Nayar - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Society in traditional Kerala was highly hierarchical, with a fairly close (though not one-to-one) correlation between caste and class. Most of the landless, land-attached laborers were from the Untouchable castes and tribal groups. The semi-Untouchable Tiyyars or Ezhuvas tended to be tenants, and the Nayars (as noted above) generally held land on various levels of infeudation and subfeudation. Socially, each middle- or upper-class Nayar taravad was a core for social as well as political Organization. Today this has all changed, as taravads have split into smaller and smaller units, as population increase has blurred village boundaries even more, and as there are now areas where the normal Indian rural/urban distinction does not apply. Social ties today tend to be closest among members of the same caste and socioeconomic position, though among the educated elite caste distinctions are less prevalent. The Nayars were divided into a number of subcastes all Hierarchically placed, though the subdivisions varied from one place to another. In central Kerala, the highest-ranking ones were often referred to as Samantans. Some Samantans were powerful rulers. (The Zamorin of Calicut was a Samantan from the Eradi subcaste.) The Samantan women marry either other Samantans or Nambudiri Brahmans. The Nayars themselves included: Stani Nayars (local chieftains), high-caste Nayars who traditionally served in the military or in some other important capacity for Nambudiri Brahmans, Kshatriyas, or Samantans; the middle-ranking Nayars who did not intermarry or interdine with those higher than themselves, and who performed various tasks for the temple; and the small group of low-caste Nayars who served other Nayars as washer-men, barbers, and oilmongers. The majority of Nayars belongs to the high-caste groups.

Political Organization. The traditional political organization was feudal in nature with many small states. Rulers had only limited control. After the British occupation of Malabar and the posting of British resident officers in Cochin and Travancore, the state came to have greater influence. Since Independence, large units of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 people have been governed by an elected panchayat (village council). There is a large bureaucratic structure and an elected legislative assembly in the state. Politics and political parties, especially those of the left, have penetrated into every nook and cranny of the state.

Social Control. Social control is effected through the Family, through a general concern about what people will think or what people will say and a strong emphasis on bourgeois values.

Conflict. Traditionally, conflicts were handled by the caste elders. In the Middle Ages, many of the Nayar men were Warriors, fighting against neighboring principalities. Today, local conflicts are handled by the village panchayats, and largescale ones by the police and the courts.

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