Friday, September 23, 2011

Origin of Konga Vellalas

Vellala - The Vellalas, Mr. H.A.Stuart writes, "are the great farmer caste of the Tamil country, and they are strongly represented in every Tamil district. The word Vellalan is derived from vellanmai [vellam, water, anmai, management ?] meaning cultivation, tillage. Dr. Oppert considers Vellalan to be etymologically connected with Pallan, Palli, etc., the word meaning the lord of the Vallas or Pallas. The story of their origin is as follows. Many thousands of years ago, when the inhabitants of the world were rude and
ignorant of agriculture, a severe drought fell upon the land, and the people prayed to Bhudevi, the goddess of the earth, for aid. She pitied them, and produced from her body a man carrying a plough, who showed them how to till the soil and support themselves. His offsprings are the Vellalas, who aspire to belong to the Vaisya caste, since that includes Govaisyas, Bhuvaisyas, and Dhanavaisyas (shepherds, cultivators and merchants). A few, therefore, constantly wear the sacred thread, but most put it on only during marriages or funerals as a mark of the sacred nature of the ceremony."

The traditional story of the origin of the Vellalas is given as follows in the Baramahal Records.* " In ancient days, when the God Paramesvaradu and his consort the goddess Parvati Devi resided on the top of Kailasa Parvata or mount of paradise, they one day retired to amuse themselves in private, and by chance Visvakarma, the architect of the Devatas or gods, intruded on their privacy, which enraged them, and they said to him that, since he had the audacity to intrude on their retirement, they would cause an enemy of his to be born in the Bhuloka or earthly world, who should punish him for his temerity. Visvakarma requested they would inform him in what part of the Bhuloka or earthly world he would be born, and further added that, if he knew the birth place, he would annihilate him with a single blow. The divine pair replied that the person would spring up into existence from the bowels of the earth on the banks of the Ganga river. On this, Visvakarma took his sword, mounted his aerial car, and flew through the regions of ether to the banks of the Ganga river, where he anxiously waited the birth of his enemy.

One day Visvakarma observed the ground to crack near him, and a kiritam or royal diadem appeared issuing out of the bowels of the earth, which Visvakarma mistook for the head of his adversary, and made a cut at it with his sword, but only struck off the kiritam. In the meantime, the person came completely out of the earth, with a bald pate, holding in his hand a golden ploughshare, and his neck encircled with garlands of flowers. The angry Visvakarma instantly laid hold on him, when the Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and the supporters of the eight corners of the universe, appeared in all their glory, and interceded for the earth-born personage, and said to Visvakarma thou didst vow that thou wouldst annihilate him with a single blow, which vow thou hast not performed ; therefore with what justice hast thou a second time laid violent hands on him ? Since thou didst not succeed in thy first attempt, it is but equitable that thou shouldst now spare him. At the intercession and remonstrance of the gods, Visvakarma quitted his hold, and a peace was concluded between him and his enemy on the following stipulation, viz., that the pancha jati, or five castes of silversmiths, carpenters, ironsmiths, stone-cutters, and braziers, who were the sons of Visvakarma, should be subservient to the earth-born person. The deities bestowed on the person these three names. First Bhumi Palakudu or saviour of the earth, because he was produced by her. Second, Ganga kulam or descendant of the river Ganga, by reason of having been brought forth on her banks. Third, Murdaka Palakudu or protector of the plough, alluding to his being born with a ploughshare in his hand, and they likewise ordained that, as he had lost his diadem, he should not be eligible to sovereignty, but that he and his descendants should till the ground with this privilege, that a person of the caste should put the crown on the king's head at the coronation. They next invested him with the yegnopavitam or string, and, in order that he might propagate his caste, they gave him in marriage the daughters of the gods Indra and Kubera. At this time, the god Siva was mounted on a white bullock, and the god Dharmaraja on a white buffalo, which they gave him to plough the ground, and from which circumstance the caste became surnamed Vellal Warus or those who plough with white bullocks.

After the nuptials, the deities departed to their celestial abodes. Murdaka Palakulu had fifty-four sons by the daughter of the god Indra, and fifty-two by the daughter of the god Kubera, whom he married to the one hundred and six daughters of Nala Kubarudu, the son of Kubera, and his sons-in- law made the following agreement with him, viz., that thirty-five of them should be called Bhumi Palakulu, and should till the ground ; thirty-five of them named Vellal Shetti, and their occupation be traffic ; and thirty-five of them named Govu Shetlu, and their employment breeding and feeding of cattle. They gave the remaining one the choice of three orders, but he would not have any connexion with either of them, from whence they surnamed him Agmurdi or the alien. The Agmurdi had born to him two thousand five hundred children, and became a separate caste, assuming the appellation of Agmurdi Vellal Waru. The other brothers had twelve thousand children who intermarried, and lived together as one caste, though their occupations were different 

During the reign of Krishna Rayalu, whose capital was the city of Vijayanagaram or city of victory, a person of the Vellal caste, named Umbhi or Amultan Mudaliyar, was appointed sarvadhikari or prime minister, who had a samprati or secretary of the caste of Gollavaru or cowherds, whose name was Venayaterthapalli. It so happened that a set of Bhaga- vata Sevar, or strolling players, came to the city, and one night acted a play in the presence of Krishna Rayalu and his court. In one of the acts, a player appeared in the garb and character of a female cowherd, and, by mimicking the actions and manners of that caste, afforded great diversion both to the Raja and his courtiers. But no person seemed to be so much pleased as the prime minister, which being perceived by his secretary, he determined on making him pay dear for his mirth by turning the Vellal caste into ridicule, and thus hurt his pride, and take revenge for the pleasure he expressed at \seeing the follies of the cowherd caste exposed. For that purpose, he requested the players, when they acted another play, to dress themselves up in the habit of a female of the Vellal caste. This scheme came to the ears of the prime minister, who, being a proud man, was sadly vexed at the trick, and resolved on preventing its being carried into execution ; but, having none of his own caste present to assist him, and not knowing well how to put a stop to the business, he got into his palan- quin, and went to a Canardha Shetti or headman of the right-hand caste, informed him of the circumstance, and begged his advice and assistance. The Shetti replied ' Formerly the left-hand caste had influence enough with Government to get an order issued forbidding the right- hand caste to cultivate or traffic ; therefore, when we quarrel again, do you contrive to prevent the ryots of the Vellal caste from cultivating the ground, so that the public revenue will fall short, and Government will be obliged to grant us our own terms ; and I will save you from the disgrace that is intended to be put on you. The prime minister agreed to the proposal, and wenthome. At night, when the players were coming to the
royal presence to act, and one of them had on the habit of a female of the Vellal caste, the Canardha Shetti cut off his head, and saved the honour of the prime minister. The death of the player being reported to the Raja Krishna Rayalu, he enquired into the affair, and finding how matters stood, he directed the prime minister and his secretary to be more circumspect in their conduct, and not to carry their enmity to such lengths.' Since that time, the Vellal castes have always assisted the right- hand against the left-hand castes."

At the time of the census, 1871, some Vellalas claimed that they had been seriously injured in reputa- tion, and handled with great injustice, in being classed as Sudras by the Municipal Commissioners of Madras in the classification of Hindus under the four great divisions of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. In their petition it was stated that " we shall first proceed to show that the Vellalas do come exactly within the
most authoritative definition given of Vysias, and then point out that they do not come within the like definition
of Sudras. First then to the definition of Visya, Manu, the paramount authority upon these matters, says in paragraph 90 of his Institutes : ' To keep herds of cattle, to bestow largesses, to sacrifice, to read the scripture, to carry on trade, to lend at interest, and to cultivate land, are prescribed or permitted to a Vysia.' " In the course of the petition, the Vellalas observed that "it is impossible to imagine that the Vellalas, a race of agriculturists and traders, should have had to render menial service to the three higher classes ; for the very idea of service is, as it needs must be, revolting to the Vellala, whose profession teaches him perfect independence, and dependence, if it be, upon the sovereign alone for the protection of his proper interests. Hence a Vellala cannot be of the Sudra or servile class. Besides, that the Vellalas are recognised as a respectable body of the community will also appear from the following. There was a ceremony called tulabharam (weighing in scales) observed by the ancient kings of, at some part of their lives, distributing in charity to the most deserving gold and silver equal to the weight of their persons ; and tradition alleges that, when the kings of Tanjore performed this ceremony, the right to weigh the king's person was accorded to the Vellalan Chettis. This shows that the Vellalas have been recognised as a respectable body of mercantile men in charge of weights and measures (Manu 30, chap. 9). So also, in the Halasya Puranam of Madura, it is said that, when the King Somasundara Pandien, who was supposed to be the very incarnation of Siva, had to be crowned, there arose a contention as to who was to put the crown on his head. After much discussion, it was agreed that one of the Vellalas, who formed the strength of the community (note the fact that Manu says that Vysya came from the thighs of the Supreme Deity, which, as an allegory, is interpreted to mean the strength of the State) should be appointed to perform that part of the ceremony. Also, in Kamban's Ramayana, written 1,000 and odd years ago, it is said that the priest Vasista handed the crown to a Vellala, who placed it upon great Rama's head."

