Nair Caste

Other Spellings : Nayar

Other Surnames / Gotras : The Nair class name includes Menon, Panicker, Kurup, Pillai, Unni, Unnithan, Kartha, Thampan, Kaimal, Nayanar, Thampi, Nambiar, and Mannadiar

Religion : Hindu

Varna : Kshatriya

Language : Malayalam

Chief Deity : 'Naga God' (Snake God).

Regional Spread : Southern Indian state of Kerala

Traditional Occupation : Warrior

Food Habits : Most Nairs are vegetarians. Nairs who eat non-vegetarian most take fish and avoid beef as they consider cows to be sacred.

Marriage Preference : Within the community or within related communities.

Famous Personalities
  • KPS Menon - India's first Foreign Secretary
  • Shashi Tharoor - Under-Sec-General for Communications and Public Information-UN
  • Anita Nair - English novelist and poet
  • JKP Nair - founder NAIR Corporation
  • Rajiv Nair - former President, Microsoft India
  • Adoor Gopalakrishnan - film director and Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner
  • Balan K. Nair - actor
  • MKK Nair - man who built the Bhilai Steel Plant
History and Origin
Nairs are an integral part of Kerala's culture and have a long and illustrious history. The word 'Nair' is either derived from the Sanskrit word 'Nayaka' (leader) or 'Naga' (snakes, which the Nairs worshipped). The origin of the Nair caste is not certain. Some anthropologists are of the view that the Nairs are not indigenous to Kerala, as many customs and traditions distinguished them from other Keralites.

Some believe Nairs are the descendants of the Newars of Nepal, who migrated to Kerala. There are two major facts to support this view. The first is the lighter complexion, and sharper features of Nairs. The second is the distinct pagoda-like architectural style of Nair Tharavaadus and temples. Besides, they have the distinct Marumakkathaayam (matrilineal) system of inheritance. Some anthropologists, however, say that Nairs were originally a Dravidian people, but gained lighter complexion and sharper features due to the marriages with the Namboothiris.

Nairs were mentioned during the reign of the King Rama Varma Kulashekhara (1020-1102) of second Chera dynasty, when the Chera Kingdom was attacked by the Cholas. The Nairs fought by forming suicide squads (Chavers) against the invading force. The Nairs gradually lost their supremacy over the land after the collapse of the second Chera kingdom. By this time, the Namboothiris replaced the Nairs as the seniormost class in the social hierarchy of Kerala.

Nairs are also said to be the creators of Kalaripayattu - the world's oldest form of martial arts.

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