Namboothiri Websites, Calicut, Kerala
(A Voluntary and Non-profit-oriented forum for documenting Namboothiri traditions in web)

Matriarchy Among Namboothiris

The Namboothri community had, from the beginning, adopted the "Makkathaayam" (patrilineal) tradition. But the Namboothri families of Payyannur Graamam had followed the "Marumakkathaayam" or matriarchal system. In the former, the father, mother and their children and the father's brothers and unmarried sisters, all belonged to one family (the father's family). His sisters and daughters, after their marriage, become members of the families of their respective husbands. On the other hand, in the Marumakkathaayam tradition, descent is reckoned in the female line. The mother is the head of the family, and her brothers, sisters and sisters' children form a family unit. The eldest male member is the rightful manager of their properties. The women, men and children have equal rights of ownership. Women do not lose their property rights after marriage, nor do they gain rights in their husbands' family properties. The Payyannur Namboothiris' matriarchal traditions are quite different from those of Nairs and Kshathriyans because they follow the Namboothiri customs in all other respects.

The area where these families lived was ruled by the Kolathiri Rajas. Their houses are known as "Mana". The boys till Samaavarthanam are called as "Unni". The male family members after "Samaavarthanam" are respectfully addressed by other Namboothiris as "Ammon" Namboothiris, regardless of age of either. Non-Braahmanans refer to them as "Ezhunnallyedathunnu", "Thirumeni" or "Thirumanassu", while Thiyyas, Vannans, Malayar and other communities use the "Thampuraan" form of address.

All rights and rituals like Upanayanam, Samaavarthanam, Vedaadhyayanam, Veli, Seshakriya, Aasoucham, etc. are identical with those of Makkathaayam Namboothiris. Though Kudiveppu (Grihapravesam) is not ritualistically practised after Veli, there is a formal "entry" into the husband's home. Similarly, dowry system is not practiced, other than a ritualistic presentation of a purse ("Kizhi") containing three-and-a-half rupees. Children should perform "Seshakriya" (rituals related to death) [click here for Cremation Ceremony] of both parents, though they are not heirs of their father.

There used to be 16 Manas originally in the Marumakkathaayam tradition, as listed in the table. Several families, in the course of time, have either become defunct or got merged with other families, and only six remain now.

History : It is not quite clear as to when and why only these families among the entire Namboothiri community adopted the matriarchal system. They believe in the legend that they were brought by Parasuraman to settle in Payyannur. The local receiving communities who were following the matrilineal tradition apparently insisted on their own custom to be followed by the settler families, and they did. These true devotees of Parasuraman were the only ones who adopted all the "Aachaarams" (codes and ethics) laid down by him especially including adoption of the local tradition. This made the lord so happy that he consecrated himself in Payyannur temple and blessed them that all their desires would be fulfilled if all the 16 families prayed together. Lord Parasuraman also honoured them with the special title "Thirumump" to these 16 families.

1 Thaazhakkaatt Mana South Thrikkaripur, PO : Elambachi, Kasaragod Dt. Extant
2 Kunnath Mana PO : Kandankali, Payyannur - 670 333, Kannur Dt. Extant
3 Thaliyil Mana Kokkanisseri, Payyannur, Kannur Dt. Extant
4 Kunjimangalath Mana PO : Payyannur, Kannur Dt. Extant
5 Rayaramangalath Mana PO : Mathamangalam, Kannur Dt. Extant
6 Thelakkaatt Mana South Thrikkaripur, PO : Elambachi, Kasaragod Dt. Extant
7 Kathukil Mana S. Nos. 7 - 11 : Some Namboothiris of these Manas were adopted to Thaazhakkaatt Mana, and married there. So, there are still persoms belonging to these Manas for namesake, but they do not possess their own "Tharavaad" Manas. They now reside in various branches of Thaazhakkaatt Mana.  ---
8 Thaavath Mana  ---
9 Thaatteeri Mana  ---
10 Noonjikkara Mana  ---
11 Kokkunnath Mana  ---
12 Kuruthilakkaatt Mana S. Nos. 12 - 16 : Either became extinct or merged with other Manas. Still some landed properties here and there are known by these names. It shows that those lands once belonged to these Manas. Extinct
13 Thelappurath Mana Extinct
14 Kuruveli Mana Extinct
15 Kottaarath Mana Extinct
16 Kaarali Mana Extinct

Their "Graamakshethram" is the Payyannur Sree Subrahmania Swamy Temple, the "Ooraanma" of which is vested with all the 16 families. The annual 16-day festival ("Aaraadhanaa Mahotsavam) continues to be celebrated to this day. In olden days, each day was allocated to one of the families, but now, the Devaswam and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR & CE) Board administers the temple affairs and bears the festival costs. The present six families are members of the Trustee board, with Thaazhakkaatt Mana member as the chairman. On all important matters, however, the HR & CE Board is the final authority.

In spite of the matriarchal tradition, children belong to their father's "Gothram". Thus, it is possible to have members of the same family to belong to different Gothrams; in other words, Gothram was assigned to individuals, and not necessarily to families. In modern times, the matriarchal tradition is getting eliminated from these Namboothiri families of Payyannur. Moreover, the very concept of joint families itself has virtually broken up. On top of that, the younger generation is not willing to marry in the matriarchal tradition. In other words, what prevails now among these Payyannur Namboothiri families is a mixture of the matrilineal-patrilineal system.

| Article No:9.2 | Last update of this article:3rd October 2003 |
Article by : T E Balakrishnan Thirumump, Thazhakkaattu Mana, PO: Kandankali, Payyannur - 670 333, Phone: 0498-503452

Home | What is New.. | Members | Welcome, Sponsors ! | Search For.. | Your Feedback

Copyright © 2000 Namboothiri Websites Calicut. All rights reserved.