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Article on Tunjath Ezhuthachan's caste



It is well known that Ezhuthachan was the name used to denote teachers and learned people in olden days. (Ezhuthamma - female counterpart.) People who performed Shaktheya puja were also called by the same name.


Teachers of all castes were not called so. Eg. - Pisharody, Warrier, etc, who were teachers, were not called Ezhuthachans.

Ezhuthachans used to copy important grandhas also, in the thaliyola. We can see their names in the end of the old thaliyolas or grandhas. The castes of many of these teachers may be thus inferred.


A search for Tunjath Ezhuthachan's caste took into account the following:


1) Some Ezhuthachans in Kerala and their castes:


The main disciples of Tunjath Ezhuthachan were 1). Karunakaran Ezhuthachan, (Nair), 2). Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan, (Tharakan), 3). Devu Ezhuthachan (Tharakan) and 4). Gopalan Ezhuthachan (Menon). The house of Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan (Chozhiath kudumbam), is at Mangalamkunnu near Ottappalam. The land where Chittur Ashram is situated was bought from the family of Chambathil Chathukkutty Mannadiar by this Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan, which is mentioned in the records pertaining to the sale of the land.

Members of the Chozhiath House are still called Ezhuthachans.


Ezhuvath Gopalamenon became the disciple of Tunjath Ezhuthachan and assumed the name Koppaswamikal.


Tunjath Ezhuthachan himself has mentioned that he was a Sudra.


Edappal House: Tunjath Ezhuthachan is said to have married into a family in Amakkavu in Koottanad, the Edappal House, and he had a daughter. The lineage still lives there. They are of the Nair caste. Those among the household who established themselves as teachers were called Ezhuthachans. These teachers used to initiate children to the alphabets, and the people in the place have regarded them as descendents of Tunjath Ezhuthachan for generations.

The well known Koppanezhuthachan (Gopalan Ezhuthachan) who lived during the last century and taught the now famous living Astrologer Soolapani Varier, belonged to Edappal House.

When some of the Nair families vied with each other to have had marital alliances with high caste Namboothiris, the Edappal House maintained through generations that they were descendents of Tunjath Ezhuthachan even when he was supposed to belong to the low caste Chakkala Nair community.


Aithihyamala Page 263 (Kottarathil Sankunni) - States that Ezhuthachan is not a caste, but is the equivalent term for 'Asan' in the northern parts, in his essays on Chembra Ezhuthachans.


The renowned astrologer Kutti Ezhuthachan, known as Kerala Brihaspathi, was Gupta by caste. His name was Krishnanguptan.


Ramankutty Ezhuthachan (Gupta by caste) is the father of the great Sanskrit scholar Mridanandaswamikal.


The names of traditional Ezhuthachans who initiate children to the alphabets in Tunjan parambu in Tirur even today during the Vijayadashami festival are printed in all leading newspapers like the Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi every year. They belong to the Nair and Menon castes.


The Ezhuthachan status among some of the people was quite traditional and the status hereditary, as in Ezhuthachan families.


The following facts prove that teachers were called Ezhuthachans irrespective of their caste, not only in South Malabar but in North Malabar also. (North Malabar was not under Zamorins of Calicut):


Othenan Ezhuthachan who established an Ezhuthu pallikkoodam for the first time in Narath, in 1800 A.D., belonged to the Nair caste. Berlin Kunjananthan Nair is the great grandson of Othenan Ezhuthachan. (Mathrubhumi Weekly, February 22, 2004)


Pothera Narayanan Nambiar is the nephew of the famous astrologer late Pothera Krishnanezhuthachan, who was the writer of the historically important book Sooryasthuthi. Pothera Ezhuthachan learnt Sanskrit and Astrology from the famous Astrologer Kandabath Sekharanezuthachan. Pothera Narayanan Nambiar has a website at


The well known astrologer V. P. K. Poduval is the son of the famous astrologer Karayil Kandambath Kunhambu (Ramanezhuthachan). [Poduval is Nair in North Malabar and Ambalavasi in Kochi and South Malabar]




2) About the Ezhuthachan (Kaduppattan) caste:


Some of the people belonging to the Kaduppattan caste who settled in Calicut later became teachers. They were Buddhists. They taught Vattezhuthu. These teachers were also called Ezhuthachans.


