Namboothiri Brahmin

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The Namboothiris (Malayalam :നമ്പൂതിരി) are the upper class Brahmins of Kerala, who consider themselves the most orthodox brahmins in India. They perform Pooja in temples. The other temple related activities known as Kazhakam are performed by Pushpaka Brahmins (Ampalavasis),the lower class brahmins of Kerala. The unique thing about Namboothiris is that they follow the poorva mimamsa school of Hindu philosophy unlike uttara mimamsa or vedanta school followed by most of the South Indians.


[edit] Etymology

In Malayalam, the word Namboothiri is derived from Nambu meaning sacred or trustworthy, and thiri meaning Light. Another definition is: "Nam (veda) poorayithi Namboothiri" is the commonly accepted etymology of the word Namboothiri. It means, the person who completes veda is Namboothiri. Namboothiri "completes" veda as he studies and practices veda and performs the rituals, as prescribed in veda.

[edit] Origins

Brahmins are supposed to have migrated from North. However, it is unclear if all of them migrated after various South Indian kingdoms started taking shape. Historians have not been able to pinpoint the period of the first arrival of Namboothiris in Kerala. Those who were presumed to be here as early as the 2nd century BC (as said in Sangam literature, Dandi's story, etc.), and settled in 32 gramams(villages) through out Kerala, may be called the original Namboothiris. Most of them live in central Kerala and a few, in north and south kerala.

At present, the only known migration is that of Tulu Brahmins from the region of Tulu Nadu to North Malabar(or Kolathunadu as it was known then). The Tulu Braahmanans brought to North Kerala (today's Kasaragod & Kannur Districts) during the 17th century, many of whom were resettled between today's Kottayam & Trivandrum Districts, and the later immigrants from Tulu and Chola regions constitute the Saagara, Samudra, Thonnoorukaar, and Thukalasseri Bhattathiris. Many of them were known as Embraanthiris. Most of them have, for practical purposes assimilated into the original Namboothiri community - practising rituals in the Namboothiri style, considered as equals, and even called Namboothiri or potti, especially after the Temple-Entry Proclamation of the Travancore king in early 1900s.

However, neither they nor those who retained the Embraanthiri surnames may participate in rituals along with original namboothiris. There is no ritual to convert others into Namboothiri community. So, practically, original namboothiris do not accept these namboothiris to participate in their ritual.

[edit] Myth of origin

The Namboothiris' own mythology holds that Parashuraaman created the land (of Kerala) and bestowed it upon them. The legend of Parasurama also exists amongst Brahmins of all India. He is worshipped in UP and Bihar by Bhumihar Brahmins and by Chitpawan Brahmins in Maharashtra. These Brahmin subcastes also hold that they are those Brahmins who were the followers of Bhagwan Parashuram or Parashuraaman or they were created by him. Hence it has to be seen as a myth not exlusive to Namboothiris and Kerala alone. However, this myth also exist in an old Chera lore about King Velkezu Kuttavan. According to this myth, the king flings his spear into the sea to claim land from it. This lore must have modified later in Malayalam language by the Namboothiris as part of their campaign to establish themselves in Kerala. In the Namboothiri version, Parashuraaman uses his Parashu (Axe), to create new land for the Brahmins.

[edit] Temple rituals

Namboothiris follow vedic tradition for their spiritual life and Smartha tradition for their social life. Apart from following other Gods, they follow the concept of "Sankaranarayanan" (combination of Shaivism and Vaishnavism), unlike other brahmins. While Tamil Brahmins follow Vedic traditions in the temples, Namboothiris follow Tantrik tradition similar to Tulu Brahmins.

The daily rituals in Kerala temples are traditionally performed by Namboothiris, and often by Embranthiri migrants from the neighbouring Karnataka, but not by Tamil Braahmanans. Even among Namboothiris, only certain designated families deserve to become "Thanthris". Thanthris have to perform the incredible task of transferring ("Aavaahanam") the aura ("Chaithanyam") of God and energizing the idol. There have been numerous books on this topics, written by Namboothiris. The treatises may be divided into three categories - Aagamams (Saivam), Samhithas (Vaishnavam) and Thanthrams (Saaktheyam). Aagamams include Nigamam versions too. The former are Sivan's advice to Parvathy, while Nigamams are spoken by Parvathy to Sivan. Other classifications are regional, like Vishnukraanthaa, Rathhakraanthaa and Aswaakraanthaa, and also like Yaamalams and Daamarams. Usually, all branches of knowledge are dealt with in Thanthra Granthhams.

