Friday, 8 June 2018

Nairs and trade in ancient Kerala

Recently I was searching that how Nairs became rich in ancient times. When searching on the internet, I read on a website that the spice trade in Malabar was once owned by the Nairs. In those days, different types of spices were exported to the foreign countries like China, Portugal, the Arabian countries, etc. and also were transported to different parts of India. For example, in 'The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies - Volume 8' is it mentioned that "Spices came to Surat largely from the Malabar Coast and the spice islands. Pepper, nutmegs, mace, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon were the chief varieties traded at Surat."

Luís Vaz de Camões or Luis de Camões was a poet of the 16th century and is considered Portugal's and the Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil, and Dante. Luis de Camões' travel journals and his Lusiads (1572), translated into English in 1776, also told of the idyllic Nair community and its gracious trade in vital spices like cinnamon, cardamom, sandalwood, and pepper; and he contrasted the civility of its thriving seaport of Calicut with the tawdry living of Dutch settlers and Portuguese adventurers in the former Nair port of Cochin.

Before Camões, the Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes also told in 1520 of the Nairs' astute management of the ancient spice route, and of their cultural and religious ties with the Brahmin kingdom in the Deccan whose capital, Vijayanagar, was a large and splendid as Rome. 
In 'A History of India by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund' it is given that "The most important port of Malabar coast was Muziris(Crangannore near Cochin/കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂർ) in the kingdom of Cerobothra (Cheraputhra), which 'abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia and by the Greeks'. The Periplus reported on Roman trade in Malabar: "They send large ships to market-towns on account of the great quantity and bulk of pepper and malabathrum(Cinnamon). There are imported here, in the first place, a great quantity of coin; topaz, thin clothing, not much; figured linens, antimony, coral, crude glass, copper, tin, lead, wine, not much, but as much as at Barygaza[Broach]; realgar and orpiment; wheat enough for sailors, for this is not dealt in by the merchants there. There are exported pepper, which is produced in quantity in only one region near these markets, a district called Cottonara [north Malabar?]. Besides this, there are exported  great quantities of fine pearls, ivory, silk cloth, spikenard from the Ganges, malabathrum from the places in the interior, transparent stones of all kinds, diamonds, and sapphire and tortoise shell; that from Chryse land, and that taken among along islands along the coast of Damirica[Tamil Nadu]. They make the voyage to this place in a favourable season who set out from Egypt about the month of July, that is Epiphi." "

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant, explorer, and writer. In one of his books, he has written about Malabar that "It is the best part of India... It the richest and most splendid province in the world... Malabar(Kerala) and Ceylon(Sri Lanka) between them produce most of the pearls and gems that are to be found in the world." Nāgadveepa was the name of the northern (pearl-producing) part of Sri Lanka. 

In our Tharavadu, there was a big Moonstone. It was as big as a coconut endocarp. Sometimes the Moonstone was kept in the light of the full moon. At that time, it produced liquid. This liquid was collected and was used to make some Ayurvedic medicines. My mother's maternal grandmother possessed original Navaratnas. Navaratnas are believed to be nine sacred gemstones related to eight planets (excluding earth) and the moon. My mother, in her childhood days, had seen those nine gemstones in her maternal grandmother's Mundupetti (a trunk or a large wooden box that is used to keep clothes). 




Some data were collected from Wikipedia, Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India by Hermione de Almeida, From Matrilineal Kinship edited by David Murray Schneider and Kathleen Gough,  Beyond Price: Pearls and Pearl-fishing: Origins to the Age of discoveries - Volume 224 by R. A. Donkin

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Nāgavanshis of Kānchipuram

The ancient Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu are famous for their astonishing architecture and the Sangam literature is highly revered in Kerala also. PathuPāttu/पत्तपाट्ट meaning ten compositions of Sangam literature is a compendium of ten series of poems which mentions about a Chola King who had married a Naga Princess and had a son with her. Chola kings were Suryavanshi Kshatriyas of Kashyapa Gotra
The Pallavas were the kings of Kanchi about the middle of the third century A.D. The Pallavas belonged to the Bharadvaja gotra and their ancestry included Angiras, Brihaspati, and Bharadvaja. In the Velurpalaiyam plates of the ninth century, it is given that Veerakoorcha the first Pallava king attained the high status by marrying a Naga princess. The Naga clan of Kanchipuram also practiced cross-cousin marriage like the Nairs of today. 
There are several founding myths about the Pallava dynasty but all of them agree that this dynasty began with the marriage to princess Naga or Serpent Clan from across the seas. A Pallava inscription clearly suggests that the dynasty derived its royal legitimacy from this alliance. 

