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The term Malayala Kshatriya is used by a number of warrior and aristocratic clans belonging to the Nair caste claiming Chandravanshi and Nagavanshi Kshatriya descent in Kerala.The Nagavanshi Kshatriyas who closely resemble the Bunt (community) of Tulunadu.The Malayala Kshatriya dynasties folowed Matriarchy unlike the earlier Tamil kings from Chera dynasty Ay kingdom and Pandyan kingdom who were Patriarchal.

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Subdivisions

His Highness Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the Last Ruling Maharajah of Travancore

Koil Thampuran

The highest ranking Kshatriyas in Kerala were some of the royal/chieftain subdivisions belonging to the Samanta Kshatriya subcaste, popularly known as Koil Thampurans. There were 10 Koil Thampuran clans in Travancore, the most ancient were the ones settled at Kilimanoor (in Attingal). The Kilimanoor Koil Thampurans were awarded freehold during 1728 AD. During Tippu's invasion, some more Koil Thampurans immigrated to Travancore and settled in Kirtipuram (near Kandiyoor in Mavelikkara), Pallam (in Kottayam), Paliyakkara (in Thiruvalla) and Nirazhi palace (in Changanasseri). The original clans split among themselves and new clans were established at Anantapuran (in Karthikapalli) and Chemprol (in Thiruvalla). FInally, three more clans arrived from Malabar and established themselves at Cherukol, Karamma and Vatakkematham.[2]

The highest ranking clans among the Koil Thampurans, and thus the highest ranking Kshatriyas in Kerala, were those belonging to the four royal families (Kottayam Royal Family, Beypore Royal Family, Cochin Royal Family and the Kodungalloor Chiefly Family).[3]

Controversy

The Nambuthiri Brahmins, who formed the top most division of the Malayala Brahmins never recognized any of the castes among Indian Hindus as proper Kshatriyas, claiming that Parashurama exterminated the entire Kshatriya race during the Treta yuga. Therefore the Nair Kings (known as Thampurans and Rajahs) had to depend either on the Arya Pattar community or the Embraanthiri community for their coronation ceremonies. In order to attain recognition from the Nambuthiris, the Rajas of Kerala had to undergo a ceremony known as Hiranyagarbha, which grants them Samanta Kshatriya status, which was similar to the situation faced by Maratha kings like Shivaji. The Samanta Kshatriyas were recognized by the Nambuthiris as equal to proper Kshatriyas (Samanta means equivalent to). Still, majority of the Rajas in Kerala refused to undergo this ceremony, challenging the Namboothiri preisthood.[4]

Some of the ruling clans started performing the ritual of Upanayanam (wearing sacred thread) during 17th century AD. Since the Namboothiris refused to perform this ceremony, Embraanthiris were asked to perform it. The first Malayala Kshatriya to undergo Upanayanam was Kolathiri Udaya Varman in AD 1617.

Extintion of Perumal dynasty

Before the arrival of the Nāgās (Nairs), Kerala was ruled by the Perumal dynasty (Chera Kingdom). The Perumals found the newly arrived Nairs fit for military service against their rivals, the Cholas. Jewish and Syrian copper plate inscriptions indicated that the King, Cheraman Perumal ruled the entire Chera Kingdom with the help of his four Nair governors or chiefs (Nayar of Venad, Nayar of Ernad, Nayar of Valluvanad and Nayar of Palghat). The exact date of extinction of the Perumal dynasty is disputed, but by the mid-thirteenth century, the above said Nayar chieftains were ruling most of the Kerala region as independent kings.[5] The Nayar of Venad became the Raja of Travancore, Nayar of Ernad (Zamorin) became the Raja of Calicut, Nayar of Valluvanad ruled the independent Kingdom of the same name before being annexed by the Zamorin and finally, the Nayar of Palghat ruled a smaller princely state under the same name. Nayars in North Malabar established their own kingdom, Kolathunad under the king Kolathiri. The much smaller kingdom of Cochin claimed direct descent from the Perumals and refused to recognize any Nayar connection, however this claim is refuted or termed unreliable by many historians. The Raja of Cochin claims to be of Suryavanshi origin and therefore declares himself to be the topmost of the Malayala Kshatriyas.

See also

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