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Thiyya’s of Malabar

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Exploring their origins

This was a particularly difficult topic for me and the only information I had to look at was a number of legends narrated by historians and reinterpreted by many more people along the way. I will not venture to titrate any amount of fact from it, for I realized early on that it is quite impossible. Confounding the issue was the fact that two castes Tiyya and Ezhava merged during the early part of this century or sometime in the last, under one classification called Ezahava. The Tiyyas of Malabar don’t seem to like it one bit and have been somewhat vociferous about that aspect. Further analysis and discussions resulted in theories of migrations from far flung origins like Polynesia, Kyrgyzstan and Crete as against the more established nearer locale Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka). Some others countered by saying, well is not everybody from somewhere if you go all the way back? Medieval historians were somewhat unanimous about Lanka, but the Tiyyas themselves do not agree, as yet.

Looking at it from afar, our ancestors were perhaps originating from Africa, later possibly from up North, but yes, everybody came from somewhere, sometime. Sudden furor over reports made by somebody that they share DNA tracers with Central Asian people does not have to create any amount of surprise. Similar theories exist over Nairs originating from various parts of India, Middle Eastern, Scythian or other Northerly parts, we have Cochin Jews originating from today’s Jerusalem or thereabouts, The Nestorian Christians from Persian Syria and so on..And so, man is forever in search of his roots, some like A Haley even writing voluminous and eminently readable works of fiction about it. The discussions will go on and research will intensify as to why somebody left their zone of comfort and moved many miles to create yet another, while others will wonder why some other unfortunate types of displaced people like the Kurdish or the Romany’s never manage to settle down and find a home. I guess that is life, but let us get back to the topic at hand and try to first of all consolidate what I read.

It is important to establish first the earliest mentions of differences between Tiyyas and Ezhavas and Anthropologist LAK Iyer states the following about their classification and origins. In North Malabar as far as Calicut, they are known as Tiyyas; in South Malabar, Izhava or Thandans in Cochin and Travancore- Chovas and Izhavas. They are closely allied to the Tamil speaking Shanars of the Tinnalvelly District, to the Billavas of South Canara and to the Halepaiks of North Canara. Owing to their change in occupation, they are in some places called Velans and Urali s.

So now we establish the geographical distribution and get a general understanding of the categories. But how did they arrive in Southern India? Iyer goes on to explain that Tiyyan came from the word Dwipan which signifies ‘from an island’. In the same vein he explains that Izahvan means from Izham, an old name for Ceylon. Also stated is that both Thiyyas and Ezhavas perhaps originated from the Shanars (which he says is refuted by both communities) and made coconut cultivation their occupation. Further explained is the fact that Covan perhaps meant Sevakan and that there were many Ezhava soldiers in the Travancore Raja’s army and that they were called Chova soldiers.

Now how did they get to these regions? More legends abound. The first is attributed to some old Tamil Puranic texts where a Buddhist King Illa or Izha of Ceylon went to Chidambaram with his priests for a religious discussions presided by the Saivite priest Manikavachakar. Convinced, Izha was converted to the Saivite faith. His descendants were the Izhavas.

Yet another legend states that Alli a Pandyan princes married Narasimha from Vijayanagr and ran away to Ceylon to become the Izha perumal. Their descendants came to South India and formed the Ezhava communities.

The Cherman Perumal story is an interesting one where a washerwoman claims the carpenter’s caste due to a pollution accident (has to do with a wash cloth and a girl – no time to narrate all that now), after which she is killed by the carpenter. The washer men complain to the perumal who castigates the carpenters. They get angry and leave enmasse to Ceylon. The perumal is stumped and pleads with the king of Ceylon for the return of some of the carpenters. The carpenters offer to go back if they are provided armed protection. Accordingly four chovans of soldiers are deputed with them. These four created the community after arrival in the southern Malabar regions.

Mackenzie manuscripts mention the fanciful story of the seven gandharva women who were desired by Shiva – their sons were Ezhavas.

Barbosa, Pyrard etc mentioned about this community or caste. Barbosa described the Tiyyas as people engaging in such various trades as tending the palm-groves, quarry men, agricultural labourers, and men-at-arms; in short those who, ‘earn their living by work of all kinds. Pyrard of Laval mentioned that Such people as the Tuias (Tiyyan), Manen (Mannan), Canaquas (Kaniyan), Ageres (Asari) and the like were regarded as the higher classes among these outcastes. Francis Buchanan refers to the Tiyyas as an industrious people engaging in various trades. He also mentions that they did not pretend to be of the Sudra caste, but were content with their lowly position as panchamas.

When did the Tiyyas come to Kerala, if they were indeed from an island? The clue is in the possible arrival of the coconut tree to Kerala as recounted by LAK Iyer writing about Mysore castes. The Periplus 1AD does not mention coconuts or its derivatives as an exportable item of Malabar. But coconut produce is mentioned in the Cosmas indicopleustes in 520-550 AD. It is also stated that in the copper plate grants that he Tiyyars were an organized guild of coconut plantation professional farmers.

And then there is the study by Sadasivan, where he is sure that the original aborigines of Kerala were the Ezhavas and Thiyyas who practiced Buddhism. That the Nambuthiris and Nairs came from somewhere and destroyed the balance and kicked the Buddhist aborigines to levels below them as the conquered usually are. He also mentions that it could be so that the aborginies who agreed to the Brahmin wishes became Nairs and the others were classified as a lower caste. Perhaps he has a point about the Buddhist origins and more research has to be done around it, though he does himself much disservice in the book by straying away from the topic and voicing his personal dissatisfaction about the upper classes and decrying the other two upper castes for pages at a stretch in his book on the social history of India.

So now we note that Shanars, Chovas and Izhavas perhaps had direct Lankan origins. How about the Thiyyas? Interestingly the Arabic ‘nu tiyya’ is sailor – nu or nau is boat. Were they sailors or islanders?

Krishna Iyer in his History of Kerala states that the Thiyyas reached N Malabar via the Laccadives which had much trade with the Chirakkal rajas. He states that the Shanars came to the Travancore regions from Lanka, whereas the lot that went to Laccadives from Ceylon, drifted to N Malabar to form the Tiyya community. Perhaps the Thandan of the caste was allowed to settle on certain conditions and continue with the trade and other occupations like agriculture, palm tree cultivation (eventually toddy tapping) etc.

According to LAK Iyer, the Thiyyas of Malabar are the offspring of the Chirakkal Mannanar Raja, who was the son of an excommunicated Nambuthiri lady or a lady from the Chirakkal royal family (question I had was, whom did she marry? A Chovan from Ezham? Is that how the linkage with islands came about?)

Let us take a second look at the Mannanars. I had written about them earlier, Mannan is the old Malayalam usage for king. A Chief of Tiyya caste that was given the title of Mannanar, took care of destitute Namboothiri women who were outcastes, by either making them wives or treating them as sisters. The Raja of Chirakkal even donated land to him for this purpose. But if the Tiyyas were offspring of local women and matrilineal then they would not have been called Dweep’ars, right?

K Krishanan Ret Sub Judge Tellicherry explained to LAK Iyer that the Thiyyas belonged to eight Illams and thirty two kiriyams and are also known as ettu illakkar. The eight illams are nellika, Pullani, vangeri, kozhikalan, patayanguti, managuti, thenanguti, velakanguti. The titles they carried are Chekavar (Soldiers) Kurups (priests), Panikkars (trainers – kalari), vauydyan, Jolsyan, Asan (teachers) and finally Thandan the headman. The Thandan position was purchasable, they were the headmen and wore a gold knife on their waist bands and had somewhat the same social level as Nairs. His deputy was called a Ponamben. They ruled by council having 31 or 61 elders deciding things. They were matriarchal and women did not marry south of Korapuzha (men could – signifying together with matriliny, a shortage of women in their fold). They considered the ezhavas of the south to have mixed blood and did not intermarry.

