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Achievements of Kerala Iyers

Great Scientists

A community which took up to modern English education only about 40-50 years back has contributed very significantly to the scientific development in India.

Dr. Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is the name that comes uppermost to the mind. He has been recognized as the Father of Green Revolution in India. Dr.M.S.Swaminathan took his Ph.D from the School of Agriculture in Cambridge in 1952. He spent the next two decades in research on various crops and in basic and applied genetics at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. He developed high yielding strains of wheat and rice.

Dr.Swaminathan is recepient of over forty awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971, the World Food Prize in 1987, the S S Bhatnagar Award, the Birbal Sahni Medal and the Mendel Memorial Award. In 1973 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1974 he chaired the U N World Food Congress in Rome.

Dr.Swaminathan currently pursues his research at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation based in Chennai.

Dr. Kasturirangan, a Kerala iyer belonging to Chalakkudy is the present Chairman Of ISRO and is giving great fillip to the space programs of India.

Prof. T N Ananthakrishnan worked as Director, Zoological Survey of India, Calcutta and also as Chairman, Entomology Research Institute, Loyola College and is an authority on Thrips

Dr. T V Ramakrishna Iyer (1880-1952) was a great Entomologist of South India and was the State Entomologist of former Madras Province. He also worked as Principal of Madras Agricultural College, Coimbatore prior to retirement.

Dr.T.R. Subramaniam, who is a retired eminent entomologist, worked as professor, Dean and Registrar of TamilNadu Agricultural University. He has contributed extensively in the plant protection area, especially in cotton and served as consultant, in world bank assisted projects.He also was a Registrar of Gandhigram rural varsity in Madurai. He regularly appeared in various radio shows and wrote many books.

Prof. Anathakrishnan another great iyer who worked as Prof of zoology in Christian College, Chennai is considered as an authority on aphids in the world.

Dr.K.Ramakrishnan the great virologist who retired as Dean of the University of Agricultural sciences, Bangalore also belong to this group.

Dr. K.Ramakrishnan made significant contributions to crop protection especially fruit crops. Prof.P.A.Venkiteswaran who became the Principal of Agricultural College, Coimbatore is another well known agricultural scientist.

Prof.E.S.Narayanan the retired head of Division of Entomology and later Director of Central Sericultural Research Institute of Sericulture, Mysore was a Kerala Iyer.

Dr.L.A.Ramadas, who retired as Director of meteriological department of Government of India belonged to Lakshminarayanapuram,
Dr.C.V.Vaidyanathan the celebrated professor of Biochemistry of Indian Institute of Science Bangalore belonged to Chelakkara. Mr.C.V.Venkaieswarn, who was an expert in harbor engineering and Dr, R.C.Narayanan who retired as Principal of Delhi College of Engineering are notable engineers belonging to this group.

Dr.C.P.Natarajan who retired as Director of CFTRI,Mysore and his brother Dr.Ananthakrishnan who was the Director of NDRI,Bangalore are two great Iyers who have contributed to Indian agricultural science.

Possibly another of those greats was Diwan Bahadur L.K. Anantha Krishna Iyer whose great contribution has been acknowledged by the country. In fact as some one remarked in jest that Indian Anthropology should be called as Anantharapology. His son Padma Bhushan L.A.Krishna Iyer and his grand son L.K.BalaRathanam carried forward the torch of Anthropological Research of the castes and tribes of India initiated by this great man in to dizzy heights.

Dr. V.Ganapathy Iyer who was president of Indian society of Mathematics and Head of Department of Mathematics of Annamalai University and Dr.G.Sankaranarayanan who succeeded him, as Head of Department were also Kerala Iyers.

