Glossary

Ashtamangala Prasnam

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Prasna is one of the six branches of Vedic Astrology.  Ashtamangala Prasnam is a part of this Prasna branch usually conducted to ascertain the wishes of the deity in a temple.  Ashtamangala refers to eight (Ashta) auspicious (Mangala) items that are used in this type of divination.  These eight items are: ghee lamps (brass lamp with wick in clarified butter), mirror, gold, milk, yogurt, fruits, book and white cloth.  Deva Prasna is a special kind of Prasna (Prasna – question, horary astrology) specifically dealing with temple matters.  Based on the nature of the flame of the lamp, number and quality of the Tambula (betel leaves), Ashtamangala numbers, Swarna Lagna, Arooda Lagna, the position of various planets in the 12 houses of the Rasi Chart, etc., the astrologer will answer the various Prasnas (questions).

 

Success depends on a thorough knowledge of all the principles of Prasna Marga, plus a high degree of intelligence, great powers of observation and keen intuition stemming from spiritual practices and an austere, pure godly life style.  Since the subject of Prasna are matters connected with temple and the presiding deities, only the very best astrologers can conduct the Ashtamangala Prasnam.  Usually this is done in the form of a discussion among several scholarly astrologers present, so that chances of mistakes would be minimized, since the omission or error of one astrologer might be picked upon by another.

 

Kalari

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Each power centre in medieval Kerala was maintaining a body of fighters at the beck. Systematic training and strict rules of discipline for fighters were indispensable for an effective working of the system. It was in such circumstances that the 'Kalaris', which provided the institutional base for the body building and training in combat, became not only necessary but also essential.

 

A more scientific and specific categorization of 'Kalaris' is in terms of the measurement of the ground plan of the 'Kalari' Structure. Thus, the following types can be identified:

  • Aimpatteerati 52 ft.

  • Nalpatteerati 42 ft.

  • Muppatteerati 32 ft.

  • Patinettati 18 ft.

  • Panteerati 12 ft.

The nomenclature, which is on the basis of the measurement of the ground, speaks about the size of the structure that ranges between twelve feet and fifty-two feet. The most common among these is the 'Nalpatteerati', (forty-two feet in length). All 'Kalaris' except the 'Panteerati' bear a width that is half of the length. 'Panteerati' is square with the same length and breadth.

The 'Kalaris' of the northern parts of Kerala are called 'Kuzhikkalari'. 'Kuzhi', meaning a pit because the soil is dug out from the ground of the structure. Generally a ''Kalari'' is 42 feet long and 21 feet wide, the enclosing space dug out to a depth of about 6 feet.

 

It is protected from the heavy rain and the sun by a gabled roof, which is thatched by plaited coconut leaves or palm leaves. Its sides are also covered with the same material. The surface of the ground is kept evenly rammed and smooth. 'Kannimoola', the southern-western corner of the ''Kalari'' ground is considered to be sacred to Goddess Durga, Chandika or Bhagavathi who is venerated as the 'Kalariparadevata'

 

In the case of Ullanat family, the Tharavad gradually ceased to be a family of martial art trainers and changed as a large family with many lineages owning vast area of landed property with authority to wield power over the area.  The Kalari’s true utility as a training ground was lost and it changed as a seat of the family deities.  Today Kalari is the name of the family temple in Ullanat Tharavad were the Kalari Paradaivangal dwell.

 

Karanavar

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Karanavar is the senior most member of the Tharavad.  His wife is Ammayi, (Valiyammayi in Ullanat Tharavad).  The karanavar had the absolute powers to represent, possess and manage the Tharavad and its properties on behalf of its members. The karanavar provided everything from pocket money to clothes to the members.

 

Kerala Land Reforms Act 1963

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Even before the formation of the State of Kerala, there had been endeavors at land reforms, The Restriction on Possession and Ownership of Lands Bill, 1954 being the best example for the same. After the formation of the State of Kerala the first major achievement was the Kerala Agrarian Relations Bill, 1957, which was passed on October 15, 1960. This Act was repealed in 1961 and was substituted by The Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963. The Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 had provisions relating to the fixation of ceiling on land holdings, the vesting of lands in excess of the ceiling in Government, Assignment of surplus lands, abolition of tenancy system, assignment of proprietary right on land to the cultivating tenants and the conferment of the right on tenants (Kudikidappukars).