So we get to the husband of the outcaste Kolathiri (or Namboothiri) lady. Was he a Buddhist at nearby Dharmadom? Was he perhaps from Lanka or did he come from the Lakshdweep? He obviously became the first Mannanar or Tiyya Raja if we follow Iyer’s logic. Let me take up this line using inputs provided by my good friend Premnath. Around 6th or 7th century Buddhists had established a flourishing monastery in a secure Island, which later on came to be known as Dharmadom, the place of dharma, near the present-day Thallasserry. In This area and in North Malabar the beggars are still addressed as ‘Bhishakar” & “Dharamakar”, probably the Buddhist Monks daily routine of going around for alms must have let this imprint. The present day “Andalur Kavu” was supposed to be a Buddhist Monastery. Vestiges of this culture can still be seen when they conduct the Annual festivals!! The legend goes on to say that a Sinhalese king was overthrown by his brother and he with his retinue sailed to this Island and took sanctuary. When the news of the Sinhalese king’s arrival reached the ruler of the land [Chirakal Raja?] he sent his emissaries and made all arrangements for his comfortable stay across the river. There was a head village surrounded by smaller hamlets-“Thala” head and “Cheri” village later on became “Thalasseri”. The King later on in the story narrates got back his kingdom and returned to his country. Some in his retinue preferred to stay back. The Thiyyas are supposed to be the descendants of these people from “Tivu” [Island] – “TIVU ARS”=Thiyyar.

But let us dwell on the Mannanar for a little bit more time. A confusion creeps up when we find a mention that he came from the Varakat Illam which is not listed as a mannanar illam of Chirakkal. That does not allow us to tie up the loose ends. The Thiyyas of Varakat illam now established at Chirakkal, far from having any disability arising from untouchability, were permitted to enjoy all privileges of the higher castes and moved about in palanquins, carrying their swords and shields and could even ask the local Kurumattur Namboothiri for a girl from his family. That this Varakat illam is not from Chirakkal creates an issue with the Mannanar origin theory, because the main Namboothiri Illams were in S Malabar and the Varakat Tiyyas were also from South Malabar. Were the mannanars of Chirakkal just there to serve the purpose of providing the banished women (banished beyond valluvanad borders) asylum? If that were the case why did the Tiyyas of N Malabar refuse marriages from the South malabar beyond Korapuzha? Food for thought!

Interestingly in the earlier days, it is said that Tiyyas and cekons did not have untouchability with Nairs or Sudras, but Ezhavas had. Ezhava women address their Nair counterparts as ‘Thamburatti’ wheras the Tiyya or Cekon woman address Nair women as ' ammalakkan ' which denotes an amount of equality. This shows that they had different social standing from the ezhavas, perhaps explained by the mannanar story above.

But then came the next theory which brings them from Pacific Polynesia or Indonesia. In fact one of the early propounders of this theory was PK Goplakrishnan. According to him and many others like Sardar KM Panikkar, the Thiyyas (Thirayors) , Uzhavars, Chantors and Vollor were older than the Ezhavas. Thiyaas were originally thiraiyars according to some historians. The Thirayars were sea people originally settled in the Tirupati, Kanchi locales. The early colonizers of Indonesia, the ancient Pandiyan mariners and warriors, were called Thirayars (People of waves) (Thiyyars of Kerala, a variant) Dweeparu, Deevaru, Dheevara, Devaru etc meaning Island people. (Theevu or Dheevu = Island). Ilanthirayan, who came from waves, became a Chola king. Thirayars founded many countries including Indonesia and many South Asian countries. Thiraiyars returned when Indonesia was invaded by Chinese, to populate various communities of the Southern four states. Some of them drifted to Malabar for reasons unknown.

Very confusing is it not? Well it certainly is, and the same came be said about virtually everybody other than Africans. Everybody else looks different and came from?????. People perhaps want to be seen as adventurers who are here braving a long and risky trek, so farther the locale, the ‘cooler’ it is. But somebody will come up with a differing theory now and then. So while this article was an airing of many of those theories, it came up with no conclusion, though it covered distant regions of the globe.

While Thiyas were placed at a disadvantaged position in the social ladder of the medieval Kerala, they worked diligently as soldiers, farmers and by tending to the palms of Malabar. In the fold were also many astrologers, writers, physicians and Sanskrit scholars. With the arrival of the British, their fortunes changed and when education was offered to all, many of the early scholars from the colleges in North Malabar and Madras were Thiyas. Dr Gundert's dictionary rightly defines the Tiyya as a "community which rose into prominence by serving the British in India". Many became rich as food contractors, bakers and liquor suppliers to the British and in certain regions this close relationship between the Tiyya with French and the British resulted in a group called White Thiyyas, somewhat like the Anglo Indians.

The Thiyyas continued to prosper and do well, some of the greatest writers like SK Pottekkat, OV Vijayan etc are testimony to the creative geniuses of the community. Eventually, we have a large and dynamic community in our midst that contributed and continues to do so, to our collective well being, through many fields. That is all that matters.

And so in conclusion, as Premnath words it, this is all stuff of romantic tales and these legends I am sure will keep surfacing at cocktail circuits and around bonfires for generations to come…

References

Castes & Tribes of Southern India – Thurston
Social history of India – SN Sadasivan
The ethnographical survey of the Cochin state, Volume 10 - L Anantha Krishna Iyer
History of Kerala - KV Krishna Iyer
Chekavars blog
Haris blog
Malabar manual - Logan
Mannanars of Chirakkal

70 comments:

  1. Premnath.T.Murkoth

    An erudite article on The Thiyya community of North Malabar.We Thiyyas seems to be a perplexing subject?
    The main reason according to me for Thiyyas of North Malabar not marrying ladies south of Korapuzha is the system of Marumakkathayam.North of Korapuzha followed Marumakkathayam [Matriarchal society]and South of Korapuzha adhered to Makkathayam [Patreilineal society].In a wedlock between followers of these two different system, what will be the position of the children?They will be neither here or there and will be like between the two boats.
    Congratulations to Maddy for the great efforts he he made to bring the various aspects.

  1. Nidheesh Narayanan

    Good one maddy, caste was a major factor in Kerala, but I do feel it is slowly receding. I am a Nair, but I married an Ezhava from Thrissur. My sister married a Thiyya from Thalassery. And most of my friends have married outside their caste only. It is good to know the history and origins of one's background, but in the larger scheme of things, caste is slowly moving into insignificance.

  1. Premnath.T.Murkoth

    Mr.Herman Gundert is known today for his contribution to Malayalam-the first Malayalam Bible, Malayalam /English Dictionary etc. In 1838 the Bassel Mission Missionary from Germany, Dr Hermann Gundert [1814-1893], based himself in Illikunnu, near Tellicherry[1839-1859] , Later he had lived in Tellicherry town also[Vide Basel Mission History in Malabar] and studied Sanskrit, Malayalam, & Ayur vedic systems under the Oracherry Kunhi Kanna Guru.A Thiyya.This study culminated in Dr. Gundert compiling the first Malayalam-English dictionaries. This was printed in Bassel Mission press in Mangalore[1872],Malayala Bhasha Vyakaranam[1868],
    Dr.Herman Gudert came to Oracheri house at chokli on 19th Feb1840 and at that time, Kunhikannan Gurukkal [the eldest brother] was 76 years old and this is recorded in Gundert's diary.
    Kunhikannan Gurukkal[ Cungni Veidyan-kunhi vaidyan] died on 11-Jan1841[Gundert particiopated in the funeral]. The other epithets used in Gundert's diary are Diktor[doctor-physician],Munschi [language master], philosopher.
    Gundert's attempts to convert Gurukkla to Christianity failed.
    I am pround to mention thatI am a direct descendant of Oracherry Kunhi Kannan Gurukkal and maitain the family tree of this family [400 years]

  1. Maddy

    thanks Premnath
    you provided me much information and prodded me on to write this, so I am thankful once again. I still remember the vaidyar story you told me the other day..
    as for Gundert sayip..he was some character...

