Payyannur Paattola – Nilakesi’s revenge

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Vadakan pattukal came to light in the 16th century, but there were vernacular poets even before that and the first such documented poetry is the story of Nilakesi in ‘The Payyanur paattu’. Dr Herman Gundert unearthed it during his days in Telicherry in the 19th century and transported some of what he obtained to Germany. Since then, it has been much talked about. This is not an in-depth study and I am happy to say that there is plenty of material out there and many experts have conducted solid studies on the subject. So consider this just an introduction to the uninitiated with a request to read the other available material, if history interests you.

When you unearth a bit of colloquial poetry like the Payyanur Paattu which tells a story, you would first concentrate on the story. The story in this case is only the medium, expressing human relationships and emotion, striking the chord with the public. But as a text from even earlier times, it hides in between the jumbled words, a good amount of history, especially relating to trade and cultural activities of a period. So when this appeared, the rich treasure trove was dissected by the learned and the wisdom gleaned from it is rather illuminating, so to speak. And that is why it is much heralded in recent times.

Payyannur (actually termed as Pazhayannur in the poetry) incidentally is the Northern most district of the Chirakkal taluk and finds mention from Parusurama’s times as the seat of the Payyannur Grammakkar. These people were the Brahmins specially favored by ‘Parasurama’ and had even practiced ‘matrilineal maraumakkattayam’ and not the Vedic prescribed Makkattayam inheritance system which Namboothiri’s later followed.

The Payyanur Paattu is a ballad dedicated to a local goddess and written around the 13th or 14th century in Malayalam by an unknown writer belonging to the trading Chettiar community. While almost all textual work in India is attributed to the scholarly Bhrahmin class (for only they were allowed study of scriptures & Sanskrit), this was done by the merchant sect or Chettys. Interestingly, while many relied on the word of mouth, Chettys had to write out their accounts & contracts, so were used to writing things. The document when first discovered by Gundert was incomplete, only some 104 verses or 448 lines in all were found, and is still largely incomplete. However the story line has been augmented by other contemporary poetry to come to an acceptable conclusion.

The original text runs as follows and then stops abruptly, for that was all Dr Gundert could get out of the manuscript he received and exemplified as “certainly the oldest specimen on Malayalam composition which I have seen”. He adds “the language is rich and bold, evidently of a time when the infusions from Sanskrit had not reduced the energy of the tongue, by cramping it with hosts of unmeaningful particles”. Gundert and many others studied this one and only fragment without corroboration of text or matter from other sources. Due to this reason, understanding of some of the words were difficult not only to Dr Gundert, but even today’s Malayalam experts. But naturally, for this was heavy colloquial poetry with a large dose of trade related usages & words, that are still being deciphered.

For now, I will condense the story a bit…

Nilakesi, a woman born in a very good family in Trissivaperur (Trichur), did not have any sons even though she had tried marriage with several men for the sake of progeny. Finally she decided to perform penance, left her place alone on a pilgrimage and reached Kachilpatanam a famous trading centre near Ezhimala. There lived a merchant named Nambu chetty alias Combu chetty who was the chief trader. Nilakesi meets this Chetty who after performing some vows takes her to his mansion as his lawful wedded wife. The matrimony is eventful. Nilakesi begets a son off him named Nambusari Aran. Pleased at the birth of a son the parents gave a 41st day feast at the big Payyannur plains. At that time the brothers of Nilakesi were coasting by the area in a ship. Hearing the music and seeing the festivities, they disembark to see the play. To get inside the temple, they climb the walls and get caught by spectators who consider them as unwanted and suspicious characters. An argument ensues; the brothers vainly try to explain that they are Kulavaniyars (traders of grain) not knowing local customs and request an audience with the chief Chetty (unknown to them, their own BIL). He comes and without further questions, straightaway strikes one of them on the head but this thus continues into a bigger scuffle and the two brothers are killed.

On hearing about this, Nilakesi is distraught and leaves home (leaving everything behind including her son) with a vow (kudi paka) to take revenge by killing her own son, and continues wandering around as a mendicant, once again.

