There are several arguments regarding the etymological origin of Payyanur. Dr. MGS Narayanan is of the opinion that Payyanur is derived from pazhaiyyante ooru (the land of Pazhaiyyan,the Sangham king) But the most popular version is the ooru of payyan ( The land of Lord Subrahmnya) .
Payyanur belonged to the erstwhile Payyanur firka. Kavvayi, the port of Payyanur was the capital of Chirakkal thaluk. Kavvayi consisted of 138 desams. The first landing of Vasco de Gama on his way to Calicut was believed to be Kavvayi port from where he collected enough fresh water for his onward journey.
The human foot prints at Payyanur dates back to prehistoric era. Stone writings using iron nails could be seen from coastal Ramanthali to the hilly Prapoyil. Prehistoric burial sites like ‘theeyathi malika in echilam vayal and several other places, Burial urns(nannagadi) and umbrella stones at various places shows that human habitation started here ages before. There are historians who believes that the stone drawings at ettukudukka dates back to 4000 BC.
There is nothing in the recorded history with regard to the life of the early settlers of Payyanur. There were no property rights and the land belonged to every one. Their number should have been small. They might have lived a peaceful life without the interference of outsiders as the land was well protected by rivers and the mighty Arabian Sea from all sides. The early kavus of payyanur might have been their centre of social life with no idols of gods and without any doctrines of sacred texts. As organized farming has not yet started they might have depended on the food supply from forests, rivers and fields. They might have been thwarted from their dwellings on the arrival of settlers mainly Brahmins from central India, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Their descendants however is seen confined to certain pulaya pockets on the outskirts of main land deprived of fresh water and other amenities.
Perumbuzha popularly known as perumba puzha winds along the boarders of Payyanur nourishing its watershed kaippads which is the breeding ground of fishes and other aquatic life forms.
The Brahmin settlers should have experienced some protests from the local people initially. But their knowledge of astronomy and Gods gave them an upper hand which might have instilled awe on the natives. They constructed temples on a large scale and started to live an ascetic life eating only vegetables. They could predict the advent of monsoon , eclipses and other celestial events. Organised farming has not yet started. Paddy was quite new to the natives. Paddy cultivation requires some insight as to when rains will start as the seedlings have to be made ready before the fields get flooded. They constructed canals from every filed to the river bed for draining of the excess water. They used small wooden vessels tied down from a tripod which could be used for drying water from the fields . The Brahmin settles brought the plough and seeds with them which revolutionalised farming. They got easy labour from the natives. Gradually as in the other part of Kerala they organized a temple oriented village structure . All the land was made officially belonging to the temple. The temple was governed by Brahmins and they gradually constructed a social structure with the Brahmins as rulers of the land and all others their dependents.
Payyanur was a classic Kerala village. In fact it took the lead role in the 64 Namboodiri gramams of Kerala. The division of society on the basis of castes made things simple. For every caste a small portion of the village was allowed with a kavu of their mother goddess as the centre. An ambassador of the Landlord belonging to upper castes such as Nair or Poduval was posted as the representative (koima) of the caste who is directly answerable to the landlord. As there was cut throat untouchability, a law caste man cannot even appear before the landlord. He has to represent through the koima. A person belonging to pulaya caste should not come more than 64 feet towards a Namboodiri: an ezhava some 32 feet and a Nair 15 feet. The penalty for violating the rule was fatal. The working class was thus tormented from morning to evening in the fields for the welfare of the landlord who almost starved them to death.
To be continued ..