiri familes.they stopped practicing martial arts.and british thought as they were generally cowards or not military they wont rise a revolt against them.mappilas lost land.generally thiyya familes also lost land and were forced to find other livelyhood.earlier these two groups were the chief personnals in the military make up of malabar.mappilas also were indulged in foreign trade.but british took the monopoly of trade.the ones who gained the maximum benefit during british rule was namboothiris and nairs.many nair families called tharavad were formed during these period and their large houses and also all the big manas were constructed during this period.these buildings were also intented for administrative purposes.

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  2. naval supreme commander of travancore was a ezhava.he was a friend of veluthampi and fought against british.he is also considered as one of the bravest warriors in kerala.


    in one of the stories about sakthan tampuran ,a reference about the vadakkum nadan guarding brigade is said.it was a ezhava army ,its head was also an ezhava.

    palace records does not use the word nair army.samudiri granda varikal never refer to nair army.the word used is lokar.there is one incidence ,once a british army group invaded calicut and marched upto samudiris palace.samudiri was not there ,nor his army.lokar or people around the place or in the city got alert and attacked the portugese.many wounded and some killed ,portugese were forced to return to their ships,never again they dare to do such a thing.u may be not knowing,calicut city is full of ezhavas or thiyyas,even now.if there is some major figure its the muslims.(mukkuvar or deevara are also there.but lesser in beech area compared to more southern and norther parts.also muslims were converted from ezhava and deevara families for serving in navy. )the greatest lord (or family )in calicut that time was a ezhava having granded many titles and positions from samudiri.
    there is one place in the boarder area of calicut and malappuram.it is kottail.there is one family named karippara.other one is dharmoth.kottail was the samudiris most trusted family.there is one fort and palace there.it is the place where kadalundi river joins the sea.its a tactically important place.a navel centre was there.when army moves to malappuram area ,it usually starts from here and the supply will be through here.eralppad or next succeor of samudiri usually stays here.the police and military resposiblities were entrusted to this family.the guard head of the fort was from these two families.even the body guard brigad was headed by them.they had there own temple and lot of special privilages were given to them in the devi temple in kottail,considered the guardian of the samudiri family and the place.the privilages are still now.but as the income of the temple is very less nowadays that ,no one goes to receive it.


    please also note that chaver pada is not a nair army.it could never be.it was a offensive group formed amoung the army ,to fight against the chola rule.

    u all may have read th book marthanda varma.in it a hero like character is there.it is ananda padmanabhan valia padathalavan.in the novel he is made a nair ,son of thiru mukattu pilla.but actually he is a historical figure.he was not a nair,he was from a channar family.he was the marthanda varmas very trusted person,was his body guard,his army chief and his closest friend.history books usually try to conceal him.only reference of him will like this---after the death of army cheif ananda padmanabhan,aiyyappan (pillai or nair )was made cheif.---.ananda padmanabhan was treacherously killed.his tomb is till in kanya kumari district.he was actually the strength and brain of modern travancore.without him marthanda varma would have been killed pillamar in his twenties. also mankoikkal family which is refered in the novel also existed.they too is a channar family.never and not a nair or kuprupp family.this two families exists in kanyakumari district.


    also numerous reference about thiyya pad is there in history during 1600's,1700's.also the army of kayamkulam and chembassery was consisted of people from all groups of society with christians,muslims etc.In Kayamkulam king's army, ezhavas played a big role. Pada vettum Pathee natha Panicker, his army chief was from Varanappallil.also the army cheifs of purakkador ambalapuzha and thekkumkoor were from ezhava familes.

