Nadar Mahajana Sangam – Orgin, History, Details
Nadars began their social and economic ascendance in the early 19th century. Mercantilism and Christianity played crucial roles in facilitating their upward mobility. The consolidation of the British rule in the southern districts opened new frontiers of trade and commerce. Nadars were quick to take advantage of the opportunities including commercialisation of the economy and urbanisation.
They established a chain of fortified settlements along the main trade routes to extend comforts to Nadar merchants, to house their wares and to protect themselves from bandits. These settlements known as ‘pettais’ served as a medium of cooperation among them and as an encouragement to economic mobility. Local caste associations grew out of this channel of commerce. This trend culminated in launching apex bodies such as the Nadar Mahajana Sangham and Dakshinamara Nadar Sangham, symbolically affirming cohesiveness and solidarity.
During the early 19th century the Nadar Local Associations or ” Uravinmurais” constituted an effective and comprehensive mode of local self-government. They levied and collected a variety of taxes among the Nadars. They made and enforced various laws. Each local association had a number of committees to manage its temples, schools, etc and to conduct festivals and clear disputes among its members.
The Nadars frequently found themselves under attack by the other castes of the region. They therefore needed a means of re-organizing themselves for defense as well. Local associations fulfilled these needs. The single most important method of generating good will among the Non- Nadars has been through the development of Nadar- run schools and colleges. These institutions not only benefited their own children but many non- Nadars also enrolled their children. This generally enhanced the image of the Nadar community in the public arena.
With foresight, the Nadar elite established a network of institutions such as colleges, hostels and even a bank, the Tamilnadu Mercantile bank.Emerging as a commercially active group by the late 19th century, Nadars achieved dramatic changes in their economic fortunes. This advancement was followed by a clamour for social recognition.