  1. Maddy

    well, Nidheesh,
    I hope you are right. If you see the furor being raised in Kerala often, over these issues, your hopes might be dashed..but yes, in time caste would be a quaint memory..

  1. Kumar

    You don't mention the theory that I personally find very plausible.
    It goes something like this:

    Buddha's followers, led by his brother Mahindra, moved southward from present-day Bihar/UP, preaching the new religion. While Mahindra and the bulk of the Buddhists sailed for Ceylon, splinter groups spread out to different areas en route. One such group infiltrated the area of Kerala, settling down in the new land. These were the original Ezhavas (and Thiyyas?). The southern settlers maintained their contacts with their fellow Buddhists who had moved on to and settled in Ceylon (aka Eezham). Travel across the straits was common and these frequent visitors to Eezham came to be called the Ezhavas. (You recall that untill quite recently the Ezhavas were Buddhists.)

    The hilly forested tracts of Kerala were initially inhabited by aborigines, who we know today as the 'tribals.' The Nairs were settlers moving in from the adjacent Tamil kingdoms. The Naboothiris were Brahmins from the north who came to Kerala after many generations of existence in areas along the way), i.e., present-day Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh). This is why they still refer to their homes as 'illam' (similar to the Telugu word for home) or 'mana' (similar to the Kannada word for home).

  1. Slogan Murugan aka M S Gopal

    Seventh Sense - Night Shyamalan

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-01-15/chennai/30629614_1_indus-valley-malabar-kerala

    "I found that I belong to group 'K' and subgroup 'L'. Further studies showed that the 'K' group had migrated from North Africa to central Asia. It inhabited the valley of Tien Shan. From this comes the word 'Thiya'. A section of them ('L' group) then moved to north Malabar, Coorg and the Nilgiris via Pakistan and Rajasthan," he says.

    Another part of this group called Sekon went south-west to Indus Valley to Punjab and another called Sekovar to Rajasthan. 'Chekavars', the 16th century warrior caste of Kerala, are descendents of Sekovars, says Dr Shyamalan, who challenges the popular belief that Thiyas are the same as Ezhavas of Kerala. "Thiyas are not Ezhavas, but that's a different story," he says.

  1. Maddy

    thanks kumar..
    in fact after writing this i came across two or three more theories and also a very interesting article by Ethiran who has a better analysis from a genetic perspective.
    check this out
    http://ethiran.blogspot.com/2008/06/blog-post.html
    നായരീഴവ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനി പുലയ മുസ്ലീം നമ്പൂരി മഹാജന സഭ

  1. Maddy

    thanks gopal
    suggest check out ethiran's article on this
    നായരീഴവ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനി പുലയ മുസ്ലീം നമ്പൂരി മഹാജന സഭ
    http://ethiran.blogspot.com/2008/06/blog-post.html

  1. Rahul

    Also to note that Kerala food like Puttu, appom etc are to be found in Sri Lanka, and Puttu in the same name in at least one of the Indonesian islands. Could be due to the Tiyyas.

    -Rahul

  1. Maddy

    thanks rahul..
    yes , could very well be so..

  1. mrinal

    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.

  1. mrinal

    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.

  1. prajin narayanan

    good work sir,there is only a little research done about thiyyas and all the available datas are vague and creating misunderstanding that thiyyas are ezhava sub caste and is not really so.i appreaciate your efforts for research in this field.i invite those people who are interested inthis topic to join the following groups in facebook
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/malabarthiyya/
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/thiyyamahasabha/
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/121569047964609/
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/118933078124985/

  1. drtejnaik

    more Food for thought:

    therez a caste by name 'Dheemar' in MP, which obviously is the corrupt form of 'dheevar' mentioned in the Govt list of OBCs. they are classified under the Community Majhi...which to my knowledge in Hindi means relating to Naval occupation. therez even a Subdivision by name Dheemarkheda in Katni district of MP.

    The Dheemars are classified alongwith other castes like 'Kevat's (does it ring a bell? historians may remind themselves of the 'kaivarta' rebellion in Bengal during Pala kings time), Bhoyi (Bhovi/Ganga matasta in Kannada, typically called Ambiga, which comes to mean Boatman. ambu=Sea. but Ambu also means Arrow. just like Billu means bow and hence the term Billava or say Villava in Tamil which is again similar to Bheel/Bhil in the northern India), and other terms like Mallah,Kahaar,Kahra,Navda,Turha,Keer,Britiya (Vritya),Singaraha,Jalari,Sondhiya.

    the Kevats peculiarly so, populate the region of Narmada valley in particular...u get the feel as though you have come face to face with an ancient civilisation while examining their settlement pattern..reminded me of the legend of King Sahasrabahu(or Kartyaviryrjna),who could launch a thousand ships and had capital at Mahishmati(present Maheshwar)on Narmada and who it seems was so powerful that he once defeated Ravana easily in wrestling. he too is charaterised as a staunch devotee of Shiva. and as legend goes was killed by Parashurama, for 'troubling' his mother Renuka, and there was this resultant vow of exterminating Kshatriyas (but this isnt carried out when he meets Rama, peculiar though...Vaishnava effect?). King Sahasrabahu is invoked even today in these parts and jayanti celebrated. historically many kings too have invoked his name and there seems to be a very close relation with the Chedi-Kalachuri kings, who again incidentally ruled in the same region. the King Kharavela of Orissa was connected and so were the Rattas of Deccan, from whom arose the famed Rashtrakutas (anybody querying how Maha-Ratta came into being Maratha?)

    my community incidentally is known as Halepaik (popularly Namadhari in present day and in Caste list)in all of the historical references (even in the 10th century Kannada text Vikramarjuna Vijaya of Pampa)...the caste is also known as Deeva and caste people called as Deevara makkalu (remember the Dheevara,Dheemar in the beginning of this article?),and Ediga, which sometimes is referred to as Eeliga (the 'L' here being like the 'Zh' in Ezhava). common perception is that this term is derived from the Toddy tapping occupation which used the 'Eechala' (Palm) tree...and hence mythologies of a son born to Shiva and Parvati under an Eechala tree (reminds me of one of the hypothesis of the origin of Kadamba dynasty, that too was under a Kadamba tree!). but again, 'Eedu' again means Gun powder in Kannada..hence Eediga/Idiga could also mean a musketeer (Ambiga someone?or Billava??).

    HalePaik incidentally means of old stock or old peasant or old foot soldier. Hale ('l' again ='zh') means old in Kannada. Paiki means belonging to particular stock in Kannada. but Paiki in other Indian languages as in Kannada also means to a system of peasantry/tenancy system, from Gujarat to Assam and from MP to Karnataka. 'Paik' incidentally also mean footsoldier.no wonder, historically most of the armies across the world have banked upon their peasantry for shaping their armies or vice versa(i mean, the easiest way to pay a soldier was to give him land or make him a sharecropper)

    Halbi is a caste peculiar to the erstwhile Central provinces (old Berar,Vidarba,Chattisgarh and southern MP). Halaba ('l' again ='zh') mean old fellow. since the onset of Hindi, people have forgotten the pronunciation of 'Zh' aspect and translate directly from the english source (the Linguistic Survey, where Mr Grierson stresses on the 'zh' aspect in Halbi)

  1. drtejnaik

    more...

    the Gazetteer of Bombay presidency too mentions the caste Halepaik and clubs them along with the Bhandaris, who are in good numbers in Goa and North Konkan and are said to have served mainly as Captains of ships. Naik is the common sirname, and so it is in North Canara district (Naik is a basic term which i think signifies a corporal with ten footsoldiers under him).