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  3. also in kerala ,there were pulaya and paraya kings ,even adivasi kings.they all were proud to tell that.also there were some nair ruling families but even though now they were genereally considered as part of nair community,they never consider them as nairs earlier but stick to some other name . marthanda varmas army which defeated ettuveetil pillmar in one battle consists mainly of parayas.

    the word nair itself is very recent.actually the portugese were the ones who popularised that word.that word is totally unknown during the sangam period ie upto 10th century.during the decline of chola period,kerala too tried and freed from their rule.chaver pada was a word from that period.it was a part of the kerala army formed during that period to defeat chola army.kollam was the centre of the... military operation.i could not find any caste reference during that period.a lady recently said in an interview that even the military operation tactics were formulated by the brahmins.that is an utter nonsense.no such clues we got.its during the 12 th century or between 1150 to 1190.again for some 100 or so years after that social situation does't change.then we see numerous princely states forming .then comes the malik kafurs attack to south india.it did't reach kerala but almost to madura.after he gone one kerala king - tranvacore king doing some military campaign taking advantage of the chaos there.we have some reference about that king.we could not find links that caste system was very strong that period in his country.but in the cochin area brahmins were having greater influence in rule during that period.and in the northern region in kannur area too (from malappuram maybe) we see no influence of caste,samudiri rule has not established during that period.one thing also to remember.travancore king have deep relations with kannur ,but not with any other kingly families.

    earliest sasnan we got is thareesa palli cheppedu.it is in 11th century.next sasana we got is some 150 years back.all these are in tamil.taresa palli cheppedu is a proclaimation that some priviliges were granted to joseph reban a jew.given by ayyanadikal thiruvadikal.(look its not actually a name but prefixes used for a high positioned person.ayya means father or sometimes guru,adikal ,thiru all are used to present respect.)it says 5 familes of ezhavas ,given special privilages for bringing their goods to a particular market ,display there and sell it,without interference from officals,ie checking,measuring and collecting tax.pulays were mentioned as kings body gurads ,parayas as kings akampadikkar.no mention about nair(actually never it can be)mathil nayakan is mentioned.ie fort security cheif or city security cheif.the word used for it in later centuries was kottuwal ,same word adopted from hindi ,used during the sultanate rule in delhi.mathil is fort,still used in tamil.mathil nayakan was the word used in tamil region,and even in some parts of karnataka.but astonishingly and treacheously,some historians had tried to say that its a earlier form of nair.its utter stupidiy.nowhere other in kerala ,word nayakan converted to nair.actually it cannot be.all these nairs to be nayakan and whose nayakan??????????

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  4. marthandavarma trusted ezhava soilders.its wrong that he as a whole mis trusted nairs.actually all pillais were not nairs.it was not a caste name but a title position granded by king.its like a lord or prabhu.bhrahimin,muslims and christian pillais were also given pillai position.in north i think its likely that entire army of kolathiri and majority of zamorins was thiyyas.there is no nair pada mentioned in the records of these kings.actually the word nair and nair pada was repeatedly used by portugese.due to many reasons our earlier historians studied and may be only read there writings ,records,letters etc.so the wide spread concept of nair pada imprinted in the minds of us.to be frank i never came across a firm evidenace of nair pada ever existed.only one was a battalion in madras regiment.and remember it was one of the first units disbanded or renamed just after independance.by then it was not actually a nair pada as many non nairs were in it.



    Varanappallil Panickers were army chiefs of Kayamkulam King. Lokanatha Panicker and Patheenatha Panicker were famous among them. After Kayamkulam King's defeat before Travancore army in 1746, the King absconded and Patheenatha Panicker killed himself with a sword in such a way that his body was cut into 3 pieces and head was lying on the south side of Thurayil Tharawad. A small temple was constructed in his memory at that spot on the south side of Thurayil Tharawad, which is still there.


    The ancient Kalari at Cheerappanchira of old Karappuram or current Cherthala in Alapuzha district lying on the western banks of lake Vembanad to the west of Kumarakom and Pathiramanal island is renowned for its legendary warriors and inclusive martial arts masters who even got the prestigious privilege of teaching their life saving arts to the mythical Ayyappan of Pandalam dynasty now enshrined in Sabarimala according to folklore and popular belief. It is interesting to note that Ayyappan also known as Dharma Sastha (a synonym of the Buddha) is also associated with the Buddhist past of south India.It is evident that the family heads called the Panickers of Cheerappanchira household traditionally practiced Kalari and were chiefs in the army of Karappuram kings from the early middle ages onwards. It could be well assumed that their inheritance of letters, health care and martial arts is a lasting legacy of the shared Buddhist and Sramana heritage of Avarnas in Kerala who were treated as untouchables and out castes under the hegemony of Brahmanic Hinduism later as rebellious and resisting marginal people who never submitted to Brahmanism and refused to offer martial and sexual slavery to the ”twice born lords of the land” who could easily lure and convert kings and queens and some of the power hungry opportunistic sections who instantly served them to establish the regime of caste and untouchability.

