Izhathu Mannanars was one of the Thiyya royal dynasties that ruled some parts of Malabar in present day Kannur and Kasaragod districts between the 6th and the 12th centuries. Mannanars (means kings or rulers) were title bestowed to this royal family, muthedathu Aramanakkal family. Eldest member of the family was called Vazhunnor. Chirakkal was headquarters of this dynasty. Female members were called Ammachiyaars. They given refuge to Antarjanams, Namboothiri woman, who were declared outcaste in a smarthavicharam, an inquiry held an Antarjanam is suspected of adultery. They believed to follow Buddhism as the religion. This Family maintained their royal status (not Buddhist heritage) even after brahmanization of Kerala.
TheChekava/Chekavar/Chekavan/Chevakan/Chon :-The deadly gladiators who lived in the ancient times of South India (now this part is spread over to "Sri Lanka", "Kerala", and some parts of "Thamil Nadu") are believed to be the founding fathers , the excellent developers and the dedicated practitioners of the martial art of "Kalarippayattu" with all its systematized and weaponry methods even thousands of years before the arrival of "Aryans & Chathurvarnya" to South India.These people had strict rules about honor and combat and they lived with their Sword, as a part of doing their "Karma";their traditional holy labour of implementing "Dharma" by giving their blood and sacrifycing themselves in the "Ankam" to decide the final Justice for these Regions .Their descendants are still called "Chekavar/Chekan/ Chon" or "Ezhavar" and their ancestors were the founders of "Chera & Chola Empire". In the history here in south India it was the blood of an "Ezhavar / Thiyyar" that could decide "the ultimate justice" of this region, it was their blood that could avoid big battles among these regions, it was their blood that could bring and impart the fragrance of peace among these regions.These people are belonging to the Ezhava (Thiyya) caste and related to "Hindu" religion. The "Vadakkan Pattukal" (the Ballads in the language of "Malayalam" which were originated in the medieval history of South India ) describes the Saga of "Chekava -heroes" who formed militia of local cheftians and kings. These songs exemplify and bestow up on the heights and sacrifices also of all other "expert Chekavars" from their community who were excellent in Kalari Payattu.As the saying goes, An Ezhavan(Thiyyan) is called as a "Chekavan" after the fight of an "ankam" and then onwards that Chekavar's food is believed to be on the tip of the sword. ‘Ankam’ is a duel, to the death, fought between two "Ankachekavar" to resolve the quarrels between local rulers . The ruler represented by the surviving Ankachekavar was considered as the winner. For centuries ...in Kerala, south India, quarrels between local rulers were resolved by fixing an "Ankam" by this deadly gladiators. All the legendary martial artists in the history of South India –like.. Puthooram Veettil Kannappa Chekavar, Puthooram Veettil Unnikkannan, Unniyarcha, Aromal Chekavar, Chandu, Aromalunni, Kannappanunni- were from this warrior community.
They worshipped mostly Lord Shiva, pithrukkal (ancestors) and deities like Muthappan, Ayyan, Ayyappan, etc. According to their beliefs they were trained from Lord Siva on all these martial arts & weaponry methods and they treat "Siva" as their " Kula Guru" (Guru of the Race/ Family). That was why "Lord Siva" was worshiped very much in this region by almost all the people here in the ancient times. And they respect "Pithrukkal" to respect their sacrifice to the general people and to show their bereavement.These men were skilled assassins in the deadly art of war and represent the extreme masculine symbol from ever in the history which makes all others envy.
The word 'Chevakar ' is derived from Sanskrit word 'Sevakar' which means soldiers in service or soldiers in royal service. As per the English-Malayalm Dictionary of Hermann Gundert, the word meaning of chekavan are militiaman and warrior. As per Peyarakaraathi, a Tamil dictionary published from Jaffna, the word meaning of chekavan are aiyan(Respected person or teacher or ayyappan or sanstha), peyullipanividaikaran(war hero) and veeran. Some argue that this word might have derived from Sanskrit word Sevakan or sevaka. Another theory proposed says that it might have derived from local Malayalam language word Chavuka means die. First reference of word chekava was found from inscriptions found in karapauram near cherthala which talks about an ayurveda medicinal plant collector who later became Ayurvedi physician Itty Achudan.
