Vokkaliga

Vokkaliga (also transliterated as Vokkaligar, Vakkaliga, Wakkaliga, Okkaligar, Okkiliyan) is a community, or a group of closely-related castes, from the Indian state of Karnataka. They are also present in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.[1]

As a community of warriors[2][3] and cultivators[4] they have historically had notable demographic, political, and economic dominance in Old Mysore (region).[5][6][7][8][9] It is believed by some historians that the Rashtrakutas were of Vokkaliga origin.[10]The Vokkaligas occupied administrative positions in the Vijaynagar Empire.[11][12][13][8] They later formed the early rulers of the Nayakas of Keladi.[14] The Vokkaligas had the most families in the ruling classes of the 17th century when the Arasu caste of the Wodeyars was created to exclude them.[15][16][17][18] Under the Kingdom of Mysore they operated autonomously[19] and also served in the army and militia.[20] Vokkaligas have produced one Indian prime minister and seven Karnataka chief ministers till date. The Vokkaligas formed the landed-gentry[21][22] and warrior class[2][3] of Karnataka.[23][12][4]

Most sections of the community are designated as forward[24] castes by the Central Government of India. While some of the rural communities, are designated as Other Backward Class by the Karnataka Government.[25]

Vokkaligas commonly carry titles such as Gowda,[26] Hegde[27] and Gounder[28].

EtymologyEdit

Vokkaliga is a Kannada-language word found in some of the earliest available literary works of the language, such as the Kavirajamarga, Pampa Bharata, and Mangaraja's Nighantu. It has been used as an appellation for the cultivator community since time immemorial.[29][page needed][need quotation to verify] Generally, the term has come to mean an agriculturist though various etymological derivations are available, including:

 
Kempe Gowda I chieftain under the Vijayanagara Empire. The city of Bengaluru was founded by Kempe Gowda in 1537.
  • The word okka or okkalu is a Kannada word for a family or a clan[30][page needed] and an okkaliga is a person belonging to such a family.[29][page needed] This is an allusion to the totemistic exogamous clans which together form an endogamous sub group, of which there are many amongst the Vokkaligas. These clans are called Bali, Bedagu, Kutumba, Gotra or simply Okkalu all of which mean family. They are named after their progenitor, primary occupation or in most cases after various birds, animals or objects.[31][page needed]
  • Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture[30]
  • Alternate etymologies include okku, which means "threshing" in Kannada, and Vokkaliga means someone from a family that threshes[30]

According to historians like Suryanath U. Kamath, the word Gowda derives from Gavunda.[32] The Gavundas were landlords that collected taxes and rendered military service to the Kings. The majority of the "Gavundas" were derived from the Vokkaligas; but by the 10th century it was also used to denote chiefship of other communities.[3]

The term "Gowda" and its archaic forms in Old Kannada such as Gamunda, Gavunda, Gavuda, appear frequently in the inscriptions of Karnataka. The Epigraphia Carnatica is replete with references to land grants, donations to temples, hero-stones (Veeragallu), stone edicts and copper plates dating back to the age of the Western Ganga Dynasty (est. 350 CE) and earlier.[33]

Alternatively Tamil origins to the word claim its derivation from kavundan or kamindan (one who watches over). The Vokkaligas of Tamil Nadu use 'Gowdar’ and ‘Gounder’ as their surname.[28] Whether the name Gauda/Gowda is an allusion to the Gauḍa region[34] or not has not been conclusively proved.

