Dear Mr. sangom/Nachi, I got lot of information when I read the above points. I want to add one point , referring to Naboodri Brahmins. It was written by K.P.S.Menon in THE Illustrated weekly. Many may remember. He says, in Kerala in a family of Namboodri Brahmins, only the eldest gets married to a namboodri girl. The rest of brothers do not marry. But will have KEEPS/ Concubines in other caste women. That was the custom, observed. Some of you should tell whether this continues ? Besides, he also had written that, when the women encounter any Namboodri on the road, coming in the opposite direction, the women, would immediately, take off the upper cloth, which would obviously expose their bare chest ( as they never wear blouse) in mark of respect. If the concubine gets married, still the right of the Namboodri does not stop. He would visit the woman's house and have a relation & return. It had been possible, because the woman continues to live with her Mother & does not go to her husband;s house.When Namboodri is inside the woman's house, & the husband also happen to visit his wife, he will not enter the house & will go away seeing a vessel (sombu) filled with water just at the entrance. So, preference is for Namboodri , & not to the husband. I have heard some dialogue in villages in early Forties, running thus :- "avvalavu Perya manishar koopdrar, eppadi pohamal irukkamudi?
coming from malabar/palghat for ever, this is what i know.
nairs/menons were a matrilineal society. the women did not marry per se, but had only sambandham. basically an arrangement for conjugal visits.
the hierarchy of the male if i remember right, was the namboodri, pattar, nair in that order. many a pattar, including my own uncles have had relationships, known and tolerated by the womenfolk.
all this stopped with the new hindu marriage act passed by nehru 1955, legally. though in practise, with the increasing mobility, awareness etc, the marumakkathaayam tradition was on the wane.
nowadays, the nairs are just like us. governed by hindu laws of succession, including equal rights for the females. i think personally, they are much more advanced socially than us, in that they do not have archaic customs which entraps them into excuses for partial or watered down observance like us.
it is a love hate relationship between pattars and nairs, for the obvious reasons. the founders of the dravidian movement included nairs. i have relatives, ie nieces married to nairs, as recently as last year, and welcomed by both families. what i wish to say, is that, today, nairs/menons/nambiars are more a fellow forward caste, than a brahmin NB divide, atleast in kerala or mumbai. that is my understanding, though folks like sangom who live in tvpm can give a more 'on site' view.
yes, in the days of old, nair nadar and ezhava women did not and were not allowed to wear upper garments. something of a sore spot, even now with the nadars, who use this to remind brahmins of their erstwhile humiliation of the nadar womenfolk.
the chombu thing, i have heard, but all that had practically disappeared in my hometown of badagara by the time i came to understand things.
the nairs treated the dalits, as badly as the brahmins.
all these are bad memories of the way hindu society was cast and practised. best forgotten, and in introspection, apologies delivered to the 'lower' castes of the hierarchies, with the brahmins, starting the process, to be followed by everyone else, except the dalits. that, and a formal revision of our values re caste and rituals, i feel are long overdue, if we desire to prevent more folks, just abandoning our customs. keep it simple and relevant to current values. we need to reinvent our mode of praying. it is not new. every eons, folks have come and reformed, before lethargy sets in, and we fall back into the cozy but tainted bed of casteism. maybe the future will be different.