Castes and Tribes of Southern India by Edgar Thurston, page 30 (Published in 1909). - About Kaduppattan caste - 'The members of this caste are, Mr. H.A. Stuart writes, at present mostly palanquin bearers and carriers of salt, oil etc. The educated among them follow the profession of teaching and are called Ezhuthachan, ie master of learning. Both titles are used in the same family.' 

This statement clearly points out that Ezhuthachan was not a caste name, but a title even among the Kaduppattan community.


The Cochin tribes and castes (Vol 2) - By Ananthakrishnaiyer (written in 1912) : Has recorded the stories given by the people of the Kaduppattan caste during that time. Page 104 - "The tradition is that the Kaduppattans were Brahmins of the Kadu village who were banished from the country. They went to Kerala and sought the protection of the then Zamorin of Calicut, who allowed them to settle in his territory. Then they met Sri Sankaracharyar who directed them to teach Sudras and other low caste men. The date of their arrival in Kerala is commemorated by "Kaduka thyaktha stheya (1447 A.D.)." However, in a footnote, Ananthakrishnaiyer has also written - "The account appears to have been cooked up to prove their Brahmanical pretensions. Sri Sankaracharyar lived more than 1000 years ago."

Page 105 - "Ezhuthachan (teacher) is a title originally given to the educated members of the caste.... Even now this title is conferred on them (Kaduppattans) by the rulers and chieftains on payment of some thirumulkazhcha (nuzzer). Panikkar is another title possessed by some. The caste-men below them address the male members as Pattarappan and their women as Pattathiar or Pattathiar Amma."

Ananthakrishnaiyer has also recorded the activities of the Kaduppattan caste leaders during this time (1912). They formed an Adhyapaka Samajam, conducted a number of meetings and passed many resolutions. They demanded an equivalent status with the high castes among the Nair community. Some modifications were made to rituals pertaining to marriage and those after death. Other important decisions were : "The caste-men and women are prohibited from taking the food of any other caste-men except that of Brahmins..... The title of Ezhuthachan should be obtained chiefly by merit and not by the payment of money (thirumulkazhcha) to some chieftain or Namboothiri landlord." (page 114, Tribes and castes of Cochin, L. K. A. Aiyer) (written in 1912)


These records give solid proof that Ezhuthachan was not a caste name before the 20th century.  Further definite proof of how the title 'Ezhuthachan' became a caste name is described in the census reports:


The Census reports:


All census reports till 1921 - There is no mention of a caste named 'Ezhuthachan'. The caste name given in all these records is 'Kaduppattan'.


Report on the Census of Cochin, 1921, Chapter XI, page 60. - Ezhuthachan caste gets its first mention. The reason given in changing the name of the caste from ‘Kaduppattan’ to ‘Ezhuthachan’ is mentioned clearly in the census report:

'Consequent on the representations made by the community, the term 'Eluthassan' has been substituted this time for 'Kaduppattan' of the last census, with the approval of Government.'

It is also stated that the status name Ezhuthachan (title) used by the learned members of the community is being taken by (assume) all people of the community and the caste name Kaduppattan is being discarded.


Cochin census report 1931, Part 1 - Gives more information about Kaduppattan caste, and also states that the community have stopped using the previous caste name of Kaduppattan and is now using ‘Ezhuthachan’ as their caste name.


Madras census report 1921 - The caste name given is Kaduppattan itself.


(The census reports till 1941 gave records of castes also.)


Other important Government documents:


Eventhough Kaduppattan caste became Ezhuthachan caste in Kochi, the same did not happen in Malabar at that time. Malabar, which was under Madras state till 1956, did not accept the caste name 'Ezhuthachan'. Madras government has given special privileges of a backward community only under the caste name 'Kaduppattan'. (The reason may be that Ezhuthachans belonging to other communities were present at that time in Malabar.) 


