The Nayars Today

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CUP Archive, Dec 30, 1976 - Social Science - 173 pages
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The Nayars of Kerala, south-west India, unusually trace descent through the female line and, in the past, had a marriage system in which women were allowed several husbands simultaneously. This system has brought the Nayars continuing fame in anthropological circles. In this 1976 study, Dr Fuller analyses fieldwork data collected among Nayars in a village in southern Kerala, a region on which there is practically no modern anthropological information. In the final section of the book, Dr Fuller looks at the 'traditional' marriage system of the Nayars and offers some suggestions about its operation. He also discusses the collapse of the old joint-family system and, with the aid of his data from southern Kerala, proposes some arguments about the process of its disintegration. More fully than previous authors, he situates his analysis in its historical context throughout, as befits an account of a rapidly changing society.
  

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The Europeans when they arrived at 1498 found Nayars and their Matriarchal Kingdoms.This led them to believe that Nairs are indigenous to Kerala. Kerala had been subjugated by Nepalese tribes men after the fall of Pandyan dynasty which ruled Kerala until 1310 after the fall the Villavar Chera dynasty at 1102. Nairs are not ethnically related to the Villavar Tamil rulers (Villavar Vanavar Malayar Nadalvar Maran Vanathirayars) of Kerala and Tamil Nadu ie Chera Pandyan and Chola Kings. Nairs are more related to the Bunts of Tulunadu and they are Northern migrants from Ahichatra in Uttarkhand and Nepal as mentioned in Keralolpathi and Tulunadu Grama Paddathi. Nairs never used Tamil but used the Tigalari Script a form of Tulu script to write. Various Tulu tribes subcastes of Bunt community of Karnataka such as Nayara Menava Kuruba and Samanta appeared in Kerala only after the Malik Kafur invasion in 1310 AD. Chera inscriptions mentions Tamils such as Villavar and Vellala but rarely Nairs. The Ahichatram Brahmins such as Nambudiris and Tulu brahmins appeared in Kerala in the 8th century after the subjugation of Kerala by Chalukyas of Karnataka. First ever mention of a Nair in Kerala is in the 10th century AD at Thrikodithanam inscription which mentions a Thencheril Chennan Nayar a temple drummer. The custom of bringing Nagas as hereditary slave warriors from Uttarkhand and Nepal was started by Kadamba king Mayura Varma in 345 AD. They were called Banta or Bantaru (meaning bonded). Bunts of Karnataka and Nairs might have the common origin from Ahichatra in Uttarkhand. Sangham Literature of Kerala mentions the Vaduga (Vada+Naga Northern Nagas) as their arch enemies. Karnatakas Kadamba Chalukya Rashtrakutas and Alupas kings of Tulunadu used the Bunt/Nair soldiers to fight the Tamil Villavar kingdoms. Rajaditya Chola in 975 ad was killed by a Banta.The Tulu Kings allied with Arabs to end the Later Chera dynasty of Tamils as mentioned in Keralolpathy.Keralolpathy mentions the invasion of a Tulu prince who was brother of Tulu king Kavisingharachan (Kavi Alupendra 1100-1130 ad) who invaded Kerala under a large Nair army (350000 strong) led by Padamala Nair. This Tulu prince and his predecessor who was called Kulasekhara ended the Tamil Villavar Chera dynasty in 1102. Kulasekhara ruled for 18 years while his Tulu Cheraman Perumal who had his capital at Valarpattinam near Kannur was repulsed and was forced to board an Arab ship. (1102-1158). The overlordship of Kerala was with the Pandyan dynasty while the Chera rulers shifted to Kollam (1102) and then to Cheranmadevi, Kalakkad and Kallidaikurich where they had capitals(1310).The Tulu Bunt/Nairs appear again as rulers only after the inasion by Malik Kafur in 1310 as allies. In the 16th century the Portuguese used Nair soldiers (called Nairos by Portuguese) to protect their forts from outside. Portuguese mixture with the local Keralites produced a community of mixed Portuguese and Keralaites called Mestizos or Mesticos. The Mestizos guarded the Portuguese forts from inside while Nairs from outside as mentioned in the dutch chronicles of VOC. Kerala was at the grip of primitive Tulu-Nepalese tribes men at the 16th century. Cochin king wore only a loin cloth as well as the Nayar soldiers. Unlike the sophisticated Villavar Chera kingdom the laterday Tulu-Nepalese kingdoms lacked literature or rich culture. The opportunistic Europian colonisers sided with oppressive regime of Samantas which had been a mere extension of indirect Delhi rule. Matriarchy or Polyandry was never practised in Kerala prior to fourteenth century (Friar Jordanus first mentioned it in 1324). Most ethnic Dravidian Villavars cherished Chastity and Monogamy. The European support preserved an alien oppressive rule for more than 450 years.The Christian Mestizo culture produced by the mixture of Medival Tamils with Portuguese/Dutcha and Syrian Persian people never existed prior to 1310. Christianity was not a known religeon for the ancient or medival Tamils . Mestizo and Nairos were allies of Europeans. 

Contents

Introduction to the Nayars in Central Travancore
17
The Nayar Kinship System in Ramankara
51
The Nayar Marriage System in Ramankara
73
The Traditional Nayar Marriage System
99
The Disintegration of the Matrilineal Jointfamily System
123
Notes
151
Index
172
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About the author (1976)

Fuller is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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