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  5. Changampally Kalari in Thirunavaya in Malapuram district is associated with Mamankam, the martial carnival that settled the succession disputes in ancient Kerala once in every 12 years.the Changampally household was appointed in charge of the Kalari here by the Zamorin of Calicut in the middle ages according to local legends. The family has converted to Islam in the 18thcentury during the Mysore occupation. When I visited the Kalari in early February 2012, Mr Jaffar Gurukal who is running an Ayurvedic centre near the ancient Kalari told me that before conversion they were Tulu Brahmans. This could be an elitist assimilation or fabrication done later under the hegemony of Brahmanical values; as Tulu Brahmans are never identified as traditionally having martial Kalari practice or institutions in Tulunadu or down south. Almost all Kalari households in Tulunadu and Malabar belonged to Sudra and Avarna communities.The Changam and Pally words in their house name are marked key words associated with Buddhism. Changam or Chingam represent Chamana or Amana or Sramana culture as in Chinga Vanam or Changanassery (place names in Kottayam district). As Sramana culture is inseparable from the month of Chingam and the great secular egalitarian festival of Onam in Kerala, the words Changam/Chingam and Pally/Pilly are also inextricably linked to the Buddhist past of Kerala


    Canter Visscher, writing about the Rajah of Ambalapuzha ...in the middle of the eighteenth century, observes that " the Rajah of Porkkad has not many Nayars, in the place of whom he is served by Chegos," and that " in times of civil war or rebellion, the Chegos are bound to take up arms for their lawful sovereign." The Panikkans of Ambanat house in the Ambalapuzha taluk were the leaders of the Izhava force, and many powers and privileges were conferred upon this family by the Chembakasseri (Ambalapuzha) princes.


    the naval commander during velu thampi's time was and is a great warrior and brave personalites of kerala.he was the one who made the plan to attack manrove thuruth.after the defeat of velu thampi ,the commander was taken prisoner and brought before manrove.manrove himself conducted the trial at sankumukkam beach.the prisoner was brought before him and was burried upto neck.the british cheif sat before him in a chair.he asked the prisoner "did u fought agianst british" answer was yes.again "did u killed british men" the middle aged naval commander replied "yes i have killed british men.if possible i shall do it again.they are the invaders."monrove was suprised to hear this reply.he did't expected such a reply.he understood the spirit and braveness of the commander ,understood he fought for his mother country and for freedom.so he pardoned the commander and released him.he eventually went back to his house.

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    Replies
    1. saint sri chatampi swamikal during the first half of 20th century wrote a book named prachena malayalam.in that he claims that he had found some reference in tamil books about nair caste orgin.but that books were not mentioned by him.he goes at length claiming that nairs were desecenders of snake worshipers or naga aradhars lived in kerala long ago.he also argued that these people were called nagas because of their method of worshiping snakes.the main claim of the book is that nairs were there in kerala from time immorial and from the date on which earth was formed and that the nairs were the only authorised owners of kerala or kerala belongs to nairs.its so sad thing that a person who was revered as an acomplished saint could't even rise from the caste thoughts accumulated in him from his childhood.

      but snake worshiping exists in many parts of india and tamilnadu.the people who do this does have relation to nairs nor do they belong to same caste status.many adivasis and aborgins worship snakes ,so do many other people in india.it have no relation a particular caste.moreover snake worship in kerala have some unique features.rituals ,songs,other performance arts associated with this worship was done some particular caste called pulluvar and not nairs.in any part of the worships of snakes at temples or outside nairs had (and have) no role.in some temples bhrahmins do the worship other rituals being done by other castes such as pulluvars,velans ,parayas etc.but this book had great influence and many persons tried hard to put forward a false theory, that nagas ruled india and the nagas of nagaland are related nairs.but nagas of nagaland are people or mangol orgin came there and settled during the 16th century after the fall of mongol empire in china.they dont even have snake worshiping culture. the reality is that there is no race called nagas who had their mainly worshipers of snake.snake worship has many explainations and is a common feature which can be seen in different parts of india.the snake worship is not every where done with same intention or meaning.in kerala it is related rahu and ketu two imaginary planets included in the hindu solar system.it said that rahu eats moon and when it happens solar eclipse occur.to avoid the evil effects of rahu people in kerala perform snake worship.only out of fear and to eliminate bad or difficult experiences in life that people do snake worship and because of any love and respect to snakes.

