During the British Raj they were known as Ratsas and Rajavars, which means of or belonging to the caste of Ratsawars (Raja Caste), using the title of Raju. Some sections have centuries old history of being nobility while the bulk of the community has a history of being large landholding agriculturalist-warriors. Many were hereditary Barons known as Mandaleshwars in the pre-Islamic era and as Zamindars or Jagirdars during the Nizams and British era, the most prominent being the Gajapathi Kings of Vizianagaram, Karvetinagar, Peddapuram and Anegundi, the direct descendents of the Vijayanagar Aravidu Dynasty.
They make up around 2 percent of the Andhra Pradesh state population,concentrated mainly in the Coastal Andhra region with pockets in the Rayalaseema and Telangana as well as the North Arcot and Rajapalayam of Tamil Nadu, Bellary of Karnataka and Ganjam of Orissa. Despite their small population they do have some political influence due to the wealth they obtained from taking advantage of the advances in agricultural techniques during the green revolution and the importance placed on educational after the land ceiling act.
Rajus use Raju or Varma in the Andhra regions and Deo in the Orissa regions as an agnomen for their last name. Varma in Sanskrit means Armor, Protection and Deo in Sanskrit means God or Lord. In Telugu tradition the family name is written first followed by the given name and then the caste title. For example name of Alluri Sita Rama Raju, a prominent freedom fighter in the mid 19th century, is interpreted as Sita Ram of the Alluri family and Raju for Kshatriya Raju caste. Similarly name of Penmatsa Ram Gopal Varma, a prominent Bollywood and Tollywood movie director-producer, is interpreted as Ram Gopal of the Penmatsa family and Varma for Kshatriya Raju caste.
Regarding this community Edgar Thurston in his seven volume Castes and Tribes of Southern India writes...The Maharajas of Vizianagaram claim to be Kshatriyas from the Rajputana and the leaders of the people of gotrams said to have come to the Northern Circars centuries ago. It is noted in connection with the battle of Padmanabham in the Visakhapatnam district (1794 AD) that Rajputs formed a rampart round the corpse of Vijay Rama Raju. Padmanabham will long be remembered as the Flodden of the Rajputs of Vizianagaram...'as a class they are the handsomest and best developed men in the country and differ so much in feature and build from other Hindus that they may usually be distinguished at a glance...they are mostly Vaishnavites, and their priests are Brahmans...Rajus of course assume the sacred thread, and are very proud and particular in their conduct, though meat eating is allowed...In all the more well-to-do families the females are kept in strict seclusion...Brahmanical rites of Punya Havachanam (Purification), Jata Karma (Birth ceremony), Nama Karanam (Naming ceremony), Chaulam (Tonsure), and Upanayanam (Thread ceremony) are performed...at weddings the Kasi Yatra (Mock flight to Benares) or Snatha Kavritham is performed...the custom of sending a sword to represent an unavoidably absent bridegroom at a wedding is not uncommon...at their wedding they worship a sword, which is a ceremony usually denoting a soldier caste...they use a wrist string made of cotton and wool, the combination peculiar to Kshatriyas, to tie the wrists of the happy couple...'in some villages, Rajus seem to object to the construction of a pial, or raised platform, in front of their houses. The pial is the lounging place where visitors are received by day. The Rajus claim to be Kshatriyas so other castes should not sit in their presence...
Historically South Indian royal families of Kshatriyas (Rajus) had marital relationship with Central and North Indian royal families, like Rajas of Vizianagaram, Salur and Kurupam had marital relationships with Rajputana royal families.
The history of South India and the Puranas like reveal that the Andhra Kshatriyas or Kshatriyas of Andhra Pradesh descended from the Aryavarta(North India) to the South due to internal conflicts, foreign invasions, famine etc. Vayu Purana, Buddhist and Jain literatures mention about migration of Ikshvakus/ Kshatriyas to South India.
Some historians and traditional accounts link Rajus to ancient Andhra Ikshvakus, which was the first Kshatriya kingdom in Andhra which ruled during 2nd and 3rd Centuries CE and are purportedly linked to ancient Ikshvakus of Kosala, but this Ikshvaku origin of Rajus does not have strong evidences and needs to be further verified.
