The Nair include several castes and many subdivisions, not all of whom historically bore the name 'Nair'. Their internal caste behaviours and systems are markedly different between the people in the northern and southern sections of the area, although there is not very much reliable information on those inhabiting the north. Historically, Nairs lived naked large kerala units called tharavads that housed descendants of one common female ancestor.
These family units along with their unusual marriage customs, which are no longer practiced, have been much studied.
Although the detail varied from one region to the next, the main points of interest to researchers of Nair marriage customs were the existence of two particular rituals—the pre-pubertal thalikettu kalyanam and the later sambandam home made masturbaters the practice of polygamy in some areas.
Some Nair women also practiced hypergamy with Nambudiri Brahmins from the Malabar region. The Nair were historically involved in military conflicts in the region.
The serpent is worshipped by Nair families as a guardian of the boys. The worship of snakesa Dravidian custom,  is so prevalent in the area that one anthropologist notes: The origin of the Nair is disputed.
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