Prof. R S Krishnan, came from a village near Pudukad, called Rappal. He did his schooling in Pudukad, college in Trichur and Trichy. Then he moved to Bangalore and worked under Prof. C V Raman at the Indian Institute of Science. He got a Ph.d from Cambridge in the UK and also a DSc. from the Madras University working under Prof. C V Raman. When Prof. Raman retired in 1948, Dr.Krishnan became the Professor and Head of the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science. He has also discovered an effect called the Krishnan Effect. More than 60 research scholars have obtained a Ph.d under him from the IISc and other universities in the country. After retirement, he was the Vice Chancellor of the Kerala University from 1973 to 1977. After he retired he came back to Bangalore. He has compiled all the publications on Raman Effect from the time of its discovery. He has been able to publish 5 volumes giving the bibiliography of papers on Raman Effect upto the year 1979. He passed away on Oct 2nd, 1999
Another great name in this category is DR.N.S.Ramaswamy the man who laid the foundations of Industrial Engineering in India and who became the first Director of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He is continuing his great work by dong research on designing a better bullock cart now.

Dr.Sattanatha Iyer the former Head of Department of History of Annamalai University and a great authority on Indian History is mentioned here as he does not fit in any other group.


The three major centers of development of Carnatic Music in South India are the Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu, the areas surrounding Mysore state, and Kerala. The major part of the development of music in Kerala is due to the Kerala Iyers. This may be due to the possible fact that most of the Kerala Iyers trace their origin to Tanjore district. Some of the great musicians among Kerala Iyers are:-

  1. Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar who has been called the Gana Gandharvan of Kerala. It was this great musician who gave a fillip to Singing of Malayalam songs in concerts. He has a very large disciple following including the famous Jesudas.
  2. Palakkad Mani Iyer, understandably an emperor of percussion instrument called Mridangam. His amazing mastery used to dumbfound connoisseurs.
  3. Nurani Parameswara Bhagavathar who lived in the 19th century who was with Swati Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore.
  4. Thondikkulam Anantharama Bhagavathar who was an acknowledged exponent of Harikatha style of music.
  5. Mundai Rama Bhagavathar who was an acknowledged leader in pure classical music.
  6. Parur Sundram Iyer and his sons M.S.Gopala Krishnan, M.S.Anantharaman and daughter M.S. Rajam. This school of violin music is considered by many as the innovators in mixing Hindustani and Carnatic Music. They were possibly the forerunners of the modern day Jugalbandhi.
  7. Palakkad Narayanaswamy possibly the greats musician of musicians.
  8. Palakkad K.V.Gopalakrishnan known for his mastery of Mridangam and Vocal style of music .He also delved in to Hindustani classical music.
  9. M.D.Ramanathan was known for his pure rendering of the classical style of Carnatic Music. He was the well-known teacher of music in Kalakshetra of Madras.
  10. Bombay sisters who used to thrall their listeners by mellifluous rendering of famous Kritis and Slokas.
  11. Sri.M.A.Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar who was well known for his rendering of classical music and his son Sri.M.K.Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar who was known for his proficiency on Veena
  12. Gurvayur Dorai and Palakkad Raghu both well known for their proficiency in Mridangam
  13. Ayilur Krishnan, Chalakudy Narayanaswamy and Puducode Krishnamurthy well known vocalists.
  14. Sri.T.N.Krishnan who is a great player on violin
  15. Trichur Ramachandran one of the present day Greats in music.
  16. One of the other ancient great contributors to the music was Ennapadam Venkatrama Bhagavathar.
  17. Sri.Thiruvarpu Krishna Bhagavathar (1860-1945) was considered as a great authority in singing                        Muthuswami Iyer Kritis.
  18. Sri. T.V. Gopalakrishnan (Very famous Mridangist and Vocalist) and his brother Sri. T.V. Vasan (Ghatam vidhwan) - both belong to Tripunithura.
  19. Sri. V.V. Subramaniam and his brother Sri. V.V. Ravi (famous Violin Vidhwans), Wadakkancheri
  20. Late Sri. Thiruvilamalai Vilwadri Iyer (Very famous Ghatam Vidhwan)
  21. Late Sri. Chathapuram Subba Iyer (Mridanga Vidwan)and the first Guru of Late Sri. Palghat Mani Iyer.
  22. Kunisseri Sri. Mani Iyer (Mridanga Vidwan)
  23. Late Sri. Thiruvilmalai Kondhai (the only Iyer to play leading role in Chandamelam and Guru of Stalwart, Pallavoor Appu Marar)

These are but a few of the real top ranking musicians of Palakkad. Their contribution to the development of this school is really great by any standards.

