A category of division of
Nadars 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. . Some are Catholics
particularly in the coastal villages of Tirunelveli where the Portuguese
missionaries concentrated their efforts.
Most of the Hindu Nadars are predominantly Saivites. Some Hindu
Nadars retain lifestyles very similar to those of the orthodox Vellalas
and Brahmins. They practice vegetarianism and perform temple poojas
on Tuesdays and Fridays, make pilgrimages to holy shrines, and meticulously
follow other religious observances.
The Nadars of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts pursued two
distinct paths in their search for improved status and better life.
One path involved the Northward migration. The second was the conversion
to Christianity. The bulk of the Nadar Christians are Protestants.
The first permanent Shanar Christian settlement, Mudalur was established
in 1799, but substantial members of the Shanars converted to Christianity
only after the complete cession of Tirunelveli to the British in
1801. Within the Christian Nadar community, Catholics and Protestants
some times intermarry. Some Christians also avoid being members
of local Nadar associations. Their churches serve as associations
of sorts for them. Under the influence of the Christian missionaries,
the Nadars of Kanyakumari began to reform their caste practices
in the early 19th century.
During the Sivakasi Riots at the end of the nineteenth century,
a number of Nadars reportedly embraced Islam in order to escape
attacks. Muslim Nadars are a very miniscule proportion. Most of
them live in the extreme south of Ramnad dist and in some settlements
in Tirunelveli dist. It is not very clear whether they retain their
distinct Nadar identity now.