    it is peculiar, that as we follow the trail of western ghats further above to Gujarat, you find the 'bhils'. 'Bhili' and 'Vagdi' is a dialect ascribed to them (Vagdo incidentally is a derogatory term in Gujarati, used as an abuse implying sweeper class. reminds me of 'bengali' being the derogatory term in Karolbagh,Delhi where they had settled after arriving from Erstwhile east Pakistan. in India, history is unforgving when it comes to the defeated who end up economically downtrodden!! (reminds me of derogatory terms in Sanskrit like 'Jhara','Paisacha','Rakshasa','Asura', 'Kirata'...all of which were group of people. jharkhand incidentally gets its name likewise, and also that my recent trip to Manali, i could locate a temple for Hidimba, Bhima's wife characterised as a demoness)

    as mentioned in the article regarding two groups in North and south Kerala, the Halepaiks of Ghats didnt mix with the Deeva of Coast in North canara complaining of pollution, obviously coastal region being a hub of economic activity. the Bombay Gazetteer 1891 authored by Venkatramgo Katti even mentions that the two didnt even sit together for meals.

    the Halepaiks consider Goddess Renuka of Chandragutti on the border of North Canara and Shimoga District as their Family Deity. another equally famous temple of Renuka is at Saundatti, where she is known as Yellamma. Saundatti incidentally was one of the earliest seats of Ratta's in the Deccan. the Ratta's incidentally considered themselves the offsprings of Sahasrabahu.

    again, peculiarly so, the Rai,Jaiswal community worships Sahasrabahu as their father figure just like the Agarwal community worships Maharaja Agrasen. but again, the Jaiswals mention no connection with the Kevats or Dheemars, who are economically backward. reminded me of the attitude of the well to do Idigas of south Karnataka to the Halepaiks of North canara.

    many more references on the topic abound, but i let it rest for now. the issue is that research about ones community today has become a sentimental issue rather than an academic one. so when u get down to work, you find all sorts of emotionally surcharged attacks from the community people as well as the vilifying/smear campaigns from the opposite group, which cant fathom any positives and wants to maintain the long held superiority complex, so characteristic of anybody in this sub continent.. but history, has something else to say, which sadly gets masked in propaganda,religion and loudness..:)

  1. drtejnaik

    coming to sirnames related to the topic...Naik is pretty common among the west coast people and so is among Halepaiks and Bhandaris.

    Kharadi was a sirname amongst Bhils of Gujarat. Kharadi means turner in Hindi. one who is employed in Cotton mill.

    Tomar,Shah,Pawar were the sirnames amongst Bhilalas of west MP. Bhilala are a community which consider themselves superior to Bhils but inferior to rajputs and according to them were formed by union of Bhil women and Rajput men.

    Burman is a sirname common amongst the Dheemars. obviously a corruption of 'verman'.( reminds me of the distinction between Sharman and Varman in Puranas, that the latter signified Kshatriya occupation)

    Nishad, Nagavanshi are some other sirnames.(remember reading about Samudragupta's campaign and his defeating of certain 'Naga' kings of central India. on the same vein, the legend of Videha Madhava and Arjuna helping him cleanse the forest east of River Sarayu for agriculture and the resultant annihilation of several Nags. also the story of Raja Pareekshit and his death by a Nag. also the Nagara style architecture, the script DevaNagari and the term nagara to address any city in sanskrit which was mainly a language developed in Pastoralist society. Paisachi, it seems survived till the very beginning of 18th century around Vidarbha, the region where the first refernce to it is made in the legend of Gunadhya,the court poet of Shalivahana, the Satakarni King.)

  1. drtejnaik

    i know, the whole chain of mail by me looks rather confusing and out of place... but that was the way it was supposed to be!!! only a food for thought rather than a conclusive dissertation.

    the main idea was to open the ambit of discussion to the pan-India scale away from the limiting shores of our respective individual linguistic boundaries.


    the argument about Lanka being the home of Ezhavas has been there for quite a lot of time now...even if it were to be true, from where did they come there?? Lanka itself has its set of Aborigines called Vedda's, detail about whom am yet to source. the known earliest migration to the Island was during the period of Mahajanapada's. the legends in Lanka talk about a prince coming there by ship and propagating a clan after marriage with the local princess..very similar to the stories we get to here about the Hindu kingdoms of Southeast. peculiar that, in all these stories, the locals are referred to as Naga stock.

    the point is that, India is a story of successive civilisations which have arrived and accomodated/assimilated/annihilated the other. and such migrations have taken place over a very long period and continue to happen. in earlier days, geography strictly defined the rules of migration...these days even that is obsolete.

    it was astonishing to find for me that the dialects spoken among the tribal population in southern MP (tribals still form a major bulk of 31% of population) a 100 years back was a dialect of an ancient language of Dravidian stock, which had close resemblence to the Kannada now spoken in Bidar region of Karnataka and hence was called a dialect of Kannada. so was the case with other dialects in south eastern and eastern MP which were dialects of Telugu and Tamil respt.(Linguistic survey of India, Grierson)

    to know that, Hindi spread across all these regions only over the last 100 years makes for an interesting research..

    it is interesting to note that i have found reference to this particular community called Kol almost everywhere in Mainland India. Gujarat,Uttarakhand,Rajastan,MP,Maharashtra (Koli) (are Kohli's similar??)

    The practices of Pardhi, Kanjar in Central India mirror that of the Bedar's of Deccan. both are hunter communities, which sometimes have resorted to Highwaymanship. (Beda=hunter in Kannada, any similarity to Vedda of Lanka??)

    Maurya/Shakya is a popular sirname amongst the landholding peasant community of Kurmi in eastern MP bordering Bihar and Jharkhand. similarly the Silahara's of Konkan were also known as Mauryas and i believe there are people in Konkan who still carry the sirname of Maurya.

    more confusion i believe...:)

  1. Tejaswininimburia

    It is unfortunate that Kerala intellectuals are obsessed with Namboodris and the opulence and cultural degradation of Marathas combined with social anarchy in South India from fifteenth century AD is being legitimized as Namboodri invasion theory. The problem is that if you accept Namboodris then you have to reject Tamil and Cholas and vice versa. Upto the fall of Chola Empire there were Choliya Brahmins identified by their front tuft(Chidambaram and Tiruchendur Brahmins) who became very powerful and Rajaraja Banished thousand families from Kattumannarkoil who went to Kerala. It is the practice of Tamil Brahmin to take shelter in Kerala in times of crisis. Hence it is intellectual dishonesty to say Namboodris came from North with armies. The collapse of Pandyan Empire due to Malik Kafur completely destroyed social structure of Tamilnadu having peripheral effect in Kerala. With relationship of umblical chord of Tamilnadu gone without any imperial dynasties Kerala became a haven of minor principalities with social structure evolved not on sword or theology but on convenience of brownian motion of different communities within a small space and making adjustments involving stupid stories of Kerolothpathi without any historical proof. Don't blame Namboodri invasion from north for every sin of Kerala.

  1. Maddy

    hi Tejeswaninimburia..
    I am no expert in these matters, nor an anthropologist, so what you see is a summary of what i study or learn, step by step.
    I am thankful for your pointers, which I will peruse next. I had written about malik kafur previously and I will now study choliya brahmins.
    http://historicalleys.blogspot.com/2011/08/malik-kafur-in-malabar-myth.html
    Once i have done that I will reply you in detail..

  1. shan

    what i dont understand is why no nair good nair families have ancient kalaris.even the guru of c.v.narayanan nair who established cvn kalaries ,is a ezhava.even now majority,if not all, of kalaris in kerala are run by non nairs.all ancient kalaris belongs to other communities mainly ezhava,nadar etc.even the marma ayurvedic practitioners of past were not nairs .

  1. Maddy

    Thanks Shan..
    all old nair tharavads had a kalari atatched to it. The gurukkal was typically a panikkar. Perhaps there were thiyya gurukkals in those tharavads too, I do not know for sure.

  1. Devi

    Hi, i was reading your article when i saw a mention about Pullani - one family .My grandmum was from "pullani madom "as it was called. Wondering could that it any way related to what u were mentioning.