Another great in his own right is Mr.Dakshinamurthy who attained lot of fame as music Director in Malayalam and Tamil films.

The Gazal singer Hariharan, the light music queen Mrs.Usha Uthup and Smt Anuradha Sriram and present light music mastero Manohar Iyer also belong to the group of Kerala Iyers.

Sri Mohan Iyer who has collected remarkable information on all aspects of Carnatic Music as well Dr.P.P.Bharata Iyer an authority on Kathakali again are Kerala Iyers.

Legal luminaries

Possibly due to the tradition of Tamil Iyers, Kerala Iyers also took up to the profession of law. Many of them rose up to dizzy heights. The belief that they would be honest and would not deceive which was shared by all communities in Kerala made them very popular lawyers right from the Munsif court to the Supreme Court.

Justice A.S.P.Iyer of Ayilam, Palakkad, Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer of Malabar and Justice Vaidylingam of Chittur were possibly the only two who became Justices in the Supreme Court in India. Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer was also the law minister of the first elected Marxist government in the world. It was he who piloted some of the very revolutionary bills like the Bhoo Naya Bill and Education reform bill. He is scholar in his own right. Justice A.S.P. Iyer is a famous writer in English and his novel Baladitya is possibly the first historical romance based on Indian History.

Some of the others are

Justice Sundara Iyer and Justice Rama Iyer of Puducode, Chief Justice Vaidyanatha Iyer of Trichur who adorned the High court in Cochin, Justice P.V.Balakrishna Iyer of Madras high court, Sri.Thaicaud Subramanya Iyer who was a very great lawyer, Justice C.V.Anathakrishna Iyer of the Cochin high court and so on.

Administrative geniuses

Ramaiyan Dalawai the Minister of the great king Marthanda Verma of Travancore was a great administrative genius and was responsible for the greatness of Travancore state. Another great administrative genius from among Kerala iyers was the erstwhile Diwan of Mysore Mr.Seshadri Iyer.The thankful state of Mysore not only has erected a statue for this great man, but also named the state library headquarters after him. There is also a prominent residential area in Bangalore named after him.
History also records of a Kerala Iyer Pundit Shankar Shastry who was a minister to the Maharaja Ranjeet Singh who built a temple in Kizakkachery...There was one Narayana Iyer who was a Diwan for Cochin state and has contributed a lot to the progress of the state.He acted as Prime Minister of Cochin state for a few years and has done immense service to water supply and electrification of villages of Cochin state.

Sri.M.K.Neelakanta Iyer, former Chief secretary of Travancore State belonging to Moncompu was well known for his administrative skills.

The chief Secretary of Kerala in the year 2001 also is a Kerala Iyer. He is Mr.Krishnamurthy I.A.S.

In the modern times, the fact that the only three people who got first rank in I.A.S. examination from Kerala were Kerala iyers speaks volumes about their administrative genius. Easily the most famous among them is Mr.T.N.Seshan, who adorned the posts of Home Secretary, Cabinet Secretary and Election Commissioner of India. He is a genius among administrators and is known for his forthright opinions expressed in mellifluous but pith English.

Raju Narayanaswamy got First rank in I A S examination in 1991.

Among the other well known administrators are :
Sri.C.A.Ramakrishnan & Sri.T.N.Lakshmi Narayanan, both Former Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu
Sri.P.K.Doraisamy, who retired as secretary of Tamil Nadu
Sri M S Narayanan, Chairman - Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), was instrumental in rationalising the income tax rates, during VP Singh's time.
Sri.M.R.Ramachandran, former member of C B D T
Sri.P.A.Goplakrishnan, former Chairman of L.I.C.
Sri.S.S.Ananthakrishnan, former Director General of P & T
Sri.S.R.Krisnamurthy, Former Director of P & T
Sri.S.V.Narayanan and Sri.S.Hariharan both renowned actuaries and Executive Directors of L.I.C
Sri.R.V.Krishnan IAS who served the AP state Govt. in various capacities as Secretary Health, Prinicipal Secretary Education dept. before retiring last year as Vice Chairman of AP administrative Tribunal
Sri.R.V.Vaidyanatha Iyer IAS who is presently serving as the Secretary-Culture department of Central Govt..etc.

