Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Chekavar of The Northern Ballads (Vadakkan Pattukal)

                   The term Chekava (or Chevaka, Chekon, chovon etc) is the corrupt form of Sevaka meaning "Service Men" (military origin term). The words Nayaka and Sevaka was used as military terms which later became part of the caste system.Hindu communities of Kerala which are actively involved in martial profession are the Nayar and Thiyya/Ezhava communities  Historically its still uncertain of the origin of both Ezhavas and Nayars.
But they must have originated from the indigenous martial races of Tamilakam. some historians have the concept that, the Nayars were the first converts into Vedic Hinduism and supported and got the support of the Namboothiri Brahmins and the Ezhavas tried to stay in some more time in their ancestral Buddhist ways and kept connections with the Srilankan Buddhist kingdom, so they were called Ezhavar (Elavar), people from Elam (Ezham), Elanka or Lanka)
               Another theory is that the term 'Elavar' derived from "Villavar" (Bow Men). The "Billavas" community of Tulunadu is considered similar to Ezhava/Thiyya. The Billavas were also involved in martial arts and toddy tapping.  The 'Cheras' of ancient Tamilakam were called Villavar and their royal emblem was the 'bow 

                  The modern genealogy studies have found these communities share common genetic traits.The Nair-Ezhava social structure is similar to the Bunt-Billava structure in Tulunadu where Bunts are a community loyal to the Brahmins and Billavas are turned into toddy tappers. It was the players of vedic converstion that imposed the tag of low caste and profession of toddy tapping to all the groups generally who stayed with Buddhism, but later had to convert to vedic caste system. Since Ezhavas never belonged to a particular profession as a whole. The Ezhava community involved in occupations like martial arts, ayurveda, astrology, (which they would have never had got from the Namboothiris). The Chekavas warriors in the Northern ballads were called Chingakar(Sinhalars) and Elavars(Ezhavas).

          The Northern Ballads (Vadakkan Pattukal), the folks songs about the Kalari warriors of northern Kerala are divided into two. The "Puthooram Pattukal", the songs about Thiyya/Ezhava warriors and "Thacholi Pattukal", the songs about Nair warriors. The Puthooram songs are considered older and in it the Thiyya/Ezhava community holds a respected status in the society. Where as "Thacholi songs" which mentions about newly introduced firearms 

            Unniarcha was an expert in the use of the flexible sword Urumi. They were (not the Othenan family though) Chekons or Chekavars who became famous around the late 16th century as a kind of mercenaries, fighting ankhams, and furthering martial arts. Ayyappa Chekavar fathered Aromal and Unniarcha, and they lived in the Puthuram house  ( father was Chirukandan Nambiar or Chindan and the mother was Unnichira). The Puthoram house controlled some 4 kalaris while the Aringodan house controlled 18. In total there were about 42 of these schools of martial arts. The Ankham tradition had been established  and was being popularized by travelling bards, singing them in simple Malayalam using a pleasant meter and in tune with a Pana veena


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