Infobox Ethnic group

caption=Parayar School Children, Seithur near Rajapalayam
group = Paraiyar (or) Sambavar
poptime = 1,860,519 (2001 census)
popplace = Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji
langs = Tamil
rels = Hinduism, Atheism, Christianity
related = Tamil people, Dalit

Paraiyar also Parayar, Paraya, Pariah, or Sambavas are a social group found in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka. See Caste in Sri Lanka. The Indian census of 2001 reported the Paraiyar population to be 1,860,519. [ (pdf)]


In archaic Tamil, the word "paRai" (பறை) meant "drum", often one used to make announcements. They are attested to in the earliest Tamil literature as bearers and players of the paRai, though it is impossible to tell whether it was an occupational or caste grouping. They are mentioned in late Sangam era literature as a specialized group within the larger social groups associated with paRai (drum) playing for ceremonial and shamanistic purposes.

The modern Tamil/Malayalee word "Parai" means "to speak" or "to tell", deriving from the paRai's ancient use as an announcement device. Paraiyar denotes drum beaters as well as general agricultural laborers among Sri Lankan Tamils.

At one time, the paraiyar community was equal to upper caste. For many years, they were the rulers of south India and other parts of country. Thiruvalluvar [,M1] [] [] , the Tamil author of the Thirukkural, the great Tamil poetess Auvaiyar, and the architect of the classical city of Hastinapur had all been Paraiyars. [] This showed that in former times the Paraiyars occupied a much higher position than they did later. As the time passed, this community was defeated,Oppressed and became poor.

Exclusive Development

Nandanar (Tamil: நந்தனார் or திருநாளைப் போவார் நாயனார், Thirunalai Povar Nayanar) a Hindu Saivite saint, One of the 63 Nayanmar, belongs to this Paraiyar community. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Paraiyars maintained many pre-Hindu beliefs unique to that area and era. Sudalai Madan is a deity associated with this community.

Their spiritual life includes the knowledge of what are considered arcane mysteries, magic, rituals and beliefs. In consequence, members of the mainstream community consult Paraya shamans, or Velathans in Kerala, for advice that is not otherwise accessible.

They are noted for their musicianship, craftsmanship and dance. Dances include Kōlam-thullal or mask dance, part of their exorcism rituals, and the fertility dance Mudi-āttam or hair-dance.

Current Condition

Due to affirmative action in post-independence India and conversion to Christianity, some Paraiyars can be found in all walks of life, but in general they are still day laborers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

The situation got a little more stable in the northern parts of Tamil Nadu, where Parayars turned out to get involved in politics and authoritative position in society. However they are still suppressed in some remote parts of southern Tamil Nadu, facing discrimination from the upper castes.

Famous Paraiyars

* Iyothee Thass Pandithar, founded the Sakya Buddhist Society (also known as Indian Buddhist Association).
* Rettamalai Srinivasan, Freedom fighter.
* Kakkan, Former Minister of Social Justice & Police, Tamilnadu
* Thiruvalluvar, Legend, Celebrated Tamil Poet.
* Auvaiyar,Celebrated Tamil Poetess.
* Nandanar (நந்தனார் or "திருநாளைப் போவார் நாயனார்", "Thirunalai Povar Nayanar"), Hindu Saivite saint, One of the 63 Nayanmar
* Ilayaraja, Music Director, Tamil, Hindi and many Indian Films(also called "Music Maestro").
* M. G. Pandithan, Founder & President of "Indian Progressive Front", former "Malaysian Indian Congress" vice-president, Member of Parliament for Tapah, Parliamentery secretary to the Trade and Industry Ministry, Malaysia.
* Thirumavalavan, President, "Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi", political party. [(] , [(] .
* A.Raja, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, India.
* Parithi Ellamvazhuthi, Hon’ble Minister for Information, Tamilnadu.
*Dalit Ezhilmalai, former Union Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare (Independent Charge), India.
* Prof. Periyardasan, Tamil Scholar, Film Actor & follower of Periyar.
* Sivamani, World famous Percussionist & Musician (Brand Ambassador for Xone - wirefree music)
* Gangai Amaren, Director, Lyricist & Producer of Tamil Films (brother of Ilayaraja).
* Deva, Music Director, Tamil and SouthIndian Films.
* Srikanth Deva, Music Director of Tamil Films (son of Deva).
* Venkat Prabhu, Director of Tamil Films (son of Gangai Amaren).
* Yuvan Shankar Raja, Music Director of Tamil & Hindi Films (son of Ilayaraja).
* Karthik Raja, Music Director of Tamil Films (son of Ilayaraja).
* Bavatharani, Playback Singer of Tamil Films (Daughter of Ilayaraja).
* Dr.Poovai M.Moorthiyaar, M.A.,M.L.,Ph.D., Founder & President - "Puratchi Bharatham"(APLF)
* Dr.Poovai M.Jegan Moorthiyaar, M.L.A., President, "Puratchi Bharatham"(APLF)
* Er.Soma.Manirasa Paraiyar, B.E., State Organiser - "Puratchi Bharatham"(APLF)
* Samuel Paraiyar - Leader, "Tamilnadu Paraiyar Peravai".
* J.R.Samy M.LM., M.Phil, Director - "AREN TRUST" [Action for Rural Empowerment Network Trust] - an organisation working for the promotion of Paraiyar community. [(]