In ' The Tamils eighteen hundred years ago,' Mr. V. Kanakasabhai writes that "among the pure Tamils, the
class most honoured was the Arivar or Sages. Next in rank to the Arivar were the Ulavar or farmers. The Arivars were ascetics, but, of the men living in society, the farmers occupied the highest position. They formed the nobility, or the landed aristocracy, of the country.

They were also called Vellalar, ' lords of the flood, ' or ' Karalar,' ' lords of the clouds, ' titles expressive of their skill in controlling floods, and in storing water for agri- cultural purposes. The Chera, Chola and Pandyan Kings, and most of the petty chiefs of Tamilakam, belonged to the tribe of Vellalas. The poor families of Vellalas who owned small estates were generally spoken of as the Veelkudi-Uluvar or 'the fallen Vellalas,' implying thereby that the rest of the Vellalas were wealthy land-holders. When Karikal the Great defeated the Aruvalar, and annexed their territory to his kingdom, he distributed the conquered lands among Vellala chiefs.* The descendants of some of these chiefs are to this day in possession of their lands, which they hold as petty zamindars under the British Government. t The Vellala families who conquered Vadukam, or the modern Telugu country, were called Velamas, and the great zamindars there still belong to the Velama caste. In the Canarese country, the Vellalas founded the Belial dynasty, which ruled that country for several centuries. The Vellalas were also called the Gangakula or Ganga- vamsa, because they derived their descent from the great and powerful tribe named Gangvida, which inhabited the valley of the Ganges, as mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy. A portion of Mysore which was peopled mostly by Vellalas was called Gangavadi in the tenth and eleventh centuries of the Christian era. Another dynasty of kings of this tribe, who ruled Orissa in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was known as the Gangavamsa .... In the earliest Tamil grammar extant, which was composed by a Brahman named Tholkappiyan, in the first or second century B.C.,
 frequent allusions are made to the Arivar or Sages. But, in the chapter in which he describes the classes of society, the author omits all mention of the Arivar, and places the Brahmins who wear the sacred thread as the first caste. The kings, he says, very guardedly, and not warriors, form the second caste, as if the three kings Chera, Chola and Pandy could form a caste ; all who live by trade belong to the third caste. He does not say that either the kings or the merchants wear the sacred thread. Then he singles out the Vellalas, and states that they have no other calling than the cultivation of the soil. Here he does not say that the Vellalas are Sudras, but indirectly implies that the ordinary Vellalas should be reckoned as Sudras, and that those Vellalas who were kings should be honoured as Kshatriyas. In  the Konga Vellalars, the nattars belong to this category See

Also for my other blogs:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Kongu Vellala Gounder history

See Kongu Kulagurus
Also History of Kongadesam
List of blogs:

The history of the Kongu Vellala Gounder caste has been made to be one of the most obscure along with the history of the Kongunadu region itself. The Gounders have been credited by many as unique among the other caste groups of the region and southern India as a whole. The Kongu Vellala Gounders are appreciated for their varied qualities like untiring hardwork, objective nature, high moderation, honesty, humanitarian spirit, commitment, philanthrophy, strong bonding, innovative mind and reliability. They have been instrumental in the welfare of the Kongunadu zone, which is predominantly rainfed but blest with a cooler tropical plateau climate. This region supports the Tamil Nadu state from economic collapse and single handedly manages its fame.
The secrets for such a developed region go back to the Gounder caste which mostly go unresearched partly due to the heavy stench of ideological biases of contemperory Tamil historians and partly due to the jelousey and the resulting fear of the caste itself. The author of this blog, himself a Gounder belongs to the Elumathur Panangadai clan, seeks to venture at the various facets of the inseperable Gounder and Kongu histories. The readers are advised to have a prior reading of the author's blog on Kongu history before going through this blog for easing their strain.


The Gounders are the single largest agrarian and intra-marriagable caste hailing from the Kongunadu (Sans: Ganganadu) region which forms the western part of the present linguistically organised Tamilnadu state. Unofficial population estimates give figures around the seventy to eighty lakh margin. There have also been some exaggerated estimates from about one to one and a half crore people of the caste. The population surpasses that of the other landed castes as a single mass unit.

The Gounders have however reached this level coming down from 1/4th of the total state popualtion during the British Raj. This is even before the government launched popular population control measures which has surprised the social scientists. The child control measures started from the pre-independence era, mostly as a localised phenomenon due to high economic growth. When the government announced the two children norm, the Gounders were already having upto 80% of single child families. Now the estimates stand around a near hundred.Today one can see single child families in thousands of their families thereby might be credited as the only caste in India having reverse growth ratio thus projected to lose its majority status in the region. This along with the nuclear families concept has made the individual families prosper though shattering many of the age old cherished values of Gounders. These single children from the lonely nuclear families (which includes the family of the author himself) have become lonely isolated and self-centered individuals popularly called ''islands''. Thus the community is losing its identity and distinct culture due to over adherence to norms. This materialist lifestyle has resulted in the steady decline of the Gounders to 10% of the total state population from the pre-independence 25%. This self centered lifestyle has resulted in the undesirable increase of egotic personalities unwilling to unite even at the most demanding situations. Thus Gounders are silently slipping into political and demographical doom though outwardly they seem to prosper. We have to remember that no government eternally is steady to guarentee safety and there is always a safety in numbers. Cocerned scientists have warned the community to have atleast two children per family to maintain steady trends.

The traditional Gounder belt is the area now known as Kongu Nadu. This areas comprises the lower nine districts of the lower Kaveri catchment basin, forming the western part of Tamil Nadu: Coimbatore, Ooty, Erode, Karur, Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri (all taluks of these districts), Dindigul (the taluks of Palani tk., Oddanchatram tk., Dindugul tk., Vedasandur and Kodaikkanal tk northward slopes only), Tiruchirapalli (Tottiyam tk. , Pachamalai , Villupuram (Kalrayan hills only), Perambalur (Pachamalai hills only) and Vellore (Tirupattur tk. only).

By the population statistics, again estimates, These specified regions have a Gounder population somewhere around 50 and 80% of the total regional population.

A secondary population of anywhere between 1 and 5% can be found in the districts of Theni, Madurai, Thanjavur (all in Tamil Nadu), Palakkad, Malappuram, Idukki (all in Kerala), Kollegal, Mysore, Chamrajnagar, Kolar, Mandya, and Bangalore (all five in Karnataka).

Gounder history:

Origin of Kongu and Kongunadu:

Lessons from the Mahabharatam :

The region of Kongunadu originally belongs to the Kurinji (tropical evergreen mountainous) and Mullai types (tropical deciduous plateau) which were originally densely to medium sparsely forested. The Gounders have in living memory, the very different days from now, when people moved around far and wide but within the forested Kaveri catchment valley with their cow herds. These people did not settle down at a single major point in history. There are such cowherds even to be found today in the remote forests of the Sathiyamangalam ghats for example. The herds were vast and mostly belonged to the Konga (now called Kangayam) cattle type. This is reflected in the Mahabharata references in the Kongunadu where Bhisma and the Kauravas came for a cattle raid which is in the pattern called Vetchi (Tam:வெட்சி) in Sangam literature, where cattle, the primary wealth of the people is taken as stake to initiate a war. Kongumandalasatakam says that the cattle raid was sucessfully repelled by Arjuna (Bruhannala) with Uttarakumaran, the son of the King Viratarayan of Ladapuram (modern Dharapuram) at a skirmish at the banks of the Kanchi (Noyil) (dates: 3100 B.C, Mahabharata). This place was named Tiruppur or the place where the cattle were rerouted back to Ladapuram. These shifting farmer-cattleherd villages were called pattis after the cow pens. The main food products were cow milk and dry crops like Aariyam (Varaku or Ragi), Kambu, Cholam and Tinai. They also exchanged these produce for rice from marginal settled farmers. Many clan or kootam names remind of such great cowherds and marginal landlords.

Lessons from the Annamar and Valipulla Goundan stories:

The fist fixed settlements in Kongu history were at the Amaravati -Noyil valley because of the perennial supply of water from the Palani Koadaikkanal and Vellingiri ranges. The cowherd rearing shifting farmers achieved a sustained state and organised themselves as Velallas or landlords. They later, for deforesting the land brought in the Vettuvar tribes, descendents of Kannappa Nayanar from the Kalahasti region. These Vettuvar hamlets were called Vadugapattis, literally northener's cowpens. The Vettuvars also being sucessful, at one stage became numerically equal to the Vellalars. They also started questioning the authority of Vellalars. This is the point when we see the Vettuva-Vellala war symbolised by the Chinnanan- Periyannan story. The Vettuvars, eventhough being later settlers take advantage of their increased numbers and challenge the Vellalars through committing excesses on Vellala territory and harassing Vellala women. Here is where God or eternal order intervenes. Sivan, in order to support the order, steps in himself brings up the brothers who are killed at birth by their uncle. The first settler of any land has the rights of ruling and defending it, though the ownership might change hands. This is the Indian concept of the native's right. The native Vellalas, who were such an agrarian-warrior tribe or the Vellala-Kshatriya tribe, defeat the Vettuvars and place them under their subjection. Decrease in forests and increase in farming also leads to thier decrease in numbers and increase of Vellala natives.