SubgroupsEdit

The term Vokkaliga was used to refer to Canarese cultivators. Vokkaliga community has several sub-groups within its fold such as Gangadhikara, Namdhari Vokkaliga, Morasu Vokkaliga, Kunchitiga, Halikkar(Palikkar) Vokkaliga, Reddy Vokkaliga,[35][36][37][38] Gounder,[35] Tulu Gowda.[36][37][39] etc.[35]

Exogamy at the family/clan level is strictly controlled by using the idiom of Mane Devaru (the patron god of the given exogamic clan) which dictates that the followers of same Mane Devaru are siblings and marriage is thus forbidden, allowing marital alliances only with another clan and not within.[40][need quotation to verify]

Gangadikara VokkaligaEdit

The Gangadikara Vokkaligas, also known as the Gangatkar[29][41] With various theories on the origins of the Gangas, this is hard to prove but some scholars do opine that the Gangas were local chieftains who ascertained their power and rose to dominance during the political unrest caused in South India after the invasion of Samudragupta I. It is however, a fact that the administrative setup of Gangas vested power, at various levels of administration and apart from administrative duties the Gauda was expected to raise militia when called for.[42]

The Gangadikaras were considered analogous to the Vellalar Chieftains of Tamil Country. They are Deccan Kshatriyas corresponding to Marathas of Maharashtra. [43] The Gangadikaras and the Kongu Vellalars could possibly share a common origin and they regard themselves Ganga Kshatriyas. In fact, the word Kongu is the Tamil equivalent for Ganga.[44][page needed]

The Gangadikara Vokkaligas have as many as 40 kulas, exogamous clans, known in Kannada as Bedagu.[40][page needed][45]

Morasu VokkaligaEdit

According to Burton Stein the region of modern-day Bangalore and Tumkur districts was known as Morasu Nadu, dominated by Morasu vokkaligas, who seemed to have been migrants to the area in the fourteenth century.[46] In fact Hosur which borders Bangalore claims to have been called Murasu Nadu during the Sangam Age[47] and has a significant population of Morasu Vokkaligas.

The four main sub-divisions being the Musuku, Hosadevru (Beralu), Palyadasime and Morasu proper which is again divided into three lines called Salu viz. Kanu salu, Nerlegattada salu, Kutera salu. The Musuku sect is so-called because the bride wears a veil or 'Musuku' during the wedding ceremony.[44]

Although Morasu Vokkaligas are a sub-section of the Vokkaliga community, they are not a fully-defined caste as they can intermarry with other sections. Polygamy is rare, and child marriage was rare. Marriage is done outside bedagu lines, and marriage with a maternal uncle or paternal aunt or elder sister is especially promoted. In most cases, a younger sister's daughter is not married except in unusual cases. Varase, which regulates marriage between those considered analogous to parent and child or brother and sister, is also observed.

After consulting the astrologer, the two families meet for the first ceremony called Oppu-vilya: where the groom's father goes to the bride's house and receives food from them. On the next day, the Vilyada shastra occurs, where the groom's family presents new clothes and jewels to the bride's family. Placing a simhasana on a kambli and taking a kalasha, puja is done to this setup and the bride-to-be is smeared with saffron and presented with fruits and flowers. Marriage letters, called lagnapatrikas, are then exchanged between the families. On the first day, mooladarshina is done where the kuladevata is worshipped and the bride and bridgroom are smeared with arshna. The Pandal is raised next with atti or nerale wood, unless either's bedagu is one of the aforementioned woods. In the ceremony called elevara, another twig of nerale wood is tied to the main post. The bride's party arrives in the evening, and women of both families worship a pot filled with 9 types of grain in karaga puja. In some families, the bridegroom goes to an intersection of three paths and offers cooked food to a human figure then leaves silently without looking back. This biragudi is meant to appease evil spirits.

The next day, the bridegroom goes to the temple or an Aswhata tree and sits while his maternal uncle ties a bhasinga on his forehead and 5 married women pour rice on his head, shoulders and knees. The bridegroom and his party then go in procession to the bride's house 3 times, with the bridegroom only coming at the least time. They are then seated opposite each other, and the two exchange kanakanas and then the groom puts the thali over his bride's head. In the evening, they worship an anthill and take dirt from it and place balls at the bottom of 12 pillars of the pandal. At the Nagavali ceremony the next day, a lime and jewel are placed in a pot in front of the couple. It is said whoever picks up the jewel will be more important in domestic life, and the kanakanas are taken off. Finally there is a simhasina puja, where a trishula is drawn with areca nuts and betel leaves in the middle and ash at the edges. The headman of the caste now does puja to a group of beings in order of precedence. They then return to the bride's house (tiruvali) and throw a feast (maravali). A bride price is also paid. Divorce is allowed for both men and women, but divorced women can't remarry but live in concubinage only.