There are a very huge number of Kerala Iyers working in almost any office in the metropolises of India contributing to their success. Since no attempt has been made to collect information about them, it is felt that this list is very incomplete.

Iyer Politicians

This is an area normally avoided by iyers. But small time functionaries do exist in all political parties of Kerala. Among those who made to the top are: 

  1. Sri.V.R.Krishna Iyer who was the law minister in the first ever democratically elected communist government. (1956-57)
  2. Prof.N.K.Seshan who was the finance minister of yet another communist government.
  3. Sri.C.M.Sundaram minister for religious endowments and local self Government in the congress ministry headed by Sri.Karunakaran.


There may be many great sages among the Kerala Iyers but nothing much is known about them. Swami Poornananda Thirtha, who established the Vyasa Ashram in Parlikkad, his brother Swami Bhoomananda who lead the agitation to protect Sabari malai temple and Swami Atmamanda who was a very great adyatmic soul were a group of Sanyasins from Parlikkad. Tripurananda Bharati Swami belonging to Aleppy was one of the sages belonging to the community. He has laid the foundations for the almanac reforms of Kerala.
Swami Adyatma Chaitanya of the Shyama Narayanalayam near Alleppy is doing yeoman service to those addicted to drugs in USA by organizing courses based on Hinduism. He is an iyer belonging to Alleppy.


This is possibly an area where there is very little presence of Kerala Iyers. The greatest among them is the modern day superstar Mr.Jayaraman.

The great film producer and director of yester years Mr C. V. Hariharan (he is no more now) who produced many Malayalam films including the famous "Kollialkkam" was also a Kerala Iyer. He hailed from Tripunithura.He made many films under the banner of Suguna Films.

Another actor who has attained considerable fame in Tamil Cinemas is Ajit, who has been making ripples.Sudha Chandran the handicapped dancer who took the cine field by storm also belongs to this group.Priya Raman is another actress of this group who has made considerable name.The famous Character actor Mr.R.S.Tripunithara is a Kerala Iyer.The famous cine musician Aranmula Ponnamal was also a Kerala iyer.DR.Sharmila, M.D. who acts in several Tamil serials in the Tamil TV net works belongs to Palakkad.

The famous music Dorectors Mr.K.V.Mahadevan and Mr.Dakishanamurthy have made a great mark in the film world.

Great writers & journalists

The greatest among them was Malayattoor Ramakrishnan whose several novels won academy awards and were later converted in to pictures. His famous novel Verugal (roots) is a great picturisation of the life of a Kerala Iyer Family in the north Travancore Area.

Another great poet and writer is Karimpuzha Ramachandran.

A writer of the olden era who attained considerable fame as English writer was Manjeri Easwaran. Justice A.S.P.Iyer is another writer of great merit.

A great writer in Tamil belonging to this group is Mr. P .V. Ramakrishnan (PVR) who wrote lot of great Tamil novels.

Mr.A.N.Sivaraman the doyen among journalists of Tamil Nadu who was editor of Dinamani for 18 years belonged to Kollam in Kerala. He was also a nationalist leader.

Mr. Kaviyur M.V.Narayana Iyer has written Bakthi kavyas in Malayalam as well as novels. He has also contributed in popularizing science through his essays. His father Kaviyoor Venkitachala Iyer was a famous writer in Malayalam during his times.

Among the modern day poets belonging to the community is Krishnan Parapally who has contributed 18 collections of poetry on various aspects of Kerala life in the last fifty years. He uses Sonnets as the vehicle of his thoughts. He has been honoured by several organizations for his contributions and has so far won eight awards. Another great writer of Sanskrit epics in Malayalam is Mahomahopadyaya P.R.Ananthanarayana Sastry.

Iyer Industrialists

This is another area which iyers thought that they were not fit at all. Seetharam Mills of Trichur and several transport companies of the earlier days especially Pioneer transports. P.S.N., Nadavarmbu Transport etc were the fore runners. There is an establishment called Vadyar Boats in Madras who have become very famous in building of boats.