Valipulla Goundan story also reflects Vellalar - Vettuvar friction but with a different lesson for us. Here when the Vettuva barber asserts his rights to serve the Goundan eventhough he insults him by leaving him half shaved (a great insult in those days) and follows his Vettuva cheiftain, Valipulla refuses his service but the barber insists (here we come to know the right of the so called lower service castes to demand compulsory service). They agree for a caste panchatyat where all important clan leaders are invited as witnesses. The Vettuva barber devises a clever method (because he is the affected party here) where the dog of Valipulla would be offered food by him. If the dog eats it, Valipulla is to accept his services and if not, could refuse him. Here again God (or the spirit of orderliness) in the form of Vinayakar assists Valipulla's dog which urinates on the food. Valipulla then marries his two sons to the two daughters of Vellala Chettiars (a merchant trader community who dealt in agri produce) to beget Kongu Napitha (Nasuvan) children. Again there is a lesson for us. Why should they marry Chettiar girls to beget Napitha children? and Why can't they just become Napithas? According to the rules of Anulomam (recorded earliest in the Manu Smruti), when a higher Varnam boy marries a girl from a lower Varnam, the children born are the Sudras or the service castes who are promotional to the society. If the opposite happens, then it is called Pratilomam where the children born are Panchamas or untouchables. Here the marriage is between the Kshatriya boys and Vaisya girls, where as Manusmruti says, the children begotten are Napithas or barbers. Thus from the demographics of Kongunadu, we come to know that the Anulomam and Pratilomam (intercaste) marriages were near zero and happened only according to calculated marriages to fulfil necessity.

The various people who had settled at different places for agriculture still went to their Patti cowherd gods where they had originated which later were called the Kanikkoils. No other caste in India has such precise Kuladeivams or such kootam (Gotram) system which is to remind us of our greatness and thus culture good qualities befitting to the kootam.

The Sangam age:

We have to remember that though the geographical region is called Kongunadu in Tamil, the name is a derivent of Kanga (கங்க) (Komaralingam copperplates) and ultimately Kanganadu (கங்கநாடு) (Sanskrit: Ganganadu, or the land of the Ganga people). The region streched throughout the Kaveri catchment basin. As even a 17th century poet, Valasundara Kavirayar in his Kongumandalasatakam versifies the borders of Kongunadu.

வடக்கு  தலைமலை வராககிரி தெற்கு
குடக்குப் பொறுப்பு வெள்ளிக் குன்று கிடக்கும்
களித்தண்டலை மேவு காவிரிசூழ் நாட்டுக்
குளித்தண்டலை யளவு கொங்கு.

From this we ascertain that the borders of 17th century Kongu were:

Northern: Talaimalais
Southern: Varahagiri (Panrimalai mountain in the Palani-Kodaikkanal ranges, Panrimalai is referred in it's Sanskrit name).
Eastern: Vellikundru (Vellingiri hills near Coimbatore which form the border with Malayalam).
Western: Kulithalai (Mayanur Madukkarai , Karur dist. located on the Karur- Tiruchirappalli highway).
Further he adds that the region is like a basin (Kavirisoozh) and surprises us with his geographical knowledge through expressing Kongu as the entire Kaveri catchment basin, the Kaveri valley.

This region comprises of the following modern districts of the following states.

In Tamilnadu: Coimbatore, Erode, Udagamandalam, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Namakkal, Karur, Dindigul (excluding the Nattam, Nilakkottai and southward slopes of Kodaikkanal taluk), Vellore (Tiruppattur taluk only), Villuppuram (Kalrayan hills only), Perambalur (Pachamalai hills only) and Tiruchirappalli (Pachamalai hills, Tottiyam tk).

In Kerala:  Palakkad (left bank of Valayar and Kozhinjamparai block), Malappuram (Bhavani river valley only) and Idukki (Amaravati river valley only) .

One thing which got clear beyond doubt after my research which is also commonplace knowledge is that the Kongu region, from the dawn of history is always connected to the southern part of the Karnataka state which is given, which is also called in Karnataka as Mysore Karnataka or Hoysala Karnataka. The Kongu region has always been along with this region as a Geo-historical unit from the dawn of history to the collapse of the Mysore Kingdom and the arrival of the British.

In this era, most of the land becomes cultivated and there is surplus wealth generated for Vellalars. The famous people of this age like Cheran, Kari, etc.., This leads to seperate castes of artisans to emerge. The excavations dating to the Sangam period show great works of art like coins, anklets and other objects of household and luxury necessities emerge. Kongunadu perhaps has yielded the most in metal and embedding industry than any other region of earth at that time. It was the only exclusive source of gold and quality iron to the whole world. The famous sites are:

Kodumanal (world's only gold jewellery embedding centre of those days),
Kundadam (metal works),
Karur (Chera Vanji) (coin mints, anklets, Greco-Roman trade posts, etc..,),
Salem: (first steel workshops whose products were found in the Egyptian pyramids),
lack of necessary exploration stalls efforts to find many other places.
(I am myself taking efforts on my own expenditure and time to explore these fields).

Cheras (their descendents are the Cheran kootam of today) ruled through various feudatories like Kari (another kootam), Pari, Kumanan, Began, Erumai (another kootam), Killi and Gangan (of the Kannan kootam).

The Adiyans (Cheran  kootam) or the Sathiyaputras mentioned in Asokan inscriptions alongwith the Oris of Rasipuram (Kollimalai - Vizhiyan kootam) were the major rivals of the Cheras for predominance in this region.

Most of the Kongu Vellalar kootams have Sangam period names, named after a famous Sangam cheiftain, king or a dynasty.

Chera country, wrongly thought at first to be Kerala is ascertained to be Kongu with their capital at Karur Vanji. The Cheras extended thier power to the west coast and then moved their capital permanently there. The Velir or Vellala chieftains of the age did not have absolute powers as also the king. Were just nominal heads who oversaw local administration. The decline of the Cheras resulted in the rise of the Gangas also belonging to the Vellala caste of the Kannuva (Sans: Kanna+ va) gotram.

Thus 'kadayezhu vallalkal'or the last seven benevalent rulers hail from this age. References to the community have been found in the Purananooru of the Sangam age, '' koduval kongar'' and '' karungaik kongar '' ,meaning kongars with battle sickles, kongars with their physical feature of massive arms respectively) and Silappadhikaram ''kongilam kosar'' and '' kudagak kongar'',meaning kongars of the kosar clan of the kosala region and kongars of the kudagu region respectively.

The Gangas:

The rise of the Gangas can be said as the socio-political cementing of the Vellala cheifs of the Gangakulam as the sole lords of the Ganga (Kongu) country. The name Ganga is the original of "Konga". Chera and Ganga are one and the same dynasties
There are various themes of origin of the caste. The common undercurrent in all of them is, that the original name of the caste is Gangakulam (Tam: கங்காகுலம்) which is descended from the king Gangadatta (Sans., meaning one given by the Ganga) (Tam: கங்கதத்தன்) (the name Kongu Vellala Gounder is a relatively new, post-independence classification necessiated nomenclature).

Origin of the Vellalas of the Ganga clan:

The Velalapuranam and Kambar's Mangalavazthu:

The Velalapuranam, a 19th century construction, is not completely reliable due to the ideological implications of the age and the writer. Yet it maintains the original story of the man who originated from the river Ganga called here as Marapalan who started the Gangakulam.
The original, Marapala Choolamani maintains the real story.
This is a construction based probably on Kambar's Mangalavazhthu ( மங்கல வாழ்த்து) which is eventoday sung during one of the Gounder marriage rites. Kambar himself describes the various rites associated with the Gounder marriage. One is the Kaikorvai (கங்கா குலம் விளங்க கம்பர் சொன்ன...) in which he blesse the Gangakulam couple.

These Vellalas are descendant from the ancient Kshatiriya Suriyavamsam (Solar dynasty) through the Gangakulam (preserved in names like Suriya Kangeyan and titles having Kangeyan).

