The Ezhavas are a community with origins in the region of India presently known as Kerala. They are also known as Ilhava, Irava, Izhava and Erava in the south of the region; as Chovas, Chokons and Chogons in Central Travancore; and as Thiyyas, Tiyyas and Theeyas in the Malabar region. Some are also known as Thandan, which has caused administrative difficulties due to the presence of a distinct caste of Thandan in the same region. The Malabar Thiyya group have claimed a higher ranking in the Hindu caste system than do the others, although from the perspective of the colonial and subsequent administrations they were treated as being of similar rank.
As well as being agricultural labourers, small cultivators, toddy tappers and liquor businessmen, some Ezhavas were also involved in weaving and some practised ayurveda. Ezhava dynasties such as the Izhathu Mannanars also existed in Kerala. The Chekavar, a warrior section within the community, were part of the militias of local chieftains and kings. There were also renowned kalaripayattu experts among Chekavars.