  1. VILMEEN KODI

    Until 1310 Kerala was ruled by the traditional Tamil Villavar/Nadalvar Kings . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villavar
    Chera king was called Villavar Kon. Though Chera Kingdom came to an end when a Tulu prince called Kulasekhara who was a brother of Tulu king Kaviraja Sighan (Kavi Alupendra 1100 – 1170) of the Alupas Kingdom. Keralolpathy mentions this Tulu prince Kulasekhara attacking Kerala with a large Nair army (350000 strong) thereby ending the Tamil Chera rule in Kerala.Keralolpathy credits Kulasekhara with founding a Matriarchal dynasty at Valarpattinam Kannur.Dravidians never practiced Matriarchy. But the Tulu prince was married to a Bunt/Nair lady who practiced Matriarchy. After this Tulu invasion Bunt/Nairs were seen in Kerala. Bunts were originally brought as slaves from Ahichatram in Uttarkhand during the rule of Kadamba king Mayuravarma. Ahichatram (Rampur in Uttranchal) was then under Nepal. The Nepalese slaves were not allowed to marry and have families hence a system of Matriarchy existed among the Tulu-Nepalese Bunts of Tulunadu. Nayara, Menava Kuruba and Samanthas were some of

  1. VILMEEN KODI

    the subcastes of the Tulunadus Bunts. The Bunt/Nairs were basically non Dravidian Naga people from Ahichatram/Nepal but mixed with Tamils in the latterdays. Pillais(Vellala) and Panicker (Villavar/Nadalvar title) indicate Bunt Nair mixture with Tamils.
    After the fall of Chera Kingdom Kerala was integral part of the Pandyan Kingdom of Villavar –Nadalvar Tamils until 1310 AD.
    Most of the indigenous Malayalees who never practiced Matriarchy might descend from the medival Tamils. Panicker title originally a Pandyan title used by the trainers of the Martial arts was found among the various communities in Kerala.
    The Pandyan kingdom was brought to an end by the invasion of Delhi Sulthanate under Malik Kafur in 1310. Only after the 14th century Matriarchy was practiced by the ruling dynasties of Kerala. Matriarchy was never practiced by Chera rulers or any Dravidian rulers. The Bunt/Nairs who allied with the Delhi invaders suddenly became prominent in Kerala in the 14th century.

  1. VILMEEN KODI

    Still Tamil remained the language of Kerala. Portuguese called this language Lingua Malabar Tamul (Malaynma or Malayalam-Tamil).
    When Portuguese came Kerala Tamils still dominated the central Kerala. Portuguese who organized a Tamil army under Vallikada Panicker of Moovattupuzha soon converted the Panickers to Christianity.
    http://expert-eyes.org/palli/panicker.html
    The Villavar Vattom Kingdom or Villarvattom Kingdom existed in Kodungaloor during the Portuguese period. But the Villavar king was converted to Christianity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoma_of_Villarvattom
    The Portuguese who promised to protect the temples of the Villavar people in the 16th century. Felipe Perestrelo a Portuguese aristocrat who came to Kerala worked as the Vicar of the Temple of indigenous Natover /Nadavar lady of Kodungaloor. Perestrelo worked as a school master in the school of Natover lady. Ultimately the Natover aristocratic lady was converted to Christianity and was given the name Dona Beatriz natover. Dona

  1. VILMEEN KODI

    Beatriz Natover erected a tomb stone for her husband Felipe Perestrelo still exist at Thrissur museum.
    http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/5131-lost-rulers-of-the-malabar-coast.html

    A Mestizo (Portuguese + Indian) community evolved in the 16th century.
    The Portuguese supported the Tulu Nepalese dynasties who practiced Matriarchy with the Christian army of the Mestizos. The Villiorvattom Kingdom of the Villavar people was abandoned by the Portuguese. The Villavar people were foced to accept dominance of the Tulu Nepalese people. British banned Malayanma and started promoting Tulu writing system in the 19th century. All the books of Kerala written in Malayanma were destroyed.
    http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=863
    The European Scholors assisted by Madras Brahmins made the Propoganda that the Descendents of the Chera dynasty were Tulu Nepalese people (Bunt/Nairs). The European and Madras Brahmin books claimed that

  1. HDR

    Hii maddy and friends,

    Happened to watch lecture series by dr P.K Rajashekaran in YouTube..For me it's interesting to know a better version of kerala history.hope it may be informative in a broader way.

    Best Regards

    Dheeraj MC

    I am recorded as thiyyan in Kerala or India.

    Being an engineer am concerned more on number of people and not it's category or cultural roots.

    Again happened to be born in most dynamic district in Kerala ie...kannur.It has very diverse art forms,which is very unique to this world and very energetic people.u fortunately and technically sometimes energy can be diverted to self distraction which we have faced for years due to political utilisation of dedicated and brave nature of nonselfish people.

    Forgive my typos,

    Thank you for this post.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks HDR
    glad you stopped by and nice to know you enjoyed the post.
    will check out the youtube video
    rgds

  1. Kumaran Kp

    Ezhava and Thiyyas are two different communities. Only for reservation purpose they have been brought in one single group. Both communities have entirely distinct ancestry and cultural heritage. Nothing common between both communities. However, some people have married from each other community. That is their personal matter and it is actually an inter-caste marriage between Ezhava aznd Thiyya. The Thiyyas of Malabar were upper class before independence and Ezhavas were Backward communities. After independence certain prominent thiyya personalities urged the Prakasham commission to include Thiyyas in OBC since a large number of Thiyyas wer economically backward at that time. Thiyyas have 8 illams and their life built up around Kavu built by them. Thiyyas do not demand dowry for marriage, but Ezhavas bargain for dowry. Both have entirely different history and culture and nothing in common.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks Kumaran
    for your comment.All these show interesting developments in the caste!

  1. anil4773

    The theory of migration from srilanka seems to be baseless.Ezhavas are over a crore now.Plus Christians and Muslims are ezhava converts.So together it is more than 2.6 crore.How such large numbers migrated from an Island and spread all over kerala?If we take back the population 2millenium back,still it is a big number.So I presume it is a fable.No one is having any proof.We should also remember that the Sinhalese people are of Indian origin-people who migrated orissa/Bihar.Their language is derived from Sanskrit!

  1. anil4773

    The theory of migration from srilanka seems to be baseless.Ezhavas are over a crore now.Plus Christians and Muslims are ezhava converts.So together it is more than 2.6 crore.How such large numbers migrated from an Island and spread all over kerala?If we take back the population 2millenium back,still it is a big number.So I presume it is a fable.No one is having any proof.We should also remember that the Sinhalese people are of Indian origin-people who migrated orissa/Bihar.Their language is derived from Sanskrit!

  1. Maddy

    thanks anil
    for your comments. glad to receive all your inputs. together we have to analyze & review them to make some order from the legends, fables and theories..

  1. Shyam Raj

    Here is a link to buy a kit for DNA testing to trace our ancestors of
    Thiyyas and Ezhavas. The webpage belongs to the National Geographic Magazine and so is reliable.

    http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=2001246&gsk&code=SR90004&keyword=dna+testing+for+genealogy

  1. Shyam Raj

    http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=2001246&gsk&code=SR90004&keyword=dna+testing+for+genealogy

  1. Abhimanyu300


    The Ezhava community at the moment is the most dynamic and prosperous community among the Hindus in Kerala thanks to the efforts of the SNDP.

    We have had a great guru in Sree Narayana Guru who has great fame throughout India and the world. Other great saints include Nataraja Guru and Nitya Chaitanya Yati.

    We have had great scholars in Kumaran Asan and O.V.Vijayan.

    We had a great warrior past in Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker, and many ezhavas served as soldiers and sailors in the army and navy.

    If the Thiyyas don't want to identify with us due to prejudices, fine with us.It only reflects their own prejudiced and impure mindset, and the sooner they leave the ezhava fold the better.

    We have a great leader in Sree Narayana Guru spoken in the same voice as that of Buddha and Shankaracharya . With such a master and guru and his legacy, Ezhavas are destined to be world conquerors.

    Enough said.

