The Nairs of Malabar have traditionally adapted to the custom of Taravada, which is a custom of reverence to the original joint-family house. The Nairs, are considered to have been immigrants from Nepal who settled in the West coast (Karavali and Malabar) during the early centuries of the Christian era. In Nepal they were known as Neyers, according to Zacharias Thundy. The immigrant Nair fraction settled in Tulunad adapted to farming and subsequently merged with local farmers, the ‘Okkelakulu’(Gururaja Bhat,1970). Thus as a consequence of assimilation of Nair fractions that followed Theravada customs, the Tulu farming community, now known as ‘Bunts or Nadavas’ have also adapted to the Taravada custom. This indirectly suggests that Buddhism was prevalent in Tulunadu, along with the cult of spirit worship, in the early centuries of the Christian Era.
Moolasthana and Taravada
The concept is chronologically later extension and evolution of the ‘Moolasthana’ concept. The ‘Moolasthana’ concept (origin and development: ca. 2000-800 BC) emphasized on the original place (hamlet or part of village) of settlement which was held sacred for the progeny of the particular group or clan (which may include several later formed communities).Whereas the Taravada or Theravada concept evolved during early Buddhist period, derived from the Theravada school (ca. 250 BC), concentrated on the reverence to the Family house of origin. The chronological evolution of notion of original habitation to original family house is notable.
The concept and school of Theravada Buddhism, coincides with the life and times of King Ashoka. Theravada in Pali language means the ‘path of the elders’. [Theravada (Pali)> Sthavira-vada (Sanskrit)]. It is said that the Nairs were brought along with Brahmins by Kadamba King Mayura Sharma (ca.450 AD) to maintain newly built temples of Tulunadu. However, available evidences point to the existence of Buddhism in Tulunadu (Mayi kala and Kadarika Vihar, at Mangalore).Thus it is not clear at this moment whether the Buddhist concept of ‘Taravada’ was introduced to Tulunadu/Malabar by the Nairs or by other Buddhist monks that arrived here before the Nairs.
The word Taravada has several connections with Gujarat. Taravada, incidentally, is also the name of a village in the Amreli district of Gujarat. There is another Haripar Taravada village in Lodhika Tehsil of Rajkot district of Gujarat. In Gujarat, presently some Vaishnav Gurukuls like Swami Narayan are also called Taravada.
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