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The Samanta Kshatriya are a community resident in Kerala, India. The Samanta Kshatriyas make up a part of the erstwhile royal families of the Hindu Kingdoms and princely states that existed in Kerala until the creation of the Indian Republic. Since most of the members of the Samanta Kshatriya community were royalty, their residences are still called Swaroopams or kottaram or kovilakams which all mean palace in Malayalam. Members of this community hold the surname Koil Thampuran, Varma and Raja. Unlike most Kshatriyas (warriors) found in India, Samanta Kshatriyas did not actively take part in warfare (apart from rare instances), relying instead on their cousins like the Kiryathil Nairs and Illathu Nairs to command armies. The Samanta Kshatriya also followed a matrilineal system of inheritance known as marumakkathayam.
Change in caste status
During historic times, the entire coastal region from Gokarnam (near Goa) to Cape Comorin were divided in to 17 naads, the rulers of which were mostly Samanta Kshatriyas and Samantan Nairs. But over the course of time, independent Nair chiefs declared their own kingdoms, so that during the invasion of Malabar by Tippu Sultan, there were 35 Naads in Malabar alone. 12 of these were ruled were Samanta Kshatriyas.
The 35 Principalities (Naads) in Malabar were: Kottayam, Kadathanad, Kurumbranad, Tamarasseri-Wynad, North Parappanad, South Parappanad, Valluvanad, Vadamalapuram, Tenmalapuram, Kolathunad (All ruled by Samanta Kshatriyas); Polanad, Payyanad, Ramanad, Cheranad, Nedunganad, Naduvattam, Kuttanad, Chavakkad, Chetwai, Eranad, Neeleswaram, Konad, Kodikkunninad, Kingdom of Tanur (Vettattnad), Kakkad, Beypore,(All ruled by Samantan Nairs); Talapilli, Chirakkal, Kollamkode, Punnathur (All ruled by Nambidi's); Chengazhinad,( ruled by Chengazhi Nambiar);Kavalapara, Kurangott, Payyurmala, Pulavai (All ruled by Moopil Nairs).
The royal families of Travancore-Cochin area were: Thiruvithamkod-Trippapur (Venad Swaroopam), Attingal, Kottarakkara (Elayadathu Swaroopam ), Quilon (Desinganad), Karunagapalli, Karthikapalli, Kayamkulam, Panthalam, Thekkumkur, Vadakkumkur, Punjar, Airur, Paravur, Alangad, Edapalli, Karappuram & Cranganore.
Various royal clans in Kerala fought bitterly for supremacy against each other. The Raja of Cochin, who was elevated to the Suryavanshi clan of the Kshatriya caste by the Namboothiri openly insulted the Zamorin, who belonged to the Eradi subdivision of Samantan Nair caste, calling him a cowherd. Zamorin tried to elevate himself to the Samanta Kshatriya status by performing the Hiranyagarbha Yagna, but fierce opposition by his opponents (Most notable of whom were the Maharaja of Cochin) forced the Namboothiris of Malabar to abandon the plan. Instead the Zamorin, who was an ordinary Nair was elevated to the Samantan Nair caste by performing the Padmagarbha Yagna.
Notable Samanta Kshatriyas
- Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
- Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi
- Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi
- Raja Ravi Varma[Kilimanoor Palace]
- Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma
- Moolam Thirunal Maharajah
- Balarama Varma Avittam Thirunal
- Ayilyam Thirunal Maharajah
- Prince Ravi Varma (1745-1793)- Royal House of Zamorins
- Hindu Kingship and the Origin of Community: Religion, State and Society in Kerala, 1750-1850 Susan Bayly Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1984), pp. 177–213