Wednesday, May 14, 2008



This is indeed a unique effort. In the recent history of the Sociology Department, nay for that matter any Department, I can’t think of a similar effort.

This book on ‘Kerala Society: Structure and Change’ is a labour of love by the whole Department, Sch. Aneesh SJ and students.

I congratulate the whole Department for this wonderful effort.


Fr. (Dr.) M K George SJ.

Loyola College of Social Sciences

Salient Features of Social Structure in Kerala- A Historical Perspective

Caste and Reform Movements in Kerala

Family, Marriage, Kinship and Martriliny in Kerala

Marginalized Communities in Kerala

Contemporary Issues in Kerala: Demographic Transition Migration Consumerism

Salient Features of

Social Structure in Kerala-

A Historical Perspective


Kerala is truly undiscovered India, it is “GOD’S OWN COUNTRY” and enchantingly beautiful emerald-green sliver of land. The tall exotic coconut palms dominate the land scape. Kerala has a place of its own in the history of the world. No parts of India is so widely known as Kerala .It is the traditional belief that Sage Parasurama created Kerala by causing the sea to with draw and gave it away to the Brahmins whom he brought from‘Ahicchatra’. Earlier Kerala was made up of three distinct areas- Malabar, the middle section it’s formed by the princely state of Cochin Travancore. Traditionally Kerala extended from Gokernam to Cape Comorin, but in historical times its area was confined to the Malayalam speaking territories on the coast. It is a narrow strip of coastal area bounded by the Western Ghats on one side and by the sea on the other, tapering towards the south where the Ghats meet the sea at Cape Comorin.

This study about the salient features of the social structure of Kerala from a historical perspective is trying to look at the various features of Kerala society from an all encompassing model. This small descriptive and narrative study which generally takes up the features of structural- functionalism can also be analyzed in the Marxian perspective. The logical code across the study can be threaded through the historical lines which can be traced through the historical epoch’s namely megalithic period, Ravivarma epoch and modern period. Emphasis is duly given to various social segments which are a replica of the Kerala society and which has got its repercussions in the modern one. The synonym associated with Kerala today is the KERALA MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT which is made possible with the efforts across centuries. Like anywhere else, history of Kerala has got its significance too. As students of Kerala society one limitation that we had to purposefully overcome was that, like elsewhere our history was also that of a dominant class. Kerala has had a long period of insular existence; this has resulted in the distinctiveness of their language, dress, culture and institutions. Kerala is a melting pot where several ethnic and religious groups mingle. A good illustration of the religious tolerance or secularism is found in the heart of Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, where a temple, a mosque and a cathedral stand side by side. This glossy picture is not the end. Alongside there exists a picture which portrays the red pages of challenged secularism.

This study, for the purpose of convenience takes a general discourse which focuses on certain thrust areas. The thrust areas are:

1. Historical epochs

2. Physical Features

3. Socio-Cultural identities

These classifications cover almost all the social segments which constitute the Kerala’s social structure which in this study is traced along historical lines. This study is a preview of those following it.


Like the history of many other provinces of India, the history of Kerala is also unique in many ways. Because of its unique geographical position, it staged the meeting place for many types of people, many religions many ideas and ideologies. Travelers, merchants & rulers - people of various profiles visited and influenced the history of Kerala. History of Kerala is the story of the growth of a complex and sheltered society with Indian outlook and open to West-Asian influence. Kerala's unique selling point is its rich culture which was mellowed by centuries-old rich heritage.

There is a persistent legend which says that Parashuram, the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Hindu Trinity, stood on a high place in the mountains, threw an axe far in to the sea, and commanded the sea to retreat. And the land that emerged all from the waters became Kerala, the land of plenty and prosperity. The discovery of Microliths ,or small stone implements, near Kozikode and Cochin point to the presence of man in Kerala as far back as 4000 BC.

Geographically Kerala is formed by the annual deposit of silt brought by the rivers from the Western Ghats. Sanskrit scholars derive this name from “Kera or Coconut”, which is one of the staple products of this region .Others regards Kerala as a variant of “Cherala” which is a corrept form of the Tamil Charal meaning Mountain slope .The Malabar of the Arab and the Persian writers and the Malanad of the early Malayalam and the medieval Tamil literature mean the land of hills and mountain.

History is, "a story or record of important events that happened to a person or nation, usually with an explanation of causes and effects”. The historian of Kerala is fortunate in having an abundance of source materials, archeological and literary, which help him to glean facts relating to the early and medieval social history of Kerala. The recorded history of Kerala divided on the basis of some periods:

  1. Megalithic Period
  2. Ancient Period
  3. Vanchi epoch or Sangam Period
  4. Post- Sangam Period
  5. Kollam Epoch
  6. Ravi Varma Epoch
  7. Medieval Kerala and European Arrivals
  8. Silent revolution
  9. Modern Epoch


The earliest people of Kerala were believed to be Megalithic builders aged between 10th Century BC and 5th Century AD. Their language most probably was an archaic form of Tamil. There is no unassailable evidence yet of the Paleolithic age (old stone age) or Neolithic age (New Stone Age) in Kerala. The stray discovery of Neolithic tools from some of the river beds in recent time doesn’t give us any conclusive clue to establish any positive thesis relating to Paleolithic or Neolithic human settlement in Kerala. The earliest of the people of Kerala about whose way of life information is available are those who built by megalithic monuments in granites, stone and pottery which are met with in different parts of the state. Megalithic monuments like various kinds of burial stones and urns and some man-made underground chambers have also been found by around 3000 B.C., Some scholars assign the megalithic culture to the period 700 BC-400BC, while others would suggest an earlier period.


Ancient Period refers to the time before the Christian era. History of Kerala can be traced back to 4000 B.C., when Proto Australoid and Negrito race inhabited the land. Microlithic artifacts dating back to 4000 B.C. have been recovered from near Calicut. Kerala had trade relation with Sindhu Valley Civilization and its spices and commodities like Sandalwood, Ivory, and Teakwood etc. were exported to many countries of the west. Kerala held a considerable position in the commercial map of the ancient world. It is believed that the peacocks, monkeys, ivory and spices which King Solomon received, were imported from Kerala. It was by 700 B.C. that the Dravidians migrated to south India from the Mediterranean region. The Aryans entered Kerala from north India by 300 B.C, 270 B.C. to 240 B.C. saw the spread of Buddhism in Kerala. The oldest record about Kerala is found in one of the rock edict by Emperor Asoka dating back to B.C. 257.

The immigration of the Aryans from the North was an event of far –reaching social and cultural importance in Kerala history. The Aryan immigrants started moving into the regions south of the Vindhyas about BC 1000 .The process of Aryanization a decisive phase in 4th century BC. Eventually there was an influx of Brahmin immigrants in to the Kerala region resulting in the large scale intrusion of Aryan ideas and practices in to the Dravidian society of the day. The first batch of Brahmin immigrants must have come to Kerala in the third century BC itself immediately following the arrival of the Jain and Buddhist monks.


The first lighted period in Kerala History in called the Sangam Age. The Sangam Age (1-500 AD) in Kerala is said to be the first enlightened age among other periods of past. The poets, poetesses and other writers of this period have left behind valuable accounts of the contemporary age including the cultural, economic, social, political aspects of the kingdoms of the south. It is only the Sangam Age that the history of Kerala assumes a practical base instead of concentrating in the mythological stories and legends. The Sangam age is that period when Sangam literature was composed. The literal meaning of Sangam is ‘academy’ and hence this age has been called so as great Tamil works of academic excellence were produced in this period.

Travancore is called Vanchy Nadu or Vanchy Bhumi and several places in Kerala that bear the name vanchi .From the Sangam works we can make the following observations about the Chera society during the first five hundred years of the Christian era.

1. Monarchy was the political institution of the people with the patrilineal system of succession and inheritance. Nothing is heard of the Nairs and their matrilineal system at this time though Chera kings used the names of the father and the mother with their own names.

2. The queen had a privileged position, and she took her seat by the side of the king during religious ceremonies. The widowed queens sometimes committed Sati. There was no purdah-system for women; they enjoyed freedom of movement and right to full education. There were many women-poets during the Sangam Age.

3. There was no child marriage; widow-marriage was permitted. gandharva marriages in which men and women took each other as husband and wife were popular. Elopement was tolerated. Sometimes the jilted lover committed suicide by fasting unto death after proclaiming his love publicly in the streets. Monogamy was the norm- The custom of bride-price was prevalent, as it still are among many hill tribes of Kerala. Ta1ikettu was unknown in the Sangam Age. Polygamy among common people was frowned upon.

4. The division of society into high and low castes as well as untouchability and unapproachability were unknown at that time. Communities like the Panas, Kuravas, Parayas, and Vedas were held in honor by kings and were equals or even superior to the Brahmins.

5. Rice was the standard food of the people along with meat and fish. There was no taboo against eating beef. Alcoholic beverages--domestic liquors and foreign wines--were drunk both by the kings and their subjects including women who used to drink munnir, a sweet drink made from Palmyra nut, tender coconut, and sugarcane. Rice-wine also was a popular drink. In their eating and drinking habits, the Munda-Dravidian Cheras followed their ancient traditions, which Keralites still continue to follow in spite of Brahmin bans on beef and alcohol.

7. The majority of the Cheras were not Vedic or Brahminical Hindus though there were Aryan Brahmins at the royal courts. Buddhism which originated among the Mundas in the North naturally continued its hold on the Munda-Dravidian Cheras. Jainism also had many followers among the people.

8. Agriculture was the main occupation of the people who were relatively prosperous except when the nations were at war. Much of this prosperity was due to trade with foreign nations like Rome.


The post-Sangam period (500-800 AD) was Dark Age in the Kerala history as in the history of South India. The period ranging from the middle of 5th century to the early part of the 8th century is known as the Post - Sangham period. This was the period when Buddhism began to decline. The main rulers of this period were Cheraman Perumal and Kulasekara Alwar. Both these kings later abdicated their thrones. Kulasekara Alwar later became a Vaishnavite poet and Cheraman Perumal accepted Islam and went to Mecca. Adi Shankara (Sankaracharya, 788 - 820 A.D.) lived and propagated the Advaida philosophy during this period

According to Brahmin tradition, after the creation of Kerala, Parasurama planted sixty-four joint Brahmin families and gave them law and order to govern them. But the Brahmins invited rulers called 'Perumals', from outside to rule them. Each ruler was appointed for a period of 12 years.


This epoch is conveniently taken to begin with the founding of the Kollam era. As traditionally believed ,the era may have commemorated the foundation of the sea-port of Kollam.During this epoch the political destiny of Kerala was to some extent under the control of the Cholas and Pandyas.The epoch of alien domination may conveniently be divided into two periods.

1. The reign of the Chalukya-Chola emperor Kulattunga I.

2. The Vijayalaya line, from Parantaka I.

The period saw a Hindu religious revival of impressive dimensions. The construction of temple in almost every town and village of Kerala.The temple art like Kuthu and Kudiattom had their origin in Kerala in the 9th AD under the under the patronage of the Kulashekara of Mahadhayapuram.Kollavarsha or Quilon calendar was introduced during this period. It came into existence on the 25th of July 825 AD. Festivals like Onam and Vishu came to be celebrated. Malayalam as a distinct language came into vogue in the 9th century AD. Educational institutions called ‘Salai’ played an important part in the promotion of learning.

Side by side with the progress in the field of culture, the period also saw the growth of trade and commerce .The ports of Vizhinjam, Kandalar and Quilon throbbed with activity. Trade between China and Kerala registered spectacular progress. The economy of the kingdom was primarily an agrarian economy in which their were feudal lords who enjoyed special privileges and received all kinds of dues from a large body of under privileged tenants .The state got enormous revenues from customs duties. Sales tax and vehicle tax were also important sources of revenue for the state. Thus on the all the age of the second Chera empire was a significant epoch in the history of Kerala.


The land relations in Kerala during the period from the 12th to the 15th century showed certain important features.

1. An increase of intermediaries as temporary holders of land.

2. Development of those land rights which helped the extension of cultivable land as well as the enhancement of income from land.

3. The emergence of cash money in obtaining land rights.

4. The effects to perpetuate the janmam birth right over the land by the traditional land owners.

5. New developments in pledging land for debt on interest.

The basic occupation consisted of agricultural labors ritual-cum-medicine men, astrologers, washer man and so. Coastal villages were the main economic activity was fishing had fisherman. Certain facts emerged from the foregoing discussion of the expansion of agrarian society in Kerala during this period.

Production for use and for market/exchange, which was the prime cause of the internal developments in the various sub regions led to the growth of trade and trading centers. Three levels of trade,

Local trade

Long distance overland trade

Long distance over seas trade

An efficient infrastructure of transport and communication was an essential factor in the development of trade and commerce. Different types of boats and ships ,big and small were used for transportation on the inland waterways and also for coastal navigation .Building bridges on rivers was not possible for individual travelers or merchant and it seems to imply that public works of this kind were undertaken either by the native rulers or by the local bodies. Wheeled traffic is mentioned in the context of ‘Urban’ activities .Major parts of the flow of goods in the inter regional transaction was through water ways which was cheaper and easier.


Kerala was formed out of three political units- the princely state of Cochin, which dates back to the middle ages, the kingdom of Travancore, which was created in the 18th century, and the Malabar district which was the former Kingdom of the Zamorin of Calicut.

Political authority in medieval Kerala was based on the organization of a large number of small territorial units, over which a powerful matrilineal joint family exercised their hereditary political and judicial authority. Each territorial unit was known by the name of the place where the authoritarian joint family was originally located, like that of the Samutiri, called Nediyirippu Swarupam.Among the gradation with in the Swarupam seniority was the major criterion for becoming the ruler (muppu/elder brother).A part from the Muppu, members of the family held the lower ranks with in the territory. The Brahmins who played their role by being the managers and trustees of temples where the rulers paid their homage, and also performing ceremonies that ensured the authority of rulers. Yet another source of authority was the relationship of the ruler with the port of Kerala. The ruler did not attempt to control the overseas trade in the port directly, but was satisfied with a share of the tolls. Power of the Brahmanas and the secular power of the non Brahmanas who evolved in to the Nayar caste were the two arms of political authority of the Swarupams.

Arrival of the Europeans marked the beginning of another era in the history of Kerala. In 1498, Vasco-da-Gamma reached Kappad, near Kozhikode. This was followed by the arrival of a number of Europeans. Though the main aim of their visit was trade and discovery of a shorter sea route to the Malabar Coast, the prevailing political instability paved way for their entry into the administration.

1. The Portuguese in Kerala

Political authority in Kerala was fragmented at the time the Portuguese landed on the Malabar Coast. The Portuguese started a process of change which was soon to transform many traditional features of polity, economy, society and culture of Kerala. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a stronghold in Kerala. The internal production mechanism had become stereotyped and overarching influence of caste system had kept the society and economy in a prolonged state of stupor. In the political field it animated a realignment of relations and inspired the rise of some ruling families and the fall of at least the Samutiris. A number of battles were fought between the provincial rulers against each other and against the Portuguese. In 1524 Vasco-da-Gamma was appointed the Portuguese Viceroy of Kerala.

In the initial stage of their ascendancy however, commercial interest was more visible, but, later on it was subdued by religious obsession. Brutal acts of fanaticism committed by them to convert the non-Christians into the catholic faith, Latinise the non-Latin denominations and vex the Muslims as a community earned them a notoriety unsurpassed by any in the history of Kerala. The founding of the Jesuit order in 1540 gave a great boost to these effort and soon large scale conversions took place. In 1550s St.Francis Xavier converted many fisher folk and other socially backward sections along the coastal regions of southern Kerala.

The attitude of Portuguese towards other religions was on basis of trade. The mixing of trade and religion, by themselves, did not provoke any resistance from a single chief of Kerala or any one else other than the Muslims, The chief did not bother as long as there was no threat to their status or source of revenue. The divisive nature of caste was on its own ,and that the conversion of the lower castes was not anyone else’s concern as long as it did not disturb the economic fabric of the society .The Portuguese were hostile only to the Muslims and not to Nayars and other un believers in Malabar .

2. The Dutch in Kerala

Following the Portuguese, the Dutch reached Kerala. They began by the establishment of the Dutch East India Company in the year 1592. In 1604, the Dutch army arrived at the Malabar Coast. They entered the arena of Kerala politics by making use of the rivalry between Kochi and Kozhikode. Like the Portuguese they avoided territorial conquest and through out their carrier in Kerala, which lasted till the closing years of the 18th century, the Dutch involvement in local politics was minimal. The conflicts that they had with the Samutiri of Kozhikode in 1718 and Marthanda Varma of Thiruvitamkur 1739-41 were exceptions and not the general characteristics of Dutch policy in Kerala. Trade was the sole concern and from their headquarters at Kochi the Dutch tried to close all inlets to other competitors through a naval cordon .Exclusive agreement were entered in to with local rulers for the annual supply of fixed qualities of pepper at low prices and the merchants could exports limited quantities of pepper at low prices and the native merchants could exports limited quantities of the spice only with the consent of the Dutch .Dutch passes were essential for an easy transit through the sea. In all these as well as the construction of forts and factories the Dutch followed the Portuguese example close to a finish.

During 1743-95 the Dutch concentrated on local trade at Kochi the cloth produced at Kottar and neighboring centers was found to give poor returns then the idea of selling Indonesian spices and sugar to the ships calling at Kochi was taken up. In sixties and seventies this line of business paid the Dutch good dividend. But trading in sugar began to decline from 1783 and all trading at Kochi had to be closed down in 1793 because of the poor demand of the Indonesian spices.

3. British in Kerala

Like any other Europeans, British also had great interest in Kerala. They too were attracted by the spices and other natural treasures of the land. British supremacy in Kerala started by the mid seventeenth century and lasted for the next 200 years until independence. Though a number of wars and revolts were made against them, the British were able to suppress them quickly. This was mainly because of the lack of unity among the provinces. Kochi and Travancore were the prominent kingdoms. The rule of the British saw many changes in the social and cultural life of Kerala. Slavery was slowly abolished. English missionaries played an important role in improving the living standard of the people. During this period a number of educational institutions and hospitals were opened. Many railway lines, roads and bridges were constructed by the British. In a way, Kerala is indebted to the British for its modernization.

This period also saw the emergence of a number of social reformation movements. Many reformers like Chattambi Swamikal, Sree Narayana Guru and Ayyankali played a vital role in the upliftment of the downtrodden and the emancipation of the women folks.


With the accession of Marthanda Varma to the throne of Travancore in 1729 and Haidar Ali’s invasion of Malabar in 1766 began a new chapter in the history of Kerala.Haidar Ali conquered Malabar and subdued the Cochin Raja in 1766 .His son Tippu Sultan, invaded Travancore in 1790.As the allies of the Travancore raja the English declared war on Tippu. The dispossessed Rajas of Malabar and Cochin joined them accepting their protection, in 1792 Tippu ceded Malabar and Cochin to the English .Directly or indirectly the English became the masters of Kerala. The ruthlessness of the British always invoked revolt from the natives and a sway of leaders led the people to protest against their authority. Post independence, the princely states of Travancore were unified together to form the province of Travancore-Cochin while the Madras Presidency became the Madras state. Finally, in 1956 a new state of Kerala came into being including the regions of Malabar District, Travancore-Cochin, and the Taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara

Kerala become an integral part of the vast Indian sub-continent, as the later itself became part of the far flunk British Empire .Consistently with the consolidation of their authority the English tried to introduced their own ideals and practices of government. “The Rule of Law” was enforced every where with out any distinction of birth or rank. Road and rail helped to overcome distance, and encouraged movement from place to place. Education through the English medium removed all linguistic barriers. To the age-old culture and sentimental bonds was added national unity under a central government. In the enlarged physical and mental horizon began to dawn a new consciousness of the unity of India and the brotherhood of the Indians. Freedom and democracy become their goal, and the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885.The part played by the India in World War I and II added force to the demand for freedom and self government. With emergence of Mahatma Gandhi as the leader the political agitation took a new turn. His non-violence was irresistible. At last, in 1947, the English withdraw, and India became independent. Nine years later, in 1956 was born the present state of Kerala, comprising the Malayalam speaking tracts of the South India.


The recent history of Kerala includes the prelude to independence, the road to Communism and the evolution of the modern state of Kerala. Kerala developed a unique and distinctive culture. In art, thought, architecture, dress, social practices, crafts, beliefs, rituals, combat techniques, medicine indeed every aspect of life. The Malayali and his culture evolved forms and style that were both sophisticated and special.

The story of modern Kerala and its transformation from a theocratic madhouse to a model state that most parts of the third world asked to emulate. The leadership and the dynamics, style and the techniques and even the results were to have a decisive influence on Kerala, which had not yet be formed, began with a series of changes in the 19th century that nudged the economic and social setup of this region towards modernization. Among the most important of these was the abolition of slavery around the mid 19th century

Education, with English as a component, also began to spread around this time. This produced not only the Malayali whose mind was influenced by European ideas about equality and liberty and so began to question and a number of practices at home, but also the Malayali who had acquired a skill that he could sell to any one who was willing to pay for it. This was the beginning of the Malayali Diaspora, and the emergence of the Malayali who would travel out of his home and country to work in some far away office or factory or estate or hospital. Rapid strides were made in the increase of literacy. Books, newspapers, and the ideas they spread were to transform the people in to the most politically active and rights consciousness in India. The investment made in providing medical services to all investments made in providing medical services to all citizens and the setting up a very effective public distribution system also paid off.

If agriculture was the backbone of Kerala, it is a milestone around the neck of every government that comes to power. As the forests of Kerala disappear and the rivers and lakes die, two things the Malayali always took for granted are disappearing before his eyes –that ideas that every inch of land in Kerala could be profitably cultivated and that pure water was his natural birth right.

The land of the industrious never becomes the land of the industrial. Now as globalization pulls the rugs from under the feet of Kerala’s traditional industries the vacuum created cannot easily be filled IT enabled industries touch a very small segment of the population. Tourism, on which so much hope is placed, shows signs of slipping on the banana peel of environmental degradation. The entrepreneurial classes who could invest and thus bring employment and prosperity to Kerala choose to do so elsewhere.

The vaunted achievement in health might disappear under the onslaught of greed and communalization. Changes in life style and diet and pattern of consumption are throwing up challenges and inefficiency and often, clueless government sector seems unable to address. The skepticism and earthiness of the Malayali once ensured that respect was given to all. This was the state were a chief minister once stood in line at queue in a ration shop and was legislators and film stars could be seen walking down public roads or using public transport. Celebrity culture and the worship of the wealthy and the powerful are destroying this democratic and egalitarian ethos.

Kerala appears to have become victim of its own success. If history has taught us anything it is that the Malayali will fight and emerge successfully and that he will actually succeed in turning this naturally beautiful land into one where its citizens can live that is peaceful and comfortable in surrounding that are benign and just. Kerala faced the problems thrown up by the 19th and 20th centuries with intelligence and energy and by learning and adapting to the changes taking place everywhere. Let’s hope that it would do so again in the 21st century


Kerala is one of the smallest states of India. It spans an area of around 38,863 km2 contributing only 1.3% of the total area of India. It comprises of a narrow coastal strip bounded by the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea also called the Lakshadweep Sea on the west. This fertile coastal strip is about 550km long and not wider than 100 km.

The state of Kerala is bordered by the state of Karnataka in the north, and joined by the state of Tamil Nadu in the south. It lies between 8° 18' North Latitude and between 74° 52' and 77° 24' East Longitude. Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the center of the Indian tectonic plate (the Indian Plate) and most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic or volcanic activity. Geologically, pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene formations comprise the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.

Ancient Kerala, like ancient Tamilakm was divided on the basis of soil formation and topography. In the, modern age, on the basis of physical features, Kerala has been divided into three natural divisions,

1. The highland

2. The lowland

3. Midland

. The forest-clad highlands on the extreme east are a range of forested mountains averaging 1000m in height, but reaching 2690m at Mt. Anamudi, which is the highest peak in the region. Adjoining the sea, the lowlands of the coastline are predominantly sandy, with coconut palms and mangroves lining the white beaches, and patchworks of rice fields fringing the river deltas and backwaters. Fisheries and coir industry constitute the major industries of this area. Consisting of the undulating country east of the lowlands, the midlands lie in the central hills with valleys, punctuated here and there by isolated hills. This rich and fertile region bears the largest extent of agricultural crops. The lush valleys are sown with tea, coffee and spices. Extensive tea and cardamom plantation dominate in the higher elevations, while ginger, rubber, pepper, and turmeric flourish at the lower elevations. The cardamom takes its name from the Cardamom hills of Kerala


Fourteen districts comprise Kerala. The districts are distributed between Kerala's three traditional regions. Northern Kerala includes Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, and Malappuram. Central Kerala includes Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, and Idukki. Lastly, southern Kerala is composed of the five remaining districts: Alappuzha Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram .Thiruvananthapuram is the state capital. Kochi is the largest city and is considered the commercial capital of the state.


Kerala state is noted for its Mountains which, with there high attitude and varied configuration, present a grand and imposing spectacle. The portion of the Western Ghats which forms the eastern belt of the state constitutes the chief Mountain system. It has acted through out history as a natural barrier of protection and checked the inroads of aggressive powers from out side into Kerala.

Some of the hills have on their top of in their valleys the reputed pilgrim centers or tourist resorts of Kerala. They loom large in the social and cultural history of the state. the famous Sastha Shrine at Sabari Mala which attracts pilgrims in their lacks is situated in the Peermede Taluk of Idukki districts.St. Thomas church situated on the top of the Malayattur hill in Ernakulam District has developed in to the biggest center of Christian pilgrimage in Kerala. Apart from the places of religious importance may be mentioned places of scenic beauty like Thekkadi, Devi Kulam, Munnar and Ponmudi which have developed in to picnic spots and have given to Kerala its pride of place on the tourist map of the country. The mountains and hills would show their interaction with the life and culture of the people

3. SEA

The Arabian sea looms large history of Kerala .According to popular traditions the land of Kerala itself was a gift of the Arabian sea to Parasurama one of the incarnations of Vishnu .The sea has played a decisive role in the history of Kerala .It has provided the state with a fairly long and unbroken sea board served by a number of pots the relative importance of which has varied with changing times. where as in the ancient past the major ports were Muziris, Barace, Tyndis, Nelcyndl etc, they lost their importance in due course and their place was taken over by ports like Quilon, Calicut and Kochi. Foreign powers carried on extensive trade with Kerala through these ports at various periods of its history. These ports also offered temptation to foreign powers to invade Kerala and establish their political domination. Commercial and political relations also paved the way for the introduction of world religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam into Kerala.


“The rise of the West man advanced towards a new way of life. He became a shaper of the animal and vegetable life around him rather than a mere predator upon it. This advanced opened a radically new phase in human history.” (Mc Neill, The Rise of The West) .Kerala must have entered this advanced phase in its history sufficiently early in the pre-historic period. The extensive trade between ancient Kerala and the West living animals like elephant, monkey and peacock, animal products like hides and furs and ivory, plant products like pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cotton cloth, timber, rice, millets and medicinal plants and mineral products like pearl and diamond shows that ancient Kerala had a rich and varied plant and animal life. The plant and animal life and the Geology and mineral recourses of Kerala may be dealt with separately in view of their special importance in the socio-economic and cultural history of Kerala.


The birds of Kerala comprise a rich and diverse group and these have been well investigated by the famous naturalist Dr Salim Ali. According to him there are about 400 different types of birds of whom at least 280 birds are full time residents whereas 120 are migrating birds.


The mammalian fauna of Kerala is quite rich as compared to that of the adjacent states .All though many of these animals are endemic to the western Ghats, quite often some of these are found in the near by states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. There are over 100 species of mammals including bats and rodents, but the exact status of many mammals is unknown today since during the last seven decades hardly any systematic work has been done with the habitat..


From the point of view of mineral recourses Kerala state can be broadly divided into four longitudinal zones from East – West they are the following:

1. The eastern most zones, the broadest of the four, contains deposits of iron ore, crystalline lime stone, graphite, mica, chrysobery and building stones.

2. The next to the West is made up of lateritised crystalline rocks carrying deposits of bauxite, clays and laterite.

3. The third zone further to the west is composed of sedimentary formations with deposits of clay, patches of lignite and sedimentary limestone.

4. The westernmost zone comprising mostly of the beaches is the seat of deposits of rare-earth mineral sands and glass sands.

8. Climate

Kerala is environed by the water of the Arabian Sea and its more or less equable climate in Kerala owes a lot to its proximity to the sea. But this should not be the reason for your supposition that Kerala is devoid of any diversity in its climate. Infact, it is the other way round. The noticeable heterogeneity in the geographical features of Kerala has engendered a variety in the Climate in Kerala. The month of December marks the inception of the winter. The winter season lasts till the ends of February. – Summer season follows the winter. It begins sometime in February and continues till the month of May. The south west Monsoon begins sometime around the end of May or the beginning of June and fades out by September end. The dry weather sets in by December end.


Kerala is well known for the wide variety of spices found here (Pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and host of other spices). South India Tour Travel invites travelers to visit the spice plantation of Kerala. These are amazing farms, having separate sections for each spice. In Kerala spices are not only grown which are indigenous but also those which are grown in the world like vanilla, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, bay leaf and sage. The spices plantations, which are found in Kerala, are Pepper, cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger, Vanilla, Nutmeg


Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine was developed by ancient sages through keen observation of life and functions. This system of medicine has prevailed for the past 5000 years, visualizes the universe as a constant play of energies and an imbalance of which induces disease and discomfort in the body. In this system of medicine priority has always been on prescribing an appropriate life-style blended to astrological, climate and geographical conditions. Kerala has a rich tradition in Ayurveda and the people adhere to a strict Ayurvedic life-style. Physicians classify a patients' health based on the degree of imbalance of the three doshas namely Vata, Pitha and Kapha. Vata is that which constitutes bodily movement and activity; Pitha, the entire bio-chemical process operating in a body and Kapha is the entire physical volume in living organisms. A disturbance in any of the three doshas results in a particular disease and the treatment is administered accordingly.


The main dress worn by the people of Kerala is mainly traditional in nature though the costumes are to a large extent guided by the geographical conditions of the region. The traditional dress forms are the 'Mundu and Neriathu' (a white piece of cloth with golden jerried border symbolizing royalty) for men; and 'sari' (a 5-6 meters long piece of cloth embroidered with golden border) with jacket for women. With the changing trends in fashion and designing, the dress codes have changed. A multitude of colours and designs are available today. Men and women today are clad in a variety of dresses. The people have now taken to the northern style of dressing up though the western dresses have also found a lot of acceptance among the masses. Men’s Attire. Mundu - A White Piece of Cloth with Golden Jerried Border.

The site, India Kerala, offers a kaleidoscopic overview of the natural beauty and richness of Kerala, God's own country as a travel tour to Kerala, god's own country, located in south India, India would reveal. The site, India Kerala, offers a golden opportunity to the willing traveler and tourist to undertake a travel tour to Kerala, God's own country to have a taste of the natural beauty and resplendence of Kerala, located in south India


a) Art forms

b) Religious spaces

c) Famililial patterns

d) Economy

e) Political structure

f) Educational specificities

g) Gender

h) Linguistics

i) Tribal life

Kerala’s customs have been handed down the ages, and still retain their age-old charm. The deep-rooted caste hierarchy yielded many inhuman practices. Untouchability was one of them. Even the shadow of the avarna (low caste) was believed to contaminate the environs. Social reformists such as Sree Narayana Guru and V. T. Bhattatiripad strove to eradicate such practices in the early part of the 20th century. The Janmi, or feudal system became synonymous with exploitation. As a mark of respect to the superior feudal lord, one was to remove the upper garment and bare the shoulder before being permitted to don it on again. In the olden days, the institution of marriage or veli allowed for polygamy and at times, polyandry. The custom of sealing a number of alliances amongst the tribal Adiyars is practiced till date, even though wedding rituals are performed only during the first alliance. Kings had the singular privilege of maintaining a number of Nayar concubines, who lived within the palace, and were paid a regular maintenance allowance. The rich Nambudiri men followed a similar custom and practiced sambandham, relationships outside marriage with Nayar women, while their own women strictly practiced monogamy, and moved around under a marakkuda (covered umbrella) and ghosha (veil) in public.

The Nayars appeared in public with swords in hand. However, Nayar women were ostracised and even killed by members of their own clan if they were molested or even touched by the low caste, (Pulappedi), during certain months.

A scientific study of the history of Kerala culture cannot be bound down to the ideology that bodied forth in terms of the newly formed Kerala nationalism .The cultural life of Modern Kerala came into being through a long historical process of the synthesis of various cultural forms and conflicts of opposing social forces. The plough-agricultural village system that emerged out of the disruption of the primitive tribal social system ,the formation of feudal society, the reorganization of the feudal system as a regionalized community of culture the emergence of democratic forces fighting against the feudal colonial domination, the appearance of organized working class that took up the task of carrying forward the struggle for democracy-these are the different phases with which the conflicting social forces in the process of Kerala history have been connected and through which the cultural life of modern Kerala took shape.