[edit] Gothras and Pravaras

Each Namboothiri male (or unmarried female) is identified by his/her respective paternal family name. A married female adopts her husband's family name. Each family is affiliated to a Gothra and Pravara. The Gothra name demonstrates the family's traditional style of knowledge acquisition and expertise in ancient theories. Based on the fact that cross-breeding of excellent but different species yields better quality, marriage from a family belonging to the same Gothra was and is still banned for Namboothiris. Looking from another angle, Namboothiris believe that marriage from the same Gothra has a better chance of generating mentally retarded or physically handicapped children or at least children of less intellectual capacity. Each Gothra has several sub-classes known as Pravara. If by mistake, a boy marries a girl of same Gothra, he is not allowed to have sex with her. He has to treat her like he treats his mother.

Common gothra (and their pravara in brackets) among Namboothiris are Bharadwaajam (Amgirasam, Bhaarhaspathyam, Bharadwaajam), Kousikam (Viswaamithram, Akhamarshanam, Kousikam ), Vaatsam( Bhaargavam, Chyavanam, Aapthavaanam, Ourvam, Jaamadagnyam ), Koundinyam (Vaasishtam, Maithraavarunam, Koundinyam), Kaasyapam (Kaasyapam, Aavatsaaram, Naidruvam), Vaasishtam(Vaasishtam, Indrapradamam, Aabharaswath), Jaamadagnyam (Bhaargavam, Chyavanam, Aapthavaanam, Ourvam, Jaamadagnyam), Viswaamithram(Viswaamithram, Devaraatham, Oudalam), Gouthamam (Amgirasam, Aayasyam, Gouthamam ), Athri (Aathreyam, Archanaanasam, Syavaaswam). Eight more Gothras also exist among Namboothiris, as branches of the Gothras listed above. They are Kutsam, Mudgalam, Aamgirasam, Gaargyam, Naidruvam, Saandilyam, Dhaananjayam, and Samkhyaayanam.

[edit] Vedic chanting

Among all the various Brahmin groups in India, it is only in the vedic chanting of the Namboothiris that one can find a relic of the PIE (Proto-Indo-European) language (in the form of some specific raised accent). This ancient oral tradition of Vedic chanting is getting extinct. However, a few families are still practicing and applying in various vedic activities.

Namboothiris, who are entitled to recite Vedams, have evolved a rich and diversified culture of Vedam recitation. Their recitation is quite different from traditional vedam recitations in other parts of India. This is due to a variety of features, such as the pronunciation of Sanskrit in Kerala. An Important feature is nasalization, a feature of Malayalam in general which seems to be relatively ancient. (In Sanskrit it was called "anunaasika athiprasaram") Another reason may be that a much larger percentage of Malayalam words is of Sanskrit origin than is the case with Tamil. It may also be connected with the isolated development of the Namboothiri tradition, which was not exposed to contact with other traditions. And lastly, though there have been many Namboothiri scholars of Sanskrit, there has not been a tendency to bring existing practice in line with the norms established in the past. Rather, the living tradition has been left to prevail and develop freely.

While all Vedic recitations are taught at home, there are two special schools for the teaching of Rigvedam, one at Thrissur and the other at Thirunaavaaya, in Malappuram district. The Thirunaavaaya School was formed by several Namboothiris and financed by Saamoothiri Raja (King Zamorin) of Malabar. The Thrissur school was supported by the Raja of Cochin. There are differences in the style of recitation of the two Rigvedi schools. The Thrissur school (Brahmaswam Madhom) has a few students even now, while the Thirunaavaaya school is not fully functioning. Fortunately, a few of its students are being taught at home. The Thrissur school recently started admitting children of families, which originally followed Thirunaavaaya style. In the Yajurvedam, there are also two traditions that differ slightly in style of recitation, the Peruvanam School tradition and the Irinjalakuda School tradition. Now mostly, the Yajurvedam and Saamavedam are being taught in homes.

[edit] Vedic recensions

Each Namboothiri family is traditionally and strictly a follower of only one of the three Vedas, namely, Rigveda, Yajurveda and Saamaveda. Followers of Rigveda are called Rigvedis. Two sub-divisions of Rigvedis are Kousheethaka and Aswalaayana. Followers of Yajurveda are called Yajurvedis, with two sub-divisions, Boudhaayana and Baadhoolaka. All Samavedi Namboothiris are of Jaimineeya sub-division. Each of these five divisions has its own unique style of performing certain or all rituals. Reference books, called "Chadangu pusthakam", is available for each of these five sub-divisions. These books clearly describe the step-by-step procedure to perform all kinds of rituals like Shodasakriyakal (various rituals from birth to death), Samskaaram (cremation), etc. For example, Kousheethakan Namboothiris refer the book "Kousheethakan Chadangu", Aaswalaayanan Namboothiris refer "Pakazhiyan Chadangu", and Boudhaayanan Namboothiris refer the book "Boudhaayanan Chadangu".