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    2. pls.this navy commander was an arayan called CHEMBIL ARAYAN not an ezhava

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  6. that book stired confidence in nairs and helped to feel pride.the reasons are many.nairs were called as malayala sudras or the most downward caste in the varna system ,by the bhrahmins of kerala .ealier it was like a pride for the nairs as they were considered in side the varna system and some what part of hindus as they were allowed to enter the temple eventhough with some restrictions.these restriction include denial of ringing bell which was considered sacred,were never allowed to touch or come near the priest,nor were allowed to touch the offerings ,not allowed to enter the place were cooking of dishes meant for offerings.they were also had to move away when the priest come with things for worship.still it was considered as good as many other castes who forms now the majority of hindu religion now were not allowed even to enter the temple.also the bhrahims considered nairs as their servents who were obliged work for them sometimes even without wages.anything given to them were mere the great kindness of the bhrahmins.nair womens were the main maid servents doing house hold works in bhrahmin familes.the nair women were also had to submit to bhrahmins for sex if he desired so.if a bhrahmin comes to a nair house ,he can mate with any women he desires.it was the custom and considered as sacred and blessing.nairs also practiced polygamy ie having more number of husbands(i dont know the correct word in english .the word used popularly with somewhat nicely is sumbandakar meaning men in relation).anyone from bhrahims to nairs can have relation with a nair woman if he desires so.even an order of proclaimation from a travancore king declairing that those nair women who does not submit to wishes (sextual) of men from bharahmins to nairs shall be considered leading an unholy life which is punishable.it is difficult for a nair lady to live alone or with her lover or single husband.if an influencial person desires ,there is nothing she can do.out of the childrens born ladies will get more importance as the children of that girls shall be the next rightful heir of the family.this was because with this system no nair man can declaire strongly that he is the father of a kid for the kids mother had many men mating with her.but the mother of a kid can be identified much more easily as she delivers a kid which have witnesses and there by proof .because of this practise ,which was practiced mainly by nairs,the childrens doesnot know who their father was.it was not a problem till the 20th century.but after that due to reform movements and spread of education this custome began considering to be a shame to them.many great reformers fought against this system .this system does not exists now and is even unlawful.

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  7. the customs ,practices and even the houses were built according to these needs.those who were wealthy were able to built bigger houses.these big houses built by the nairs have some specialty.the steps leading to the second floor starts right from the veranda.this was to help those visitors or sambandakars.they dont have to enter the house ,they can easily go to the second floor and enter their favourite woman's room.these type of houses can be seen still in many parts of kerala.the namboothiri houses too have some peculiarity.that part where homas are done doesnot have second floor that was to avoid filling of smoke into the second floor.nairs where the main servants of the namboothiri families without them it was difficult for the bhrahmins to maintain their houses.namoothiris called nairs valyakkar(servents),adiyars(slaved like servants) ,sudras(lowest in varna system) etc.this was also considered by the nairs as a great thing they have pride in telling others that they were the adiyars of that or this mana(house of naboothiri).