Linguistically and culturally the pre-Aryan tribal situation in Kerala had been definitely a part of the south Indian primitive life. Like all other feudal societies in India the feudal system in Kerala also emerged and flourished under the Hindu-Brahmin religion .The structure of feudalism in Kerala was indeed different. The land, the political setup, the caste system, man-woman relationship, mode of succession, the forms of worship and rituals, the language, the art and literature and dress – in all these Kerala feudal society had its own peculiar forms. The process of accommodation and absorption of tribes into the village system were of a different sort in Kerala. That difference might be at the root of the identity of Kerala culture. The outlook of life has generally changed considerably and new ideas resulting from liberal education have permeated society at large. For instance wearing of caste marks has become a rarity of the customs peculiar to Kerala, the most important ones are the Marumakkatayam and the joint family system which are in its decline today.


Kerala is famous for its art, poets and musicians, its traditional dance forms, and its distinctive architecture. Craft workers in Kerala continue the ancient arts of woodcarving and wall-painting.

For ages, the rich and vibrant culture of Kerala has intrigued people worldwide. The songs and dances of the people, their ballads, their rituals and their intellectual pursuits are worth mentioning. Truly, the real treasures of Kerala lay in the cultural heritage of its people.

Kerala has its own typical art forms which reflect the life and outlook of the people. From the renowned Kathakali, considered to be the complete art form as its synthesises all that is best in the fields of drama, music and dance, to the folk dances which are reflections of the rhythmic impulses of a sensitive people. Kathakali, Krishnanttom, Kolkkali, Oppana, Thiruvathirakali, Koodiyattom, Thullal, Mohiniyattom, Muffmuttu are popular performing art forms of Kerala.


The Aryans imposed on Kerala society the caste system with its hierarchy. This amounted to a social revolution the impact of which came to be felt by Kerala society for centuries to come. Along with Hinduism there existed both Indic and non-Indic religions in Kerala society. Christianity and Judaism were introduced in Kerala in the 7th and 8th centuries. The ruling classes with the blessings of Brahmin patrons gave all facilities for the foreign missionaries in their efforts to setup their settlement or pockets of influence in the different parts of Kerala particularly the coastal towns .All these religions Indigenous and foreign, co-existed in the land without any inter religious conflict or communal discord. Their mutual interaction the course of century helped to set in motion a process of cultural synthesis and social assimilation and mould the culture of Kerala on composite and cosmopolitan line.

It was mentioned that in the ancient period that the people of Kerala followed the Dravidian religion which is a mixture of ‘animism’ ‘totemism’ and ‘spirit worship’. The main religious practice was to make offerings. There were the presence of several religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam along with majority religion of Hinduism.


Christianity appeared in Kerala in nearly in the II half of the 1st century A.D. But the missionary activities in the Kerala in its full form 19th century. Much importance was given in Travancore. The Kerala Christians followed during the period their indigenous social customs and practices. The Kerala church had ecclesiastical communion with the Mother Church in Persia and followed the Syriac Rites. Apostle Thomas landed in Kerala in AD 150.

There have been evident traces of caste divisions within the community itself turning into different sects. The absence of the Vaisya caste in Kerala was nullified through Christianity which made them to prosper. They had a integral influence in the socio-cultural life with their numbers, the organized framework, economic stability and also due to their social status through ages. Even much before the nineteen-seventies historians were fully convinced that Vedic Hinduism and the Brahmins must have arrived in Kerala only much later than the first centuries B.C./ A.D.


There were only 112 Jews in the state at the time of 1971 census but in view of picture sque traditions associated with Judaism passing reference to their history seems to be necessary. According to tradition the Jews came to Kerala in 68 AD to escape religious persecution at home. There are three distinct Jewish groups traceable in India 1.Bene Israel 2. Cochin Jews 3. The white Jews from Europe. Each group practiced important elements of Judaism and had active synagogues. The first Jews of Cochin (south India ) were the so called "Black Jews" who spoke the Malyalam tongue and they had very distinct Jewish traditions of dietary kosher and inter marriages in Jewish community and observance of Sabbath etc.


It seems to have been introduced in Kerala by the Arab traders in 7th or 8th AD it self .Islam made progress in Kerala only by slow stages. Islam took root and adherents increased in number. The towns in Malabar became populated with them with out them being oppressed by rulers who were unbelievers or the rights of their ancient customs being encroached on them. There was a belief that Islam came into Kerala since Prophet Muhammad.The Muslims came in as traders and later settled and then began to rule but they were easily assimilated in to the fold. Today they enjoy equal status with the Christians. In India the Muslims are divided into two main sects- Sunni and Shia. Each one of these two sects has many different schools. Along with these main divisions, the Indian Muslims also have other divisions. It is mainly because different communities that adopted Islam have different names. In south India in the state of Kerala, the famous Mopillah community is said to have descended from Arab merchants. Another well known Indian Muslim community is Pathan. The Pathans are Muslims who arrived from Afghanistan to India. The Pathans put their surname as Khan. They are regarded as brave, honest and righteous.


The majority religion as elsewhere. In Kerala too it has its sects and caste systems with its positives and negatives in it. There are varieties of castes and its sub castes. It again is a victim of the cruel clutches of the practice of untouchability.


The social formation which we found in Kerala from the 12th century onwards constitutes one of the purest cases of the dominance of a religious system, which however in this case was not in possession of political authorities still existed, but they represented merely the elements of a past superstructure with no function other than that of maintaining order in territorial units of small dimensions. New factors intervened here i.e the appropriation of and access to the means of production and organization of labour. The Namboodiries once they had become the owner of the land were placed on the antipodes of all other social groups. As for the division of labour between manual and intellectual workers, this again correspond to the same separation between the producers of surpluses and services and groups which had the right to enjoy a part of these surpluses without the obligation of sharing in their production.

Only the groups at the two extremes can be clearly located in the this structure at the summit the Namboodiries, the owners of means of production and at the bottom the slaves a group, because it is constituted at the same time a means of production and a productive force, was situated in absolute opposition to the religious agents . Between these two extremes were located the other groups, antagonistic towards one another in virtue of relations of dependence corollary to the organization of the economy.

The sequence also included the sum total of the beliefs which underlay the pollution practices. It will be recalled that these practices translated the relationships of dependence in terms of repulsion.(Rendel, Yolonda, 1983, pg:303)


Kerala society had been a caste- free society. It was turned to one by the coming of the Brahmins who was invited by the rulers of the state. They came in as guests but turned the course of the social structure by using their clever tactics. The strategy they used helped them to take control of the political, economic and the power of knowledge which they slowly condemned from the Shudras. These made them the all supreme power even above the authority.

There are no such groups of people in Kerala which include them in the four fold division. If at all there are any it is the Brahmana. Originally there was no section of people in Kerala practiced the varna-darma of Kshatriya and sudras .The gap of these two varnas came to be filled the Nair caste. A section that functioned as the third-caste Vaisya is totally absent in Kerala.

The absence of the trader caste in the Kerala model of varna system is highly significant as against the back ground of the minute division of caste and sub caste for each minor occupation.

The most notable feature of the caste system in Kerala is the observance of the form of untouchability prevalent among all the low caste and which figures the upper caste as untouchables. Usually Brahmins elsewhere in India do not observe untouchability except towards castes outside the Varna system yet in Kerala the Brahmins observe untouchability towards castes within the castes inside the varnas. Each of the pre-Aryan tribe which had been accommodated into a model of Aryan class society was mutually excluding itself in the name of tribal purity. (Rajeevan, B.1999 ,pg:9).

In this way the universal observance of untouchability became the structural characteristics of the caste in Kerala. It once functioned as a political structure of an economic basis which combined the relations of slavery and feudalism, at another phase it functioned as a clever device of the feudal colonial exploitation. Kerala is known as the hot-bed of castes. Swami Vivekananda has called it “the mad- house of castes. Traditional Kerala might be aptly called as the priest ridden. The traditional belief says that the Nambooditiries were brought to Kerala by Parasurama (History of Kerala ,Vol.iii,pg:19).

The castes in Kerala are:

a) Brahmins and allied castes

b) Kshatriyas and Nayar

c) Antrala

d) Low caste Nayars

e) Polluting castes

f) Agricultural laborers

g) Chandalas


The caste rules operated in the most irrational manner. The triple social evil of untouchability, inapproachability, and unsuitability was observed by people at all levels. ban Batuta mentions this aspect of social relations when he observe as follows about the conduct of Hindus. “The do not allow the Muslims to touch the vessels or to enter their apartment, but if that any should happened to eat out of one of their vessels they break it into pieces”.

Barbosa speaks of the arrogant behaviour of Nairs towards low caste. When they walk along the street or road, they shout the low caste folk to get out of their way, and if one will not the Nair may kill him without punishment. Any Hindu women cohabit with man of the lower caste was treated as a out caste and slowed as the slaves to the Christians or Muslims or to the foreign merchants. This dreadful custom is known as Pulappedi and Mannapedi .


The Brahmins alone had the authority to interpret the law and pronounce judgments. Law was administered in the most discriminatory manner. The lower the status of a person in the social scale the greater the severity of the punishment meted out to him. In fact, Hindus of one caste lived in complete segregation from those of other castes so that there was lack of unity and cohesion among the members of the community.


The story of untouchability is often told by the great Malayalam poet of the modern Kerala who belonged to the Ezhava community, Kumaran Asan .“This is the revolutionary retort to the enormity of untouchability which has been evoked by the impact of religion on caste and as the masses of India are progressively stirred by the economic and intellectual and moral ferment of Westernization, the trickle of conversions among outcastes seems likely to swell to a flood, unless a harmonious adjustment of their religious – social systems are achieved in the teeth of Brahmin opposition- by those members of the Hindu society, who honor the religious as well as the political ideas of Baniya Mahatma” - Arnold Toynbee

Today the need of the day has indeed created a difference. A caste – free society was made a caste dominated one but with the advent of British and western education and the development of a new concept of modernity a phase of reformation began. But surprisingly it got a halt. After the middle of the 20th century, new economic policies has triggered the need of modernization. But the paradox is that the productive forces are being curtailed by the inherent social structure which prohibits development. Thus the necessity itself shows that this condition cannot move for a long time and definitely it would come out of the clutches of this social structure. At present there is an unconscious and indeliberate nexus taking place between class and caste.


Social reformers like Sri Narayana Guru and caste organizations of the lower castes like the S.N.D.P Yogam came forward to fight against untouchability. The Vaikom Satyagraha and the Guruvayur Satyagraha were important epochs in the epic fight for eradication of untouchability. The approach roads to the temples in Travancore were thrown open to the Avrnas the wake of the Vaikom Satyagraha. The TEMPLE ENTRY PROCLAMATION of Sri Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma , the Maharaja of Travancore, on November 12th , 1936 came as a crowning climax to the series of measures which brought about the decline of the caste system.(Menon, Sreedhara , 1979, pg:86)


It was Diwan Madhava rao who pioneered the efforts to liberate the society from the clutches of the caste dominations. It was from this that then government declared proclamations regarding the right of a woman to cover the upper part of her body and also the right of the ‘ marginalised’ or the out castes to avoid terms like ‘ Adiyan’ , ‘Kidangal’ when they address the so called upper castes. By 1861 the British gave out the Criminal Procedure Code which declares that there will be uniform mode of punishment for all irrespective of the castes or caste status. This enabled to foster the subaltern groups to realize their rights and develop a sort of consciousness.


Historians have arrived at different conjectures about the existence of various forms of polygamy and polyandry till modern Kerala. The reason for this might be the insertion of tribes which were at different levels of their developments into an alien structure which has got its own mechanisms that can operate at the expense of the formers natural growth. (P J Cherian (ed), 1999, pg: 9)

In case of Brahmins of Kerala it is undisputable that the bearers of the Brahmin religion and culture came into Kerala from outside. Thus they acquired a dual cultural existence. All the institutions of the Namboodiries directly reflect, suppress and ideologically represent this duality. The family system, the concept of man- woman relationship, the forms of worship, the rituals and customs of Namboodiries has got two faces. One that of the Brahmin religion in general and the other that of the tribal culture shared by all the castes in Kerala.

In order to introduce father –right in family system he man-woman relation ship should be modified so as to enable the father to identify his offspring, from that of others. So Namboodiries introduced strict monogamy for women. But the men folk continued polygamy and participation in the remnants of group marriage system prevalent in the other castes. (pg: 11)

The contradictions that emerged from this duality have been epitomized through a ritual trial to prove the chastity of Namboodiri women -------SMARTHAVICHARAM. (pg: 11)

To keep the family property inpartable and to guard against an inconvenient increase of mouths to be fed, the EARTH – GODS, set up a rule that only the eldest son should only take up a Namboodiri wife, and that all the junior members should solace themselves by forming fugitive unions following MARUMAKKATHAYAM were no burden upon the Namboodiri father , but had to be supported by the Karanavan of the girl’s Tharavad.(K.P.P Menon , pg:24)

How fortunate the Karanavan as they were free from the burden of bringing up their own children. There also existed the practice of dowry system and they followed the Prajapatya form of marriage system. (pg: 32)


Among the Nairs and among most of the caste except Namboodiris this system was recently prevalent. Engels refers to the marriage system of the Nairs in his famous book Origin of Family touches upon this basic nature of the matriarchal joint family in Kerala, though he misses the details.

The tribal group marriage system continued with a difference in the institution of matriarchal joint family and it could continue without change even in class societies, because of its contradictory nature, i.e., structurally being tribal and functionally being classy, historically being transitional and institutionally being static.

“Matriarchal institutions still survive in the parts of the country that took last to the plough economy, example Thiruvithamkur Kochi and among some tribesmen. The reason is that originally there existed no concepts of property except for few tools prepared by the individuals, which supposedly contained some extension of his personality. Land was territory, not property, game and food gathered was shared out to all”---D.D. Kosambi (pg: 14)


Kerala is not only the most densely populated state in India but one of the most crowded rural areas in the world. The Economic Review 1959 noted that if ‘unemployment is a serious and growing problem everywhere in India…. It has reached menacing proportions in Kerala.(Nossiter,T.J,1982, pg:45)


Cash crops had been central to Kerala’s economy from the earliest times. It was the regions pepper and spices which attracted the Portuguese, Dutch, and British to the Malabar Coast.

Out side the commercial sector the effective adoption of new agricultural technologies has been constrained by the absence of capital and shortage of credit as much as by conservatism. Banking facilities were prevalent but for the poor man the main lines of credit were provided by Chitties. It provided small credit and it was used for urgent necessity rather than investment.

The plantation crops rubber, tea, coffee, and cardamom are of great national as well as international and local importance (pg: 57). Kerala’s main exports were cashew, tea, fish and prawns, pepper and coffee. Soviet Unions abrupt switch to Kerala sources in 1956-‘7 were politically motivated.

Kerala‘s agricultural economy however suffers from two inhibiting factors. One is the limited supply of cultivable wastelands available for reclamation. The other is that agricultural productivity in the State being comparatively high, the effort necessary for further increasing it has to be much more than that in the rest of India. (Mankekar)


In contrast to India, Kerala’s factories are mainly found in agricultural and forest based industries. 46%of the factory labor in Kerala was employed in food processing compared with 13% in India. In India coir manufacturing is virtually confined to Kerala and presents a unique problem. Most of the workers are illiterate or semi literate and among children college education was almost nil and technical education unheard of.


Chemical and manufacturing industries found in the public sector like FACT Ltd, Cochin Refineries and the Hindustan Machine Tools, Titanium etc emerged out of the existing agro-based industries. Much of it emerged as major projects but later on most of it resulted as being called The White- Elephants. Today Kerala has some what stable secondary sector but it is not so much profitable or is contributing to the gross income. Today the most sort after sector in Kerala or rather in India is the professional sector whose raw materials are the human resources. The technical brains that Kerala is exporting are of great demand in the national and international market. This is bringing more foreign currencies to the land. In fact the Kerala economies largely depend on the NRI accounts for development. Another important feature of the secondary sector is that or rather of the nature of the work force in the state is that of its organized structure. The trade unionism in Kerala is one important organization which binds the labor force in the state today. In 1961-’62 reported union membership in India was 2% and that of Kerala was that of 5%. The unions in Kerala are comparatively militant, industrial disputes etc. Kerala unions are generally attached to one or other of the trade union federations which are largely political in nature


To Malayalies politics is the very breath of their nostrils, but as civilized men, they prefer to fight their political feuds with the spoken and the printed swords. For in this land, violence is confined to the lashing human tongue and barbed columns of the newspapers. In this state, it can be truly said that a public man can have no private life, he is to expose to the public gaze.(Mankekar)

“The enlightened rule of Perumals of Kerala, who permitted the exercise of every kind of religion and yetis strictly forbidden to talk, dispute or quarrel on that subject”- Marco Polo

Contact with the Arab and European world in search pf pepper and spices from the interior of Kerala has materially affected its economy, society and culture, the commercialization of agriculture ,the presence of large Christian and Muslim minorities, exposure to forces destructive of traditional social structure and export of Kerala.(Nossiter,1982,pg:13,14)The backwaters provide an important and in some parts the only means of communication.

Like India as a whole Kerala is overwhelmingly rural in character. It also lacks the nucleated village system, which makes Indian settlement pattern. This peculiar settlement pattern facilitated the growth of feudal relationship unique to Kerala. Legends apart, the first set of people who left their imprints in the Kerala soil may be identified at the present only with reference to their burial practices. Though records are lacking, a reasonable assumption is that they spoke an archaic form of Tamil. Their monuments were similar to the Megalithic monuments of the west and Asia. Infact, there is very little evidence of the old age and the new stone age in Kerala. It can be noted that with more contacts the Mauryan world accelerated the pace of political and social movement among the Cheras and minor chieftains of Kerala . The ghost of Chera kingdom haunted the deity for many centuries to come.


In Travancore political agitation began with the Nairs who found their dominance on the decline and resented the monopolization of higher offices by the Tamil Brahmins inducted from outside. Their appetite for political participation was whetted with the formation of the Travancore Legislative Council in 1888 - the first ever legislature started in an Indian State. It received a new impetus with the outbreak of the First World War and then spread of the Home Rule Movement. An important feature of the freedom movement in Kerala in the 1920s and 1930s was the increasing involvement of peasants and workers. (Government publication,1988,pg:34)

Legend apart the first set of people who left their imprints on the soil of Kerala may be identified at present only with reference to their burial practice. Though records are lacking a reasonable assumption is that they spoke an archaic form of Tamil. Their monuments were similar to the Megalithic monuments of the West Europe and Asia. Infact there is very little evidence of the Old Stone Age and the new Stone Age in Kerala.

It can be noted that with more contacts with more advanced Mauryan world accelerated the pace of political and social movement among the Cheras and the minor chieftains of Kerala. Contact with the Maurayan Empire gave the first impulse for the transformation of tribal polity into civilized polity.

The loss of political unity did not lead to the loss of political independence in Kerala. The ghost of the Chera kingdom haunted the destiny of Kerala as a guardian deity for many centuries to come.

The movement for a united Kerala gathered momentum with the attainment of Independence. The first concrete step in this direction was taken on July 1st 1949. In the light of the report of the States Re- organization Commission. It was decided to add Malabar district to Travancore and Cochin and to separate the Tamil speaking southern zone. On November 1st1956, the new state of Kerala was formally inaugurated. The land of Parashuram thus regained its identity within the unity of the land of Bharatha.


In the election to the Kerala Legislature held in March 1957 the communist came out as the single largest party. They had a clear majority of 65seats. Accordingly the leader Sri E.M.S Namboodiripad constituted an eleven member council of ministers including himself. The people outside the states particularly the foreigners viewed the Communist Party in Kerala a party fundamentally different from other political parties. The people of Kerala viewed the Communist party simply as one of the political parties in the State. The reasons for their victory was mainly the conflict inside the camp had led to the falloff successive Congress ministries. The people wanted to see a stable and strong government installed in power. They had lost the hope on the Congress doing so. It was in this context that the Communist party approached them with the promise of an alternative government (R.Nair, Ramakrishnan, 1965, pg. 10, 24) .


Kerala has occupied a prominent place on the educational map of the country from time immemorial. Though we do not get a clear picture of the educational system that prevailed in the early centuries of the Christian era , the Tamil works of the Sangam age enabled us to get interesting glimpses of the educational scene in Kerala in that remote product of its history. (Menon, Sreedhara, 1979,pg :283) .

The educational institutions attached to the temples were known as Salais. The female education in general suffered a set back in Kulasekhara and post- Kulasekhara periods. The devadasis were entitled to the benefits of full education.

When the Sabha Mutt and the Ezhuthupally took care of the purely academic aspects of education, the Kalari or gymnasium catered to the needs of physical culture or physical education. The Kalari was an indigenous institution peculiar to Kerala. The Kalaries devised a system of physical education of training which suited the needs of the boys and girls.

It is with the church in Kerala that we associate theological education in the modern sense of the term. The credit goes to Portuguese, to the Christian missionaries goes the abiding honors of having undertaken the pioneer work in the matter of western education in Kerala. It also paved way to the active entry of the State into the educational field in a big way.


The states addiction to education and its achievements in this sphere, most notably the literacy, have contributed to its distinctive political culture. No other state has achieved a female literacy rate of more than half that in Kerala. Virtually all Malayali children now attend the four standards of lower primary school; the emphasis has been on the mass education and not on the education of the elite (Nossiter, 1982, pg: 33).

Politics, education agitation, government action and the mass media have in complex combination contributed to the integration of Kerala as apolitical system. The role of education in creating a literate public, female, male, poor or rich. The articulation of political and social concern through the daily newspaper, novels, poetry and the prolific Malayalam film industry has undoubtedly assisted the formation of a regional consciousness even though at he same time the newspaper have facilitated particularist expressions within it.

Paradoxically, the Keralite is individualistic, independent, excitable, anarchic yet at the same time capable of intense identification with the group whether it be the extended family, the village, caste, party or college classmates.(pg:37)


Children grow up into a world here where they are one of the two kinds-male or female. The difference is marked on them at birth; they are one of their mothers or that of their father’s: they embody a vital part of one or the other-their gendered capacity. It is a difference which grows stronger through time. Daughters and sons are separated by marriage and the anticipation of marriage.

Men and women here are separated also through their capacities, their character, through what they are. (Busby, Cecilia)


Women of Kerala from early days enjoyed to a large extent the liberty to live an outdoor life and to commune with nature. They used to enjoy with men the recitals of Puranas, Epics in the family quadrangle and in temple premises. Kannaki, Mathi, Unniarcha are some of the female celebrities that Kerala even today talk off. The women in Kerala occupy high positions in every field of public space- medical, engineering professions etc. Kerala women have used freedom judicially and in the spirit of becoming an equal partner with man. Education has only sharpened their intellectual widened their outlook and intensified the national and civic consciousness (Government of Kerala, 1988, pg: 39). Though the picture seems to be beautiful it is not so. The women of all the categories do not enjoy such good position and if she belongs to a marginalized or a Dalit community then her situation can be termed deplorable. The social indicators life female life expectancy, MMR, IMR, Sex- Ratio etc is indeed glorifying but the real life situations is debatable.


Almost 96.1% of the people speak Malayalam; there are five lakh people who speak Tamil. Tulu and Kannada are spoken by less than a lakh of people each. Kerala has also a rich tradition in the field of Sanskrit literature from very ancient days . Lilathilakam a Manipravalm work was composed in the 14th century. Dialectal variations on the basis of regional, communal, caste and occupational factors have been a feature of Malayalam language.(Menon,Sreedhara,1979,pg:328)

The name Malayalam as applied to the language of the people of Kerala is of relatively recent origin. The word was initially used to denote the land. Scholars like Dr. Gundert, Dr. Goda Varma and Ullur. P. Parasurama Iyer says that Malayalm is a sister of Tamil. Both the languages had their origin from a common stock which has been called proto- Dravidian or proto- Tamil. Malayalam even while retaining its individual characters came to exhibit the profound influence of both Tamil and Sanskrit throughout its chequered history.


The consolidation of the plough agricultural village system in Kerala ended up in smashing the basic structures of the old tribal mode of existence. Though retaining its live relics in social life thus a temple centered class society based on the division of labor of varna and caste came into being. (P.JCherian(ed), 1999,pg:18).

The peculiar nature of land relations in Kerala, because of its theocratic nature , the position and role of the Naduvazhis . The king in Kerala was not a sovereign power and was unconditional and total over the land and people within the reach of his reign. He was only one among the other traditional land holders having certain duties to dispense according to custom. He was denominated as Koil Adhikarikal or Koyma, the supervisor of the temple which is self explaining of one who occupied the highest position in the power hierarchy not having tamed the priestly class so as to make use of the religious ideology as a state apparatus.

The qualitative changes led to a change in the quality consisting the emergence of Malayalam language and culture which began its self free from that of Sanskrit and Tamil and by the 16th century which marks the colonial penetration, this process attains completion (pg:18).


The change in the momentum starts from 16th century to the close of 18th century. This is the span of time which is marked out by the coming of the Portuguese on the one end and the take over of the political power by the English on the other this is the period in which the feudal society in Kerala has been integrated as regionalized community of culture. The intervening epoch between the feudalism and capitalism is to be consider as the special one in which the political and cultural life took a new orientation. The modern historians have tried to define this interim formation as the ‘regionalized community of culture.

Ezhuthaassan and Poonthanam were the great poets who distinguished themselves their work being the best examples of this new religious ideology with its contradictions. The linguistic style and the poetic effect of their work were radically against old Brahmin religion though consciously they did partake in the old beliefs and customs. The works of Ezhuthaassan were also the record of this struggle and emancipation in the realm of language as well as culture (pg:21).


The tribes of different regions of Kerala differ from each other in the language, religion and rituals. The social life is very well knit and the leadership of the Moopan is held with great respect by the members of the community they follow matriarchal system of inheritance. But the women do not occupy the pivotal position in the family. Women are held as slaves. They believe that they have to work hard for the well being of their men folk. There are 35 types of tribal communities in Kerala including Mudhuvan ,Urali, Ulladan, Malai Vedan etc....Wayanad ,the panoramic hill of Malabar in the Northern Kerala situated above the sea level, is a home land of various tribal communities like Panayas, Kurichiyans, Adiyas, Kattu Nayikans, Kurichiyans etc.

The tribe in Kerala was one group which was an assimilated in the lot before the Brahmins came in to Kerala as invitees of the rulers of the state. But they got out of the main stream of the social structure as a result of the planned strategy of the Brahmins to establish supremacy over the rest. This plan was made applicable with the ‘concept of ‘Pollution’ which was made convinced among the so-called upper castes.

Major Tribes

1. Ooralis

The Western Ghats as well as the coastal plains of Kerala are home to a number of tribes. The Ooralis are among the few tree-dwelling tribes of the nation. The Mananns, or expert fishermen, traditionally collect honey from heights usually abuzz with dangerous hill bees. These fishermen who usually climb at night to avoid being stung, scale the trees with the help of bamboo spikes that are hammered into these trees.

2. Dravidian Tribes

The Kadars, Paniyans,Muduvans and the Malayans belong to the early Dravidian race and could be found in the hilly tracts. These tribes, with their flat nose, short stature and dark skin, apparently belong to the Negrito race.

3. Irular Tribe

Among the Irular tribe of Palaghat District, ritual dance and music accompany death rites.The hill tribes try to appease Maladaivangal, the Hill God, through a number of rituals that include dancing and singing, lest they gets wiped out.

4. Hill Tribes

The hill tribes do not contribute to the economic mainstream as much as the Pulayans, Parayans, Nayadisand Ulattans– the agricultural labourers do. A lot of Christian converts are from the Pulayatribe. Most of the tribes otherwise, belong to the lower castes of society, employed usually as agricultural or industrial labourers. The Mavilon, Velan and Koppalan are some of the other tribes of Kerala.

Kerala the land of colours and cultures gains importance in the cultural map of the world. The GOD’S OWN COUNTRY is indeed a paradise for all those who come to enjoy its scenic beauty and it is a democratic kingdom for its natives. Kerala has been a witness to several social reform movements which has drawn a conclusion to many social evils which has been posing as a threat to the national solemnity as a whole.

“Ours is a land of immense potential. Do we tap this potential for the overall development of Kerala? With single- minded pursuit of objectives with clarity of purpose and continuity of goals, let us put our state on the path of steady progress. Let us resolve to rise to the occasion and rededicate ourselves to the challenging tasks ahead”----His Excellency R.L Bhatia (Kerala Calling, Feb.2008)



Indian society possesses caste system as one of its stalwarts without which Indian society does not exist. This was not different for Kerala State which is a part of the independent India. Swami Vivekananda has stated regarding caste in “mad house of Kerala”. It is indeed true that Kerala is a predominant state in practicing the caste system

Through this exercise we are trying to trace the development of this phenomenon which is highly sensitive.

History highlights the differences in the practice of castes in Kerala when compared to those in the northern India. There is no other country where caste system cannot be seen as influential and long lasting as India. But situations differ here, what made this happen? While studying, the Kerala history, we can see that, in Kerala, evil practices of caste are stronger than any other part of India

1. How did it happen?

2. Did it exist from the beginning?

3. What are the causes for it?

4. What were its transitory phases?

5. What were the causative factors involved in the transition from the caste oriented Kerala to the modern Kerala Society?

To address the caste system, the most influential and influenced factor was the failure of the social process. We should analyze each question separately; this study focused on the caste systems of Kerala. It is a study which can be followed or studied using the Marxian analysis and also has narrative description. It gives insight into the differential perspectives with which the Kerala society can be dealt.

The study is put into a logical framework which starts from tracing the historical path of caste in Kerala, its understanding, and the factors which made it peculiar. It ties to find answers to several queries along with drawing certain conclusion.

A caste free society in the beginning but later on its transition through various stages is definitely one of academic interest. One can also try to find the dialectics / relation behind the development of “mad house” and later on what happened to it?


Before and after the first decades of A.D caste structure was unknown to Kerala society. The Foreign writers, who had written about Kerala society, never gave any indication of such system. Literatures of Pleny, Tolomy were silent about caste or anything of that kind. All these factors indicate that the ancient Kerala society was a caste free society (Kerala Charithram, K.Damodaran, page 108). At the same time the northern society had started of with the caste system. This does not mean that Kerala society was a closed one. In Kerala there existed a form of division of labour and occupational differentiations and cordial cultural and trade transferences were also taking place. Kerala too had international relations too.

Even from 30 B.C Kerala had trade relationship with foreign countries like Rome and Egypt etc. Roman gold coins belonging to the period of 30 B.C to 547 A.D were discovered from Kerala and this proves the facts. These relationships positively affected the agricultural and trade development in Kerala (Page-157-para3).

Serfdom in Kerala

Some historians argued that there was no serfdom in Kerala. According to them there was only division of labour but no specific ‘slave caste’ existed. But this was not true. We can see this word in ‘Tholkappiyam’ and there were many references in ‘Sangha’ literature in this regard. Slavery in Kerala was not that much brutal as that of other countries like Greece, Rome etc. (page110).

Kulam (Clan) and Labour

In different regions different clans and their leaders lived. They occupied particular area specific jobs according to their topography. They were simply different groups engaged in different jobs, which never indicated any caste like divisions. Later the difference between haves and have-nots increased and some groups considered being the higher class. But even at that time the individual members were free to choose any job.

Sangha Literature showed that the farmers got prominent recognition during that period. A Poem in ‘Pathittupathu’ stated that hunters waited in front of the houses of ‘Uzhavas’ with curd and meat for buying rice. Ilankulam Kunjan Pillai also stated that Uzhavas are the group holding larger amount of private property.

Chantror (toddy makers) had an equal or little more importance place than Uzhavas in the society. Toddy was an important part of social life at that time (Pathittu-vi-8.vii-8, iii-10P.K.G.page161).

Business men were another prominent group, even though the realm of trade was in the hands of Kings. These groups helped Kings in trade (Pathittu-viii-6). Salt was one of the major commodities in that period and salt traders were popularly known as ‘Umanar’. Tholkapiyam also refers the prominent place of businessmen in the society, which include them in the ‘Enror’ (higher class) section. They had the right to wear ornaments in neck (Tholkapyam, porul-628) which was a right reserved to the higher class.

Higher and Lower classes in Sangha periods

At this time gap between haves and have-nots also increased. Tholkapyam refers to these two classes. According to this ‘Anthnar’, ‘Arachar’, ‘Vanikar’, ‘Uzhavas’ belongs to higher class. Pulavar, Parayar, Panar, Porunar also had higher position in society. Pulavars worked as scholars, panars were singers, Vychikas belonged to Vanikas, along with Brahmin migrants from North, Vychikas also migrated to South. Chettis belong to this category. All other categories belonged to lower class. Those who only processed their labour as their asset were popularly known as Vinynchers (laborers) (page164-165).

Knowledge had the primary place in the society. Those who had knowledge were respected by society even though they belonged to lower class (Tholkappiyam-P.K.G-183).

In Sangha period there could not be found a well disciplined religion. People were free to choose any ideologies. For e.g. Chenguttuvan (King in Sanghakala), who was a devotee of Siva.