[edit] Yaaga

Vedic ritual is part of Namboothiri life. Namboothiris perform only two types of yaagas; Agnishtomam, generally known as Somayaagam, and Athiraathra (Agnichayana), popularly known as Agni. While performing of Somayaagam makes a Namboothiri a complete (Nithyam) Braahmanan, Athiraathram is only optional. In the Sangam literature (Tamil), however, there is reference to Vaajapeyam Yaagam having been performed during the second century BC in Perinchellur Graamam near Taliparamba in the present Kannur district. So, performances of other Yaagams by Namboothiris during the earlier periods, cannot be ruled out. The three types of Athiraathra altars constructed by Namboothiris are six-tipped, five-tipped and Peetthan. The six-tipped Agnichayanam and five-tipped are the most common and Namboothiris still practice them. The Peetthan (square bird) has not been constructed for some 150 years. The Yajamaanan (master / leader) is the person who actually performs Yaagam. Not all Namboothiris are permitted to perform Yaagam. Only Namboothiris of Aadu class can perform Yaagam. The Yajamaanan has to be a male Namboothiri having several pre-requisites and qualifications. After yaaga, the Threthaagnis (the three spiritual fires attained through Yaagam) are shown (Kaachi) at and invoked back to the Arani. Once the Threthaagni is invoked back to Arani, the remaining fire in the Yaagasala has conceptually become forest fire with no spiritual content. Also, the Yaagasala has lost its divine nature. The Yaagasaala is set fire to with this fire. The Threthaagni is taken to the Yajamaanan's residence (Illam) and placed in an appropriate location like Vadukkini or Padinjaatti (two rooms in a Namboothiri Illam). The Somayaaga (or Athiraathra) is now over and the Yajamaanan now becomes a Somayaaji (or Akkithiri) and his wife (wives), Paththanaadi. It is using this Threthaagni that the Somayaaji (or Akkithiri) and Paththanaadi perform the rituals, viz., Agnihothram, twice daily, and other rituals through out their married life.

[edit] Marriage

The Namboothiri women are called Antherjanam, the literal meaning being "people inside the house." The travel of Namboothiri girls were limited to the temples or to the house of their immediate relatives, but that too had to be accompanied by a maid servant.

The Namboothiri believed that the girl, during infancy, childhood and youth, is under the wings of gods Soman, Gandharvan and Agni respectively. God Viswavasa protects her virginity. Hence the bridegroom has to thank Viswavasa for protecting her till marriage and then marry her in the presence of Agni. Namboothiri marriage is a four day long ritual.

[edit] Sambandham

Apart from marrying from within community in traditional style, there has been a marriage practice among Namboothiris, popularly called "Sambandham" or a casual marriage alliance with girls belonging to other castes. Only marriages within Namboothiri castes, performed through rituals in the traditional style were considered as marriages. Sambandham is not supported by blessings from individual gods,through Mantrams and advices to the bride, through "veli othu", a part of Rigveda. This is why Sambandham is just a casual relationship for Namboothiris.

Until 1933, only the eldest brother was entitled to marry within the Namboothiri caste. His younger brothers were supposed to practice pure "Brahmacharyam" by being unmarried and to dedicate themselves to preserve Vedams and rituals. Apart from this, those younger brothers, who opted to marry within the caste were excommunicated from the family. Except for a few intelligent and studious ones, most younger brothers turned to more lucrative and worldly affairs like Sambandham.

Other communities, especially Royal families, Nayars, and similar communities have encouraged Namboothiris to have Sambandham with girls in their communities. The objective behind this encouragement was to "purify" their future generations with the Namboothiri blood and also to elevate their families to higher levels in the society due to a Namboothiri relationship. It was a fact that Namboothiris could not just resist such attractions in terms of money, sex and leisurely life-style. Several Namboothiris thus married girls from royal families as well as Nayar, Warrier, and Pisharoti girls and the children from such marriage alliances belonged to the matrilineal (Marumakkathaayam) lineage of their mothers. This, interestingly, led to situations like a Nayar son of a Namboothiri could not eat or bathe with his father, or a Namboothiri could not eat food prepared by his Nayar wife. Namboothiri Spinsters remained abandoned in the community. Namboothiri Yogakshema Mahaasabha, a revolutionary group of Namboothiris and founded in 1908, took a decision in 1919 and agitated for marriage of all Namboothiris within the community. Sabha declared the marriages of younger brothers from within the community as official, irrespective of whether the elder brothers were married or not. The aim was embodied in the Madras Namboothiri Act of 1933. In the same year, the Madras Marumakkathaayam Act was passed, by which Sambandham was considered as a regular marriage, conferring on the children the same rights of inheritance and property as held by children whose parents were both Namboothiris. The declaration and these Acts led to a sudden decline in the number of Sambandham marriages, and this unethical practice ended shortly (in about ten years). Following these acts, Namboothiri land was increasingly partitioned and property dispersed.