Undoubtedly the most important industrialist of the Yester era were Mr.Ganapathy Iyer and Mr.Rama Iyer of the Ganeshram food products. They were possibly the first people to start the business of Sambhar Powder and later pioneered the Instant Rasam and Sambar powder. They also manufacture several pickle varieties. Nadavarambu Krishna brothers who pioneered making of brass and bell metal vessels in Kerala

Feeling the need for a bank of their own, the iyers started the Dhanalakshmi bank and the Lakshmivilasam Bank. Of these Danalakshmi bank attained a lot of eminence. There is a saying amongst the Pandy Samooham that they were the people who taught banking to Kerala Iyers.

The great Industrialist Mr. Mohan of Good Knight mosquito coil fame also is a Kerala Iyer. He has diversified his activities in several branches and has attained lot of eminence. He also is the only Kerala Iyer film producer.

Another visionary industrialist from among Kerala Iyers is Mr.Ramachandran who introduced fabric brightener called Ujala in the market.

The organizers of Vadyar boats a shipping company from Puducode were one of the pioneers in trawler manufacture.

Another remarkably successful industrialist of modern times is Kalpathy Suresh who is the CEO of SSI limited and chairman of Indiainfoline.

Contribution to Sanskrit and Vedas

The Tamil Iyers who migrated to Kerala were brought in to close association with Malayalam which is a language with large number of Sanskrit words. This facilitated them to gain easy mastery of Sanskrit. Uddanda Sastrigal, Neelakanda Sastrtrigal and Sankaranarayana were Tamil Brahmin of yester years, whose contribution to Sanskrit is well known.

Easily the greatest among the greatest scholar of Vedas and Sanskrit of the last two centuries is Mahomahopadyaya Nurani Ananthakrishna Sastrigal. His celebrated defense of Advaitha philosophy replying the 100 questions asked by the Visishtadvaithins called 'Sata Bhooshani" is one of those last great works in Advaitha Philosophy. He worked as Head of the department of Sanskrit of Calcutta University. It is told that he took sanyasa before his death.

Dr.C.S. Venkiteswaran , the former Head of Department of Sanskrit is well known to his erudition and has contributed a lot to its research. Thiruvillakadavu Srinivasan, the present Head in the same university is following his footsteps.

Kerala iyers were foremost in establishing centers of learning of Vedas and Sanskrit. Of these the most famous was the Chittur Patasala, which had been the lighthouse of Veda learning in the entire south India. This Patasala was also the first one to codify learning procedures of Vedas. During its heydays, it was extremely difficult to get admission in to this. Later Veda Pata Salas were established in Nurani, Chattapuram, Melarkode, Kalpathi and Punkunnam. There was a famous Sanskrit school in Puducode promoted by the venerable Justice Sundaram Iyer. There were great personalities in Vedic learning from among the Kerala iyers. Some of them are: -

