The Kerala Iyer by Shilpa

Blog post by Shilpa Ramanathan
Oo-oh Neenga Palakkada? Samsarathuleye theriyardhu kettela!

Been brought up a Kerala Iyer, this is how I should start my post. That oo-oh sound should be made like Urvashi makes in Michael Madana Kama Rajan (Tamizh cinema).  That’s the Kerala touch.

Kameshwaran: Kameshwaran.
Thirupurasundari: Oh .. Thirupurasundari
Kameshwaran: Oho oh.. Nalla Peru. Palakkad aayirikkim ?
Thirupurasundari: Oh oh .(sing song).! Epdi kandu pidichel !
Kameshwaran: Oh! (sing song but with a different syllable stress)
Namma bashai nammakku theriyadha! Nanum Palakkadu dhaen.
Thirupurasundari: Palakkada ?
Kameshwaran: Ennal proouoper Palakkad alla, thotteduthu oru cook graamam.
Thirupurasundari: Mmm… Graamamum cook a.. neengalum cooku!
Kameshwaran: (laughs)
And this is the famous set of dialogues that distinguish the Kerala Iyers.

Most of us couldn’t help falling in love with our beloved Kameshwaran of MMKR!

Well TamBrahms expands to Tamil Brahmins! But there is a separate sect here – the Kerala Iyers as they proudly call themselves. The history/ geography is something like this – a group of people from Tanjavur (Tanjore) settled in parts of Kerala and they adopted some of the Kerala culture. So you can find a mix of Kerala and Brahmin traditions. I guess the majority of Kerala Iyers are from Trivandrum and Palakkad (the 2 ends of Kerala) The Keralites call us Pattars / Phattars / Saami etc. Well I came from this part of the group, so have some hilarious views to share with.

To start with – its not kozhandhela here – that’s replaced with kondhe. Even after I crossed quarter century my father calls me Kondhe that too in PUBLIC. Now I should actually not take this seriously because my Periyappa is still called kondhe. It has become his name now.

We don’t have a language of our own. Atleast that’s what the other part of the community thinks. And that’s mainly because we use a mix of malayalam and Tamizh languages – I would rather say its Malayalam word and Tamizh grammar. Some noteworthy / famous words are

Ennathukku karayarai – ennathukku azharai – why are you crying?

Karayunnu is crying in Malayalam

Nekku panikkardhu – Nekku joram adikardhu – I have fever

Pani is fever in Malayalam but pani is fog in tamizh! So you can understand the confusion in the tamizh world!

Thazhe ukkaru de – keezhe ukkaru de – sit down

Thazhe is down in Malayalam

Samsarathuleye – pechuleye – the way you talk

Kanni manga – vadu manga – raw mango brined in salt water

Naalaikku nertha endhrukkanum – nallaikku seekirama endhrukkanum – get up early tomorrow

Well the list is endless of course and the hilarious part is – the inland letters that were written until few years back had Malayalam lipi (Malayalam letters) but when you read them it would be Tamizh. Though now its common with English (wherein we write all other language words in English alphabets) this is definitely uncommon with other languages. Our mallu friends used to have a fit of laughter reading this.

A sample is here below

Well I remember an incident, when I landed in Chennai I was foreseeing my school days to start with. But the first day in school was unforgettable. Nobody understood what I was speaking and I was a chatter box way back then. Finally one of them asked what language are you speaking and I said Tamizh and their reply was #%@%^&W$. Well you can imagine the reaction – it was something like I asked for ellu urundai as a sweet for dipawali day – to put it plainly –  it was in a matter of saying “If you are speaking tamizh – what are we speaking” and it took me whole one year to learn the proper tamizh!


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We celebrate onam and vishu the kerala way. (As if the list of festivals for brahmins is endless,) we being born avid food lovers – relish onam sadhya and vishu sadhya (we will also here dialogues like – nanna chapalam kootindu ukkandhu chaapdu and urutti urutti saapdadhe asamanjam) and also enjoy the onam pookalam and vishu kani. Now we are strict brahmins – so no vellulli (garlic) or ulli (onions) in these sadhyas and ofcourse neivedhyathukku appram dhan elai podanum – meaning offer to god first and then we eat.

Our favourite god is lord Krishna. If you are wondering why – Kerala has lots of Krishna temples – Ambalapuzha, Guruvayoor being the famous ones and all our house will definitely have either a Krishna idol/ photo or an Ayyappan photo.