The son grew up and the father taught his son everything about trade and ship building. The father gave him a new ship for trading and the son plans to man it with Vapuravas, Pandyas, Jonakas, Chuliyas,Pappavas and a Yavana. The ship is loaded, launched and it sets out to Poompattana near Ezhimala, and then goes to the Maladives, to Puvenkapatana, then up the Kaveri River to another sea and finally the shores of the Gold Mountains. Here the trader and his team barter their goods for a heap of gold and return to Kachilpatanam and dismisses his mariners with their share of gold and profits.

One fine day the son is playing chess with his father when a female ascetic requests their audience, not satisfied with the alms usually given at the gate. . She comes in and requests to be allowed to talk to the young merchant, but the boy refuses to be the giver of alms to the woman. The lady threatens dire circumstances should he not accede to her wishes, so they agree to debate and if she won, he would personally give her alms.. The Sanyasini of course was none other than Nilakesi the mother of Nambusari Aran, the young merchant. A long discussion and a regular debate takes place between them, Nilakesi wins and she then invites the boy to a cultural festival and feast.

She requests him to come to Payyannur for a feast conducted by women there. She actually taunts him saying, come there if you are a man, seeing him hesitate. The boy takes on the challenge and agrees, but finds his father distraught about the idea. The father states that the boy will be killed, and also explains the reasons of his fears to the boy and the story of his mother’s ‘koodi paka’( here there is a twist – Some experts state that the father never mentions that the lady is his mother but does say that she would kill him) .. Father says I’ll die if you go, son says, I will die if you do not allow me to go…. They have a major argument about it at the end of which the son falls and prostrates on his father’s feet begging for approval to go. Finally the father accedes with great reluctance, but sure of grave & mortal danger to his son, insists that he take along with him strong guards from the family of the Gopala Chetty of Anjuvannam, the Manigramma families (he explains to his son that there are four classes of trading colonists in the four towns),.. So he plans to go with 14 companions to avoid being outwitted by anybody of the country (presumably Kolathunad). The son states that he will not sleep until he returns home, and that he would return in the morning even if he has to be dragged home by his feet. The father then suggests that they take some trading goods along as for a fair. The final 10 stanzas are all about the goods to be taken for the trade at the fair.

The poem ends there thus with 104 verses. In suspense..

Whatever happens to the boy? Wait a bit I will tell you what the believed answer is. You see, it took us another 100 years after Gundert’s discovery to find out a plausible answer

This poem is very important for historians and anthropologist for a few reasons. One, it was the first documented poem and secondly it was passed on by tradition in the vernacular. The story was completed only from the Theyyattam songs of the area, as narrated by the washer man or ‘mannan’ caste. How did the story go from the Chetty guilds to the Mannan caste? Also it was the first document that identified the merchant guilds existing between the 9th and 13th century. Later studies established the details of the said guilds, more on that and the Ayyavole guild in a follow up blog.

Then again, this is the first documentary evidence of Changathams and Chavers in Malabar. They are alluded to in the poem as mercenaries and support for the trading caravans (it says – Chavalarepole Niyakkalepovum, Changatham venam Perikkayipol).

You can also see here that the mariners mentioned were from various parts. Pandiyas & Chuliays were of Tamil (refer my blog on marakkayars to learn about Chooliyas) origin. It is mentioned, I believe that the boats are sewn boats termed ‘marakalam’, which is typical of Malabar boats. Then there were the sail boats and rowing boats. So the Chooliyas in the marakkalam may haven been marakkayars. Note again that the ships went to the Maladives which later became a personal fiefdom of the Mamally Marakkar.

In the passages where the father teaches the son, there are mentions of book keeping methods, as well as understanding purity of metals. Good qualities that a trader should possess are meticulously explained and also the fact that trade comprised rice from other Eastern areas (as it was ferried by ship) is clear from some paragraphs (showing a scarcity in Malabar). As we know now, Valluvanad & Kuttanad were the areas where rice was eventually cultivated.