  1. shan

    caste system is basically unnatural and this can be seen by any one who thinks.earlier during the period of severe caste indulgences each caste actually dependent on other castes. and so no castes never intended to destroy other castes nor were against other castes. so when social modification struggles started it wasn't really or brutally crushed nor that struggles were violent in nature.
    now the caste has no relevance in terms of its use.nor we actually know what its purpose was during the earlier period.we actually dont know what this actually is.is't it? for some 100 years many tried fervently to find historical background of caste system.many if not all were either distracted by the old stupid stories or were oriented by their prejudice.

    caste system invariably exists on the comparison.one caste lower or higher.this itself is a good proof that caste system is falsely created.its difficult to maintain such a system for long term even with lot of political power to back support.system will fall down soon.this will happen very soon if inter marriage is restricted or prevented.many castes will disappear and other castes finds difficult to move forward.this has happened in all states and kerala too.

  1. shan

    caste system is basically unnatural and this can be seen by any one who thinks.earlier during the period of severe caste indulgences each caste actually dependent on other castes. and so no castes never intended to destroy other castes nor were against other castes. so when social modification struggles started it wasn't really or brutally crushed nor that struggles were violent in nature.
    now the caste has no relevance in terms of its use.nor we actually know what its purpose was during the earlier period.we actually dont know what this actually is.is't it? for some 100 years many tried fervently to find historical background of caste system.many if not all were either distracted by the old stupid stories or were oriented by their prejudice.

    caste system invariably exists on the comparison.one caste lower or higher.this itself is a good proof that caste system is falsely created.its difficult to maintain such a system for long term even with lot of political power to back support.system will fall down soon.this will happen very soon if inter marriage is restricted or prevented.many castes will disappear and other castes finds difficult to move forward.this has happened in all states and kerala too.

  1. kumar

    new thiyya wikipedia page link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiyya

  1. VASANT UCHIL

    Dear Maddy,
    We, Moyas are Pathh Illakaars,( Ten Houses)and blessed by Bhagavathi. In our Annual Bhagavathi Festival at Adka, Someshwar-Uchila, we respect & reserve a small place on the left side of our Bhagavathi Temple( facing East)for Thiyyas and Thiyyas are part of our Annual Celebrations. Our Bhagavathi's ive due respect to Thiyya's sitting there & they take Bhagavathi's Blessings.
    Can you throw some light on our community, Moyas, who own & administer 11 temples from Nileshwar to Adka?
    All Moya's will be greatful to you as past enquiries into our Ancestors by fellow Moya Scholars have been somewhat unconvincing to Modern youth in our Community.
    I am told Brahmins are 11 illakkaars( 11 Houses) Moya's 10 Illakkaars, Thiya's 8 Illakkars,Wsaherman community 4 Illakkars.
    Can you also throw some light on this Illakkaar nomenclature? I am told it refers to one's profession, as we are basically Fishermen. We also have Kutumbo tradition where marriages are taboo of same kutumbo & I am told Blood Tests have also confirmed similsrities, which shows that We Moya's & Thiyya's had Scientfic knowledge on Inter kutumbo marriages, unlike modern Paarsis of Mumbai who marry among their creed with disastrous results of--,--,.
    Warm regards,
    Vasant manjappa Uchil

  1. Pc Narayanan

    I also heard about Illams or Illakkars((which is Gothram among North Indians I feel, which is controlled by controversial Khaps Panchayaths there) of Thiyya Caste or community of Malabar region of Kerala and wedlock within the same Illams was not allowed..But,now a days no one is practicing it..!!

  1. Pradeep Mahe

    How Thiyya's associated with Ezhava's ? --- A glance in to History.

    For centuries, Thiyyars used to worship in their own "Kavu's". Most of the Kavu's were not in organised way. For making an organised way of community rituals, some prominent Thiyyas of Thalassery formed a committee. It was decided by the committee to start an organised Temple with annual feast like Sri Rama Temple of Thiruvangad. Unfortunately, no one could be identified within the community to do the planning / establishing & sanctifying the Project, as they did not want to involve Brahmins. Suggestion came that a person named Sree Narayana Guru from South Kerala established couple of temples for non-Brahmins. As the committe did not want to involve Brahmins for establishing the Temple, they entrusted Sri. Varadur Kaniyil Kunhi Kannan to visit Sree Narayana Guru at Varkala and submitted the idea that Thiyya Community should have a Temple at Thalassery, in the year 1904. Narayana Guru permitted the celebration poet Kumaran Asan, as his representative and to convene meetings to ascertain the reaction of the people about the feasibility of a Temple for the community. Kumaranaasan who was staying with Dr. Palpu in Bangalore accepted the invitation and consequent on his arrival the first meeting was convened at ‘Parambath House’ of Sri. Cheruvari Govindan Shirastadar on 9th July 1905. The report given by Kumaranaasan to Narayana Guru was - "Thiyyars are Socially and Economically forward community but they lack sound leadership". As Sree Narayana Guru was busy in awakening Ezhavas in South Kerala, he was not much keen into going Thalassery. So the committe again visited Narayana Guru and invited him to Thalassery.
    Subsequently, Sri Narayana Guru arrived at Thalassery on 17th March 1906. The instruction of Narayana Guru was "his arrival would be kept secret" was strictly adhered to. On 23rd March Sri Narayana Guru drove the pile for the temple construction at an auspicious moment. The foundation stone was laid on 21st April 1906 by Sri. Kottiyath Ramunni Vakil in the presence of the great poet Kumaran Asan. It was on 13 February 1908 that Narayana Guru consecrated the Temple and named it Sri Jagannath Temple and the administrating committee was named as "Gnanodaya Yogam". (Though Narayana Guru was the President and Kumaranaasan was the Secretary of SNDP, they were not interested to add the temple or Thiyya community in the clutches of SNDP !!! ) After this function, Thiyyas became followers of Sri Narayana Guru. This was the first relation between Thiyya and Ezhava. After independence, During compiling the constituency, the then Government clubbed Thiyya and Ezhava together.

  1. A.Yeshuratnam

    I don't believe in the hypothesis that the Thiyyas are immigrants from Ceylon. India is a vast country and it has got its own indigenous people. Thiyyas were native people and they would have lost their superior status when they probably would have been subjugated by other communities such as Nairs and Brahmins.History tells us that the victors would kill and maim the civilian population, force entire community into slavery and bondage to establish their authority over them. The Thiyyas were an autocthonous people and ethnic clashes would have led to the loss of their social status. Malabar is their indigenous homeland and the theory they were immigrants is a shrewd strategy to de-root their autochthonous identity.
    There is no basis in the allegation of Premnath that Gundert tried to convert his grandfather. Hermann Gundert was a linguist and he is remebered for his first Malayalam dictionary. He published two Malayalam journals, of which Rajya Samacharam is considered to be the first newspaper in Kerala. Dr. Gundert probably would have visited Kunhikannan Gurukkal's house to know more about ayurvedic medicine.

  1. MeThuN F@ThOmLe$$.....!!!!

    I am a Thiya, but settled in The Nilgiris,Tamilnadu Near Waynad. I need to if Thiya caste is OBC or not?Please help

  1. Jayanta Das

    Excellent work Sir. The word paik was used in Assam during Ahom era. A paik means the soldier in the lowest rank. As you mentioned there were some mysterious dynasties in India where proper research not yet have been initiated. Research on the great Ganga dynasty of east and south is really appreciable. With a Hope of some lights this subject.

  1. raj kumar

    In whole of malabar including north malabar south malabar they are called as thiyyas!!!

  1. Maddy

    thanks everybody, for the stimulating discussions, pls keep commenting...

  1. Maddy

    One other things I should add..
    In the medieval times, there used to be currency from Ceylon floating around in Malabar, it was called Ezhokasu. That signifies connections to Ceylon..

  1. shyam


    The Entry of SNDP to Malabar was a political movement planned by SNDP for hijack rich heritage of thiyya's when they recognize our heritage after samdi of SNG. SNDP want thiyya association may be combat south kerala Nair like other community. SNDP used thiyya's SNG relation and an Ezava congress leader R. Sankar won election from kannur , he offer an SN collage for kannur thiyyas. all kerala start believe thiyya and ezava are same community.

