Nambiar (Nair subcaste)

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Regions with significant populations
Mostly in North Malabar.
Related ethnic groups
Kiryathil Nairs, Kurups, Nayanars, Sāmantans

The Nambiār, also known as Nambiyār, is an Indian caste who were historically the landlord clans in the North Malabar region of Kerala.[1][2][page needed] The Nambiars are in many ways similar to Nair, however marital alliance with other Nairs southward is prohibited, due to different ethnic origin. In a broader sense, term "Nambiar" is used to cover all those Samanthan Nair clans of North Malabar even if they hold titles of Kidave, Nayar, Kurup, Nayanar, Adiyodi and so on.[3]

Men of this clan affix Nambiār as their caste name. Nambiārs were Rājas, Sāmantans[4][better source needed] and Nāduvazhi (chiefs of fiefdoms and leaders of militias) and Jenmimar (landed gentry). Kolathiri, the Edachery Nambiars, the Rājā of Kadathanādu, Randuthara Achanmār (chiefs of Poyanādu),"Chulali Swarupam" ( descendents of last perumal) and the Iruvalinādu Nambiyārs (chiefs of Iruvalinādu) belonged to this clan. The largest landlords of Malabar belonged to the Nambiar clan.[5]

Position in society[edit]

Sthānam holders (dignities)[edit]

Nambiārs like other Nāyars in north Malabār, until the early twentieth century held a prejudice that they were superior to their counterparts in South Malabar. In earlier days, Nambiār women, like most women of Nāyar clans of north Malabar would not unite herself to Nāyar men of South Malabar, nor to Nāyarr men from central and south Kerala. Therefore such superior-clan Nāyar woman of North Malabār (Nambiār women being no exception), could not pass the hills to the eastward and the Elathur River to the south. It was a taboo and breach of which involved forfeiture of caste[2][6][7][page needed]

However in the early twentieth century, wives of government employees (stationed outside north Malabār) began to accompany their husbands and such customs and prejudices died out in due course.[citation needed]

Customs and practices[edit]

Nambiārs followed the Marumakkathayam (Matrilineal) system of inheritance with both uxorilocal and virilocal marriages and lived in units called Tharavadus (matrilineal joint-family). General Nair customs and practices like pulikudi, irupethiettu, choroonu, Kāthukuthu, Vidyārambham, Tālikettu, Thirandukalyānam and pudamuri among Nambiārs were practised. Kolathiri Royal family was also Nambiars. As Nambiars were the top-most- Nair clan, they never did marriage alliance with Nambuthiries.[2]

Nambiārs take part in extensive Serpent / (Nāga), Vettakkorumakan and Daivathar worship along with the worship of Shiva, Durga and Vishnu as their clan-deities (Kula Daivam).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harold Coward (1 January 1993). Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 192–. ISBN 978-81-208-1158-4. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Nairs of Malabar by Fawcett, Asian Educational Services, NewDelhi. 1990.
  3. ^ Gough, Kathleen and Schneider, David – "Matrilineal Kinship"
  4. ^ Castes and Tribes of Southern India, by Edgar Thurston and K Rangachari .
  5. ^ "Organised Struggles of Malabar Peasantry 1934–1940"
  6. ^ Miller, Eric J. 1954. Caste and Territory in Malabar. American Anthropologists 56(3):410–420
  7. ^ Miller, Eric J. 1955. Village Structure in North Kerala. In M.N. Srinivas ed. India's Village. Bombay: Media Promoters & Publishers