Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"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 Dominance280 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 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 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 "...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 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 GazetteerJames 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.

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