The Ganga copper plates and inscriptions (ex: Korni and Komaralingam plates) have maintained that the kings of the Gangas always called themselves Kongunis (Sans: of the Kongu). For example Kongunivarma Madhavarayan is the first mentioned ruler who establishes his capital at Kangeyam (Sans: Gangeyam or the seat of the Gangas). Durvinita calls himself as not Gangeya but Durvinita Konguni in his Kannada treatise Kiratararjuniya. Infact, the language spoken by the Gounders itself is called Gangee Tamizh, a language which is very close to original non-sanskritised Kannada. Wilkins, a British historiographer writes an account immediately before the conquering of Mysore (Dheeran Chinnamalai):

"In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language is at this day named the Gangee from being best known to them as the language of the people of Kankayam". (Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2)

Gounder is the name of the headman in a system of decentralised panchayat administration used with various regional variations by distinct castes groups. The root word is derived from Gavunda (கவுண்ட). This system of village administration gained political approval during the rule of the indegenous Ganga dynasty. The posts of the village headmen or the county headman (Ur Gavundar and Nattu Gavundar respectively) were usually assumed by the warrior-agrarian Vellalar clans of the Kongu Nadu region belonging to the ruling house Gangakulam itself. In the earlier similair Velan, Kizhan system during the Sangam period

The Gangas are said to have originated in Ayodhya, belonging to the same Suriyavamsa, Ikshvakukulam as Raman but of the Gangakulam as Ramar belongs to the Raghukulam.
by Dr. Harihar Kanungo:

Gangavamsa has spread all over India and the historians are completely silent about it. The kings of the Ganga dynasty had got their pedigree inscribed by their brahmin eulogists as well as the courtiers. In this regard, Dr. S.N. Rajaguru has given the following opinion:“Different royal dynasties, while narrating their genealogy, were eager to identity themselveswith the famous solar or lunar dynasties of the Puranas”. Dr. H. K. Mahatab and other historians have given similar opinions and have said that for this reason the genealogy available from these inscriptions do not tally with the historical facts. For all these reasons, we have to trace out the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community spread all over India and try to know their ancestry in order to unravel the mystery surrounding the origin of the Ganga dynasty. It can be asserted that the historical Ganga dynasty has evolved from among the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community. Hence this writer has made an humble attempt to discuss the family history of Ganga dynasty or Ganga community, while trying to establish the origin of the Ganga dynasty. A brief account of the Ganga dynasty available from the inscriptions engraved by the royal dynasties of Ganga community may be discussed. It is known from the inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi, compiled by B. Lewis Rice that the forefathers of Ganga dynasty coming from Ayodhyapur under the leadership of Vishnugupta had initially settled at Ahichhatra located in the basin of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Later on they proceeded to Southern India in quest of new territory. Being advised by Jainaguru Simhanandi, Vishnugupta along with others came to Karnataka and established a new kingdom. According to this inscription the Ganga dynasties of Karnataka and Kalinga had come from Northern India. In the opinion of Dr. N. K. Sahu, both the western and eastern Ganga dynasty belong to one and the same dynasty and they came from North India in 5th century A.D. and established new kingdoms in Kalinga and Karnataka respectively. We cite here the views of B.Lewis. Rice on the above mentioned inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi: “The origin of the Gangas is derived from Iksvaku and trace back to Ayodhyapura. Under Visnugupta the seat of government was moved to Ahichhatra, which, it is hinted, as Vijayapura. With the arrival of Dadiga and Madhava in the South, at Ganga-perur and the establishment of the Gangavadi kingdom in Mysore aided by Simhanandi, we seem to come to historical events.
It is known from the Vizagapattanam & Korni copperplate inscriptions 16 of Chodaganga Deva that by 5th century A.D., eighty kings of the Ganga dynasty had ruled over Gangavadi (Kongunadu) of Kuvalalapuram (Kolar). If one king had ruled at least for a period of twenty years, then these eighty kings would have ruled for about 1600 years. If we consider from this angle the Ganga dynasty had appeared 1600 years before 5th century A.D., which means their origin dates back to 11th century B.C. In this context we may mention that historians have agreed that the Mahabharata war was fought in 9th century B.C. This means the Ganga dynasty had appeared and achieved renown much before the events described in the epic Mahabharata. It has been noted above that Sevananda Bharati has established ancient Tamralipta or Modern Tamluk as the primary abode of the Ganga dynasty.
It is clear from the facts stated in the Madalapanji and Korni copperplate inscription of Chodaganga Dev that the Gangas are the descendants of a king or an individual named Gangeya who belonged to the solar dynasty. While claiming his descent from some Gangeya in his Korni copperplate inscription, he has bidentified both the ancestors and descendants of Gangeya. But all these have been rejected by historians. However, Dr. Rajaguru, basing on the facts stated by Chodaganga Dev, has accepted Gangeya and the Gangas as belonging to solar dynasty.

Another website
says, The Ganga dynasty came into existence in 2nd century AD after the name of its founder Gangeya or Gangadutt. Jain Acharya Simhanandi inspired his two disciples Daddigh and Madhav to establish their rule, which they did by constituting the territory of Gangawadi with Kolar as their capital. But actually Madhav Kongunivarma I was the first crowned king of this dynasty, who ruled for a long period during 189-250 AD Jainism was the national religion during his rule. King Durvinita Konguni of this dynasty was the disciple of famous grammarian Acharya Devanandi Pujyapad. Marasingh got victory over several powerful rulers and ruled gloriously. During his last days he became an ascetic. He died with Sallekhana in 974 AD at Bankapur in the feet of his Jain preceptor Ajitsena. The Ganga rulers built several Jain temples and established Jain institutions. (including five at Vijayamangalam, Jinapuram (Seenapuram), Vellode, Poondurai and Perundurai all in Erode dist.)
Punnata region:
COIMBATORE, the headquarter of the district which goes by its name in the State of Madras, is well-known to-day as the "Manchester of South India." There is perhaps not another place in the whole of this region to equal it not only in the numerous spinning and weaving mills it possesses but also in the general standard of wealth, health civilisation and culture. But few are interested in studying the history of this district and particularly the development of culture in this area. Of the era preceding the period of British occupation of the district, which began in 1799, particularly little or nothing is known.
In this paper I propose to make an enquiry into a subject which forms part of a larger whole, viz., the cultural development of the Coimbatore region in early times and the particular subject for enquiry here is an estimate of the Jain contribution to this quota. So many vestiges of Jainism are to be found in this district that there is no doubt about the great influence this religion must have exerted over the people of this region in early times. That it must have been much more than any one would suspect is certain. Names of places like seenapuram clearly remained one of the early jain influent over the region; while old jain shrines found in places like. Vijayamangalam, Tirumurthimalai and Karur bear an equally strong evidence to the same. A figure of the Jain Thrithankara is found in Tirumurthimalai; and a number of Jain beds are found to this day in Arunattarmalai in Karur Taluk while in Arasannamalai near Vijayamangalam the Neminatha temple has been now converted into a Vinayaka temple. Not only this. The district of Coimbatore in early times seems to have been the home of several Jain scholars, not the least of whom was the great Bavanandi, the author of the celebrated Tamil grammar, Nannul, who seems to have lived in the region of Vijayamangalam in Erode Taluk.
It is impossible for us to explain these vestiges unless we postulate a period of Jain glory in the district at some time during its sojourn in South India. The Kongadesarajakkal, a XVII century Tamil Mss., which has been recently edited by Mr. C. M. Ramachandran Chettiar, Advocate, Coimbatore, (Madras Govt, Oriental Series, VI, 1950) brings to light a set of seven rulers called Rattas (Rashtrakutas?) in this region during the period between 250 A.D. and 400 A.D. Many if not all of them are represented in this work as professors and strong supporters of Jainism. (Ibid., pp. 1-2). In the reign of the fourth ruler, Govindaraya, a grant to the jain Arishtanna is mentioned and in that of the sixth ruler, Kannaradeva, the names of three great Jain theologians, of whom one Naganandi is mentioned by name, are referred to. (Ibid)
The history of the origin of the Ganga dynasty of Mysore indicates even more clearly how deep-rooted was janism in the district of Coimbatore in early times. It would appear that in the closing years of the IV century A.D., King Padmanabha of the Gangas had to send his two sons, Dadiga and Madhava to the south by way of preparing himself to meet his enemy, King Mahipala of Ujjain. (Rice; Mysore and Coorg; p. 31). The rest of the narration as found in Rice's words is as follows:
"When they arrived at Perur, which is still distinguished from other Perurs as Ganga-Perur (in Cuddapah district), they met there the Jain Achariya Simhanandi. He was interested in the story of these Ganga princes and taking them by the hand, gave them instruction and training and eventually procured for them a kingdom."(Rice: Op., cit., loc., cit).
Many Ganga records like the Udayendiram plates of Prithvipati II, the Kudlur grant of Marasimha and the Santara inscription on the Huncha stone* bear clear evidence to the fact that Simhanandi gave them a kingdom and that he was a reputed Jain teacher. The last mentioned record indeed refers to him as "the archariya who made the Ganga kingdom.":
"Ganga-rajyaman madida Simhanandy acharyya."(EC., VIII, Nr. 35)
Indrabhuti in his Samayabhushana names him as a great poet to be kept on par with Elacharya and Pujyapada. (IA., XII, 20). Still, no better description can be given of Simhanandi than what is found in the Jaina record near the Siddhesvara temple at Kallurgudda in Shimoga Taluk:
"The Vijaya or victory to the farthest shore of learning, the full moon to the ocean of the Jaina congregation, possessed of patience and all the ten excellent qualities, his good life, a secure wealth, rejoicing in the modest, his fame extending to the four oceans, keeping at a distance from the evil, a sun in the sky of the Kranurgana, devoted to the performance of the twelve kinds of penance, promoter of the Ganga kingdom-Sri Simhanandiacharyya."(EC., VII, Sh. 4)
On the other hand we owe to the evidence of inscriptional records like those of the Parsvanathi Basti at Sravana Belgola and others to be seen at Kallurgudda and Purale in Shimoga Taluk that Madhava definitely came under the influence of Simhanandi, who initiated him into jain doctrines and conferred on him a kingdom on condition that he always took care to uphold that Faith throughout its confines. (Ibid, also 64). The latter tow give a detailed account of this origin of the Ganga Kingdom, which deserves to be quoted at least in part, as it gives one an idea of the depth of Jain influence that ruled over the region where the Ganga kingdom was founded:
"On Madhava impressing him with his extraordinary energy... Simhanandi made a coronet of the petals of the Karnikara flowers bound it on Madhava's head, gave them (the two brothers) the dominion of all the earth, presented them with a flag made from his peacock fan and furnished them with attendants, elephants and horses. Along with these he gave them also the following advice: 'If you fail in what you have promised, if you do not approve the Jina sasana; if you seize the wives of others; if you indulge in wine and flesh; if you form relationship with the low; if you give not your wealth to the needy; if you flee from the field or battle-your race will go to ruin.
The question that has to be decided here is the identification of Perur mentioned in ganga records. Taken in conjusction with the history of the Rattas, the Kongadesarajakkal furnishes proof that it was on their fall that the Gangas rose to power and began ruling from Skandapura in Kongudesa (which is the ancient name for the territory comprising the modern disteicts of Coimbatore and Salem). The Chronicle would even inform us that the last Ratta ruler changed his religion from Jainism to Saivism and that was the cause of his downfall. Further, all the early activities of Konganivarman-as the first historical ruler of the Ganga house becomes known in all the records of this dynasty-are confined to this Kongudesa. (Kongadesarajakkal (Or Mss. Edn.) pp. 2-3). It is true that we lack definite epigraphic evidence in support of this, which we have mainly only from the Tamil chronicle above referred to. But it must be remembered that in the first place we have only a few records for the Ganga period here referred to; and even the few references that we have to the early grants of the Gangas seem to refer only to places in Coimbatore district. Such are places like "Kudluru" to the west of the Tatla and east of "Marukarevisaya", in which the names of Kudluru and Marukarevisaya are easily identifiable with the present Gudalur and Madukari in this area. (Kudaluru grant of Madhavavarman; MAR., 1930).
The conclusion naturally follows that Per here referred to as the spot on which Madhava was initiated into Jainism and conferred a kingdom on condition that he upheld it through all its confines must be the Perur within 3 miles from Coimbatore. We have numerous evidences to show that at the time referred to and for long afterwards this Perur was indeed an important place. The place referred to by this name cannot be the Perur in Cuddapah district, as Rice surmises, where no Jain remains are to be found. The tratdition is that Dadiga and Madhava were sent to the south of Mysore, as already indicated. Further, the very title assumed by the first ruler as Madhava Konganivarman seems to give an unmistakable proof of this conclusion, since as the Kongadesarajakkal aptly remarks:
As wealth, the Kongu country and great munificence were possessed by him he was styled srimalt Konganivarman Dharmamahadiraja. (Kongadesarajakkal (Taylor's trans.); MJLS., XIV)
While the mention of Simhanandi as a "person of the southern country' in the inscription at Parsvanatha Basti at Sravana Belgola already referred to, seems to set the seal upon this conclusion.
It is an agreed fact that the canarese country of which modern Mysore forms the crown and centre furnished a home for the religion of Mahavira in the days when it was not very much liked by his own countrymen of the north. The Brihatkatha of Harisena clearly refers to the migration of the Bhadrabahu mission from Mysore to Punnata in the years following the dealth of Chandragupta Maurya. (Rice; Mysore Inscriptions, p. 146; IA., XVII 366). Historians are not yet agreed as to what country is meant by the name, 'Punnata.' All available evidences seem to point to the region of S. Coorg and N. Coimbatore district as the region designated as 'Punnata' by Harisena, so that it would appear that a portion at least of the modern district of Coimbatore was the central hearth of Jainism even before the beginning of the Christian era.
Even the name 'Punnata' and be explainted. It seems to be just a corruption of the name, 'Pounnadu' the land of gold. That there was much gold to be had from the region of Coorg and Kongu is unexceptionalble. While the Mysore gold minies bear evidence to this in some indirect way, the XVII century Tamil work, Maduraikalambakam speaks of the "gold that is found in Kondu" (Konguraippon), thus bearing a direct testimony to the Kongu wealth of gold. (The term Ponnadu seems to have been analogous to the name of the Cola country watered by the cauvery, Viz., the 'Punalnadu'.
Thus we are able to posit that the region of modern Coimbatore was a central hearth of Jainism in the south at least three conturies before the Christian era and that it continued to be so for a long time afterwards certainly through-our the period of the Ganga rule. An inscription of the XII century which referring to the Hoysala conquest of Kongu under Vishnuvardhana (1120 AD), Speaks of his general in that region, Gangarajah of great fame as" :a devout Jain. "(See Sastri; Colas, II, i). We need not try to trace the later history of Jainism in Kongu. Probably it came on a period of steady decline from that date onwards. But what has been so far said is enough to explain the numerous Jain vestiges in this region, to be seen to this day.