    further the customs followed by the namboothiri families were so ridiculus and now it seems unbelivable and nowadays they too feel shame to tell all that.but it is the true past and nothing to gain from concealing and covering it.reformation movements which started in india has changed the most degraded society of india and also it has helped to better the lives of all ,also the indian independence too was the result of such movements.that all movements helped people to come together ,meet and discuss the problems in the society.open talking was the base thing for the progress.but there were practices of untouchability.if a bhrahmin touches a nair it was taught he gets poluted and have to do penance and bathing .there were others such as ezhavar,thiyyar,pulayas etc whom if the namboothiri come closer beyond some limit then the namboothiri had to bath before he enter his house or temple.these namboothiris were commonly the priests of the temples belonging to the ruling family and other savarnas.there were worshiping systems and places for the ezhavars and thiyyas ,it was some sort of small temples ,but there all the poojas and worships were conducted by the persons from amoung them.pulayar and parayar were also had some form of worshiping .their main worshipping figure was goddess nowadays considered as kali(kali was a common name amoung them from very early period).they too perfomed poojas themselves.it may be interesting to point out here that kali was the cheif goddess worshipped by the warriors of india.eventhough pulayar and parayar were considered to the most downward caste earlier,actually they had a golden past.the words pulayar and parayar were in use in early times of sangam age when these were the names associated people who were the main men nearer to the then kings.sangam literature depicts of pictures of possessions of kings accompanied by pulayar and parayar.also modern researches shows that many places in kerala had kingsor rulers belonging to this caste.even today in second decade of 21st century they are the ones who raise the pride of kerala by winning medals in athletics and other strenious sports.

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  8. The savarnas( the term was mainly used by namboothiris to denote themselves earlier) were much interested in creating castes and new subcastes.this created a lot of subcastes amoung the so called upperclass.bhrahmins of kerala was also divided by different subcastes.the top most is the wealthy namboothiris called as addyians and poor was called aasiyans. As found every where poor did't got much respect and their situation did't improved much. They were given jobs to assist wealthy namboothiris as servants.in the 20th century there were many namoothiri hotels which served food for money.but at first they were mainly intented for the bhrahmins,some permitted upto nairs but for them seperated place and plates were used.but avarnas were not served there.at that time all the workers in these hotels were namboothiri. Later it these namboothiri hotels meant reduced to the hotel name ,that means the workers were taken from all castes even from other religion too. All were allowed to dine there.

    Even with highest social status the customs of bhrahmins of kerala was too pathetic. Only the first son of the family was allowed to marry.other sons have no right to marry.but they can mate with any women upto nairs. Not all but some kshatriya families of kerala were ready to allow their ladies to enter in relation with these namboothiris . the most infamous amoung these family was the cochin rulers or thrippunithura kovilakam.these practice created a lot of branches headed with seperated women. The namoothiris which entered in relation with these royal families were like in service or like given job.they were treated well money was given to them and to their familes. Ofcourse these money came from the state treasury and to the treasury from the working people.the income generating people were the farmers , traders and few industrialists.they made the majority of kerala population and consists mainly of so called avarnas which included ezhavar,pulayar and others.but they were not given recognition and rights. Ezhavars which forms the largest community of kerala is belived to be the Buddhist followers earlier.learning institutes were maintained by them which offered studying sanskrit and tamil languages. Medical treatment was one of their main occupation.anyone who is brilliant enough to learn sanskrit and medicine was allowed to learn in these institutes and can become a doctor. They were revered by the royal families and the namboothiris even during the period of untouchabilities. But the rules for untouchability was always relaxed when question of survival and workability comes.numerous stories and court case records shows these practices. Trade and factories were mainly run by the members belonged to this caste.

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  9. the ambalavasi caste in kerala is that caste consists of people who were living doing jobs related to temples.this caste consists numerous subcastes.they doesn't were the owners or authorities of the temples but were doing the jobs such as cleaning,sweeping,singing,using drums and other instruments etc.they were not allowed to do the poojas which was done mainly by the bhrahmins.the bhrahmins many times were the authorities of these temples and they were the people who handle the income to the temple.at that time the temple income was mainly from the state treasury,given by the kings.this helped the owners or namboothiris to live well without necessary for doing any useful work.those persons living with jobs related to temples or ambalavasis were actually were dependentant on bharhmins as they can be denied job at any stage by these bhrahmins.so naturally they tried to keep the bhrahmins satisfied.they too practised the sambandam or were ready to entertain namboothiris with their women lot.bhrahmins entered into sambandan or a concubineship with these familes.it was not considered or accepted as marriage by the bhrahmin comunity.still the ambalavasis prefered to get a bhrahmin relation for their woman. this was way they have found to keep their job secure and income intact.so they prefer to have bhrahmin relative.if the namboothiri was a learned man and have income it was an added advantage for them.but generally if not all ,the members of ambalavasi castes are very poor and lagged behind in kerala.this was not because of any social backwardness but because of their way living superstitions.many tend to pursue their traditional occupation which have less income.their reluctance to modern education was also another reason.still they are not too poor to live as they can live by finding job and food from the temples even now.