Goddess Kāmākshi 

Shree Kamakshi Amman Temple is one of the most famous Temples of Kanchipuram district. In this Temple, Goddess is worshipped as Shree Tripura Sundari. One eye of the Goddess is called 'Ka' and another eye is called 'Ma'. 'Ka' is used for Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of literacy and arts. 'Ma' is for Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of money, wealth, fertility, courage, victory and knowledge. It is also believed that sincerely worshipping Goddess Lakshmi will bring back the lost wealth. Akshi means eyed. So, Kamakshi means 'Ka' and 'Ma' eyed or the Goddess whose one eye is Ka(Saraswati) and another eye is Ma(Lakshmi). 
In the Malayalam language, there are sayings like "Ka-Ma ennoru aksharam mindi pokaruth(का-मा एन्नोरु अक्षरम् मिंडी पोकरुत्)" which means do not even say the word Ka-Ma" which actually means keep your mouth completely shut. And there is another saying that "Ka-Ma ennoru aksharam polum patthichittilla(का-मा एन्नोरु अक्षरम् पोलुम् पठिच्चिट्टिल्ला)" which means he/she has not even learned the word Ka-Ma. 
As it is said that there was a Naga clan in Kanchipuram, I believe that the ancestors of Nairs were ardent devotees of Goddess Kamakshi. Sometimes I feel that the original name of Kanchipuram was Kamakshipuram, it gradually became Kamachipuram and then Kanchipuram. 

Mahābalipuram

The Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram is the another famous Temple in Kanchipuram district. It is believed that this place, Mahabalipuram, was named after King Bāli who was the grandson of King Prahlada. But in my opinion Lord Shiva, the main the deity of this Temple might be in the form of Mahabali that is the Lord of great strength. This also could be the reason behind the name of this place. 
Ancient Kerala was from Kanyakumari to Gokarna (of Udupi district). In Gokarna, there is a Temple of Lord Shiva and it is called Mahabaleshwar Temple. There too Lord Shiva might be in the form of Mahabali. 
In Kerala, some people say that "Mahabali should be worshipped on the day of Onam." Last year there was a debate on whether Mahabali is the King Bāli or a deity. In my opinion, Mahabali is actually Lord Shiva. That is, in ancient Kerala Mahabali might have been the name of a form of Lord Shiva. For example, In Ujjain Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Mahakāl. 
In ancient times, Nagavanshi Nairs might have worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of Mahabali to strengthen their rule. Once in a magazine article, I read that there is a secret underground tunnel from Gokarna to Kashi. Kashi was once ruled by Brahmadatta dynasty. About 9th century B. C. the Brahmadatta dynasty of Kashi was replaced by a Naga dynasty. 

Shree Ulagalandha Perumal Temple

Shree Ulagalandha Perumal Temple of Kanchipuram is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In this Temple, Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of Shree Trivikrama or Lord Vamana. The Deity is also called Shree Lokanathan which means the Lord of the universe. The pond of this Temple is called Naga Teertha.
Lord Trivikrama was worshipped on the day of Onam in our Tharavadu. And my mother's eldest maternal uncle offered Pujas to Lord Shiva on the day of Pathinārām Makam. 





Data were collected from Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of Space and Place in South India by  Martha Ann Selby, Indira Viswanathan Peterson, The Lord of  Vendangam by S.R. Ramanujan, Uttar Pradesh District Gazetteers: Varanasi, Wikipedia, The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History by Sanjeev Sanyal,  Origin of Saivism and Its History in the Tamil Land by Subramanian K R, From Art and culture of Tamil Nadu (1980) and www.kanchikamakshi.com

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Kaniyars were not the preceptors of Kalarippayattu

In the website of Kerala Kalari Kurup Kalari Panicker Sagham it is written in the charity section that it was them who taught Kalarippayattu to Nairs. There is no proof for it. There is not even a single text in which it is written that Kaniyars practiced this martial art which is highly respected in Kerala. Kaniyar/Kaniyan community is not related to Malayali Nair community in any way. For Keralites, Kaniyan or Kaniyar means astrologer but there are some other facts which are not known to the people of Kerala. Now I am going to share some of those including two rituals which are jaw-dropping. 