 

Komaram

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Oracle, usually dressed in red and carrying a sword and a large brass anklet, who dances in frenzy (Thullal) at the festivals in Bhagavathy temples in Kerala. Possessed by the spirit of the deity, the oracle at times, spells out directions from the deity to the assembled devotees.

 

Marumakkatthayam

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During the Chera-Chola War of eleventh century the patrilineal system of inheritance (Makkatthayam) disintegrated and was replaced by Marumakkatthayam (matrilineal system) in Kerala amongst Nair community.  The introduction of compulsory military training of males and their prolonged absence from home during the long period of Chola invasion is said to be the main reason for the rise of Marumakkatthayam in Kerala.  It was exceptional in the sense that it was one of the few traditional systems that gave women liberty, and right to property. Under this system, women enjoyed respect, prestige and power.  In the Marumakkathayam system, the family lived together in a tharavad which comprised of a mother, her brothers and younger sisters, and her children. The oldest brother was known as the Karanavar and was the head of the household and managed the family estate. Lineage was traced through the mother, and the children "belonged" to the mother's family. All family property was jointly owned. In the event of a partition, the shares of the children were clubbed with that of the mother.The Karnavar's property was inherited by his nephews & not his sons.

Nairs connect to and trace their lineage to a Tharavad - not to a member of the family. Tharavad names are quite an important element of social reckoning - though decreasing in importance these days. The kerala rulers also followed the Marumakkathayam system.

 

Today Kerala society has become much more cosmopolitan and modern. Nair men seek jobs away from their hometown and take their wives and children along with them. In this scenario, a joint-family system is not viable.  Hence the Marumakkathayam system is not very common in Kerala these days

 

Naduvazhi Nair

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A local minor chieftain belonging to Nair community, recognised by the king and appointed for local protection and giving judicious decisions in case of local disputes.  The family and the descendants are recognised of a higher status amongst the Nair community.

 

Para

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A large measure especially for measuring paddy. According to the ancient scale of measuring prevalent in Kerala, 4 Uzhakkus equal 1 Nazhi, 4 Nazhis equal 1 Itangazhi and 10 Itangazhis equal 1 Para. There is another smaller Para equalling 8 Itangazhis also.  The larger Para was used while receiving Pattam from tenants. 

 

Pattam

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Rent in kind that the tenant of the land gave to the landlord.

 

Tharavad

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The Tharavad, though it now stands generally for the ancestral home, gains its name from the context of which it is a part. Thara was a neighborhood, mainly Nair dominated. The Namboodiri dominated areas were called Uru.  Many tharas formed a Desom and many Desoms formed a Nadu and many Nadus formed a SwaroopamThara as a political organisation ceased to exist long before, but still is lively in many places as a community group. The many Nair houses associated with a temple and its surroundings called thara is a common settlement cluster in the region.

 

The Tharavad now stands for historic association with generations of ancestors. It goes back several generations. Overburdened with inhabitants, the Tharavad split into manageable matrilineal groups. No marriage took place between members of a Tharavad as they are considered related by blood.  Since the tharavadu had a brand of its own, it had vested upon the members a sense of responsibility to conduct themselves in manner befitting the traditions. Each tharavadu also had a clan deity which was revered by those in that particular tharavadu. Temples were also built to honour these deities. The Kalaridaivangal or the deities presiding over the practice of Kalaripayattu was usually the clan deities of Panickers and Kurups.

 

The Malabar Marriage Act of 1896, the Travancore Nair Act of 1912, 1925 and the Cochin Nair Act of 1920, dealing with the laws of marriage and family succession, right to property, protection and management have fundamentally affected the structure of Nair Tharavads. By the second half of the 20th century, the joint family system collapsed in Kerala. The last stone was the 1975 Joint Family Abolition Act.  These brought about major changes in property ownership and occupational patterns.  Nuclear family became the pervasive type and marked the end of feudal system in Kerala.

 

Thavazhi

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Sometimes when Tharavad or family  grows extremely large, the descendents of the family are divided according to various female lines (Thai Vazhi; Thai means mother and vazhi means line).  They would live in separate buildings and may own that portion of joint property which is theirs in partition and which is managed by the Karanavar.

 

Tulu region

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Tulu region is the area where the inhabitants speak the Tulu language.  In the present day it is the region consisting of Uttara and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka and a part of Kasaragode district of Kerala. 

 According to the work called “Keralolpatthi” narrating the origin of Kerala, supposed to have been written in the 17th century by Tunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, the father of Malayalam literature, the early Tulu country was from Gokarnam to Perumpuzha of North Malabar.