The community celebrates Osige, or the puberty function.

Kempe GowdaEdit

The ancestors of Kempe Gowda I of the Yelahanka Nadaprabhus are recorded to be Morasu Vokkaliga Chiefs who migrated to these districts from Alur of Kanchi around the 15th century[48] under Rana Bhaire Gowda, who built the fort at Devanahalli.[49][full citation needed] This fort would remain in their family for 3 centuries, until it was conquered by Mysore in 1749. Bhaire Gowda founded other forts at Palyapet and Doddaballapur. Other leaders of the community were in Hoskote, Kolar, Anekal and Koratagere who were subdued by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 18th century, and some received pensions after Tipu's defeat and the Wodeyar restoration.

Kunchitiga VokkaligaEdit

Kunchitigas are concentrated mostly in Tumkur, Chitradurga and the cities of Bangalore and Mysore. They are also found in Salem, Coimbatore and Theni districts of Tamil Nadu.[50][51]

Namadhari VokkaligasEdit

The Namadhari Vokkaliga is the oldest and largest Vokkaliga sub-group.[29]. The Namdharis were Jains who converted to Vaishnavism along with their Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana. They are concentrated in Malenadu.[52]

Hallikkar VokkaligaEdit

Hallikkar Vokkaligas or Pallikar Vokkaligas are a subsect of Vokkaligas. Halikkar is often confused with the Halakki Vokkaligas of North Karnataka who are distinct from and not a sub-sect of Vokkaligas.[53]

Tulu and Kodagu VokkaligaEdit

Tulu Gowda and Kodagu Gowda (Gauda) are the subsect of the Vokkaliga community located primarily in the South Canara District, Kodagu District, Indian state of Karnataka and Bandadka village of Kasaragod, Kerala State.[54][55]

Jogi (Jogi Vokkaliga)Edit

Jogi Vokkaligas are mostly found in parts of Chitradurga, Shivamogga, Tumkur and Mandya districts. They worship Bhairava. They were the teachers (mattpati) of Adichunchanagiri matt during its early days. The Jogi are disciples of yoga and traditionally wear saffron-colored clothing.

Varna ClassificationEdit

The varna system of Brahmanic ritual ranking never really took hold in South Indian society. The two intermediate dvija varnas—the Kshatriyas[56][57] and Vaishyas—did not exist.

James Manor said that

"Varnas – the four large traditional divisions of Hindu society, which exclude Dalits – have less importance in South India than elsewhere because there are no indigenous Kshatriyas and Vaisyas in the South"[58]

There were essentially three classes: Brahmin, non-Brahmin and Dalit.[59][60][61][62][63] Vokkaligas fell into the non-Brahmin class.

Quoting Gail Omvedt

"In addition the three way ' caste division ( Brahman , non - Brahman , Untouchable ) seems particularly prominent here. There are no recognized 'Ksatriya' jatis anywhere in the south, and the three states (in contrast to the more inequalitarian hierarchies of Tamil Nadu and Kerala) are characterized by the dominance of large peasant jatis with landholding rights who historically supplied many of the zamindars and rulers but remained classed as 'Shudra' in the varna scheme."[56]

Therefore Vokkaligas along with other ruling castes like Bunts, Kammas and Nairs were classified as "Upper shudra"/"Sat shudra" during the British Raj.[64][2][62] This ritual status was not accepted by the Vokkaligas[18] and was misleading[65][63] as historically, dominant land-holding castes like the Vokkaligas, Vellalars and Reddys belonged to the ruling classes[66][2][3][12] and were analogous to the Kshatriyas of the Brahmanical society.[2][13][23][67]