But he facilitated ‘Kannaki’ who was a Buddhist. Yaga and Chathurvarnya were the traits of Brahminism in that period. But it couldn’t influence the people at that time (Pages-185).

Anthanars and Brahmins

Many historians translated the world ‘Anthanars’, and ‘Parpan’ as Brahmins. Actually Anthanars and Parpans in Sangha period are different from Brahmins. They were the educated scholars selected from the society ‘irrespective of their clan or class’.

They had the right to conduct ‘velvi’. Many equate this to ‘Yagas’ of Aryan Brahmins. But velvi is a kind of animal sacrifice to please gods followed by feast, which consists of toddy, meat etc. It was not the case with Yagas. But none other than a person from the Brahmin caste has the right to perform the Yagas. Untouchability and evil practices of caste were also not in Kerala society. The sexual relationship of Arya Brahmins was not same as that of Anthanars. Extra marital relationship did not prevail among the Arya Brahmins. But it was not so among Southern Brahmins (page 120).

Chathurvarnya and Brahmin domination

In north India, class difference and division of labour was determined by the caste system. But in south it was not so. This doesn’t mean the isolation of south from north, but there was exchange of commodities and cultures in the period of Asoka and Chera, Chola, Pandya Kings. But in Sangha Kala, Kerala had its own social system, where Buddhism and Jainism had prevailed to some extent. The social relationships, religions, sexual relationships are different from Aryans and that is why they could not penetrate into this society.

In Sangha period the number of Brahmins were very less, also they had less influence on the society. They transformed a few to their Siva beliefs. Kings like Trivikrama-Konganadu, Chenganan-Chola nadu, etc. are examples. In A.D 4 there was an invasion of Brahmins. In one of the inscription it was seen that, the Kadhamba Raja-Mayoora Varma brought Brahmins from Ahichithara, to conduct yaga (Fleet Indian antiquary vol:10). Mahadeve sastries ‘Kerala Charitram’ also stated that, Brahmins were brought to Kerala from Ahichitram. But this invasion could not make any impact on Kerala society.

In Kerala, Brahmins lived in around 32 villages. This large number may not be invaders. In Santha purana and in Eythihyas of Maharashtra, there are references that ‘Parasuraman’ had baptized mukhuvas (fisherman) in to Brahmins. Anthropological studies also support this. i.e.; most of the Namboothiries had much similarity with Dravidians than Aryans (P.K.G.Page-237). These 32 villages of Namboothiries were divided in to four Kazhakas, and they gathered together in an interval of 12 years to formulate the policies.

After the decline of Buddha and Jaina religions around 7th and 8th century’s power of Chera also declined. When Kulashekara was in power, he included Brahmins in the power process. For that they organized a festival (in accordance with 12 year meeting of Namboothiries) which was named as Mamankam (Page-237). Brahmins became well organized in Kerala by the middle of 8th and 9th century. When the Pallivanperumal’s time reached, Namboothiries attained more political power. They even replaced the king for his support to Buddhists (page 254).

Advaida of Sri Sankara helped Hindu religion to capture the prominent place in India. Jainism later became a sub unit of Hinduism. This new ideology unites India in an ideological level. Sankara authorized Manusmrithi and its Chathurvarnya practices for next 3-4 centauries. No intellectuals rose in India to question this philosophy. Sankara’s ideology became the ruling principle of India.

In Kerala they became more powerful, because in contrast to north India, Kerala Brahmins were natives. Also they adopted Kerala’s rituals and practices, so as to concrete their roots in this land. In 9th and 10th century temples became centers of social life. Along with the influence in politics Brahmins raised as the prominent class (page 262-265).

Emergence of caste

Caste emerged in Kerala along with feudalism. It should be understood in the back ground of Indian caste system. No other society had this much complicated social system. There were caste like systems in Greece and Egypt but they could not sustain for long time. But in India it was deep-rooted and prevailed. Kossambi remarked that Aryans conquered India and made the natives as ‘dasas’ (servants) on the basis of colour, along with division of labour (Aryans are white and Dravidians are black) also caused emergence of ‘varnas’. When Aryans came to India the priests were known as ‘atharvas’ and ‘hothras’. Similar words can be found in Iran, which also refers to priests.

The soldiers appointed for the protection of Totems, became ‘Kshathriyas’ later. The others in Indo Aryan tribes worked in pastoral activities and agriculture. They transformed to Vyshyas, their servants became Sudras in the 1st decades. But these difference remains only in their division of labour. A Kshathriya can be a Brahmin by studying Vedas. Similarly a Brahmin can be a Vysya. But these three castes keep a strong wall with Sudras. Transformation of Sudra class to any other class was never allowed.

In Sangha period as a part of initiatives to establish Brahmanism, they tried to enforce Manusmrithy as the principle text of law and order. Brahmanism intensified caste restriction and this division. Four things helped them to do so.

1) Stagnant social structure of Indian villages.

2) The philosophy put forward by priesthood.

3) The upper hand achieved by Brahmins in commercial and political spheres.

4) The tribal character which involve in cast.

They succeeded to impart the philosophy on other castes so that they agree with the Brahmanical authority and caste restrictions. Brahmins connect it with ‘papa’ and ‘punya’ (sin and sacred). According to this one who does not practice this will be born as dog in the next birth. Using these concepts they implement slavery as an obligation. The economical, political and cultural upper hand helped them to do so. They held the monopoly of knowledge and kept away Sudras from that realm through caste restrictions. Hindu caste system incorporates tribal groups in to its fold. And consider each group as separate caste. To sustain caste purity endogamy was practiced (P.K.G. page 275-281).

Castes in Medieval Kerala

Till the declining of Buddhism no caste division existed in Kerala. Those names such as panas, parayan, chantron, villavan, uzhavan, etc, are just divisions on the basis of their labour. But no hierarchy existed among them. The educated scholar ‘panar’ and Brahmins had equal status in the society. Kunjikkuttan Thampuran referred in his book ‘Keralam’, it was the 12th Year Assembly of Brahmins brought caste division according to labour.

Caste system and its evil practices cannot be rooted even in the period of Siva-vyshnava belief. For e.g. Sundharmurthy who belongs to ‘Adi Saiva Brahmans’, Cheramanperumal, Nayanar all shared the dining table together. They also gave importance to Kannappa who was a vedan (Hunter), and Nandha who was a pulaya (C.V.Narayana Ayyar-Origin and Early history of Saivism in south India, page -122). But some Saiva Brahmins tried to practice caste superiorism in that period.

There is a story which shows this. Thirujnana Samantha traveled along with a ‘panar’ and ‘verali’. When they stayed in the night, Sambandhar said to them to spend the night near ‘homakundha’ (Fire place), and he slept far away from them but in his dream he saw fire in homa kundha. He wondered because according to him it is impossible in the presence of lower caste people. But by this incident he recognized that he was mistaken (C.V.Narayana Ayyar page 138).

Those who have close relationship with Brahmins (those who engaged in similar activities in Kerala society) transformed into Brahmins for e.g. priests in Jain temples, and those who have knowledge in medicine, later they became moosath etc. But in contrast to north India, in Kerala trades are handled by Christians and Muslims, so vyshyas are not formed in our society.

This is why in Kerala caste hierarchy and untouchability became stronger. Nowhere in India, other than Kerala, had the Brahmin organisation intervene the rulers in the day-to-day ruling (P.K.G.Page:283).

The Major Brahmin classes

Brahmins and allied classes are divided into 3 sub-divisions. They are Nambutiri, Muttat, and Elayat. The Nambutiris are Malayalam Brahmins. Their position in traditional Kerala society was unique in all respects. They were priests and landlords who held the country and even its rulers under their control Kings and princes. Therefore, traditional Kerala might aptly be described as ‘priest-ridden’. The word ‘Nambutiris’ is a compound of two words-‘nambu’ and ‘tiri’. ‘Nambu’ means ‘sacred’ or ‘trustworthy, and ‘tire’ means ‘a light’. The implication of the name is that the Nambutiris is a sacred light. The traditional belief is that the Nambutiris Brahmins were brought to Kerala by Parasu Rama, the axe-bearing incarnation of Vishnu, from the banks of the Narmada, the Krishna, the Kavery and other rivers.

Among the Nambutiris, there are eight sub-divisions. Four of them are called Vedic and four, non-Vedic. The eight sub-divisions according to the jathi nirnaya are;

(1) Tampurakkal (2) Adhyan (3) Visishta Brahmin, (4) Samanya Brahmin (5) Jathi Martian, (6) Samketikan (7) Sapagrasthan (8) Papisthan.

The Muttats and Elayat are also Brahmins, but their position is slightly below that of the Nambutiris, There Muttats are degraded because of their partaking of food served to the god, Siva. Their women are known by the name Manayammamar. The Elayat are degraded on account of their officiating as purohitas to Nairs. They perform services in temples that are owned by them and by the Nairs. Their women are known by the name Elaramma. Both the Muttats and the Elayat are Makkathayis. The Nambutiris were rich land holders. The Nambutiris are very intelligent and were shrewd enough to foresee things very well. “To keep the family property importable and to guard against an inconvenient increase of mouths to be fed, the ‘Earth-gods’ set up a rule that only the eldest son should take a Namboothiri wife, that all the junior members should solace themselves by forming fugitive connections with the sudra girls.

Following marumakkathayam was no burden upon the namboothiri father, but had to support by the karanavar (senior male) of the girl’s Tarawadu. The Nambutiris followed the Prajapatya form of marriage. The daughter was given to the bridegroom with due honor. The bride and the bridegroom were blessed on the occasion of the marriage saying May both of you perform your civil and religious duties.

A Nambutiris lady is called Antarjanam. She is also called Akathamma. Before attaining puberty, a Nambutiris girl is known as Unni kitavu. Between the period of puberty and marriage she is known as Pen Kitavu. If the Nambutiris girl remains unmarried even after she has come of age, she is called Nanga pillai, and after marriage she is known as Akayil Ullaver, Attenmar or Akattullavar. A Nambutiri house is known as Illam or Mana (Studies in Traditional Kerala

Kshatriyas, Nairs and Ezhavas

Nairs and Ezhavas are the two major sections in this caste hierarchy. There is no reference about these castes in the literatures or writings before 8th A.D. Reference of any inflow of a large group was also not founded. So it was believed that Nairs and Ezhavas were evolved from the already existing Kerala society.


Chattambi Swamikal had written in his ‘Pracheena Malayalam’ that “it is Nagathan’s became Nayars in Kerala” (Page.83). There were some references about Nayakas in Slokas; Chattambi Swamikal explained this as “they are the leaders in the period of ‘Sivabhakthi’. They hold the sword to devastate the Buddhists.” It was the period of Cheraman Perumal during which the Brahmin’s domination was established, Nayakas became the Servants. The word ‘Nair’ was first found in an inscription by Vijayadevarajan, known as ‘Thirukkadithanam’ in the middle of the 19th Century.

There was more number of Nairs in Idanadu, when compared to other parts of Kerala. It shows that Ayyar, Idayar etc. are transformed in to Nairs in a larger scale. Sreenivasa Ayyankar referred that, Chakkan (oil producers), vaniyan (businessmen), Oorali, Vellalar, Pallichan, were also fused in to Nairs. The Idayas in TamilNadu are still considered as a sub caste of Nairs. This supports the above argument (P.K.G, page 281-296).


Kshatriyas are divided into three sub-divisions. They are Thampuran, Thampan and Thirumulpad. They were given such names on the basis of their relationship with the ruling families. Accordingly Tampurans were members of the ruling families and Thampans, distant relatives. The eight classes of Kshatriyas in Kerala were: (1) Bhupala or MahaRaja. (2) Rajaka or Rajas. (3) KoilTampurans. (4) Puravan or Tampan. (5) Sripurogama or Tirumulpad. (6) Bhandari or Pandarathil. (7) Tirumlpat. (8) Cheta or Samanta. According to the caste hierarchy now accepted, the Nairs are ranked below the Antarala-jatis. Antaralas were not at all superior to the Nairs. Antaralas were on par with the Nairs or as just below the Kshatriyas. Joint family system was in existence among the Nairs. Their family was commonly described by the term Taravadu.

Every Nairs taravad in ancient Kerala tried its best to maintain its high socio- economic and cultural status and dignity. Every Nairs taravad maintained a Thulasi Thara before which a lamp was lighted every evening. This was usually done by a women member of the tarawadu. Most Nair Taravads had a ‘serpent-grove’ within the taravad compound. There also a lamp was lighted at sunset. The Nairs followed Marumakkathayam system of inheritance. Accordingly, a man belonged to his mother’s family. Under this system, the father was comparatively less important figure. The taravadu property was vested in the hands of the eldest male member of the woman’s family. This system that really existed in Kerala was not matriarchal, but matrilineal. The taravad head was known as Karanavar.

According to the Jathi Narmada, the Nairs are divided into 18 sections. Only the first 14 constitute high-caste Nairs. Their titular suffixes of Nairs are Pillai, Chempakaraan, Tampi, Kurup, Kaimal, Unnithan, Valiyathan, Nambiyar, Achan, Menon, Menokki, Muttan, Panikkar, Manavalar, Perimbrar, Patiar, Arimbrar, Taravanar and Mannatiar (Studies in Traditional Kerala

Low-Caste Nairs

Low-Caste Nairs are divided into three sub-divisions. They are Chaliyan, Veluttedan and Velakkattalavan. The Chaliyans were cotton weavers. They used to live in communal streets. Their barbers were called Potuvans. They were also their purohits. They worshipped Ganapathy. Their headmen were called Uralans.These castes are followed the Marumakkathayam.

The name Velakkathalavan is a compound of three words, Velakkat-Ela-Avan. It was the right of the Velakkathalavans to get the leaf placed before the lamp. The Valinchiyans and the Nasiyans had the Marumakkathayam system of inheritance. They all had the Talikettu Kallyanam and the Sambandham ceremony. In south Malabar both the Makkathayis and Marumakkathayis could be found among the Velakkathalavans (Studies in Traditional Kerala


There was a strong argument that Ezhavas migrated from Ceylon (Srilanka). The total number of Ezhavas and Thiyyas were 20 lakh. According to 1891 census it was from 9th century onwards the word Ezhavan came into existence. Sthanu Ravi Pillai’s Thariapilly edict and Raja Raja Chola’s also referred this name as a caste indication.

The sections like Vanikas, Uzhavas, Chantror, Villavavar (in Sangha period) later included in to Buddhism. There were farmers, toddy makers, Soldiers etc. among them. Ruins of these sections can be seen in later Ezhava Religion (Logan Malabar Manuel-Vol: 117, social revolution in Kerala village page 116).

But in the period of theocratic feudalism Ezhavas started to came down in social strata (Keralolpathi). There were Ezhava Scholars in Sanskrit and medicine etc. (Itty Achuthan prepared list of medicinal plants regarding Hothouse Malabaricus). This shows that when they were under Buddhism and Jainism the knowledge was open to them (P.K.G page 290-294).

Other castes

The other castes are evolved from the various sections existing in Sangha period. These sections are divided according to their labour. Those who worked in Pulas (Pulam=Large Fields) became Pulayan. Parayan (those sections resided in hills) became parayan. Vettuvan (hunter), Parathavar later became Arayar (Fishermen). Thachans (Carpenter), Kollan (Blacksmith) etc. were later transformed in to various castes. None of these sections support Brahmanisation. So they were belittled by the Brahmins when they are in power. Brahmanism effectively used the philosophy of karma to sustain this power (P.K.G page 294).


The Antarala jatis have three divisions such as Nampidi, Ambalavasi and Samanta. Each division there is sub-divisions. Nampidis are of two classes-the thread wearing, Nampidis and the non-thread wearing Nampidis. Ambalavasis consist of Atikal, Chakkiyar Nambiyar, Nambiyar or Unni, Thiyyattunni, Pisharotis, Variyar, Putuval and Marar. Under Samantha come unnitiri and atiyoti. These castes are known as Antarala, they are supposed to occupy an intermediate position between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas on the one hand, and the Sudras on the other. Thread-wearing class of Nampidis had their own priests. And the non-thread wearing Nampidis had the Elayats to perform the essential sacerdotal functions. The Nampidis followed Marumakkathayam system of inheritance. Nampidi females were married by their own caste men or Nambutiries. Ambalavasies are those who live by the temples. Their occupation was temple service like preparing flower garlands to adorn the idols, gathering flowers, sweeping the inner premises of temples, etc. These were, therefore, also known as occupational castes. The Atikal castes are degraded Brahmins. “The degradation caused while they officiated as priests in Bhadrakali temples and worshipped the goddess with offerings of flesh and liquor”.

The Atikal practiced sorcery and worshipped evil spirits. These castes followed Makkathayam system of inheritance and others Marumakkathayam system of inheritance. Their women are called Atiyammas the name Chakkiyar is derived from Slaghyavakkukar. Jati Nirnayas states that the ‘Chakkiyars represent a caste growth of the Kaliyuga. The traditional occupation of a Chakkiyar was recitation of verses from sacred works at temples. The Chakkiyar’s performance was arranged on the occasion of temple festivals. It was known as Chakkiyarkuttu. The Chakkiyarkuttu was held at a special place known as Kuttampalam. The Nambiyar and the Nangyar, female of the Nambiyar caste, are unavoidable elements of a Chakkiyarkuttu.

The fourth caste that comes under the Ambalavasi caste group is Nambiyar or Unni. They are also known as Pushpakan. The term Pushpakan is derived from pushpa which means flower. Their important duty is to collect flowers and prepare flower garlands for temples. The Pushpakans are divided into three classes. They are named Pushpakans, Nambiyassans and Puppallis. In the northern part of Kerala, the Pushpakans were known as Nambiyars. The pushpakans were considered to be the highest of the thread-wearing sections of the Ambalavasis. The residence of a Pushpakan was known by different names such as Pushpakam, Pumutam, or Padodakam. There are two classes of Tiyyattunnis. They are known as Tiyatinambiyars of the north and Tiyyattunnis proper. Tiyatinambiyars are employed in sastha temples and the Tiyyattunnis are associated with Kali temples. The Tiyyattunnis’ residence is known as Bhavanam. They like the Pushpakas followed the Makkathayam system of inheritance. The Pisharotis were learned men and many among them were scholars in Sanskrit and Malayalam. The houses of Pisharotis were known as Pisharam. The Pisharotis followed Marumakkathayam system of inheritance. The Variyars are generally scholars in Sanskrit. Many among them were also excellent astrologers. It is believed that Parasu Rama appointed Variyars, Pushpakans and Pisharotis as the garland-making castes of Malabar. A Variyars technical occupation in a temple is known as Kazhakam. There are two kinds of Kazhakams - Malakkazhakam or garland-making and Talikkazhakam or sweeping service. The variyars worshipped Subramanya, Vishnu, Sasta, Ganesa and Bhadrakali. The Variyars house is called Variyam. Their womenfolk are known by the name Varassiars. The Pothuvals were generally considered temple watch-men. The Marans are also known as Asupanis, because they sound the musical instruments named asu and pani. The third division among the Antaralas was Samanta. Under Samanta comes two sub-divisions-Unnittiri and Atiyoti or Adiyodi (Studies in Traditional Kerala

Polluting Castes

There are different sub-divisions of Polluting castes: (1) Kallassari (2) Kollan (3) Marasari (4) Musari (5) Tattan (6) Tolkollan. The Tolkollan was known as Tachan. The service of Asaris in traditional Kerala was very essential and required by all. Those who learned the Thachu sastram were considered to be authorities on house building. He was named Moothasari. The Kammalan caste was follow Makkathayam system of inheritance. They worship many deities such as Thikutti, Parakutti, Kala Bhairavan, etc.

The second section among the Polluting castes consists of eleven sub-divisions. They are the Iluvan, or Tiyan, Valan, Arayan, Mukkuvan, Kaniyan, Vilkurup, Panan, Velan, Pulluvan and Paravan. The Iluvans or Tiyans are also known as Chokas. Izhavas are divided into three sections-Pachchili, Pandi and Malayalam. The Malayalam Izhavas are again divided into four exogamous groups. They are known as Muttillam, Madampi or Pallichal, Mayyanatti and Chozhi. Valan and Aryan are fishing castes. Boat service was also their occupation. The Valans have a status superior to the Aryans. They belong to four exogamous divisions or Illams. The four divisions are Alayakad, Ennalu, Vaisyagiriam and Vazhappally. The Velans worship Siva and Vishnu. In other caste Mukkuvans are also fishermen. They also serve as boat-men. The Mukkuvans have their seers called Ayittans. It is said that their deity is Bhadrakali. They have their own temples. Other caste was Kaniyans there are two endogamous sections-Kaniyar and Tinta. The Kaniyar’s occupation is astrology. In other caste Valans are the washermen of the low castes. They also practice magic and sorcery. They are called Perumannans or Mannans in the northern parts of the state (Studies in Traditional Kerala

Agricultural laborers

Agricultural laborers are divided into five castes. They are: Kanakkan, Kuttan, Pulayan or Cheruman, Parayan and Vettuvan. They are also known as slave castes. The Kanakkans are mostly attached to landlords. Among the Kanakkans, there are four endogamous divisions. They are the patunna, Vettuva, Chavala and Parattu. The Kanakkans worship many deities like Siva, Vishnu, Subramania, Chathan, etc. This Pulayan is also known as Cheruman. The word Cheruman refers to the sons of the soil. A Pulayan is an agricultural serf who lives on the land of his master. Their gods are Parakutty, Karinkutty, Chathan and the spirits of their ancestors. Another caste that comes in the group of Agricultural laborers is Parayan. They are generally known as slaves or at least serfs (Studies in Traditional Kerala


Chandalas castes are divided into four divisions. They are Ullatan, Nayadi, Malayan and Kadan. Ullatans and Nayatis are known as Chandalas of the forest. The latter are also called hill tribes. They follow Makkathayam. They are considered to be the lowest class among the soil slaves. The word Nayati is a combination of Na, meaning dog and yati meaning hunting. They are placed in the lowest ladder among the Hindu castes of Kerala. The Nayatis prefer to live in isolated condition. Malayar and Kadar are hill men and jungle men.

The Malyars are divided in to 9 clans such as (1) Kadattukar (2) Tonikar (3) Pokenkar (4) Eranattukar (5) Ayambkar (6) Nellakkar (7) Chekkankar (8) kuttankar (9) Kunnikar. The Malayer is mostly engaged in collecting honey wax, dammer, ginger and other forest produce. They hunt animals and like tigers and bears (Studies in Traditional Kerala



The caste rules operated in the irrational manner. The triple social evil of untouchability, unapproachabilty and unseeability was observed by the people at all level of Hindu society. The concept of the pollution assumed them serious dimensions and came to apply not only in relation between different castes in Hindu society but also in the relation between Hindus and the non Hindus in Kerala society. Ibnu Batuta (AD-324) mentions this aspect of the social relation, when he observes as the following as conduct of the Hindus “they do not allow the Muslim to touch their vessels or to enter their apartment but if any should happen to eat out of one of the vessels they break it to piece”.

The work of the most of the foreign travelers who has written about the medieval Kerala are repeated with references to the strange manner in which high caste (savrna) enforced cast restriction and the low caste Hindus (avarnas) acquiesced in them .

Ma-Huan refers to the practice of the Mukkuvas of the Cochin falling prostrate on the ground at the sight of the Brahmin or Nair and remaining in the position till they passed by. Barbosa 6thcentury AD speak of the arrogant behavior of the Nair’s forward low caste “when they walk along street or road, the shout to the low caste folk to get of their way; this they do and if one will not, the Nair may kill him with out punishment.

In the course of the centuries the cast system has evolved itself to the strong, so perfectly that they came to vogue even a strict schedule of distance at which classes below the Nair’s had to stand with respect to the higher caste. The prescribe distance for some of the caste was as follows:





Kannakan etc






Even the mere sight of the Pulaya or Nayadi was enough to make the Namboothiri consider him polluted. Though the high caste Hindus did not permit the low caste Hindus to approach them feeling themselves polluted, no such distance pollution was associated with the Christian and the Muslims. A plunge bath in the tank or stream was the method of washing of pollution. Barbosa, Linschoten and other foreign travelers allude to the belief in the efficacy of such bath in removing pollution. The following observation of Shaik Sainuddheen on the practice of Untouchability by the Hindus may be read with interest. “They subject with themselves to a lot of unavoidable difficulties on account of division in to various castes, consisting of the highest, the lowest and other degrees between the two. If one of a high cast touches a man of low caste or approaches him nearer than the distance prescribed for intercourse with men of low caste, it is necessary for them to get washed from the pollution”.

For one of the high caste it is unlawful for him to eat before bath. If he eats before his bath he will be degraded from his rank and will not be re-admitted into it. There is no redemption for him unless he runs to, place where he will not be recognized (Social and Cultural History of Kerala page no 66-69).


This custom operated among the Kerala society especially in the Nair’s and the Namboothiri family in Kerala. Nair or Namboothiri women cohabiting with a man of low caste was treated as an out caste and sold as slave to Christian or Muslim or foreign merchants. This dreadful custom is known as Pulappedi and Mannappedi prevailed. According to these custom the pulayas and the untouchable castes had the privilege of molesting women of the Nair caste during a particular season in an year “according to Barbosa (1500-1600AD) this custom was as follows “in certain months (Gundert says this custom operated by the Kollam month karkkidakam) of the year they do their utmost to touch some Nair women by night as secretly as they can and this only for the sake of doing evil and if they touch any women, even though non have seen it and there may be no witness, yet she is declared polluted at once, crying out and she will stay longer in her house that her caste may not destroyed; in general she flees to the house of some other low caste folk hides herself, that her kinsfolk may not slay her and that then she may help herself and be sold to foreigners, which is often done (Studies in Traditional Kerala

Restriction of Dress

The semi-nakedness in the appearance of the Nair women and of this belonging to the lower castes was enforced by the feudal authorities of the time. The law prevailing in the land prohibited these women from covering the upper part of the body and wearing certain types of the jewelers. Custom enjoyed by Nair women in Travancore till the middle of the 19th century to remove the ruokka from the upper part of the body in the presence of the members of the royal family. In Cochin even in the decades of this century this is an unwritten law which prevented the entry of the Nair women wearing roukka in to the precincts of the temple owned by the Government or the Maharaja. If this was position with regard to the Nair women, the position of the some of the lower caste women were even more miserable. The Shudra women’s especially Pulayas and Channar (Nadar) they did not have the right to wearing dress on the upper part of the body, the Sudra women were the sexual property of the Brahmins. This is the paradoxical matter because they are considered as the untouchable and unseeable. Samuel Mateer writings in the late 19th century observe as follows “to secure immediate recognition of such classes they were required to be uncovered above the waist; shoes umbrellas, fine cloths and the costly ornaments were interdicted for them. The holding of umbrella was prohibited for all castes except Brahmins on the public occasion, though the rains were pouring up on them. ‘The lower cast female persons were not allowed to cover the top part of their body”. Though the position of the Nair women, in this regard improved, as result of the royal proclamation issued in the 19th century by the rulers of Travancore. But that of the lower castes remained the same as before. They had to struggle hard for their emancipation (Studies in Traditional Kerala


The 16th century AD Thalikettukalyanam has widely existed among the Non Brahmins especially in the Nairs, Ezhavas, and Kammals society in Kerala. Barbosa’s writing has references to this custom. He says it was held when the girl was 12 years old. The term Thalikettukallyanam is a compound of the three words, viz, tali, (a badge) kettu (tying) and kallyanam (marriage). The thali tying performed on a girl or a batch of girls between the ages 12 and 13. This custom belonged to same caste or superior caste. The girl’s mother proclaimed an ‘Adiyanthiram’ when the girl reached the age 12 and mother invites the upper caste and other nearest relations, they come to girl’s home and some of them tied thali on her. The assumption was that with tali tying the girl had become an eligible bride. After this mock marriage there is no problem to sexual contact with other upper caste men especially the Brahmins and upper caste Nairs. Thali tied had no special claim to matrimony with the girl. He felt at the end of the ceremony almost unhonoured. In fact, the Thalikettukalyanam was a mock or sham marriage, though the several foreign and even some native writers have mistaken it for a real marriage. In a sense, it was much ado about nothing. In the words of the K.P Padmanabha Menon, “a good lot of money is wasted on this mock marriage and the vicarious husband is after few days dismissed with presents of a pair of cloth and couple of rupees, the marriage badge or thali being in the mean while, removed from the neck of the bride and the expansive farce ends”. (Keralam 15um 16um Noottanduklil (Malayalam title).Page.72-74).


This marriage institution mostly operated during 16th century in Kerala by the low caste Hindus like the Asari and Musari, Karuvan, Kollan. According to Barbosa in low caste family eldest member of the family who had married women, all his brothers were to share the eldest brother’s wife this is known as the Pandavachram. (Keralam 15um 16um Noottanduklil (Malayalam title).Page.74).


The development of the devadasi system in medieval Kerala was logical corollary of the growth of the caste and Janmi system. The devadasies were the dancing girls attached to temples. This institution seen to have had its origin else were in the south India in the 8th century AD and it came to Kerala in the 9th century in the wake of the Bhakthi movement and the rise of the temple . Hence this played a prominent role in the social and cultural life of the people. The post of the devadasi is a respectable one and women from the aristocratic family came forward to take up the assignment on an honorary basis even with out accepting any remuneration or enjoying perquisites that went with the post. Kulasekhara Alwar (A.D.820-822) the fonder of second Chera Empire is seen to have dedicated his own daughter Neela as devadasi to the temple at SreeRangom. According to Trichur inscription a large number of dancing girl were attached to the Vadakkum Nathan temple in 12th century.

End of the devadasi system

The devadasi system lingered on in south Travancore till the early part of the century. The system was known till recent times as Kudikari system as the evils of system was self-evident. The Travancore Govt abolished this system in 1930 by royal proclamation. The erstwhile devadasi families having merged with the Nair community, devadasi as a caste or a class do not exist any longer in Kerala. (Social and Cultural History of Kerala page no 80-83).


The Namboothiri women are kept in the strictest seclusion of all virtues, chastity is accounted the highest and any violation of this, in man or women, enacts loss of caste, social status and total separation from the family enquires in the cases of conjugal infidelity are conducted by the Smarthan (judge), and hence the name “Smarthavichram” by which the caste trail is known to the members of the family. They do not generally keep the secret to themselves, but senior or some other male member divulges it to the prominent members among the caste men group. The letter or living the information, proceed to family and make a careful enquiry into the truth of matter. If they are satisfied as to her guilt, they direct suspected women to lodge separately for they consider her to be impure. The husband or the other member of the family then informs the ruler of the state, who there upon at the request of her husband or parents appoints a panchayath to conduct vicharam (trial) and issue summons (Tittu) to them. The panchayath consist of the smartha or the president; two or more Mimamskar Namboothiri versed in caste laws the Agakoyma or local head of the community, and the Purakoyma a representative of the Raja whose duty it is to stand with a drawn sword during the trail and to keep the order (The Cochin Tribe and Caste vol-ii; page 201).

Social Reform Movement in Kerala

In the 19th century, Kerala witnessed a struggle against traditional cultural ideological hegemony of Brahmins. This struggle was due to the structural changes in the society and the consequent emergence of a new class, the educated middle class. The attitude of the members of the emerging middle class towards traditional institutions, beliefs and social relations was quite critical. The result was the beginning of several reform movements during the late 19th century and 20th century.

The reform movement in Kerala were initiated and led by the middle class under the influence of both traditional and western ideas. The reformers of Kerala came mainly from intermediate and lower caste background. The women’s emancipation was a part of reform only among Nambuthiris and Muslims.

Reformers of Kerala

The reformers of Kerala belonged to two categories. The first group believed that changes in the beliefs and behavior are to be affected through the influence of religion. Thus Chattambi Swamikal, Sree Narayana Guru, Theerthapada Swamikal, Sadanantha Swami, Vaghbadanantha and their followers held spiritual revitalization as the basis for the advancement of society. The belief in the need for revitalization was generally prevalent among the backward communities. The genesis and growth of SNDP Yogam, Sree Naryana Dharma Sangham and Athmavidhya Sangham indicate this perspective. The 2ndgroup of reformers organized them under non-religious leadership and gained their ends through constitutional means. The movement of NSS, Sathuparipalana Samba and Nambuthiri Yogakshema Sabha may be placed under this category.


