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Nalavar also Nalava is a Sri Lankan Tamil caste and traditionally toddy tappers and land owners.
It is a unique caste as one of the Tamil castes that is not found in Tamil Nadu (see Koviar). Some have assumed this to be due to indigenous development where as others have speculated that it is a Tamil social group that assumed independent identity in Sri Lanka. The Nadar of Tamil Nadu, Ezhavas and Thiyyas or Malabar claim this identity. Those who assume an indigenous origin say that Nalavar are derived from a Sinhalese social group speculated to be Nilavo that was left behind during the ascendancy of the Jaffna Kingdom where as competing theory suggests that Nalavar are similar in composition to Sanar or Nadar of Tamil Nadu who have a different local name.
After Sri Lanka's independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lankan Tamil politics was geared towards a nationalistic cause that did not take into account the emancipation and progress of its castes. Thus the improvements in social indicators came about with the advent of progressive forces in Colombo such as the election of Sinhala nationalistic but socialist oriented SLFP governments in Colombo. Schools and small scale industries were built that enabled the community to breakthrough the cultural shackles that had held it down for centuries.
The advent of the civil war since the Black July pogrom has retarded most of these gains and has made the community improvised again. Many have sought to escape the deprivations by seeking refugee status in Europe and North America and are merging with the host population or the Tamil diaspora. Although lingering castist discrimination especially in marriages is still observed, in general they have been integrated as part of the migrant Tamil communities of all castes.