(Last Updated on : 12/08/2009)
The Ezhava community
has been suppressed by the Brahmins and the Nayars for centuries. They have also suffered the pangs of untouchability. They were considered outsiders to the fourfold structure of the caste system. Having suffered so much discrimination they have removed themselves from the stigma of untouchability by their own efforts.
The martial character of the Ezhavas might have been an inheritance from the Villors (archers) of ancient Tamilakam. The first mention of this is in the legends of the Chekavans or Chakors celebrated in the heroic songs of Malabar.
The reputation of the Ezhavas in the fields of medicine and astrology rests on the fact that they were Buddhists. The Ashtanga-Hridaya is the most popular Ayurvedic treatise in Kerela. It was penned down by Vaghbhata, a Buddhist who spent some years in the Southwest of India. The Ezhava physician, Achuthan helped the Dutch governor-general in India (Henri Van Reid) in the compilation of the encyclopedic Materia Medico, in Latin. Yogamrutam, an Ayurvedic work held as a classic by Malayali physicians was written by Uppottu Kannan in the last century. Thayyil Krishnan Vaidyan of Ajleppey published a unique medical dictionary, the Aushadha Nighantu, in 1906.
An art form, especially obtaining in the Cannanore District among the Thiyyas, is known as poorakkali which is associated with the celebration of the Pooram festival (held during March-April) when sophisticated dances are presented and recitations of Puranic stories and scholarly disputations on ancient sastras like Vyakarna, Tarka (logic) and Vedanta are held.
Among Ezhavas marriage takes place after the girl attains puberty and the proto-Austroloid custom of taking the uncle's daughter as bride is often followed. Polygamy was also practised. Marriage customs vary from region to region.