About Nairs

Nair Community & Nairs in Karnataka

Nair community is a predominant community in Kerala. Historically they possessed rich cultural and social traditions. They belong to the so-called forward communities in Kerala similar to Tamil Brahmins, Nambudiris also called Kerala Brahmins and Kshathriyas, the former rulers of Kerala. Like other Keralites, Nairs have earned respect and reputation not only within Kerala but also outside, because of their sterling qualities such as their intelligence, skills, enterprising nature and being unostentatious, austere living style, geographical mobility, easy adaptability to alien cultures, high literacy, ability to learn other languages, broad mindedness, cosmopolitan outlook, tolerance and accommodation, hospitality, service-orientation and such other personal, personality and socio - cultural traits.

Some people use to suffix to their names the title “Nairs”. Others suffix other titles like Menon, Pillai, Nambiar, Kartha, Kurup, Kaimal, Nambidi, Mannadiyar, Unnithan, Panicker, Thampy and so on depending upon the occupations they were engaged in the traditional society. For example, Menons were in charge of administration and revenue collection in a particular area called “Desam” or locality. The Historical origin of Nair community is not clearly understood. There are two views regarding their antiquity or lineage. One view is that Nairs in Kerala are descendants of   people belonging to “Naga Tribes” migrated from Northern and Eastern part of India along with people belonging to “Aryan Race” as their bodyguards. Another equally strong view is that they are the people originally found in Kerala belonging to Dravidian Race. Whatever it is, it is not of any material value today, except its historical importance. Nair Community enjoyed pre-eminent position in Kerala for several centuries in all walks of life, say in economic activities, education, literature, music, arts, statesmanship, public administration, diplomacy and so on. Kerala economy being predominantly an agricultural economy, most of the Nair families depended on agriculture and allied occupations. Some of them were “Janmis” or “Land Lords”, others were agriculturists or farmers, yet others joined Public Service such as in government jobs, in the Army and so on. They represented the so-called “Intelligentsia”. Those who had large land holdings handed over their lands to people belonging to their community and other communities like Ezhavas, Thias, Mudhaliars, Gounders, and so on, on tenancy agreement. . The tenants were to give part or whole of the rent to the landlord in kind. Say certain measures of paddy and other crops cultivated by them.

Nairs kept their social and cultural identity. Marriages were largely within the caste. They followed their own customs and practices. Their ceremonies such as marriage ceremony, called ‘Vivaha chatangukal’, Naming ceremony for infants and other religious and cultural practices connected with other life events were kept rather simple, highly functional  and inexpensive. They did not practice religious rituals as elaborately as members of other communities like Brahmines and Nambudiris. Thus the life styles of Nairs were very functional. They were not very much in the clutches of superstitions, with the result they could assimilate ideas, which are modern, and progressive much easily compared to other communities. Their high literacy and this value orientation mostly contributed to their enterprising nature.

State Government’s policy of Reservation based on Caste in Educational Institutions and for jobs, affected badly. Their openings in educational institutions and for jobs shrunk considerably. Thus their economic conditions started deteriorating. Increase in population and lack of industrialization and lack of creation of economic opportunities also contributed to their economic backwardness. These affected not only Nairs but also those belonging to other communities in Kerala. It was at that time the exodus of Nair families to places outside Kerala started. They had to go out of Kerala in search of greener pastures. People in large numbers moved to other parts of India including Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka in search of Jobs and better standards of living. The second-generation Nair families we find today in Bangalore have their parents and grandparents moved under such circumstances. High literacy, mobility and enterprising disposition were their added advantages in migrating to places outside Kerala and settling down in those places successfully.