Pushpaka Brahmin is a generic term that refer to a group of various Hindu Brahmin castes of Kerala in the Ambalavasi community. Pushpaka Brahmin include primarily two castes - Pushpakas (or Pushpaka Unnis) and Nambeesanas, who were assigned the job of tending flowers and making garlands in the Hindu temples and were given rights to teach sacred texts and Sanskrit language in the Pathasalas associated with Hindu temples , just like in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh [[Pathak]] Teaching field . Later some other communities like Theeyatt Unnis, Kurukkal, Puppallis etc. having similar culture and temple related jobs were also considered to be Pushpaka Brahmins.
|No.||Castes||Malayalam Name||Feminine Names||House Name||Remarks|
(Puppalikan or Plappalli or Pilappalli)
(പൂപ്പാലികൻ / പ്ലാപ്പള്ളി / പിലാപ്പള്ളി)
|Pushpakam, Pumadom, Pumuttam|
Pushpaka Brahmins are traditionally occupied in temple related jobs and arts.
They are generally engaged in jobs like teaching of Sanskrit language and sacred texts in the Pathasalas associated with temples, bringing flowers for pooja and Yajna, garland making, lighting the temple lamps, carry the lamps when idols are taken round in procession, distribution of prasadam and flowers, serving of consecrated water, preparation of food to be offered to deity, cleaning the temple etc.
They also perform actual priestly activities of the temple, but only on behalf of the main priest or in the absence of main priest. The main priest will be generally from Namboothiri Brahmin community. However, the Kurukkal and Pushpakan castes have tantric rights in certain Siva temples and Devi temples of South Kerala.
In Yajnas, their primary function is to serve as Adhvaryu (the priest's assistant) and is in charge of the physical details of the ritual like measuring the ground, building the homakunda etc. The adhvaryu offers oblations.
They are also associated with art-forms like Koodiyattam and Theeyattu. Pushpakan (Unni) perform certain roles of Koodiyattam. Theeyattunnis are associated with Theeyattu. Women of Nambeesan caste, known as Brahmani Ammas, are associated with Brahmani pattu.
Pushpaka Brahmins have resemblance with Namboothiri Brahmins in their dress and customs. Traditionally they are vegetarians. They practice shodasa samskaras of Hindu tradition. In the past, Upanayanam - the sacred thread wearing ceremony, was carried out for four days, but in contemporary times it is observed only for one day.
- The punyaha or purificatory ceremony after pollution for Pushpaka Brahmins was performed through the agency of Namboothiris. At the present time, learned men from Pushpaka Brahmins are employed for this purpose.
- The punyaha of Nambeesans was performed by Pushpakans or Nambeesans themselves.
- The neck ornament of women was Cheruthalikkoottam, and the ear ornament was Kathila.
- Namboothiri women (Antharjanams) were not allowed to wear coloured dress. They were supposed to wear only white dress. They were not allowed to pierce nose. Further, a Namboothiri woman was not allowed to look at any man other than her husband, father, grandfather or her brothers on either side. Namboothiri women were not allowed to move out of the house without a maid. These types of restrictions were not generally observed by Pushpaka Brahmin women.
- Brahmanis (women of Nambeesans) sing religious songs on the occasion of marriage among all castes from Kshatriyas to Nāyars. However, Pushpaka women or Kurukkal women never go out to sing on marriage occasions.
- During Achamana, Namboothiris were not allowed to take bath before sunrise. Such a restriction was not observed by Pushpaka Brahmins.
- In the wedding rituals (i.e. Vivaha), a Namboothiri bride always wear white dress while the Pushpaka bride will wear coloured dress, preferably red. The auspicious thread which is knotted around the bride's neck is referred to by Pushpakabrahmins as Mangalyasutra, whereas it is referred to by Namboodiris as Kanthasutra. In a Pushpaka Brahmin marriage, it is the groom who ties it around the bride's neck, whereas in a Namboodiri marriage, it is the bride's father who ties the Kanthasutra to bride's neck.
- Like Namboothiris, Pushpaka Brahmins also wear only one "Poonool" (Yajnopaveetham, sacred thread) even after marriage, whereas Paradesi brahmins wear two sacred threads after marriage.
- Upon father's or mother's death, Namboothiris were bound to observe "Deeksha" for one year and at the end of "Deeksha" on the 12th month, Sapindi was performed. Pushpaka Brahmins generally didn't practice this one year Deeksha.
In modern days, Pushpaka Brahmins are reluctant to cling to their traditional professions like priesthood, teaching (in Pathasalas), malakettu (garland making), vilakkeduppu (lamp bearing) etc. due to low income from these professions. Sree Pushpakabrahmana Seva Sangham is an organisation working for the welfare of Pushpakabrahmin castes.
Prominent Pushpaka Brahmins
- Kottarathil Sankunni - renowned Malayalam writer
- K. S. Neelakantan Unni - renowned Sanskrit scholar
- Divya Unni - cine actress and classical dancer
- Remya Nambeesan - cine actress and singer
- Meera Nandan - cine actress
- Rose, Suma (2004). Polity, Society, and Women: With Special Reference to Travancore, 1700-1900 A.D. Carmel International Publishing House. p. 217. ISBN 9788187655374. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Report of the Commission for Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions, Kerala, 1965. Kerala: Commission for Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions. 1965.
- Sarvavijnanakosam (in Malayalam). Government of Kerala. p. Ampalavasikal (അമ്പലവാസികള്). Quote: "പുഷ്പകന് (ഉണ്ണി) - പുഷ്പിണി (അത്തേരമ്മ) - ഇവര് ആചാരനടപടികളിലും മറ്റും നമ്പീശന്മാരോടു സമാനരാണ്; പേരില് ഭേദമുണ്ടെങ്കിലും."
- Sarabhai, Mallika (1994). Performing Arts of Kerala. Mapin Pub.
- "62 Priests to Travancore Devaswam Board" (in Malayalam). Malayala Manorama. Quote:തിരുവിതാംകൂർ ദേവസ്വം ബോർഡ് ക്ഷേത്രങ്ങളിലേക്ക് 62 ശാന്തിക്കാർ കൂടി - നായർ, വാരിയർ, മാരാർ, പുഷ്പകർ എന്നീ വിഭാഗങ്ങളിൽനിന്ന് ആരുമില്ല.