Nayar or Nair ( Malayalam: നായര്; Nayar ) is the name of a Hindu Kshatriya Jati in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Before the conquest by the British in 1792, there were in the Kerala region of small feudal royalty, in which were the royal and princely clans, the military and the most rural landowners to the caste of Nayar. The Nayars are known for their history as a warrior, especially for their martial arts, the Kalaripayattu.
The Nayar families had traditionally a matrilineal kinship system. Regarding the marriage Nayars had unusual habits and customs:
" After puberty a girl or a woman could receive a number of them visiting husbands of her own or a higher caste. Nayar men were allowed so many women of appropriate state visit as they wanted. Women were entertained by their matrilineal group, and fathers had no rights or obligations in respect of their children. (After puberty the girl or woman Could receive a number of visiting husbands of her own or a higher caste. Nayar men might also visit as many women of rank Appropriate As They chose. Women were maintained by Their matrilineal groups, and fathers had no rights or obligations in regard to Their children. ) "
Most Nayars wear as surname the name of their extended family, the Tharavadu. These other surnames are added, used for the identification of the origin. The kings of Cochin transferred the title of prince Nayars like Achan, Kartha, Kaimal and Mannadiar. Even the title Menon occurs in the Malabar and Cochin area.
Until the early 20th century, the Nayars exerted their influence in the Keralite society as feudal lords and landlords. Your position in society as a warrior caste was compared with that of the samurai in medieval Japan. The Nayars dominated the civil, administrative and military elite of the pre- British era.
In the post-colonial era land reform led to massive loss of land ownership of the Nayar - feudal lords, and some Nayars impoverished literally overnight.