Kaniyar/Kaniyan is a community of astrologers. The word Kaniyar/Kaniyan means 'the one who calculates'. They are also known as Kaniyan, Kanisu, Ganaka, Kanisan, Kamnan, and Kani. In the census report of 1881, Kaniyar has been reported as a Tamil caste. I have visited the houses of some Kaniyars. All of them had installed Lord Kuttichathan in their prayer room. In Kerala, Lord Kuttichathan is a local deity worshipped in witchcraft. It is believed that Kaniyars can never predict about their own future and the future of their family members. Kaniyars do not have Gotras and Vanshas/Vamshas. They are out of Varna system. 

Canion

Kaniyars(Kaniyans) are mentioned as Canion in 'A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the Beginning of the sixteenth century by Duarte Barbosa'. It is written is the book that "There is another lower set of Gentiles(non Jews) called Canion. Their business is to make shields and shades or hats: they learn letters and astronomy, and some of them great astrologers and they foretell many future things, and form very accurate judgements upon births of men. They are great diviners, and pay great attention to times and places of good and bad luck, which they cause to be observed by these kings and great men, and by merchants also." 

Rashi Panikkar

The Kaniyar community claim that the another name of their caste is Kalari Kurup/Kalari Panicker. In From Kerala -Volume 1 by Suresh Kumar Singh, T.Madhavan Menon, D.Tyagi it is givven that "the Kaniyan are known by different names in different regions of Kerala, such as the Kaniyan or Balleyyaya in northern areas, the Panikar in Central Malabar, the Ganaks or Ganika in Cochin area, the Kani or Kanian or Kanisan in Travancore area. But irrespective of their local reference, they are now generally called the Kaniyar or Kaniyan. In central Malabar, they are referred to as Rashi Panikar, which means the Panikar who deal in rashi, i.e. horoscope." 
These people now have started to add the word Kalarickal with their house names. The most funny thing is that they call the martial art as Kalari and not Kalarippayattu. They say "we taught Kalari to Nairs." The word Kalari actually means instituion. So, the another name of their caste is Rashi Panikkar and not Kalari Panicker. 

Kaniyan Attam/Kaniyan Koothu

Kaniyan Attam is dance form that is practiced by the Kaniyan or Kaniyar community of Tamil Nadu. In Kaniyan Koothu, two men perform on the musical drum Makudam  


 
This drum is a small circular one-headed drum hung from the left shoulder and tapped with fingers of both the hands. The drum is made of Poovarasu or neem wood. Boards of the wood are bent into circular shape and the skin of the young buffalo is attached to one side of the frame using glue prepared from Tamarind seeds. Based on the sound of drum or more specially it's pitch two types of Makudam are distinguished: the Vucha Makudam(high pitch drum) and the Mantha Makudam(low pitch drum). Both drums are used in Kaniyan koothu. Finally, to complete Kaniyan Koothu team, two male dancers are costumed as women. Generally, these performers grow their hair down to their shoulders and curls it using hairclips. When they have finished putting on their costumes they look so much like females that it is difficult to recognize them as males. These performers dance to accompainment of song and music. Only the Kaniyan community performs this Koothu. 


Kaniyan Kaivettu

Kaniyan Kaivettu or blood sacrificing by the shaman(a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits) is ritual done by an elderly person who has retired from Kaniyan Koothu performance. In this ritual shaman puts bananas, betel leaves, a coconut, incense sticks and a mask made of clay or fibre representing the evil spirit into a tray and offers it all to the deities. He walks three tiimes around a stone mortar used to make flour, finally stepping onto and standing upon the stone for a time while wearing the mask on his face. He rubs his left hand, the one he is going to cut, with coconut and circles it three times with coconut. Then he ties his left arm tightly with a cord and cuts the upper part of his wrist with a small sharp knife until blood begins to flow. He clenches his hand tightly and pours the blood on some plantain leaves, which spread out in front of Komarathadigal. Shaman often sprinkles water on the wound to keep the blood from clotting. The blood sacrified by shaman is mixed with bananas and eaten by Komarathadigal

