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Introduction / History
The Ayyanavar is a caste formed by migration. It is said that the ancestor of Ayyanavar was the Eyinar clan who worshipped the goddess Kali or Kottavai. The Eyinar occupied Alkaudu, the present Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. The Chera Dynasty arose from this clan.
Chilappathikaram, the Tamil epic mentions the Eyinar. Later the Eyinar merged with the castes Kallar, Maravar and Agamudayar (Mukkulathor) and Vanniyar. A sub division of the Kallar worshipped the male deity Ayyanar and it became the Ayyanar caste. After successive settlements in different parts of south India they are supposed to have migrated to south Travancore via Aramboly (Aralvaimozhi) during the invasion of Tippu Sultan and lived for some time near Pannivaikal. They settled at Parassala and then went to different regions of the present Thiruvanathapuram district of Kerala and Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. After the migration to south Travancore the name Ayyanar was changed to Ayyanavar. Malayalam and Tamil are the languages spoken by the members of the Ayyanavar caste in Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively.
Where are they Located?
They are found mostly in Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyatinkara and Nedumangad taluks of Thiruvananthapuram district (Kerala state) and Vilavancode, Kalkulam and Agastheeswaram taluks of Kanyakumari district (Tamilnadu state).
What are Their Lives Like?
It is said that the joint family system existed in olden days. Now the family of the Ayyanavar is nuclear type. The head of the family is the father. After the death of the father, the eldest son succeeds as the head of the family. The head looks after the other members. The norms governing the members of the family are love and respect. The main causes of conflict and confrontation are dispute on property and violation of norms.
The women and men have equal status. Cruelty, adultery and maladjustments etc. are the grounds of divorce.
Most of them work as casual wage laborers in plantation and agricultural sectors. Animal husbandry is a subsidiary occupation. A few who own land cultivate it themselves. Some of them have found employment in government and private sectors (entrepreneurs, scholars, teachers, administrators, other white collar workers and defense personnel)
They are non-vegetarians. Rice is the staple food. They consume all available vegetables, pulses and tuber crops. Fish and meat are popular non-vegetarian items.
Marriage proposals are initiated from the bridegroom's side and thali is the symbol of married women. Wedding ceremony is simple. When the bride receives the pudava or mundu (loin cloth) from the bridegroom she becomes the wife of the bridegroom.
Puberty rites, pre-delivery rituals and post–delivery pollutions are observed. Naming ceremony and charadukettu or irupathyettukettu (tying waist band) are celebrated on the 28th day after the birth of a child. The dead body is either buried or cremated. Death pollution continues for 16 days.
What are Their Beliefs?
There are Hindus and Christians. The Hindus worship Lord Siva, Badrakali, Madan, Krishna, Ayyapan and Subramonian. The Christian sects are Catholic and Protestants. The Protestant denominations are Church of South India (CSI), Salvation Army, Evangelical Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostal Church, Jehovah's Witness, Church of God and Marthoma.
1. Memorandum: dt 10-04- 1919, submitted by the South Travancore Aiyanavar Sanghom to His Excellency M. Krishnan Nair Esq. B. A., B. L.,
Dewan bahadur. Dewan of Travancore. Page No: 2
2. Census of Travancore, 1931. xxvii: Madras Government Press, Madras.
3. Sannyasini, Rasanjam, Jois, M 1973 Entre Jeevitha Smaranakal – Pravachana Pradeepika Press, Trivandrum. Page No. 221 (Malayalam)
4. Cholayil, M. L. , 1984. Ayyanavar Oru Legucharitram. (Ayyanavar: A Short History), Trivandrum. (Malayalam).
5. Geneviere Lemercinier, 1994 Religion and Ideologie in Kerala – Institute for the study of developing Areas – Trivandrum. Page No: 22.
6. People of India – Kerala volume XXVII Part One – General Editor, K. S. Singh – Anthropological Survey of India – Affiliated East – West Press Pvt Ltd. New Delhi.
7. www. keralawindow. net/Hindu_A.htm#ayy
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