So, in 1858, as per Government Order (No. 1526.17.12.1958) and Gazette notifications (No., privileges and reservations were given separately to both Ezhuthachan caste (Item 18), and Kaduppattan caste (Item 26). Thus, when the Kaduppattans of Kochi became Ezhuthachan caste by 1921, Kaduppattans of Malabar had to wait till the formation of Kerala state to officially obtain the caste name Ezhuthachan.


This is how all members of the Kaduppattan caste; irrespective of being learned or not; came to be called as 'Ezhuthachan'.


Thus it can be safely concluded that there was no caste named 'Ezhuthachan' before the 20th century.


There is nothing new in changing the caste name. Dheevaran, Sambasivan, Vishwakarma etc. are all changed caste names. "Pattar" was changed to "Aiyer" in a similar style.


To differentiate the Ezhuthachans in the Kaduppattan community from Ezhuthachans of other communities, they were called Kaduppotta Ezhuthachan or ‘Kaduppottezhssan’ in South Malabar.


The Indian Antiquary (1878) : Only an old story of Tunjath Ezhuthachan has been written down by Ellis: "A Brahman without a father must be born of an unmarried female of that tribe, whose celibacy ought to have been inviolate: he is considered, therefore, illegitimate, and has scarcely an assignable place in society. Elutt' Achan, or the 'Father of Letters', was a Brahman without a father, and on that account has no patronymic....The Brahmans envied his genius and are said to have seduced him by the arts of sorcery into the habit of ebriety.....he enriched the Malayalma with the translations, all of which, it is said, he composed under the immediate influence of intoxication...."

This essay is reproduced  in the antiquary by Dr. Burnell. In a small footnote, he has added a few findings also: "Eluttachchan lived in the 17th century; there is no reason for supposing that he was a Brahman father's illegitimate son; he was certainly an Eluttachchan ( or schoolmaster ) by caste." No further explanation / clarification is given whether all the schoolmasters of the land as mentioned in the bracket belonged to a single caste; or whether Dr. Burnell was referring to traditional Ezhuthachan families. Anyway it is certain that such details were not looked into at that time. That is why Innes, Logan and Ulloor completely ignored this statement in their studies.


The Zamorins of Calicut by K. V. Krishnaiyer : "While the Nayars and Nambutiris were concerned with the political, religious and literary life of society, its essential economic functions were discharged by the Cherumas, the Tiyyas, and the Iluvans, the Muttans, the Kaduppattans, the Christians, the Jews and the Mohammedans." - Page 50.

Again in page 51 -  "The Kaduppattans arrived at Calicut in A.D. 1447. (Kalisankhya 'Katukasteyaltyakthah' ). The Ampadi Kovilakom Valia Thampurati ordered them to earn their livelihood as Ezhuthachans or village school - masters." This time there is no mention of Sri Sankaracharya.

Much later, in Page 306 - ".... Though Tunjathu Eluttacchan did not enjoy the Zamorin's patronage, his disciples, Karunakaran Eluttacchan and Suryanarayanan Eluttacchan, were employed for some time as tutors in the Zamorin's family." - A hear-say. However, Krishnaiyer has not written that Tunjath Ezhuthachan belonged to the Kaduppattan caste; or that an 'Ezhuthachan caste' was created by the Valia Thampurati.

Page 7 - "Desamangalam Variar is the hereditory tutor of the Zamorins."


Dr. Gundart writes that the Kaduppattan caste was a caste of embalers and carriers. There is no mention about an 'Ezhuthachan caste' in his writings.


Malabar Gazette 1908 - Mentions the various stories about Kaduppattan caste. But there is no mention of a caste named 'Ezhuthachan' in the Gazzette.

It is also stated that Tunjath Ezhuthachan belonged to the Nair caste.


Since Tunjath Ezhuthachan himself has mentioned that he was a Sudra, he definitely did not belong to any Pattar group. Those who claim that they are Brahmins, will not acknowledge they were born into Sudra community, whatever their real status was at that time. There is also no Sudra among Buddhists. Also, Acharyan's works are not Buddhist oriented, as anybody with any sense who read those books will say.


