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The title is used by Ayurvedic physicians and their descendants. It is not a caste name, but, was more prevalent among the traditional ayurvedic physicians of Kaniyar or Ganaka community in the Travancore region of Kerala
For the last two centuries,this title has been in use among many other communities too, including Ezhava of Hindus and some families of Christians in Kerala.The surnames is therefore, has its root to a profession of practicing ayurvedic medicine.
Similar occupational surnames like Vaidhya, Vaid, Vaidhh, Vaidh, Vaidya, Baid, Baidya are found in persons of other regions of India.The name Vaidyar is different from Vaadhyar of Karnataka state, which is a different community of people.
History and communities
Ever since the recorded history of Kerala, the Ganaka or Kaniyar community were generally noted for their traditional practice of herbal medicine ( Ayurveda ) in addition to astrology, particularly in southern region( Travancore). Male members of the families of traditional ayurvedic practitioners where known as vaidyan or vaidyar.The descendants who followed the same practice were also addressed with this title.Many of them where excellent in Visha chikilsa ( Toxicology ), Bala chikitsa( Paediatrics ).
Those who where expert in Mruga chikitsa ( Veterinary ) were known as Kaalha vaidyans. Similarly in southern Malabar and Kochi regions of Kerala, there were many Kalari Vaidyans of Kalari panickers families ( a sect of Kaniyar ) who were well known for Kalari marma chikitsa.
The Ayurvedic practice as an avocation of Kaniyar were ascribed to their traditions of origin.They were scholarly people ever since the sangham age of thamizhagm, particularly in the subjects of astrology, sanskrit and ayurveda . They used palm leaf scripts containing formulas of medical prescriptions, to pass this tradition, securely, through generations.
From eighteenth century on wards some members of Ezhava community also learned ayurveda and sanskrit form Asans and began practicing Herbal medicine. Names of many such Ezhava Vaidyans from social renaissance period and on wards are noted by the community and recorded in the books.Itti Achuden was reportedly an Ezhava,who helped Gowda saraswatha Brahmin Vaidyans from south canara to identify local names of herbs seen in the mountain regions of Malabar to prepare a Dutch treatise Hortus Malabaricus on plants of Malabar.Eventually he became a notable person as a Vaidyar. .
Christian vaidyans referred to the Syrian Christian Vaidyar (suriyani) families, who have their family roots in Kallada and Thevalakkara, (Kollam) two places on both the banks of the Kallada river. Many of them carried the title even without practice of the profession, because it was a bestowed title. given as an honour by the King of Travancore several centuries ago on account of treating the Maharaja's prince. The Maharaja presented the patriarch with earrings, a decree of the honour on copper plates, and land without tax along with the title, "Vaidyar". However, the practice of naming every son in the family with the suffix, Vaidyar or Vaidyan, is no longer seemed to be in practice.Some of the common names among these families were, Philipose Vaidyar, Kochukunju Vaidyan, Thomas Vaidyan, Varghese Vaidyan, Koshy Vaidyan etc. The Syrian Vaidyar families from Kallada also migrated to Nilambur in the early sixties and they are found around the world. There was a famous Thevalakkara Eye Hospital in Kottayam which is extinct now.
The Chamavila Vaidyar families in Chokkad, Nilambur, Malappuram, Kerala are from the Kallada Vaidyar family who had been living in Kaithacode, near Kallada. The family migrated to Nilambur in 1969. There were similar such migrations to other parts though information on these is scarce. The Chamavila Government school in Kaithacode was originally owned and managed by the Chamavila Vaidyar family. Philipose Vaidyar who was born in 1962 and lives in Chokkad, Nilambur may be one the latest individual who carries the title.
The name Arya vaidyan was used to address ayurvedic practitioners belonging to particularly the Brahmins and allied community people. The Kottackal Arya Vaidyasala and the Coimbatore Arya Vaidya Pharmacy comes from a different branch of families in Malappuram and Palghat Districts. They belong to the Varier community. Both these medical companies have a big network of hospitals and franchises mainly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and also across India and in some other parts of the world.