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Nadar Community
Kamarajar.jpgW.P.A. Soundrapandiyanar.JPG
K. Kamaraj, W. P. A. Soundarapandian Nadar
Total population
11,000,000(app)[citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Nagercoil, Virudhunagar, Madurai, Salem, Chennai, Kanyakumari

Tamil, Malayalam


Hinduism, Christianity, Ayyavazhi

Related ethnic groups

Tamil people

Nadar (Tamil: நாடார்) "Nadar" (also referred as Nadan, Nataar, Gramani and Shanar) is one of the prominent castes of Tamil Nadu, South India. The term, Nadar, in Tamil literally means "one who rules the land"[1]. The Nadars are also quite commonly called as Annachi (meaning elder brother). Nowadays, the Nadars occupy various positions, including education, politics and mostly retail business.



They claim to be an ancient warrior caste and descendants of the initial rulers of the ancient Pandyan Kingdom of Korkai.[2][3][1][4][5][6]. The ancient capital city of Pandiya Nadu, Korkai, is predominantly occupied by the Nadars. After the Nayak invasion, it is believed that the Nadars were almost wiped out and most of the Nadars lost their wealth due to the invasion. It is believed that the then Nayak rulers of Tamil Nadu imposed Deshaprashtam (ostracism) on the ancient Nadars (Pandyas), to ensure that their rise wouldn't ever happen [1]. The community which was known as 'Shanans' till the 19th century came to be known as Nadars. The title Nadar is believed to be derived from the Nadans, the aristocrats and the highest of the old Nadar community. The aristocrats among the Nadars in those days were known as Nadans and the poor among the caste, who did toddy tapping for a living, were known as climbing Shanars.[7][8]. The poor among the Nadars(climbing Shanars) during early times possessed no agricultural lands due to the Nayak invasion[1].

Rise of the Nadars after the Nayak invasion

The rise of the Nadars began in the early 19th century. Mercantilism played crucial roles in facilitating their upward mobility. The British rule then in the southern districts introduced new frontiers of trade and commerce. The Nadars took this opportunity and made it their greatest advantage. They began to excel rapidly in trade and commerce. The Nadar traders were frequently bothered by the bandits sent by their rival castes. They established sophisticated pettais (fortified compounds) to ensure safety for their goods. Some times they even used their skills in fighting to chase away these bandits. To enhance their cohesiveness and consistent progress in business, the Nadars established sanghams (oraganisation) such as the Nadar Mahajana Sangham and Dakshinamara Nadar Sangham in the early 20th century. After upgrading their economic status, the Nadars continued with their advancement and erected a network of educational institutions. Most of these institutions were contrived to educate the poor and offer free education. They were even able to successively establish a bank (Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank) in that period. [9]

The socio-religious movement of Ayyavazhi was pioneered and patronized by the Nadar community[10]

Christian Nadars

In 1680, the first congregation of Nadars was started at Vaddakankulam with the conversion of Nadar women and a church was built accordingly in 1685. A permanent mission was established in 1701. 40% of the Nadars in TamilNadu are Christians. Some Nadars accepted Christianity through will and some accepted it due to their aversion to local beliefs. [11][12].

Orthodox customs

The Nadars, like other Tamil castes, perform a number of rituals and ceremonies according to their customs. Birth ceremony, initiation ceremony, marriage ceremonies and death ceremonies are the most important of all the ceremonies.

Birth ceremony

The Nadar birth ceremony is very similar to other Tamil castes. These rituals usually begin when a woman is taken to her parents' home for her confinement and end when she returns to her husband's house after the birth of the baby. Ceremonies like seventh month ceremony, (a ceremony held for a pregnant woman who is pregnant for 7 months), is commonly practiced by a Hindu Nadar. Due to modernization, some Nadars have stopped these practices.