Ayyankali (1863-1941) was born in 1863 in Venganoor, Thiruvananthapuram; in the state of Kerala. He was one of seven children born to a pulaya (caste) family and illiterate as were all Dalits at that time. In those days Dalits were not allowed to walk along public roads. The Dalit women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places. Ayyankali organized Dalits and fought against these discriminations. He was in the forefront of movements against caste system. He passed through the public roads of Venganoor on a bullock cart which was not allowed for the Dalits. Enraged by his boldness, the caste Hindus physically attacked him. Ayyankali resisted it himself and defeated them. Ayyankali demanded right for Dalit children to study in school, which was not granted. He started a school to teach dalit children at Venganoor which was set ablaze by caste Hindus. In response to this; in 1907 he led a strike at Venganoor which lasted for more than a year. He called for boycott of agricultural work raising certain demands. His demands included (a) stoppage of the practice of not giving tea in tea shops to Dalits who were given tea till then in coconut shells. (b) Right to education for the Dalit children. (c) Resting time for workers during work hours; and (d) Replacement of the system of wages in kind by payment of cash. Initially the (Members of the Nair caste which belongs to Sudra in the Varna system of Hinduism) and other caste Hindus did not take it seriously. They tried many means and methods to defeat the workers. However they realized that their families would starve to death if Ayyankali's demands were not met with. They therefore, were forced to concede the demands of Ayyankali and his supporters. The significance of Ayyankali lies in the fact that he could spear head a struggle for human rights of the untouchables raising demands which find expressions in various international human rights documents well before their adoption. He pioneered a movement for democratizing public places and asserting the rights of workers even before the formation of any workers organisation in Kerala. The most amazing part of it is that he did all this inspite of his illiteracy. No wonder that Ayyankali was later on nominated to the assembly of Travancore namely, Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly, in 1910 by the then rulers in recognition of his leadership ability. In his efforts Ayyankali also received the support of his great contemporary Sree Narayana Guru and other social reformers. By 1900 Dalits were given the freedom to walk on the public roads, and by 1914, Dalit children were allowed to join schools. Also, Dalit women were allowed to cover their nakedness in public through his efforts. The followers of Ayyankali have an organization called Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha (KPMS). He founded the Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham (Association for the Welfare of the Poor) in 1905, which succeeded in obtaining a six-day week for agricultural laborers.

Ayyappan (Sahodaran Ayyappan)

He was another reformer amongst the Ezhavas caste in Kerala. He was known as the Sahodaran Ayyappan. Ayyappan was one of the outspoken followers of Narayana Guru. He was born on August 21st, 1889 as the son of Kumabalathuparambil Kochavu Vaidyar in Cherai- Ernakulam. Because of bad health high school education was disrupted. Later higher studies were continued on the advice of Narayana Guru and Ayyappan took B.A. from Maharajah's College1916. In 1917 Ayyappan conducted a "Misra Bhojanan" (Feast with participation of lower castes) under the auspices of "Sahodara Sangham" (Brotherly organization) which was attended by about 200 people including the so called untouchable 'Pulayas'. Opposition was tremendous. Enemies sarcastically called him "Pulayan Ayyappan". But Ayyappan took it as an honour.

Ayyappan took law degree from Trivandrum and continued to publish the journal "Sahodaran". Thought provoking articles and poems inspired the readers. Ayyappan was very much against the caste system and all the rituals and superstitions of the then Hindu religion. Soon it was clear that Ayyappan was a rationalist who didn't believe in any religion. K. Ayyappan was a person of great integrity and backbone (which we seldom see nowadays!) and in his entire life, he bowed his head in front of no one, except Narayana Guru!

In 1928 Sahodaran was elected to Cochin Legislative Council. He continued this role for the next 21 years. In 1946 he became minister in Panampilly's cabinet. Ayyappan was also minister in the Ikkanda Warrior ministry of 1948. Then Travancore-Cochin fusion happened. Ayyappan was minister for a brief time in the Paravoor T.K ministry, but soon resigned from active politics and concentrated his energy into social and cultural activities.

Sree Narayana Guru and S.N.D.P

If the place of Chattambiswmikal on the firmament the Hindu reform movement in modern Kerala is of the rising sun, that of SreeNarayanaGuru is of the glowing mid day sun. They represented the social urges and spiritual aspiration and having worked together for a while took different paths in pursuit of the same goal. SreeNarayanaGuru was born in 1856 in an Ezhava family at Chempazhanthi near to Thiruvananthapuram. He revolted against the exciting social order on which. Brahmin enjoyed a higher position. Sreenarayanaguru plunged himself into the task bringing together the different reaction of the Ezhavas community on a common platform. He was closely attached with the SreeNarayanaguru Dharma Paripalana Yogam 1904, the representative organization of ezhavas as its life president and its annual conference held at Arivipuuram under the spiritual guidance of the SreeNarayanaGuru. In 1888 at Arivipuuram Sreenarayanaguru set up shrine dedicated to Sivas as the parallel system to that to the caste Hindus who denied the entry of the Ezhavas in their temples. The Harijens and the other low caste were allowed enter into this new temple in which Ezhavas and Brahmins officiated as priests. To those questioned his right as an avarna to consecrate temple, SreeNarayanaGuru gave his famous replay that he was consecrating “the Ezhavas Sivas not to the Brahmin Siva”. This is called the Arivipuuram Prathista. At later stage in his life consecrated the mirror rather than any particular deity .this cane to be known as Kannadi Prathista. SreeNarayanaGuru contributed a great deal to the promulgation temple entry proclamation in Nov1936 by the Sree Chithira Thirunal Bala RamaVarma.

He also persuaded the animal sacrifices. Ezhavas, Harijens and others give up animal sacrifices to which they freely resorted in the same of religion. He also gave awareness of the western education to Ezhavas and other low caste Hindus. Sree Narayana Guru was against the alcohol consumption and he gave awareness to the people in this regard. He set up the permanent residence in Varkkala in 1904 he consecrated in 1911 the mutt and temple Sarada at Sivagiri and the place has ever since been a great pilgrim center. In his later years he stresses the fundamental unity of the human race and took the view that religions should not consist of external and meaningless practice and rituals. He enunciated the famous dictum “one caste, one religion, one god for man”. Another famous saying of Sree Narayana Guru was the “whatever be one’s religion, it is enough if the individual becomes good”

He also advocated inter religious marriage between different castes as a means of achieving social cohesion and evolving a casteless and classless society. Sree Narayana guru influenced not only members of his community but also other Sanyasi disciples. He said “the greatest science man can study is the science of living with other men. There is no other things so taxing and requires so much of wisdom, so much practice, as how to live together. There no art that is finer than the art of being at peace with one’s neighbors”. The Swami entered into the Samadhi at Sivagiri in 1928. (Social and Cultural history of Kerala page .201-204).

Vagbhadananda held the view that idolatry and polytheism were the two important aspects which strengthened the position of Brahmans. So he opposed polytheism, idolatry and all sorts of rituals. With religious universalism as the basic principal, Vagbhadananda began with the assumption common to all thesis that the foundation of all religious is the belief in one Supreme Being. He propagated Nirgunopasana or worship without an idol.

Reform Movements

The initiative for social reforms in Kerala was first taken by the Christian missionaries .The missionary activities became quite wide spread in Kerala in the beginning of 19thcentury on account of the extension of London Missionary Society, Church Mission Society, Malabar Basel Mission, Salvation Army etc. These activities of Christian Missionaries were aimed primarily at either the protection of the interests of European capitalists in the state or at the proselytization of the members of the backward communities to Christianity. Through their early attempts in the field of English education paradoxically resulted in the development of social gulf between educated and the masses. Their endeavors certainly helped people to improve their knowledge of the world and imbibe modern western ideas.

By the beginning of the 20thcentury, caste associations superseded general religious and social reform movements in Kerala. Both the upper castes and lower castes of Hindus and non- Hindus like Christian and Muslims organized themselves to fight against social, religious, economic and legal disabilities. The S.N.D.P, N.S.S, Sadhuparipalana yogam, Yogakshema Sabha, Travancore Muslim Association, Malabar Association etc. were the important social reform movements in Kerala.

Apart form caste and religious Association, there were two important movements, the Sahodara Movement in Kochi and the Athmavidya Sangham in Malabar. Both stood for secular and democratic values.

Almost all caste association also launched Vigorous campaigns to educate their community, to reform their marriage practices and social customs and to eradicate caste and common abuses like the consumption of alcohol. (Perspective on Kerala History. Page no. 456 -462).

Vaikom Satyagraha [1924-25]

Vaikom Satyagraha drew the attention of people all over India to Kerala. The caste structure in Kerala was different from the other parts of India. In Kerala, there was not only untouchability but also unapproachability existed here. People of different castes had to keep a particular distance from the castes above them. This was called ‘theendal’ or pollution of shadow.

The roads in front of many important temples could not be used by low caste people. There were notice boards at the entrance of these roads to say that these roads were closed to low caste people. Low caste people wished to change this law. Many high caste men were aware of the need to eradicate untouchability. In 1925, INC had in its Kokanada session declared eradication of untouchability as one its aims. T.K. Madhavan played an important part in bringing about this decision. He succeeded this programme in to action first in Travancore. Vaikom temple in central Travancore is a very important and famous temple. As Nambuthiris had a powerful influence in the temple administration, the roads around the temple were prohibited to low castes.

Madhavan was President of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam which is the society of Ezhavas started by Narayana Guru. Madhavan gave the Yogam a militant stance. He succeeded in getting the congress support for Vaikom Satyagraham. The satyagrah demanded the right to use the roads. Gandhiji wrote articles in young India supporting the Vaikom Satyagraha. This helped the Satyagraha to get the moral support of the people all over India.

Mnnathu PadSmanabhan, the active leader of N.S.S also participated in this Satyagraha very effectively. In March 1925, Gandhiji wrote a reply to Kesava Menon’s letter about avarna jatha to Vaikom Temple. “We must give enough propaganda for the Satyagraha”. On the first day of Satyagraha, the ‘avarna jatha’ moved on to enter the prohibited roads.

On 19 February 1925, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in ‘Young India’ about the Vaikom Satyagraha. “The right carried on by the satygrahais at Vaikom today is of no less importance than the fight for Swaraj”.

People from all over Kerala came to see the satyagrahis. Every evening public meeting were held. The police had erected a fence to prevent the Satygrahis entering the road. The Satyagrahis sat in front of it.

When the Satyagraha continued for a long time, Gandhi suggested that a ‘Savarna Jatha’ (March or procession of high caste Hindus) should move to Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore from Vaikom and submit a representation to Rani Lakshmi Bai, Regent Queen of Travancore, Mannam was the captain of this Jatha.

Savarna Jatha was a powerful propaganda of INC in Travancore. This ‘Jatha’ succeeded in carrying the message of the congress to Travancore villages. The missionaries were afraid of high caste Hindus coming forward to eradicate untouchability. The missionaries had called Gandhi ‘Anti-Christ’ and laughed at this ‘half naked fakir’

The famous Temple Entry Proclamation of 12 November 1936 was an indirect fruit of Vaikom Satyagraha and Savarna Jatha. The roads near Vaikom temple were opened to avarna Hindus in 1925. In 1928, all temple roads in Travancore were declared open for all Hindus without caste discrimination.


After the Savarna Jatha, Guruvayoor Satyagraha was organized by the famous Gandhi an and Congress leader K. Kelappan the Congress committee which met at Vadakara in 1931, decided to start a Satyagraha at Guruvayoor to get the temple opened to all Hindus. The British government was reluctant to allow temple entry to avarnas.

Along with Kelappan, A.K. Gopalan and other leaders visited the villages in Malabar to form mass opinion in support of temple entry for low caste Hindus. In September 1932, Kelappan started the Guruvayoor Satyagraha. He started a fast to effect a change in the attitude of the temple authorities. But this did not move the temple authorities. Memorandums were given to the government.

The attention of people all over India was attracted to Guruvayoor. Gandhi asked Kelappan to end his fast. Samuthiri, the Trustee of the Guruvayoor temple, said that high caste Hindus were against giving low caste people entry to Guruvayoor temple. So Gandhiji suggested taking a referendum of high caste Hindus in this matter to create a favorable opinion. The majority of high caste Hindus voted in support of giving entry to low caste Hindus into Guruvayoor temple. Then the Samuthiri declared that Guruvayoor would be opened to avarnas only when the other temples in Malabar was opened to them (Mannathu Padmanabhan and the Revival of Nairs, page no. 58 -66).


The struggle for Shannar(Nadar) of south Travancore to secure for their women folk, the same right with regard to dress, that were enjoyed by the upper caste among the Hindus assumes special significant in the above context. The land order situation in south Travancore deteriorated and the police and the army had to rush to the place. During the divanship of Col Munro Shannar women who were converted to Christianity were allowed by a royal proclamation to cover their bodies with jackets, but still they could not were the scarf over their shoulders as the Brahmin women. The Shannar women openly defied the restriction and they were subjected to harassment by the upper caste like the Nair’s. It was this that led to the police and military intervention in July 1859, all restriction on the dress of the Shannar women were removed by royal proclamation. The Shannar agitation is of great significant in the history of the Kerala (Social and Cultural History of Kerala page no 112).

The Impact of Various Social Movements on Education, Marriage, Inheritance and Social Customs


Kerala had the privilege of being the most literate province in the country and experienced a continuous process of educational expansion. The Christian Missionaries did the spade work in the field of education. They were pioneers in English and female education in Kerala. The rulers of Kochi and Thiruvitamkoor also encouraged education. They started vernacular schools in Kochi and Travancore in 1818 & 1817.

In the field of education Kerala went ahead of all other provinces in the country. Education facilities were mainly restricted to the privileged Savarnas of Hindus and Christian. The orthodox and the prejudiced Mullahs were themselves responsible for the educational backwardness among the muslims. Though Islam made education obligatory on every Muslim male and female, the Mullahs held it a sin to send there children, particularly girls, to the schools.

The reformers in Kerala pleaded not only for Malayalam education but also for Sanskrit and English. They supported English education to ensure public appointments, Sanskrit for the better understanding of Hindu Scriptures and favored Malayalam as a vehicle for the propagation of socio–religious ideas and the dissemination of scientific knowledge. The reformers also recognized the importance of science and technical education.

Reform of marriage & inheritance

Kerala population consisted of the followers of Marumakkathayam and Sambandham. The Marumakkathayam centered in the Taravadu of Nairs. The first movement, in this regard was the Malabar Marriage Association founded in 1879. This association drafted and presented a Bill to the Government for Nair marriages. Because of Govt’s indifference this Bill couldnot make any impact. On March 24, 1890, C. Sankaran Nair introduced a Bill in the Madras Legislative council. But this act had some defects, hence was not a successful.

P.Thanu Pillai, the Chief Secretary of Travancore Government introduced a Nair Marriage Regulation in the Legislative Council for the legal sanction for Nair Marriages. In 1907 – 1908 (1083 M.E), the Travancore Govt. appointed a committee and in 1912 the Travancore Legislative Council passed the Travancore Nair Regulation I Act of 1896 in Malabar by recognizing Sambadham as a legal marriage by providing validity of Nambutiri – Nair union by declaring polyandrous union as illegal. This Act also grants the right of maintenances and half of self- acquired property of the husband or father dying in the state to wife or children.

In 1925, the Nair Regulation II Act of 1100 M.E. was passed in Travancore. The Marumakkathayam Act of Madras 1933 permitted partition of Taravadu and legalized inheritance from father to son.

There was no uniform system of marriage and law of inheritance among the Ezhavas. They also introduced a new marriage rite under the leadership of Narayana Guru. Thus Ezhava Regulation Act of 1925 was passed.

There were some changes made in the marriage and inheritance of Nambutiris. The Yogakshema Sabha and the Nambutiri Yuvajana Samajam worked for the well being of Nambutiri women. The famous drama ‘Adukkalayil Ninnum Arangathekku’ by V.T.Bhattathiripad, ridiculed all the ill–treatment meted out to the Nambutiri women. As a result of there efforts, the Thiruvithamkur Malayalam Brahman Regulation and Madras Nambutiri Acts were passed in 1930 & 1933 respectively. These Acts provided the junior members of the Nambutiri families with the right to get married within the caste.

Christianity was the pioneer in the field of many reform activities relating to the prohibition of untouchables, child marriage, polygamy and other social evils. In 1911, the Govt. of Thiruvithamkur appointed a committee under the chairmanship of P.Cheriyan. The committee gives the following provisions.

a) Daughters should have a share in the father’s property only when they had not being given any dowry.

b) Sisters and aunts could be excluded, while brothers and uncles should be given the right of inheritance.

c) Widows should get ¼ of the share if the deceased had left behind father, brother or sister.

For the Latin Christians, ‘Nadars’ and other section of the Syrian Christians, there was the Christian Succession Act which was passed in 1916.

Among the Muslims, the Moplah Marumakkathayam Act was passed in 1933 and the Shariat Law which was passed by the Central Legislature in 1937.

Social Customs

All the caste associations make effective changes in the meaningless and senseless social customs such as practices like ‘Thalikettu Kalyanam’, ‘Thirandukuli’ etc. in these practices they had two objectives: economic and social. Economically they wanted to avoid extravagant expenses on the observances of these customs. Socially, they were keen to bring about a change in norms which were characteristics of a decadent society.

One significant movement of Pulayas under Ayyankali in 1905 was the famous “Kallumala Agitation” for removing the chains of beads worn by their ladies as a symbol of slavery and inferior caste status. The Christian Missionaries, N.S.S, S.N.D.P, Arya Samaj etc. gave moral support and physical help to them in giving up out dated social practices. Yogakshema Sabha directed their energies towards the opposition of all instruments of social and political repression. The ‘Unni Nambutiri’, a journal which functioned as the mouthpiece of Sabha, criticized the customs of purdah, polygamy and drew attention to the educational backwardness of the community. V.T.Bhattathiripad and E.M.S. encouraged widow remarriage and inter–caste marriages. (Perspectives on Kerala History page no: 463-475.)

Caste and Class: Changing Profiles

Economical, political and cultural transformation in the Kerala social structure led way to the emergence of democratisation and secularisation of the same. These two elements had great impacts giving way to the weakening of the caste identities and narrowing the class profiles. 76% of the state population consisted of a combination of Nayars, Ezhavas, Muslims, and Christians. The kind of social mobilization which took place affected almost the entire population which comprised of the above given combination. In the Tamil speaking areas of south India this sort of mobilisation was limited to the upper middle castes whereas in Kerala the lower castes like Pulayars and the fishermen community were the most influenced. During those times there were occupational differences and class heterogeneity also existed. Clashes between the Nayars and Ezhavas started taking shape for education and government services.

A sort of client- master relationship came up which was ideologically legitimised through rituals and practices. This camouflaged its oppressive and exploitatitive aspects. Protest and reform movements though anchored by religious and caste identities were emerging in the class structure. This reveals two major and related objectives.

1) To revise the groups social and cultural practices there by releasing it from the shackles of tradition.

2) They understood how this caste structure considerably hindered the progressive development.

This was a result of their pursuit in knowing what the reason was for their economic decline and disintegration of the traditional family organisation (matrilineal joint family of the Nayers and inadequacy of economic opportunities). The best example of such an attempt is the Temple Entry Act. These movements were secular and progressive in nature. Even the Savarna youth joined along with peasants, working class and the nationalists irrespective of the caste designations and it was triggered against caste.

In 1930s a differential event took place. The Ezhava Social Reform Movement (ESRM) captured a conservative stand. The religious stand taken by Sri Narayana Guru further helped them. The Ezhava elites supported the British but they undermined the Ezhava demands regarding Temple Entry, reserving seats in government sectors etc. They took the maximum to prolong these demands. The social basis of elite team was crystallisation of the bourgeois class within the community. They influenced the policy of the S.N.D.P Yogam. They demanded the Yogam to withdraw the movements. Their attitude was more compromising when compared to Christian capitalists.

The working class population among the Ezhavas increased considerably which also resulted in increased production and commercialization. The supportive factors for such a development were:

1) Higher literacy rates in the villages.

2) Faster expansion of schooling.

3) Better transportation and communication.

4) Higher density of population.

5) Absence of sharp rural and urban distinctions.

As a result of all these, a spatial collection of large group of workers grew up as a consequence a large variety of commercial crops were grown. And their rural industrial relations were centred on its processing.

By 1934, the S.N.D.P had gathered political momentum. Development of articulate press with secular and nationalist ideologies was another feature. It was at the same time the history witnessed the rise of Library and Teachers movements. These helped the youth to cut across caste barriers. The end result was the establishment of Communist Party. This led to the growth of radical and militant working class. But there was another consequence to this. The Ezhava elites came in conflict with them in order to protect their class interests. This can be evidenced when they demanded C. Kesavans’s resignation from the secreteriship of S.N.D.P who was an atheist and rationalist.

Recent debates have denied Dumontian concept of caste hierarchy. The general category obscures regional variation as class has got a single hierarchy but caste which is semi- autonomous is multi-hierarchical. A special note should be made on the fact that the Shudras were also placed in aristocracy and militia in Kerala unlike North. Discrete character of the Jathi is maintained through multiplicity of ritualised practises which marked identities of different caste. This is called as hyper- symbolism. In real situation we can spot out many references in history when there is contact between Namboothiris and Nayars. But among Namboothiris themselves there are various sub-sects like ‘Elayathu, Moothathu’ and they have to follow different rituals and practises. They differed using hyper- symbolism.

20th century witnessed several drastic changes in this direction. Even the tea shops played a very important role in designing a society which is caste free. It was a place where people of any religion could come together without any caste restrictions. All the movements in this direction took to another route and was channelled into the nationalist movements.


The questions raised in the initial part of the document were to some extent been explained. The questions which are indeed critical and reflexive of the Kerala society in terms of caste system in Kerala are examined with its prevalence, historical references, transitory phases and causes have been discussed in the above text.

The “Adithi Devo Bhava” stands as answer to the coming into Kerala society from the north, from where it has already established itself .The kings in Kerala whole heartedly welcomed the Brahmins for the realistic practice which fostered entry of the Brahmins into this caste free society where they got immense freedom. This freedom established by them, had strict agenda of supremacy over the authority itself. They were well organized and used the Advaitha philosophy to propagate the Chathurvarnya doctrine that was successful in creating a consciousness of submissiveness among the natives towards this doctrine .When the Brahmins came to Kerala, knowledge was accessible to all irrespective of one’s status in the society, but with their dominance, this right to knowledge of their Shudras was condemned and strictly restricted. They took hold of the political authority and economic superiority by tactic play of annexing everybody’s property with the temple. The temple in return was a strategy of the Brahmin community. They outcaste are tribal groups, who initially were well-knit with the main stream in the name of “pollution”. They too had opposition to face. This was from the side of Buddhists and Janis. Here again one can notice their planned and cunning strategies to suppress this opposition. For this purpose they created a separate group within the Varna system named the Nairs. This started the period of a stagnant Kerala society.

A difference came in with the coming of the British from whom the western education and new concepts of modernity crept into Kerala society. This pioneered the step towards a secular modern society. This facilitated for the collapse of the Aryan- Brahmin domination. History then witnessed several social reform movements against caste and its evil practices.

But at a later stage, one could find that modernity has really crept into the society along with various economic impetuses were the crippling stage of the caste system suddenly took a halt. This has resulted in an unconscious and in deliberate nexus of class and caste in the Kerala society. Modernity of today or the productive forces are being pulled back by there inherent social structure which itself is in a dilemma. This itself portrays that such a situation cannot move a long way, but has to surrender to the needs of the modernity.


  1. Cherian. P.J. 1999. Perspectives on Kerala History. Kerala Gazetteers. Vellayambalam.
  2. Balakrishnan.V & R.Leela Devi. 1982. Mannathu Padmanabhan & the Revival of Nairs in Kerala. Vikas Publishing House. U.P
  3. Panikkassery,Velayudan. 1961. Keralam Pathinanchum Pathinarum Nottandukalil (trans). National book stall. Kottayam.
  4. L.K. Iyyer,Anantha Krishna. 1981. Tribe and Caste of Cochin, Vol: 2. Cosmo Publication. New Delhi.
  5. A. Menon, Sreedhara. 1979. Social and Cultural history of Kerala. Sterling Publishers pvt: Ltd.
  6. Govindha Pillai, P (ed).2000. E.M.S. Sampoorna Krithikal. Chintha Publications. Tvm.
  7. Gopala Krishnan, P.K.2000.Keralathinte Samskarika Charithram. State Institute of Languages-Kerala. Tvm.
  8. Thulaseedaran, K. 1977. Studies in Traditional Kerala. College Book House.
  9. Damodaran, K. Kerala charithram.

11. www.geocites. com/guruforum/ayyapan.htm.

Family, Marriage, Kinship and Martriliny in Kerala

Submitted by

Krishna. S


Sabanasmi K.P




Matrilineal System




Family, Marriage and Kinship among different communities

Jonakan Mappililas

Tamil Brahmins

Nambuthiri Brahmins


Syro Malabar Catholic

Syrian Catholic



Family and Marriage custom among Tribes




Kerala derives its identity from either its ecology dominated by the coconut tree (Kerala) or from the ancient dynasty of Chera/ cera which gave the land (alam) its name. The rise of feudalism reinforced by kinship and matrimonial alliances that cut across castes in the medieval period in Kerala, the acquisition of power by the Nambuthiris and their land rights (janmi) and the impact of sub infeudation in a stratified social situation and isolation of communities are there.

The colonial period witnessed administrative and political consolidation , strides in education and social reform, rise of class struggles and nationalist movement, penetration of market forces and erosion of the three institutions for which Kerala was widely known namely the matrilineal house hold (tarawadu), polyandry and hypergamy (sambandham).The post colonial period witnessed then further consolidation of the ethnic identity of Kerala, which is now defined by language, territory, cuisine, dress, fairs and festivals, elements of life cycle ceremonies, folk religion, folk lore etc.

The myth behind the origin of the land of Kerala:

Legend has it that Parasurama, one of the Avthars of Lord MahaVishnu, threw his axe from Gokarnam to Kanyakumari and water receded up to the spot where it fell. The land is known as God’s own country which is having scenic beauty, both sea coast in the east and mountains in the west. It has diverse customs and ways of life according to region, religion, caste and geographic differences. Major changes in its social front took place during its historical development especially when foreigners came to the coasts of Kerala for the purpose of trade and missionary activities. Kerala in earlier times was divided into three provinces called Cochin, Malabar and Travancore. Later when Kerala became a separate state in 1956; it was divided into 14 Districts.

The major religion in Kerala is Hindu religion. Many world-religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism etc had become part of Kerala society. The rituals and social practices of these religious group adopted in Kerala was very much different from that of the religious centers in the world .They have developed a cultural pattern of their own, which is having acceptance in Kerala society. The Kerala society can be studied, by analyzing the social institutions like family, marriage and kinship.

This study is done in a structural functional approach by finding out the basic social structures and analyzing the social functions they performed. But along with the structural functional perspective, this paper is also trying to trace out the structural changes that the Kerala society has undergone. Kerala society encompassed and easily accommodated the outside religions. In Hindu religion, castes we find in Kerala will not be found in other parts of the country and the caste status that one Varna in Kerala having will not be the same in north India. The family and kinship in Kerala is an interesting area in the study of the power exercised in society.

The social institutions are cultural patterns influencing human behavior and it is through these institutions that human beings obtain a large part of their social and cultural satisfaction. The objectives and values of life of Kerala society are reflected through its various social institutions. The marriage, family and kinship, caste, class and religious system are of great cultural importance in determining the basic principles, which govern these institutions, are derived mainly from the philosophy of Hinduism.

When we examine the Kerala society, we will find that the lineage or family set up which is prominent in Kerala society is Matriliny. The Kerala family is characterized by Matriliny. An understanding of matrilineal system and matrilineal Tharavadu is helpful in understanding the social system and the nature of authority in Kerala.

Matrilineal system

A distinctive feature of the social organization of Kerala till recent times was the prevalence of Marumakkathayam among certain castes and communities. It involved the inheritance and succession through the sisters’ children in the female line.

The Marumakkathayam or Matrilineal system of inheritance is considered to be peculiar to Kerala. There was a queen in south India named Pandey. In 4th century (BC) Megasthanese, who was a contemporanian of Chandra Gupta Mourya, gives a description of Pandey. This Queen was the daughter of Heroclese. Megasthanese explains that Pandey received 500 elephants, 4000 horse men and 1,30,000 Calvary from her father. This country, where Pandey ruled, in Vansant Smith’s opinion could be Kerala, where Matriliny existed. Smith in order to establish his theory says that, in Lakshwa Dweep women used to rule country when their husbands went for fishing. [Kerala Charithram.P; 1102]

Matrilineal joint family mainly exists among the Nairs of Malabar and the Khasis and Garos (a tribal group). The Matrilineal family of Nairs is knows as Taravadu. It consists of a woman, who is the head of the family, her brother, her children and her daughters’ children.

Main characteristics of Taravadu

1).The role of the Karanavar;

Though the woman is the head of the family, the eldest male member of the family called Karanavar is superior. He is the custodian of property and the manager of the family matters.

2) Authority and power of the Karanavar:

He is the absolute ruler of the family. He can sell the land, borrow or lend money or can mortgage etc. He is not accountable to any member with regard to income and expenditure. On his death the next eldest male member becomes the Karanavar.

3) The unmarried sons belong to their mother’s Tharavadu. But married sons belong to their wife’s Tharavadu.

4) All the male and female members of the Tharavadu have the right to property. It belongs to all of them. There are co-owners of the Tharavadu property. They can therefore object to its alienation by the Karanavar.

5) When a Tharavadu grows and become unmanageable, it often split in to small family unit called Thavazhi.

A Thavazhi is matrilineal group of persons consists of a female, her children and all her descendents in the female line.

Theories of origin;

To examine some of the interesting theories, those have been advanced by scholars to explain the origin of Marumakkathayam in Kerala.

(1) The traditional theory of the origin of Marumakkathayam is known as the Brahmanical theory. It attributes the origin of Marumakkathayam to the mandate of Parasurama. He ordered that the Shudra women should “put off chastity and the cloths that covered their breasts” and do their best to satisfy the desires of the Brahmins. Theory as an ingenious one connected by the Nambuthiri Brahmins not only to perpetuate their superior position in Hindu society, but also to create the impression that they were vested with the divine right to consort with Nair women and enjoy without any worries and obligations of Matrimony particularly those of maintaining the wife and children. The laws of Nambuthiris strictly enjoyed that only the eldest male members of the household should enter in to lawful wedlock with women of their own caste. The name of Parasurama was freely invoked to give such social prohibition of valid marriages the sanctity of divine approval.

(2) The property theory has also been advanced to explain the origin of Marumakkathayam. It suggested that the matrilineal system of inheritance was introduced with a view to keeping the property of Nair Tharavadus intact. Under a system of valid marriages and patrilineal inheritance the family properties faced the threat of partition and destruction.

(3) The origin of Marumakkathayam system in Kerala has also been ascribed to the peculiar military organization that prevailed in Kerala. The Nairs were the traditional marital class and as such they followed the profession of arms as a hereditary occupation. The earliest form of marriage among the Nairs promiscuity and in the course of centuries they advanced from promiscuity to Polyandry. The family property could not rightfully devolve on the sons in the male line, but only the nephew that is, the sons of the sisters in the female line. The custom by which nephews and by logical consequence. The sisters became the lawful heirs to a man’s property and the wife and sons came to be excluded there from came in to vogue.[Sehneider.M.David and Kathleen Gough.1972.385-403]

Some scholars have opined that people followed Patriarchy till A.D 11 and there was a drastic change to matriarchy in 12th century. There are two reasons behind this kind of evolution.

1. Due to Sambandham and Jathi considerations by Nambuthiris in Nair Tharavadu, Nambuthiri men could not bring their wives from Nair community to Nambuthiri Illams (Nambuthiri household). Because of this reason, Nair women were compelled to live with their mother. It leads to Matriliny.

2. It is said that as Nambuthiri men had dominance in the community, later on the above said system diffused to many other communities.

Except one or two families, the rest of dynasties were following Matriliny. It was Nambuthiri dynasty who followed Patriliny. Generally Nambuthiri community followed Patriliny except in north Kerala. Nairs all over Kerala were Matrilineal.

In central Kerala, Thiyyas and Izhavas were Patriarchal and in north and south they were Matrilineal. It was same in the case of Harijans. Even though Muslims were Patrialineal in general, they were Matrilineal in north Kerala. If the reason for the emergence of Matrilineal system in Kerala is Chera-Chola war, this must have seen in central and south Kerala than in north Kerala. But in common the Matriliny

existed more in north India than it was in south and central India.

The Thiyyas, Izhavas and Harijans of north Kerala had no kind of relation including marital relation with the Nambuthiri of that region. It may be due to the process of Sanskritisation, the Thiyyas, Izhavas and Harijans followed Matriliny. This sanskritisation process did not take place in central Kerala [Kerala Charithram.P; 1111] .

Theories behind the origin of Nayar Matriliny

(1) The hypergamous link between a small section of the Nair elite and the Nambuthiri Brahmins in certain regions of south Malabar.