It was also one of the earliest mentions of chess or Chaturangam being played in Kerala. It is known that Namboothiris used to play it a lot, even demarcating temple grounds with huge pieces and squares to signify the board, but this is documented proof of others playing it and describing the pieces. All the chess pieces are named: King (Mannava), Horse (Kutira), Elephant (Varana), Chariot (Ther), Footmen (Natakkum Chevakan) and Minister (Mantri).

Anyway, the wise Gundert Sayyip took his collection including this fragmentary ballad and stored it in the Tuebingen Library where it rested peacefully and safely. I shudder to think of the consequences had it been left at its place of origin, we would never have got richer with all this information & history. And it explains the special attachment of the woman of Malabar to her matrilineal family, where for example the husband comes second. It also hovers around the kind of confusion that Abraham Ben Yiju felt about Ashu’s relationship with her brothers.

Now who is this ballad dedicated to? Presumably a Bhaghawati or goddess (some arguments on this subject with Shiva and Subramaniam also coming in) – Historian NM Nampoothiri explains - Many Female deities in the village groves are seen praised as Kannaki of Madura who is the Principal Goddess of Trade .Many Bhaghavathis come to the Groves in a ship or ‘kappal’(a signifier of maritime trade.) These Female deities are worshipped by Chetties of the eastern coast who are Trade Groups. Deity of ‘Maataayikkaavu (maatu+vaay=Port near hillocks, Varakkal is another case Vara means hillocks). The deity praised in Payyannur Paattu and the deity of Pishaari kaavu (Pantalayini port/ Kollam Port) are these types. Pitaari or pishaari signifies Kaali in Tirunelveli. There are shrines of deity Pitaari widely spread over Tirunelveli /Madura areas.
Many years later the rest of the story was obtained as part of a washer mans’ exorcism ballad. These mannan’s performed ‘teyyattam’ for the merchant community. So the Paattu as we know today is a hybrid of the manuscript and the vernacular ballad, a hybrid poem. The second poem is called Nilakesi Paattu where Nilakesi meets up with Nambusari and they have a contest of chess in which he gets defeated. Nilakesi then takes the story to the end, which is, as she avowed, his death. So to complete the story, the mother Nilakesi kills her son in revenge.

People had access to Gundert’s simplified version of the Payyannnur Paattu in the Madras journal of Literature & Science (XIII-II) April 1884, but not the original parchment until recently. It rested in the Tuebingen University and nobody had any real clue about this Malayalam script, i.e. till Dr Scaria Sachariah came along. But in passing Gundert Sayip concluded thus ‘I believe that the people of Anjuvannam and Manigramam here mentioned as belonging to yonder country can only mean Jews and Christians (or Manicheans) who for commerce’s sake also settled beyond the Perumal’s territories. It would be interesting to know which the other two classes are. In the meantime the existence of four trading communities in Kerala seem proved, and the ‘nalucheri’ of the first Syrian document receives some elucidation from this incidental allusion.’

For now, I will conclude. This as I mentioned, is only an introduction. Reading the books referred below will provide a history enthusiast great perspective and much information about culture, trade and relationships of that time…

Introducing the experts

Dr. Scaria Zachariah, professor of Malayalam, at the Sree Sankara University of Sanskrit, Kalady, is an expert in 16th century Malayalam . P Antony was a student in the same university, and researching on Vadakkan Poattukal.

Others who have written various essays on this subject are Prof Guptan Nair, Dr Leelavati, Mahakavi Ulloor, MGS Narayanan, Venugopalan Nambiar, K Balakrishnan, Dinesan, Sajitha, T Pavithran to name a few, these can be read in the Tapasam issue.

Dr Gundert – See my previous blog on The Sahib & Collector. An additional footnote about Dr Gundert - "There is something that many people do not know about Mr. Gundert. He actually began his work in Tamil Nadu as a private tutor to the son of a British missionary. He had stayed in Madras, then in Tirunelveli, all of which is recorded in his diary. Mr. Gundert was not a missionary, he was never ordained. He was always a teacher. In Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, he had established 10 schools. Very few know that Mr. Gundert had written a Tamil-Greek, a Hebrew-Tamil dictionary and a Church History in Tamil. But this has been lost forever. He had given the manuscripts to possibly the mission press in Nagercoil in October 1838, but our efforts to dig this out has failed," informs Dr. Albrecht Frenz, his great great grand daughter

The guilds – Merchant groups such as Kolanchiyar, Valanchiyar, Anchuvannam and Manigramam operated during this period. Ayyavole seems to have worked in the North of Coorg areas.

