Some were also involved in texile manufacturing, liquor business and toddy tapping. The word Ilavar is derived from Villavar which means archers who were a warrior caste among the Dravidians who ruled most of India. According to historian C. However, he also says that it is very unlikely that the Ezhavas came from Sri Lanka and spread all over Kerala; instead they were the mainstream of Munda-Dravidian immigrants who left Tamil Nadu in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries to avoid persecution at the hands of their political enemies.
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History Legend According to legend and some Malayalam folk songs,[ which? These men were sent, ostensibly, to set up coconut farming in the region. Another version of the story says that the king sent eight martial families at the request of a Chera king to quell a civil war that had erupted against him. This theory is based on similarities between numerous of the customs adopted by the two groups, particularly with regard to marking various significant life stages such as childbirth and death, as well as their matrilineal practices and martial history.
Oral history, folk songs and other old writings indicate that the Ezhavas were at some point in the past members of the armed forces serving various kings, including the Zamorins of Calicut and the rulers of the Cochin dynasty. Cyriac Pullapilly has said that only a common parentage can explain some of these issues. This argues that the Jains needed protection when they arrived in the area and recruited sympathetic local people to provide it.
These people were then distinguished from others in the local population by their occupation as protectors, with the others all being classed as out-caste.
Pullapilly describes that this meant they " Thus originated the Nairs. Although Brahmin influences had existed in the area since at least the 1st century CE, there was a large influx from around the 8th century when they acted as priests, counsellors and ministers to invading Aryan princes.
At the time of their arrival the non-aboriginal local population had been converted to Buddhism by missionaries who had come from the north of India and from Ceylon. The Brahmins used their symbiotic relationship with the invading forces to assert their beliefs and position. Buddhist temples and monasteries were either destroyed or taken over for use in Hindu practices, thus undermining the ability of the Buddhists to propagate their beliefs.
Aiyappan , another social anthropologist and himself a member of the caste,  noted the mythical belief that the Ezhava brought coconut palms to the region when they moved from Ceylon. This activity is sometimes erroneously referred to as toddy tapping, toddy being a liquor manufactured from the sap.
Arrack was another liquor produced from the palms, as was jaggery an unrefined sugar. In reality, most Ezhavas were agricultural labourers and small-time cultivators, with a substantial number diverging into the production of coir products, such as coconut mats for flooring, from towards the end of the 19th century. A boom in trade for these manufactured goods after World War I led to a unique situation in twentieth-century Kerala whereby there was a shortage of labour, which attracted still more Ezhavas to the industry from outlying rural areas.
The Great Depression impacted in particular on the export trade, causing a reduction in price and in wages even though production increased, with the consequence that during the s many Ezhava families found themselves to be in dire financial circumstances. The Vadakkan Pattukal ballads describe Chekavars as forming the militia of local chieftains and kings but the title was also given to experts of Kalari Payattu.
Known as Vaidyars, these people acted as physicians. Itti Achuden was probably the best known Ezhava physician who directly influenced the classification of Hortus Malabaricus in the 17th century. The ritual is also called "Mayilpeeli Thookkam" because the costume includes a characteristic garment made of mayilppeeli peacock feathers. This garment is worn around the waist in a similar fashion as the "uduthukettu" of Kathakali.
The various dance movements are similar to kalarippayattu techniques. The performers have their faces painted green and wear distinctive headgears. The all-night performance of the dance is usually presented solo or in pairs. In this, a group of eight performers, two each, twin around each other like serpents and rise up, battling with sticks. The techniques are repeated several times. Sandalwood paste on the forehead, a red towel round the head, red silk around the waist and bells round the ankles form the costume.
This is a combination of snake worship and Kalarippayattu. Poorakkali requires specially trained and highly experienced dancers, trained in Kalaripayattu.
Standing round a traditional lamp, the performers dance in eighteen different stages and rhythms, each phase called a niram. Those living in southern Travancore tended to meld the different practices that existed in the other parts of Kerala. The family arrangements of northern Malabar were matrilineal with patrilocal property arrangements, whereas in northern Travancore they were matrilineal but usually matrilocal in their arrangements for property.
Southern Malabar saw a patrilineal system but partible property. The process of reform was more easily achieved for the Ezhavas than it was for the Nairs , another Hindu caste in Kerala who adopted matrilineal arrangements; the situation for the Nairs was complicated by a traditional matrilocal form of living called taravadu and by their usually much higher degree of property ownership.