Some of the temple related festivities we enjoy is Thrissur Pooram, Guruvayoor Ekadasi and Sabarimala Makara Jyothi (all watching live in Asianet/ Kairali/ Surya channels)

And the cooking part – we use looooooots of coconut and coconut oil in our cooking – that’s the main difference. We love to eat Erissery, Kalan, Olan, Puli Inji, Chammandhi Podi – all these recipes I understand have their origin in Kerala. But we are also fond of Thachi mamu and Kanni manga and of course the filter kaapi and that’s our TamBrahm connection ha ha

Being said all those, we Kerala Iyers are unique and have a cult of our own. We speak our slang with a sing – song tone (watch MMKR, this proves our inclination to music), and are really loud speakers. Manasillacha?
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33 thoughts on “The Kerala Iyer by Shilpa

  1. Hahaha….enakum ithe prob irunthuthu…poranthu valanthathu pkd..kalyanam panni vanthathu chennai…yethu peshinalum neighbrs ku manasilakathu…nanna avasthapaten…sme wrds i il write wher i got trapd… aftr tomrow…madi(lazy in our lang) aacharam in tamil…enakku vayya( enaku mudiyalai)..ultimate is..ennode neighbr uncle went to terrace…that tym ava son in law vanthu enge iruka keta…naan chonnen ippo than mela ponaru…gav me a strange look nd went…then oly i understud maadi poyrukaa chollanamnnu…innum neraye iruku…ah…vellapayaru for kaaramani..kadele poyi vellapayaru ketta…payaru white colr le iruka kekkara.

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  2. Nammal palaghat iyers than pakshe bihar le poranthu valanthathu akum. Adu karanam nammal odu tamil 20%tamil40%malayalum and 40% hindi akum. Bayangara kashtum than chennai tamil understand pannardhu. Pakshe north le ana kondu jaasti paad ilay.

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  3. You guys are not half as rendungataan as us Tamil Nadu Telugu Brahmins. We live Tamil movies, speak Tamil, read and write possibly and have no reading/writing Telugu ability generally. Our Telugu is neither here nor there with lots of Tamil words as well strangely unique words only understood by us. Andhra folk have no clue what on earth we are talking plus our cooking is more Tambrahm than Andhra!

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  4. Naanum Palakkattaakkum. Ennoda Amman Paatta Palakkad Nooraniyaakkum. Pinne Naankal Keralavile Tamizhnaattil pinne Bangaloril appidi ella idathile irunthathinale naan peshara bhasai Tamizhumalla Malayalamalle pinne ennathu ennu neengal thaan chollanum. Ippo enna kastam ennavakkum ennu kettaal koncham perutte Malayalathile peshanam. pine Tamizhile peshanam. Ippo Bangalorele Kannadathile etho therincha maathiri pesharen. Ithu than lokam. Aathile Morekozhambu, Tamishu aathile Vengaaya Sambhar pinne Bangalore hotelile Pesharattu Bisibele bath ellam thimpen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is not so. I cannot call it as “Joker”. It is for the fun sake it is mixed. We have so many “Sardarji jokes” It does not mean that those are written on hatred. We must take is in the spirit of fun. That’s all.


  5. I am from Trivandrum and there is a lot of difference in the language spoken by Palakkad Iyers & those in south Kerala. We feel that Palakkad Iyers use more malayalam words than us, example, we don’t say “karaiyarai”. Also, we don’t have the musical slang of Palakkad language. Palakkad malayalis also speak with a musical slang. The cooking is also different. “Palakkattu sambar” & “Thiruvantharam sambar” are quite different. We have no “kaalan” but only “pulissery”. We have a “kuzhambu” called “eruvuli” flavoured with “venthayam” which is part of our everyday cuisine, made as an invariable combination with “keerai” which I doubt if Palakkad Brahmins are aware of. We call ourselves Kerala Iyers, but when we say that we are Iyers from Kerala, we always get the response “oh, neenga Palakkada?”. We get offended by such a question, as we have no connection with Palakkad. Our ancestors migrated to Kerala from in and around Tirunelveli and so have a slightly different culture than Palakkad Iyers. But we totally share the other sentiments expressed by the author and the supporters. We are neither a true malayali, nor a true tamilian, but a mixture of the two. But we look upon Kerala as our motherland, can’t think otherwise!


  6. Hahaha.. I thought Palakkad Pattars spoke Tamizh. Now, I know its a different language.. You have brought out the nuances very well.