More details on this subject and related areas will follow


Payyannur Paattu – Paadavum Padanavum - Dr Scaria Zacharia, P Antony
Tapasam – Vol II, issue 2, July 2006 with many articles on PP

On the origin of Nairs

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

Much has been said and written about the origins of Nairs of Malabar and to this date it still remains as murky and obscure as it was to the 15th century anthropologist or the curious foreign traveler who recorded his thoughts. It is certainly strange that no record stands or can be traced relating to the advent of this warrior class into Kerala and the reasons behind their special relationship with the Namboothiris or Brahmins of Kerala. But we could perhaps go over some of the conclusions made by leading historians and anthropologists and later summarize. Nairs did become a much studied group of people, not due to their origins, but because of their practices such as matriliny & marriage traditions, the ways they conducted war & those ‘special’ relationships with the Namboothiri.

The spelling has floated between nayar and nair over time and between writers. I have used both in the text below, signifying one and the same group. The Nair clan itself covers many other titles and groups like Menon, Panikkar, Nambiar etc, but those aspects are not discussed in this context. Today the nair’s constitute some 12-13% of the Kerala population, declining from about 18% in the 16th -17th century.

Were they hill people, were they from the North, were they Scythian in origin, were they from Tulunad, were they Chalukyar’s, and were they Nayakas? Were they perhaps Nagas or Newars from Nepal or Assam? Let us try to find out or at least understand the reasons behind all the confusion.

KVK Iyer – Zamorins of Calicut – he starts by saying that there was absolutely no hostility between the Tamil Chera rulers of Kerala and the Nayars who succeeded them as rulers of the land. In the Zamorin granthavari’s, they are called ‘Lokar’. They were somewhat equivalent to the Spartiate of Greece. In Sanskrit it means nayaka or leader. While it was originally a title, Portuguese writers extended it to cover the military followers. Today it covers everybody between the Ambalavasis on the upper end and the polluting castes at the lower end. KVK quotes Kanakasabhai that both the Tamils and Nairs came from Mongolia. However for some obscure reason the nairs followed a matriarchial system while the tamils followed a patriarchial system. Others like Kunhukuttan thampuran claim a naga lineage, but here again the nagas were patriarchial. Iyer concludes that in all probability, the nairs were a hill tribe living on the slopes of the Western Ghats. He attributes this reasoning to the consideration of Tirunelli in Wynad as their most sacred place, the title Kunnalakonatiri or ruler of the hills and waves (Zamorin) reminiscent of hill dwellings, the use of the plantain leaf for all auspicious activities, the manner of military strategy of nairs being more suited to hills & guerilla warfare than open fighting. Based on various copper plates he concludes that nairs rose to power around the 4th century AD. (Kanakasabhai also mentions that Malayalam language resembles Mongolian and that a Mongolian tribe called Marar conquered the Nagas of Malabar around 1st century AD)

KVK Iyer – History of Kerala – In this book Iyer is a little more forthright and explains the relationship between the Nampoothiris and nayars. He starts thus – The invasion of Kerala by Rajaraja 1 in 988 AD (to 1120) brought an end to the free intercourse between the Brahmins on both sides of the Ghats. Their customs diverged to create the Nampi sri or Nampoothiri. The needs for the wars brought the nayars to the forefront. The nampoothiris joined them to fight the aggressor. The camaraderie forged on the battle field was cemented by the free access of the former to the homes of the latter and this personal intimacy reinforced by the spiritual ascendancy of the former as priest gradually led to an establishment of theocracy more powerful and permanent than the Pope III of Europe. Based on this relationship the learning of Sanskrit continued in nayar homes.

He later provides a more detailed analysis; the Nairs are sometimes identified with the Satiyaputras of Ashoka’s rock edict II, Satiyaputra being held to be a variant of Striputra. They are also satisfactorily identified with the Atiyamans of the Sangham works.