"In the 17th Century, Chikkadevaraja created the Urs caste and classified it into 31 clans. Of these, 13 clans were deemed superior, while the remaining 18 were placed lower in the hierarchy. This latter comprised ruling families in the domain he was rapidly expanding. The most populous caste in this region, the Gowdas (the caste name Vokkaliga was later affixed to it during the British Census), clearly had more families in the ruling classes."[15]

EconomyEdit

Before the 20th century Vokkaligas were the landed gentry and agricultural caste of Karnataka.[68][3] Despite the community enjoying the status of chieftains and zamindars, there were also a lot of small landholding farmers.[69] They, along with the Lingayats, owned most of the cultivated land in the state. Therefore they were considered forward castes[70] and dominant-majority communities.[71] In 1961, Karnataka passed a new Land Reforms Act under the then Revenue minister and idealist Kadidal Manjappa (a Vokkaliga). This was followed by another Land Reform Act passed in 1973 by Ex-Chief Minister Devaraj Urs. These acts redistributed land from the Vokkaliga landlords to the landless and land-poor.[72][6]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  4. ^ a b Ludden, David (1999). An Agrarian History of South Asia (The New Cambridge History of India). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 91. ISBN 9781139053396.
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  6. ^ a b Frankel, Francine R; Rao, M. S. A (1989), Dominance and state power in modern India : decline of a social order / editors, Francine R. Frankel, M.S.A. Rao, Oxford University Press, pp. 322–361, ISBN 0195620984
  7. ^ K, Seshadri (April–June 1988). "TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING THE POLITICAL CULTURE OF SOUTH INDIA". The Indian Journal of Political Science. 49 (2): 231–267.
  8. ^ a b (social activist.), Saki (1998). Making History: Stone age to mercantilism, Volume 1 of Making History: Karnataka's People and Their Past. Bangalore: Vimukthi Prakashana. p. 311.
  9. ^ "Born to be a force to reckon with". DNA India. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  10. ^ Shetty, Sadanand Ramakrishna (1994). Banavasi Through the Ages. Banavasi (India): Printwell. p. 121.:"The community of the land tillers or agriculturists was known as vokkaligas. The importance given to the cultivation of land is amply demonstrated by the fact that numerous tanks were dug and irrigational facilities were provided at various places. Some of the Rashtrakuta inscriptions found in the Banavasimandala carry the depiction of a plough at the top. There is a view that the Rashtrakutas were originally prosperous cultivators, who later on dominated the political scene. Some of the inscriptions refer to them as Kutumbinah which is interpreted as meaning cultivators."
  11. ^ Madhava, K. G. Vasantha (1991). Western Karnataka, Its Agrarian Relations, 1500-1800 A.D. New Delhi: Navrang. p. 176.:”For instance , the tax structure and the process of its collection of the Vijayanagara rulers and their feudatories enabled the Brāhamans , the Jains and the highcaste Sudras namely the Bunts the Nāyaks and the Gowdas to emerge as powerful landed gentry.”
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  14. ^ The quarterly journal of the Mythic society Vol.XI. Bangalore: The Mythic Society, Daly Memorial Hall. 1921. p. 47-48.:”Venkatappa. ruled from 1504 to 1551. His son Bhadrappa died before him. During his reign the Moghals under Ranadullakhan seized Ikkeri and set up a, viceroy there. Then Virabhadrappa Nayaka ascended the Gadi and -retiring to Bidarur ruled over his country more peacefully than before.* His rule lasted for 15 years from 1551 to 1566. During his reign the rule of Vokkaligas came to an end and was replaced by the rule of Banajigas”
