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Pallikoodam or Ezhuthupally Pally is a word in Malayalam and Tamil that denotes a school.[1] These were mostly village schools run by individual teachers (Ezhuthu pally Aashaans or Asans or Gurus) and were distinct from Kalaris that taught martial arts.[2][3]


The real meaning of Pallikkoodam is a sacred place for education. In medieval Kerala, Jain Derasars and Buddhist viharas were known as 'Ezhuthupally Pally. When Budha bhiskhus started small schools, they were called Pallikkoodam.[4] A generally accepted explanation of the etymology of this Malayalam word is that it is a blend word formed out of two Malayalam words Palli and Koodam and that this originated from the centuries-old Buddhist practice. The word Palli usually denotes respect. Palliunarthal referring to respectable word to describe the morning awakening of a king. Pallurakkam, is another word which commence with the same sound "palli" respectable word to express a King's sleep. It is not known from when the word "palli" started using in the language though but it denotes the respect attached to the word. Malayalam word for "Church / Mosque" is also later referred to as "Palli".

Wherever existed, Buddhists missionaries were active in spreading literacy and education across . The Buddhist monasteries, known as the Viharas were turned into educational institutes as the demand went high for Buddhist teachings, These were called ‘Palli’ in Kerala. Ezhuthupalli, that were run later near Hindu temples are considered to be school legacy of Viharas.

The schools that were set up near to the temples were called as Ezhuthupalli.

Even now the schools in Kerala are called as Pallikoodam in Malayalam. In Sri Lankan Tamil, too, the word Pallikkoodam is used.

Also said that it is used by the Malankara Syrian Church in Kerala to run a school along with (Malayalam word: കൂടെ, Transliteration: Koode) each and every major church (Malayalam word: പള്ളി, Transliteration: Palli) of the locality.


There were different forms of Pallikoodams that were established across Kerala offering different levels of education, with some regional variations. Kudippallikoodam was by far the most important, popular and wide spread form, since most of the students except clerics, priests or scholarly professionals would usually stop after receiving elementary education and start working on their professions.


Kudippallikoodam (കുടിപ്പള്ളിക്കൂടം) also known as 'Aashan Pallikoodam' (ആശാൻ പള്ളിക്കൂടം) was a popular form of schooling. This was an indigenous elementary schooling method where an instructor or aashan (ആശാൻ) would teach young children about alphabets, numbers, elementary arithmetic, writing as well as generic aspects of life such as personal discipline, cleanliness, morality and general knowledge. Young students are initially trained on writing by making them write on sand. Once they are comfortable with writing on sand, the students would upgrade themselves to writing on the common writing medium i.e. palm leaves (Thaliyola or Palm-leaf manuscripts) as the writing material and iron pen (Narayam) as the writing instrument (stylus) to scribe on them.

In the 20th century CE, the writing medium mostly got upgraded into wooden slates and chalk. This continued to be the case until the system almost completely died out by the dawn of 21st century CE.

Revival Efforts[edit]

Some efforts have been undertaken in recent times to revive the traditional teaching methods and tools. A noteworthy example is the initiative titled Malayalam Pallikoodam that was proposed by the famous Malayalam Poet V Madhusoodanan Nair. This initiative tried to revive the use of wooden slates instead of paper notebooks and pencils for teaching Malayalam, and has received significant attention from parents.[5]

See also[edit]


"The Buddhist History of Kerala". Retrieved 4 April 2016. Link:

  1. ^ Rajnish, Manu. STATE OF MIND. Manu Rajnish. ISBN 9789350871270.
  2. ^ Wilson, Kokkat (2016). Contributions of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Congregation to Education in Kerala: 1831-2008. Dharmaram Publications, Dharmaram College. ISBN 9789384964436.
  3. ^ Menon, Dilip M. (1 December 2015). "Writing History in Colonial Times: Polemic and the Recovery of Self in Late Nineteenth-Century South India". History and Theory. 54 (4): 64–83. doi:10.1111/hith.10779. ISSN 1468-2303.
  4. ^ "The Buddhist History of Kerala". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  5. ^ Kumar, Kaavya Pradeep (10 August 2014). "Reliving the 'pallikoodam' experience". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 1 December 2017.