These people, and other Muslim converts in the region, are now known as Mappillas. In Kannur , Protestant missions started working in the first half of the 19th century, notably the Basel German Evangelical Mission. Most of their converts were from the Thiyya community.
They sought the right to be treated as worthy of an English education and for jobs in government administration to be open to them. The outcome not looking to be promising, the Ezhava leadership threatened that they would convert from Hinduism en masse, rather than stay as helots of Hindu society. Ramaswamy Iyer , realising the imminent danger, prompted the Maharajah to issue the Temple Entry Proclamation , which abolished the ban on lower-caste people from entering Hindu temples in the state.
This was named after Narayana Guru , who had established an ashram from where he preached his message of "one caste, one religion, one god" and a Sanskritised version of the Victorian concept of self-help. His influence locally has been compared to that of Swami Vivekananda. Thus, the campaign shifted to providing schools operated by the community itself. In Malabar, which unlike Cochin and Travancore was under direct British control,  the Thiyyas showed little interest in such bodies because they did not suffer the educational and employment discrimination found elsewhere, nor indeed were the disadvantages that they did experience strictly a consequence of caste alone.
The Vaikom Satyagraha of — was a failed attempt to use the issue of avarna access to roads around temples in order to revive the fortunes of Congress , orchestrated by T. Madhavan , a revolutionary and civil rights activist,  and with a famous temple at Vaikom as the focal point.
Although it failed in its stated aim of achieving access, the satyagraha movement did succeed in voicing a "radical rhetoric", according to Nossiter. After the eventual passing of the Temple Entry Proclamation, some of the Akalis remained. They attracted some Ezhava youth to the concepts of the Sikhism, resulting in Ezhava conversions to that belief. Membership had reached 50, by and 60, by , but Nossiter notes that, "From the Vaikom satyagraha onwards the SNDP had stirred the ordinary Ezhava without materially improving his position.
There was subsequently a radicalisation and much political infighting within the leadership as a consequence of the effects of the Great Depression on the coir industry but the general notion of self-help was not easy to achieve in a primarily agricultural environment; the Victorian concept presumed an industrialised economy.
The organisation lost members to various other groups, including the Communist movement, and it was not until the s that it reinvented itself as a pressure group and provider of educational opportunities along the lines of the Nair Service Society NSS , Just as the NSS briefly formed the National Democratic Party in the s in an attempt directly to enter the political arena, so too in the SNDP formed the Social Revolutionary Party.
The Nairs and, where applicable, the Mapillas ranked socially and ritually higher than the polluting castes. They claim that the stance of the government is contrary to a principle established by the Supreme Court of India relating to a dispute involving communities who were neither Ezhava nor Thiyya.
The SNDP was at that time attempting to increase its relatively weak influence in northern Kerala, where the politics of identity play a lesser role than those of class and the Communist Party of India Marxist has historically been a significant organisation. One-third of the net produce from these lands was retained by the subtenants and the remainder was the property of the Nair tenant. They were partly outside the village ranking system Nevertheless Muslims were in some contexts accorded a rank ritually and socially between that of the Nayars and Tiyyars.
History of Ezhava
The etymology of Ezhava is uncertain. These men were sent, ostensibly, to set up coconut farming in Kerala. Another version of the story says that the Sri Lankan King sent eight martial families to Kerala at the request of a Chera king to quell a civil war that had erupted in Kerala against him. Veluppillai, the author of The Travancore State Manual, believes that during Buddhist ascendancy in Kerala, before the arrival of the Tulu Brahmins , "the Ezhavas enjoyed great prosperity and power" II,
List of Ezhavas
History Legend According to legend and some Malayalam folk songs,[ which? These men were sent, ostensibly, to set up coconut farming in the region. Another version of the story says that the king sent eight martial families at the request of a Chera king to quell a civil war that had erupted against him. This theory is based on similarities between numerous of the customs adopted by the two groups, particularly with regard to marking various significant life stages such as childbirth and death, as well as their matrilineal practices and martial history. Oral history, folk songs and other old writings indicate that the Ezhavas were at some point in the past members of the armed forces serving various kings, including the Zamorins of Calicut and the rulers of the Cochin dynasty. Cyriac Pullapilly has said that only a common parentage can explain some of these issues.