Tribal Peoples in Kerala


Naiirs are said to be a Dravidian community who were the military gentry of the land. The most influential territorial unit in the Dravidian set up of administration was a tara which means a ground, a village or a quarter. Nayars include many caste division such as barbers (Velakkittala), washer men (Veluttetattu), oil mongers (Chakkala) temple dependants (Marars), Kiriyam is said to be the highest class.

Next is Illakkar who served the Illam or the homes of the Nambootiri Brahmins and then Swapuram who served the Kshatriyas. Nayars were treated as the gentry whose main work was to protect the land both in offence and defence. So they were treated as Kshatriyas. They provide a well-knit national militia for the whole land. This was the famous Kalari system. Kalari was the institution which had kept up the martial spirit of the Nayars. Every organisation and the system of inheritance of Nayars were based on 'Marumakkattayam', a system of matrilineal descent. Ezhavas too followed this system. Women enjoyed social freedom and they were married outside their own community, mostly among Brahmin Nambootiris.

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