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  10. it should also be noted that the sambandam by namboothiris with kshathriyas and ambalavasis were different than with the nairs.the bhrahmins used to live in the houses of these kshathriyas and ambalavasi familes with whom they have started sambandam.usually the ladies doesnot have other males in relation to her.that is kshtriyas and ambalavasis used to make sambandam with only one namboothiri at a time if not for the life time.it was like a marriage as the man and lady live together in the same house just like husband and wife.even though the namboothiris doesnot consider this as a marriage and children born in this relation had no right on the father and also on the property and wealth he ever possessed.this was not the case with the nairs.not only namboothirs but anyone from bhrahmin to nairs can have relations with any nair women.she can have any number of males as she desires at the same time.these men does not stay at these nair houses nor they drink water or take food from these houses as it was considered an act punishable with bhrasht under social laws.the namoothiris or bhrahmins doesnot enter in relation or mate with a nair lady if she is a virgin.its said that they were not ready to pull a lady to prostitution as it was a sin which would fall on them.so the nairs practiced a custom or ritual just after a lady attains puberty or mensuration.a ceremony was conducted in which the girl was declaired to attain womanhood.then her mother invites a man from a sub caste of nairs who would mate with lady accepting presence or money.this subcaste does't exists now.but they were held in high esteem till the end of 19th century.they would only accept the invitation only when satisfied by the money and presents given to them.in some places a ritual marriage was also arranged which would last only for few days.when this phase is over the family can invite namboothiris and others to enter sambandam with the girl.the namboothirs and others were now come to have relation with her.these men come only at night and if there is no one he can sleep with the woman he choosed.but he would not stay there after the sun rise and never take food or drink even water.it may sound unbelivable now but it was the social custome practiced by the nairs till 20th century.it seized to exists only with the modern education and social reform movements.after independance this practise was declaired unlawful by framing new laws.

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  11. but why the caste name nair got so famous and became known to all keralites despite kerala was divided in different countries ruled by many kings.why was the caste name nair be selected and claimed as all same from kshtriyas to bottom most caste of savarnas as nair.its one of the classic examples which shows how the mind set of people can be changed with education which was far distanced or have no corelation to the actual facts.it has been shown earlier that the word nair itself was not considered as a good word and it contained a bad meaning attached to it and how untiringly many have tried to give new meaning to it.the word was not mentioned in any official records such as stone inscriptions,land records ,orders from the king etc.one other reason for this may be it denoted a very small subcaste mainly employed as house hold servents.even no good literature in the medivial kerala used that word.but there were some reference to this caste indirectly in some literatures such as chambu set of literature which uses a mixture language of malayalam and sanskrit ,which was more popular amoung the bhrahmins of kerala.but from the second quarter of 19th century this word nair became popular slowly.this was because of the modern english education.some how when portughese came to kerala they some how got the idea that the soldiers of kerala were all nairs.may be they called the soldiers as nairs.in the books and writings they wrote they used the word nair to denote the soldiers of kerala.they being came from a thick and last era of fedualism,where class division of society was strong ,they were easy pray to the misunderstanding that nairs where the soldiers or nairs alone where the soldiers of kerala.this misconcept was passed on to others and was continued by other europeans such as detch ,english and french.these other later europeans learned about kerala from the writings of portughese.they too absorbed the prejudice that nairs were all soldiers or the kerala soldiers were all nairs.this passed unchecked so mcuh that in almost all the writings the word nair was used to denote the army of kerala.when the english education was introduced in kerala in the second decade of 19th century ,this same misconcept was later taught to the kerala children in schools and thus the misconcept and prejudices were taught to the actual people itself.and above all even today many learned persons and even historians thinks that nairs are the only soldiers of kerala.But in reality many nairs were not soldiers or have nothing to do with warfare.

