Tharavadu is a system of joint family practised by people in Kerala, south India, especially castes like Namboothris, Nairs and Ezhavas. Each Tharavadu has a unique name. As joint families grew and established independent settlements, the Sakhas (branches) modified the names in such a way that the main Tharavadu names are identifiable, yet the Sakha (or Thavazhi, i.e. Thay Vazhi which means Through Mother) had a distinct name. For communities like Nairs , the Tharavad name is identified through the mother's house but in some other communities like Namboothiris the names are identified by their fathers' Tharavadu. However, for Ezhavas, the Tharavad name is identified through the mother's house in some areas like Travancore and Malabar, while it is identified through the father's house in areas around central Kerala.

Some Tharavadus were the protectors and rulers of the Desam (place) that they were in and a reporting relationship emerged to a "Naadu Vaazhi" (Ruler of the land). Naadu is a group of Desams. Since the tharavadu had a name of its own, it invested the members with a sense of responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the traditions.

The Tharavadu was administered by a Karnavar, the senior most male member of the family, who would be the eldest maternal uncle of the family. The members of the Tharavadu consisted of mother, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers. The fathers and husbands had only a very minimal role to play in the affairs of the Tharavadu. It was a true matrilineal affair. The Karanavar took all major decisions, however, the consent of the eldest female member of the family was obtained before implementing the decisions. This eldest female member would be his maternal grandmother, own mother, mother's sister, his own sister or a sister through his maternal lineage. Since the lineage was through the female members, the birth of a daughter was always welcomed.

Each tharavadu also has a Bhara Devatha (clan deity) revered by those in the particular tharavadu. Temples were built to honour these deities. A Kalarideivam/devatha or deity presiding over the practice of Kalaripayattu (martial art form in Kerala) was also honoured.

The Tharavadu house had a unique Kerala style architecture with an inner courtyard or many inner courtyards enclosed within the several large buildings built in the traditional Kerala style, including wells. A house with one courtyard is a Naalukettu, one with two is an Ettukettu,, and one with four courtyards is a Pathinarukettu. There were specific locations for prayer places, kitchens, storage for grains, living places for women and men - both married and unmarried - in the Tharavadu building complex. A NaaluKettu had four sectional buildings, Thekkini (Southern Section), Kizhakkini (Eastern Section), Vadakkini (Northern Section), and Padinjattini (Western Section), around a single inner courtyard. The Thekkini was the abode of the Karnavar. The Vadakkini was for the kitchen and for women. The Padinjattini consisted of bedrooms for the married women. There was a separate Uralppura (Building for Mortar) for rice meshing. This same room was used for separation of women during their menstrual periods.

Many Tharavadu houses were grand and unique in style and architecture, and many tharavadus owned temples, schools, other buildings and vast expanses of land. One peculiarity of nair tharavadu in the past was that they were built always quite deep into the landed property owned by the tharavadu and almost in the middle of the main property, never at the edges, mainly for security and military strategy reasons. However as the families grew bigger and more homes were built, in recent times, things have changed.

A fresh water pond (Kulam) was an essential requirement for the Tharavadu for bathing purposes. Daily baths were a must for all. Also, there were many rituals which needed ceremonial bathing.

Every Tharavadu had a Sarpa Kavu (Sacred Grove for Serpents) for the worship of serpent deities. Annual rituals and feasts were ceremonially conducted at the Sarpa Kavus.

Tharavadus of occupational groups

Many occupational groups had their own Tharavadus associated with the Naudvazhi centres. These Tharavdus were centres for imparting various vocational knowledges. These Tharavadus also hosted Bhagavathi temples where the Karnavar officiated all the religious ceremonies.