Kaniyan Naakkuvettu

In this ritual, shaman bites his tongue tightly, then looks into a mirror held in his left hand while cutting his tongue with a sharp knife until blood begins to flow. Then he pours his blood on the plantain leaves and has it eaten by the komarathadigal


Some information were collected from "Images of the Body in India: South Asian and European Perspectives on rituals and perfomativity edited by Axel Michaels, Christoph Wulf" 

Vishu

                               

Sadya that was served to Goddess Bhuvaneshwari in the Prayer room of Tharavadu


The Malayalam calendar is a solar calendar. Every Sankranti is the beginning of new month. Mesha Sankranti(मेष संक्रान्ति) is known as Vishu(विषु) in Kerala. It is the New year of Malayalis. According to the Gregorian calendar, it mostly falls on April 14th or April 15th.  In Nagavanshi Nair Tharavadus it is celebrated as follows,

Eve of VIshu 

On the eve of Vishu, members of Tharavadu start to create Kani(कणि)/Vishukkani(विषुक्कणि) from the evening. Kani is a typical way of decorating the idol of Lord Krishna with fruits, flowers, rice grains etc. for Vishu. On the day of Vishu, the first ritual is to see the Kani and pray to God. In Kani, a large cooking utensil called Uruli(उरुळि) is taken and kept in a clean place in the sitting room or near the Prayer room. In the Uruli, first, the Idol of Lord Shree Krishna is kept. Then a Kasavumundu(a traditional attire with golden border), Vālkannādi(traditional mirror), mangoes, jackfruit, gold ornaments, money, and beautiful flowers of Golden rain tree are kept with the Idol. The final part of decoration is wearing flower garlands to the idol. After the decoration is over, Vilakku or traditional lamp of Kerala is kept in front of the Kani. Vegetables for Sadya are cut and kept immersed in the water for the whole night so that on next day they remain fresh. 


Vishu Kani after lighting lamps
                                                                      
Kanikānal(कणिकाणल्) 

On the day of Vishu, some elder members, mostly females, wake up at 3:00 am. They light the Vilakku in front of the Kani and pray to Lord Krishna for the prosperity of the family. Then they slowly bring other members by covering their eyes with hands, so that those members can see the Kani right at the opening of their eyes. This ritual is called Kanikānal, the word Kanikānal means "seeing the Kani". In ancient times, Kani was also taken to the cowshed to show it to the cows. 

Vishukkaineettam(विषुक्कइनीट्टम्)

After the Kanikanal ritual, all the members get Vishukkaineettam from those who are elder than them. Vishukkaineettam is a small amount of money given on the day of Vishu. After getting Vishukkaineettam children burn firecrackers to welcome the new year. 

Offering prayers at prayer room

At 4:00 am, all the members take bath, get well dressed, go to the prayer room and pray to all the deities that to fill the new year with happiness and success.  
Orthodox Hindus of Thrissur district visit Shree Krishna Temple at Guruvayur on Vishu. Because on this day, at the time of sunrise, the first rays of Sun touches the feet of the Idol of Lord Shree Krishna. Normally, the Temple closes everyday after 9:00 pm. But on the eve of Vishu, the Temple remains open for the whole night and is filled with the large number of devotees. These devotees sleep in the temple and after waking up at 2:00 am, they queue up and slowly move towards the shrine to see the God. (That is instead of arranging Kani in their house, they prefer to do the Kanikānal ritual in the Temple.)  

Sadya(सद्या)

After the morning prayer is over. The female members start to prepare the special meal called Sadya. Items of Sadya are rice, different types of curries, stir-fries, chips, pickles and traditional rice puddings known as Payasam. In the southern parts of Travancore region, a sweet flatbread called Boli(बोळि) is also served in Sadya. 
In Kiriyathil-Illathu Nair Tharavadus, Sadya is first served to the Deity of the prayer room.  First a Vilakku is lit and then with huge respect Sadya is served to the Deity. Only after this ritual, Sadya is served to the members of Tharavadu.

