Nayanars (was: Chakravarty)

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Feb 19 19:02:11 UTC 2002

Op maandag 18 februari 2002 00:20, schreef George Hart:

> According to the Tamil Lexicon, Tamil Nayanar (cf. Malayam Nairs,
> Telugu Naidus, all from nii, "lead"), are "Title of certain castes
> such as Cainar (Jains), KaikkooLar, UTaiyar, and a section of
> VeeLaaLar."  These are all extremely high castes -- [...]
> Consulting only Sanskrit texts and speaking only (I stress only) with
> Brahmins are activities that are fraught with peril -- they give a
> very strange and inaccurate picture of South India (and, I suspect,
> North India as well).  [...]

I agree completely.

One of my Tamil teachers was a Nayanar, and he described the caste as 
"as low as one can be without becoming an untouchable". In this he was 
reproducing (with a bitter mien and tone of voice) what brahmins had 
wanted him to believe. But a Jaina Nayanar will laugh at a brahmin who 
tells him that he is 'low'.

The question of just who is 'high' and 'low' often remains open, esp. 
in South India. E.g., Brahmins in Karnataka look down upon Virasaivas, 
but the latter are quite capable of doing exactly the same in return, 
just like Jainas.

Robert Zydenbos
Universität München

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