As per the famous Parasurama myth, the warrior sage Bhargava Rama (Parasurama) is said to have brought a group of Brahmins to Kerala of which 64 families were allowed to conduct the ceremonies in the temples. They became the Namboothiris. The remaining families of Brahmins became their assistants and were not allowed inside the Sree Kovil or main shrine of the temple. They came to known as Pushpaka Brahmins as their work was associated mainly with flowers.
Since they resided in the premises of temple, like many other castes in kerala , they were also clubbed under the community Ambalavasis, meaning Temple-inmates.
The Pushpaka Brahmins lived within the temple premises managing the various affairs (other than the ceremonies in Sree Kovil) of the temple. Their work was socially very respectable.
Pushpaka Brahmins were temple employees but they were not aristocratic like the Namboodiris. In the past they resided within the temples in their quarters and were sustained by the temple. They were simple people who lived at the benevolence of the temple.
Other than their services in the temple the Ambalavasis were the priests for the lower castes as well.
These art forms grew in the atmosphere of temples which have all long been centres of great cultural activity.
Most of the Pushpaka Brahmins used to follow complex rituals in connection with major events in their lives, such as pregnancy, childbirth, education, marriage, and death.
A ritual connected with third month of pregnancy. If it is the first pregnancy, it can be performed in the forth month also. The pregnant woman consumes one head of barley and two beads of black grain, along with a little curd. This is accompanied by religious chanting. (Among Nayars and Ezhavas the ceremony is known as 'Pulikudi' - a customary rite in which women, during their first pregnancy, drink the juice of sour fruits)
This sacrament is performed in the fourth month of a woman's first pregnancy. Seemantam is conducted for the protection of the mother at the critical period of gestation. If the child is still-born, this has to be prepared during the next pregnancy.
Jatakarman is meant for the development of the intellect of the child. When a male child is born, the ritual connected with birth is performed immediately (within 90 Naazhika). A small portion of a mixture of gold, ghee and honey is given to the new born infant.
This ceremony is performed to name the child. It is performed on the12th day after birth. The father calls the child's name in its right ear three times. At this time, male children are given the surname ‘Sharma’ and female children are given the surname 'De'. Then the mother takes the child by calling him (her) without surname. (Among the Nayars and Ezhavas this ritual is done on the 28th day.)
This is when the child is first taken out of its home and into the open. The child is usually taken out only in the 4th month.
This ritual, which takes place when a child is six months old, is the first time the child eats solid food. A few grains of rice mixed with ghee are fed to the infant. This is an important ritual among all sections of Hindus. "Chorūnu" literally means "rice-eating" in the South Indian language of Malayalam.
This is done either when the child attains three or five years. On the tongue of the child the letters "Hari Sri Ganapataye Namah Avignamastu "and all the alphabets are written with a piece of gold. The child is made to write the same letters from "Hari Sri" onwards with its ring finger on raw rice in a bell metal vessel and the child is made to utter each word when it is written. Either the father of the child or an eminent teacher officiates at this ritual.
In the child's third or fifth year, the head is shaved, leaving behind a small tuft of hair known as a 'Kutuma'. (Nowadays this ritual is not practiced.)
Piercing the ears. This is done with a particular thorn. Butter is applied to the wound. It is applicable to both male and female children. (In the modern age, this is done only for female children.)
When the child attains eight years, the wearing of the sacred thread “Yajñopaveetam”, is ceremoniously done. This is only in the case of the boys. It is taking the child to the teacher for initiation of formal education. Along the sacred thread, the hide of the antelope called Krishnajinam is also worn by the boy.
Learning of Vedas and Upanishads in‘Gurukulam’ or ‘Pāṭhaśāla’. In the beginning of each academic period there is a ceremony called Upakarma and at the end of each academic period there is another ceremony called Upasarjana.
The ceremony associated with the end of formal education of Vedas in ‘Gurukulam’ or ‘Pāṭhaśāla’
This is a ceremony associated with a girl’s first mensturation.
Vivaham – Marriage
Anthyeshti – Rituals associated with Funeral.
Sanchayanam – A function performed in the 4th day, after funeral.
Pindam – A function performed in the 11th day after funeral.