(2) Matrilineages evolved due to the absence, from their Tharavadus, of Nair men who were part of the local militias. [P;4]

Long term structural changes in economy induced by the British, like improved communication, technological changes-especially the introduction of steam power and crash cropping were all conducive to the changes in patterns of Matrilineal kinship. A matrilineal household was composed of people related to each other in the female line. They would live and eat together, but more importantly, they would hold joint rights to the family property. Inheritance again was traced through women, which implied that women had the right to receive and bequeath ancestral property. Men of the household, be they brothers, sons of nephews had a right to a share of the family property only while living in it, which they could not bequeath to their wives or offspring. [Arunima.G.2003.P:4]

Matrilineal castes and communities:

Marumakkathayam system in Kerala was followed by several Hindu castes like Kshathriyas, Ambalavasis and Nairs. The Brahmins of all categories followed the patrilineal system enjoined up on the Mitakshara law, but 16 Nambuthiri families in the Payyannure Gramam of North Kerala have all along followed in the Marumakkathayam system. The Izhavas followed a mixture of Makkathayam and Marumakkathayam , while the Kammals followed Makkathayam. The Pulayas and several hill tribes have also had among them a mixed system. The non-Hindu communities of the Christians and Muslims have generally followed Makkathayam law of inheritance, with the exception that a section of the Muslims have been marumakkathayis. The Mappilas of north Kerala including the members of the Arakkal royal house and the Keyis of Thellicherry have subscribed to the marumakkathayam system. In addition, there are a few Muslim families in Mayanadu and Paravure areas of south Kerala, who too have subscribed to Marumakkathayam. [A.Sreedhara Menon. 1979, p 83)

Changes in the Matriliny:

Matrilineal kinship in Kerala has the unique status of being the only kinship system in the world to be abolished. The conjunction of the family and land laws in the 1930’s acted as a catalyst for the transformation of Matriliny in Kerala. The spate of land sales escalated rapidly and the house holds began to undergo a steady process of division. This affected not only the property rights of the individual members, but also their residence pattern and thus the structure of the Taravadu. Between 1930’s and 1970’s, when the Kerala legislature finally enacted the law abolishing Matrilineal inheritance, most landed Taravadus all over the state were in a process of disintegration. Among the Muslims the Mappila Marumakkathayam Act was passed in 1933.

The movement for the reform of the Marumakkathayam system gained momentum in all parts of Kerala, particularly in Travancore, in the early decades of this century. The first Travancore Nairs Act of 1912 granted half the self acquired property of the male to his sons and the other half to his nephews while the Nairs Act of 1925provided for the partition of the Nairs Taravadu, the share being calculated per capita and it deprived the nephews of all claims to the properties of their uncles. The Nairs Act of 1925 also prohibited polygamy. The result of these measures was to make vast section of the Hindu society in Travancore Makkathayis. In Cochin the Nairs Regulation 1919-1920 imposed restrictions on the powers of the Karanavar, legalized customary marriages and made all husbands including non-Nairs legally responsible for the maintenance of their Nairs wives and children.

Of tenants and tavazhis:The house hold curtailed {1880-1900}

Some of the young members of the large land owning families began to take recourse to the growing opportunities in non agricultural employment in order to establish their independence from Tharavadu. This meant that legally created matrilineal practices like co residence in Tharavadu home and receiving maintenance from the Tharavadu head were being slowly challenged. In many instances younger members moved away and severed their links with the main Tharavadu. They instituted legal cases to fight for their right to separate share in the family property or for an independent residence away from the main Tharavadu home.`

1880’s marked a turning point in the colonial discourse on the Tharavadu. the legislative debates of this period voiced the changing priorities of the state and the attempts by the colonial officials to reinterpret agrarian relations by undermining th3e power of the land lords and in turn the house hold itself.

From 1880’s onwards, the courts began to case upon enforcing the principle of co residence. This was largely a response to the pressure generated by a growing number of younger men moving off and setting up independent residence.[P;106-107]

Polyandry and Matriliny in Kerala: A status report

After the colonialisation of the Malabar Coast by the Vedic Brahmins, a unique form of caste system emerged in Kerala. This was marked by the dominance of Nambuthiri Brahmans and the system of intercommunity relationship introduced by them. The Nambuthiri Brahman ensured the purity and stability of their families and prevented its weakening and impoverisation by multiplication. They enforced the rule that under normal circumstances, only the oldest son of Nambuthiri was allowed to marry and he must marry with in the caste but out side his own family and Gothra. Only when the eldest brother had no male progeny, the junior member was allowed to marry with the same caste as of the elder brother’s wife, preferably her sister.

It was the rule where the junior male member enter in to sambantham (marriage where the biological father had no responsibility of bringing up the children), with woman of caste ranking below them, while a large number of Nambuthiri women mostly remained un married. If a Nambuthiri woman married in to non-Vedic community, she became an out caste, because she was guilty of Prathiloma. The Nambuthiri men were allowed sambantham marriages of Anuloma type with Kshathriya, Ambalavasi and Nair women who ranked lower to them. The children of this union belonged to the mother’s family and descent was reckoned in the female line.

The prolonged Chola-Chera wars of the medieval period is considered by some scholars as one among the causes of Marumakkathayam and the associated institution of Tharavadu (matrilineal joint family)and Sambantham(a custom which does not allow the women in a particular social stratum to marry in to a lower stratum. They are allowed to marry in their own social stratum or in to a higher stratum [Arunima.G.P:1598]


Family is a primary social group, universally recognized to be basic of all human endeavors and activities. The family of Kerala is an important agent in designing the social character. The joint family with various forms of Polygamy and Polyandry were prevalent in Kerala recently. Historians have arrived at different conjectures about the reasons of the continued existence of these institutions till modern epoch in Kerala. The various forms of man-woman relation ship in the joint family system in Kerala are the different transitional forms from group marriage to pairing marriage.

The Kerala Brahmins and problems of joint family system.

The family system and succession of Kerala Brahmins resist this conjecture, according to the traditional beliefs. In this way, the Nambuthiris could consciously create a family system; it becomes rational that the Matriarchal joint family system among the caste like Nairs who had been following the Patriarchal system was introduced from above by the Nambuthiris themselves so as to manipulate them according to their will.

If the state of affairs is so, the theory of the joint family system in Kerala is based on the evolution of the family systems.


A relationship between two or more persons is on the basis of recognized common ancestry. It is a structural system of relation ship in which bond of blood or marriage which binds people together in a group is called kinship. Unlike the present situation, the kinship relation in the earlier Kerala society was prominent and there was interdependence between kinship members.

Theories of family and kinship; an over view

C.J Fuller and Melinda Moore have contributed insights for an understanding of matrilineal kinship. However the problem is that the field data used by these Scholars was generated after the laws enabling the partition of the Matrilineal Taravadu had been enacted. Even when a bulk of Nairs performed primarily agricultural and administrative functions in medieval times, they followed patterns of matrilineal descent and inheritance. Besides even when some among them began to adopt military professions like those of body guards, soldiers or mercenaries, they continued to be involved in agricultural production and associated responsibilities of Taravadu. There fore, the assumption that Matrilineages evolved as a result of the absence of Nair men from their house holds is too simple.

While the reasons for the origin of Matriliny in Malabar are either attributed to the existence of Nair militias or to enforce Hypergamy by the higher caste of the Nambuthiris, what constituted the matrilineal descent group itself with in the Anthropological theories? The earliest and most influential formulation by Kathleen Gough characterized the Taravadu as an “exogamous matrilineal lineage”, of which a segment, whose members jointly held lands and house constituted the most elementary link with in it.

Marriage :

Marriage is the joining together of a man and a women. Before marriage the sexes are separated. At marriage they are joined together by the same ideas worked down to their logical conclusion in reciprocity of relation. Speaking generally, marriage is the source of the family, the safe guard of private and public morals and the strength of the nation.

Marriage ceremony during Sangha period

The literatures of Sangha period say about two types of marriages.

(1) Kaikkilai: (Love in one side): It is by fetching a girl with force with out her concern or purchase her by giving money. But this kind of marriage was rare.

(2) Enthinai: (mutual love): This is marriage by choice of both partners there are two types of Enthinai.

(3) Kalavu :secret marriage with out the consent of parents.

(4) Karpu: Marriage with parents’ concern and which is known to all.

Marriage and mobility:

For all Malayalis, marriage and parenthood are requirements of mature adult status while a primary duty, of the household group is to ‘send away’ its daughters in marriage. The major goal of these with least wealth and prestige is simply to see their sons and daughters married, the marriage itself begins and ends rather than a means to further benefits, but among the majority of families arranging a marriage is also a chance for mobility and prestige through strategic alliance expenditure. As various prospective partners are considered and their merits in terms of benefit to the wider group weighed up, family members discuss priorities-Gulf employed groom; graduate bride; titled family; non- working mother; public servant father; wealthy household- and try to make their arguments heard until consensus is reached.

As a group seeking caste mobility, Izhava have adopted practices favored as accumulators of group status and prominent among Nairs such as asymmetrical alliance stranger- marriage with payment of substantial dowry. Practices held with in dominant ‘savarna’ society and in Izhava public discourses alike as negative are avoided; practiced in secret or with a sense of shame. An alliance never sought but often approved of post facto if other conditions are right is a love-match.

family, marriage and kinship among different communities:

The family, marriage and kinship in Kerala are diverse. But the system we can find in one group can be seen in a group which is different in terms of beliefs. Among different sections of Kerala society, the institutions of family, marriage and kinship are prominent and important in the socio-cultural front. Major communities, castes and tribal groups are depicted below.

Jonakan mappilas:

The Jonakan mappilas are a Mohammedan sect found all over the Cochin state. Their chief centers being the above Cochin, Cranganore and some parts of the Mukundhapuram Thaluk They are mostly either the decadence of the offspring of Arab traders and the low caste women of Malabar or converts to the faith of Islam from the lower Hindu castes absence of intermarriage is not based up on any religious sentiments or prejudices but merely on certain social distinguishes. They have no objection to entering in to conjugal relationship with close relatives. The sons and daughters of brothers and sisters often intermarry they also prefer matrimonial alliance between a man’s son and his sisters, daughter and vice versa. In Malabar and Cochin there are to be found the descendents of the Mohammedan Pathanas of Afghan descent between whom and the mappilas there is no inter marriage.

Mappilas girls are in these days, married some times after puberty but generally marriages take place when girls are between 12&14 years of age. Though, some of them marry at an earlier age. When a suitable girl has been selected for the marriage of a young man a convenient day is fixed for the relations and friends of the bride and bride groom to assemble in the house of the former to talk over the matter and to settle the dowry to be given to the bride by her parents.

The only religious ceremony necessary for the weddings is the Nikkah, which consist of the formal conclusion of the contract before two witnesses and the Khasi, who registers them. It can be performed by any learned man, but is generally the duty of the Khasi with in the jurisdiction where the bride lives. It is done either on the day of the nuptials or any day previous to it. In some instances and in rare instances years before the nuptials. In the later case the bride groom and his father or grand father select party to go to the Juma masjid or any other mosque near the house of the bride. In north Malabar and Calicut the wife’s lives in her on house with her mother and her sisters as the Nair women in a Marumakkathayam family. The husband visits her, but in some cases where the husband is rich and has a number of children he erects a separate house for his wife and children. In such a case, the wife goes to the husband house only on short visit. In south Malabar and in the Cochin state the wife is taken to the husband’s house soon after the nuptials, as circumstances permit. And she lives their for ever going to her own house only on short visits and for her first confinement co habitation as a role takes place immediately after polygamy is very much in vogue among the mappilas of the state as well as among those be the Eranad and Valluvanadu Thaluk of south Malabar. The wives all stay with him in the same house and disunion amongst them is a perennial source of and easiness to the husband and frequently by leads to divorce. The practice of having a deceased brother’s wife and of a diseased wife’s sister is also very common despairing in age is never considered objectionable. Polyandry was unknown. A Musalman is allowed to marry four, provided he can deal with all of them with equity.

Religion permits a husband to divorce his wife on any ground what ever and even on no grounds. In the actual exercises of this license there is a vast difference between north and south Malabar. In north much disapprobation but in south Malabar it is almost the rule and it is not of and frequent occurrences even on the very first day after the marriage at the some time the act was pounced to be the most abominable the sight of the lorded wife can devote a husband only a specific grounds such as the following his inability to maintain her with the lest amount of comforts she can afford to put up on with the least amount of comforts. She can afford to put up with this included the provision of a house and the payment of the Maher if demanded for intercourse. Incurable and loath, some diseases of the husband or incurable impotency can be the causes for divorce. A permanent impairment of powers divorce by a husband is called Thalak and by the wife faskh.

Tamil Brahmins

Tamil Brahmins first advent to the cochin state chiefly from the Cholas and Pandyan kingdom, according to an old tradition , dates back to the period subsequent to that following the, Panniyur temple in south Malabar and during centuries following it. The Dravidian Brahmins who have informer times immigrate and settled in the Cochin state are included the Tamil Brahmins. They are also known as “paradeshis” or foreign Brahmins as contrasted with the Namboothiris who are considered as the native of original families.


Among Tamil Brahmins with the daughter of a maternal uncle or paternal aunt is not only permitted but even claimed as a matter of right. They strictly followed endogamy. Though the inter marriage between the members of various section is advocated by the enlightened socio reformers, yet very few or no such inter marriages have hither to taken place. Ebrahamian’s son is allowed to marry his sister’s daughter and vice versa. Brahmins are marries before puberty and in no case is post puberty marriage allowed. The gift of a maiden to a suitable husband is made between 7 and 10 years of age. But now this period is exceeding due to the difficulty of securing suitable husbands for them. It was donnie after an agreement of horoscope.


The marriage ceremony begins with Nischika thamboola (exchange of betel leaves as a sign a settlement) for which a cloth (pudava) to the bride-elect, pushpam, sandal, ornaments, coconuts and plants in a copper or brass tray are taken to the brides home.


The Brahmins who have been invited assemble in the bride’s house. The bride groom sits on the marriage dais and after repeating certain Vedic verses, begins with the permission of the assembled the following vrithms: Prajapathyam, soumyam, agneyam, and vishwadevam.


The Thali or Mangalya sutra is tied around the neck of the bride by the husband who says ‘o lovely girl, I tied this auspicious thread which I accept to be the source of my long life, around thy neck mayst, thou live a 100 years’.

A girdle made “munga,” the grass to twist, is tied round the waste of the bride by the bride groom and both return to a conscious seat hand in hand and seat themselves on it.


The bride groom took the brides right hand reciting a prayer. Then they take seven steps around the fire. (Homakunda)

After this there are many more ceremonies like Asmarohanam, Lagahomam, Jayanthi homam, graham Prervesham, Aupasana and Sesahomam. The marriage ceremonies last for four days.

Nambuthiri Brahmin Family:

The higher caste Hindus were having two distinct types of family. The ideas and values underline the institutions of marriage and family of the Namboothiris is derived from the Hindu scriptures. According to Hindu scriptures vivaha is obligated for all the Hindus. The Nambuthiri family called Illam, gravitated towards and ideal typical patrilineal joint family. It consisted of a man, his wife, his son’s wife, his own married sisters and daughters and son his son’s married daughters. Polygamy up to three wives was permitted among the Nambuthiris. They were also entitled to contract sambandam relationships with women of matrilineal caste. An Illam therefore included both consanguinal and affinal relatives. Among the Nambuthiris, only the eldest son married from his own caste which alone was recognized as genuine marriage. This practice was followed in order to prevent the disintegration of the Illam through the division that would become necessary if all the sons married. The younger son entered into sambandam relationship with different matrilineal castes. The children born of such relationship belong to their mother’s family. The younger Nambuthiri looked upon their elder brother’s children as their own and it was they who perform the last rites as well as the sradha for them.

The custom of only the eldest son marrying from the same caste (Antharjanams) was practiced. As marriage with any lower caste including other Brahmin caste was not permitted. The religious sanction is that the girl should be married before puberty. Pre-puberty marriage itself was not obligatory. Later pre puberty marriage as well as marriage was obligatory. However at the death of a spinster a pseudo -marital rite was performed by tying Tali (marriage badge) on the neck of the corpse before its cremation.

Nambootiri women observed strict Parda; the norm was that they should not be seen even by the rays of the sun. Not only they have no contact with outside world but even in the Illam there was complete segregation of sexes. The younger brothers were tabooed to talk or see their sister-in-law.

Even though many Nambootiri women remained unmarried and many were married to old Nambuthiri men in Polygamous way. If the adultery of an Antharjanam was proved after the smartha enquiry, she was excommunicated. Among the Nambootiris, widow marriage was not practiced. But widow was not expected to commit sati.

Since only the eldest son married, there was not much to brothers about inheritance. But this does not preclude the right of other members of Illam in the Illam property. The Karanavar was not entitled to alienate the immovable property. Of the family without the consent of all members including the women

Nambuthiris’ marriage was a sacred religious rite and divorce was not permitted. The wife was expected to respect and obey the husband. Antharjanam could not be as free as Nair women (Achi)

The Nambootiri Marriage is typical Brahminical Marriage the presentation of daughter by her father as gift to the bridegroom. Caste endogamy and Gotra endogamy were strictly observed. Marriage generally takes place after and it is arranged by parents. Dowry is given by the girl’s parents to the boy. The initiative for a marriage comes from the women’s side and the horoscope was consulted. If the match is agreeable to both parties then an auspicious day is fixed for the marriage. On the appointed day, after feast at his house conducted by his father the bride groom goes to girls’ house. The bride takes a bath and comes for the wedding day. The girl is dressed up in new cloths brought by the groom on her neck. Next is Panigrahanam and this is followed by Asmarohanam and Saptapati. Udakapurvam and Panigraha are the most important items and with it the marriage becomes binding. After marriage the girl is taken along with fire from the Homakunda to bride groom’s house. The couple returns to the bride house on the fourth day to celebrate. Consummation of the marriage is Patrilocal.


Nair’s the weakest link was that between a women and her husband. Among them marriage had no legal sanction. Socially also there was no inhibition in entering in to a new sambandam or marriage with such a man or women. Polyandry was prevalent among the Nairs. The property of the Tharawadu is divided in to equal among Thavazhi. They however retain ties with the Tharawadu .They also observed the rule of exogamy and marry out the Tharawadu. Members of the Thavazhi identified themselves between parent matrilineal joint families

A Tharawadu in relations to a woman is the group of persons consisting of a female, her children; her grandchildren etc in the female life. All members of a Thavazhi retain their Tharawadu names .They observed the rules of pollution and considered themselves in few fourteen days on the death of any members of the Tharawadu

The Nambootiri man who had from alliance with the Nair women had no responsibility to look after his Nair women and children. These children had to live in their mothers Tharawadu. Tharawadu and they depended on the Tharawadu for their maintenance and for all amenities of life.

The social life of Nairs was a field of great fascination for Sociologists and Anthropologists all over the world. There is a belief among the Foreign Sociologists that there is no strict sex code and they lead an uncontrolled and unregulated life. Nairs has not been made available to the scholars abroad. There are two types of marriages among Nairs namely Thalikettu Kalyanam and Sambandham. The Tali kettu ceremony was performed in every Tharavadu once in twelve years. It was considered a religious impurity for the girls and her families to attain puberty before the performance of Thalikettu. This was a ceremony to be performed for every girl before she attained puberty. Other wise a sort of religious impurity was supposed to be attached to her, and her family would be ex-communicated.

In the case of Nair and other Marumakkathayam Hindu communities, the Tali tying refer to betrothal. The role of the bride groom was a Brahmin or boys chosen from the enanger (linked lineage of a Tara or locality) Nairs performed the ceremony first and selected a husband later, on the occasion of Sambandham, i.e., when the girl was fit to be united to her husband.

The role of the bridegroom in the ceremony was of a vicarious husband. But when the husband was ready at hand and girl was old enough as per the standards then prevailing, it was not unusual for the girl to be actually married on that occasion.[P:1599]


The change in the old Sambandam rites is an index of the importance which monogamy has attained among Nairs .K.P.Padhmanabha Menon has given a summary of the main rites of a sambandam in his memorandum to the select committee of the Marumakkathayam Bill. The main features of old Sambandam ceremonies were;

1. The ceremonies of delivery of horoscope of the bride to the groom’s Karanavar, after preliminary, negotiations about the proposed sambandam.

2. The selections of the auspicious day and the formal intimation of it to the groom family.

3. The bride groom goes in procession to the bride’s house.

4. The reading of Ramayana or some other sacred book at the house.

5. Dakshina to the Brahmins by the bride.

6. The presentation of Pudava to the bride in the presence of the villagers and friends in front of the villagers and friends in front of a lighted lamp and “Nirapara”.

7. The wife feeding the groom with sweet rice.

8. The wedding feast.

The initial proposal would come always from the groom family. This is followed by Nishchayam. (Fixing the date of marriage) in the house of bride for which the groom uncle or brother in law would go. Before starting for bride’s house, the shaving ceremony of the groom will be done by the village barber before a lighted lamp and Niraparas. After this the groom’s friends would take him to a common bath with the accompaniment of folk songs. Before the procession starts, the elders assembled would bless the bridegroom and they would sprinkle rice on him. Then he would touch their feet as a sign of respect. It was insisted that the number of persons in the groom’s procession should be an odd number, generally 21. Bright people would escort them with all marks of honor. At the gate of the bride house the groom feet would be washed. In the mean time the bride is brought from the inner room to the kalyana mandapam.She should first offer “Dakshinas” provided to the Brahmins. They sit down then the groom stands up, faces the bride and offers her the Pudava which is the main ceremony. At that time the women folk will make a sound called kurava.

Changes in Nair marriage :

In south Kerala now both Thalikettu kalyanam and sambandam ceremonies are combined in to one .tying the Thali before presenting Pudava has become a general practice. Either the groom himself ties the Thali around the neck of the bride or his maternal uncle’s wife or his own sister ties the Thali. After this ritual the bride groom holds the hand of the bride and they will be led by the father of the bride around the kalyanamandapam. The Nair who are commonly considered as belonging to the Kshatriya, are below the Nambootiri who are considered as Brahmins. Through sambandam marriage, they are wishing to have a status of the Nambootiri men. They will not be responsible to look after the child. But Nairs gained power through this-both economic and political power.

Two sets of theories regarding the origin of Nair matriliny::

(1) The hypergamous link between a small section of the Nair elites and Namboothiris Brahmins in certain region of south Malabar

(2) Matrilineages evolved due to the absence from their Tharavdu of Nair men who were the part of the local militias.

The theories regarding the Brahmin superiority relate the existence of matriliny among the Nairs to the social and economic dependents on the Namboothiris. It is argued that the hegemonic power of the Nambootiri land owners particularly in south Malabar included Nair women in to hypergamos social relations or sambandam with them this was beneficial for Namboothiris as marrying outside the caste allowed them to sustain their joint families based on primogeniture and patrilineal descent.

Hypergamy was neither normative nor compulsory for all Nair women. Most have sexual and conjugal relations with men of the same or higher sub-castes. A large number of Nair women had sambandam with men from the Samantha royal castes. There is an assumption that matrilineages evolved as a result of the absence of Nair men from their house holds is to simple.

Syro Malabar Catholics:

The founder of Christianity did not prescribe particular ceremony in connection with marriage .The church received and Christianized many of the gentle customs. The testimony of the fathers of the church from the middle of the 3rd century onwards shows that marriages contracted without any formal benediction did occur, but they were discountenanced by the church. B. O. James in “Marriage and Society”(1952) states clearly that, in the beginning Christianity did not make any attempt to set forth a new law or theory of marriage, although by virtue of its spiritual potentialities and ethical ideas, the rise of Christianity had a profound influence on nuptial relation ship and the position of women in society (B.O.James.1952). The Bible speaks of Christian life as a rebirth. Matrimony as a sacrament empowers the couple to live a Christian married life. In the higher stages, the ceremony raises the union to the ideal plane-the mystic union of the Christ and the Church.

Every Syro Malabar Catholic is either Northists or Southists. An examination of different stages in the process of Syrian Catholic Marriage celebration will enable us to identify the elements assimilated from other cultures. Since Northists and Southists exhibit many similar characteristics in their marriages, a description of the marriage customs of both communities will be presented together i.e. bringing out their distinguishing features at appropriate stages.

(1) Mate selection: when the boy or girl reached marriage able age, his or her parents were on the look out for a suitable match.

(2) Betrothal (koodikkazhcha): On a fixed day parents or guardians of both parties met and exchanged letters of conformation and promise

(3) Dowry: The dowry system was connected with the conception of marriage as a ‘Dhana’ or religious gift.

(4) Christian Succession Act: The law of marriage applicable to the Christians of the Cochin state and also Malabar.

(5) Banns: Proclamation of Banns was one of the unique features of Christian marriage. By proclaiming the Banns, the Church informed the entire society about the alliance.

With this the main part of marriage celebrations was concluded though a few more formalities were carried out in the respective houses of partners on the arrival and departure of the newly married couple.

Syrian Catholics

Syrian Christians have a type of family distinct from that of the Nambuthiris and the Nairs. It is based on the ideas about family life that are given in the Bible. After marriage, the couple would separate from their parents and have their own family. Marriage is a sacred rite at which the man and woman have been united by God and therefore divorce is not permitted. With in the family, the wife is expected to be obedient to the husband, but both are expected to be loyal to each other. St.Paul writes; wives be in subjection to your husbands, as it fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives and be not bitter against them. These are some of the ideological basis of the Christian family and in fact these portions from the Bible are read at the time of the marriage thus bringing home to the couple the underlying principles on which the Christian family is based.

Syrian Christians have a nuclear family, consisting of husband, wife and children. But occasionally, aged parents also may be found staying with one of their sons, especially one who inherited the natal house. Similarly, for some time, married brothers might stay together, but the general practice is for them to separate as easily as possible.

The husband is the head of the family and the wife is expected to be obedient to him and as the head of the family, all the important decisions affecting the family and its members are taken by him. The husband is primarily concerned with the latency needs. Though there is such a division of labor, there is no inhibition on the women going out for such jobs as teachers, nurse, doctor, or clerk and now as engineer executive etc.

With in the family, because of Patrilocal residence, patrilineal inheritance and the practice of dowry, sons were preferred to daughters to some extent and preferential treatment was given to sons in such matters as education. How ever, this is disappearing and the present tendency is to give as much education as possible to all the children irrespective of sex. The widow did not suffer any loss of status on that account. Widow re marriage is practiced. Syrian Christians are strictly monogamous. Whoever breaks the norm is ex-communicated from the church.

No prescription regarding any particular age for marriage, of late, the age at marriage has gone up and girls are seldom married before they are 20 and the age at marriage of the boys also has correspondingly gone up. Un married women and men pass the age of 25 and 30 are not un common and there is no special stigma on account of that. Marriage with any consanguine relative is prohibited. Marriage is arranged by parents. The dowry is generally paid before the marriage. Marriages are conducted by parents. The important ritual items are tying of the ‘Minnu’ (Hindu Tali) and the exchange of rings by the couple and the veiling of the bride by the bride groom. Residence is Patrilocal. Inheritance is Patrilineal. Property is divided among the sons only and the daughters are not given any share


The Jews of Kerala, whose existence in Malabar Coast has been traced to long before the Christian era. The present Jewish population is of 27 whites Jews living in the old Jewish town of Mattamcherry and scattered in Ernakulam and 58 black Jews scattered in Kochi, Ernakulam, Paravour and Aluva. The Jews were given a high social position in the community. The absence of a traditional trading community in Kerala helped the Jews to obtain the role of traders.

Marriage among Jews:

The Jews observe strict endogamy at community level and at sub group level. Age at marriage is high. This is because of the reluctance of the white Jews to marry from out side the group and because of paucity of women. There has not been any marriage ceremony in the community for the last five to eight years. They also conduct consanguineous marriages between paternal cross cousins. Negotiations, mutual consent and courtship are modes of acquiring mates. They are Monogamous; Senior Levirate and junior sororate are also a rule. The marriage symbols are the wedding ring Tabbath and Tali having spoon shaped locket, and a marriage document given by the bride groom to the bride. The dowry is paid in cash or kind; residence is Patrilocal after marriage. Divorce is permitted with social and religious approval for reasons of adultery, chronic disease, impotency etc. widow and widower remarriages and male and female divorces, remarriages, Sororate and Levirate are permissible.

The Jew bride and bride groom observe fasting for 24 hours prior to marriage till they take wine after the ceremonies. The Thali tying is done by the bride groom’s sister in the bride’s residence. Rest of the rituals is held in the Synagogue, which include wearing of wedding ring taken from a wine filled cup. There will be a service of reading from the Testament in the Synagogue. At the end of which the marriage documents called ‘ketubah’ is handed over to the bride. The marriage feast is given jointly by both parties.

Family among Jews:

The family among Jews is nuclear and interpersonal relations with in the family are on strong bonds of love and respect. Care of parents and children is obligatory. Conflict and confrontation may come up in the family on property matters. Sons inherit the property equally and sometimes elder sons may inherit more than others. Daughters are given dowry which is less than the share inherited by sons. Inter family relations were reported to be very cordial and being a small group of people, every one is known to each other personally interaction is also very high. Family size is dwindling very fast and they consist of only elderly members.

The Jewish women are given equal status according to men. They have decision making power and participate in economic activity apart from house hold job. They contribute to family income by taking expenditure and participate in social and religious activity, but do not have role in rituals which are performed only by men.

The Izhavas

The Izhavas and Thiyas are the two major territorial divisions. The Izhavas are mainly located in the Travancore and Cochin and Thiya in the Malabar. Community endogamy and lineage exogamy is the present norm regarding marriages among the Izhava. In the past, pre-puberty marriages also existed. Thalikettu kalyanam was one of the indispensable customs of the institution.

The traditional family organization of the Izhava was of the joint family type.

There were both patrilineal and matrilineal units. Among the matrilineal groups, the wife stayed along with her husband and children in her matrilineal family. It was the duty and obligation of her matrilineal family to observe or conduct the ceremonies connected with them. The husband has nothing to do with it .But at present, the tendency is for nuclear families where the husband dominate and the upbringing of the children is his duty and obligation .Except for reckoning the lineage , in all other matters of obligations and duties the lineage ties have become weal .Challenge to the elders authority and property matters are the main causes for conflict and confrontation.

The disintegration of joint families leads to the formation of numerous nuclear families. These nuclear families have multiple kinship relations with each other. The Izhava women have a role in agricultural operations, animal husbandry, household chores and other economic activities. They have roles in social functions, rituals, and religious spheres. Some of them have risen to positions of leadership in economic activities and contribute to the family income as well as control the family expenditure. The marriage custom of the Izhava differed widely. After the formation of S.N. D.P Yogam, the community adopted a unified marriage code prescribed by the Guru Sree Narayana. Now the marriages are registered and performed under the auspices of the Yogam. When the negotiations are over, both the parties inform the respective yogams or organizations, who give the formal consent. Exchange of garlands, rings, and tying of Thali are the modernized and important rituals of the ceremony. The feast and other expenses of the marriage are taken by the bride’s family. After the marriage that bride is taken to the bridegroom’ schizophrenia house for the consummation ceremony. After a few days, a function called Adukkalakananal, takes place when the girls parents visit her.

Traditionally the Izhava were tenants who were engaged mainly in the cultivation of coconut and paddy in the fields owned by the Nairs and Brahmins. After the formation of Kerala state and the implementation of land reforms, a good number of the Izhava tenants became land owners. Agriculture is the primary occupation to a majority of them.

Reforms of the Izhava marriage system.

Matrilineal system was prevalent among sections of Izhavas like the Nairs. Until 20th century reforms (marumakkathayam where by property was passed from a man to his sister’s son), a pre pubertal mock primary marriage (Thalikettu kalyanam) gave way to secondary often polyandrous relationship (sambandham). High prestige karanavar utilized the sexuality of the sister’s daughters, younger brothers and sister’s sons for status mobility and political purposes. Hypogamous Sambandham unions permitted refinement of the tharavadu. Children born to such union’s embodies qualities relatively superior to those of their mothers and mother’s brother. This betterment had obvious repercussions. Nair Tharavadu, whose women had repeated sambandham unions with Brahmin men, claimed higher Illakkavu status. Even now the higher status Nairs are those who have proves Brahmin ancestry. Matrilineal Izhavas similarly under went both Thalikettu and sambandham rights (for unions out side of the caste) .This historical fact of exogamy remains ambivalent and open to many interpretations (Izhavas now commonly remembers). The caste as one in which their women were sometimes prostituted to Nair men, yet Izhavas often boast that, women in Thalassery are famous for their beauty, which gave that female beauty largely assimilated in to pallor of skin-tone, appears to refer to the result of past liaisons with Europeans.

Changes in Izhava marriage practices must be seen in the concept of wider political and ideological pressures for reforms exercised from the middle of the 19th century through out all matrilineal Hindu communities that is arising from economic changes. While Nair caste association encouraged members to break sambandham unions with Brahmins and to marry only within the caste, Izhavas also began to unify, adopted ideologies of self respect and caste pride. As a result, monogamous, caste endogamous marriage became a norm. Izhavas joined in general condemnation of Nair women as prostitute to Brahmin men. Once again Izhavas followed Nairs in the pursuit of dignity and status. Educated middle class Izhavas joined their Nair counter parts in pressing for reform to the matrilineal system by now openly resented ridiculed as backward irrational and immoral.