None among the disciples of Tunjath Ezhuthachan belonged to the Kaduppattan caste. No person of the Kaduppattan caste has any home or property in or near Thrikkandiyoor where Tunjan Parambu is situated. There is no evidence that anyone belonging to this caste had lived there at any time in the past. It is also doubtful whether a member of this caste could own a large area such as Tunjan Parambu in Tirur, during Tunjath Ezhuthachan's time.


The 'kalisankhya' which the caste leaders of the Ezhuthachan community quote to prove that the date which their first families came to Kerala was before the Acharyan's time, is also not reliable.


Even if it was true, it is not possible that people from outside, as soon as they came, became Malayalam language experts, were ordered to teach, changed their Buddhist ideology and in a flash became experts in the Vedas and Vadangas, were immediately punished by the Zamorin for their Buddhist ideology, started Bhakthiprasthanam, quickly became Sudras, and wrote the Ramayana and Mahabharatha, such superb poetry in Malayalam!!!


Considering all these facts, there is no possibility that Tunjath Ezhuthachan belonged to the Kaduppattan caste.


There has been many controversies over Tunjath Ezhuthachan's life for all these centuries. But it is worth noting that there has been no suggestion linking Tunjath Acharyan to the Kaduppattan caste, till about 10 years back.


And of course, Ulloor and other scholars had categorically stated that Tunjath Ezhuthachan was Nair, and the title 'Ezhuthachan' denoted his occupation in the society, and not any particular caste.




3): Other important documents:

a) The Vanneri Grandhavari : The Vanneri Grandhavari is from Thrikkandiyoor near Tunjan parambu.

An Ambalamuli Ezhuthachan appears in the Vanneri Grandhavari (Ola 89, page 1). This is a post which is related to the administration of the temple. This post is taken by 'Thirumulpad'.

There is mention about an 'Ezhuthachan Kumaran' in the Vanneri Grandhavari. (Ola 26 page 1). [In his study of the Vanneri Grandhavari, under the column occupation/caste, Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan has doubtfully mentioned 'Ezhuthachan?' for this Ezhuthachan Kumaran.] Ezhuthachan Kumaran is witness to a sale of land. He is a deed bond (document) writer. 'The term 'Ezhuthachan' indicates his post. There is nothing which indicates his caste in the grandhavari. (Caste names are not written first. It would be a good joke if it were - like NairGopalan, MenonNarayanan, PillaiSivan)

The Vanneri Grandhavari gives names of all castes like the Nair, Ezhava, Poduval, Marayar (Marar), Embran etc. who were present at that time in Thrikkandiyoor. However, it is worth noting that there is no mention of the Kaduppattan. (AD 1541 to 1886).

The Vanneri Grandhavari also gives evidence that Ezhuthachan was not only a status name but a post name also, indicating certain official posts.



b) The Kozhikkode Grandhavari: The one who takes care of records is Pattolachan, one who writes is Ezhuthachan, and the minister is Mangattachan. None of these are caste names.


Mangatt elder Achan is Mangatt Unniramamenon in a document pertaining to Pattathanam (A.D. 1679) in the Kovilakom grandhavari. The Ezhuthachan of that time is Kalathil Ittikkarunakaramenon.


In a document of 1583 A.D., there is a description of punishment given to Mangattachan for selling the Zamorin's elephant without his knowledge, to one Choorichetti. This Mangattachan is Mangatt Unniramamenon.


In kollavarsham 1075, there is a record relating to the shift of palatial residence of the Zamorin from Kottakkal to Thirunavaya. The Kovilakom record keeper (Pattolachan) is Ozhukil Chathu Menon. He is the one noted as managing the proceedings.


It is evident that people belonging to the Menon caste were appointed in all these posts.


There is NOTHING in the Kozhikkode Grandhavari that mentions the 'Ezhuthachan caste', or the Kaduppattan, contrary to the claims of the 'Ezhuthachan caste' leaders.



c) William Logan's Malabar Manual, (New Edition) pages 139 and 92 - States that Tunjath Ezhuthachan was Nair and Suryanarayanan Ezhuthachan was Tharakan.






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