Initiation ceremony

This sort of ceremonies occur after the birth of a child. A baby's ears are pierced when the infant reaches the age of 6 months. Some Hindu Nadar boys have to go through the rituals in order to wear the sacred thread at the age of 12 years and must also attend rituals accordingly for the annual renewal of the sacred thread. Christian Nadar boys are initially baptized and are made to join the church association when the time is appropriate. Like other Tamil castes, the Nadars also conduct a ceremony for girls who have just attained puberty. Some Christian Nadars follow some of the orthodox customs of the Hindu nadars. For example the puberty ceremony is also followed by some Christian Nadars.

Marriage ceremony

The Nadars marry according to their clan. For instance an aristocratic Nadar should marry a Nadar of his status and clan. There are various endogamous clans among the Nadars. An orthodox marriage is usually based on the clan a Nadar belongs to. However some Nadars neglect the ways of endogamy and marry Nadars not of their clan. Usually, a Nadar would marry his sister's daughter or his cross cousin. This practice is quite common in Nadar villages. The Nadars prefer joint or extended families.

Death ceremony

The local Nadar association is usually informed when a Nadar dies. The corpse is bathed and carried in a palanquin in an upright chair-like position. The body of a widow is usually laid down flat. Women don't accompany the men to the cemetery. After the third day of the death, another ritual is held for the widow (if the dead person is a male) in order to remove all her jewelry and most importantly her thali. However these old customs are not practiced by all the Nadars; especially the educated Nadars. [13]

Kalaripayattu/Varma Kalai/Marma Ati

Till the 19th century the martial art, Kalaripayattu, was meant to be practised only by the warrior castes of South India. Marma Ati was a great warfare practised by the Royal Thiruppad Nadans to defeat/kill the enemy without any external injuries. The art was practiced exclusively by the Nadars of Tamil Nadu and by the Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala. [14][15]

Genetic study

Recent genetic studies on the antigenic variations among south Indian populations suggest Nadars share several genotypic characters with East Asian populations, consistent with the demographic history of South India, and also revealed that there are several genetic markers unique to the group. The study suggested a distinct evolutionary lineage with lesser admixture in the gene pool among groups of Tamil Nadu. The gene pool of nadars show more similarity to the East Asian populations (Tissue Antigens. 2003 Dec; 62(6): 542-7) (Human Biology 1996, 68(4), 523-37) [16].

Notable people

See also

Further reading

  • M. Immanuel (2002) The Dravidian Lineages: The Nadars Through the Ages. A Socio-Historical Study. From Indus Valley Civilization to present time. Published by: Historical Research & Publications Trust, 137/H-4 Bethel Nagar, Nagercoil-629004, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr.(1969) The Nadars of Tamilnad; the political culture of a community in change. From year 1800 British records to 1968.


  1. ^ a b c d [1]
  2. ^ History of Tamil Nadu, 1565-1982 Page 277 By K. Rajayyan
  3. ^ Anatomy of a folklore, ottan kathai By M. Immanuel<
  4. ^ Manadu(Tamil) Page 6 By Tacaratan (Madras, India)
  5. ^ Natar varalaru(Tamil) By Mocacu Ponnaiya
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Caste in Indian politics By Rajni Kothari Page 100
  8. ^ South Indian sketches By Sarah Tucker Pg 36
  9. ^ Caste in Indian politics By Rajni Kothari Page 101-120
  10. ^ Report of the London Missionary Society, 1847. 1847. pp. 88–89. 
  11. ^ The Spirituality of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Socio-religious Context of Trivandrum/Kerala, India: Reflections on a Distinctively Canonical Institution By Selvister Ponnumuthan Published by Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1996
  12. ^ The Nadars of Tamilnad, R.L.Hardgrave Jr
  13. ^ Maharashtra By K. S. Singh, B. V. Bhanu, B. R. Bhatnagar, D. K. Bose, V. S. Kulkarni, J. Sreenath Pg 1505-1507
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ [4]
  16. ^ [5]

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