  1. Puducode Rama Sastrigal who was an expert in Tharka
  2. Kalpathi Subramanya Sastrigal the earlier Principal of Sanskrit College in Madras who was an expert in Mimasa
  3. Suri Vadyar of Kalpathi who was an expert Vidhayaga
  4. Govindarajapuram Sesha Vadhyar, an expert in Prayoga
  5. Kalpathy Subramanya Sastrigal and Rama sastrigal experts in Karma Kanda
  6. Kozhalmannam Rasa Vadhyar and Viswanatha sarma both experts in Ayurveda
  7. Chittur V.S.Subramanya sastrigal and Kodungaloor Harihara Sarma Sanskrit scholars of reknown
  8. Pallanchattanur Ramachandra Sastrigal, former Principal of Sanskrit College, Tripunithura
  9. Mullurkara Iya Sastrigal an expert in sastram
  10. Parlikkad Konthai Vadhyar and Pallipuram Rama Sastrigal expert in Purana Pravachana
  11. Sekaripuram Doraisamy sastrigal who took his M.A. in Sanskrit and was a renowned expert in literature
  12. Nurani Sundara Vadyar an expert in Vedas
  13. Kavasseri Ramachandra Jadavallabar an expert in Jada
  14. Namboori Kittan belonging to Thennalapuram was possibly the only Kerala Iyer well versed in the recitation of Vedas as the Namboodiris do. He studied in a Namboodiri Vedic school
  15. Nochur Varnapramana Krishna Ganapadigal and his son Sankara Ganapadigal expert in Gana and teachers of Chittur Veda pada sala
  16. Nochur Ramaswamy sastrigal and Sangameswara Sastrigal both expert in Vedas and teachers in Nurani Veda Patasala
  17. Poonkunnam Mani Ganapadigal an expert Vidayaka
  18. Chittor Sankara Ganapadigal and Thiruvilvamalai Ramaswamy sastrigal both teachers of Chitur Veda pata sala
  19. Mathur Venkidachala Sastrigal an expert in all aspects of Vedas
  20. Pallaseni Narayana sastrigal, Chandru Sastrigal and Krishna Sastrigal great Vidayakas
  21. Ottapalam Rama Ganapadigal an expert in Gana
  22. Dr.K.V.Seshadrinathan who is a former principal of Sanskrit College, Madras a qualified expert astrologer who has been given the title Darshana Jyotisha Paryata by Kanchi Sankaracharya and an expert Ayurvedic Doctor
  23. Dr.K.S.Sarma well known all over India for his research in all aspects of Vedas especially their application to mathematics and great research scholar even at the age of 80
  24. Sri.V.N.Subramanya Iyer, the former law College principal is considered as an authority in Sama Veda and has been decorated by the Kanchi Paramacharya.
  25. Dr.C.R.Seshadri, a medical practitioner by profession, who served the community for more than 2 decades, took great interest in propagating Namasankeerthana. He has performed abhinaya divyanama bhajana in almost every temple in and around palakkad and also other far off places.
  26. Rama Ganapadigal of Nochur, Nataraja Ganapadigal (from Nochur but attached to the Mysore Royal Palace) and their father Aana Ganapadigal (real name was Yegneswara Ganapadigal). Rama Ganapadigal was Nochur Krishna Ganapadigal's contemporary and was equally respected. He used to teach at Kalpathi Veda Shala and was attached to the court of Mysore Maharaja, having won many Vidhwat Sadhas (congregration of the vidhwans) during the period 1935 - 1945. He expired in 1964.
  27. Nataraja Ganapadigal also won critical acclaim during his period and was well known in the royal circles at Mysore. He was also the Aasana Vidhwan for some time. He expired during the 1950s.
    Aana Ganapadigal, their father, earned this title from his contempories who thus recognised his stentorian voice.
This list will not be complete with out mentioning the name of Sri.M.N.Rama Swamy Iyer of Melarkode who single handedly got published most of our great Puranas and Sri.R.S.Vadhyar and Sons of Kalpathy who have enriched the knowledge of Kerala Iyers in Hindu Religion by their very many comprehensive publications on all aspects of religious observance. To this may be added Giri Trading Agency who have recently undertaken publishing of various religious books useful to iyers.

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The term 'Iyer' is derived from 'Iyya' which means 'Sir' in Tamil and which might have beemight have been derived from 'Arya' of Sanskrit, which means a 'gentleman'. In the earliest known work dealing with grammar in Tamil - tholkappiyam (meaning old epic), the meaning of 'iyya' is given as 'a learned individual'. Iyers were initially confined to Tamil Nadu. Though the majority of them chose to stay in Tamil Nadu itself, some of them migrated to neighboring states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Over the years these migrants built up their own individual culture and established an identity of their own. In Kerala, they are commonly referred to as Pattars where as Iyers of Tamil

Gramam - Nochur

Location : Palakkad District.  This is a village between Palakkad and Kollengode. It had about 200 houses. There are two temples viz. Bhagavathi temple and Krishnan temple both managed by Kerala Iyers. Navarathri is celebrated in the village in a grand scale. The temple festival is on the first Friday of the month of Thai (January- February). Sri N.R.Subbarama Iyer who was the Chief Justice of Cochin high court belonged to this village. There were lots of eminent legal luminaries, which include Sri N.R.Krisha Iyer, Sri Ramaswamy iyer, Sri K.Viswanatha Iyer. The famous Tarakkad blind astrologer Swaminathan also belongs to this village. Sri. N.R.Subbaram an expert scientist who worked at Patent right Commissioner and who is at present a consu