Looking at the characteristics of the Nayars, the Aratta vahikas of the Mahabharata seem to provide the right comparison. They were ayudhajivans, their women had considerable freedom, the man’s heir was his sister’s son and these Aratta vahikas might themselves have been a branch of the Brahuis of baluchistan. They probably moved down south following the invasion of Darius (518-516). Some moved to Tulunad, some came through the Palakkad gap; some went to Laccadives & Ceylon. Some were stranded in pockets around North Arcot, Trichy and Salem.

C Achyuta Menon – Cochin State manual
– He states that the immigrants who subjugated the native Cherumars appear to have been the nayars. They evidentially had to struggle hard to conquer the country and even more to keep it. That they had to maintain themselves for a long time amidst hostile surroundings is evidenced by the peculiarity of the dwelling of the Nayar which by itself is like a small fort isolated from the dwellings of others and surrounded by such preparations for resistance as would be adequate against comparatively unarmed enemies. He believes that they are etymologically identical with the naik or naidu. But he confirms other opinions like Scythian origin and similarity with nagas and takshaks who entered India in the 6th century. He also believes that the naga theory is more appropriate and that this is conformed by the similarity of names, serpent worship & polyandry, and that as stated in Keralolpathi, the nagas had driven out the first Brahmin settlers. He believes this occurred about the time the naga king of Maghada conquered Ceylon in the 4th or 5th century BC.

Nagam Aiya – Travancore State manual – Quotes the Kerala mahatmyam in that nayars are the product or offspring of cohabitation between junior namboothiri offspring and women brought in by Parasurama from the groups viz rakshasas, ghandharvas & devas. The more rational Keralolpathi states that they came in together with the namboothriis from the North. By & far he states that this was a combination of Aryan and Dravidian races and after having created the group fiercely protected it from further pollution with the polluting groups below. He also mentions the similarity with the Singalas of Ceylon who are of naga stock and their matrilineal customs. He also alludes to a Tibetan origin, or that they are the same as the Newars of Nepal.

F Fawcett – Nayars of Malabar – opines that the resemblance between nayars and uriyas of Gumsoor is striking. Quoting him – ‘But the circumstance that inheritance through women was once, perhaps, the rule in Southern India cannot be accepted as of itself proof that the Nayars are identical with the Dravidians, as the people of Southern India are commonly called. It is not yet time to say whether they are or are not. To the ordinary visitor their outward appearance, customs, habitations, mode of life generally, are very different from what he sees in the Telugu or Tamil countries; for Malabar, " the west coast," is as unlike the rest of the Presidency as Burma. The only other district of the Madras Presidency which resembles Malabar, is Ganjam, more particularly the northern part of it, where the people are almost entirely Aryan. The resemblance between these, the Uriyas of Gumsoor and thereabouts, a fine fighting stock, and the Nayars of Malabar is very striking. It is not, perhaps, a mere coincidence that in these two furthest remote corners of the Presidency alone, the people at large are to be seen wearing umbrella hats to protect them from the sun.’

PCM Raja – Samoothirimaar – Looking tangentially at the origins of the Zamorins, one lands up at Nediyirippu, a place near Kondotty in Eranad -N Malabar. Raja opines that they moved there from Karnataka and originated from the shores of the River Sindhu in North India., moving towards Salem and Mysore. According to him they were Chalukyas and Agnivansha kings. He believes that the clan were part of the group that later split to become the Rajput Chauhans, malwan Parmars or Gujaratiu Solankis. According to another historian Dr Ayyathan Gopalan quoted, the originators of the clan were Manichand and Vikaram, two brothers who came from Punjab or Rajasthan, moving down through the Deccan plateau to Salem. Around the 3rd century, they moved through Coimbatore to Ernad and settled there creating the Eradi clan. They were the Manavedan and Vikraman of the Zamorin dynasty or the Puntura Konathiris. But a question remains, were the Nairs a group of people who came with them?

