By Gramam, what is meant is streets in a locality with continuous row houses exclusively populated by Kerala Iyers, each sharing a common wall. There would be houses on both sides in most of the places but there are streets with houses on only one side in some cases. Due to the fact that Kerala is in a very heavy rainfall area and there was a need for storing paddy after every harvest for the till next harvest, these houses had also some architectural peculiarity.
Each house normally had a veranda. After this there would be a passage to the main house, on one side of which there used to be a Pathayam (box for storing Paddy), below the pathayam, there would be a Nilavarakundu, which used to be the place of storage of things that are not daily used in the house. The next room would normally be a Koodam (hall?) with a Nadumittam. This is an open area where roofs used to slope and let down the rainwater. An underground connection to the Nadumittam to the outside is provided to let off the water. This also used to be the place for washing hands, faces, legs as well as brushing teeth in the morning. The wooden container containing Umikari (Charcoal made of paddy husk, which was used for cleaning teeth) and Vibhuthi, used to be hung by its side. Attached to the koodam would be couple of other rooms (arai). The Koodam is followed by a kitchen where ready-made firewood stoves (Aduppu) were used. This Aduppu exclusively used to be lit by firewood. The flame also used to be directed to a hole on one side called Kaala Vayi (Mouth of a bull), which was used to heat things under low flame. This room used to be followed by a mittam, an open space as well as end of Onnam Kettu (first stage building). In most of the houses this is followed by Rendam Kettu, which normally used to be a big hall where usually the cows of the house are tied and fed. After crossing the rendam Kettu, there used to be further open space called Kollai at the end of which was the toilet. The well of the house used to be either in the Mittam or Kollai. It is interesting to note that there was no concept of Bathrooms in the houses. People used to take their bath in village ponds, and nearby streams (thodu) or Rivers (Puzhai).
In Travancore area, houses were more of the nalukettu type of construction and were individual houses. Nalukettu is similar to the Namboothiri illams. Some affluent families in Travancore had kolams (ponds) in their house compound itself.
In the olden times castes other than the higher castes of Kerala were not allowed to enter the Gramam. It is widely believed that the Palakkad Raja (King) gave land for construction of these Gramams to the Kerala Iyers initially. It is worth examining the land records for the existence of such gift deeds of land.
In the Malabar region of Kerala, which was under British, rule. The Palakkad Iyers migrated to different places in search of employment mainly lawyers and law clerks. Such people settled down in the place of their employment. Not only their family grew in such villages, but they also welcomed their near and dear ones. Most of these villages were Otta Madams meaning single houses surrounded by a garden.
The Kochi Maharaja also encouraged the Kerala Iyers from Palakkad to settle down in his kingdom. He gave land grants to people for such purpose. It is also known that he helped them to build a Veda Patasala (School for learning Vedas) in Chittur. Their settlements extended between Chittur (near Palakkad) to Tripunithura (in present day Ernakulam), which is the Capital of the Kochi state. Stories and folk tales talk of these Iyers being employed as cooks in Namboothiri Houses as well as the Cochin Palace. One family from Chittur had a Thirumugam Karyasthan (meaning personal assistant) employed traditionally by the Cochin Maharaja.
The migration to the Travancore state was through the Shenkotta Pass or through plains from Tirunelveli. They comprised of iyers from Tirunelveli, Madurai and neighbouring areas of Tanjore district. Many of these iyers came to Kerala for exhibiting their skill in music and scholarship in Vedas or simply for employment. Most famous of them was Ramaiyan Dalawai, who played a very key role in the history of the Kingdom of Travancore along with the great king Marthandavarma. The agraharams in the kingdom of Travancore were fewer in number.
Efforts are being made to get a full list of these Iyer Gramams. A partial list is given below. We welcome suggestions from readers regarding their gramams.
Former Cochin State
Aluva, Arangotukara, Aratupuzha, Ayilore, Chelakkara, Cherpu, Chittoor, DurgaKoshtam, Engakkad, Ernakulam, Erumapatti, Guruvayur, Irinjalakkuda, Kadangode, Kalady, Kanimangalam(Nemmara), Kiralur, Kodungallor, Kolazhy, Koovapadi(Koovelimadam), Kottakulangara, Lankeswaram, Malayattor, Manjjapara(Kaladi), Mnalur, Mulagunnathkavu, Mulloorkara, Nadavarambu, Neelswaram(Trichur), Nelleppalli, Nemmara, Northern Parur, Pangamtree, Parlikad, Pazhayannor, Pazhayanadakkavu(Trichur), Peringanddor, Perumanam, Perumbavvor, Poonkunnam, Pulacode, Pushpagiri, Rappal, Tattamangalam, Thaikkattusery, Thirvilvamala, Trikkur, Tripunithura, Urakam, Varavoor, Vellarkkad, Venganallore, Vilayannor, Wadakancheri.
Alampallam, Alatur, Ambalavayal(Wyanad), Ambikapuram, Angadipuram, Ayakkad, Ayilam, Chalappuram(Calicut), Chattanathapuram, Chembai, Ennapadam, Kailat, Kannur, Karimpuzha, Karumassery, Kavalappara, Kizhakkancheri, Kodungallor, Koduvayur, Kollengode, Koottala, Kuniseri, Kuttipuram, Lakkidi, Madapalli, Manjappara, Manjeri, Mannur, Mathur, Melarcode, Mundai, Mylattor, Nalleppali, Nellisery, Nelluvai, Nochur, Ottappalam, Padur, Pallasena, Pallavoor, Pallipuram(Pattambi), Payilur, Payyannor, Pazhambalakkode, Perivambu, Perumalgramam, Perinkulam, Poothamkurichi, Pothingur, Pottur(Tirur), Puducode, Rishinaradamangalam, Shoranur, Taliparamba, Tarur, Thalaseri, Thali(Calicut), Thichur, Trippalur, Vadakara, Vadakkancheri, Vadaseri, Vettanarkavu.
Former Travancore State
Alappuzha, Ambalapuzha, Chengannur, Chothupura, Ettumannor, Harippad, Kandiyur, Karamana(Trivandrum), Kaviyur, Kazhakootam, Kidangur, Kollam, Kudamaloor, Manacaud, Monkombu, Muvattupuzha, Neyatinkara, Palai, Pandalam, Pappanamcode(Trivandrum), Parippu, Puthiyakavu(Mavelikkara), Thiruvarpu, Thodupuzha, Tholikkode(Punalur), Thycaud, Thiruvarpu, Trikandiyur, Trikariyur(Kothamangalam) Trivandrum, Ullor(Trivandrum), Vaikom.
The eighteen Gramams of Palakkad are:
Adityapuram, Chathapuram, Chokkanathapuram, Govindarajapuram, Kalpathy (new and Old), Kodinthrapally, Kumarapuram, Lakshminarayanapuram, Nelliserry, Nurani, Pallipuram, Ramanathapuram, Sekaripuram, Tarakkad, Thirunellayi, Thondikkulam, Vadakkanthara, Vaidyanathapuram.
Out of these Pallipuram and Thirunellayi are exclusively vaishavite smartha villages and Kodunthirapally is an exclusively Chozhiyan (Shoilyar of Tamil Nadu) village.