INDOLOGY digest 686

Srinivasan Pichumani srini at
Tue Jun 3 19:28:48 UTC 1997

Vidya >> I was under the impression that the ottillAta nambUdiris 
Vidya >> were supposed to be a result of a curse that SankarAcArya 
Vidya >> is supposed to have laid on some relatives of his, barring 
Vidya >> them from Vedic study. Is this correct? 

It may be S'ankara-Digvijaya lore, but S'ankarAcArya doesn't 
seem to figure at all in this issue although he may have cursed
his relatives as above.

I very much doubt if S'ankarAcArya himself had any standing 
that accorded him such legislative power, among the highly 
orthodox and ritualistic Nambudiris of that time... also, it
is unclear how the medieval Nambudiris viewed him or if they 
had any special opinion at all. In the modern era, Nambudiris 
have tended to be more receptive of S'ankarAcArya embracing
him as one of their own.

According to the reference cited below (Staal too corrects 
his earlier statement in Nambudiri Veda Recitation, 1961,  
in Agni vol II) the term "OttillAttavar" itself is apparently 
used only for the SAstrAngakkars aka S'Astra-SAstra or cAttira 
Nambudiris, who traditionally were performers of yAtrAkaLi... 
as part of this performance, there is sword play.  

Kengo >> said to be prohibited from studynig the Vedas.  It is said, however,
Kengo >> that this prohibition is not observed, and that, as a matter of
Kengo >> fact, the Panniyuur Nambuutiris perform all the Vedic ceremonies.

Due to their legendary conflict with the cOvvaram Nambudiris,
they were "degraded"... but this essentially meant that they
couldn't perform only the elaborate s'rauta rituals for which 
they needed material help from others like the Raja of Kollengode...
who customarily provided deer-skin and "soma" plants to the 
Vedic sacrificers of that region.  Staal's Agni vol II mentions 
some details from the late 19th or early 20th century when
they tried to petition the Raja for materials needed to perform 
a yAga and were unsuccessful due to the continuing influence
of their arch-enemies in such matters.

Kengo >> Also, he continues to cite certain Subramani Aiyar on

Possibly K.V.Subramania Iyer, editor of Travancore Archaeological
Kengo >> ``five-sub-divisions among the Nambuutiris'', in which 
Kengo >> a division called Jaatimatras is mentioned.  They are 
Kengo >> said to be physicians, slodiers, or landed kings who 
Kengo >> originally had no time to study Vedas and came to be 
Kengo >> considered non-worthy of studying them because of their
Kengo >> profession.

According to the book "Aryans in South India" (Inter-India 
Publications, New Delhi, 1992) by the Kerala historian 
P.P.Narayanan Nambudiri, the aShTavaidyans (physicians of 
eight families) and cAttira Nambudiris are classified into 

Kengo >> Overall, the social structure of Nambudris seems to be, 
Kengo >> and have been complicated.  

You bet... the book above mentions even a small group of people 
called the Payyannur Nambudiris who follow marumakkatAyam or 
matriliny.  He discusses their situation in some detail and
ends with the conclusion that "they follow the NAyar 
marumakkatAyam with the Nambudiri ritualism in relgion".
Their adoption of matriliny was at the command of Paras'urAma 
to the Nambudiris - reported in KeralOlpatti - all other 
Nambudiris refused it in an act of outright disobedience !  

Despite the persistent legends about Paras'urAma and Kerala, 
the Nambudiris don't seem to have any special use for him.


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