  15. ^ a b Prasad, S.Shyam (2018). Enigmas of Karnataka: Mystery meets History. Chennai: Notion Press. ISBN 9781642491227.:"In the 17th Century, Chikkadevaraja created the Urs caste and classified it into 31 clans. Of these, 13 clans were deemed superior, while the remaining 18 were placed lower in the hierarchy. This latter comprised ruling families in the domain he was rapidly expanding. The most populous caste in this region, the Gowdas (the caste name Vokkaliga was later affixed to it during the British Census), clearly had more families in the ruling classes. But that did not deter Chikkadevaraja from omitting them from the new caste of 'Urs' that he had created."
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  19. ^ Frankel, Francine R; Rao, M. S. A (1989), Dominance and state power in modern India : decline of a social order / editors, Francine R. Frankel, M.S.A. Rao, Oxford University Press, p. 330, ISBN 0195620984:”The Lingayats and Vokkaligas enjoyed an unwritten and unspoken but very real promise of non-interference from the states princely rulers who came from a cow-herding jati-indeed, some believe that they were originally potters, an even humbler caste-and who now claimed Kshatriya status.”-James Manor
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  64. ^ Punja, P. R. Ranganatha (1948). India's legacy, the world's heritage : Dravidian. 1. Mangalore: Basel Mission Book Depot. p. 123.:”Like the Nairs in Malabar , the Bunts and Tulu Gowdas in Canara and the Vakkaligas ' and Gowdas of Nagara , the Coorgs are : in the brahminical scale - Sudra’s”
  65. ^ Dirks, Nicholas B. (2001). Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 203.:"Varna was evacuated of meaning and utility even as it seemed the obvious ordering principle. In order to deal with the pitfalls of varna, Waterfield attempted a desultory inven- tory of different important castes in discrete regions of India. He mentions the Babhans of Behar, the Kayasths of Bengal, the Buniyas across India, the Chandals of eastern Bengal, the Aheers and Chamars of the Northwest and of Oudh, the Koormees of Bengal and the Central Provinces, the Wakkaleegas of Mysore, and, from Madras, the Vellalars, Chetties, and Vunniars. Waterfield complained that the use of occupations in Madras was invariably misleading, as it "must not be supposed that even a majority of any particular caste now follow the occupation according to which they are thus arranged."
  66. ^ Prasad, S.Shyam (2018). Enigmas of Karnataka: Mystery meets History. Chennai: Notion Press. ISBN 9781642491227.:"In the 17th Century, Chikkadevaraja created the Urs caste and classified it into 31 clans. Of these, 13 clans were deemed superior, while the remaining 18 were placed lower in the hierarchy. This latter comprised ruling families in the domain he was rapidly expanding. The most populous caste in this region, the Gowdas (the caste name Vokkaliga was later affixed to it during the British Census), clearly had more families in the ruling classes."
  67. ^ Shetty, Sadanand Ramakrishna (1994). Banavasi Through the Ages. Banavasi (India): Printwell. p. 121.:"The community of the land tillers or agriculturists was known as vokkaligas. The importance given to the cultivation of land is amply demonstrated by the fact that numerous tanks were dug and irrigational facilities were provided at various places. Some of the Rashtrakuta inscriptions found in the Banavasimandala carry the depiction of a plough at the top. There is a view that the Rashtrakutas were originally prosperous cultivators, who later on dominated the political scene. Some of the inscriptions refer to them as Kutumbinah which is interpreted as meaning cultivators."
  68. ^ Report of the second backward classes commission. 3. Bangalore: Government of Karnataka. 1986. p. 48.: "Vokkaligas are the landed gentry and the agriculturist caste of Karnataka."
  69. ^ Biswal, S.K.; Kusuma, K.S.; Mohanty, S. (2020). Handbook of Research on Social and Cultural Dynamics in Indian Cinema. Hershey PA, USA: Information Science Reference, an imprint of IGI Global. p. 46. ISBN 9781799835141.:"Though the Vokkaliga community enjoyed the status of Chieftains and landlords as well as Zamindars, a lot of them were small landholding farmers."
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