Nadar Sangam Origin
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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.