NAIR, a race on the Malabar coast, following the Hindu religion, and claiming to be of the Sudra caste. They are designated Maleala Sudras. The royal family of Travancore are of this race. The whole of the Nair race and other races there follow the rule of female descent, and from this custom results the practice that a man's heirs are not his own, but his sister's, children. The Kasia, the Koc'ch, and the Nair races, as also the artisans, the Teer or Teeyeer race, and some of the Moplah Muhammadans of Malabar, have this custom. Among the Buntar in Tulava, also, a man's pro perty does not descend to his own children, but to those of his sister. Most of the people of Mala bar, notwithstanding the same diversity of caste as in other provinces, agree in the usage of trans mitting property through females only. It is the custom in Travancore among all the races except Ponan and the Namburi Brahmans. The Nair marry before they are ten years of age, but the husband never associates with his wife. Such a circumstance, indeed, would he considered as very indecent. She lives in her mother's house, or, after her parents' death, with her brothers, and cohabits with any person that she chooses, of an equal or higher rank than her own. If detected in associating with any low man, she becomes an outcaste. It is no kind of reflection on a woman's character to say that she has formed the closest intimacy with many persons ; on the contrary, Nair women are proud of reckoning among their favoured lovers many Brahmans, rajas, or other persons of high birth. In consequence of this manner of propagating the species, no Nair knows his father, no father knows his son, and every man ' looks upon his sister's children as his heirs. He, indeed, looks upon them with the same fondness that fathers in other parts of the world have for their own children ; and he would be considered as an unnatural monster were he to show such signs of grief at the death of a child, which, from long cohabitation and love with its mother, he might suppose to be his own, as he did at the death of a child of his sister. A man's mother manages his family, and after her death his eldest sister assumes the direction. Brothers almost always live under the same roof ; but if one of the family separate from the rest, he is always accompanied by his favourite sister. Even cousins, to the most remote degree of kindred, in the female line, generally live together in great harmony ; for in this part of the country, love, jealousy, or dis trust never can disturb the peace of a Nair family. A man's moveable property, after his death, is divided equally auiuong the sons and daughters of all his sisters. His land estate is managed by the eldest male of the family, but each individual has a right to a share of the income. In case of the eldest male being unable, from infirmity or inca pacity, to manage the _affairs of the family, the next in rank does it in the name of his senior. Under these social rules it is not easy to see the inducement to the Nair to marry. The Nair family is undivided, and by theory the ancestral property is impartible, though it sometimes is divided by consent. The Nair people of the Malaya
and Tulava countries are frequently educated, and are good accountants. They hold many public offices, and compete for office employments with the Brahmans. The Nairs are a good-sized, well featured race, but rather dark. The Nairs of Malabar were formerly accustomed to duelling. The practice was called Ankara, but hired chain pions were often substituted.
Nair or Nayar is a title added to nearly all the names of the race, and it is, like Mister and Esquire, assumed as a birthright by any respectable mem ber of the race who has no other. The Kiriyathil, Valta-Kaden, and At'hi-Kurutbi also assume the title. The Kiriyathil Nair, called also Kuruppu, Keinnnal, and Merlon, are the offspring of temple women by Brahmans. Men are not accustomed to cover the body above the waist ; so also females when in the house, but when going out they cover the bosom with a piece of light white cloth, which is sometimes a costly article, having a border of gold thread. They wear many ornaments, and the hair done up in a kind of chignon on the left side of the head.
Heart quotes Oviedo as stating that the Nair women regard association with men to be an institution so holy that they believe virgins to be secluded from paradise ; but this seems merely an excuse put forward by some one of the race who has been ashamed of this social custom. A Nair writer observes that the Teyettecor Teeyeer women are notorious harlots, and become the concubines of strangers of any caste or religion, and this without the least prejudice to their own caste or any loss of esteem in society ; on the other hand, any such act proved against any females of the other castes, subjects the person to excommuni cation from caste, banishment from society, and all religious advantages. The Teeyeer females of South Malabar, however, do not, so readily as those of the North, yield themselves to this practice.
Nair women of Malabar are said by Pietro Pellerino (II. letter vii.) De Malavaro poi solo sentii de notabile che le loro donne negli atti venerei per usanza far loro recevuta, ed uni versale, non vogliono mai soggiacere agli nomini.' These Nair customs are alluded to by Van Linschoten in the 16th, Fryer in the 17th, and Buchanan and Day in the 19th century. The Zamorin of Calicut is a Nair. Among the Lim boo tribe in N.E. India, near Darjiling, the boys become the property of the father on his paying the mother a small sum of money when the child is named, and enters his father's tribe ; girls remain with the mother, and belong to their mother's tribe. Among the Batta of Sumatra, the succession to the chiefships does not go, hi the first instance, to the son of the deceased, but to the nephew, by a sister. The same rule, with respect to the property in general, prevails also amongst the Malays of that part of the island, and even in the neighbourhood of Padang.— Toluenes Ceylon ; As. Researches ; Mateer's Tra vancore ; Buchanan, Mysore.