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Ambalavasi is a generic name for a group of castes among Hindus in Kerala who render temple services. Those that practise matrilineality share many cultural similarities with the Nair caste and are probably related to them,[1] but some Ambalavasi groups instead practice patrilineality.[2]

Castes and professions[edit]

The castes which comprised the Ambalavasi community each contained only a few members. They lived in villages either where the land was owned solely by one Nambudiri Brahmin family or where the land was owned by a temple, the running of which was in the control of a group of Nambudiri families. The latter villages were called sanketams.[1]

The temples in which they worked comprised four basic types:[1]

  • those in sanketams were large and were dedicated to deities which were worshipped throughout India, such as Shiva and Vishnu.
  • private temples, owned by Nambudiri families, which were smaller versions of those found in the sanketams.
  • the private temples of the royal lines, feudatory chiefs and vassal chiefs of what is now Kerala, which were dedicated to Bhagavati and Bhadrakali
  • village temples dedicated to Bhagavati and run by senior Nairs who had been appointed by local rulers


The Chakyar are the highest-ranked of the Ambalavasis in ritual terms, along with the Pushpagans. They recited stories from the Puranas.[1]


Pushpagans ranked with the Chakyar and were the gatherers of flowers for the temples. As with the Chakyar and indeed the Nambudiri Brahmins themselves, they were a patrilineal caste.[1]


Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gough, E. Kathleen (1961). "Nayars: Central Kerala". In Schneider, David Murray; Gough, E. Kathleen. Matrilineal Kinship. University of California Press. pp. 309–311. ISBN 978-0-520-02529-5. 
  2. ^ a b Fuller, Christopher J. (1976). The Nayars Today. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-52129-091-3. 
  3. ^ a b Joseph, George Gheverghese (2016). Indian Mathematics: Engaging with the World from Ancient to Modern Times. World Scientific. p. 357. ISBN 978-1-78634-063-4. 

External links[edit]