Myths and Koroth Tharavad

There is a long history surrounding the Nair tharavad of Koroth. Firstly it is necessary to know about Nairs. The nair equal the word knights in the ancient feudal syatem of Europe. The tharavad name koroth is popular in kerala. They were years ago acted as chieftains in a large area and arranged Kalaripayattu and other martial arts and supplied soldiers to the Zamorins, Kolathiris and Nileshwar rajas. They sometimes acted as king makers. The name derived from Ko means King and Othikan means regulating . Based on Ayiyur the political conditions influenced them to move north wards up to the Chandragiri river. They feared to cross Chandragirui river because of losing their caste. The establishment of Kolathunad and Nileshwar raja vamsam related to this migration. Like wise the theyyattams also spread to the north and gradually influenced by the Tulu culture. Originally the male members of the Koroth tharavad related to Kalaripayattu and the famous Lokararkavu. The influence of Kalaripayattu was present in theyyattams.Disintegrating from the origin land the members of the tharavad setteled in different parts of north malabar like koroth near Payyanur, Nileshwar, Pallur near Tallicherry, mahe, Vadakara etc. They feared to cross Chandragiri river in Kasaragod. The branches of the koroth Tharavad infuenced the social, religious, cultural and economic condition of north malabar for the last 5 centuries. While residing in different parts, they continued the practice of Nagaradhana [Ayillyam][snake worship] , worshiping God Shiva , Vishnu large number of other gods and goddesses.They organised theyyam festival. In all branches they worshiped Kuttichathan theyyam and Karnor theyyam[Bairavan]. In Nileshwar the Nairs belongings to Koroth family helped the rajas of Nileshwar in several campaigns against the neighboring rulers. Koroth Kammaran Nair played the anchor role in the fight against the kudaks in the 1940s. He and the large number of nair troops recaptured the places [elamalakadu] in the karnataka borders and annex with the territory of the ni9leshwar rajas. In gratitude Koroth Kammaran Nair got the landlord rights of a large tract of land from the Nileshwar bridge to karuvacherry.Several decades before the lands surrounding nileshwar market junction were under the firm control of Kammaran Nair.

Muthappan Madappura temple

There is also a story regarding the establishment of Sree Muthappan Madappura temple, near Market Junction. An elder member of the koroth family regularly visited the place now known as the Muthappan temple and drink madhu[a type of intoxicating drink] Before drinking madhu he pour some drop of madhu in the nearby jackfruit tree and saying it is for the god muthappan. The practice was repeated regulraly. Years after the natives found some problems and they examined it with the assistance of an astrolloger. The astrolleger reveals the wonder that as a result of the tregular practice of giving some drops of madhu to God Muthappan, the God started to reside there. Then there erected a temple. Now large number of devotees from different parts of India visited the temple and got the blessings of Lord Muthappan and remembering the noble path of the Karanavar of Koroth Nair Tharavad. Now a days the Koroth family got the right of Koymma in the temple.

Educational role

The tharavad in the 18th and 19th century became the centre of learning. There lived several teachers popularly called as Ezhutthachans. They taught the people in the field of philosophy, traditional literature etc and the art of kalaripayattu. Students from different parts of India came to here and the ezhuthachans imparted knowledge to them

Mannampurath Kavu and Koroth tharavad

The history of the Chathayamangalam temple popularly known as the Mannanpurath kavu connected with the Koroth tharavad. The people of Nileshwar and the surrounding places feared the presence of a ruler Mannan. He created lot of troubles to the natives. As a result of the praying of the people Baghavathi came to Nileshwar with the support accompanied by Koroth, Eruvatt, Aramana, and Anikkil nair families. She came here and killed Mannan, the notorious ruler. Thereafter, Bhagavathi was known as Mannanmpurath Bagavathi and a temple was founded there.As the Bagavathi pooja necessitated the killing of hen etc created a confusion in the minds of the nairs of the area. So they invited Pidarers [meat eating priests] for ritualistic activities.

Every year in connection with the pooram festival of Mannampurath kavu one day was presented to the Koroth family members for lighting devotional lamps in front of the temple. Another instance for the connection with Mannampurath kavu (bagavathy temple) and Koroth taravad is the Theyyam festival. Anjoottan and Kotherman dressed as Padarkulangara bagavathi and Dandinganath bagavathi in Koroth tharavad Theyyam festival and Mannampurath kavu kalasam festival.