Vishukkaineettam for servants

A small sum of money with a Mundu is given as Vishukkaineettam to servants. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Thiruvāthira Vratham

Thiruvāthira Vratham/तिरुवातिरा व्रतम् is like the Karvā Chauth of north India. But the rituals are completely different. According to the Malayalam calendar, this day falls on the Thiruvāthira star of Dhanu month. Thiruvathira star is known as Ārdrā in Sanskrit. Unmarried Malayali Nair girls observe this fast to get a good husband and married Nair women observe this fast for the good health and long life of their husbands. Thiruvathira is also believed to be the birthday of Lord Shiva.The rituals of Thiruvāthira Vratham are as follows,

Thutichu kuli(तुटिच्चु कुळि)

Thutichu kuli starts ten days before Thiruvāthira. On the day of Thiruvāthira, girls and young women wake up at 2:00 am, that is before sunrise and go to Temple Pond. There they immerse the half of their bodies and stand in a circle. Then they sing a devotional song on Lord Shiva and Devi Pārvathi. While singing, they make sound with hands by hitting the hands together just below the surface of the water, with left-hand kept fisted and right-hand open. This ritual is called Thutichu kuli. The sound made by hitting the hands is taken as the music for this devotional song. The first line of this devotional song is as follows "Bhagavān thante thirunāl allo, Bhagavathikku thirunombu allo. Unnaruthe.Urangaruthe.(भगवान् तन्त्टे तिरुनाळ् अल्लो, भगवतीक्क तिरुनोम्ब अल्लो. उण्णरुते. उरंगरुते.)." It means "for God(Lord Shiva) it is the birthday, for Goddess(Devi Pārvathi) it is the sacred fasting day. Please do not eat. Please do not sleep."   

Offering prayers at the Temple 

After the Thutichu kuli ritual, women take bath and get dressed. They also wear homemade kohl or Kājal in their eyes, put Bhasma, sandalwood paste and Kumkum on their forehead and adorn their hair with Dashapushpam. Dashapushpam are the ten important flowers worn by women on the day of Thiruvāthira and these flowers are also used to decorate Goddess Bhagavathi on the Month of Karkitaka. Dasha means ten and Pushapam means flower(s). The Dashapusham are Thiruthaali, Cheroola, Puvvamkurunnilla, Kayyonni, Nilappana, Mukkutti, Uzhinja, Karuka, Muyal Cheviyan and Vishnukranthi. And after that they chew Murukkān. Murukkān is peeled and chopped arecanuts wrapped with beetel leaves. After chewing Murukkān, they visit the Temple. Unmarried women pray to get good husband and married women pray for the good health and long lives of their husbands. 

Food 

After coming back to home, women prepare regular food for other family members and fasting dishes for them. Only vegetarian food is prepared on this day. Women who are taking Vratham or fast do not eat rice dishes. Dishes are made from broken wheat and Ettangādi Kizhangu(एट्टगांडि किष्ज्यगं). The term "Ettangādi Kizhangu" means "tubers of eight markets". They are eight different types of tubers used in Thiruvāthira recipes. 

Thiruvāthirakkali/तिरुवातिराक्कळि

After having lunch women perform Thiruvāthirakkali in the front courtyard of their house. Thiruvāthirakkali is a typical folk dance performed by women on the day of Thiruvathira and they perform it in front of their family members only. This dance is performed around a lit Vilakku(traditional Kerala lamp). Most of the songs used in Thiruvāthirakkali are devotional songs. The types of Thiruvāthirakkali are, 

1) Kaikottikkali/कइकोट्टिक्कळि - Kai means hand, kottuka means clapping and kali means performance. This this dance is performed by clapping the hands. It is also known as "clap dance" in English.

2) Kummi/कुम्मि - Kummi is the faster version of Kaikottikkali. 

3) Kinnamkali/किण्णम्कळि - Kinnamkali is performed by holding steel plates in the palms of both hands. It is an astonishing dance because in some steps the palms are turned downwards for 2-3 seconds but the plates never fall down.  

