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Total population
19 thousand
Regions with significant populations

Kanikkaran is one of the important tribes who have settled down in large tribal communities in the whole state of Kerala, India. According to 2007 census there are 19,000 Kanikkars,[1] living in several districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They dwell in forests or near to forests in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam in Kerala, and Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Although there are financially advanced people within this group, most of them are backward. These Kanikkar tribes are very attractive to look at with black body, circular head, and curled hair, broad nose.[2]

Though they cultivate everything and make agriculture as the main profession, they have a special liking for fishing and hunting. Literacy is estimated to be around 53.84%.[3] Kaanikkar Nritham is a form of group dance performed as a rural offering.[4]


Concerning their genealogy and genesis they have interesting stories. Aryans who moved from north to south called them Kanikkar, which literally means landlords, descendants of the Kings, gave their offerings to Attingal King. Thus they are so called. Another story concerning them is that they derived the name Malayarayan from Hindu mythological Sage, Agasthya. They claim that once they were the rulers of the area comprising Trivandrum, Kollam, parts of Kanyakumari dist and claim that they were here even before the Dravidians, and claim to be the original people of the land. It is a fact that they had a special place among the rulers of Travancore and they were treated without any discrimination and did not come under the untouchability practiced in Kerala. They had free and unrestricted access to all the temples including Sreepadmanabha temple since time immemorial their children were admitted in palace run schools including Kilimanoor even before abolition of caste system and Kshetrapravesana Vilambaram. They were not confined to hills alone, they were present in the areas nearer to the coast like Kazhakuttam, Kulathoor, Uloor, etc.


Kanikkars are interested in music. They have many melodious songs composed. Even though it is said their language is a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam dialects, they have their own mother tongue, which is centuries old.[1][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kanikkaran A language of India. The Ethnologue Website, retrieved November 21, 2009
  2. ^ Spirits Can be Tied to Palms! KANIKKAR. Focus On People, retrieved August 20, 2011
  3. ^ Major Tribals in Kerala. Focus On People, retrieved August 20, 2011
  4. ^ Tribal Dances. The PRD Kerala Website, retrieved August 20, 2011
  5. ^ Lewis, Paul M., ed. (2009), Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition, SIL International, ISBN 978-1-55671-216-6