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, but some Ambalavasi groups instead practice patrilineality.
Castes and professions
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.
The temples in which they worked comprised four basic types:
- 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
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.
- 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.
- Fuller, Christopher J. (1976). The Nayars Today. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-52129-091-3.
- 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.