In 1899, the Travancore Wills Act gave male members of matrilineal community the right to will of half of the acquired property to wives and children. Disputes leading even assassinations between brother’s sons and sister’s sons are common thinks in matrilineal family histories and Malayali mythology. The 1912 and 1925 Nair Act recognizing the regarding sambandham unions and providing for full inheritance of self acquired property wives and children and partitioning of joint matrilineal joint family. This period saw a shift to monogamous marriages and new forms of marriage ceremonies.

Caste endogamy as an unspoken consideration in all current marriage arrangement stems not from the facts that this is a “rule” so basic as to be taken for granted, as from the fact that bond upper caste in the area are willing to marry Izhavas. Moral and caste solidarity statement such as, “we marry with in the jati because we love it”. Are weakened when read against recent history, against intra community joking for position between families and against the all important mobility imperative. To some extend Izhavas these days marry within the jati because they are generally constraint to do so. They remain ambivalent about caste endogamy.

Marriage reforms unification of the caste and the abolition of matrilineal have encouraged expansion of affinities and formation of a wide range of marriage market this century. An ever decreasing number of marriages are arranged with the kin group and village Izhavas look out side for more advantageous stranger alliances. This has been accompanied by move towards more prestigious style of marriage as isogamies allegiance spurned in favor of hypergamy and marriage is spoken of in kannyadhan. This last development both legitimizes and actually sanctifies payment of large amount to wife takers, enabling group price and extortion which often accompanies if to be emphasized and converted in to a prestigious unsolicited affine gifts between families there by deemed to be respectable and cultured.

It is comparatively rare among Izhavas, with in mobility aspirations, to find marriages of equals. Since marriage is one of the major mobility strategies despite the high risks involved, most feel under a compulsion to make strategies use of it and few are in position to economically renounce the opportunities it offers. Factors are traded off in the overall long term interest of the group, and are juggled according to the particular strategy being played out at each particular marriage while the under lying strategic motives for making a particular match may remain implicit and hidden. Several public discourse routed in different ideological sources can be called up on post hoc publicity to justify marriage choice. All information claims that ideally the two families in a potential alliance should be matched as equal, while the boy should be slightly higher than the girl in education age, height, salary. Since the marriage of equals carry lower dowries symmetrical alliance, appeal can than be made to a version of orthodoxy- as represented by official reform discourses such as S N D P view of marriage which state that to receive dowry is a shameful practice which only the corrupt and impoverished would resort to. The convenient fact that dowry between equals will be lower channels be turned in to a prestige issue and a moral virtue also for the girls family. “We don’t need to buy good husbands for our daughters, because we are a respected family, our women are also respected”. Grooms will come anyway not the transient immediate house hop old but the enduring family. Marrying up is by now the usual pattern and requires no justification from the girls side, her family take pride in saying “we send our daughter to a good family” following the view of marriage as an alliance with a superior good family affected by means of the daughter. All the hypogenous marriage in to other caste may be a matter of not shame at least of regret; even this can be something to be proud of for the girl’s family. Since it replicates the behaviour of the higher caste in former times and confirm to the dominant discourses, which sees women as a means by which to increase family prestige and to effort useful alliances with higher status families. Like all time Nair who consider themselves favored by having had to control with Brahmins, a girls family are generally convinced that their daughter and her children will benefit from exposure to more refined ways. There is no requirement on a bride’s family to justify marriage to patently superior outsides, since every body fully under stands that to give your daughter up means full success in the marriage status. It shows that the girl and her family are accepted partners who value their daughter and form the advancement of the family.

Full sworn is reserved for hypogenous marriages which lower the women, if they do not actually prove that she was never any good in the first place and which violate every role of correct hierarchy with in jati and gender and the mobility imperative. In the last analysis inter marriage with Europeans shows that Izhava family mobility ambitions override orthodoxy and adherence to the vested hierarchies which have most often been experienced from the wrong side by the Izhavas.

Again we find that the poor suffer from the community’s mobility, ethnic being shamed in to abandoning strategies (cross cousin and pro polyandrous marriages)go back to the Izhava un reformed past and finding themselves increasingly forced to run-up debts and take risk with their children by at least pretending to participate in the dowries stranger-marriage alliance game. At the same time, their attempt can only be pale imitations of the real thing increasing this discomfort and the stigmatization. Those who can and do participate fully in the practice using marriage as a mean to mobility to take a broad view and a very long term orientation prioritizing [K.S.Singh.P:469-477]

Family and Marriage custom among tribes:

The tribes are separate groups who live in the forest areas and the sea coasts. They keep separate identity from the outsiders. They don’t always wish to mingle with the people in the villages and towns. They were keeping themselves off from the mainstream of Kerala society.

(1) Ambattan:

The Ambattans are the Tamil barbers. There are two classes of Ambattans namely, the Tamil Ambattans and Malayali Ambattans. There is neither inter dinning nor inter marriage between the members of the two groups. The girls of the Tamil and Malayali Ambattans are married both before and after puberty. The marriage ceremonies are performed in the same manner as those of other Tamil Shudras. Various rites are performed such as the planning of a post decorated with mango leaves before the auspicious hour, worship of vigneswara (that on sure of the bride groom), Pada puja (washing the feet of the bride groom) by his brother in law on entering the gate of the bride’s house, preparation of the sacred fire by a Brahmin priest, waving of certain things (lighted lamp, a vessel of water , a vessel of rice and paddy) round the face of the conjugal pair to counter act the potency of the evil eye, tali tying by the bridegroom and Dara dadam( giving away the bride) going round the fire. A man can marry two or more women, but never can a woman marry with more than one man. Widow remarriage is however in vogue among them.

(2) Chakkan:

The Chakkans are the Tamil oil pressers and dealers in oil found in the Thrissur town and Chittur Taluk of the state. They call themselves Vaisyas and their holy book is called Vaisya Puranam. The word Chakkkan means one who works in Chakku or an oil mill. Marriage between members of the same Gothra is not allowed. But a young man can claim the daughter of parental aunt. Among the Chakkans, the girls are married both before and after they reach the age of puberty. Their marriage ceremonies are similar to those prevailing in other Tamil Castes. The bride’s price was formerly twenty one rupees, but is now thirty one, in the case of adult marriage consummation take place on a subsequent auspicious night. Among the Chakkans polygamy is allowed but Polyandry and widow remarriage are unknown.

(3) Devanga:

The devangas are a caste of weavers speaking Telugu or Canaries and found in Chittur and Talappilli Taluks of the state. They are also called Jadaru or Jada. Marriage is endogamous and the Devanga girls of both the sections are married both before and after they reach puberty.

(4) Kavaras:

This is a Talu caste found in the Chittur Taluk of the Cochin state. The girls are married both before and after they reach puberty. Among relations, a young man may marry the daughter of his maternal uncle. When a young man approaches the marriageable age, his brother or uncle selects a suitable girl for him after payment of two Panams to the parents of the girl.

(5) Thodas:

Thodas followed a caste based life. They practice the institution of Polyandy. When the girl becomes the wife of a boy, it is usually understood that she becomes also the wife of his brothers. Even in recent generation, they practiced Polyandry. They have received legal support for practicing polyandry in British India. In few cases, a girl is married not to brothers but different persons from the same class. One of the most interesting features of Thoda Polyandry is the method by which the father of the child is selected. It is identified through a ceremony. Before that they will be allowed to live together with the support of tribal leaders. The ceremony is called “bow and arrow ceremony”. The father of the child is hands over bow and arrow to the pregnant woman. Usually, it is ceremonised at the 7th month of pregnancy then for all social and legal purposes this person will be identified as father of the child. When the husbands are brothers, usually the elder brother gives the bow and arrow. But so long as brothers live together, the other brothers are also responsible for the child. In few cases, when the husbands are not brothers, one among the brothers will give the bow and arrow. He will be father for that child, but also of all succeeding children, till another husband performs the essential ceremony. If one of the husbands is dead, the others are not ready to give the bow and arrow. The dead will be considered as the father of the child.

The tradition of polyandry is considered to have originated with sex ratio. Polyandry is often combined with Polyginy. Two or more brothers may have two or more wives in common. In 19th century, Thodas have submitted a petition to legalize their marriage on the lines of the Malabar Marriage Act

6) Kadar:

They are living in the borders of Kerala .They practice Polyginy. When a Kadar finds out a partner, he has to go to the house of the girl. The boy has to give her a bride price, usually by working in wife’s house for one year. On the wedding day, a feast is prepared, usually rice and meat by the parents of the bride groom. For the ceremony, all community members will be invited. The bride and the bride groom stand beneath a ‘Panthal’ decorated with flowers. In this ceremony, men and women dance separately to the music of the drum. The bridegroom’s mother’s sister ties ‘tali’ in the neck of the bride. The father puts a turban on the head of the bride groom. The bride and the bride groom walk in procession round in the Panthal. Then by sitting on a Mat they exchange bital each other. A council of elders will take decisions if there are problems or complains. Disobedience would be followed by out casting.

(7) Paniyas :

Paniyas are inhabited in Wayanadu and some parts of Eranadu in Malappuram, in Kozhikode and in Kottayam, Paniyas are of the largest tribal group in Kerala .They strictly practiced Monogamy. Usually, a bride is selected for a young man by his parents. The bride groom has to take a bundle of fire wood to the house of the girl to whom he wants to marry. The marriage ceremony was simple in nature. The ceremony is conducted by Oorumooppan (chieftain). A present of 16 Panams and some new cloths are given by bride groom to the Oorumooppan. He hands over the present to the parents of the bride. They assemble and dance for the music of the drum. The tali is tied around the neck of the bride by the female relative of the bridegroom. The Oorumoopan recites the contract and pour water over the head and feet of the couple. It is told that the husband has to give an annual present to the parents of the wife. Failure to do so, parents of the bride demand their daughter back.

Remarriage of the widow is permitted. Adultery and other disobedience will be adjudicated by a council of elders in the Ooru.


Kerala has been dynamic in its growth. The traditional systems still exist in Kerala. But more progressive outlook has grown in its development especially in 19th century. Many social customs which were irrational were taken away by the legislative reforms. When we examine the Kerala society, we will find that the lineage or family set up which is prominent in Kerala society is Matriliny. The Kerala family is characterized by matriliny. An understanding of Matrilineal system and matrilineal tharavadu is helpful in understanding the social system and the nature of authority exercised in Kerala. The social institutions are cultural patterns influencing human behaviour and it is through these institutions that human beings obtain a large part of their social and cultural satisfaction. The objectives and values of life of Kerala society are reflected through its various social institutions. The marriage, family and kinship, caste, class and religious system are of great cultural importance in determining the basic principles, which govern these institutions are derived mainly from the philosophy of Hinduism. Family is a primary social group, universally recognized to be basic of all human endeavors and activities

The structure of Kerala society was mainly caste based which designed the web of social relationships. While analyzing the Kerala society, we can understand that power and economic status played a major role in the structure and thus in the function of society. Social life is directly related to the religious rituals and customs. Thus the study of the social institutions like family marriage and kinship is very essential for the sociological understanding of Kerala society.




Caste system is a social stratification fount in India in which society is dividing in to several segments. It is a pattern of social behavior prescribed by set of norms, values and sanctions the word caste is derived from the; Latin word ‘Castus’ which means pure. The term SC was coined by the Simon commission. Gandiji called the SC (Harijan) ‘The People of God’.

The category of other back ward class is mentioned in the constitution in most general terms. There is no all India list for the O B C. The O B C commission was set up in 1953, under the chairmanship of Kaka kalelkkar. Central govt constitute mandal commission look in to the matter. No sooner was the mandal commission report publishes then the question of reservation became controversy.

I. Scheduled Caste in Kerala

The term scheduled caste (SC) was coined by Simon Commission in 1927. The expressions like depressed class untouchables exterior caste etc were commonly used for lower caste groups. The approval of the govt of India act of 1935, they have been generally referred to as ‘SC’. Indian constitution has also adopted the term Scheduled Caste coined by the Simon commission. The Constitution of India 1950 made a provision to the presidency of India to specify castes that belong to SC. In persuasion of this provision the president of India passed orders from timer to time specifying the names of SC in the country

a. Demographic profile

SC population in kerala, according to the 1991 census, is 28,86,522, which constitutes 2.09 percent of the SC population of India and 9.92 percent of the total population of the state. Which includes 14,22,164 males and 14,63,908 females. The community consists of 68 sub castes, according to the 1981 census, kanakkan, cherumans, kuravan, parayan, pulayan, vettuvan, thandan having a population of more than one lakh. Interestingly of the rest, 23 castes constitute just 0.24 percentage of the total SC. The most numerically powerful community is the pulaya/cheramar (33.27%) followed by cherumans (11.52%) and kuravar (8.57%). The study reveals that the literacy rates of sc in kerala was 82.86%as against 90.85%for the state as a whole, as per census 2001.

b. Major Problems of Scheduled Caste in Kerala

The SC constitutes the lower strata of kerala society. They have been subjected to variety of disability, deprivation and oppression under the traditional system. They were placed outside and down below in social and ritual hierarchy under the Varna model society. They were denied entry into temples and house of upper class. They practice inter caste marriage and do not inter dining.

Most of the SC people are engaged in jobs like sweeping scavenging and servants. Occupations in 1991 census show that 42.2 % SC belong to workers category they are 53.8% of leather workers ,12.4% weavers ,7.9% fisherman , 8.8% washer man ,3.7% scavengers,1.3% artisans , 1.3% tool and vegetable sellers etc. about 2/3 of the bonded laborer are from sc. Literacy rate among SC people is extremely low . It was only 21.5% in 1981 census revealed that most of them lived below the poverty line. They are the continuous victims of social and economic exploitation.

c. Social mobility

The caste system as it unfolded in kerala was peculiar and much more severe than elsewhere in India. As the caste hierarchy descended, the dress one could wear, the language one could use and even in the pronunciation of words one would make also changed from refinement to outlandishness. The untouchables couldn’t dress neatly or fully. Further the movement of these people was restricted in order to make escape difficult and the notion of pollution was extended beyond touch to even sight. (P K Bal Krishnan, Cast system and kerala history, Kottayam; 1989, p no 306)

Educations become the tool to preserve the statuesque. Lower castes were `denied knowledge simply on the basis of their inscriptive ties. S Ghuray presented this lopsided nature of the system in a caustic language: education……. Became highly and religious oriented ,personalized, authoritarian, ascribed, restrictive, monopolized, .based on fundamental values which are end in themselves, it transmitted the idea of purity and pollution, religious and civic disabilities and privilege of various castes, restriction on social interaction and the choice of occupation. ( G S Ghuray,caste and race in India,bombvay,1979 p. no; 27-28.)

1. Educational mobility

The studies conducted by a commission on the socio-economic condition of the SC and ST appointed by the govt of kerala. This study based on 3 castes Thandan, Pulaya and Sidhanar in which the conclusion that Thandan are mobile educationally followed by pulaya. According to 18 major castes permanent among them being Velan, Pathiyan, Paravan, Mannan, Vannan, Thanadan, Vettauvan, and Pulaya.

2. Occupational mobility.

Occupation assumes centrality in social mobility. For,an individuals position in society- his social identity, economic standing, social status and even social esteem-is, to a great extend, dependent on it. Therefor, more the ability in the occupational sector for an individual more the power and social prestige he commands.

3. Political mobility.

For the SC politicians however, the picture is different. They have not only identity crisis or alienation eight her from their on community or from others. But they have a little power over the politics. so they play a’ catalyst role’ as for as their community concerned. In fact majority of people stated frankly that they did not take any special interest in upholding the interests of their people. This laxity caused for the lower rates of progress of the dalits and even their failure to emerge as a force to reckon with in the state politics. but on their side, the political representatives feel that they are marginalized both inside the party and in the govt. While they attributed to this caste based discrimination with in the political parties, inadequate education, lack of financial security and influential relations and disunity among dalits, this is also partly due to the fact that all the major political parties in the states are in the hands of upper and the intermediate castes. In such a situation, naturally recruitment tot the leadership position from the disadvantaged sections in difficult to take place. All these have robbed dalits of real political power and hence

Rendered political mobility ineffective.

4. Mobility through protests in kerala.

Protest Movements were authentic vehicles through which the backward castes in kerala attempted at social mobility in the pre-independent period. Ayyankali movement organized by the SC was important protest movements of Scheduled Castes towards the beginning of the 20th century. There were 3 important dalits movements in the pre independent kerala-those organized by ayyankali, poikayil yohanna and pampady john Joseph. Among the three, while the latter two movements mainly attempted at constructing a dalit identity. Their initial concern was to establish the right of his people to use the public roads and appear in public places. Education was another of his absorbing concerns. So his main concern was to open schools and one school was established in venganoor in 1904. The sangam was also noted for its democratic character and gender friendliness.

d. Ayyankali As A leader

Slave trade has been banned in Malabar by the English east India company as early as in 1872-penalties were imposed for slave-dealing in the Indian penal code only in 1862. in the 20th kerala witnessed a transition due to various protest conducted by backward communities and through this protest a transition occurred ,from a castes based to a class based social ensemble in kerala. Though a tiny section of the pulayas were educated in the mission schools and some of them were also converted in to Christianity .getting access to public roads and other civic amenities including schooling was the initial objective of the pulayas movement in travancore. A school opened by the pulayas at venganoor was destroyed by caste Hindus in protest pulaya leader ayyankali gave call for the boycott of agricultural work in the fields of upper cast Hindus. The struggle of the Pulayas for access to roads and schools led by Ayyankali. He walked along a public road. In 1898 a group of Pulayas led by Ayyankali walked along a public road, leading to clashes between Pulayas and cast Hindus. These rights were suppressed by the government. The struggle for education led by Pulaya leader Ayyankali and Vallikkara Chotti led the Travancore Govt. to Grand Pulayas the right of education in govt schools in Balaramapuram and Pullat in 1914. Following these rights broke out in both these places between the pulaya and Upper cast. In Pullat the Nair’s went to extend of burning the schools where Pulaya children were admitted.

e. Developments.

5 year plans have a special component marking for the welfare and development of sc. Some of the important national level schemes launched for the sc welfare are

1. Coaching and training for various competitive examinations

2. Scholarship for providing financial assistance for higher education

3. Construction of hostels for providing free residential facilities to the sc students

4. Financial assistance to research institutions for conducting researches in the area of

Problem of sc

5. Providing text book and study materials to sc students of professional courses

6. Scholarship and grants for higher education outside India

State was also permitted to make reservation for sc in public services and protect them from all social evils and discrimination. Govt. appointed a special officer at the centre to oversee the implementation of various provisions. 14% of the total seats of LokSabha and legislative assembly have been reserved for sc

f. Constitutional provisions.

The articles in Indian constitution are 50, 60, 70, 23, 25, 26, 330, 332, 336, and 338. the practice of unsociability abolished the sc were granted to accesses to roads ,shops, hospitals, hotels wells, bathing, and places of public in terms forced labor was prohibited. more over the state was given the responsibility to promote the education and economic interest of the sc’s and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (article45)state was also permitted to make reservation for sc’s in public services.(article 16,335)and representation in LokSabha and legislative assemblies (article 330, 332) also appointed a special officer at the center to oversee implementation of various provisions (article338), 14% of total seats of LokSabha and legislative assembly has been reserved for sc. The proportion of reservation in public services is 50% of the vacancies. The position of commissioner for sc and st has been created at Delhi. 5year plan have be a special component marking for the welfare and development of SC.

g. Implementation and its results.

(Programmers of S C development department)

The state schemes and centrally sponsored schemes as well as the projects taken up under corpus fund are the programmers implemented by the S S D D for the welfare of SC this department implements 19b schemes for educational development , programmed for education includes boarding and lodging facilities at pre-metric and post-metric level, incentives and awards to talented students ,stipend ,lump-sum grant, pocket money to students , special coaching and tutorial facilities to improve results ,supply of books and equipments etc. information cum-guidance center and civil service examination society etc. are also run by the department of sc candidates to equip to them appear for various competitive examinations.(govt. of kerala ,economic review ,2006. p. no;408 to 420)

The SC population of kerala is 31.24 lacks consisting 9.81%of the totals population as per census2001. The growth rate of sc in the state is 8.16%. The growth rate SC is slightly lower than that of the states total population growth. The SC people live along with the rest of the people across the state. The highest distribution of SC is in palakkad district (13.85) followed by thiruvananthapuram (11.87%) trichur (11, 34%) and kollam (10.34%) nearly half of the population of the state is distributed in the above 4 districts.


The scheduled Tribes of our country are considered as early settlers. The Second largest group of the backward classes of the unprivileged section generally called tribal people survived with their unchanging ways of life for centuries. “Scheduled Tribe is a group of local communities which lives in a common area, speaks a common dialect and follows a common culture”. In kerala there are still 37 ST out of 48 tribal communities the number is only 1.26%of the states population


The Scheduled Tribe population is 3.64 lakh accounting for 1.14% of the total population in Kerala. In India, the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population total population accounts for 16.23% and8.15% respectively. The scheduled tribe in Kerala are not only geographically concentrated, but are overwhelmingly rural their distribution ranges from 0.86% in Alapuzha district to 37.36% in Wynad district .There are 5 primitive tribal groups in the state namely Kattunaikan, cholanaikan, kurumpas, Kadars and koragas.


Aranadan, Chingathan, Eravallan, Irular, Kadar, Kadar(Wynad), Kalanady, Kanikkar, Karavazhi, Karimpalan, Kattunayakan, Kochuvelan, Koraga, Kudiya, Kundu Vadian, Kurichchian, Kurumba, MalaArayan, Malakkaran, Mala Kuravan, Maha Malasar,Mala Pandaram, Mala Panickkar, Malasar, Mala Vedan, Mala Vettuvan, Malayadiar, Malayalar, Malayan, Mannan,Marati, Matha, Mavilan, Mudugar, Mulla Kuruman, Muthuwan, Nayady, Palliyar, Paniyan, Pathiyar, Thanchanaden, Ulladan, Allar, UraliKuruman, Uraly, Uridavan Gowdalu,Vishavan



Kerala has registered a remarkable improvement in poverty reduction over the years among all the social sections, including SC and ST population .The share of BPL population among ST was decreased to 24.2% in1999-2000 from 37.3% in 1993-94. ST constitute3% of the total BPL population while the proportion of ST population is only 1.14%.It implies that the incidence of poverty among the ST is about three times that of the total population of the state.The socio economic position of most of the tribals residing in the scheduled area of the state is miserable .Socially they are at the lowest rung of the society.

Although agriculture is pre dominant in the pattern of their economy .most of them are landless laborers depending mainly up on daily wages. They are protective measures and welfare measures. They have been made by the government to develop the tribals by providing facilities for education, employment and agricultural development.


The literacy rate among the ST in the state was 57.22% as against 29.60% at National level in 1991Educational development of the Tribals is a prerequisites for their socio-ecnomic development .It also difficult to pursued a tribal child to attend his classes regularly and maintain a regularly life on the other hand it is difficult to setup maintain and adequately supervise the school hilly in assessable are, particularly when trained and befitting teachers having a mind to serve the tribals are scarcely available. 87 residential Ashram Schools or Madhyamik Bidyalaya with the provision of free boarding lodging,medical facilities, books garments, and stationeries have been opened to attract these backward classes


Employment has been pointed out that earlier a majority of tribal population are landless labors depending mainly upon daily wages. With the denudation of the foresters their sources of food are fast dwindling and since they cannot be sure of engagement as even laborers in the area of they lead precarious, existence as compared to the condition revealed by the first enquiry in 1950-51 it has been brought out that the agricultural laborer during this period


As most of the ST persons depend for their living for their ecnomic condition cannot be improved until and unless we improve their agriculture .They have been a large percentage of the lands of the ST Are situated on slops are of inferior quality .They still follow the old and out dated, method of cultivation which is not only wasteful but also yield them very little. Due to the lake of marketing faculties they are being exploited by the land lords and middle men and remind below the subsistence level of living .Thus the primary solution for the development of the tribal people is to create trust and confidence n their mind which we have already lost from they


The individual follows religion and religion follows individual no community exist with out religion .With out religion no body can think of life the belief and practice is a convention which is prevailing from the time immemorial in the tribal communities .Religion had many aspects such as practice and belief. Adivasisi are more orthodox and rigid their way life in comparison to other people.The Adivasis people though reside in different part their cultures and customs are sow how fundamentally equal .Mostly Adivasis people worship their dynasty deity

As well as village and area deities .Tribal people believe in nature and worship Natural Gods and Goddesses. Their mode of worship is mainly on sacrifice. The Tribals have beneficial and harmful Gods and Goddesses such as moon, sun, soil and spirit, Ghost respectively .The Tribals are adopting and neighboring cultures instead of their own being influenced by industrialization and modernization The Tribes have been their own religion from primitive age


The total amount of Rs 57.41 Crore is earmarked during the year 2005-06 for the development department which consist of state plan schemes .Centrally sponsored schemes and project under corpus fund aswellas special central assistance.Detail of financial and phycial target and achievement of scheme implemented by the department during 2004-05 given approach .The development of the tribals can be devided into two

1. Educational Development

2. Economic Development


Even with the facilities, spread of education is very poor in the District .Unless the problem on this aspect is tackled the spread of education cannot be achieved .The Government also give the facilities of stipends, lunch grant to the pre –Matric and post Matric students of other educational institutions of the District.Special coaching are also given to the weaker students. Apart from these reservation of seat in general, technical institution are also being ensure.

(1)It has been observed that poor economic condition of the parents is one of the for most handicaps in sending their children to the school.

(2) Lack of proper encouragement is yet another snag.

(3) In such cases opening of more schools in convenient areas is there for vital requirement for spread of education.

(4) In sufficient accommodation in school buildings and lack equipments.

(5) Selection of right type of teachers with proper qualification is another essential requirement for spread of education in tribal areas.

(6) Medium of instruction.

(7)The subject matter of education for the boys in primary school specially n tribal concentrated areas should be carefully selected.

(8) Environment of the schools should be model type, having garden, playing ground which easily attracts the boys to be schools.

(9) Compulsory primary education.

(10) Administrative problems.

(11) Technical education

(12) Scholarship


Most of the tribal are landless. They earn their lively hood as wage earners or agricultural labors. A few earn encaging themselves in cottage industry. Moreever they are cheated and exploited by money lenders and other exploiters thus are deprived of the little earnings and are left perpetually in poverty. The problem on this score is colossal. To combat against this Govt. has introduced a number of schemes. There are

1. Tribal Development Blocks

2. Lease of Waste land to Tribal

3. Settlements of Adivasis on land

4. Graingolla

5. Distribution of bullocks, seeds and agricultural implements

6. Cottage industries

7. Legal aid

8. Rural communication

9. Soil conservation

10. Representation tribal and scheduled castes in services


The Constitution of India has made various provisions to safeguard the interests of the tribals

  1. Article15 of the constitution provides equal rights and opportunities to all the citizens of India without any discrimination.
  2. Reservation in employment is made for the tribals under Article16 (4), 320(4) and 335.
  3. Seats have been reserved for them in legislatures (in Loksabha and State Vidha Sabhas) under Article 330, 332,334.
  4. Under Article19 (5) the tribals can own property and enjoy it in any part of the country.
  5. According to the Article275 a large amount of money can be taken from the consolidated fund of India to be spend on tribal welfare.
  6. Article338 empowers the President of India appoint a Commissioner to look after the tribal welfare activities.
  7. Under Article339 (2) the Central Government can give directions to the States in formulation and crecution of tribal welfare plans, projects and programmes.
  8. Under Article275 (1)is required to give grants in aid to states for approved schemes of tribal welfare.
  9. Article164 empowers the states Government to appoint a separate Minister to took into the welfare of the tribals.
  10. Article46 consist of provisions that protect the Economic and Educational interest of the tribals.
  11. Article224 gives instructions to the administration to take special care to protect tribal interest in scheduled areas.
  12. Article342 gives power to the president of 1ndia to declare on the recommendation of the Governor some groups or communities are ‘Scheduled Tribes’. It also gives details on the basis of which new groups could be recommitted as scheduled tribes emitting them for all the constituently benefits.

ST and SC reservation in educational institutions, services Political bodies special relaxations in age, qualification. Further the allowed for the necessary funds for the tribal development programme. Many special provisions were made in schedule 5 to the constitution in the interest of the tribal areas.

The following scheme for the tribal welfare and development were transferred to this ministry during current year. Post –Matric scholarship, Coaching allied a scheme, Book bank scheme, up gradation or merit scheme


The mandate of the ministry of the tribal affairs.

1, Tribal welfare planning.

2, Policy formulation.

3, Reaserch and training.

4, Tribal development including scholarship of the ST.

5,Promotion of voluntary affords in development of ST.

6, Administrative ministry with respect matters concerning.

The solutions to the Tribal problem mentioned above have their own merits and demerits. Tribal problem are simple but very delicate to handle. ‘Tribal people possess a variety of culture and they are in many ways certainly not backward. There is no point in trying to make them a second rate copy of ourselves’


The other backward classes constitute a congeries of communities of rather uncertain status. Lists had earlier been prepared by the Ministry of Education and by the state governments. The Backward Classes commission under Kaka Kalelkar reported a good deal of ambiguity in these lists


In the course of centuries the caste system had evolved itself so perfectly that there came into vogue even a strict schedule of distances at which classes below the Nayers had to the higher castes .The prescribed distances for some of the castes was as follows:

The caste rules operated in the most irrational manner. The triple social evil of untouchables, inapproachability and unseeability was observed by people at all levels of Hindu society. The concept of pollution assumed serious dimension and came to be applied not only in the relations between different caste in Hindu society, but also in the relations between Hindu and Non-Hindus. Ibn Batuta (A.D324) mentions this aspect of social relations when he observes as follows about the conduct of Hindus. They do not allow the Muslims to touch their vessels or to enter into their apartments, but if any should happen to eat out of one of these vessels, they break it to pieces``.

Barbosa (16th) speaks of the arrogant behaviour of the nairs towards the low castes. He says when they walk along a street or road, they shout to the low caste folk to get out of their way ;this they do and if one will not ,the Nair may kill him without punishment. Any Hindu woman cohabiting with a man of lower castes was treated as an out caste and sold as a slave to the Christian or Muslims or to foreign merchants. The dreadful customs known as Pulapedi and Mannappedi prevailed.


Separation between different segments, each pursuing its own style of life, could be kept intact so long as the world was fairly static or the pace of change not very rapid. In the traditional system, mobility –whether vertical or horizontal –was slow and limited. The expansion of transport and communication, the spread of education and new economic opportunities, and an increasing degree of political articulation are being about fundamental change in the structure. The system now tends to become relatively more open, allowing for greater mobility and greater variety in the combination of class, status and positions.

Sanskritisation was an important feature of traditional society where it appears to have been the principal idiom of social mobility. Sanskritization can be defined as a process by which a caste or a group of people move up the social hierarchy by adopting styles of life associated by tradition with the upper castes. (Pg-116)

Another major social mobility is Muslims and Ezhavas joined to form the Civic Right League, for the right to Public Services. The Public Commission was constituted in 1935 allotting reservation of 14% of post for Ezhavas. As O B C s, Ezhavas also be eligible under central government proposals dating back to the 1980s, based upon the recommendation of so far unimplemented constitution and Mandal Commission report, for reserved places in central services and public sector undertakings. Since 1991s attempts by V.P Sings govt. implement Mandal recommendations and ensuring anti- manual riots in many parts of the North India. The issue of reservation has returned to the forefront of Kerala politics. Forward communities poorest sections. The SNDP most vociferous among Kerala OBC organization’s bargaining that PSC implementation of reservation is routinely avoided, particularly in high level positions, by failure vacancies so that the 14% quota (still less than Izhava percentage of the population)rained(1995)unfilled demands not only full implementation bur also increased reservation quotas commensurate with community no.5 congress and CPI albeit from different perspectives were favorable to introduction of economic criteria to exclude the OBC wealthy creamy layer. Opposition to creamy layers principle was running high 1995 among Izhavas. Attempts by state governments to conduct socio- economic senses to determine OBC economic were halted under massive protest after less than a week

Middle class and Elite Izhavas educated and urbane certainly hope to benefit from reservation legislation posting government employees existed at lower grades but at middle and higher grade the so called creamy layer of the community place at the disadvantage against Nair’s and Christians for the high states of prestigious secure decently paid pensionable employment a valuable rarity in high unemployment Kerala. SNDP state president advocate .K. Gopinadan put his case to his discrimination was and is experienced by and exercised against the community as a whole on the basis of the caste status regardless of other factors reservation should also be on caste basis regardless of other factor Dr.Palpu’s considerable wealth and education did not prevent him from being barred from government service and mocked as it only for tree climbing as much as present caste discrimination. It is historical imbalance which has led to exclusion and Nair and Christian dominants in public service which caste based reservation sought to redress .Radhakrishnan points out that ‘In India, exclusion is mostly historically accumulated and not thrown up by economic restructuring’. (Pg-211, Social Mobility in Kerala)


It was among the Ezhavas, the relatively advanced caste among the avarnas, that the social reform movements started in right earnest. The pioneer among the Ezhava social reforms was Dr. Palpu, the moving spirit behind the Ezhavas Memorials. He resorted to constitutional means for securing the redress of the grievances of the Ezhavas and other lower castes. But being employed in the sore medical Service, he got very little time to attend to affairs at home. [Kerala and freedom struggle, Sridhar Menon, pg-58]

The void was filled by Sree Narayana Guru [1854-1928], the foremost of the religious and social reform of modern Kerala, who started his activities in 1887. Sree Narayana campaigned for the mitigation of the rigors of caste. Sree Narayana Guru had a highly eclectic outlook in religious matters and this is evidenced by his famous dictum, ‘One Caste, One Religion, One God for man`. He has been rightly hailed as the `Father of Modern Kerala Renaissance'. The social revolution unleashed by him helped considerably in preparing the ground for political awakening in modern Kerala .

