Ambalavasi (Ampalavasi) is a generic name for a group of castes among Hindus in Kerala, India, who render temple services. Some Ambalavasi castes are patrilineal, while the others are matrilineal. Those that practise matrilineality share many cultural similarities with the Nair caste and, according to some anthropologists, may be related to them. Their ritual rank in Hinduism lies somewhere between the Brahmin castes and the Nairs.
The castes which comprised the Ambalavasi community each contained only a few members. The castes may be broadly classified under the two main heads of - (i) the thread-bearing Ambalavasis and (ii) the threadless Ambalavasis. Under the former head come the castes such as Pushpakan, Nambeesan, Thiyyadi, Kurukkal, Muthathu, Chakyar etc. who wear the Sacred-thread and under the latter Pihsaradi, Varyar, Pouval etc. Owing to their similarities in social customs and manners, some castes among the sacred thread bearing ambalavasis are together called Pushpaka Brahmins. The threaded ambalavasis adhere to Gotra system.
Sacred-thread wearing AmbalavasisEdit
- Pushpaka (Pushpakan Unni), who bring flowers to the temples
- Theeyatt Unni
- Marar, who act as temple musicians and sweepers
- Poduval,who works as temple watchman
The feminine names of threadless ambalavasi castes are formed by adding the suffix -syar to the masculine names as Adkikal-Adisyar, Pisharadi-Pisharasyar, Marar-Marasyar, Variar-Varasyar, Poduval-Poduvalsyar.
Though all Ampalavāsis have to do service in temples, they have sufficiently distinct functions to perform. Pushpakans and Nambeesans are teachers in the Pathasalas or Mutts and suppliers of flowers to temple. Chakyar stages drama. Marar serves as temple musician. Variar and Poduval did managerial and executive functions of temple committees and served as storekeepers 
Kazhakams or Ambalakkazhakams refer to associations of ambalavasi peoples in a temple to perform specific duties in the temple. The Malayalam or Tamil term Kazhaka is believed to be originated from the Sanskrit word घटकः (ghaṭakaḥ) meaning a unit or part or component.
Traditionally, Ambalavasis are associated with various types of temple arts. Earlier, each of these temple arts were performed only by specific Ambalavasi castes. Now there is no community or caste barrier.
|Koodiyattam||Chakyar, Pushpaka Unni|
|Kooth||Chakyar, Nangyar (women of Nambiar)|
|Certain roles of Krishnanattam||Nambeesan or Pushpaka Unni[page needed]|
|Mizhavu (Musical Instruemnt)||Nambiar|
|Kuzhithalam (Musical Instruemnt)||Nangyar (women of Nambiar)|
|Theeyattu||Theeyatt Unni, Thiyyadi Nambiar|
|Vadyams (Musical Instruments) like
Chenda, Idakka, Udukku etc.
|Sopanasangeetham||Marar, Pothuval|
|Brahmanippattu||Brahmani (women of Nambeesan)|
Various service organisations are in operation for the welfare of various castes or groups in the Ambalavasi Community.
- Sree Pushpakabrahmana Seva Sangham is working for the welfare of Pushpaka Brahmins comprising Pushpakas, Theeyattunnis, Nambeesans, Kurukkal, Puppalli, Brahmani-daivampadi etc. Its headquarters is in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Sangham publishes a monthly magazine called 'Pushpakadhwani'.
- Chakyar-Nambiar Samajam is working for the welfare of Chakyars and Nambiars. Its headquarters is at Kochi, Ernakuklam, Kerala
- Pisharody Samajam with its headquarters at Ayyanthole, Thrissur, Kerala. Pisharody samajam brings out a magazine named 'Thulaseedalam'.
- Warrier Samajam with its headquarters at Guruvayur, Thrissur, Kerala. Warrier samajam publishes a monthly magazine called 'Theertham' to convey its various activities to its members.
- Akhila Kerala Marar Kshemasabha is working for the welfare of Marars. Its Headquarters is in Chembukkavu, Thrissur. Sabha publishes a cultural magazine called 'Sopanadhwani'
- Kerala Poduval Samajam with its headquarters at Vellinezhi, Palakkad, Kerala. Poduval samajam publishes a quarterly magazine called 'Nirmalyam'.
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