Nair Service Society

In the Travancore State Namboodiris and non-Malayali Brahmans occupied privileged positions in the State administration, with the Namboodiris enjoying big tax-free jemi estates. A number of modern Malayali novels attacked the Brahman domination and the exploitative and humiliating customs perpetrated by them on the Nairs.

Among such customs, for example, was the insistence by the upper castes that Nair women must appear bare breasted before Namboodiri visitors and must enter into temporary relations (sambandham) with them. The Nairs also faced numerous internal social problems on account of taravad or matrilineal joint family, which was unsuited to modern economic conditions, and embarrassing and retrograde social customs.

Towards the end of the 19th century a powerful Nair leadership emerged under K. Ramakrishna Pillai and Mannath Padmanabha Pillai. They assailed the Travancore court and demanded political rights for the Nairs. Mannath Padmanabha Pillai founded the Nair Service Society in 1914 in Travancore. The Society combined caste aspirations with a measure of social reform. For some time, the Nair Service Society also maintained links with the Justice Party of Madras.