    it have been shown earlier that the army commander of marthanda varma was anantha pathmanabhan who was a channan or nadar and not a nair.he was also the commander of the personal body guard battalion of the king.it consists of 36 warriors selected by the king personnaly.they were all channars.in many victorious battles conducted by marthanda varma the commander was ramayyan who was not a nair.his caste is not known clearly.he was born in tamilnadu and came into the serice of the travancore king at a very young age.for many years he was considered as a bhrahmin,but some have pointed out that he belonged to the maravar community of tamilnadu.what it is clear is that he is not a nair .kanakku ,pillai,chempaka raman etc were given as titles to the courters or to those who were in service or to those who have done service to the king. it was not given on community basis nor to a particular caste.it cant be competetant persons are to be taken to service and it cannot be found from a particular caste,not always from upper caste .

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    1. Two versions were there. The first one:Nair community originated from Nagas,who still worship Nagas(Serpants) in Nagaland. Secondly Newars the very name mentioned only worriers. Nairs and their "Serpakkavus", Nagas and their ancient worship proves second version was right. "Nair pata" (Army) was in erstwhile Travancore state.Nair caste never come in Sudra category, they were real "Kshtriyas". Namboothiri hegemony in olden days put Nairs under "Sudra" category.

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    2. This is with regard to your post above which mentions the Nankakoikkal family.
      I am a member of the family and I would like to bring to your notice that we have heard the stories from our ancestos who are still living and we definitely do not belong th the channar caste as you have mentioned.
      Please do not post irrelevant facts without knowing them.

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    3. Its a comedy to hear that nairs are Kshtriyas. Nairs are servants to Namboothiris. By serving namboothiris they got good nos of peanuts. They are the real SHOODHRAS.

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  12. in kerala the largest about one third population is ezhavars another caste.many ezhavars were in military service in olden days.not only they were soilders but also were commanders and officers in the armies.varnapalli family was the army chiefs and ministers of kayamkulam kingdom, so was ambanattu panikkar in service of ambalapuzha kingdom,ambantttu family of kollam was another ezhava family in service of kollam or desinganadu principality.Akathayyadi panicker was the cheif army commander of elaidatthu soroopam or kottarakkara kingdom.(Ref: Pathonmpatham noottandile keralam by Bhaskaranunni),Renakeerthy and dharmakeerthi chekavars - Commandor of Marthandavarma. (Ref: Travancore state manual.).ezhavars were largely in the service of cochin kingdom ,sankthan thampuran specialy appointed a ezhava military betallion in the guard of vadakkum nathan temple , commanded by a ezhava officer.in malabar area ezhavar were largely addressed by the name thiyyar and chekavar.chevam means military service in malayalam.those who were soldiers were known as chekavar.as thiyyars were so much in military service that ,it became another caste name of ezhavars.the word chaver pada or suicidal squad was actually derived from the word chekavar.whether it actually existed a question still not answered.

    in modern age too majority of the martial arts school of kalarippayattu or kalaris are run by ezhava caste.all the ancient kalaries still existed are owned and run by them.in trivandrum where southern style is more popular its run by another caste ,nadars.nairs are not much in the kalari training or teaching.but the famous cvn kalari was started by c v narayan nair was a nair.but his teacher was a thiyya guru.kannur is famous for gymnastics and circus.the circus companies of kerala were founded and owned by thiyyas.it was because they had the practise of learinging kalarippayattu which gives very importance to acrobatics again due to the martial history of that community.keeleri kuzhikannan was the first to start circus company in india.

    it is also a common misconcept that bhrahmins were the sole keepers of sanskrit language.but actually many books in sanskrit was written by bhuddhist and jains.in kerala during mediveal period sanskrit was actually taught by medical practitioners ,astrologers etc.these schools were mainly run by buddhist familes or ezhava familes.until the 20th century majority of these schools were run by them also it should be noted that many other castes were also used to run such schools.ayurvedic phisicians were ezhava and nadar familes ,also it was practised by some bhrahmin families and other castes which are now in obc list.