However it must be noted here that these two Puntura youths did utilize the existing Nayar forces, personally annexing the Polanad 10,000 in one fight on behalf of the Cheraman Perumal; fighting the Chola Rayar defeating him at Tirunavaya. So Nayars existed prior to the arrival of the Zamorin leaders.

KM Panikkar – Some aspects of Nayar Life – States that without a shadow of doubt is actually Nagar and was a totemic clan which has been living always in South India. Aryan invasion thrust one side to the west of the Ghats forming what we know as Nayars today and to the South into Ceylon as the Nagas of Ceylon. He also states based on other authority that Naga is Naya in Singalese. Buddha’s visit to Ceylon in the 2nd century BC apparently chronicles the presence of Naga people there. He sternly rebukes the supporters of the ‘Nair was Nayaka’ theory for if that were correct, they then would not have supported the Aryan superiority in spiritual & temporal matters. He also goes on to satisfactorily argue against the comparison f Tibetan polyandry with purported polyandry in Kerala that was reported entirely based on Buchanan’s totally unsatisfactory reporting on his travel in Malabar. The Nayars were not a caste, they were a race, he concludes.

Kathleen Gough – Matrilineal Kinship – At least in the first century AD, Kerala’s social structure was based upon plough agriculture with irrigation, specialized crafts and overseas trade. Productivity was sufficiently high so that more than one quarter of the population could be exempted from manual labor and set apart as specialist literate groups engaged in religion, government, warfare & wholesale trade. The nayars as the ruling and Military cases, formed the core of this aristocracy and probably comprised one quested and one fifth of the total population. But she does not get into the origins, per se.

Newar connection
There is a theory that they came from the Nepal Valley, adjacent to Tibet. Some consider them to be early descendants of the Newars of Nepal. Serpent worship is one of common custom between the Newars and Nairs. Dr. Zacharias Thundy’s theory is that groups of Newars who were partially Aryanized and would be later Dravidianized joined the Munda exodus and finally settled down in Kerala after a long period of sojourn in the eastern plains of Tamil Nadu. Newars of Nepal could be the relatives of Nairs as the Newar architecture closely resemble that of the Nalu kettu of Nairs. Nairs even now display the slightly mongoloid features, yellowish skin, sharper features and resemble Nepalese or the highlanders of Uttaranchal. Well, personally I do not see much resemblance, but maybe in the past, there was one!

Indo Scythian connections
NT Shetty’s blog and some comments there provide these clues - Bunts and Nairs are perhaps of Naga descent or perhaps with Scythians otherwise called in India as Saka. The Saka invaded India around 200 BC. The Nairi people of Central Asia with their Mittanian Aryan rulers were defeated and assimilated by the Scythians around 600 BC. Scythians were a martial people of central Asia who often went for long raiding trips against the cities of Persia and other Hindu nations of then Afghanistan. Scythians practiced Matriarchy, Polyandry and Slavery. Nairis were a sub group of Scythians. Nairi surname exists among many people from North India Nayyars, Nehrajats and Nepalese Newars. Nairs of Kerala also may have Nairi blood who had mixed with the Nagas of Ahichatra. Nairs were Nagas from Ahichatra, not ethnic Tamils. Nairs appeared in Kerala History very late only by the end of first Millennium after the repeated attacks and occupation of Kerala by Rashtrakuta forces. Nairs perhaps never talked Tamil but the Prakrit or some other Aryan tongue. Nairs did mix with few Dravidian clans including Vellalas. The arrival of Nairs led to the mixture of Tamil with Prakrit and Sanskrit words converting the language to Malayalam. In the early period of Dravidian History Nagas were regarded as the worst enemies of ancient Tamils and Nagas were not related to Dravidians.
Mythical versions
Kerala Mahatmyam - Nayars are the product or offspring of cohabitation between junior namboothiri offspring and women brought in by Parasurama from the groups viz rakshasas, ghandharvas & devas. Another mythical version says that Nairs being Kshatriyas belonging to the Nagavansham who removed their “Janivara” (sacred thread) and escaped to south to evade Parasurama..