The stoppage of Sambandham led to a liberation of Namboothiri wives and girls. They were the major sufferers due to unavailability of Namboothiri boys for marriage because of the practices of polygamy and parallel Sambandhams by elder sons.

[edit] Traditional wear

Namboothiris in general were no sticklers for fashionable dress. There was no place in their life for fancy colours and shiny clothes. On this issue there was no difference among the rich, middle class or poor. They were much too simple, at least until recently. The same is true about Antharjanams (Namboothiri women). They never used colourful and silky clothes and glittering jewelry, unlike most other communities. The concept of beauty was non-existent or limited to natural and simple tastes. Boys wore "Ilakkonakam" (loin cover made of a strip of plantain leaf softened by heat treatment, over fire) before "Upanayanam", and "Seelakkonakam" (cloth loin cover) afterwards. "Upanichunnis" (between Upanayanam and Samaavarthanam) wore Poonool and "Krishnaajinam" across the chest and a white thread (to support the loin cloth) and "Mekhhala" at the waist. Krishnaajinam is an inch wide untanned leather from the skin of "Krishna Mrigam" - black buck (Antelope cervicapra). Mekhhala is a three-strand string worn around the waist and made of a special kind of grass called "Mekhhalappullu". Antharjanams and older girls wore clothes ("Udukkuka") with border lines, and alike. Ghosha (veil) was prevalent in the community. When women had to go out, they used to cover themselves with "Puthappum Kudayum" (wrap-around shawl and palm leaf parasol). The shawl was a smooth, nice and broad "Chelapputhappu", which was also used as a bed-sheet. Girls till the age of 8 or 9 wore just a loin cover (like boys) of heat-treated palm-leaf. After they come of age ("Uduthu Thudangal"), they dress like Antharjanams do. Girls do not decorate their hair with jasmine flower, until after marriage. Even the bride's dress was quite simple. A four-length Mundu was worn ("Muzhuvan Udukkal") and another was pleated and worn covering the upper part and the head including the face. Muzhuvan Udukkal was done also during some ritual offerings ("Nedikkal" with 16 or 7 lamps) and during "Kutiveppu" (ceremonial receiving of the bride in the groom's house after marriage). The palms and feet of the bride were decorated with henna ("Mailaanchi" - Losonia inarmis). Widows wore plain clothes without borders. Application of Chaanthu on the forehead was taboo, but sandal paste, "Bhasmam" (ash) and "Gopikkatta" (yellow ochre) are permitted, the latter too only after wetting them. The traditional dress described here is not very relevant anymore.

[edit] Caste system

The caste system enforced by Namboothiris in Kerala was one of the most rigid in whole India. The rules of untouchability across various levels of castes, the regulation on the language used, the regulations on the dress, the regulations on the place of dwelling and also on the construction of the houses were either extreme form of caste rules or unheard of in other parts of India.

Vivekananda, a Hindu monk, famously declared Kerala "a lunatic asylum of castes" after observing the strange caste practices in the society.

[edit] Classes of Namboothiri

Functional Classification: The original Namboothiris are classified into ten sects. The classification was solely based on the jobs entrusted to (or opted by) the respective family. All members of a family were supposed to do the jobs entrusted to (or opted by) that family, which was assigned corresponding rights too. Though this classification methodology later turned out to be a ranking system of the families depending on the vocation entrusted to them, all Namboothiris were urged by their supreme authority to respect each other's profession, and hence to respect every other Namboothiri.

These ten classes and their rights and duties are

1. Aadu: They are specialised in Yaagam, and have Yaagaadhikaaram or the right to perform Yaagam.

2. Edu (a page in a book, symbolising knowledge): They have the right to acquire knowledge and teach Sanskrit, Vedam, Linguistics, Astronomy, Astrology, Architecture and so on.