As per Elamkulam P. N. Kunjan Pillai's Studies in Kerala history, they were decedents of or Villors or Villavar or Billavars ( according to "Maha Bharatha, the "Ekalavya" was from this cast) who were warriors and bravos. They were trained under Maravars , a Dravidian martial tribe, accepted Buddhism in later stage. Villu(in Tamil and malayalm) or Billu(in Tulu), means bow was the Symbol of Chera kingdom. As per his opinion, Chera kings were actually villavars.. However, they were degraded after arrival of Brahmins and after establishing Chatur Varna system. Thereafter, they were accredited as chekavars or chevakars.Vadakkan Pattukal, collection of Malayalam Ballads of medieval origin present saga of chekava heroes.
As per the sangam literature and hero stones found in Tamil Nadu, chekavars were engaged in combat often on behalf of a lord and in this hero stone, chekavars generally bear an image of an armed man along with a Shiva Linga. The hero stone built for these men who had fallen in battle on behalf of lord and villagers or cattle raids was tradition during sangam days.
As per some other historians, Chekavars(Ezhavas) came in to India ancient times, on account of their long inhabitations and similarities in religion that with natives. The tradition is that they came originally from Ceylon where they belonged to Military caste. Some folk song says they were natives of Ezhavathu Nadu(Local name for Ceylon) and another folk song about puthooram veedu says their ancestors were one of the eight fighter families sent by the king of Ezhavathu Nadu (Land of Ezhavas) to help the local rulers of Malayalam (Here the Malayalam refers to present day Kerala). Famous chekavars of south Kerala, Komalezhathu Chekavars's (which was originally komala ezhavathu) family name also stressing this notion
The chekavars of Malabar were masters northern style Kalaripayattu while their counter-parts in South Kerala were practising southern styles like Varma Kalari, Adithada, Chilambam and occasionally using weapon based Kalaripayatu during wars. The chekavars of Malabar were involved in ankam(quarrels between local rulers were resolved by fixing an Ankam, a duel to the death) between two Ankachekavars, each ruler being represented by one Ankachekavar. The ruler represented by the surviving Ankachekavar was considered the winner. This type of Ankams between two chekavars were not common in Travancore or Cochin.
Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker, was an Ezhava warrior lived in the 19th century in Kerala who has also fought against the caste oppression by the upper castes. His original name was Kalisseril Velayutha chekavar. His grandfather Vallikadavil Perumal Chekavan(Perumalchekon or Perumalchan) was even proficient in Tulunadan kalari techniques which was not common in southern style of Kalaripayattu.
Legendary warrior figures of northern ballads Kannappa chekavar, Aromal Chekavar, Unniarcha, Unikkannan, Aromalunny etc. were chekavars from puthooram veedu in Malabar. Kottakkal Kanaran, the founder of the renowned CVN Kalari, was himself a Chekava.
In Central Travancore, there are families such as Punnasseril in Veloor whose roots are closely associated with these clans. Komalezhathu Chekavars of the Alappuzha districts were fierce warriors of most of the central Kerala kingdoms before the emergence of Travancore as a powerful kingdom. Sree Moolam Assembly (Praja sabha) memebr Komalezhathu Kunju pillai chevakar and Ezhava leader T. K. Madhavan are from this family.
So is the case of Thadathil Chekavars. Thadathil Raman Chekavar Velayudhan, Former CEO, Coir Worker's welfare Fund Board and an astrologist, belongs to this family. Other chekavar families in Travancore include Valiya mundakkal chekavars of eastern kollam and Melathil chekavars of Kanyakumari. Majority of these families in South Kerala lost it mightiness after the emergence Travancore as powerful kingdom, except Melathil tharavdu which continued to serve the Travancore kingdom.
In South Kerala members of ezhavas are still being called chovans (a maltreated derived version of chekavan) by other communities mainly upper caste.