The Nairs here are those belonging to the Adivasi tribes of Paniya and Kurichya.
Historian M.G.S. Narayanan says the Nair community may have originated from the Adivasis, the state's native tribes of yore. Mr Narayanan raises this argument in his new book, Kerala Charithrathinu Chila Thiruthukal based on his 1972 thesis published in 2013 - The Perumals of Kerala, a pioneering study tracing the origin of the community. According to Mr Narayanan, a former chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research, the Brahmin settlers who received agricultural lands as grants from local chieftains used to include the native tribes as tenants for carrying forward the agriculture.
These people must have been called Nairs (Nayakars or leaders in Sanskrit) and in the course of time these tenants who cultivated this land on a hereditary basis where organised as a sub-caste called Nairs. “The Nairs of the state doesn’t have unity. The name Nair may have gotten from the Sanskrit word of Nayakan. The Nayakan in the army has turned as Nair and a sub-caste later," Mr Narayanan says in his book. “Those including Veluthedathu Nair, Chakkala Nair and Vaniyar are all commonly known as Nairs in our period. The Nairs here are those belonging to the Adivasi tribes of Paniya and Kurichya. Then they became the Nayakans of the army of the Brahmins and later Nairs.”
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Mr Narayanan said his new study was after perusing the inscriptions at the respective village temples where the practice of ‘land grants’ (the system by which the local chieftains granted land to the Brahmin settlers who in turn gave it to the local tribes for agricultural purposes) prevailed. He maintains in the book that the Nairs were not able to unite racially with other castes due to their origin from the Adivasis. He also connects Marumakkathayam (a matrilineal system of inheritance in which the sister’s son inherits the family assets) prevailed in the other geographically elevated places similar to the scenario prevailed among the Nairs of the state.
(Source: Deccan Chronicle)