The Chera kings are of Gounder origin as there is a kootam called Cheran kootam which lives near the seat of the Cheras, Karur.Nagasamy, ASI ex-chairman Tamilnadu writes about the Karur Cheras and Karur as Vanji, the capital of Cheras. He also details of Muziris as modern day [[Musiri]]. The decline of the Cheras brought in the Kannuva (Kannan)kootam as Ganga dynasty.[]. see also Cheras were not Keralites[]
The first Ganga king Kongunivarma mahadirayan crowned himself at Vijayaskandapuram (later called Gangeyam-Kangayam after the Gangas) (ref:Kongudesa rajakkal). The Ganga genealogy and chronology have presented many problems to the historians. The first ruler of the dynasty was Konganivarma Madhava (C.350-370 A. D) who worked to establish his power at the expense of the Banas and by expanding in Kongudesa or the Salem region. He thought it wise to be friendly with the Pallavas, a policy which was followed by the early Ganga rulers. He was succeeded by his nephew Madhava II or Kiriya Madhava (C.370-390 A. D.) who was the son of Dadiga who moved to Dalavanapura. His successor Harivarma (C.390-410 A. D.) is said to have been installed on the throne by the Pallava Simhavarma. During this period, two branches of the Ganga dynasty were established at Paruvi and Kaivara.
Harivarma's son Vishnugopa (C.410-430 A. D.) had a quiet, uneventful reign, and was succeeded by Tadangala Madhava (C.430-466 A. D.). He is said to have been anointed by the Pallava king Skandavarma. His friendly relations with the Pallavas did not prevent him from normalising his relations with the Kadambas. In fact, he married the daughter of [[Kakusthavarma]]. He strengthened the Pallava rule by incorporating the Paruvi and the Kaivara branches into the main line. His son and successor was Avinita (C.466-495 A. D.) who consolidated the Ganga position by marrying the daughter of the Raja of Punnata. He remained friendly with the Pallavas, but was reputed to be very stern in his dealings with the enemies.
DURVINITA (C.495-535 A. D.)Avinita's son and successor, Durvinita, was one of the most remarkable rulers of the Ganga family. His succession was a disputed one, as he had to overcome the challenge of his younger step-brother who seemed to have secured the assistance of the Pallavas and the Kadambas. The Nallala grant refers to this war of succession; so does the Kadagattur grant which gives a hint that his younger brother was supported by the Pallava King and that the " Goddess of sovereignty came to the rescue of Durvinita because of his excellent display of valour and determination".
The Pallava interference in the Ganga affairs resulted in a shift in the dynastic relations which hitherto had been cordial. Durvinita could not remain friendly with the Pallavas who had created problems for him by supporting his step-brother. The Ganga monarch swore vengeance on the Pallavas who were routed in the battle of Anderi in his fifth regal year. The Pallavas, however, continued their hostilities and it is likely that they secured the assistance of the Kadambas in their attempt to tame Durvinita. In the protracted war that ensued, several pitched encounters were fought, and the Gummareddipura record informs us that Durvinita overcame his enemies at Alattur, Porulare and Pernagra. It is possible that these victories enabled him to extend his power over Kongudesa and Tondaimandalam.
Durvinita was able to cement his friendship with the newly emerging Chalukya power. He gave his daughter to Chalukya Vijayaditya; and when his son-in-law became a victim of the Pallava aggression, Durvinita championed the Chalukyas and installed his grandson Jayasimha on the Badami throne. The timely help of the Ganga monarch did much to save the Chalukyas, and on this sure foundation was built a tradition of a durable friendship between the two ruling families.
The Gummareddipura and the Uttanur plates describe Durvinita as the Lord of Punnata. In fact, his mother was Jyeshtadevi, the daughter of Skandavarma of Punnata. It is possible that there were no male heirs to the Punnata throne and naturally the sovereignty of that Kingdom devolved upon Durvinita.
The religious outlook of Durvinita was marked by tolerance. Though he was a worshipper of Vishnu and a performer of Vedic sacrifices like Hiranyagarbha, he was a pupil of the Jaina preceptor Pujyapada. His court was adorned by many Jaina scholars. His religious catholicity is reflected in the generous patronage he extended to all religious sects.
Himself an eminent scholar, Durvinita evinced keen interest in promoting literary cultivation. The renowned Sanskrit poet Bharavi is said to have visited the Ganga court during this period. Durvinita is supposed to have written a commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya. He also translated into Sanskrit the Vaddakatha or Brihatkatha of Gunadya, which was originally written in the Paisachi language (translated by his vassal Konguvelir to Tamil). He is also credited with the authorship of 'Sabdavatara', a work on grammar. His Nallala grant hails him as an expert in the composition of various forms of poetry, stories and dramas. In fact, Nripatunga's Kavirajamarga hails him as one of the early writers in Kannada.
The many-sided accomplishments of Durvinita are recorded on the Nallala grant. He is compared to Kautilya in expounding the science of polity; to Narada, Tumburu or Bharatadeva in his knowledge of music and dance; to Charaka and Dhanvantri in the knowledge of medicine or to Parasurama in the use of arms. He is referred to as endowed with three constituents of royal power, namely, Prabhusakti (imperial power), Mantrasakti (the power of discretion) and Utsahasakti (the power of active will). His political achievements, military victories, diplomatic skill and many sterling qualities of head and heart prove that his claims were justified. Durvinita was indeed a great ruler of the Ganga family.
Some Gangakula Vellalas also migrated to Eezham see [[Vellalar (Sri Lankan)]]

The Gangas also were great patrons of Tamil.