  1. shyam

    According to Sree Muthappan Thottam (song of Muthappan Theyyam, a Thiyya deity), the Thiyyas of North Malabar came from Karumana Nadu, the Thulu region of present Karnataka [Ref: Kaliyaattam, Mr.CMS. Chandera, NBS]. The Baigya (Vaidya) Thiyyas were supposed to be come from Thulu Nadu and the Kodava Thiyyas were supposed to be come from Kodagu Nadu, the nearby area. This distinction had been there until now. But apart from this, in the later times, there was also another assortment of splitting up of the Thiyya groups according to the occupation. The groups that performed Theyyam were known as Vannans or Mannans. Those connected with hair cutting were known as Kaavu Thiyyas, those connected with teaching were known as Ezhuthachchans and those connected with astrology were known as Kaniyas. At present, these groups are treated as entirely different castes. Now, the Thiyyas who are experts in Kalaripayattu are known as Gurukkals, those connected with patient treatments are known as Vaidyas and those connected with coconut climbing are known as Thandans. All the above groups are the components of a vast populace came from the Southern part of Karnataka.

  1. Satheeshchandra Chekavar

    During the nineteenth century, Ezhavas were ruthlessly discriminated against by the administrations of erstwhile Travancore and Kochi. As Malabar was in the Madras presidency of the British India, Thiyyas did not suffer any discrimination at that time, even though they were oppressed by the Savarnas. People who were included in the Chathurvarniyam (four-tier caste system) were called Savarnas. Ezhavas were not a part of the caste system of Hindus. The word Ezhava does not denote any caste or religion. ‘Ezhavas are not a caste but a great community’ and they are also the largest community of Kerala.
    From the twentieth century onwards, the progress of Ezhavas in Kerala became very rapid. Sree Narayan Gurudevan’s slogans like ‘Educate and enlighten’, ‘Unite and strengthen’, ‘Progress through industry’ accelerated their rapid progress. Now Ezhavas are in the forefront of Kerala society. They own Engineering colleges, Medical colleges, Star hotels, Hospitals, Construction companies, IT companies and other Business establishments. A substantial number of Ezhavas in Kerala are in the creamy layer (wealthy) category and they are getting more status than Savarnas.

  1. Kannur gal

    Hi Maddy,
    Interesting read. Do you know why there is a concentration of Thiyyas in Kannur. My theory is they probably fled from South Keral due to oppression from the upper caste and settled in north Kerala. Thiyyas in kannur intermarry hence most are related either by blood or marriage. Dowry did not exist, though it is seeping in slowly. Another characteristic of Thiyya community is ingrained frugality probably due to the stress of migration. Caste system in Kerala is still strong, despite few inter caste and inter religious marriages. 9/11 had its effects in Kerala as well. Recently, saw a marriage bureau office in Pallikunnu - the sign said "Nairs only". There is not much interaction between Hindus, Muslims and Christians as before. On a lighter vein, I am missing the Muslim Biriyani, pathari and kulkuls.

  1. Maddy

    thanks shyam, sateesh
    for these valuable inputs
    my research continues and i will make an update article soon

  1. Maddy

    thanks kannurgal..
    that is an interesting question.
    thiyyas were primarily found in N Malabar and are different from ezhavas, though classified under one heading today.
    I believe that either they were indigenous to N Malabar who became oppressed for some reason or the other - perhaps suppression of Buddhism / Jainism or they came due to their trade-craft from another place. I tried doing a study and the result was this post some years ago..

    going back to food - we have a new restaurant here - bawarchi, though hyderabadi, the biryani and pepper mutton were excellent...

    and i am getting ready with an article inspired by one of your earlier comments - on coffeee, yet again

  1. Kannur gal

    Maddy,
    Thanks again.
    Now that you have written about the origins of the Thiyyas and Nairs, the Pulayas cannot be left out. From what I understand they are indigenous to Kerala. Ayyakali, their freedom fighter is also an interesting personality of whom many keralites are unaware of. The tribes of Wyanaad probably belong to this group. They have a dialect, customs, traditions of their own. Since, you spent your childhood there, you may have something to say about them. What a wonderful place Wynaad must have been those days.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks KG
    They have been covered by so many that i desisted so far.. I will do one anyway, and I also have others planned like kuriyachars, mannadiars, namboothiris etc..

    I used to go to Wynad only for vacations, i lived in Calicut, still Wynad was interesting with the British run plantations and different way of life

  1. Jayan Kovilparambil

    Dear Maddy,
    I am a Ezhava as per my S.S.L.C book. My mother's S.S.L.C book shown she is in Ezhava and my father's S.S.L.C book belong to Thiyya. I married from a Thiyya girl as per the S.S.L.C book, and our children's belongs to Ezhava as per the birth certificates. We are all from Thrissur districts and nearby areas.
    Actually we don't care about Ezhava/ Thiyya differences in our district.
    Once Sree Narayana Guru also came and relaxed in my old home (The house belongs to my Father's family) during his journey to north side from Kodungallur.
    So I surprised why these type of arguments between Ezhava and Thiyya community.

    My humble request is we need to gather and strengthen our community as well.
    Thanks Mr. Maddy for your valuable efforts.
    Jayasankar.

  1. chandra sekhar

    hello
    one thing i want to write here is that there are kavutias with nadars{channars}and thiyyas. why? can you explain more about this.
    well my,grandmom belonged to a thiyya ayurveda family and grandfather was an ezhava.

    rajasekharan c

  1. Santosh

    Maddy,

    Good Compilation. Quote " If Conflict does not exist in history its not Harmony, but apathy".

    During the late 60's my mother a Thiyya was supposed to get married to a Thiyya Hotel entrepreneur. On the day of marriage the Bridegroom died due to epilepsy. My mother's house in Kolapully in Palghat district was destroyed by fire. This narrative was carried out by Malayalam Manorama press. My father a Nair from Kerala happened to read this article and keeps it in his briefcase. After couple of days, he writes to my mother's family and lands in Kolapully. My Maternal Grandfather and Grandmother initially hesitate to give their daughter to this dashing Nair Boy. The pre-requisite for my maternal grandparents was the consent of my paternal grandparents. My father being from a famous Trichur Nair family managed to convince my maternal Grandparents without consent. The marriage took place in year 1970 in Ganesh Giri Ganesh Temple in Shoranur. Just Tea and Biscuits were served to Guests.

    A year later my mother and father were noticed by one of my fathers relative in Bangalore Shivajinagar Market. The message reached my paternal grandfather stating that your son is moving around with a Pregnant lady. My Paternal Grandfather writes a letter to my Father stating that quote "its fine to marry without my knowledge, however you will have to take my blessings". My father and mother later take the solemn blessings from Paternal Grandparents. My mother was the favourite daughter in law of my paternal grandparents. My Grandfather passed away in 1981 and my father in 2012.

    Now I'm settled in Charlotte North Carolina working for an IT Organization and my Brother is working as a logistics manager for a large RETAIL organization in Bangalore.

    Time is a big healer. Now I have both Nair and Thiyya Heritage. Some times God works a great deal behind the scenes. We humans are just players in his large theater.


    regards

    Santosh

  1. Sunil Kumar

    Hello Dear All,

    This Subject(Ezhava/Thiyya are not one caste)is going on...Arguments are.. going on and on...
    as I am a Thiyya from calicut, I have no doubt that , Ezhava and thiyya both are same community. this arguments mainly rising by northern thiyyas (from calicut onwards) if anybody any doubt pleas go through the "VADAKKAN PATTUKAL
    VALIYA AROMAL CHEKAVAR' , ATTUM MANAMMEL UNNIYARCHA.. etc..

    in these chapters Aromal Chekavar and his sister Unniyarcha very clearly described as ezhavas. " *nammude pandathe karnommar ezhupathu natteennu vannorane*.. *cheraman perumalu thampuranum ola ezhuthi ayachathalle*, ezhupathe rajavinnu kathu kitti* -* katthangu vayichunokkunnunde appol parayunnu rajavallo* *evidunnu ezhuvare ayakka venam *keralathilekkangayakkavenam* and samey and very clearly describes Unniyarcha as Ezhava lady!
    pleas see that these epics are known as the bellads of 15 th century, in this situation i wonder that , even in the 15 th century the community people indicated as Ezhavas but laterally the common identity loses from the community and emerged as two community ..