K.Ayyappan founded the Sahodara Sangam at Cherai in 1917 with the object of eradicating the evils of caste and popularizing the idea of Misra Bhojanam among the Ezhavas and other castes like the Pulayas, Arayas etc considered as inferior to them in the social scale. His action roused the opposition of the conservative elements in his community. He was even a sarcastically called `Pulayan Ayyappan` and subjected to social boycott. However, in course of time the Sahodara Sangham succeeded in popularizing the idea of inter- dining among the Ezhavas and other backward classes. A rationalist in outlook, Ayyappan modified the dictum of Guru as ` no caste and no religion, no God`.

In the Malabar area C. Krishnan, the editor of the Mitavadi campaigned vigorously for the eradication of untouchables. In Nov 1917 he defied the order of Malabar collector denying freedom to the Ezhavas and other backward classes to walk along the approach roads to the Tali temple at Kozhikode. The incident symbolized the new- awakening among the backward classes and focused public attention on the need for early eradication of unsociability.


The former of the constitution of India was Ambedkar and hence made certain arrangements for the backward classes to allow them to enjoy a humane lifestyle and for their upliftment. The reservations for the backward classes are of three broad categories: political, educational and employment.

For the first, the Constitution provides for reservation of seats in proportion to their numbers for the SCs and the STs in the Lok Sabha (The Lower House) in its Article 330, and in the Vidhan Sabha (The Upper House) in Article 332. These provisions do not exist for the OBCs, which indicate that the principal categories for the affirmative action are the SCs and STs according to the Constitution.

For the second, an implication exists in the constitutional provision Article 15(4), which allows the state to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the SCs and STs.

For the third, the constitutional provisions as modified and simplified from time to time are the Article 16(4), Article 16(4A), Article 16(4B), Article 335, and Article 320(4). These articles provide explicitly for reservation in educational institutions for the backward classes and the authority of the state to make any required changes with time, as required.


As of now, the total reservation quota stands at 45% in many states of India and this includes the SCs, STs, and the OBCs. The trend seems to have shifted to reverse discrimination rather than mere affirmative action. Some backward class elites have gained political and/or economic power based on this reservation. However, a majority of the backward classes is not living any differently than before. Their subsistence is meager and rural lifestyles do not provide them with any of the benefits. Thus, a distinct economic class system exists within the backward classes. Since economic status is not a test used, undeserving people gain the advantages and the deserving ones are still without a significant change in their situations.


14. 160: The Corporation aims at the socio-economic upliftment of the backward classes and minorities in the state. The major objectives of the corporation are:

(1) To promote the comprehensive development of the OBCs and minorities of Kerala by rendering assistance by way of loans and advance for establishing small income generating enterprises in various sectors.

(2) To promote schemes, establish institutions for the socio-economic and educated upliftment of the target group

(3) To assist O B C sand minorities for the up gradation of technical and entrepreneurial skills.

14.161: The Corporation mobilizes funds from the National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) in addition to state Government support.

14.162: The source-wise expenditure and the physical achievements of the corporation using 2004-05 and 2005-06 are given in the table14.37.


Kerala has a coastline of 590 kms, which constitutes approximately 10% of India’s total coastline. Fishing in Kerala has been the traditional occupation of a group of communities consisting of Arayana, Velana, Mukkuvas and Marakkans. These form the traditional Hindu fishing castes of the states. With the advent of Christianity and Islam, many of the traditional Hindu fish workers converted to new religious. The Mukkuvas and Mappilas are the leading fish workers of the Malabar coast.

Fisher people were included among the ‘polluting castes’. The geographical condition of Kerala is favorable for reaping the rich marine wealth. The fishing community in Kerala is one of the most backward classes both socially and economically. As a community they have been isolated and unorganized. Their isolation was of a communal nature. They are deeply religious and superstitious. Since majority of the members of the fishing community are illiterate their dependence on the religious leaders is very high. The social status of the community is low due to the very nature of their occupation. The fish folk are forced to depend on the money lenders and merchants for their day to day life. Thus indebtedness is a common feature in all fishing villages. They have been subject to various types of exploitation, socially and economically.

1. The Evolution and Emergence of fishing economy of Kerala

The earlier reference about fishing activities in Kerala is found in the Sangham literature. The land was broadly divided into five well marked physiographic regions such as ’Kurinchi’ or the mountain region “the mullai’ or the forests, the palai or the sandy region, the Maratham or riverian region including the fertile low lying plains and the Neuthal or the coastal belt. In the neuthal region the natural occupation was fishing.

The fisher fold of the region was known by different names as Minavar, Parradavar, Parathavar, Valainars, nulaiyar, Pazhaiyas, Thuraivans.

The people enjoyed a large measure of social freedom and equality.

Features of feudalism existed also in the fishing sector and were not very different from the other parts of the economy. The feudal lords in the fishing sector were the headmen of the fishing villages usually known as Valiya Aryans, who held special privileges granted by the king.

Feudal exploitation reached its acute stage during the days of Portuguese-Dutch supremacy (1453-1758). The European powers inflicted new imposts on the fishermen over and above the existing ones. The rulers put forward some policies against the feudal system. But that policies and changes had made no impact on the social and economic conditions of the laboring classes including the poor fisher fold.

The decline of feudal relations was paid way for other developments in the mid 19th century which resulted in large increase in production and trade. Abolition of slavery, removal of vexations taxes imposed on professions, production implements, industry and trade, opening up of rail, road, etc. such changes had significant impact on the fishing sector but the studies in 1860s noted that the changes that occurred in the fisheries sector had made no significant impact on the living conditions of the fishermen community. They continued to be the victims of various types of exploitations and their life was characterized by servitude poverty and misery.

From the middle of the 19th century the fishing economy of Kerala began to undergo significant structural changes. Production became more trade oriented and more diversified. These middlemen who emerged in course of time as merchants buying fish and reselling them, and thus making huge profits in the deal,. By 1931-32 the lion share of the product o f fishermen’s labor accrued to middlemen.

The agencies like co-operative societies, welfare societies, voluntary organizations and the ‘Matsyafed’ had made some headway in freeing the traditional fishermen from the clutches of middlemen, but their effort had not so far produced any perceptible result. The auction is done by the middlemen or his representatives who pocket a major share of price in the process

2. Socio-Economic Condition of Fisher folk in Kerala:-

Fishing and fish trade are universally reserved for the low caste men. So the social status of fishermen on a whole is very low. The fishermen all over India are facing the same problem. The position of fisher folk in Kerala is not different from the above. The process of evolution and emergence of fishing economy of Kerala tells more about the social and economic conditions under which the fishermen communities sustained their survival.

Social status

The social status of fisherman has had no change basically from the 17th century to the fag end of the 20th century. They are educationally the most backward class. They are looked down upon as people with low social status and marriage alliance and other social relations with them are unthinkable for most people. In the Southern coastline the Latin Catholics dominate in this occupation. Other sections of the Christian community are reluctant to enter into social relations with these people in spite of the same faith and religion.

As far as the Hindu fishermen are concerned they are treated as untouchable by the so called higher caste Hindus as mentioned earlier in the historical evolution of the community. Among the Hindus who form a majority of the fishing population of the state are various sub sections like arayan, valas, mulayar, marakkan, mukkavan, vallanar and barathiar. Basically cannot identify a separate caste of fishermen.

Role of religion and religious leaders

In the matter of superstitious beliefs, meaningless religious ceremonies and offerings to deities the Hindu fishermen still follow their forefathers. Hindu fishermen conduct religious ceremonies in their temples and offer catches before the graves of their ancestors. They even throw small images of fish maid of gold into sea to please ‘ Kadalamma’ the goddess of the sea.

The fishing community is by no means homogenous there are Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities. The distribution of households of these communities shows 41.25% Hindus, 25.25% Muslims and 33.5% of Christians. Each community is stratified on a caste and class basis. All these communities are defined and determined by their religious faith which also gives them their identity all communities have their own self-regulatory system.

The Hindu fishing community are most numerous around the north of Kollam , Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kasargode district. These communities are primarily of Arayar caste. They were originally of two-sub castes the Arayans, and Mogaviras. They fall in the lower ranks of the caste hierarchy

Role of Women:-

Women play an active role in Kerala’s fishing community as they do in all subsistence economies. It is long ago that women entered in the marketing cycle in a more professional manner in order to increase family income. In the catholic community, within the active fishing families, it is the women who control the household’s economy. Men retain control over means of production even though all that man owns have been received from his wife’s father in the form of dowry. Man is considered as the head of the household for all practical purposes and the women has to submit to his decisions.In Hindu family women who control the household economy.

In Muslim community, few if any, women enter the fishing economy. In many areas wives of the fisherman work in other production areas like beedi making, coir making etc. it is essential that the women of the Muslim community work to substitute the family income

The women must work hard outside the household not only; to assist their husband but also by participating in independent economic activity which usually relating fishing. Women therefore have a relative economic independence but this independence is not transferred in any form at the social level.

Political life:

The traditional fish workers in Kerala are a marginalized group in the political life of Kerala. They do not get any economic benefits from the government. They are only vote banks of the political parties. But none of them have done anything substantial to improve the lot of the fish workers “ despite the fact that the fishing communities have been consistently faithful to their respective political parties very little has been done for …”(Hourthrd 1988). The level of political consciousness is very low among the fish workers while it is very high among the general public of Kerala. But those who actively participate in political affairs are still a small minority.

Cultural life:

The cultural life of the fish workers is closely related to their religious beliefs and practices. The belief in a God who protects human beings and intervenes in their daily life and their closeness to the mother sea are expressed in various cultural and religious symbols. Culturally fish workers community is quite different from other sections of the society in Kerala. One reason is their distinct mode of production. Today the fishermen in Kerala are still marginalized and isolated can become a commodity; the sea cannot (Aerthayil-20001)

3. Fisher folk problems

1. Education:

Lack of education among the fishermen is a common feature. A major portion of the fishermen are illiterate and they have to use their thumb impression for signature. Some of them make a clumsy sign of the cross. Among them are the older active fishermen who are past forty. The remaining have either had some formal schooling or can at least r5ead and write in a small way. The influence of the ambitions Adult Education programme launched by the government in 1990 had some tangible effect in the coastal belt making them to read and write a little. But the discontinuance of the programme in the later years lowered its spirit.

Absence of schools in the coastal areas i9s the one of the important reason for the lack of education in the Indian villages. This does not seem to be totally correct Kerala’s efforts in making basic education facilities accessible to the large majority of people are well known. Primary and even upper primary schools exist in close proximity to all fishing villages. The lack of education to a great extend makes the fishermen superstitions.

2.Health and Housing

Fishermen in Kerala are the least bothered about health and housing. It is to be better said that they are compelled to live in such a situation. Owing to the lack of education they are ignorant about health and hygiene. Their huts are so congested that it prevents them from getting fresh air or sufficient space for other activities. These thatched small huts can be seen throughout the Kerala coast.

About 56.41d% of the marine fishermen households are huts and Kutcha dwellings, which are small and unclean and have only two rooms. In some cases there is a single room in which they have cook and sleep. Most of the houses are ventilated properly. There is only one door that opens outward. There is no such thing as a separate kitchen in most cases.

Lack of latrines and bathroom facilities are common. Among the total households only 15.24% have their own latrines. The remains of fish they have consumed the human excreta and waste water, all create a foul smell around the place. This is the main reason for the proliferation of mosquitoes and flies in these regions. Cholera, chicken pox and amoebic dysentery etc are common diseases of the coastal regions.

Scarcity of drinking water has always been a problem in the fishing villages. Some of the households get water form unprotected common wells and from tanks which are subjected to perennial contamination in the marine sector, 39821 household(40.50%) have access to protected water supply and others are getting water from their own wells or from community wells. Thus the social conditions show a very disappointing picture. Many of these conditions have a bearing upon the economic conditions of the fisherfolk.

3. Economic conditions:

Fishermen in kerala are living in poverty. A study conducted in 1954 by the Economic Research Council Kerala, revealed that there was an acute shortage of effective and remunerative employment in fishing villages of Kerala and the average income per household was only Rs.37.7 per fortnight while average expenditure per household for a fortnight came to Rs.43.5. the research council also revealed that nearly 25% of household have very heavy deficit above 50% of the size of their income.

While analyzing the economic backwardness of fishermen there are two fundamental causes which can be identified

1. The inequality in the assets holding among the fisherman as revealed by the above analysis

2. The exploitation of the fishermen by those who are engaged in the process of buying the produce.

The second cause for the economic backwardness of the fishermen community is the exploitation by those who are related to the marketing of fish. Fish marketing is the breeding ground for middlemen. For every middlemen of the marketing chain there is a proportionate decrease in the share of the fishermen on the consumer rupee and an increase in the price that the consumer pays.

4. Indebtedness

Among the coastal people especially in the fishermen communities their standard of living, mode of life, behavior pattern and other activities were based on his earnings and spending in that way. Today one of the most important problems of coastal people in indebtedness. There are several reasons for indebtedness happening which are personal, social and economical. Generally the fishermen community borrows money because of the security income.

For their subsistence it is not sufficient for their basic needs like food, clothing, shelter etc. they have to depend upon wholly on sea. But if the sea is violent in some season they cannot go for fishing, their living condition much neglected through the other people. Government does not take any initiative to gives beneficiaries for the development of the fishermen community. Though government gives assistance for the schooling of children, it is not sufficient to complete their education. Then they have to borrow money from money lenders at high rate of interest. Thus the debt of the coastal people is increasing everyday though they have the earnest desire to repay the debt the circumstances do not allow them to do so.

Most of the households do not own any fishing equipment in order to go for fishing. They have to hire nets, vallom and catamaram for which they have to pay high rent. Thus as a result of various exploitation of boat owners, money lender and middlemen the debt of coastal people is increasing day by day though they try to repay the debt they cannot do so. Thus this situation is increasing the rate of indebtedness among coastal people.


The proposed coastal zone management (C Z M) is respected to replace the existing coastal regulation act (C R Z) notification. It is believed to be based on the report of a 13 member expert committee under the chairmanship of Mr., M S Swami Nathan. For the purposes of management and regulation the coastal zone is divided in to 4 categories.

(1) coastal management zone I

(C Z M (1), shall consist of areas designated as ecologically sensitive areas (E S A)

(2) coastal management zones II

Shall consist of areas other than c m z 1 and coastal waters, identified as areas of particular concern (a p c) that is economically important areas, historical places etc.

(3) coastal management zones III.

Shall consist of all other open areas including waters.

(4) coastal management zone IIII.

It consists in inland territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Fish workers movement in kerala.

The fish workers union also leads to the fish workers movement. The fish workers movement was spear headed by kerala Swanthanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (K S M T F) a non party political organization and its success depend on this non party political character (Mathew thayyil) according to the govt statistics there are 8 lack of fisher men in kerala i.e.… 32%of the total population there for each 5year plan money was allocated in the fishing sector. Mechanization of fishing started at 1953 – as the part of indo-Norwegian project. After the modernization process there were some problems arises from the fishing community. Some of the main problems are;

  1. Economic and ecological distribution.
  2. Fish depletion and decrease in production.
  3. The decline in the share of traditional fishermen.
  4. Effect on domestic fish consumers.
  5. Decline in the living standards of fishermen as their productivity reduced due to over fishing.

Kerala govt issued an ordinance in Nov; 1980 which gave the state powers to restrict regulate or prohibit fishing in territorial waters to conserve the fish resources. The K S M T F started the agitation against the govt decision. FR; Jose kaleekal was the leader and guide of this organization. One of the significant achievements of the K S M T F through its agitation and demonstration of strength was the passing of the act by the state govt.

  1. Kerala marine fishing regulation act-1980.
  2. The kerala fish workers welfare fund act-1980.
  3. The kerala fish workers fund act-1985.

K S M T F emerged as the most powerful trade among the fish workers. They helped the traditional fish workers.


India began as a closed socialistic nation. After 1991, it has turned towards capitalism and has opened its doors to globalization. With the higher levels of education, higher levels of income, higher levels of growth, the economy is likely to stabilize very fast. With higher pecuniary incentives, people are likely to forget the basic caste differences. As it stands, people living in the urban areas have become psychologically blind to these differences, at least on a social level. The cultural factor prevents inter-caste marriages, but with time and modernization, this is likely to pass.

There are sociological problems even in the most developed nation in the world. In conclusion, the reservation policy and its persistence is likely to increase the caste-gap rather than help decrease it. Thus, serious there is a need for serious reconsideration for the reservation policy in India, especially when it comes to educational institutions.

Contemporary Issues in Kerala

Demographic transition

Migration consumerism


Kerala is a state on the Malabar Coast of South Western India. It is one of four states that compose the linguistic cultural region known as south India. The land are of Kerala is about 38,863 sq km with a total population of 31838619. It is about 3 percent of the country’s population. About 16% of the people live in the cities. Most of other’s live in large semi urban villages. Kerala has a rich repertoire of folk dances. Malayalam, Kerala’s main native language, believed to be originated as an offshoot of Tamil, the principal native language of neighboring Tamil Nadu. The level of literacy among Keralites is far higher than the national average. Kerala’s has affected by many problems that are political problems environmental problems, economic problems, etc. The main problems are,


Migration is the one of the problem affected by Kerala’s state. Migration is a worldwide phenomenon in which millions of people move out from their normal place of residence to distant lands in search of better fortune. Migration has contributed more to poverty alleviation in Kerala. The study shows that newly 1.5 millions Keralites now live outside India. Migration has become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years. Kerala has been experiencing massive migration of its population to the advanced countries.

Migration is a term, which encompasses a wide range of patterns. According to the Kerala migration study, 77 percent of the women in emigrant households are in the state. Migration in Kerala began with demographic expansion but it won’t transition end with demographic contraction. Historically, Kerala state has been a heaven of immigrant, for centuries. Kerala remained an area of net immigration during much of the first half of this century. Migration has naturally become a lively topic for serious study. Kerala has been experiencing massive migration of its population to the advanced countries. After World War II and with the Indian independence in 1947, migration was almost entirely continued to states with in India. One magnitude of return flows increased during the 1990’s particularly after the Kuwait war. In 1998, there were around 7, 40,000 return emigrants in the state. The paper also analyses the determinants and consequences of internal and external migration in Kerala.

Demographic transition

Demographic transition was the next major problems affected by Kerala’s population. There are many causes that would leads to the demographic transition. The term “demographic transition” denotes the effects on population of the social and economic changes in Kerala society. The state of Kerala has been the focus of considerable international attention for it success in several key areas of the social sector, including literacy, education, health, and family planning. Here in this paper with certain statistics we try to analyze the demographic transition in the state.


This is a cultural change that happens in the state. It is the modern way of life of the people. This change in the consumption standard of the people is mainly due to the influence of the western culture. The consumption standard of the people of Kerala is very high, or even marked by signifying increase. Consumption includes both food and non- food materials. Compared to all India and most other states, Keralites allocate a considerable part of their income to the consumption of consumer durables and luxuries. Such sort of consumption practice is called consumerism.


Demography is the scientific study of human population. The discipline uses empirical investigation to analyze population and its process. This includes the study of fertility, mortality and migration and how these factors change over time and affect population size, growth, structure and composition. This area within the field emphasizes the methods by which to measure fertility, mortality, migration how these processes operate across different populations and within the same population over time and mathematical modeling for estimating population growth and structure. Main factors of demography are age, sex, religion, marital status, household, family, literacy, employment status, occupation and income etc. Transition from these factors includes demographic transition.

Demographic transition occurs in societies that transition from high birth rates and high death rates as part of the economic development of a county and describes population changes over time.

The main demographic process that account for population change are

  1. Fertility
  2. Mortality
  3. Migration

1. Fertility: Fertility refers to actual reproduction or number of births which is substantively different from fecundity or the capacity of an individual to bear a child. Fertility can be measured by estimating Crude Birth Rate (CBR) which is number of birth per 1000 people in the population.

2. Mortality : Mortality is the study of deaths with in a population. Like fertility, the extent of mortality can be estimated using a Crude Death Rate (CDR). The numbers of death per 1000 people in a given population at a particular point of time.

3. Migrations: Migration focuses on the movement of people. The effect of migration on societies can be positive or negative.

1. Demographic transition in Kerala

The state of Kerala has been focus of considerable international attention for its success in several key areas of the social sector including literacy, education, health and family planning. An area in which Kerala has done remarkably well is in demographic transition namely, changes in the birth and demographic rate and in the age structure of the population. (K.C Zachariah, k. Irudaya Rajan 1997)

Density of population, sex ratio age at marriage, life expectancy, health, literacy etc are the other factors of demography. The changes and transition of these factors is demographic transition (George Ritzer 2007)

I.1. Kerala population

The population of India as per 2001 census was 102.7 cores comprising of 53.13 cores. Males and 49.57 core females. Kerala’s population as per census 2001 was 318.41 lakh consisting of 154.69 lakh male and 163.72 lakh females. Kerala’s share in the population of India is 3.1% in Kerala. 74% of the population lives in rural areas.

Kerala population 2001 census (table 1)

Persons; 31841374

Males; 15471419

Females; 16369955

Sex ratio; 1058 female 1000 males

Infant mortality Rate; 14.1 death\1000 live births

Life expectancy at birth; male; 70 2 years

Female; 76.6 years

Total fertility Rate; 1.70 children born\woman

1.1.1 Population and density of population

The population of Kerala is 31.84 million according to the 2001 census. This is 3.1% of the total population of India. In the recent period, Kerala’s population has been growing at a much slower rate than the population of India’s as a whole. The population growth rate and density of population in Kerala and India from 1961 to 2001 is given in Table (Economic Review 2006)

Population growth rate and density of population in Kerala and India

Annual growth rate density





























1.1.2. Decadal Growth of population

An analysis of the decadal growth rate of all India population shows that it increased form 1921 to 1981 and since then it started declining gradually. In Kerala the decadal growth rate has been at higher rate from 1941 to 1971 and since then growth rate has been declining. The details of decadal growth rate of population o Kerala from 1901 to 2001 are given below. (Economic Review 2006)

Population and its growth from1901 to 2001

Census years




Growth rate























































Among the districts in Kerala, Malappuram has the highest population of 36.3 lakhs followed by Thiruvananthapuram 32.35 lakhs and Ernakulam 30.98. Wayanad is the lowest populated district in Kerala with a population of 7.87 lakhs preceded by Idukki 11.29 lakhs and Kassargod 12.03 lakhs. Among the districts, Pathanamthitta had the lowest decades (1991-2001) growth rate of population of 3.72 and Malappuram the highest growth rate of 17.22%. All districts in Kerala showed a decrease in decadal growth rate 1991-2001 compared to 1981-91 decade. Malappuram district achieved an education of about between the two decadal growth rates which are the highest among the districts in Kerala.

1.1.3. Density

Density is an indicator of the pressure of the population on land. It means the number of person per sq km the area figures for the district in km. As per 2001 census the density of population for Kerala as a whole is 819 persons per sq km. Among the Indian states, Kerala is in third position in respect of density. (C Zachariah Irudaya Rajan 1997)

Among the districts India Kerala, Alappuzha has the highest density with 1489 persons per sq km. Followed by Thiruvananthapuram with 1476 people per sq km. Idukki District has the lowest density of 252 persons per sq km (Census Report 2001) Kerala is one of the most density populated region India.

District wise population density














































1.1.4. Annual growth rate

Population growth is a summary index of the stage of demographic transition. The annual growth in population of Kerala during 1991-2001 was 0.91% as against the average annual growth rate of 1.93% in India. In addition to achievements, such as low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy the population growth rate in the state remains the lowest in the century.

Kerala’s population consists of 82.96 lakh in the age group 0-14, 201.82 lakhs in the age group 15-59 and 33.35 lakh above the age group of 60 between 1991 and 2001, children in the age group 0-14 have declined by 4.24% population in the 15-59 age group increased by 12.91 and people above 60 years increased very high potential for economic growth. (Economic Review 2006)

The proportion for of children 0-14 to the total population is 261%in Kerala. This is the lowest among the major states in India. In the proportion of people in the working age group 15-59 Kerala is second only to Tamil Nadu 63.7%. The proportion of population above 60 years in Kerala is to 10.5%, which is the highest among the major states in India (Economic Review 2006)

1.1.5. Ageing population

Kerala’s aged population (above 60 years) is increasing past. During 1961, the aged population constituted only 5.9% of the total population of Kerala. It increased to 6.2% in 1971, 7.5% in 1981, and 8.8% in 1991 and to 10.5% in 2001. As per 2001 census, the total number of old age persons was 33.36 lakhs. In Kerala the highest percentage of old age population is in Alappuzha district followed by Ernakulam, Kottyam, Thrissur and Trivandrum. The lowest is in Kozhikode and Wayanad district.

1.1.6. Sex ratio

Sex ratio is measured as numbers of females per 1000 males. Migration of male workers, women literacy accesses to medical service etc influence the sex ratio. Kerala has a unique position in regards to sex ratio in all the census females out numbered males in Kerala. which is contrary to all India pattern. The sex ratio of Kerala has gradually increased from 1004 in 1901 to 1028 in 1951 and then showed a slight declining trend in 1961 and 1971. since then it has shown a steady increasing trend. The 2001 census reflects that state of Kerala is only state in India where sex ratio as per 2001 census is above the equality ratio and broken the records of 100 years with 1058 females per 1000 males. The pattern of sex rate is not uniform in all the districts. The highest sex rate of 1094 if found in Pathanamthitta district and the lowest in Idukki district. With 993 females per 1000 males. Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikkde districts have a sex ratio of 1058 and are equal to the sex ratio of state. While 7 districts have sex ratio above the state average, 5 districts have sex ratio of below the state average.

District wise sex ratio 2001 and 1991














































Wayanad district, which was having lowest the sex ratio in 1991 census, is having 13th rank in respect of sex ratio in 2001 census with equal distribution of male and female sex

Sex Ratio India and Kerala 1951-2001






















1.1.7. Age at marriage

Among the major states in India, the age at marriage is high in Kerala for both males and females. According to an estimate from the re-productive and child health survey the mean age at marriage in Kerala for males is 28 years and for females 22years. In Malappuram the mean age at marriage for both males and females were the lowest. This means that in Malappuram the youth are getting early married in comparison with others.

Marriage indicators by district of Kerala





28. 1































20. 9






20. 5




1.1.8. Education and literacy

Education is given a central place in human development. In state like Kerala education is given more important and education played a major role in society.

Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country for both males and females with 94.20% and 87.86%. This very much higher than the all India averages (census 2001) girls constituted 49% of the total enrolment in school emigrating in Kerala. No gender disparity. These is however a rural urban gap of 4% points in the state female literacy rates are 86.79% in rural as against 90.87% in urban areas. Intra state variations in female literacy rate are significant. The lowest rate 79.31% is in Palakkad district and Kottyam district has the highest rate 94.45% followed by Pathanamthitta 93.71%. Alappuzha 91.14% and Eranakulam 90.96%.

Literate persons in population of Kerala and India













2. Health indicators of Kerala

Kerala has been at the apex stage of the global discourse on health and development spanning all most 3 decades and featuring in much of the literacy during this period for its phenomenal health indicator. Better health status and social developments in the past decade in Kerala are attributed to insightful investments in primary education and health care awarding to many. Kerala is now heading for a health disaster (Soman2003). Kerala’s health conditions are the best among the state of India

Health indicator Kerala and India

Kerala 2004, 2005

India 2004, 2005

birth rate

16.70, 15.00

24.80, 23.80.

Death rate

6.30, 6.40

8.00, 7.60

Maternal Mortality rate



Infant Mortality rate

12.0, 15.00

60.00, 57.00

Total fertility

1.99, 1.9

3.30, 2.7

Couple Protection Rate

72.10, 72.10,

..........., 52.00

2.1 Birth rate

Kerala’s fertility rate, especially marital fertility rate, used to be one of the highest in the country. Birth rate varied considerably from region to region from district to district. The birth rate of Kerala during 2004 was 16.70 per 1000 population. This comes down to 15.00 during 2005. The corresponding all India rate are 24.80 and 23.80 respectively during the same period. This shows that Kerala is far below in the rate than the national average.

2.2. Maternal mortality rate

Kerala is considered one of high health status, infant mortality rate is low, life expectancy of female is high, male children have a higher level of IMR. (Zachariah 1997). The maternal mortality rate is the number of maternal deaths occurred per 1000 live birth, and still births MMR rate during 2005 is 1.10 per 1000 population. The national average during 2005 is 3.01 are the same as 4.37 maternal death per 1000 population.

2.3. Death rate

Death rate is defined as the numbers of death occurred per 1000 population. During 2004 the death rate is Kerala was 6.30 per 1000 population and in 2005 this is 6. 40 per 1000 population the national average corresponding to this year are is higher than the female’s death rate.

2.4. Infant mortality rate

The infant mortality rate is the number of infants died per 1000 live birth before attaining the age one infant mortality during 2004, 12.0 and 2005, 15.00 and in the national level infant mortality rate is 60.00 during 2004 and 57.00 during 2005 is more larger than Kerala.

Total fertility rate is defined as the number of children born to women. During 2004 the ratio was 1.99, which decline to 1.90 in 2005. In India the rate was 3.30 per woman in 2004 and 2.7 in2005. This shown that Kerala’s achievement is better than the national average.

2.5. Couple production rate

This is the percentage of newly married couples in the age group of 15-49 using family planning method.

2.6. Life expectancy at birth

The life expectancy at birth is considered as one of the aspects of human development. The life expectancy at birth in Kerala is 70.90 years for males and 76 years for females in 2005. During the same period India’s life expectancy at birth is 61.60 for males and 63.50 years for females. The life expectancy at birth of Kerala males increased from 44.3 years in 1946 to 70.70 years in 2005 and increases in 1946 to 70.90 years in 2005 an increase of 26.60 years in a span of 49 years for females it increased even more from 45.3 years to 76, an increase of 30.70 years in the same period.

3. Determinates of demographic change

3.1. Occupation and fertility

In Kerala 74% of the population lives in rural area. Kerala’s population mostly depends up on agriculture. Kerala’s joint family system produce more population and their mainly in the field of agriculture. Agrarian society always provides more population. The production of means of subsistence and the reproduction of people are two interrelated processes conditioned by the economic nature and culture configuration of society for agricultural laborers, the power to obtain means of subsistence is mainly their labour power, it could be viewed as a conductive foster for having a large family. Among the agricultural population studied, the completed family size of women in the age group of 45 to 49 was higher among agricultural laboures than in the over all population.

Generally agricultural laboures are found to have a large family, Kerala’s fertility decline triggered off much enthusiasm because of its diffusion even in to the lower strata of the society like agricultural laborers. The family being the unit of production, the major source of labor power is family members and such its strength as a producing unit varies with tits family size.

3.2. Determinants and correlates of age at marriage

The role of age at marriage in postponing population growth and in affecting the number of births. A rise in age at marriage tends to affect the level of fertility, and the resulting rate of population growth, because marriage marks the formal entry in to sexual union and the reproductive size of a couple. Age at marriage is influenced by a numbers of socio-economic factors like, literacy family income. Religion, work participation etc. (K.C Zachariah, 1947). The level of literacy and urbanization are positively correlated with age at marriage of male’s as well as females. Education can make more change in age at marriage.

3.3. Migration

Keralites have been regarded as a highly mobile class of people in recent years migration among Keralites for employment at distant lands was another pattern, of which labor migration to the Gulf region forms an important component.(K.C Zachariah,Irudaya Rajan 1997). Migration has both direct and indirect impact on the demography of population both at the origin and the destination. The direct consequences work through behavioral changes on fertility mortality and other demographic parameters. (E.T.Mathew, K.C. Zachariah, Irudya Rajan 2003)

3.4. Education and fertility

Education status is high in Kerala. Female education is a major factor that will help to bring reduction in the level of fertility. Education as a socio-economic status has two major characteristics income and occupation

The effect of education on fertility is mostly indirect and can take different path education rises the age at marriage because of the general practice of completing one’s education before marriage. More educated people will have better knowledge and easy access to effective means of birth control. They will also have a wider choice of extra familial roles, which will conflict with child bearing.(K.C.Zachariah,S.IrudayaRajan1997) Education also helps to change the attitude towards traditional norms and beliefs governing family size and quality of children. Education also helps to reduce infant and child mortality.