Western Ganga administration and Hoysala invasion :

The Gavundas who appear most often in inscriptions were the backbone of medieval polity of the southern Karnataka and western Tamilnadu region. As landlords and local elite, the state utilized their services to collect taxes, maintain records of landownership, bear witness to grants and transactions and even raise militia when required. Owing strong personal allegiance to the king, they were vested with certain rights over villages. It appears the gavundas operated as corporations in the Kaveri valley but as individuals in the northern and eastern domains of the Gangas. They had rights to make grants that may have been occasionally exempt of local taxes. There were two types of Gavundas; the Ur-Gavundas who were lower in status and wielded control at the village level and the Nadu-gavunda who oversaw the Nadu and were directly appointed by the king.

During suceeding Hoysala empire, the system got a little modified. There were two types of landlords (Gavundas); Gavunda of people (praja Gavunda) was lower in status than the wealthy lord of gavundas (prabhu gavunda). Thus we can trace the presence of two distinct varieties of Gounders within the same marrige group. The Prabhu Gavundas of the Hoysala period are usually called the Ejamanans (Sans: Yajamana or the one who supports Yajnyas). The praja gavundans are the normal agriculturist landlords. The coming of the Hoysalas meant the loss of central power for the Gounders permanently.

Religion and communal structure of the Gounders:

The Gounders are followers of the traditional form of Saiva Siddhanta Hinduism. In earlier times a sizeable population followed seems to have followed Jainism
(temples are found even today at Vijayamangalam, Jinapuram, Vellode, Perundurai, Palani, Aivarmalai and Poondurai )and later reconverted by the Siddhar traditions (most of the Siddhars lived in Kongunadu). The Gounders follow the system of Gotram, popularly called Kootam in which persons from the same Kootam do not marry one another as they are considered to have descended from the same ancestor. Each Kootam has its own Kulaguru (or popularly saamiar- a brahmin- for example, the kulaguru of melkarai poonthurai nadu kootams is Pasur Akilanda Dikshitar), who is traditionally respected. (This fact is cleverly skipped by Dravidian historians). Every Kootam also has one or more Kuladeivams or a Clan Deities. Some of the Kootams are:

Adhitreya Kumban
Andhuvan Ariyan(noble)
Bharatan (descendants of Bharata)
Dananjayan (descendants of Arjuna)
Muzhlukkadhan (same as porulthantha)
Paandian (Pandya dynasty)
Panangadai (Elumathur Kadais and Maruthurai Kadais-distinct from Kadais, note:Salem and Namakkal dist Kadais don't marry into this kootam,traditionally vegetarian)
Porulthantha or Perizhanthan(same as mulukadhan)
Sathuvaraayan (meaning:good rulers)
Sanagan (Janakar's descendants)
Sooriyan (Suriyavamsam)
Viradhan (descendants of Viratan of Mahabharata)
This list is not exhaustive.

Royal houses and kootams (gothras):

Kaalingarayar-Kings of Kalinga Ganga dynasty (Eastern Ganga dynasty)
Vaanavarayar-Bana dynasty
Pallavarayar-Pallava dynasty
Palayakottai Mandradiyar-chieftain
Cheran kootam-Chera dynasty
Pandya kootam-Pandya dynasty
Kannan(Kannuvan)-original Ganga rulers
Kadai-Kaadava dynasty
Elumathur kadai - Kangayars

Language of Gounders:

The language of the Gounders is the popular Coimbatore Bhashai or Kongu Tamil. It must have been a distinct language as it also shows relations with Eela Tamil, Prakrit-Aprabramsa and Kannada. It was earlier called Kangee or Gangee (கங்கி, the language of the Gangas). Mysore, Col. Wilks, records in his "History of Mysore":
"In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language is at this day named the Gangee from being best known to them as the language of the people of Kankayam". (Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2) Later mainstream Tamil assimilated the language yet preserving idiolectical differences and markers.

Examples of variance:

Tamil/Gangee(கங்கி or today:Kongu Tamil)
Appa/Anna(pronounced like last part in Pongiy'''ana'''), aiyya (nasalised anna)
Amma/Ayi,Aya orAyi+yal),Atha
Chitti/Chinnayi(also Chinni),chinnaya,Chinatha
Kollu Thatha/Pattan
Kollu Patti/Patti
Ellu Pattan/Muppattan
Ellu patti/Muppatti
brother-in-law is called Machandar by women

The Modern caste:

The Gounder caste is a progressive caste which has excellent personae in various fields. The Coimbatore region flourishes mainly due to their innovation and hardwork in Agriculture, textiles (Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur and Karur), Education (Namakkal, Coimbatore, Salem), Poultry Namakkal), Automobiles (Namakkal, Salem), Bus body building (Karur), Milk (Erode Aavin), Edible Oils (Erode), Turmeric (Erode has the largest market in South India) and Marketing of Cloths (Erode 24 hours market in every week) .Kongunadu has the highest urban proportion and contributes 2/3rd of Tamilnadu's income. Gounders always formed part of all ministeries with strategic portfolios earlier and now they have been relegatged to third rate minstries and now are at a distance from "real" political power! When Rajaji was the Cm, he is said to have told people that he has three Gounder ministers just because Gounders are honest and committed. The population of Gounders is rapidly falling due to birth control and emigration of youth is seen as a possible source by which the caste is bound to disappear in the near future.

Sekkizhar - minister of Kulottunga who compiled 'Periyapuranam', a treatise on Saivite saints.(There is a graphic description of his life and how he came to write this magnum opus is narrated in a 14th cent Tamil work Thiruttoṇḍar-purāṇa-varalāru. Sekkiḻār who belongs to an agriculturist family of Veḷḷaḷar, rose to be the Chief-minister to the Choḻa emperor Kulottuṅga II. The work ascribed to Umāpati Śivam of 14th cent gives two significant titles of Sekkiḻār. He is called "Gaṅgā-kula-tilaka" (verse -59) and "Bhāgīrati-kula-Tilaka")

Thiruvennai Nallur Sadayappa Vallal (patron of Kambar) referred as Pannai kulathu Kongar kon in Ramavatharam (Kamba Ramayanam)(ref:''pannai vennai sadaya'' kambaramayanam verse 636 line 7)


Thiruvennai Nallur Sadayappa Vallal(திருவெண்ணை நல்லூர் சடயப்ப வள்ளல்) - a Pannai kula cheiftain. Kamban wrote his epic Kamba Ramayanam with his patronage. As a mark of respect for his patron, Kamban refers his name once in every 1000 verses.

Sollerulavan Sellamuthu- The great orator and founder of Farmers Associations.
Diwan Bahadur Agathur Muthuramaswami Kalingaroyar

Sekkizhar - minister of Kulottunga who compiled 'Periyapuranam', a treatise on Saivite saints.(There is a graphic description of his life and how he came to write this magnum opus is narrated in a 14th cent Tamil work Thiruttoṇḍar-purāṇa-varalāru. Sekkiḻār who belongs to an agriculturist family of Veḷḷaḷar, rose to be the Chief-minister to the Choḻa emperor Kulottuṅga II. The work ascribed to Umāpati Śivam of 14th cent gives two significant titles of Sekkiḻār. He is called "Gaṅgā-kula-tilaka" (verse -59) and "Bhāgīrati-kula-Tilaka")
Vakkapakai mannan Varapathiyatkondan (patron of Villiputhoorar)(ref: kongar kula vatrapathiyatkondan - Villibharatham- Sirappurpayiram verse 18 line 2 and various other references)
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There are certain small sub groups who also follow the same customs and are also called by the same name among the Gounders which are getting amalgamated nowadays into the mainstream, some of the differences are (mentioned number two group is the mainstream),
Nattu Gounders-Oor Gounders = Gounders who were rulers of Nadus see [[Western Ganga administration]] where Gounder population is thin and normal oor Gounders.
Narambukatti Gounders (Vadakarai vellalars) -Senthalai Gounders = of north and south of river Bhavani.
Padathalai Gounders - Senthalai Gounders = the people who joined and abstained Tippu sultan's army respectively) (found mostly in the Vijayamangalam belt).
Irumudi Gounders - Vellala Gounders = Gounders who fell under two rulers and proper Kongu respectively.

