Nairs who were once a factor to be reckoned with, in the socio economic life of Kerala, lost their clout in the wake of the consolidation of British rule in the land. The life of ease and extravagance they led had made them indolent, incapable of hard and sustained efforts to improve their lot. They engaged themselves in mutual quarrels, abuse, backbiting and other degrading activities which lowered them in the estimation of the authorities as well as the general public. The superstitious beliefs they held and practiced like Taalikettu, Therendukuli, Pulakuli and the Marumakkathaayam system they followed not only impoverished them but also made them the laughing stock of others.
Deeply touched by the decline and degradation of the Nair community, into which he was born, Mannathu Padmanabhan , a school teacher turned social reformer and revolutionary, with the help and co operation of his close friends, associates and well wishers set up an organization designed to help them, become united and strong and strive for their well being as well as welfare of others. Inspired by the example of the ‘Servants of India Society’ established by Sri Gopalakrisna Gokhale, it was originally named ‘The Nair Samudaya Bhrithya Jana Samgham’. Later it was named ‘ Nair Service Society ‘ on the advice of the learned scholar Sri K Paramu Pillai. From August 25, 1915 on which day Mannath Padmanabhan totally dedicated himself to carry on the work of the society till his death, he remained the heart and soul – the jeevathma and paramathma of this social organization.
The growth of NSS since its inception has been phenomenal. Today it has primary units named ‘Karayogams’ over 5500 in number functioning throughout in Kerala. The number of Taluk Unions affiliated to the central body is 59.
As Hindus in general and nairs in Particular could not reap the benefits of education, The Nair Service Society began taking steps in propagating education right from the beginning. The establishment of Karukachal English School in 1915 marked its entry into this field. Today NSS owns 12 lower primary schools, 20 upper primary schools, 65 high schools, 31 higher secondary schools, 2 vocational higher secondary schools, 15 unaided English medium schools and 4 Teacher training institutes.
As an outcome of the deliberations of the Samastha Kerala Nair Conference held under its auspices at Mannar in 1916, The NSS ventured into the field of higher education and set up its first college in Perunna Changanacherry. It has 16 Arts, Science, Commerce colleges to Kerala, Calicut, Mahatma Gandhi, Kannur and MS Universities which offer facilities for post graduate studies, an Engineering College at Palakkad affiliated to Calicut University, a Polytechnic College at Pandalam, 3 Training Colleges at Changanacherry, Pandalam and Ottapalam, a Homeo Medical College at Kurichy near Changanacherry and an Ayurvedic College near Pandalam. NSS is also running a Co operative College at Kottayam and two unaided Arts colleges for Women at Thripoonithura and Perumthanni.
The NSS is rendering yeoman service in many areas like Public health, Women upliftment and Child welfare, Plantation and for pilgrims and travelers who make the holy trek to Sabarimala. The NSS is operating 14 working women’s hostels, a balabhavan, 5 guest houses and industrial units.
The NSS has grown by leaps and bounds since it was set up on October 31, 1914 under the fostering care of Mannath Padmanabhan and his devoted friends and supporters and due to the dedicated services of the persons whom he had groomed, to take over its leadership after him. The Nair Service Society has made its mark in the socio cultural life of Kerala and has become a stout protector and ardent promoter of the interests of the community, a stout defender of communal harmony and a body striving for the all round progress and prosperity of all sections of the state’s population.