Dominant caste of the Indian state of Kerala.

Rigidly orthodox, its members regard themselves as the representatives of the ancient Vedic religion and of the traditional Hindu code. They place great emphasis on their priestly status and do not normally engage in business. The chief landowners of Kerala, they derive their wealth from their landholdings.

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▪ Indian caste
also spelled  Nampūtiri 

      the dominant caste of the Indian state of Kerala. Orthodox in the extreme, its members regard themselves as the true repositories of the ancient Vedic religion and of the traditional Hindu code.

      The Nambūdiri caste follows a distinctive marriage alliance with the important warrior caste of the Nāyars (see Nāyar). Though the eldest son of a Nambūdiri household customarily marries a Nambūdiri woman, thus observing the typical caste practice of endogamy, the younger sons marry Nāyar women and obey the matrilineal-descent system of the Nāyars. In contrast to other Brahman castes in southern India, the Nambūdiris place great emphasis on their priestly status and do not normally engage in profitable professions. They derive their wealth from their landholdings, being the chief landowners of Kerala.

      There are five subdivisions within the Nambūdiri caste: Tampurakkal, the highest in status, who with the Adhyas form an endogamous subcaste; the Adhyas, who are temple priests; the Visistas, some of whom are ritualists, while others pursue traditional learning and philosophy; the Samanyas, who study the Veda; and the Jatimatras, who are the leading physicians according to the Ayurvedic school of medicine.

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Universalium. 2010.

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