Castes like the Padayachi "Gounders" and Kurumba 'Gounders" have assumed the title for the sake of respect though they are not referred as Gounders. There is enough caution among the Gounders regarding this.

Peculiar customs:

Various peculiar customs in the caste both known and unknown are observed. These have modified in the last two generations and some may even feel new to these. There are various reasons for these peculiarities. Some are,

1.Ancient Tamil vestiges (language, feeding the pulavars with milk and fruit mash, worship of demi gods, etc..,).
2.Samana (Jaina) vestiges (eating before dark, white saree (vella seelai) for widows, preference for white dress, cooking meat outside the house, etc..,).
3.Kshatiriya vestiges (Gotra system, Annamar vazhipadu (hunter-warrior conflict), Kannimar vazhipadu (sapta kanyas), udankattaiyeral (sati), kuladeivam,kulaguru, benovalence,marriage customs,holding the marriage ceremony in the bride's house, giving handicapped children to Modavandis thereby eliminating weak genes, etc..,).

Marriage customs:

Gounders marry outside their Kootam(Gotram) and are renown for their elaborate threeday-marriage extravagenzas. Only some kootams give and take very high dowries, whereas today that is fading away. Their marriage rituals follow the Kshatriya pattern (where the bridegroom goes to the bride's house) and therefore necessarily involve service castes participation.
Another known fact about gounders is that they are highly conservative and do not marry anyone out of their caste and if done so they exclude that person from their families. Gounders are people who value their caste and society more than family ties. The practice of cross cousin marriages like the other south and central Indian people is also followed though lesser in these days.