  7. I am a Tanjore Tambrahm and a 3rd generation Mumbaiite. Have interacted with a whole lot of Palakkad Tamilians. Remember my neighbor offering me Vallum. I replied Vellum (jaggery) vendaam. Thirtham kudungo.
    Mother in law from Trivandrum… So heard a lot of eriserri and puliserri.
    Puliserri totally confounded… Moar kozhambu is called Puliserri….
    Enjoyed reading both your article and the comments too


  8. I am a Tanjore Tambrahm and a 3rd generation Mumbaiite. Have interacted with a whole lot of Palakkad Tamilians. Remember my neighbor offering me Vallum. I replied Vellum (jaggery) vendaam. Thirtham kudungo.
    Mother in law from Trivandrum… So heard a lot of eriserri and puliserri.
    Puliserri totally confounded… Most kozhambu is called Puliserri….
    Enjoyed reading both your article and the comments too

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The story of my life !!!. I am a Travancore Iyer born/brought up in Bangalore. My mom being a T-Iyer born/brought up in Coimbatore and my dad from Trivandrum. I speak “Talayalam”, but learned to refine it to a proper Tamil over the years. Some of my cousins brought up in Chennai, so being a ‘Chennaiite’ make fun of my accent now and then :(. I have had few identity crisis-es over the years. It feels good to see species like me exist.:)


  10. My ammas side pura pallakkad settled in Mumbai, appas side from Tirunelveli! Gramam, border village to kerala! Out right pallakkad tamil! Atthula full thengai samayal! Velichannai dan! My hubby also from tirunelveli, settled in Bhopal! So not much of cultural confusion, ha ha5!tamil chavi, thakkol agidum, kallikka, ormai, prandhu, kuttan, vellam, thazha edallam sagajamappa! Loved this! Proud to be a palakkad iyer!


  11. My mother is a Palakkad Iyer and my father from Trichy. Mom was born and brought up in Bombay (Mumbai) and settled in Chennai after marriage. I can speak Tamil both ways. My paternal uncles used to tease about the Palakkad accent of my maternal relatives and my maternal uncle always considers him superior to the “Kongammar”. To make matters worse, my wife is a Palakkad Iyer settled (read born and brought up) in Chennai and speaks Tamil like a typical Tamilian. It used to take a day or two to adjust between the accents whenever I used to visit my maternal relatives in Mumbai and return to Chennai.


  12. ” Konde oru kaaryam pannarayya ma ?” my mom used to ask frequently. All thro’ my growing years I thought “kaaryam” was a task or a little errand and that was it ! Once at my work place I was instructing a fellow colleague who was a proper Tamilian from Coimbatore on the phone – ” Neenga our kaaryam pannungo ….” He abruptly hung up ! He was so mad at me !!! Later I learnt Kaaryam in Tamil meant the last rites only and cannot be interchanged with “veylai” (job or task) !

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  13. Intha article nanna ezhuthiyirukkel. Naanum veliyile pesarathukkum, namma aathila pesarathukkum vithyaasam irukku. Aanaa kashtamonnum illai. Chilappo yaaraavathu keppaa onga native ethunnu. namma pesara thamizhukku nerthaye oru peru irukku. “Palakkaattu Thamizh”. Athallaathakki puthussa peronnum vendaam.
    Pinne, chaappaatu kaariyanga elam nanna ezhuthalaam. Dress vishayangal ezhuthalaam, namma chollara slokangal, paadara paatukal , pinne paalakkattu gramangal, kovigal, gramathila periya manushaa (avaloda special patta peru) ithellam ezhuthalaam.
    oru kollathila orukka adima kaavukko, grama viseshathukko, velai, pooram , velakku veppu, saastha preethi ippidi eppavaavathu oorukku poravaalukku padikkarathukku nanna irukkum. Fotovum podungo..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. OMG!!! I just re-lived the past many years of my life!!! Such fantastic articulation. I’m sure all of us who have read (and appreciated) and commented could very well be related one way or the other 🙂

    The written form of “molakootal”, “upperi/ipperi”, specific mention of “keera molakootal and vendakai pachadi” – are you kidding me!!!! So nice to see/hear that… Growing up in Chennai, it was a fun challenge. I had to switch between “our” tamil and Chennai tamil, within the house and outside the house, actively.

    Also loved the mention of “Vaaledu kardhu” for throwing up. That was classic 🙂

    “ammai”, the evergreen use of “kondhai”, pretty much everyone related (but you have no clue who they are) is mama or mami,

    No better way to sign off on this than stating my full name – Rajagopalan, Kavassery Gopalakrishnan 🙂

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  15. I am a Thiruvananthapuram guy n I find it hard explaining guys about the language we speak, once i remember telling that we speak a language which has Malayalam to Tamil in a 3:1 ratio!


  16. i seriously loved the post . there are still some people who admire the way we speak . Though i am totally brought up in tamil nadu still i speak proper malayalish tamil in a pakka manner , this read is bringing me lot of explanation i have given to people when they ask me why u are speaking like this 🙂 excellent write and expecting more like this , would be great if we can get some movies more on our language other than MMKR and Nala Thamayd

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Every Kerala Iyer can relate to this. And there is this one word, which is actually malayalam, but which I believe is mostly used only by us- ‘vaazhakkai’. My mom would shout from the kitchen,”Konde, ara kilo vaazhakkai vangindu varaya?” I would then head to the nearest grocery shop, and continuous with the last conversation I had, I would ask the grocer,”chetta, vaazhakka undo”? And he would reply,”pacha kaya aano atho ethakkaya aano? This happens to me every single time I use vaazhakkai instead of pacha kaya. But I just love these little things that make us unique and different from other Hindus.