Nechitholedutho Nayan mare

There is an interesting story in connection with the invasion of Tipu Sultan. One after another Tipu conquered regions of Malabar. After conquering Kanhangad and occupying the Hosdurg Fort he reached on the banks of the river Nileshwaram. Hearing the news about the coming of Tipu Sultan the frightened natives take asylum in Tali Temple. They prayed to the God Shiva. Then there blow the words of Taliyilappan as Asareeri: Nechitholedutho Nayanmmare.The God told to the Nair soldiers of the Nileshwar Raja. Realising the strength of Neelakandeswara the nayars took nechithol (a kind of leaf) in their hands and marched to the banks of the Nileshwar river. When Tipu approached to the north side of the river he saw the movement of mountain to the banks of the river. The smell of nechithol (same as gunpowder) confused Tipu and he expecting a fierce battle. He did not like to waste time with engaging in battles and all the regions he captured up to the bank of nileshwar river are with out opposition. So he returned back to Mysore.Here the troops of the raja was led by the nairs of the Koroth tharavad. This is a myth and further study is needed to grasp the essence of this story.

Branches of Koroth Tharavad

Koroth tharavad (group of families) at Nileshwar is famous as per the story of Mannampurath bagavathi and also got fame in the origin of Nileshwar Muthappan Madappura, defending of Tippu Sulthan according to the myth of Nechitholedutho Nayammare, and annual Kaliyattams (theyyam festival). Karnor Bairavan, Dharmadaivam, Kuttichattan, Rakta Chamundi, Vishnumoorthi, Dandiganath Bagavathi, Padarkulangara Bagavathi, Gulikan, Bhootham etc were performed in the annual kaliyattams.

The koyyodan koroth Tharavad at Pallur, near Thallisseri is famous for the grand theyyam festival in the month of Makaram. As many as 40 kuttichathan theyyams come out together to give blessings to the devotees. Thousands of people assemble there to watch the marvellous divine performance of the theyya kolams. More than ninety kuttichattans are planned but because of the absence of Koladarikal, the number reduced to 38. The main karmi of Koyyodan temple visited regularly in the Kalakkattillam near Koroth [a place near Payyanur]on the day of Krim Kuttichathan Theyyam .The illam is considered as the root of Kuttichathan Theyyam. The presence of Koroth families [Kodakkal Koroth remains there ] years ago gave the name Koroth to the place.

The ayiyur koroth tharavad Bagavathi temple commands fame as the important centre of nagaradhana [snake worship]. Kumbam 3 rd is observed as the day of theyyam ferstival in the Koroth Naga Bagavathi temple, Ayiyur. Years back, puja in this temple was performed by Koroth Namboothiris of Chovva near Kannur. The Koroth Namboothiris were mentioned in the story of Vishnumoorthi temple. Cheemeni Ayillam is famous for the sarpabali in the temple. People from different parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu annually come over here to worship the god and goddesses.

Kodakkal Koroth tharavad members played a great role in regulating the history of Payyanur and the neighbouring places for the last three centuries. Tharavad also related to the myth of the origin of the Kadamkot Makkam Theyyam. Large number of people annually pilgrimaged to the Kadamkot Makkom bagavathi temple on 10 kumbam [malayalam month]. Another branch of the Tharavad is known as pommeleri koroth. Another prominent Koroth family belonged to the Edakkad Nambiar group.Courtesy: 'History of Koroth Nair Tharavad' by Nandakumar Koroth

Deterioraton of Tharavadu System

The socio-cultural changes which accompanied industrialization, modernization and political awakening had its toll on many old institutions. The matrilineal communities had to change with times. Maternal uncles started caring for their own children instead of their nephews and nieces. Social reforms spread with modern education. Partition of Tharavadus for individual share (Ohari Bhaagam) happened due to enactments. Tharavadus crumbled. The matrilineal System disintegrated. Fathers took charge of their sons and daughters and the husband and wife started living together with their offspring. The change occurred within a span of 25 years and by 1940s the Tharavadu system of living became a thing of the past. Big Naalukettu and Ettukettu structures began to collapse or were sold off.

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