3. Bhiksha (alms, symbolising a saint or a samnyaasi): They have the right to become a saint (or samnyaasi).

4. Picha (also means alms, in crude form): They are Othikkans, helping other Namboothiris to perform rituals.

5. Othu (Spiritual hymns): This class of Namboothiris was basically teachers of Othu (Vedam).

6. Saanthi (temple priesthood): These Namboothiris are priests in temples.

7. Adukkala (kitchen, symbolising cooking): These Namboothiri families were specialists in large-scale cooking and catering. A family belonging to this group has to be consulted on all catering-related issues including for Yaagam.

8. Arangu (stage): This special group of Namboothiris, called Chaathira Namboothiris, was a military group. Their evening entertainment was Panemkali (Sanghakkali).

9. Panthi (dining structure): Namboothiris like Graamani, Thangal, Vaal-Nambi and Ashtavaidyans (all Mooss families except Vaidhyamadham) belong to this category. Vaidhyamadham, though an Ashtavaidyan, belongs to Aadu class, as they are the Vaidyans in the Yaagasaala (the hall where Yaagam is performed). Mooss families are not included in the above eight classes as these physicians perform surgery. Graamani Namboothiris, Thangal Namboothiris and Vaal Nambis are Namboothiris performing village administration and hence excluded from the above eight classes.

10.Kadavu (bathing points in the pond): Elayathu and Adikal are Namboothiris belonging to this category. Elayathu and Adikal are not included in the above nine classes because Elayathu helps members of other castes to perform their rituals, while Adikal uses meat and blood to perform temple rituals.

An elite sub-class of Aadu class above, is a special group of Namboothiris known as "Ashtagrihathil Aadhyanmaar" (eight elite families). They, along with Mezhathol Agnihothri, did 99 yaagas (Yajnas. It could be believed that by conducting 99 Yaagas, members of these eight Namboothiri families have become experts in almost all the aspects of Veda. Looking from that angle, the efforts of Mezhathol Agnihothri and seven other families to preserve the Vedic tradition of Namboothiris are to be appreciated.

[edit] The Bhatta title

Bhattathiripad and Bhattathiri are surnames of some Namboothiri families. They are titles gained due to their scholarship. The three types of bhattathiris are Saasthra Bhattathiris, Smaartha Bhattathiris and Bhaagavatha Bhattathiris. The Saasthra Bhattathiris are Namboothiris who were honoured by this title after receiving the "Bhatta" title from the Zamorin raja of Kozhikode after passing various examinations conducted during the famous "Pattathaanam", on their scholarship in Sanskrit, Vedam, Linguistics, Astronomy, Astrology, Architecture, Meemaamsa, Tharkam (logic) and so on. Many elite Namboothiris became Bhattathiripad in this way. The Smaartha Bhattathiris specialised in conducting trials and bringing out the evidences from the mouth of the culprit, if a Namboothiri (man or woman) committed sins in social life. Bhaagavatha Bhattathiris specialize in oratory and recitation of "Puraanams" (epics) like Bhaagavatham. Many Namboothiris became Bhattathiris in this manner.

[edit] Scholarship

[edit] Ayurveda

Ashtavaidyans are believed to be the traditional Ayurvedic physicians of Kerala and are from Namboothiri community. They are masters of the eight branches of medicine from which the word Ashtavaidyan is originated. They wrote several books incorporating their observations and clinical experiences. "Chikitsa Manjari", "Yogamithram", "Abhidhana Manjari", "Alathur Manipravalam", "Sindoora Manjari" and "Kairaly Commentary on Ashtanga Hridayam" are some of them. They come under the family of Vaagbhatachaaryan, one of the members of Brihat Trayee. Brihat Trayees are three authentic Aachaaryans, namely Susruthan, Charakan and Vaagbhatan.

[edit] Toxicology

Kerala has seen numerous Namboothiri families who used to practice Vishachikitsa (Toxicology) in very effective yet inexpensive manner, absolutely free. It is a pity that today only a handful continue that tradition. Doyens in this field were Kaaraad Namboothiri (Kurumbranaad, N Malabar), Kokkara Namboothiri (near Tripunithura), Tharananalloor Namboodiri, Kirangatt Nambudiripad (Thrissur), Avanaparamb Godan (Anujan) Nambudiripad (Thrissur), Avanaparamb, Maheswaran Nambudiripad, Mankulam Govindan Namboothiri , and several others. Pambumekkatt and Mannarasala do not actually practice Vishachikitsa. After the snake bite-victims are brought there, they spray Theerttham (sacred water) and drop Bhasmam (sacred ash) on the victims. It is believed that the victims are saved through the blessings of the serpent gods.

