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The title derives from the ancient Hindu varna system of social division, as any person not belonging to one of the four varnas (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) was referred to as an Anjuvannan. The word comes from the Tamil words anju (five/fifth) and vannam or varnam (varna).
Since the 11th century AD, the term was used in India to refer primarily to a merchant community of Jews in Malabar, whose leader was granted land rights by Cera king. He authorized Issuppu Irappan (interpreted to be Joseph Rabban, a prominent Jewish merchant chief on the Malabar Coast) to own, inhabit, trade and prosper on an exclusive land at the port of Cranganore, near Cochin.
From the 18th century on-wards, the term Anjuvannam is not widely used.