See Also

* Indian caste system
* Valluvar


*"Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Vol. VI. EdgarThurston and Rangachari, K. 1909."
*"Paraiyan and Legend of Nandan, by REV. A. C. Clayton, C Karunakara Menon"
* [,M1]
* [ Corruption and Redemption: The Legend of Valluvar and Tamil Literary History,Stuart Blackburn,Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2 (May, 2000), pp. 449-482 (article consists of 34 pages)Published by: Cambridge University Press ]
* [ Dialogue and History Constructing South India,1795–1895, Eugene F.Irschick,UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS] ]
* [ Auvaiyar was identified as a Paraiyar in Tamil tradition (famous ancient Tamil writers, e.g., Auvaiyar; cf. Pope 1886:i–ii, x–xi). ...]
* " [Page 70] "
* []
* [ The role of Berava Sorcerer or witchcraft]
* [ A Tamil Parayar village in transition]
* [ Discrimination Against Dalits in Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation in Kerala]
* [ Dalit struggle and a legend]
* [ Parayan Thullal a Kerala dance form where the dancer is covered in charcoal indicating his black color]
* [ Paraiyar Education Fund]
* [ The Changing Fortunes of the Drummer in Medieval Tamilnadu]
* [ Paraiyars Ellaiyamman as an Iconic Symbol of Collective Resistance and Emancipatory Mythography]
* [ Thirukkural was written by a Paraiyar called Valluvar]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pariah — Pariah, (Tamil language) or Paraya in Malayalam, is the name of the Pariah caste of Indian Hindu society. The word has gained widespread use as an analogy, especially in the phrases social pariah and pariah nation or pariah state , as a term for… …   Wikipedia

  • Valluvar — Infobox Ethnic group caption=A Valluvan dressed up as Lord Shiva for Malayanur festival group = Valluvar வள்ளுவர் poptime = unknown popplace = Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala langs = Tamil rels = Hinduism, Christianity related = Paraiyar,… …   Wikipedia

  • pariah — pa·ri·ah (pə rī’ə) n. 1) A social outcast: » Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard (Mark Twain). 2) A Dalit. ╂ [From Tamil paṟaiyan, member of a Dalit group of southern India… …   Word Histories

  • Caste system in Sri Lanka — The Caste system in Sri Lanka is a division of society into strata, differing somewhat from the classic Varnas of North India but is similar in nature to the Jāti system found in South India. The fourfold caste model in Sri Lanka s pre British… …   Wikipedia

  • Tiruvalluvar — Thiruvalluvar ( ta. திருவள்ளுவர்) is a celebrated Tamil poet who wrote the Thirukkural, an ethical work in Tamil literature. He is claimed by both the Tamils who practice Hinduism and the Tamils who practice Jainism as their own. [cite book last …   Wikipedia

  • Berava — are a social group or caste amongst the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. Like the Burakumin of Japan and Paraiyar of the neighboring Tamil ethnic group in Sri Lanka as well as Tamil Nadu state in South India they were segregated from the mainstream… …   Wikipedia

  • Sudalai Madan — The fully decorated statue of sudalaimadan in the centre with veriyandi samy in the left and Madathy amman in right. This picture is from the shrine of thamaraikulam sudalaimadan temple, Melakadayanallur,Tenkasi, Thirunelveli. Sudalai Madan or… …   Wikipedia

  • pariah — pariahdom, n. pariahism, n. /peuh ruy euh/, n. 1. an outcast. 2. any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided. 3. (cap.) a member of a low caste in southern India and Burma. [1605 15; < Tamil paraiyar, pl. of PARAIYAN lit., drummer… …   Universalium

  • Milvus govinda — Pariah Pa ri*ah, n. [From Tamil paraiyan, pl. paraiyar, one of the low caste, fr. parai a large drum, because they beat the drums at certain festivals.] [1913 Webster] 1. One of an aboriginal people of Southern India, regarded by the four castes… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pariah — Pa ri*ah, n. [From Tamil paraiyan, pl. paraiyar, one of the low caste, fr. parai a large drum, because they beat the drums at certain festivals.] [1913 Webster] 1. One of an aboriginal people of Southern India, regarded by the four castes of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.