Families namely Amedamangalam, Pathirikkunnath, Athippatta, etc. are famous for eliminating the wrath of serpents ("Sarpakopam") and also ritually relocate sacred serpent groves ("Paambinkaavu").

[edit] paediatrics

The Kunnath Mana of Thrissur has an Ayurvedic tradition, particularly in paediatrics, for five or six centuries. Many Ashtavaidyan families of Kerala sought help and advice from them.

[edit] Ophthalmology

Nellikkat Illam in Koothattukulam (Kottayam Dist.) has gained special expertise in "Oordhwaanga Rogam" ("Saalaakya Thanthram") of ophthalmology.

[edit] Elephant treatment

"Paalakaapyam" is a treatise (Granthham) authored by Sage Paalakaapya. This work is better known as Hasthyaayurvedam (Encyclopaedia of Elephants and their Treatment). There were a few Namboothiris who had studied it and practised the techniques.

[edit] Stage plays

Namboothiri's who had acquired political authority in Kerala, developed a new hybrid art form called 'Sanghakkali' through adaptations of the music, dance, martial arts, folk-drama and other local art-forms and adding to it the Naalupaadam sung along the lines of the Veda chants. This represents a turning point in Kerala's traditional theatre arts and stage plays. There were 32 teams of Namboothiris, performing this art form.

The contribution of the Namboothiri community to the evolution, overall development and promotion of Kathakali dance-drama can never be over-stressed, They had an immense presence in the Kathakali canvas, be it in choreography, lyrics, acting, composing, singing, drumming and perhaps more importantly, in organizing and running of Kathakali troupes with "Kalaris" for training, or as just plain connoisseurs or serious critics. Around 23 Kathakali Yogams have been identified as having been established by Namboothiri families. They were not behind in literary capabilities, either. Many from the community had authored and choreographed ("Chittappeduthal") Aattakkathhaas, some of which gained much popularity.

[edit] Painting

The richness as well as weaknesses of the wall paintings of Kerala can be said to have been derived from the visionary zeal of Namboothiris. The symbolism and display of colours have their origin in the Vedic heritage. True to the Indian tradition, while green was considered to represent "Sathwa-gunam" and red, "Rajo-gunam", they equated white or absence of colour with "Thamo-gunam". They gave primacy to the concept of "Manthrams" over depiction of myths. Though this aspect had a certain restrictive impact on the development of this art form, it played an important part in enriching knowledge about gods and idols, and this wealth of knowledge enhanced Kerala's glory in the fields of Manthrams and Thanthram.

[edit] Calendar mathematics

Todays’s western is the outcome of Pope Gregory's Calendar Reform Commission under the leadership of Father Clavius, in 1582. Several historians have pointed out that the Father Clavius's Commission suddenly discovered a solution for the problem in the Julian Calendar with the help of Namboothiris through Jesuit fathers from Rome, arrived in Kerala. Namboothiris then practiced an error-free calendar system. Father Ricci, a jesuit father translated the masterpiece of Kerala mathematics and astronomy, Yuktibhaasha written in Malayalam. Along with that they might have sent translations of Kerala scientists such as Madhavan, Parameswaran, and Neelankandhan (Kelalloor Neelakandha Chomathiri). A proof for this can be seen in the following fact: During the years after Fr. Ricci visited Kochi and lived there, European mathematicians such as Galileo, Cavalieri, and Gregoy brought about immense revisions in their own mathematical theories. Most of the scientists of the day had close connection with Jesuit libraries in Rome and elsewhere. In some of the European scientific texts of the period, all of a sudden there began to appear references to Indian mathematical advances.

[edit] Mathematics

Astronomy (Jyothissaasthram) was popular in Kerala even in ancient times, and their deep knowledge of Namboothiris in that branch of science is well-known. A number of great treatises (Granthhams) were written by several eminent scholars (most of them Namboothiris) of the area at different times. It is difficult to date some of the very ancient ones such as "Devakeralam", "Sukrakeralam" (also known as "Bhrigukeralam", "Kerala Rahasyam" or "Keraleeyam" and has 10 chapters), "Vararuchi Keralam" (or "Jaathaka Rahasyam" or "Kerala Nirnayam" - quite possibly authored by Vaakyam expert, Vararuchi), and "Keraleeya Soothram".

