Kerala Brahmins are called Nampoothiris. How long have they been present in this small State in the southwestern corner of India? The legend is that Lord Parasurama created Kerala from the sea and settled several Brahmin families in the new land. Another view is that Kerala emerged from the waters of the Arabian Sea due to some geophysical phenomena in the distant past.
Whatever that might be, undoubtedly the Nampoothiri presence in the State goes back at least a millennium. It is believed that stringent caste system was introduced in Kerala around 9c CE. All through their known history the Nampoothiris have made great contributions in many fields.
During the centuries that have passed the rituals, practices and conventions of the Nampoothiri community remained more or less stagnant. This naturally led to practical difficulties as times changed. Eight years back a committee of fifteen acharayas was formed by the Yogakshema Sabha Vidika Parishad to look into the problem. After in-depth studies and intense debates this peer group modified and codified the traditional practices and rituals of the community.
This alteration covers sixteen major areas including Nompoothiri veli (marriage). This function, which was spread over four days, has now been recast into four kriyas conducted in a single day.
I understand that the reformation is done without disturbing or compromising the traditional conventions, convictions and canons. The revision is based on the belief that Brahmin culture is established by the sages for the good of mankind and the ultimate objective of blending with the Paramatma.
Azhuvancheri Thamprakkal, who is the doyen of the Nampoothiri community, announced the new code earlier this month. In my humble opinion, this is a great stride in bringing the nampoothiris in fusion with modern times without diluting the basics.
(This is based on a report in Malayala Manorama of April 13, 2008.)