The Malayala Kshatriyas are divided in to more than 200 subdivisions. But In general, they can be categorized in to four main divisions – Nair Superior, Nair Proper, nair auxillary and Nair Inferior.
Nair Superior clans composed the Royal or ruling dynasties of Kerala. Out of the 161 Royal houses of Kerala, 157 were Nair, 3 were Nambudiri and One was Muslim.
Broadly, the ruling clans can be divided in to two – koil thampurans and samantan nairs.
Koil thampurans are very few in number, and major clans among them include the royal families of cochin and beypore. Current population is somewhere around 5,000.
Koil thampuran clans:
(1) Perumpadappu Swaroopam (Royal Family of Cochin)
(2) Koil Thampurans of Travancore (a total of 10 clans – Kilimanoor, Keerthipuram, Pallam, Paliyakkara, Nirazhi, Anantapuram, Chemprol, Cherukol, Karamma & Vatakkematham)
(3) Puranatt Swaroopam (Royal Family of Kottayam)
(4) Royal Family of Beypore
(5) Royal Family of Kondungalloor
(6) Royal Family of Vettatnad (Extinct)
Samantan nairs are slightly more numerous. Royal families of Travancore, chirakkal, Calicut.etc are samantan nairs. Currently they number more than 50,000 individuals, divided in to more than 150 clans.
Major samantannair clans:
(1) Nediyiruppu Swaroopam (Royal Family of Calicut or Zamorins)
(2) Venad Swaroopam (Royal Family of Travancore)
(3) Kola Swaroopam (Royal Family of Kolathunad / Chirakkal)
(4) Thirumukhom (Most notably Pillais of Ettuveedu and Naluveedu)
(5) Thampi (Clans in Aramana,Puthumana, Kallada, Mupidakka, Chavara, Pulimoodu, Vadasseri, Thiruvattar & Nagarcoil)
(6) Valiyathan (Clans in Vattaparambil,Thottathil, Medayil.etc)
(7) Unnithan (Clans in Edasseri,Kunnath, Manthiyath, Marangatt, Munjanatt, Pullelil, Manappallil.etc)
(8) Kartha / Karthavu (Royal Family of Meenachil, Clans in Ranni, Karimattath, Cheraneloor, Mannamparambath, Alangad.etc)
(9) Kaimal (Raja of Anjikaimalnadu, Clans in Vaikattillam, Niranampetti, Thachudaya.etc)
(10) Samantan Menon (Royal Family of Palghat)
(11) Samantan Nambiar (Royal Family of Kadathanad, Clans in Randuthara, Randillom, Mavila, Koodali, Kalliat.etc)
(12) Kavalappara Swaroopam
(13) Pulavayi Swaroopam
(14) Arangottu Swaroopam (Royal Family of Valluvanad)
(15) Nedunganad Swaroopam
(16) Nayanar (Clans in Edathil,Erambala, Varikara & Vengayil)
(17) Adiyodi (Clans in Tekkadi & Vadakkadi)
(18) Kurangott Swaroopam
(19) Kuthiravattath Swaroopam
Nair PROPER is the aristocratic and soldier class of Kerala. There are four subdivisions among them. Altogether the nair proper number somewhere around 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 people, concentrated in Kerala and neighbouring states.
The four nair subdivisions are:
1. Kiryathil Nair
2. Illathu Nair
3. Swaroopathil Nair
4. Charna Nair
kiryathil nairs are the highest ranking class among the nair proper. A few of them were rajas, but most of them were landlords (jenmis) or aristocrats. However a large number of them also served in the armies. Many of the folk heroes mentioned in vadakkan pattukal werekiryathil (like thacholi othenan &kadathanadan ambadi). Till the 18th century, kiryathils formed the majority of all nairs, but after the genocide they suffered when tipu sultan invaded Malabar, their numbers declined steeply. Currently they comprise only about 1/6th to 1/5th of the nair population. They compose of a large number of subdivisions. Kiryathils are mostly found in extreme north kerala (north Malabar region – especially kannur, kasargod and wynad districts) as well as in palghat district.
Illathu nairs are the highest ranking nairs in the travancore region. There were a few royal families among them until the 18th century (Meenachil, ettuveettil.etc), but all of them lost power after marthandavarma’s conquests. Most of them were landlords and aristocrats, but a considerable number served as soldiers (Iravikutty pillai, velu thampi, padmanabhapillai, kesava pillai.etc) or as ministers. Illakkar are pure vegetarian and this distinguishes them from other divisions. The population of illathu nairs has been rising since the last 2 centuries, at the expense of other divisions, through intermarriage and lower death rates. Right now they constitute around 50% of all nairs. Major concentrations are found in south Travancore (Trivandrum, quilon and cape comorin districts). Illakkar used the surname “pillai” until the mid 20th century, but currently they use the surname “nair” (Except those in quilon district).
Swaroopathil and charna nairs were the major military castes of kerala. They had no other occupation other than that in the army. Charna nairs are found only in north kerala, while swaroopathil are found only in the south kerala region. They constitute more than 1/4th of the total nair population. All menons (other than menon-panicker) are charnanairs.
Nair auxillary consists of a very large number of Brahmin, vaishya and kshatriya castes which were assimilated in to the malayala kshatriya community. They include:
T2. TAMIL PADAM NAIR ( THEVAR )
T2. TAMIL PADAM NAIR ( THEVAR )
5. Asthikkurachi Maarar & Chitikan Nair
6. Vaniya Nair – Including Chetty Nair, Mutta, Taraka & Ravari
7. Pallichan Nair
8. Padamangalam Nair ,ITASSERI NAIR
Nair inferior refers to a large grouping of servile castes which work for the nairs. Nair proper don’t engage in intermarriage with these castes. Major subdivisions are:
1. Chempukotti Nair
2. Otattu Nair
3. Puliyath & Matavan Nair
4. Kalamkotti & Anthoor Nair
5. Chakkala & Vattakkadan Nair
6. Chaliyan Nair
7. Maniyani Nair
8. Veluthedathu Nair
9. Vilakkithala Nair