The 7th century (AD) witnessed tremendous development in Jyothissaasthram (astronomy) in Kerala. The contributions of the Namboothiris in Astrology, Astronomy and Mathematics have been immense. They had a capacity for unmistakable and sharp observations on the natural phenomena and accurate ability of deducting complicated theoretical formulae. The works of prominent ones among them during a long period of about a millenium between the seventh and the eighteenth century (AD) are Bhaaskaraachaaryan - I (early 6th century AD), Bhaaskaraachaaryan-II (11th century), who wrote "Leelaavathy", Haridathan (650 - 750 AD), Sree Sankaracharya (788 - 820 AD), who first expounded the idea of assigning a set of natural numbers to a straight line that also required the symbol of infinity and is also famous for his second "Slokam" of "Soundarya Lahari" which gives a hint to the Einstein’s theory of inter-convertibility of mass and energy, Sankaranarayanan (9th century), Sreepathy (around 1039 AD) , Thalakkulathu Bhattathiri (1237 - 1295 AD), Sooryadevan Somayaaji (Sooryadeva Yajwaavu), Irinjaatappilly Madhavan Namboodiri (1340 - 1425), the doyen whose enunciatiation of formulae for accurate determination of the circumference of a circle and the value of p by the method of indeterminate series, a method which was rediscovered in Europe nearly three centuries later and whose enunciation for the first time in the world, of the formula for the sine of sum of two angles, sine (A + B) = sine A cos B + cos A sine B, and the power series expansions for sin x and cos x for an arc x correct to 1/3600 of a degree, Vatasseri Parameswaran Namboodiri (1360 - 1455), Puthumana Somayaaji, a doyen who expanded tan and tan inverse much before Europeans derived it, Chennas Narayanan Namboodiripad (mid 15th century), Kelallur Neelakandha Somayaaji (1465 - 1545), Paarangottu Jyeshthhadevan Namboodiri (1500 - 1610), Mahishamangalam Narayanan Namboodiri (1540 - 1610), Chithrabhanu Namboodiri (16th century) whose work "Eka Vimsathi Prasnothari" gives a method of solving the binomials (A + B), (A - B), (A² + B²), (A³ + B³), (A³ - B³), AB, etc with twenty one different ways to solve for A and B, given any two of these. The achievements of such and other Kerala mathematicians were, at first, brought to the notice of scholars, both Indian and western, by Charles M Whilsh who presented a paper on the subject before the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 3 (1835) (509 - 523).

[edit] Letter-number system

"Paralpperu" is an ancient method for memorising oft-used numbers, by converting them into words or word-clusters. Vararuchi, the great grammarian is the proponent of this technique, very widely used by Namboothiris.

[edit] Architecture

Vaasthu Vidya, the art and science of construction existed in India from Vedic times. "Sthhaapathya Vedam" is a subsidiary branch of Athharva Vedam which is one among the four Vedams. The science of house construction, traditionally known as "Vaasthu Vidya" or "Thachu Saasthram" is nothing but this Sthhaapathya Vedam. Like other scientific treatises in India the art of building construction is also written in Sanskrit, and find references to it in her scriptures and legends. A profound knowledge of Sanskrit was indispensable for a proper understanding of the subject. The Namboothiris were well-versed in Sanskrit and so they had easier access to and better grasp of this subject. Along with Vaasthu Vidya, the seekers got opportunities of learning Astrology and Thanthric rites, since the three fields are inter-related. As a result, those practising Thanthric rites were adept at building construction too. Mention must be made here that Keralites have been following the principles of construction as enshrined in treatises like "Silparathnam", "Manushyaalaya Chandrika", etc. which were written by great masters of the subject, and which describe the designs and styles of construction unique to the geographical condition of the region, and quite different from those in the neighbouring states. It is interesting to remember that a detailed description of the plan, style and design relating to building of houses is a special feature of Kerala, not found in other parts of India. Kanippayyur Krishnan Namboothiripad, now consulting across globe, is a doyen in Vaasthu.