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  13. Karala vellala are settled at Milalaikurram.Milalaikurram is the seperate small country.The name of country is The name of country is Thirumilalainadu.The name of God is Thirumilalainatiswaran in Agastiswara temple.It is the principal temple of Milalaikurram.
    Maveli appears as the vellala chief of Milalaikurram.Who was very wealthy and generous.The gates of the mansion were never closed.He died wounds received in battle fighting aginst Pandya king Neduncheliyan( puram 233).Which was considered 1800 years ago.

    After the war karala vellalar from important towns like Karaiyur,Karamangalam,Virachalai,Arimalam,Thirumayam,Pudupattai,Valaramanicam,Kurungalur,Irumbanadu,etc,are micrated to Chera country,and settled here.
    Onam folk song say
    When Maveli, our king rules the land,
    Finally conclude that the karala vellala are the important peoples in Kerala.

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  14. Dear Saradamma - I am a US-based author and would like to quote a couple of sentences from your article. Are you the original author? Thank you.

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  15. Has anyone got a clue to shed light on the Nair Kalaries run by Panickers at Pallippuram, Chertala. They, it is said, had trained militias to meet the requirements of the Kings of Kochi, who oftentimes clashed with the forces of Travancore.

    What is heard is there were number of such Military Academies run by Nair families of Pallippuram.

    Any clues?

    Vaikom Madhu

    94470 56714

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  16. I am from trichur.i am going to my husbands home at kottayam after my delivery.we belong to nair community.can anyone tell me the customs performef in kottayam side for this function

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  17. Great job Saradamma to elaborate the history of Nairs (the warrior / martial caste) of Kerala.

    It was a delight to read a few quotes on Nairs, I am rushing to pick the books which has these references.

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  18. This is with regard to Mr.Suresh kumar's post above which mentions the Nankakoikkal family.(wrongly spelled mankakoikkal)
    I am a member of the family and I would like to bring to your notice that we have heard the stories from our ancestors who are still living and we definitely do not belong the channar caste as you have mentioned. We are a well known Nair family in Kanyakumari district. Kindly correct this and
    please do not post irrelevant facts without knowing them.

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  19. but can anybodu shed some light on the lower sub castes ,like valuthedat,vilakkathlavun etc?

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  20. I recently saw a phenomenon, even some of you might have noticed it, the Wikipedia page of Nairs, which was rich in nair history and information, seems to have been completely desecrated and instead the page has been populated with irrelevant and disparaging information about Nair Cast, from quotes and books which does not have any historic or factual propriety and are false to large extend. It is clear that, people with ulterior motives, with spite in their mind, has played with the facts, so that the world will have a completely negative and wrong picture of Nair Cast. And it is so cunningly done that even the evildoers have locked the article, so that changes cannot be made. Each of you, who consider yourself to be a true Nair should, ponder on this fact, that being a Nair is a matter of pride and we hold our heads high when we say we are a Nair. All over India Nairs have enjoyed prestige and prominence, due to a single fact that they belong to this unique cast of warriors, we died for their family honor and their warrior lords. There is no other martial race in history which has this close resemblance to the Samurai of Japan. Both lived the life of a warrior, both were renowned for their integrity, fearlessness, honor and fighting skills. And we should not forget that it was the Nairs who were instrumental in welcoming the social change in Kerala, without their participation the so called social transformation and land reforms act would have been a non starter. But it is very unfortunate that, now there is a silent hate-wave which is spreading its ugly hood which has a stark resemblance to Nazi deviance against the hugely successful Jewish population. Nazis started it as a silent hate campaign, first falsifying the Jewish history, then projecting the Jews in a bad light and later gettoization and lastly the great purge………..Auschwitz. All this was done by the Nazis to masquerade their own low self esteem and defects. Nairs, please stand up to your name, because that is the only thing that is left with you, as they took away your temples, ancestral lands, your totem serpent shrines, your titles and everything dear to you, and you honorably relinquished these material things and migrated to faraway place, but don’t relinquish your honor.

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  21. great work by the author on putting the actual facts

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