(Last Updated on : 08/07/2019)
Nadar caste was recognized as Shanars till the 19th century. Thereafter they came to be known as Nadars which was derived from the Nandans, the supreme head of this community
. The origin of the caste as a social group is anonymous. However historians believe that they are the descendants of prehistoric rulers like Cheras, Cholas
. There is not much evidence to support this claim.
Nadar Caste in Early 19th Century
Nadars were considered as the lower caste and treated with contempt. They were not allowed to touch the Brahmins
or the Nairs. They were not allowed to dress like the higher caste. They were immensely tortured and burdened with various taxes and the higher castes were exempted from it. They lost their major income in the form of fines, taxes and gifts. The Nadars were levied poll, professional and land taxes. They were considered untouchable and kept aloof as a result, faced many religious restrictions too. They were not allowed to enter the temples, so they were allotted their own places of worship. With the entry of Christian missionaries, the Nadars improved in all spheres of life. They had relieved them from the taxes, gave them basic education in Tamil
, English and vocational training. This led many to convert to Christianity
. However the Nairs and other high castes were annoyed as their wishes were being violated. They felt insulted. They had constantly assaulted the missionaries and Christian converts.
Nadar Caste of late 19th Century
Nadar community was employed in Palmyra industry and thus considered to be lower than middle castes but higher than other lower castes of that century. As they were associated with toddy they were not permitted to enter the temples. Some Nadars who lived as minor caste in parts of Madras presidency
faced discrimination. Gradually they became commercially skilled and mobile in the late 19th century. Interference of Christian missionaries can also be considered as a factor in the social upbringing of this community. As they had introduced English language
in schools it made them more advanced intellectually which helped them in securing jobs in different companies set up by the Europeans. The Europeans had also introduced vocational training by building up industrial schools. The British rule
in the southern districts introduced a leading edge for trade and commerce. Nadars took advantage of this and prospered to greater heights. As they became wealthy so they gradually began to adopt the customs of the North Indian Kshatriyas
in order to improve their status in the society. This caused antipathy among other castes like Brahmins, Vellalas and Maravars which resulted in riots.
Nadar Caste of 20th Century
The Nadars have accomplished social and economic development which has been appreciated worldwide. The caste system was on the verge of decline in South India which was also a factor leading to the prosperity of this community. The Nadar caste
entered many professions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, from being technically savvy industrialists to owners of large companies. They are known for their business in small scale industries as well. It was the education that helped them to reach such extraordinary heights. In independent India, Nadars have made important contributions through their emphasis on education and entrepreneurship.
Nadar Caste of Today
Nadars have been clan conscious. There is a distinction between the Nadars of various regions of Southern India
. As an example it can be cited that Nadars of Tirunelveli
will be completely different from that of Madurai
or Nagercoil. However, today this scenario is witnessing a change as the present generation is really opening up. The drastic improvement in Nadar community is because of its great stress on education. The Nadars, who were earlier not allowed to enter the temples
, are now working in respected positions as trustees in many Hindu temples
in Tamil Nadu
. They are now a close knit and powerful family. Their social and economical development has also influenced the academic level.