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  18. Namaskaram. Chollungo. Ennuday oru cherupaththu experience cholren kittellaa.

    Ennai ennodu ammai oru kalyanathukku kootindu poyirundha. Anga oru aththanga pati…enkitte ….ennai ormai vechukko kittayaiah…..nannai ormai vechukko kittaiah….

    I was born brought up in Bangalore … and this palakkad tamilayalam was tok much. I asked my mom….. who is Kittaiah ? You never told me about him. Kittaiah was like a name bcoz Bamgalore has too many Ramaiahs Bheemaiahs and the like.

    Ippo neengal ellarum ennai ormai Vechungo kittella !!!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I have always had this identity crisis,growing up. To explain people that I am a tambrahm yet not properly tamil really was tedious. Add to that my woes of telling people that my lunch was not Kozhambu saadham but it was keerai molagootal and vendakka pachchadi. :/

    Brilliant write up and enakku sherikkum romba pidichudhu ttya! ( or is it “ttela?)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Really enjoyed reading the article and the comments. Can’t say which I enjoyed more!!!!Many of my friends are Tambrahm and the memories that I have tete-e-teeing with them are so wonderful. …


  21. By the way, isn’t ‘ttya’ or ‘ttyo’ part of Kerala tambrahm slang? I am from Cochin and we use lots of ‘ttya’s.
    “Sadhyaye pati chollaratha Avial marandhupoyutai ttya! :P”
    “Nann appova chonnen lya?”
    “Enak neengal ezhuthinath romba pidichith.”

    The worst part is, Malayalis be like, ‘She is a Tamilian’ and Tamilians be like, “She is a Keralite.”
    If there is a Chennai Tamil emergency (someone required to understand and reply in Tamil), all my friends look at me.
    “I don’t know THIS Tamil. My Tamil is different. It has got a Malayalam touch to it.”, I say
    “Really? Let us hear your Tamil then.”, they say.
    They listen to what I say and, “We don’t understand a thing!”
    The Tamilian tells, “I don’t understand a thing”
    I am like, “It’s Tamil dammit!”

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Oh the post i have been waiting for! We kerala iyers are literally ‘dobhi ka kutha na ghar ka na ghat ka’ or ‘rendungatan’. When a friend asks me where i am from and what i speak.Thats where the confusion all starts. I used to say half malayalam and half tamil ! The next question would be, who is tamil among your parents? Dad or your mom? And I’ll be like “achipichu atreyum manasilakikya kazhiada noku?” In my mind. Probably i should just tell it out loud and they would get the point!
    The next problem arises when you meet a Tamil cousin and all you get from him are blank stares while talking in our respective languages.
    What is fun is to see your mallu friend and Tamil friend argue about whether your language is more mallu or Tamil when they hear you talk to your Amma over the phone!
    And then words pop in which are unique to us like – elavan for white pumpkin( pushanikai in Tamil and kumblangya in malayalam) , valedupu for throughing up (vandhi and shardhikyanadu respectively) and many such words which make both of them finally give up on us!
    Oh and we are neither good at talking malayalam nor good at talking Tamil properly, even though we can read , write (some of us) and understand both languages extremely well!
    While mentioning our food how can anyone miss out molaghutal!! And the less tasty cousin molaghushyam. It’s the trade mark palakkad Iyer dish!! Be it sambar or kozhambu it’s always kutan for us! Explaining the meaning of which to my friends is harder than explaining the double slit experiment!
    To complicate things further, differences between palakkad Iyers and Travancore iyers exist!! Yea they are different, even from where they came!
    I can go on for ever but id like to make an appeal to all palakkad iyers out there- “sankethigaltendu koraya padichikarthu undu! avala parungo etra nanna avalodu bhashekyu Peru vechurka! Namlodu bhashekyu oru Peru vekyartuku vaighiyachu tela! Kutigalodu jeevitham elupumagu! ” Seriously!

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    1. Oh My God! You are so true about the Tamil cousin! I have a cousin who stays in Chennai. Although he is a Tambrahm, he speaks in a TN style… like “thootham” and “saapada saaptacha “. When I visit my Mama’s place, I have a tough time conversing with him.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Actually, we are more or less called palakkadu iyers. there is another sect of kerala iyers who are a bit different. Sorry for being anal about it. But that is what palakkadu iyers are. Nangallellam vellathhi vellamnu cholluvom, not thanni or thootham. We dont do pushanikkai – it is elavan molakuttal and ethakkai upperi. That is what i had today. Was planning to write on this, but now i need to change to something else.

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