The Vellala Link
The Vellalas were the protector class of the east coast. U B Nair states that tradition alludes to the advent of Vellalas into Malabar. It appears that 64 families of karakattu vellalars formed the Kiriyathil nayar group. They were the groups which won distinction from the pandya king for guarding the clouds and were apparently the ones brought in by Parasurama into Malabar. However it is also stated that they came in to Malabar even before parasurama, during Bhaskara ravi varma’s time 700AD. This is considered a very non plausible story due to the fact that nairs were in Malabar before 700AD.

Nairs and Bunts – Tulu research
According to Tulu legends Bunts came from aichatra madastana in “Uttaranchal” state today which is surrounded by Tibet in north and Nepal on east. The city is now called “Ram Nagar”. According to another legend ahikshetra was a place on the banks of Saraswati River. “ahi” means snake (chiefly serpent). It is believed that Bunts were “naga or serpent worshipers prior to being buta/boota or spirit worshipers. Of course, we worship our ancestors in spirits (kule) too and thus have various ways/rituals to pray and remember them (agel to kulekulu, new dress to kulekulu, marriage of kule etc.). So there is reason to believe that bunts were mainly serpent worshipers and many groups of Bunts might have come from north. Nairs or Nayars and bunts belong to same cast. Like Bunts and Nadavas (and other tuluva people) Nairs too follow their own form of inheritance called Marumakkathayam, which is “ali katt”. Bunts have “Nayaranna bali” (bali = matriarchal lineage). Last ruler/king of Kanajar (a village in Karkala Taluk) was Nayar Hegde. In this village it was prohibited to take name of the king. So Kanajar folks always called the plough equipment commonly known as nayer/naver in tulu as guddal (from kannada ‘guddali’). The royal house (oMjane ill) of Shetty’s village Kowdoor (adjacent to Kanajar) is “Naayara bettu”. Nayara is one of the 93 Bunts surname. Varma is a common surname of Nairs and Bunts.

Dopamine gene theory – Valeries Legrand (Dredged from an obscure internet link) – She has been on the subject of the Nairs of Kerala for the last one decade and hence claims to be an authority on the same. The origins of the Nairs are shrouded in mystery, but from most ancient accounts, cultures and customs, it can be safely inferred that the Nairs are Scythian of descent. The fact that recent tests indicate presence of the warrior gene 'dopamine' in them as in case of other Scythians attests to this fact. As a race they are distinct from the prevailing Aryan or Dravidian races of India. (Not yet studied or corroborated by others!)

Thomas R, Nair SB, Banerjee M -A crypto-Dravidian origin for the nontribal communities of South India based on human leukocyte antigen class I diversity. - The present study reveals that the HLA diversity of the Dravidian communities is very distinct from that in the other world populations. It is obvious that the non tribal communities of Kerala display a greater Dravidian influence, but traces of genetic admixture with the Mediterranean, western European, central Asian and East Asian populations can be observed. This article analyzes a set of South Indian non tribal and tribal groups to determine their similarity to other ethnic groups. In conclusion here, what was found was that according to the analysis of HLA Class I haplotypes, Nairs were most similar to Western European groups.

To summarize, the Nayars have been considered a derivative of local people with invading Aryans, have been wandering Scythins who settled down, the Nagas and so on. No one theory holds forte, though from all the above, the Scythian link seems to be the near fetched one. In any case, the world has forgotten the Nayars except this nayar who went on this wild goose chase. Lot more studies have to be completed before any one conclusion can be called final, but I leave that to anthropologists. Until then, it was an interesting but fruitless foray into this obscure and murky terrain.

UPDATE -  The Wandering YA Discussion on genetic deciphering to understand human migration


Indo Scythians
A similar debate in Malayalam
The Kerala Story: by Dr. Zacharias Thundy
The origin of Malabar Nairs – U Balakrishnan Nair, Calcutta review
Tamils 1800 years ago – V Kanakasabhai
Malabar Manual – Logan
History of Kerala – KV Krishna Iyer
Zamorins of Calicut – Krishna Iyer
Travancore State Manual – Nagam Aiya
Cochin State Manual – C Achyutha Menon
Matrilineal Kinship – Kathleen Gough
Pic - I think is from the original Barbosa book with plates, will update with details in due course.