(also referred as Kshatriya Nadar
, and Shanar
) is one of the prominent castes
of Tamil Nadu
, South India. The term "Nadar"(Tamil
: நாடார்) in Tamil literally means "one who rules the land. The Nadars are also quite commonly called as Annachi
(roughly meaning elder brother) in Tamil Nadu.Nowadays, Nadars occupy various positions, including education, politics and mostly retail business.
The Nadars are the heirs of the fallen ancient pandyas. Considered to be a proud, ancient warrior caste and the initial rulers of the ancient Pandiya Nadu (Pandyan Kingdom), the Nadars are well known for their bravery throughout the southern part of Tamil Nadu. The ancient capital city of Pandiya Nadu, Korkai
, is predominantly occupied by the Nadars. After successive invasions from the north by the Kalabhras and other Vadugas on the Pandiyan kingdom, the Nadars were forced out of power and almost became extinct in the 18th century Pandyas. 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 Shanan 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 Shanans.The poor among the Nadars(Shanans) during early times possessed no agricultural lands due to the Nayak invasion.
Nadars are believed to be closely related to the Villavars, an ancient Dravidian warrior community which founded many Dravidian kingdoms as Cheran and Pandyan in the prehistory.
Rise of the Nadars after the Nayak invasion
After the Nayak invasion, the Nadars were almost wiped out and most of the Nadars lost their wealth due to the invasion. It is believed that the Nayak rulers imposed Deshaprashtam
(ostracism) on the ancient Nadars to ensure that their rise would'nt ever happen . But due to their sheer perserverence, they fought a fine battle with poverty and casteism and regained their social and economic power within a span of two centuries.
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 intoduced 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 buisness, the Nadars established saghams(oraganisation) such as the Nadar Mahajana Sagham and Dakshinamara Nadar Sagham in the early 20th century.
After upgrading their economic status, the Nadars continued with their advancement and erected a network of educational instituitions. Most of these instituitions were contrived to educate the poor and offer free education. The community realised the powerful future education can offer and utilised this foresight. They were even able to successively establish a bank (Tamilnadu Mercantile Bank) in that period.
Eventually the rise of the Nadars was an unstoppable movement. As described by the renowned historian Hugald Grafe, the Nadars rose from nothing and occupied places formerly reserved for Brahmins.
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 Nadars
of Tamil Nadu and by the Nairs
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) .
- 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.