The Nadars are a hardworking community and became successful after some struggles early on because of the caste system. One of their occupations was toddy (a kind of liquor) gathering from Palm trees. The 19th century saw the Nadars embracing Christianity in large numbers some out of will and some due to the easier acceptance into Christian schools. Today the distribution of Nadars between the two major religions, Hindu and Christian, are 60% and 40% respectively. Nadars traditionally have been extremely clannish people. Although outwardly they are united as Nadars, there is a clear cut distinction between the Nadars of various regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For example the customs and practices of Nadars hailing from Tirunelveli will be completely different from that of Nadars hailing from Madurai or Nagercoil. It is only in the present generation that Nadars like the current generation of most castes in India, are really opening up.
The premium placed on education by the Nadar community resulted in a drastic improvement in the socio-economic landscape of the community, a distinction reserved to upper classes of India. The Nadars are known for their work mostly on small scale business. Most cities in Tamil Nadu will have a grocery store run by a person from this community. They are even referred to as ‘Annachi Kadai’ or ‘Nadar Kadai.’ The Nadars also have branched into electronics, applicances and silverware retail mega-stores
The Nadars are generally found throughout the Southern state of Tamilnadu. By the end of 2005 , it is estimated that they would number around 10 million. Their original area of concentration were the southern districts of Tamilnadu. But varied business and academic interests brought them to settle down in Coimbatore and Chennai and many more cities/towns as well.
The Nadars can be divided into two main groups- the Northern Nadars and the Southern Nadars. The Northern Nadars are those from the Madurai, Virdhunagar, Sivakasi area and the Southern ones originated from the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari areas. Another Category of division is based on religion as Christian and Hindu Nadars. The Christian Nadars are mainly concentrated in the southern belts while the Hindu ones are found dispersed throughout the state. But the majority are Hindus. A miniscule portion even embraced Islam in the 19th century in the coastal belts of Tirunelveli District. About 10% of the Nadar population are Protestant Christians.
The Nadars are a very hard working people. They have been well known for their perseverance, untiring energy, commitments and dedication to their business. They have become highly modernized. Many of them are qualified from Engineering, Medical Institutions and Business Schools. They are emerging in a changed manner leaving aside their traditional shackles and are forcefully looking into the future relating to manufacture and distribution of many modern products and services.
Throughout history the Nadars have been actively interested in wealth, power and prestige. Contrary to the orthodox view of the Indian society, they have translated their goals which they have pursued actively and competitively, rather fatalistically accepting their lot or fulfilling a primary co operative role.