Kongu Vellalar Marriage:
*Arumaikaarar *Arumaikaari *Anthanar *Naavidhan (Barber) *Vannaan (Washer man) *Potter (Vetkovar) *Paraiyars (Men from paraiya caste) *Kammaalar *Pandaaram *Maadhaari (shoemaker) *Porutham paarthal (Examination of the agreement of horoscopes) *Sagunam paarthal (Being guided by omens) *Mutual visit to the houses of bride and bridegroom *Betrothal (Nichayadhaartham or nichaya thaamboolam) *Invitation for marriage *Kongu Vellalar Marriage
*Kongu Vellalar Marriage The Vellalar were of great assistance to the king by being in various positions and ranks in the army. They also got the title 'Kamindan' from the king for their meritorious service and loyalty. Later the title got modified as ‘Gounden'. To streamline the living together of the boy and the girl, certain regulations and procedures were created. The procedures and habits as per certain regulations later became ‘rites'. The performance of all the rites collectively in a sequence is called marriage.
*Kongu Vellala Gounders-Ceremonial Rites in Marriages The various rites being performed nowadays in the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar community are unique in nature. Each and every rite is performed for some specific reason. The original rites performed centuries ago in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony which resembled ‘Sanagam’ age rites have undergone minor changes and modifications from technology and consequent changes in customs, habits and facilities. Some rites have ceased to exist because of their having become obsolete.
The rites which are being performed nowadays in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony reflect the superior character, rich culture and high tradition of Kongu Vellalar community.
*Who perform rites? All the ceremonial rites relating to Kongu Vellalar marriage are performed by ‘arumaikaarar’ ,arumaikaari, naavidhan (barbar), washer man (vannaan) and such others who are closely associated with the occupation of Kongu Vellala Gounders.
*Arumaikaarar: An ‘arumaikaarar’, who is a respected elderly member of the community, is the prime person for performing the marriage rites of Kongu Vellalar. The arumaikaarar is also used to be called ‘arumaiperiyavar’, 'seerkaarar’ and ‘pudavaikaarar’. The aruamikaarar should have wife and child/children.
On the specified day, the three arumaikaarars, after planting the ‘Muhurthakaal’, will go to an anthill of white ants, offer prayer, gather sacred earth in three baskets and bring the same to the wedding place
*Arumaikaari: A women gets the name arumaikaari after the performance of certain rites on her by an arumaikaarar at the time when her son or daughter has attained age for marriage. The rite relating to this is called ‘Ezhudhingam’, as mentioned by Thiru R. Venketeswaran in his research paper titled ‘Vennandhur Vattaara Kongu Vellalar Vaazhviyal’. The arumaikaari (the women who has undergone the process of ezhudhingam) along with the arumaikaarar will perform all the rites relating to women.
The rites being performed on men or women who wish to become arumaikaarar or arumaikaari respectively clearly point out that only those who are respected elders, who are well experienced and who are having spouse and child/children, are qualified to perform the rites of a marriage ceremony.
*Anthanan: The Anthanan or te Brahmin was the first to be consulted in the initiation of the ceremony according to the '''Mangala Vazhthu'''. Then during the Mangiliyam or the kodi(Thali) time, the Brahmin recited the appropriate slokams from the vedic texts.The '''Kulaguru''' (saamiyar) blesses the couple.
*Naavidhan (Barber): Next to arumaikaarar, the naavidhan (barbar) plays an important role in conducting the rites of the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar. The naavidhan is called ‘Kudimagan’. The Kudimagan’s important works in the conduct of the marriage are to invite all relatives for the marriage, to perform each and every rite of the marriage ceremony along with the arumaikaarar, to recite the ‘mangala vaazhthu’ song and to announce and call the relatives concerned before performing each rite.
*Vannaan (Washer man):The marriage pandhal (a temporary shed with a roof made of plaited coconut leaves) will be decorated with colorful clothes on all sides including the top by the washer man. Cloths will be laid down on the path to enable the newly wedded couple to walk on the same when the couple comes out from the same when the couple comes the decorated marriage platform.
*Potter (Vetkovar): The vetkovar is one who makes earthen pots. The Sangam works praise the potter as a vessel-making king. The potter will make and supply earthen pots required for performing the marriage rites. There was an agreement between Kongu Vellalar and potters to the effect that the potters will receive paddy and money from the Kongu Vellalar in return for the post supplied, as mentioned in ‘Madurai Pattayam’ (grant inscribed on copper plate).
*Paraiyars (Men from paraiya caste): The paraiyars will beat the Kettle –like drums and make loud musical noise during the marriage of kongu Vellalar.
*Kammaalar: The ' Kammaalar` are artisans who work in wood. The kammaalar will make and supply all the agricultural instruments and tools required by the Kongu Vellalar. They will also make and supply things such as wooden plate, ladle, salt box, special box with five compartments used to keep spices for cooking, which are required for performing the rite `madaikalam vaithal` in the marriage ceremony.
*Pandaaram: The pandaarams used to perform poojai for village gods. The pandaarams are also very good in cooking and they undertake the work of cooking also in Kongu Vellalar marriages.
*Maadhaari (shoemaker): The maadhaari or sakkili people are also involved in Kongu Vellalar marriages. These people make new chappals for bridegroom as well as bride and give them for a consideration. Wearing of new chapples made and supplied by the maadhaari is also a rite in Konge Vellalar marriage ceremony.
*Porutham paarthal (Examination of the agreement of horoscopes) Tholkaappiyar says that there are ten aspects of agreement (porutham) to be looked in to between the boy and girl. They are birth, quality of family, strength, age personality, attachment, humility, compassion, knowledge and wealth.
*Sagunam paarthal (Being guided by omens) Apart from seeing the horoscope, there was also the practice of taking guidance from omens (sagunam paarthal) in temples of respective ‘kuladheivams’. Keeping flowers in front of god and watching the movement of the flower, listening to the voice and sound of lizard are some of omens, which are looked at before taking a decision on matrimonial matters. Only if the omen is good and positive, the green signal for the marriage will be given.
Mullai paattu’, a Sangam Tamil poem, says that aged women will worship the God with paddy and flowers, praying for permission to take the decision on marriage alliance and hoping that good things will happen in future by this deed.
*Mutual visit to the houses of bride and bridegroom After coming to a decision that the proposal for marriage is satisfactory and can be gone through, the bridegroom’s family members and close relatives will visit the house of the bride and see for themselves the state of affairs, the house, the land, quality of living, status and other such things and in the same manner, the bride’s family members and close relatives will visit the bridegroom’s house. Only after knowing and evaluating all these aspects and getting themselves satisfied with all relevant matters, will consent be given to the next stage called betrothal (nichayadhaartham).
*Betrothal (Nichayadhaartham or nichaya thaamboolam) After taking a decision that the marriage can be conducted, an auspicious day will be chosen and on that day, the bridegroom’s family along with relatives and friends will go to the bride’s house. The bride’s parents as well as bridegroom’s parents are called ‘Sambandhi’. A plate containing fruits, betel and areca nut will be kept on a tripod. Persons from bride’s side and the bridegroom’s side will sit opposite to each other, with the tripod kept in between them and start holding discussions. The bridegroom’s side will tell the bride’s side that they have come to request their consent for the marriage alliance and the bride’s side will reciprocate by giving their consent with pleasure. Then the two sides will exchange plates containing coconut and fruits. The girl will be called and given a plate containing new dresses and presents. After receiving the same, the bride will enter the dressing room and come out after wearing the new dress given by the bridegroom’s side. The bride will be asked to keep in her lap betel, areca nut, turmeric, lemon, etc. and pay regards and respect to the elders present on that occasion to grace the betrothal function. By mutual consent, the date and time and the venue of the marriage are fixed. Thereafter, the bride’s family hosts a feast called ‘parupanchotru virundhu’ (feast including rice and dhal) to mark the end of the betrothal event. In this context, it is to be pointed out that the bridegroom’s side will not take food in bride’s house unless and until the marriage is fixed and confirmed. This has been mentioned by Pulavar T.P.Chinnasami in his book ‘Thirumana Sadangugalil Panpaadu’.
*Invitation for marriage Nowadays marriage invitation cards are printed and mostly sent by post. Only close relatives and close friends are invited personally by handing over invitation cards. In those days, the kudimagan used to go to each and every house in person for extending the invitation for marriage. The kudimagan will also specify the number of invitees in each house for the marriage. Even if person from the bride’s family or bridegroom’s family invited personally, the invitees will not attend the marriage unless the kudimagan comes in person and extends the invitation. Such was the importance attached to the extends the invitation. Such was the importance attached to the kudimagan’s invitation in those days in Kongu Vellalar marriages.
*Rites before marriage As soon as the marriage is fixed, the relatives will voluntarily come forward to involve themselves in all the work relating to the marriage in bride’s house and bridegroom’s house. The relatives consider it an honour to go to the marriage house and do the works relating to the marriage. Work such as steaming paddy, cutting firewood, serving food to guests, erection of pandhal for the marriage is carried out only by relatives. All these actions and deeds show that in Kongu Vellalar community, the relatives are given due respect and that they render help voluntarily, bound by strong love and affection. The Kongu Vellalar marriage is an ancient one. It has unique qualities. The various rites in Kongu Vellalar marriages are conducted by an elderly person of the Kongu Vellalar community itself, called ‘Arumaikaarar’. Raising of sacrificial fire and chanting of vedic hymns do not find a place in the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar. The marriage rites reveal the fine qualities and rich traditions of Kongu Vellalar community. Wide publicity is given for the celebration of temporary structure (pandhal), cutting firewood and the loud beating of musical instruments. The events and rites such as ‘pariyam’ idudhal, betrothal, kulam kodhudhal and muhurthakaal naattudhal serve as evidence for the marriage. The rite “Aarathi eduthal” (a plate containing water mixed with turmaric and lime waved before newly married couple), “Senjoru aindhadai suttrudhal” (waving rice balls before newly married couple), and ‘Arugumanam seidhal’ are performed with a view to eliminating the blight caused due to evil eyes. Fasting and ‘Kaappu Kattudhal’ are rites which mark the determination of the bride and the bridegroom to enter into a new life. Tying of thaali by the bridegroom around the neck of the bride and exchanging of garlands in the presence of all gathered for the marriage ceremony mark the completion of the wedding. The blessings for the couple through mangala vaazhthu song are also considered to be the blessings of the people present for the marriage ceremony. ‘Tharrai varthal’ and ‘Kaithalam pattrudhal’ are rites which point out the rights and responsibilities of the bride and the bridegroom. Events such as steaming of paddy (nel vega vaithal), Cutting firewood and erection of pandhal (temporary structure) indicate the closeness among relatives. The rite ‘thaayudan unnal’ (‘thaayudan unnal’ is a very good quality) adds glory to the women community. The rite ‘inai cheer’ is a rite which shows the admirable quality of protecting the rights of women. Coming closer of relatives (bride’s family and bridegroom’s family) is made known and exhibited by rites such as ‘Kai Korvai’, ’seer koodai’ procession and ‘pudhy kalandhunnal’. The rite ‘paadha poosai seithal ‘signifies the respect shown by the bride and the bridegroom for their parents. The rite ‘naattukal valhipaadu shows that any important event or activity is commenced only after paying regards and respect for community leaders and obtaining their blessings. When other communities have opened their gateway for Aryan and priestly rites, Kongu Vellalar community has not accepted the above rites for purpose of following. The main purpose of today’s marriage movement is that all the marriage rites should be performed only in Tamil. This is being followed fully in Kongu Vellalar marriages. In each and every marriage, it is natural that certain rites take place. Marriage with out rites means marriage without irrational and foolish rites. Most of the rites of Kongu Vellalar marriages resembles those in marriages of the Sangam age.
Rich culture, high tradition, customs and habits of Kongu Vellalar, who are the indigenous clan of Tamil Nadu, are revealed in the various marriage rites. The Kongu Vellalar is comparable to the best in the world. The Kongu Vellalar, who were the chief architects of agriculture, can feel very proud of their unique and ancient culture, known extraordinary hard work, hospitality, helping nature, harmonious living with nature as well as othercommunities, courage, respecting women, high standards of living, prosperity and support to deserving.
The Kongu Vellalar marriage can be said to resemble the ‘prajaapathyam’ type marriage. In Kongu Vellalar marriage, the bridegroom’s family goes to the bride’s house, propose the marriage and request the consent of the bride’s family for the alliance. After obtaining consent from the bride’s family, the marriage takes place.
*Kongu Vellalar Marriage Rites and Marriage Venue In the Past, kongu Vellalar marriages took place in bride’s house. In those days, it was the practice that only very close relatives were invited for the marriages. However, nowadays relatives, friends, neighbors and other known persons are being invited in large numbers for the marriages. For want of sufficient space and other needed facilities, the marriages are not held in the houses, but held in marriage halls which have come up in large numbers to suit the budget and requirements of all categories of people.
Marriage Season Dr Sasivalli, in her book ‘Thamizhar Thirumanam’ has stated as follows: Ancient Tamils considered spring (April-May) Season, day with moon and rogini and early morning time suitable for conducting the marriages. With passage of time, changes and modifications took place in season, day and time.
Kongu Vellalar do not conduct marriages in the months of Aadi and maargazhi. Generally, they do not choose even Chithirai for conducting the marriage. Marriages are held mostly in the months of Vaikaasi, Aani and Asvani taking into consideration the fact that the season will be good during these months and also jasmine flower of lovable fragrance which is required in large quantities for the marriage, will be available in plenty during this season. The marriages of Kongu Vellalar are celebrated for three consecutive days The First day event The first day event is called ‘Naal virundhu’. On this day, close relatives of the bride and bridegroom will host feast for the bride’s family and bridegroom’s family respectively. The Second day event On the second day, marriage arrangements will be done by brining together all relatives. Events such as erection of pandhal (temporary shed), cutting of ‘Muhurtha Kaal’, hairdressing of bridegroom by kudimagan, informing the marriage event to village community by drum beating, hosting of feast for the relatives in the bride’s family as well as bridegroom’s family, bridegroom leaving for the bride’s house will take place on the second day. The marriage event will take place in bride’s house. The Third day event The mukurtham will take place on third day. The bride and the bridegroom will be seated on the marriage platform on completion of appropriate rites. The thaali (mangala naan) will be tied by the bridegroom around the bride’s neck and mangala vaazhthu song will be recited.
The marriage events will come to a close with the serving of grand feast to all relatives, friends and neighbors. The marriage events will be performed by a respected elderly person of the community itself called arumaikaarar. This section explains the various events of the marriage ceremony. All the rites are performed only in the Tamil language.
*Kongu Vellalar Marriages in Tamil Literatures Kongu Vellalar had held high positions such as chieftains and army generals. Hence rites relating to government administration and war find their places in Kongu Vellalar marriages The events such as bridegroom riding a horse in olden days, giving gifts and presents including weapons are examples of the above. The main occupation of Kongu Vellalar was agriculture and they excelled in it by their hard work and dedicated efforts. Hence agriculture related rites such as boiling paddy and seer koodai formed part of the marriage rites of Kongu Vellalar.
*‘Mangala vaazhthu’ song The mangala vaazhthu song, which is, recited only in kongu Vellalar marriages. This song explains in detail and in sequence all the events related to a marriage from the beginning to the end. The song has been written in such a way that it describes the marriage events in a grand manner as if it is taking place in a king’s family. The Status, life, style, culture, and nature of society and relationship of Kongu Vellalar are very well brought out by the above song. The mangala Vaazhthu song is qualified to be spoken literature.

The art of marriage Kongu Vellalar strives their best to lead a successful and prosperous domestic life after marriage.

Politics in Kongunadu today:

Kongunadu has nearly 70 assembly constituencies out of the total 234. This region has been economically strong but politically vwry weak because disunity among the majority Gounders.Today Gounders who are estimated to be the single largest caste in Tamilnadu of about 70-80 lakhs are represented only in 23/65 assembly constituencies. This is radically opposite to the 30/30 and 4 important ministers in the Rajaji berth. (The only caste given 4 ministers by the great Rajaji , not even Brahmins as he used to say Gounders are very honest). There are only two ministers now with dummy portfolios. Thevars have 30/38 MLAs and 4 ministers with strategic portfolios, Vanniars have 50/60 MLAs with 3 strategic ministeries in their respective areas. Central MP position is even bad 5/11 constituencies and no central ministers from the community while Vanniars and Thevars have 3 strategic ministers each. Gounders are thus all set to lose their status within the next 5 years.


Kongumandala satakam

Kongudesa rajakkal

(list of books in seperate catalogue)