4. Conclusion

Demographic trends and patterns are largely consequences abroad structural changes in society. Kerala state in India is one of the areas in which the demographic transition from high to low birth and death rates has occurred. Mass education has contributed to the highest status in Kerala. In India the level of literacy, life expectancy, female education and age at marriage are highest inkerala. While mortality rates, including infant and child mortality, are the lowest among the Indian states. Kerala has achieved remarkable progress in human development as reflected in the high levels of education and health of its population.

Kerala has made significant advances in health transition and health condition. Especially medical care facilities. Kerala has not had a society based on familial production, meaning that fertility was not as high as in other developing countries. The matriarchal system moreover granted women high status. Kerala is considered as the developed state in a developing country.


1. Introduction (what is migration)

Any movement of persons from their normal place of residence of other places of residences to other place either within the same country or to countries outside with a view to taking permanent or long period residence falls with in the definition of migration. Millions of people all over the world move out of their normal place of residence to seek their fortune elsewhere.

Migration is a term, which encompasses a wide range of patterns. Migration takes tow forms, immigration and emigration. Immigration is in-migration, which means population enters a region from another area. Emigration is out-migration that is population leaves one area. Net migration is the differences between immigration and migration. Sociologists use the term internal migration for the movement within nation’s boundary.

Migration may be divided into five classes

v Causal

v temporary

v Periodic

v Permanent & semi-permanent

Causal migration consists in movements of people from a village or town to another or other in neighborhood. Temporary migration are brought by quest for employment, pilgrimage etc periodic movements take place during harvest time or for taking advantage of seasonal industries. Semi-permanent migrations are causal by change of residence to earn a livelihood. Permanent migrations are due to over crowding and kindred reasons (T.K Velupillai-1996).

2. Kerala migration

Kerala is well known for migration both inside and outside India. Based on a survey in 1992-1993 the department of economics and statistics estimated that there were 1.2 million migrants from Kerala of which 56% migrated outside the country while remaining 44% migrated to other parts of India. Kerala is also note worthy for rural to rural migration. A study found that 87% of rural internal migrants had migrated to other rural areas. with in the state about 68% migrants originating from urban areas had also moved to the rural area while the other 32% of the urban migrants staying inside Kerala moved from one urban area to another.

Migration from Kerala to other states in India and to countries outside has now become so rampant that it s impact is felt in every aspect of life in the state. This is relatively recent development, having peaked up during the past quarter of a century. Kerala had remained till about the 1940 basically a non-migrating population. After World War II and with the Indian independence in 1947, migration became a way of life to many of the educated youths of the state. Almost all families in Kerala are affected by migration to the Gulf region in one way or another is affecting every facet of life in Kerala economic, social, and demographic political and even religious. The principal place of origin of emigrants from Kerala spends R.S 44 thousand for going abroad. Tickets, for visa fees and for agent’s commission, needed to money. In some cases there was also a cost arising from cheating. The number of emigrants, and it had remained the number of emigrants, and it had remained much smaller in the past. The largest numbers of return emigrants were in Malappuram until, very recently Kerala was known more for its internal migration than for its external migration. Out of a total of 3.75 million thousand migrants in 1948, 1.65 millions were internal migrants. (691 thousand out migrants and 959 thousand return out migrants.)

2.1. Factors affecting the Kerala migration

2.1. A) SEX

Sex is associated with migration propensities. Among the males migration propensity in 10.3 times higher than among females in the case of emigrating and 3.3 times higher in the case of out-migration

2.1. B) AGE

It is very strong associated with migration. If a person is in the age group 25-29 his propensity to migrate is 3.2 times the general average for all age groups in the case of emigration.


Among the emigrants migration propensity among single person is 2.0 times the propensity among the married. Among the out migrants it is 6.6 times.


Education of a person is associated with migration propensity. If person is a degree holder, his emigration propensity is 2.0 times the general average. If he has a secondary school certificate he has a migration propensity 1.6 times the general average. If he is illiterate, his chance of migration is only one tenth of the general average.


In general those who do not have a job have very high migration propensities. Those with good jobs do not migrate.


Community of a person is very strongly associated with higher migration propensities. In the case of migration, the migration propensity is 1.8 times the general average in the case of Muslims and 1.3 times for Syrian Christians. A few other relationships are also relevant for understanding the associated factors of migration. Regression analyses indicated that the birth rate in an area has a statistically significant positive association with emigration rate. Density of population is positively associated and per capita SDP (State Domestic Product) is negatively associated with emigration rate.

(Zachariah et at 2002)

2.2. Consequences of Kerala migration

Migration has provided the single most dynamic factor, in otherwise dismal scenario of Kerala in the last quarter of the 20th century. Kerala has become virtually integrated with the world economic, with the Gulf economy to a large extent and with economics of the United States and the West Europeans countries to a lesser extent. Migration has been one of the positive outcomes of the Kerala’s model of development.

2.2. A) Economic consequences of migration

The purpose of migration is basically economic. The economic benefits to the emigrant’s households acquire primarily from the receipt of foreign remittance, goods that are transformed home from abroad and the uses to which they are put depending upon the amounts received and their utilization. The economic status of the households may improve which gets reflected in their consumption standards quality of housing, health and educational status ownership of property and income levels. The economic consequence analyzed in the remittance, housing facilities, consumer durable, quality of human resources.


The largest amount of remittance was received in Malappuram district; Muslim households received 50% of the total remittance. Besides cash, households also received many kinds of good from the emigrant. These goods include clothing, ornaments and jewelers. Remittance received by a household varies with the educational attainment of the emigrants from the household. The uses of remittance indicate the areas in which consequences of emigration can be found.


One of the priority items of disposition of an emigrant’s savings was improvement of the quality of his housing. The consequences of migration on housing are examined in two ways. First the value of the house of migrants is compared with that of non-migrants. A second measure is the quality of the house as assessed by the investigators. Emigrants who came back after 1991 have better housing than those who came back later.


It is well known that sharp increase have occurred in the number and variety of consumer durables in households of Kerala in recent years. It is also believed that the increase is associated mostly with the increase in number of migrants.


Although a large number of emigrant households used a significant part of the remittance they received for education of their children not much differences is observed in this respect between emigrant and non-emigrant households.

A major motive behind migration, both internal and external, is improvement of economic conditions through occupational mobility about 62% of the emigrants and 55% of the out-migrants changed their occupation after migration, all to better occupation. The proposition of migrants without a regular occupation decreased by 19% points among the externals migrants and 48% points among the internal migrants.

2.2. B) Demographic consequences of Migration

Migration has both direct and indirect impact on the Demography of population both at the origin and the destination. The direct effects become visible immediately and are mostly structural in nature. The indirect consequences work through behavioral changes on fertility, mortality and other demographic parameters.


Migration has had a direct effect on the population growth rate in the state. Every decade Since 1950, witnessed decrease in the population growth rate. Migrants from Kerala always included more males than females and migration has been a factor contributing to the unique sex ratio in the state in clear contrast to other states of India. Migration has reduced the working age population in the state and consequently increased the proportion of children and elderly. Migration has contributed substantially to an increase in the dependency burden in the state. Migration has had only marginal effect on the marital status composition but it had a very significant effect on the number and the proportion of married women living away from their husbands. As much as million married women in Kerala are living away from their husbands due to the migration of the husbands. The birth rate in Kerala is relatively low. Had there been no migration from the state the rate would have been even lower the birth rate would have become lower by 0.7per 1000 population.


The behavioral consequences of migration on demography of Kerala were analyzed in fertility and mortality rate.


Migration could have positive and negative impact of fertility. Migration should lead to an increase in birth rate due to structural factors, but should lead to decline in fertility due to behavioral factors. Age at marriage is very strong proximate determinant of fertility until family planning become; postponement of marriage was the principle means of fertility control. Migration affects birth rate at the place of origin through changes in the age, sex and marital status compositions. Many youngsters in Kerala prepare themselves for eventual migration for work outside the state. If husbands migrate and live away from wives, and if the period of separation were sufficiently long, the physical separating would depress fertility. Migrants’ family’s economic conditions would have improved through migration and such improvements could have their effect on fertility. Malappuram district is known as the highest fertility in Kerala.


Migration of persons in working ages tends to increase the crude death rate, as migration rate are higher at the very young and the very old ages. Migration could affect mortality through behavioral changes as well. Migration brings in remittance, which result in increase in wealth of the family and consequent improvement in education and nutrition of the members of the household and greater use of hospital facilities during times of illness of the members of the family. (Zachariah et. al 2003)

2.3. Areas Affecting the Migration

There are many areas affecting the migration of people from Kerala. Gulf Migration, Nurses Migration are the important areas.

Gulf Migration

Almost all families in kerala are affected by Migration to the Gulf region in one way or other. Kerala has become part of the Gulf countries if not geographically and politically but very much so economically socially and culturally. What happens in Kerala has interne their repercussion in the Gulf countries. The major destination of Indian migrants to the West Asia during the 1980s was Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) Omen and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia was the destination of about 43% of Indian migrations during 1984.Oman was the nearly 21%during that year. By 1990 Saudi Arabia became the destination of the majority of Indian Emigrants. Since 1993 the size of the annual migration flows to countries like Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E declined on the other hand the annual emigration to U.A.E and Kuwait during the year 1998 increased. The role of foreign remittance in the economy of the state of Kerala in India in the form of money sent by its workers in the Gulf countries is now widely acknowledged

The major adverse consequences of Gulf wife’s due to the migration added responsibilities, indebtedness and loneliness, due to loans raised at the time of emigration inadequate financial return from emigration and anxiety. (K.C Zachariah al at. 2003)

The number of people went from the Air ports of Trivandrum,, Cochin and Calicut

Tvm: 1002647, Calicut: 752004 Cochin: 1154717, Total: 2909368

The number of people applied for pass port in 2004-05 and 2005- 06.


Applications: 525341

Distributed: 560192


Applications: 557800

Distributed: 559302

Migration of Nurses

The nursing profession being one of the noblest professions in the word is an art of caring for sick people with the science of health care. The nursing duties have a wide range of functions and responsibilities depending on the level of qualification and the working environment. Every year more nurses join millions of migrants world wide who travel everywhere to pursue better economic, social or political and health implications surrounding the issue of the current 175 million migrants that venture out for different lives, an increasing number are nurses and the majority of those are women.

The world market for migrants nurses growing every day. Everywhere the percentage of male nurses is very low. The Indian government is continuing efforts to improve the quality of nursing by trying to meet the exact international standards in the training institutions. It is interesting to note that 80 to 90 % of nurses are Christians. At present women also feel that they can get more autonomy and power in the family by leaving their county and by earning ways that are very good according to Indian standards. Migrant nurses are these quite conscious that by providing good economic returns to their family.

2.4. Migration and elderly persons

1991 was the year of the elderly. During the year the problems of elderly received considerable attention in the government circles among social workers and he academic and in the news papers, television, radio etc. (Zachariah el at 2003)

About 40% of the elderly males and 7% of elderly females worked out side house in gainful occupation. The estimation of 1998, the elderly population was constituted in 3.4 million. Very few of the elderly in Kerala live alone. More than 90% of the elderly live with non-elderly persons. Nearly two-third of the elderly is living in an average family with spouse, children and grandchildren.

The Kerala migration study confirmed the common wisdom about the demography of he elderly population of Kerala. The degree of reliability of estimates of the future size and the growth rate of the elderly is only a matter of the degree of reliability of migration affecting the state in which both husband and wife go to work, parents have to give a liberal part of their time and income for the health and education of their children, and working men and women have to move away from home. To places outside Kerala or even to countries out side India and live away from their parents. The young men and women of today have no time, nor economic resource nor even opportunity to live with and care for their elderly parents. (Zachariah et 2003). The sickly elderly are often left alone to take care for their sickness themselves, as their children would be in the Gulf countries or in some other place far away from home.

3. Conclusion

Migration has caused various problems in the society. The migrant families which became single or two members, who became woman headed, which had young wives separated from their husbands, are, no doubt, serving their self interests; but there is also a considerable spin-off effect which serves the interest of the state. Migration has brought in several environmental problems, the chief among them being those created by the huge mansions coming up across the rural landscape of Kerala, and the large increase in the number of automobiles.

Although, various studies have revealed that migration from Kerala to foreign countries and to other parts of the country has been one of the positive feature of the Kerala Model of Development In recent times, migration has contributed more to poverty alleviation in Kerala than any other factor, including agrarian reforms, trade union activities and social welfare legislation. Kerala is becoming too much dependent on Migration for Employment, Sustenance, Housing, Household amenities, Institution building and many other development activities.


1. Introduction

Kerala has several features. This beautiful state is often equated with the other developed countries because of the high standard of life style. The consumption standard of the people of Kerala is very high, or even marked by signifying increase. Consumption includes both food and non- food materials. Compared to all India and most other states Keralites allocate a considerable part of their income to the consumption of consumer durables and luxuries. Such sort of consumption practice is called consumerism. Here, the recent trends of the consumerism are dwelt.

1.1. What is consumption?

Consumption is a mode of being, a way of gaining identity, meaning and prestige in the contemporary society. By origin and usage the word consumption implies the destruction in use of goods and services normally produced by deliberate human effort. In the modern economic writings it is synonymous with the final appropriation of goods and the services for use or ownership by the general public. The act of consumption includes the acquisition of many durable and non-durable items which may increase in value with the passage of time.

1.2. What is consumerism?

Consumerism may be defined as a belief system that promotes high and rising levels of personal consumption of material goods and services among a large segment of the population ascribing to consumption a central role in promoting individual happiness. It is also associated with the view that main goal of the economy should be to meet the consumption decisions of people in the most efficient way. It can be argued that economic development necessarily leads to consumption. According to this view inherent competitiveness of people induces people to consume for beyond what necessarily for them and to give consumption more importance in their lives when economic advancement makes this possible. This appears to be confirmed by the fact that despite the wide reach of consumerism in its contemporary world there are significant variations in its intensity. Indeed explanations of the emergence of growth of consumerism in the past have been sought in the weakening of traditional religious values and in the efforts of raising commercial and individual interests to increase their profits by increasing the demand for their products. The spread of consumerism astound the world including the less developed countries can be explained in terms of globalization and made possible in large part by technological changes that allow the easier spread of information and by free market policies.

Consumerism has been criticized by many, including religious leaders, moral philosophers, socialists, and environmentalists for diverting peoples attention from more noble goals, making people self centered, and willing to do less for others in society. However it has also its defenders, consumerism has been applauded for providing people with incentives for hard work to improve their lives, for keeping profits up by causing a growth in the aggregate demand for goods and services and for being the driving the force for economic growth. The quest for more consumption leaves people less time to enjoy what they consume less time for friends and family and causes them to lose social connectedness, having an advert effect on the happiness. (International Encyclopedia of social sciences)

1.3. Evolution of Consumerism

To understand the present consumption practices of Kerala we need to discuss the evolution of the concept; consumerism.

a) Categories of consumption. These are formed mainly based on the basis of commodities involved. Two major categories are food and non-food consumption. Food consumption, which is related to the hunger and thrust needs, and the consumption, which is not related to the above, and meant for the satisfaction of health, education, travel and recreational needs are regarded as the non food consumption. Another classification purely based on the types of needs. It is essential and non essential consumption. They are the primary and the secondary consumption. Primary consumption on voles the fulfillment of needs that arise out of physiological bodily functions like thrust and hungers. Basic needs like shelter, clothing, health, education, can also be included in it. Secondary consumption includes the gratification of a more sophisticated structure of physiological needs, which relate to social, cultural and intellectual interests.

b) Dynamics of Consumption: the needs are always subjected to continuous change. it depends upon the nature of society and economy. Varieties in consumption are quite visible in different societies as their exits a difference in environmental social and economic and cultural contexts. This dynamic nature of human behavior causes the change in the pattern of consumption.

c) Change in Consumption: when a society achieves progress in the sphere of science and technology, society makes use of these technologies for the manufactures of goods needed for the day – to-day life of the modern consumer. It will create new needs for the people. This creation of new needs will cause the change in the mode of consumption.

d) New trends in consumption: increased purchasing power and paternity for purchase is the main reason for the change in the consumption. It generally exceeds to essential to non essential requirements. One can notice this change on three stages.

1. Subsistence minimum.

2. Meant for comfortable living

3. Luxurious living

In this luxurious stage needs are tends to be necessities. This recent trends in consumerism is the outcome of industrialization. Industrial growth in many countries facilitated production of goods on a large scale. it also helped widen job opportunities which in turn led to a rise in Gross Domestic product and per capita income. This growth generated more income to the consumers. People resorted to modern ways to satisfy their needs at greater level. In this changed scenario consumption achieved new directions both the quality of things consumed and the kind of consumption resulted. There was a rise in the number of consumers too. This is evident in the purchase of cosmetics. Superfine clothing expensive foot wear, consumer durables and semi durables home appliances sophisticated housing materials etc.

1.4. Theoretical Background for the Consumer Studies.

Many thinkers like Rousseau and Adam smith speaks of the types of consumption. Consumption studies gained attention by T. Velben’s book- The Theory of the Leisure Class- in 1899. For him any consumption primarily concerned with ostentatious display of wealth, this is what he calls the Conscipious consumption. It is the wish to impress others with the high prizes is the reason behind the consumption. (Antony P.V.2003


The state Kerala has several distinctive features. Very often it is equated with the other developed countries in many respects. it is considered as a developed state. But the fact is that Kerala is having a low per capita income. Though Kerala is poor it has used available resources to achieve higher levels of health, nutrition and education for its people than any other state in India. Contrary to lack of the economic growth, the living standard of the people in Kerala is comparatively high. What we see in Kerala is a paradox, poor economic growth and high standard of living. Consumption standard of the people is marked by a significant increase in the level of consumption of both food and non-food commodities. One would be astonished by the prominence given to the consumption of non-food, non-essential items. Keralites spend a considerable part of the income for the non-essential and luxury items. It is something resembles the developed countries.


When we study over the consumerism we will see that there are a lot of factors that facilitating the consumerism in the world more especially in Kerala. They are the following

1) Cultural contexts; cultural contexts of the modern society cause the introduction of the consumerism in Kerala. It happens due to the migration. That means due to the migration of the people to the Middle East cause the exposure to the other societies in the Gulf region for the job purposes. The people become more familiar to the other cultures and they try to imitate that way of life to their life. It is what happens in the modern society of Kerala. Here we have to notice one irony that Kerala as a society is always familiar to the other societies from the other parts of the world. They do have several contacts with other ancient cultures so called Babylonian, Persian from the 3000-1500 B C onwards. But then the Indian culture especially the Kerala culture was not influenced by their way of life and even they don’t follow their way of life. But today recent trends show that the people of Kerala are very much attracted by the western way of life and the life expenses increases day by day. Why it happens. The answer is unknown to me.

2) Transition to an opened society; this happens due to two reasons, they are 1) Globalization 2) structural change in the society. Due to globalization all the people are exposed to all the markets, as they like. They can purchase materials, as they like. It helps only in the society where there is policy of globalization is accepted. Change in the caste hierarchy into a modern society had its impact on the consumption behavior of the people. In a closed society individuals are not allowed to pursue their own interests. But with the emergence of the opened society they can use their decretory power.

3) Urbanization; It provides a highly concentrated and accessible mass consumer market which in turn causes change in the life situation of the people and the consumption pattern. Since independence rapid development in the urban areas may be due to the five-year planes of the government.

4) Migration to the Middle East and the Inflow of the remittances: a period of gulf boon 1974 that cause the change of culture to the consumerist culture.

5) Industrialization; development in the modern technologies help the Kerala culture to a fast culture. Developments in the communication technologies and the transport facilities cause the development of the society to a consumerist culture.

6) Support from the Government; the policies from the part of the government help the change of the culture in the modern society. Five year plans and the modern economic policies help to it. The government opened the Indian market to an opened market.

7) Significance of the advertisements; the advertisements gives more knowledge about the non essentials items to the life and that cause the transition of the non essential items to the essential items.

To summarize we can say that the above said factors have contributed to the development of the consumerist culture in Kerala. In short the consumerist tendency is a modern tendency. . (R. Sooryamoorthi.1991)


Consumption of items included consumer durables; automobiles, clothing, and housing apparently exhibit the consumerist features.

2.2.1. Durable goods.

With the advancement in science and technology gratification of secondary needs of human beings has become easier. in other words consumers resort to modern ways of fulfilling their needs . Gradually modern consumer durables- television, refrigerator and other kinds of home appliances have turned out to be consumers have come to recognize the social significance attached to such durables. As a result the possession of these durables happens to be inevitable for ones social status and prestige. So it is regarded that durables could serve as status symbols.

Possession of durables by households



No. Of households

Percent of total






two-in- one












Washing machine




Electric Iron




Gas stove



It is to be noted that the income factors does not influence the possession of durables. This suggests that the durables are equally popular among the lower income group and middle-income group and so income is not the sole determining factor in the consumption of durables. It further confines that consumption is not just the function of income but also the willingness to buy. Almost 87.19% of heads of households have responded that durables such as television, refrigerator and other appliances have become essential for this living. Only 10.62% believed that such durables are not essentials while 2.19%did not find any explanation

Ownership of durables is the best way to determinate economic status





Lower class




Middle class




It is clear that possession of durables is meant for status enhancement for the lower income class and not so far the middle-income class. Two aspects of consumerism are reveled here. 1. In the purchase of consumer luxuries goods lower income families are influenced by status aspirations and 2. They believe that ownership of durable would enhance and even demonstrate their social status.

Educational standard and Possession of Durables

It is noted that as the level of education rises the respondents become least interested in the status enhancement through ownership of durables




School education



College education



Professional education



Role of Market Techniques

The question is asked to some consumers whether they are influenced by market technique. 191 consumers were studied.







Social status






The data revels that more than half of those who own durables such as T.V. Refrigerator etc. were influenced by the advertisements. The data places that advertisement would shape the needs of man and hence it is a vital factor in the growth of consumerism.

Source of information about consumer durables




Friends and neighbors






Ads in dailies









These all are the interesting facts with the consumers and the ways they influenced by others. These all will be seen in the housing, clothing etc. (R. Sooryamoorthi.1991)


Consumerism as practice of consumption involves all sorts of commodities made available in a modern society. by and large such commodities are meant for the secondary level needs . Day by day consumption items proliferate in the market and income in the consumers too. We can place these consequences in two positions, they are Positive and Negative. Positive out look towards consumerism; 1) demand for goods and services can help the growth of industries for the production of such things. Production increases and that need cause the formation industries as result more work opportunities occur.

2) Due to the consumerism the economic growth takes place. More industrial investments happen and that cause the economic growth.

Negative out look 1) exploitation of natural resources. The needs continue to multiply due to the consumerist nature. This leads the increased production and that again causes the exploitation and will cause the environmental problem.

2) Depletion of the ozone layer due to the industrial pollution.

3) Reducing the family size: since all are looking for the comfortable life they will shorten the family size. Small families will decrease the living expenditure. The result is that population growth decreases and will result in the labor problem. Thus the problem in the industrial and agricultural level.

4) Social pathological phenomena in the society; luxury life can lead to social problems. Problem occurs when the pattern of life changes. This may cause the corruption in the society. This can also cause the tension and stress among the under privileged section.(R. Sooryamoorthi.1991)


It is noted that the change in the culture to consumerist due to, in a certain extent globalization, affects the middle class and the youth very well. It is what we see in Kerala. Along with the change in the rural and urban areas we have to notice the change in the middle class and the youth. Rapid development of the Kerala’s rural market creates the favorable condition. The reveling fact when we observe the middle class is that the consumption of non-food items is more prevalent among the lower and middle class people. The lower and the middle class represent the lower and the middle-income groups of the society. It is the general tendency of the people that as the income increases the consumers will spend more on non-essential items. This is found relevant in the middle class people of the Kerala. But the upper income groups are some how exceptions to this


It is to be found that people today get exposed to the world of consumer culture through the world of media such as common periodicals , television with net work of cable channels, internet connectivity and mobile phones etc. we take here some of them.

2.5.1. Popular magazines.

The world of periodicals and magazines is very prominent channel that disseminates as well as thrives up on the consumer culture and thus spreads the consumerism. At first instances the latest brands and models of luxury commodities and services in a seductive warp are advertised extensively through popular periodicals and magazines. It is quite reveling that 86.4% were regular subscribes to one or the other magazines or periodicals. 9.4$ of people are interested in women magazines just because they openly discuss the various dimensions of marriage and sex.

Many in the middle class perceived the wide spread upward mobility combined with the advent of new styles of consumption as the defining characteristics of modernity. There exits a link between the commercial world of ads, fashions and models and the present day notions on beauty, boy girl relationships, marriage, modern life style and so on. These all are affecting the middle class in their present day life of the middle class.

2.5.2. Influence of Television.

Many studies show that the emergence of television mainly due to the modern satellite channels in it promotes the culture of consumerism. T.V. is been considered to be a necessity not only for the children of the middle class but also all sections especially of the middle class in general. Reasons put forward by the people about the use of the T.V in the modern period is the following.

  1. To get information on world wide events
  2. View programs that are highly entertaining
  3. Helps to pass time
  4. Part of self-image and status.
  5. Provides ads on the latest fashions

What is becoming every evident is that T.V and advertisement do have signifying roles to play in the in the everyday existences, choice and behavior of the middle class in Kerala in the age of globalization. Maximum percentage of respondents considers T.V and ads are the main sources of information on the latest fashion, brands and models. Highest number of respondents that contributes 68.3 % however relies on T. V as the medium par excellence to provide latest trends in the market. a slightly lower percentage of responds consider advertisements as the source for the middle class for the latest items of the market. (Antony P.V.2003)

2.5.3. Youth affecting consumerism.

There was a massive outflow of educated youth in the 60’s and 70’s. This is seen in the gulf migration. During 70’s migration to the gulf areas were wide opened and many Indian youth especially the Malayalali youth had gone to the Middle East and there by acquired more money. But the fact is that they don’t have any aim with that money, they just spend for their luxury. Everything that happened in the west came to India through cultural linkages. Thus the global culture or the consumerist culture introduced. We see several changes in the youth life with longhaired, lash smoking, young man alcoholism e t c we see. Drug addition also became very popular.

There are obvious differences in the manifest behavior of a youth now. The reasons are possibly the product of modernization in education, changes in the religious thinking, social structure, urbanization and above all the aggressive marketing. Today’s youth are much familiar with the advances technologies and are able to access knowledge from any part of the world through Internet. Today’s youth are more aggressive and extroverts. They have no inhibitions to approach any one to sell his ideas. These all are the expressions of the consumerist culture in the youth. (C C Kartha.2007)


So far we are dealing with the Kerala consumption pattern and the emerging trend of consumerism in the society. Compared with all India level non-food consumption in Kerala is more between both lower and middle-income groups. Non-food consumption in rural Kerala has increased very much. People tend to spend much on consumer durables. These trends are due to certain factors, they are, and Kerala’s trade contacts with other countries provided new style of living. By making urban markets accessible to all people is another factor. Development of industry and further demand for the luxury goods are another factor.

The expenditure data showed that people in Kerala irrespective of their income spend significantly on non-food items. Expenditure on beverages refreshments processed food clothing and is enhanced by the consumer’s income, occupation education and region of residence. Higher expenditure on items falling under consumerism is found among the middle-income groups.


© Ayyar, K V Krishna. A Short History of Kerala.

© Menon, Sreedhara.1979.Social And Cultural History of Kerala.Sterling Publishers Pvt.Ltd. Jullandhar.

© Cherrian, P.J (edt). 1999. Perspectives in Kerala History. Kerala Gazetteers .Thiruvananthapuram.

© Soman, C.R (edt).2007.Kerala fifty years and Beyond. St.Joseph’s Press Thiruvanathapuram.

© Panicker, K.N .1997.Studies in Traditional Kerala. College Book House.Trivandrum.

© Mankekar, D.R. 1965. The Red Riddle of Kerala. Manaktalas. Mumbai.

© Panicker, K.M.1960.A History of Kerala 1498-1801. The Annamalai University.Annamalai Nagar.

© Nossiter, T.J.1982. Communism in Kerala.Oxford University Press. Delhi.

© Rendell, Yolanda (tran).1983.Religion and ideology in Kerala. Centre de Researches Socio-Religieuses.

© R Nair, Rama Krishnan. 1965. How Communist Came to Power in Kerala. Kerala Academy of Political Science.Tvm.

© Busby, Cecilia. The performance of Gender-Anthropology of Every Day Life in a South Indian Fishing Village. Antholone Press. London.

© Jaya Devan, T.N (edt).1988. Glimpses of Kerala. Government Press .Tvm.

© A Menon, Sreedhara.1982. Legacy of Kerala. Govt Press .Tvm.

© Pillai, K, Raman.2000. Kerala Rastriyathinte Anthardharakal.Kerala Bhasha Institute. Tvm

© Bhaskaran, N K (et .al).1956.Kerala Samuhathinte Janathipathyavalkaranam.




© www.prokerala/


© www.kerala-information/history-of-kerala.htm

© Singh K.S (ed) 2002.“People of India - Kerala. Affiliated East west

© Press PVT.Ltd New Delhi.

© Anandha Krishna Iyer.H.k.1982, "The tribes and castes of Cochin", Cosmo Publications .New Delhi.

© Menon.A Sreedhra.1979." Social and cultural History of India:state series-social and cultural history of Kerala". Sterling publishers Pvt Ltd. New Deldhi

© Arunima. G.2003 "There comes Papa-Colonialism and transformation of Matrilny in Kerala,Malabar(1850-1940)".Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi

© Joseph.Mariamma.1981."An enquiry in to the integration of the various strands in Syrian Catholic marreiage customes in Kerala",PhD Theses. Kerala Uty,Dept.Sociology

© "Kerala Charithram".vol II Kerala History Association .Ernakulam

© Schneider, David. M and Kathleen Gough,1972,"Matrilineal Kinship".

© H. Wheeler and co (Pvt) ltd.University California Press
© Osella filippo Osella Caroline.1988,Social "Moblity in Kerala- Modernity and Identity in conflict".

o Zachariah.K.C, et al.2002-Kerala’s gulf connections. Centre for Development Studies.Trivandrum

o Veluppilla.T.K.1996- Travancore state manual-Kerala Gazetteers Department

o Joseph.K.V.2006-Keralites on the move-Shipra publications.NewDelhi

o Sree kumar.Chathopadyay and W.Frank Richard.2006- Striving for sustainability –Concept publishing company. New Delhi

o Zachariah. K.c, et al.1997. Dynamics of Migration .New Delhi.

o Zachariah.K.C, Irudaya Rajan.S 1997- Kerala’s Demographic Transition Determinates and Consequences. New Delhi.

o Zachariah.K.C, Irudaya Rajan.S, Mathew E.T 2003. Dynamics of migration in Kerala. New Delhi.

o Economic Review 2006, Government of Kerala, State publication Kerala March 2007

o Census Report 2001, Government of Kerala.

o Sooryamoorthy.R.1991 The Emergence of Consumerism in Kerala. Thesis submitted to the University of Kerala for the degree of doctor of philosophy.

o P.V Antony 2003. Globalisation and shift in Identities- An enquiry into the dynamics of the formation of identities of the middle class people in Kerala. Thesis submitted to the University of Kerala for the degree of doctor of philosophy in sociology.

o Kartha C. C.2007.Kerala Fifty Years and Beyond. Thiruvananthapur

© Dr. U D Mahapatro, Adivasis: Their problems and remedies

© C.N. Sankar Rao: The Principles of sociology, 2004. S. Chand Publication, New Delhi

© P .A. Rao: Institutional frame work for Tribal Development

© Nettor P. Damodaran; Adivasikalude Keralam

© Prof. A. Sridhar monon: kerala and freedom struggle.

© Andre Bateilli, 1969, Caste Old and New Essays in Social Structure and Social Stratification, Asia publishing house.

© Fillips Rosella and Caroling Osella: Social Mobility in kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict

© J. Prabash,2001: Affirmative Action and Social Change, Social Mobility of Dalit: Amol Publication: New Delhi

© P J Cheriyan, Essays on the Perspectives on Kerala History. Kerala State Gazetteers, Dept of Kerala.


© Economic review, Govt of Kerala, 2006.

© Mathew, Fish Workers Movement in Kerala (1977) Mumbai

© Abraham, C.M. 1996, Fish Workers Movement in Kerala. Mumbai, institute for community organization research.

© Dr. Rajan, j, The Fishing Economy of Kerala, kollam, jubilee publishing house.

© Techno- socio-economic survey of fisher folk in kerala-1990-The department of fisheries, kerala, Trivandrum.


Catalyst said...

Hi Heena,

Your page layout is awesome. But could you please put it in a light colour, without any bright background. so that one can read it.


Dr Purva Pius said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of S$250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:( Thank you.


1. Name Of Applicant in Full:……..
2. Telephone Numbers:……….
3. Address and Location:…….
4. Amount in request………..
5. Repayment Period:………..
6. Purpose Of Loan………….
7. country…………………
8. phone…………………..
9. occupation………………
11.Monthly Income…………..

Email Kindly Contact: