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Updated on September 05, 2011



When one looks into the ethnographical sketch of India, it is almost surprising to note that various castes and sects had ruled the nation. They have been associated with politics, economics, theology, culture and so on. Nowadays, the study of history is mostly associated with the political condition of a nation along with the socio, economic structure of a particular society. Again the study of history is mainly related to events, rituals and taboos that took place in a particular society. Study of history is meaningless if it have not been related to the development of societies, castes or creeds.

The history of India too is viewed abundantly based upon Rastrakutas, Kakathiyas, Chalukyas, Pallavas, Guptas, Mauryas, Rajputs, Mogals, Khilji, Lodi, Cholas, Cheras, Pandhyas, Nayakas, Sultans etc. Besides these it has been stated that India is always a breeding ground for castes. In India almost three thousands castes have been identified by historians and each one has it’s own, culture, tradition, background and religious worships.


The word caste derived from the Spanish word ‘Casta’ which means a breed, race or a complex of hereditary qualities. The portuguese applied this term to different classes of people in India known as ‘jati’. There have been several other definitions too attributed to the word ‘Caste’. According to E.A.H. Blunt “Caste endogamous groups bearing a common name, membership of which is hereditary. The existing caste system comes into being when it be comes an integral part of religious dogma which divides the people into superior and to interior groups with different responsibilities functions and standards of living”.


There are differences of opinion among scholars with regard to the origin of the caste system although it is admitted that on all ground it is an ancient institution in India. The origin of the caste system in India is based on two important disciplines or race namely, the Aryans, non Aryans. It is in fact based on colour consciousness and as a result caste system has evolved to establish the supremacy of the blood, life, culture, society, polity and so on. In ancient studies, the term, ‘Varna’ refers to four important Varnas maintained by manu. They are Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Sudras. They were actually names of classes rather than of castes during the pre-historic period. In the Buddhistic literature, Varna is identified with the colour of the garment that the people wear. According to Varnashrama, white for Brahmans, red for the Kshatriyas, yellow for Vaisya and that of the Sudra black. In the Kshatriya class, there were so many prominent castes and Reddiars are one among them.


Reddiars the major form the thriving communities of India significant since medieval period. Their beginning start with Kapus. According to H.A. Stuart, “The term Kapu means watchman and Reddi means king”. Kapu was a powerful Dravidian tribe in the early centuries of Christian era. Regarding their origin the earliest portion of the Kohan chronicle and Mackenzie collection give much information about the reign of 28 rulers. In the Telugu districts they were land holding community, held much respects next to Brahmins.
According to Rev.J. Foulks the Reddis are called under various names eg, 1 Rattu, 1 Ruth, Ratta, Reddi etc. Dr. Burnell points out that the family of Reddis belong to Dravidian origin, and states Rashtraas an instance of Sankritisasiton of Dravidian names. He considers their name to be a mythological perversion of ‘Ratta’, which is as same as Kanharese and Telugu ‘Reddi’. In the second century A.D. and in the next historical references to them, one can find them high up in the Northern Dekkan amongst kingdom conquered by the Chalukkiars about the fourth century A.D.

J.F. Fleet writes that Reddy’s first appearance found at Kanarese of Bombay in the fifth century A.D. They were interrupted with the attack of the Pallavas and other rulers during the eighth century A.D. Afterwards their rule stopped for a while due to the invasion of Rastrakuta kings. It was difficult to say, who was the first Rastrakuta king ruled.

The earliest notice about the Reddy family were found in the Western chalukya inscription. The Miraj plate inscription says that, Jayasimha I resorted the fortunes of Chalukya dynasty by defeating other rulers the Rashta kutas – Krishna, an illustrious son of Rashtrakuta family, who possessed 800 elephants. According to Meguti inscription. Appayika Govinda, had invaded the chalukya kingdom but later he was repulsed by Pulikesi II. During the fifth and sixth century A.D., the Rastrakuta dynasty commanded considerable importance in central and Northern India. Subsequently other inscriptions also depicts that Rastrakutas were descendants of yadu, the family of Dravidian origin. It is believed that; ‘Rashtras’ as instance of the Sanskritising of Dravidian names.

The Reddy dynasty emerged into prominence in due course of time at Kondavidu after the decline of the Kakatya kingdom. From 1420 to 1424, Virabadra Reddi son of general Alladi Reddi succeeded Katyavema at Rajahmudry shed peace with Rayas and Gangas of Kalinga. The Gangas and Rayas attacked Rajahmundry frequently and the kingdom finally fell as an easy prey to the Gajapathis in 1445 A.D. After becoming popular in India, especially Madras presidency they spread their tentacles towards South, ie places of Tamil Nadu. According to Stuart, their castes subdivisions were recorded in the places of Madurai and Tirunelveli.


Reddiars or Kapus are the largest caste in the Madras Presidency, numbering more than two million. The Reddiars are an agricultural class speaking Telugu and followed the Hindu religion as other Telugu castes. They were the caste of cultivators and farmers of Telugu country. This community was very prominent in Andhra Pradesh from where it spread its sphere of influence to neighbouring states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka they were called as okelyas. In Tamil Nadu they spread their tentacles during 13th and 14th centuries A.D., due to oppression of the Bahmini Muslim dynasty. By that time, Muslims spread their sphere of influence from north India to south India by means of plundering expeditions and unlawful encroachments. Their main aim was to spread islam by all means and to bring India under one banner of islam. This led to a section of the Reddiars to switch over to neighbouring states.
Besides this, the mass exodus of Reddiars, emenated due to the frequent monsoon failures, acute drought and famine. Since most of the Reddiar Community resorted to agriculture, they could not tolerate these maladies and proceeded towards neighbouring places for their livelyhood. As a result they settled wherever they received good fortune. As they had been migrated, group by group, it was very easy for them to lead a happy and prosperous life where they settled and derived their distinct culture of their own. They were Telugu speaking people maintained their distinct identity from all other people.

It was during the downfall of the Vijayanagar empire, the Bahmini sultans ravaged the Hindu territories and resorted to them of untold sufferings. Their belongings were plundered, and several people of Vijayanagaram country were butchered mercilessly when the plundering epoch continued, the natives became helpless and resorted to mass exodus to neighbouring states. Consequently several kingdom ruled under Krishnadevaraya in Madurai, Chengi, Tirchi, etc declared independence. These places were ruled by the veteran rulers such as Thirumalai Nayak, Reghunatha Nayak, Krishnappa Nayak who encouraged the Telugu men under their shadow and extended them all sorts of assistances. As a result of it many of the natives were accommodated in their military and they were made as to fight against Mysore, Sethupathi’s of Ramnad and Travancore rulers. The Nayaks gave preference to the Telugu people in the day today administration and governmental affairs. Lot of lands were presented to them as free gifts. So during their administration, most of the lands came under the direct control of the Telugu speaking people. In course of time the Telugu people became prosperous and were called as land owning people in Tamil Nadu. They commanded much respect in the society.

After attaining growth in their areas they concentrated their attention upon the neighbouring districts like Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli, Madurai, Trichi, Dharapuri etc. They permanently settled in these areas and developed the culture of their own. They flourished along with their agricultural works.

During the British administration the Telugu people, especially the Reddiars became prosperous as a result of their welfares measures and reforms activities. The British consolidated the principalities of Madras presidency for the easy administration. The consolidation of British administration under Madras presidency made easy for all the people of the region to migrate easily from one place to another. Naturally the Telugu people freely moved from one place to another for their food and shelter. Being prosperous they were devoid of any hurdles or obstruction for their settlement in any of the places in the presidency. Hence, the Reddiar Community, the prominent among the Telugu speaking established their families at the suburbs ofVirudhunagar, Tirunelveli, Ramnad, Kamudhi, Trichi, South Arcot, North Arcot, Hosur and other places.


1. Ray Choudhary, S.C., Social, cultural and economic history of India, New Delhi, 2005. pp.117-122.
2. Vidhya Bushan, D.R., Sachdeva, An introduction to Sociology, 31st (ed.), Allagabad, 1988, p.369.
3. Ibid., p.369.
4. Pillai, G.K., Origin and Development of Caste, Allahabad, 1958, pp.41-42.
5. Ob.cit. – p.224.
6. Singh, K.S., People of India series Volume VI India’s Communities, N-Z. Anthropological Survey of India, New Delhi, 1998, pp.3005-3008.
7. Ranga chari, K., Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Edgar Thurston, Vol-III-K, New Delhi, 1909, p.227.
8. Ibid., p.227.
9. Ibid., p.224.
10. Ibid., p.225.
11. Talboys Wheeler, Madras on older Times, Madras, 1861, p.41.
12. Ibid., p.226.
13. Rangachari, K., Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Edgar Thurston, Vol-III-K, New Delhi, 1909, p.223.
14. Ramaswami, A., Tamil Nadu District Gazetteers, Ramanathapuram (Gazetteers of India), Madras, 1972, p.145.
15. Reprot, Census of the Madras Presidings 1871, Madras 1874, pp.145-146.
16. Nilakanta Sastri, K.A., Advanced History of India; Madras, 1970, p.402.
17. Nilakanta Sastri, K.A., A History of South India; Madras, 1966, p.295.
18. Ramaswami, A., Tamil Nadu District Gazetteers Ramanathapuram, Madras, 1972, pp. 82-85.
19. Rao, P.R., History of Modern Andhra, New Delhi, 1980, p.118.
20. Mangalamurugesan, N.K., Self respect movement in Tamil Nadu, 1920 – 1940, Madurai, 1985, p.161.
21. Ramasamy, A., Gazetteer of India Tamil Nadu state, Ramanathapurm (e.d.), Madras, 1972, 145.
22. Rao, P.R., History of modern Andhra, New Delhi, 1980, p.118.


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      Ramkumar 3 years ago

      Hi, I being a Reddiar knew my family antecedents only fromTamil Nadu, thanks for such an informative piece.

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      To promote the wellbeing of the Reddy Community in Tamil Nadu and safeguard the rights and interests.We are working for the community since 1997.Later we Registered our organization with Tamil Nadu Government in the year 2001, our registration No.219/2001.

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      M.Madhavan 2 years ago

      since i am 50 years old, i think we are from andhra but we do no the history i read the above basically know above reddiar history

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      manjula 12 months ago

      I wish to know the origin of kumbakonam reddy

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