[edit] Chess

Historians the world over agree that India is the country of origin of chess. "Chathurangam" which was popular in Kerala, is probably the one closest to international chess. The two prominent sects, Namboothiris and Muslims, who had played pivotal roles in shaping the region's cult, culture and customs, were also ardent lovers of Chathurangam. They patronised it for hundreds of years. Two old vernacular poetries, "Payyannur Paattu" (AD 13th Century) and "Chandrolsavam" (16th Century) mention Chathurangam. Legend has it that Chathurangam was instrumental in the creation of the famous poetic work "Krishnagaattha" by Cherusseri Namboodiri - a scholar who decorated the royal assembly of Raja Udayavarman of Kolathunaadu (1466 - 1471). The works of poets like Punam Namboodiri, Kunchan Nambiar, etc., and the heroic songs of "Vadakkan Paattu" (ballads of North Malabar) written during the 14th to 17th centuries carry mention of Chathurangam. It has been recorded that Rev. Fr. Arnos who came to Kerala for missionary work (AD 1681 - 1732), learned Sanskrit and Chathurangam from Namboothiris. Chathurangam columns marked on the floor of house at Velur (Thrissur District) where Arnos "Paathiri" lived his last days can be seen even now as evidence of his love towards the game. Rev. Fr. Poulinose, while referring to the old educational system in Kerala, points out the special role of Chathurangam in the development of one's mental faculty. In Kerala, Namboothiris occupied a place of pride in the renowned centres of learning like Kodungallur, Koodallur, Payyur, etc. They also enjoyed a high degree of royal favours in the power centres. It was mainly Namboothiris and upper caste people who were acquiring knowledge in Sanskrit, Logic, Literature, "Saasthrams" (sciences), etc. Famous temples, Manas or Illams of rich Namboothiri landlords were adorned with permanent arenas for Chathurangam. Many famous temples in Kerala have permanent structures of granite floorings with 64 squares carved on it for playing Chathurangam. Till the late 1950s, famous Namboothiri landlords used to invite leading Chathurangam players, provide them all hospitalities for days together for playing exhibition matches and giving tips to up-and-coming talents. The Arabs, who were the trade links between India and the West, took the game of Chathurangam to other parts of the world, and the game gained enviable growth and popularity. The various countries followed different rules though the main theme remained the same.

[edit] Sorcery

Legend has it that after Sage Parasuraaman raised the land of Kerala from the Arabian sea, divided it into four "Thalis" and 64 "Graamams", and set up temples, he assigned six Namboothiri families including Kaattumaadam, Kalloor and Soorykaalady for treating the mentally deranged. The Sooktham : "Mananaal Thraayathe Ithi Manthram" connotes divine protection of the chanter and the persons for whom Manthram is chanted.

Among Braahmanans, only Namboothiris have taken up "Manthravadam" (sorcery) as a profession, with mainly "Bhadrakaali" as their traditional deity ("Adhidevatha"), while non-Braahmanans have "Chaathan", "Arukula", "Karinkutty" and other "Saaktheya Moorthys". Manthravaadam is not considered by the Namboothiri community as "Uthama-karmam" (spiritually elevating), and the performer is believed to get the curse of the evil spirits ridden or eliminated through the sorcery.

[edit] Social reforms

The Hindu Marriage Act and the influence of Communism during the start of 20th century made drastic effects on this otherwise orthodox community. Determined steps were made to give more rights to women, and to desist the men folk from having alliances with members from other castes. The Land Reforms Act, also caused a heavy blow on this community (along with other castes like Nairs) as agricultural land was taken away from them.

[edit] Present state of the community

Today you find members of this community in all walks of life, all across the world - right from the priest at a nearby temple, to a software engineer or an accountant in the Middle East, Europe or in the United States. In Srilanka, the members of the Salagama caste believe that their ancestors were Namboodiri brahmins,who arrived in Srilanka, from a village called Sali-Gramam, or Shali-Gramam, an article which appeared in the "Sunday Observer" April 28 2002,in Srilanka under the heading "GE" names of the Sinhalese people says, {It may be mentioned here that some members of the Salagama community, own "GE" names aligned to "Shali-Grama" of India said to be their root land,} Their community has a flag, which they call theNambudiri Flag which they frame, and hang in their homes. They have names which commence with Namediri, or Nanediri (the sinhala version of Namboodiri),in Sinhala language,Nam or Nan means the same (Nam=Names), (Nan=Names),& also names ending with Muni, Edirimuni, Walimuni (Walaimuni), Jagamuni, Yagamuni (Sage who performs yaga), Rammuni(Sage of lord Ram), Wijerama (the conquering Rama), Weerakkodi (Weerakkodai) etc. According to a legend, during the 15th or the 16th century, the buddhist monks in Srilanka refused to perform the rituals associated with the coronation ceremony of a King,(most probably the son of King Bhuvenaka Bahu the 2nd as Prince Wathhimi's mother was supposed to be a muslim lady from the Kings harem) and as a consequence the King invited Namboodiri Brahmins instead. The brahmins subsequently wanted to return to Kerala after performing the ceremony, but the King, who was pleased with them, wanted them to stay on in Srilanka, and offered them royal maidens in marriage. They assimilated well into the Sinhala community and their descendants formed the Salagama caste,along with Weavers, & Mercenary Soldiers who came from Kerala.

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Namboothiri Brahmin

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