    Thanks & Regards
    Sunilkumar P
    Beypore
    Calicut

  1. sunilkumar p sunilkumar p

    Dear All ,

    I like these article , and like to comment on....


    Sunilkumar P
    Calicut

  1. shyam

    Unniyarcha lived around AD 16th and cheraman perumal livid around AD 600 the era of Muhammad Nabhi. Cheraman perumal send a invitation letter to unnicharcha famil ?
    kannur girl, i am from kozhikode, such many fake named people here who want associate with ezava are fake.

    Thiyya and Nair have lot of common in tradition like matriarchal linage but nothing conman with Ezava but dont understand why Ezavas running behind Thiyya and why they want make us Ezava?

  1. Adhithya Kiran

    https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-members-of-the-Kerala-Hindu-Thiyya-caste-call-themselves-superior-and-different-than-Ezhava-even-though-both-are-considered-as-one-caste-by-the-Kerala-government/answer/Adhithya-Kiran

  1. praj p

    The book 'Castes and Tribes of Southern Indian'-Edgar Thurstan (Digitized Vesion,Voume II -C to J,Page 394) says that the 'Izhavas' of Travancore also had exogamous 'Illams' or groups named 'Muttillam','Madampi','Mayanatti' and 'Chozhi'. So Ezhavas also have Illams. But the same is eight in number among Thiyyas. Both claims of having Budhist roots and a connection with Ceylon. Both practiced similar vocations too.

    Illam concept is followed by many castes including many of the indigenous castes in Kerala and even by Namputhiris. Nairs also have such kind of divisions. A blog written by a guy in Kasaragodu says (in Malayalam) that the 'Beary Muslims' of Karntaka, who are descendants of Arab traders also follow such Illam system.( http://mypaivalike.blogspot.in/ )

    But there are many instances in the book where Thurstan says that the Thiyyas were enjoying a better status in the society.

  1. shyam

    Illam culture can be trace to Malabr only. After Sree Narayana Guru activity. Ezava basically doesn't have Illam culture as illam culture based on Matrilineal followers. outside Malabar Nair community has some similarity with Malabar tradition. NAir community follow Matrilineal same like thiyya. Nair community has padayani culture same like theyyam of thiyya. Nair community have theeyattu ritual same like Theyyam. nair community follow KAV culture same like thiyya of malabr. Nair community follow kara yogam same like thara karnavars of thiyya community village system. if you look many similarity can be trace common within Nair community of south kerala and Thiyya community of Malabr. that doesn't mean Thiyya and Nair are same community..thiyya community is completely distinct community by genetic no connection with Nair or Ezava or any other community

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    the community name EZAVA derived from Uzuvar who working in paddy field. this was caste name during SANGAM period not only in kerala but also Thamilnadu also. so the Ezava community origin can trace to Sangam culture who lived and associated with Paddy field. what we called EZAVA today all are not belongs to EZAVA a lot of small community mixed up during Sree NArayana Guru's Oru JAdi Oru Matham one god movement . the community Chovan, actually Chovan/chozan in sangam period the people who live in Mountain region

    Thiyya doesn't follow sangam culture and if you trace origin of thiyya they arrived from Karnadaka, theyyam calling thiyya community members as eight illam Karumane that means from karnadaka.

    Thiyya have theyyam culture

  1. sukesh tv90

    https://m.facebook.com/groups/179757339148299?message_id=184934538630579&comment_id=184994728624560&notif_t=like&notif_id=1478189152000526&ref=m_notif


    തിയ്യരെക്കുറിച്ച്‌ ഒരു ഗ്രൂപ്പ്‌

  1. Ajay Kumar

    Maddy, thanks for the thoughtful article. For the life of me, I can't understand why thiyyas (my community btw) think they are a separate species of homo-sapiens. Funny and sad.

    Only if a substantial genetic difference is discernible can we talk of separate origins of caste. And this is evident when comparing the backward tribes in India with more civilized people, for example.

    But if a thiyya, nair, nambiar, nambuthiri or any other species of mallu from malabar is presented on a stage, I would bet half my savings no one will be able to guess the caste of that person. In every caste one finds people with negrito looks, middle eastern looks, northie looks and mixed looks. The simple and straightforward explanation is that caste was a occupational division, and not a racial division.

    The only point of interest, imho, is the origin of the name 'thiyya'. Instead of looking for the name of some mountain in Kirghistan, it would be better to look at some other simpler reason for that name, occupation based.

    Cheers!

  1. Shalini PM

    Trichur district has many areas falling under erstwhile British Malabar. Chavakkad Taluk of Trichur district ( Chavakkad, Guruvayur, Engandiyur, Valappad, Thalikkulam, Kazhimbram, Edamuttam etc) was part of old British Malabar.?Malabar had three prominent thiyya leaders at that time who were close friends. Moorkoth Kumaran from Thalassery, Kallingal Madathil Rarichan Mooppan from Kozhikode and Mithavadi Krishnan vakkeel aka Changaram Kumarath Krishnan Vakkeel from Mullassery village in Trichur( Chavakkad Taluk). Krishnan vakeel was a prominent thiyya in Malabar district. He was occupying important position in govt of British Malabar. Changaram Kumarath is and was a very famous Trichur thiyya family. They have lots of tharavad houses in kozhikode and Chavakkad. The coastal belts of trichur district has lots of prominent south malabar thiyya families. All these families trace back their origin to Malabar. Some very famous Trichur thiyya families are Pokkancherry( palace physicians, Kakkanatt, Karatt Parambil, Thandassery( Elite group), Thachampully, Changaram Kumarath, Valiparambil( ayurvedic vaidyanmar, Medimix group) , Adiparambil, Kunnathully, Mele Puraykkal, Kuzhuppilly etc etc. U can easily spot these extreemely fair and handsome trichur thiyyas from the ezhavas there. Thiyyas of Trichur r seen along coastal belts of Thrissur and the ezhavas r seen in interior parts. All these Thrissur thiyya families r very well connected with prominent thiyya tharavads in Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur. The thiyyas of trichur even today carry their caste certificate as " THIYYA" itself. Till Kodungallur areas, there r trichur thiyya families settled since centuries there.
    South Malabar thiyyya families r very well established in areas like Chavakkad, Guruvayur, Pattambi, Valancherry, Shoranur, Ottappalam etc. In Palakkad district, thiyyas and ezhavas dont intermarry as its very rare.Last but not the least, actor Devan is a very good example of classic south malabar thiyyan, he is the nephew of Late Ramu Karyat. Karyat thiyya tharavad is located in Engandiyur, Chavakkad Taluk of Trichur district.

    the matrimony bureaus of thrissur should seriously see to the matter that they dont mislabel the proper Thrissur thiyyas as ezhavas

  1. shyam

    the word illam using In north thamil nadu as their home.. Brhamins illam also home.. but thiyya's illam is not home but it represents tree or herbs name. In Malabar all community using illam name and they all follow gotra tradition.
    around 50,00000 thiyyas in malabr they came from 8 illam (8 gotra). if count population of all other illam community (from pulaya to Bahamian), together and compare still the count will be very less than thiyya population. this will be an evidence thiyyas are the first community exited and expand in malabr

    As said Ezhava is not one community but gathering of many communities during Sree Narayana Guru activity. if Trivandrum few Ezhava have illam that means they might be migrated from North thamil nadu or somewhere where illam system exisited..
    there is One vijayan who develop Sreelanka from india (Orissa) , Migrated to sree lanaka arount 2300 years his decenters also using illam system