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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Women empowerment and freedom to women among Nairs in Kerala

Women empowerment and emancipation of women are ideals and future goals for many sections in the society but for Nairs it is a reality from ancient times and Nair women are one of the few groups in the world who enjoyed equality with men in almost all walks of life.
Ancient Nairs followed a system known as Marumakkathayam which provided security and freedom to Nair women at those times. This was unknowingly translated as matriarchy by some western educated scholars. Though women commanded respect among Nairs, Nairs cannot be called a matriarchal society in the real sense. Let us bear in mind the complexities of Nair society and family when we speak of empowered Nair women.
Ancient Nair women were free and it was almost impossible for erring men to exploit sexually or otherwise the proud and brave Nair women. But Nair women never dominated men as some academics have tried to portray and Nair women never headed Nair families or had an upper hand in social set up compared to men as written by some half baked intellectuals. This equality among men and women gave security to Nair women and Nair women did not consider men as opponents.
Actually, in ancient times Nair joint families were headed by Old maternal uncles instead of fathers. Maternal uncles and elders commanded immense respect of nephews. Their views were normally obeyed. This was the general norm. But in the case of rich there was freedom to differ within the system. Rich husbands often gave separate gifts to their wives and clearly had a special say in the upbringing of children. Like other Hindus, Nair women also respected husbands and conducted many religious rights for the well being of husbands. The social set up ensured freedom as well as security to Nair women.
Though old males headed who headed joint families guided Nair women, she enjoyed a fair degree of freedom economically and socially. Ancient Nair women had the right to choose their husbands and divorce if she found it was impossible to maintain healthy relationship. Dowry system was not prevalent among Nairs before 1940s. Nair women were also allowed to learn martial arts (Kalari) and had the right to education.
Nair women enjoyed sexual freedom also but there were checks and balances to prevent it from becoming anarchy. Sexual crimes were less and Males would think twice before trying to attack armed Nair ladies.
When heads called Karanavars took decisions, they took into consideration views of women folk also. Autocracy of Uncles was not tolerated.
Many western trained academics did not understand this complex system and they simply termed Nairs Matriarchal like some tribal communities. But it is far from truth. Such wrong conclusions are the result of trying to define position of Nair women using parameters fixed by Western sociologists. Many of such conclusions are only partial truths and do not really reflect the social system that existed among Nairs.
Such complex family systems came into place as young Nair males were mainly warriors by profession and could not concentrate on the day to day affairs of the family. Old males were into agricultural activities and looked after families.
Nairs owned vast tracts of land in Kerala and their women had the right over crop yields of certain portions. This gave them economic freedom to a certain extent. Of course, the main income had to be distributed by uncles. Normally married girls continued to live with her parents and husbands came to her family. It meant there was little chance for women to face harassment from in laws.
(Marumakkathayam has been abolished by law in Kochi in 1920, Travancore in 1925 and Malabar in around 1933. Nairs now have nuclear families consisting of father, mother and children and sometimes grandfather and grandmother)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mannam International Socio-Cultural and Charitable Centre of Delhi NSS inaugurated

 Mannam International Socio-Cultural and Charitable Centre set up by Delhi NSS was opened at Dwarka in New Delhi in November 2012. President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee formally declared the centre open at a function organised in Rashtrpati Bhavan.

According to a report that appeared in The Hindu on the occasion, the centre, located at Dwarka, seeks to provide care for senior citizens, healthcare to the underprivileged, temporary shelter to the needy who visit the capital, and space for community functions.

Though this blog has no formal connection with Delhi NSS, I think this should be reported to the world as it is an important event for Nair community throughout the world, especially in Delhi and nearby states. But I wish the patrons of Delhi NSS realised the importance of publishing this event through Centre's own website so that those who would benefit come to know about it. Anyway an international institutions needs to have own website and issue periodical newsletters.

In his inaugural speech the president recalled the contributions of Mannam to the socio-cultural renaissance in Kerala.
‘‘Mannathu Padmanabhan participated in the Vaikom Satyagraha in Kerala which resulted in streets around the Vaikom Shiva temple being opened to the socially underprivileged sections of Hindu society as well as the Guruvayur Satyagraha which led to entry of underprivileged classes into temples,’’ Mukherjee said.

He pointed out that Mannam worked with rare zeal and single-minded devotion for the transformation of the downtrodden in society. A large number of dignitaries were present at the function at Rashtrapati Bhavan who included Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor and T.K.A. Nair, Adviser to the Prime Minister.

Let us all congratulate Delhi NSS for opening such a centre. Nairs had significant presence and were influential in Delhi right from the days of independence. However Nairs did not have any organisation or community office in Delhi. Delhi NSS has not only fulfilled the role but has taken the lead in bringing together influential Nairs in Delhi on a common platform for the greater common good of the community and the society. I hope Delhi NSS grows to a big organisation and help and guide Nairs based in North India.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wikipedia Page on Famous Nairs Being Vandalised

Who is afraid of Famous Nairs? Those who read this might think why should anybody be afraid of #FamousNairs. Yes I also thought like that till I saw Wikipedia page on FamousNairs. The page on #Famous Nairs is being edited every day to remove many names from the list.

Now it is obvious that there are people who are afraid of #FamousNairs; or perhaps envious that so many famous personalities were born in Nair community. Now who is editing #Wikipedia too frequently to remove names of #FamousNairs. I don’t know. It would be difficult for you also to find culprits. But we can do one thing. We can e-mail to #Wikipedia authorities to pinpoint those who vandalize Nairs page on #Wikipedia.
I have done another thing. I have decided to update the article #FamousNairs in this blog including names of Nairs who are famous in fields like Freedom movement of India, politics, administration, literature, business and economy, and many more. I have started updating the list.

Nairs are often not considered to be good business men though the community has produced many famous bureaucrats and politicians. But when I began searching for #FamousNairs among business people, I was amazed. There are many top business men in Nair community. If you take a list of ministers and bureaucrats it would amaze you. You will find endless number of names.

Take film field; you find hundreds of actors, directors, singers and others who contribute to film industry. #Take the names of Jananpith award winners from Kerala. Nairs are in majority. When we include this in the list #FamousNairs it is natural for intolerant people to feel jealous. How should we defeat their designs. We should produce more #FamousNairs in every field of life. These jealous people can delete names from the list of #FamousNairs in #Wikipedia. But that does not reduce the number of #FamousNairs. The ever increasing list of #FamousNairs should inspire our community’s youngsters to become big in their field.

This is a competitive world. Nairs don’t have reservation in jobs. But this should make us more competitive; we should be become the crème de la crème.
Here is an appeal to #FamousNairs in different fields. After becoming famous you should not forget your brethren. You should do something for our youth. Lend them a helping hand so that the list of #FamousNairs increase.