4) Pinnal Thiruvāthira/पिन्नल् तिरुवातिरा - In Pinnal Thiruvathira, Vilakku is not lit in the center. Long ropes are tied together above on a support. Number of ropes will be equal to the number of women. Women encircle around the ropes, each and every one of them hold a rope in one hand and start performing this dance. Sometimes women hold a plate in another hand. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Why Kiriyathil and Illathu Nairs do not marry Ambalavāsis

Amabalavasi is a Temple servant community in Kerala. Ambalam(अम्बलम्) means Temple and Vasi(वासी) means dweller. So, Ambalavasi means Temple dweller. The sub-castes of Ambalavasi community are as follows Adikal, Moothathu(Moosad), Elayathu, Kurukkal, Nambeesan, Puppali, Pushpaka Unni, Theeyattu Unni, Chakyar, Ambalavasi Nambiar, Marar, Pisharody, Pothuval, Warrier, Pulikkal Marar and Asthikurichi Marar(Sheetikan). There profession in Temples were cleaning, garland making, playing devotional music and performing devotional dance.
In 'Devadasi system in medieval Tamil Nadu' it is mentioned that "Tiruvachagam lays stress on garland making, sweeping, smearing and dancing as the duties of Devadasis. Devadasis of Tiruvallam Temple picked up flowers and strung them into garlands." Do not mistake the ancient Devadasis as Devadasis of today. Ancient Devadasis were not bad charactered women. They only did temple duties. In ancient times, some women of this community never got married and dedicated their whole life in serving the Temple.
Ambalavasis are similar to Isai Vellalars of Tamil Nadu and Devadigars of Karnataka. Some of the Ambalavasis wear Poonoolu((Yajnopavita or Janeu) and claim that they are Brahmins but their is no proof for it. So, first we should look at what is the difference between a Brahmin and an Ambalavasi.

Differences between a Nambūthiri and an Ambalavāsi 
Nambuthiris are the genuine Malayali Brahmins of India. They have seven Gotras: Kamsha, Kasyapa, Bharadwaja, Vatsya, Kaundinya, Atri, and Tatri. There Vedic school is Brahmaswam Mattham(ब्रह्मस्वम् मठम्), that is, the institution where the Nambuthiris learn the Holy Vedas right from their childhood. Amabalavasis do not have Gotras, that is, they are not the descendants of Maharishis. Also, Ambalavasis don't learn Vedas. In India, Vedas are only learned by genuine Brahmins.
Ambalavasis learn to play musical instruments and to perform devotional dances right from their childhood. Mizhaavu, Edakka, Chenda are some of the musical instruments used by Ambalavasis. Similarly, Koodiyaattam, Nangiyaar Koothu, Theeyaattu are some the devotional dance forms performed by them. Nambuthiris do not play music, perform dance and make garlands in Temples. In ancient times, Nambuthiris never learned performing arts.
Poonoolu wearing ritual and Achamana ritual of Nambuthiris and Ambalavasis are completely different. In Nambuthiri community, these rituals are performed according to Vedas. Whereas in Ambalavasi community these rituals are different from that of Vedas.

Marriage in Nair community
As genuine Brahmins are the highest caste of India, a child born to a genuine Brahmin and a non-Brahmin is accepted as a non-Brahmin. A male child born from such a marriage will not have the Poonoolu ceremony and also he will not be admited to Vedic schools. He will grow up as pure non-Brahmin child. Girls don't wear Poonoolus and they are not taught Vedas.
Nairs are allowed to marry genuine Brahmins, Hindu Royal Kshatriyas and from their own community. Though some of the Ambalavasis claim that their community is related to Nairs, Nairs don't agree with it. Because Nairs are Nagavanshis. First Naganvashis are believed to be the children of Maharishi Kashyapa and Princess Kadru. Princess Kadru was the daughter of King Daksha. As she was a non-Brahmin woman her children were never accepted as Brahmins. Ambalavasis don't have Gotras and Vanshas/Vamshas. This is the reason why Nairs don't marry from Ambalavasi community. As far as I have known Ambalavasi commuity is not mentioned in Keralolpaththi. In other states of India Temple servants are included in Shudra Varna.

