Concept

Nadar (caste)

Summary
Nadar (also referred to as Nadan, Shanar and Shanan) is a Tamil caste of India. Nadars are predominant in the districts of Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Virudhunagar. The Nadar community was not a single caste, but developed from an assortment of related subcastes, which in course of time came under the single banner Nadar. Nadar climbers were the largest subsect of today's Nadar community. A few subsects of the Nadar community, such as the Nelamaikkarars, were traditionally wealthy landlords and money lenders. Historically, most Nadars were cultivators of palmyra trees and jaggery and a few were also involved in the toddy trade. Nadar climbers had faced discrimination from major upper castes in some regions. The martial art of Varma Kalai was historically practiced by the Nadars. The socio-economic development achieved by the Nadars in southern India has elicited academic interest. Nadars are classified and listed as an Other Backward Class by the governments of both Tamil Nadu and India. The community was previously known as Shanar but legally changed their name to Nadar in 1921. The title Nadar is believed to be derived from the Nelamaikkarars, the aristocrats of the Shanar community who had previously used it exclusively. Nadars claim that the original name of the community was Shantror or Shandrar (noble one) which, in course of time, was corrupted to Shanar. Channar is a title used by the Ezhava community of Kerala. However, there is no evidence to support these claims. The origin of Nadars as a social group is uncertain. Hardgrave stated that the Teri palmyra forests around today's Tiruchendur must have been their original abode. In the late 19th century, some Nadar activists started claiming that the Nadars are the descendants of those who ruled the Pandyan kingdom and that when Nayak rulers captured the Pandya country, it was divided into several Palayams (divisions) for each of which Palaiyakkars were appointed as rulers.
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