Eminent Anthropologist Kathleen Gough, in her study of the Indian castes said that Nair community is not a unitary group but named after a category of castes. This community mainly inhabited the southern state of Kerala. The eldest member of a Nair family is called the Karnavan and vests control over the common property and the income derived from the properties.
Nair matrimonial customs are quite different compared to other castes. Nair matrimony customs varied from region to region, the main points of interest to researchers of Nair customs were the existence of two particular rituals – the pre-pubertal Thalikettu Kalyanam and sambandham. Polygamy was also practiced in Nair matrimony. As per some research studies some Nair women also practiced hypergamy with Nambudiri Brahmins from the Malabar region.
What is Sambandham?
Sambandham is a simple Nair matrimony which involves presentation of a cloth by a man to a woman. In ancient Kerala it appears that both men and women could have Sambhandam with more than one person at the same time.
Serpent worship (Naaga Devatha pooja) is followed by Nairs; a serpent grove is found in every southwest corner of Nair compound. The Nairs identify themselves being in several sub-groups; however, it is not known that whether these groups should be considered as sub-castes or a mixture of sub groups and those of sub divisions. Despite being influenced by Aryan traditions, remnants of the Naga customs are still found amongst the Nairs.
Nair weddings involve very little religious customs and lasts for a few minutes. The Malayalee month of Chingham is considered to be the most auspicious month to conduct Nair weddings.
The marriage venue will be usually at the place of the bride. It may take place in a Kalyana mandapam (a hall rented for the occasion) or in temples or in a pandal erected on the foreground of the house. The girl’s father does the Kanyadaanam to the groom signifying the end of Nair matrimony.