Kiriyathil-Illathu Nairs too never learned performing arts
Nair men were landlords, soldiers, ministers, governers, accountants, custodians of treasures and teachers of martial arts. Nair women did household works in their Tharavadus. The Nair families were so strict that the young Nair women mostly stayed indoors. Some of them learned music in their childhood but they never learned performing arts. They only learned Kaikottikkali and performed it on the day of Onam and Thiruvathira in front of their family members only.
The women of Padamangalam/Tamil Padam(पडमंगलम्/तमिल पडम्) community were Temple dancers in ancient times. Later people of this community started to claim that they are Nairs and they also began to add Nair surnames with their names. They actually belong to Maravar community and are not at all related to Nairs.

Differences between Nairs and Vellalars

It was very painful to know that even after the formation of Kerala Vellala Maha Sabha some Vellalars were still trying to become the part of Nair community. There was a misconception in some non-Nair communities that Kovilakkaars were actually Nairs and some of them were made to perform Bhoogarbha Yagna and were declared as Royals. When non-Nairs heard about it, an awful lot of them started to declare that they belong to Nair community. Some Kerala Vellalars were some of those people who wanted to become the part of Nair community and they thought that it would be easy for them to become Nairs as they are using the Pillai surname for generations. They never tried to know about the Nair community and it's rules. Now I am going to tell you about the differences between Nairs and Vellalars.

Avunculate marriage
Avunculate marriage means uncle-niece marriage or aunt-nephew marriage. Vellalars practice uncle-niece marriage whereas in Nair community it is a sin. Even if Nair community becomes patrilineal in future we Nairs will never change our community rules. In Nair community cross-cousin marriages are allowed at the same first-cousin, second-cousin marriages are considered to be a sin. That is, marrying a person whose mother is sister, cousin sister or distant cousin sister of one's mother or whose father is brother, cousin brother or distant cousin brother of one's father is a sin in Nair community. Nairs who do such a marriage are kicked out of their families.

Tharavādu
Vellalars don't have Tharavādu. Every Kiriyathil-Illathu Nair in this world belongs to a Tharavādu. Today, most of the Nairs are given residential land as ancestral property and only one member is given the Tharavādu. The holder of Tharavādu may later sell it or demolish it to construct a modern house. But even if the Tharavādu is sold or doesn't exist anymore, the Kiriyathil-Illathu Nairs keep the Tharavādu name with them. That is, they write their Tharavādu name with their name and surname. Because, people who belong to same Tharavādus are called Sheshakkār(ശേഷക്കാർ/शेषक्कार्). Sheshakkār are like brothers and sisters, they do not marry each other. A Tharavādu may have different branches but even distant related Sheshakkār don't marry each other, Vellalars don't follow Tharavādu system.

Convertion to another religion
In Nair community if a person converts to another religion, he/she will not be accepted as Nair anymore. But in Vellalar community there is a sub-sect called Christian Pillai. Christian Pillais are those Vellalars who got converted to Christianity. As far as I have seen marriage with non-Hindus is accepted in Vellalar community. Whereas is in Nair community it is forbidden. Kiriyathil-Illathu Nairs are allowed to marry from their own community, from Hindu Royal families and from Genuine Brahmin communities only.

Language
Mother tongue of Nairs is Malayalam. There are Nair families in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, there mother tongue too is Malayalam. Do not think that they are Tamil Nairs. There are no such people called Tamil Nairs. Kanyakumari was the part of Travancore. The mother tongue of Vellalars is Tamil. Kerala Vellalars also speak Malayalam very well. Tamils are proud of their language and culture but as far as I have seen Kerala Vellalars are different from them.

Naga worship
Naga worship is one of the most important part of Kiriyathil-Illathu Nair community. Naga Puja is conducted every year in Kiriyathil-Illathu Nair families. At the same time, Naga worship is not important for Vellalars. They don't seem to have a community deity. I have read about their marriage rituals but I haven't got the details about their yearly pujas yet.

So that were some of the differences between Nairs and Vellalars. The similarity between these two communities is only one thing, the Pillai surname. If more than one community shares same surname that doesn't mean that they are related.

Kovilakakkaars are not Nairs. They have no similarty with Nairs. There is a mention about Shastraka Brahmins in Keralolpaththi(केरलाेल्पत्ति). It is given that Lord Parashuram gave weapons to some Brahmins and ordered them perform Kshatriya duties and this group of people were declared as Shastraka Brahmins.