According to most historians and by the inscriptional and folklore evidences of Paricchedi and Chagi ruling clans, during 4th - 5th century AD few Suryavanshi Kshatriyas of four clans travelled from North India to South, where they initially worked as feudatories of Vakataka before establishing Vishnukundina Kingdom. While Chandravanshi Kshatriyas of Andhra are said to be descendents of Eastern Chalukyas and few other Kshatriya dynasties. According to legends, the Kshatriya sage Agastya was instrumental in spreading the Aryan culture from North India to the South in Ancient period.
Basing on ancient inscriptions, traditional accounts and the Historians Kshatriya Rajus of Andhra are said to be descendents of the following ancient clans:
A poem called Sri Krishna-vijayam dated 1540 A.D. tells of a migration of these four clans to Telingana led by Madhav Varma. While Rajus of Coastal Andhra and Rajapalayam have above four gotras, the Rajus of Karnataka also have three additional gotras:
A book entitled Sri Andhra Kshatriyalu Vamsha Ratnakaram elaborates on the traditional accounts and genealogy of the Kshatriya Raju community of Coastal Andhra and was written by Varahala Raju Buddharaju in Telugu. This book gives genealogy details of the 109 surnames of Andhra Kshatriya Rajus and there Four gotras.
Vishnukundinas, one of the ancient clans that ruled in Andhra Pradesh from 5th to 7th centuries. It is believed that Vishnukundina Madhava Varma along with members of the other three gotras conquered the Salankayanas and established there rule. Some of the feudal kingoms of this time were the Kotas, Chagis, and Paricchedi.
The Paricchedis Kings were ancestors of the Pusapati royal family who built Bezawada (Modern Vijayawada) off the river Krishna by 626 AD and another capital in Kollipaka establishing themselves for nine centuries there. They were staunch patrons of Hindu Dharma in contrast to the Chalukyas, who initially were patrons of Jainism. The family name was changed to Pusapati after moving to the coastal region. The name is derived from the Sanskrit Pushavat (Pushan), meaning of the sun, to highlight their Suryavanshi lineage. They founded the city of Vizianagaram, named after Vijay Rama Raju, spelled with a Z to differentiate it from the Vijayanagar Dynasty in Hampi. They obtained the title of Gajapathi, after the battle of Nandapur, in the northern circars in the 16th century.
The Raju families of Rajapalayam are descendents of families led by the brother of the Vizianagaram Maharaja, Pusapati Chinna Raju, who initially settled at Kila-raja-kula-raman and then moved their settlements to Rajapalayam. The original emigrants served under Chokkanath Nayak, king of Madurai. They purchased land from Vijay Ranga Chokkanath Nayak and constructed Rajapalayam in 1885. The word palayam is frequently used in many Tamil cities as a suffix and it translates roughly to Fort.
Chalukyas were a royal dynasty that succeeded the Vishnukundinas and ruled large parts of southern and central India between 550 and 750, and again between 973 and 1190. As early as the first century, they were mentioned as being vassals and chieftains under the Satavahana rule. Historians generally agree that the Chalukyas originated from Karnataka, were led into Andhra by Pulakesi II, who appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as his Viceroy. On death of Pulakesi II, Kubja Vishnuvardhana declared himself king of the Eastern deccan and his dynasty was known as the Eastern Chalukyas. The Western Chalukyas were the forfathers of the Solankis of Gujarat.
The Eastern Chalukyas, also known as Vengi Chalukyas parceled out their territory into many small principalities (estates) held by the nobility consisting of collateral branches of the ruling house of Elamanchili, Pithapuram and Mudigonda. The Eastern Chalukyas who were Chandravanshi Kshatriyas were closely connected by marriage ties with other Kshatriya families (Kona Haihayas (Heheya, Kalachuris), Kolanu Saronathas, Chagis, Parichedas and Kota Vamsas etc.)
The Matsyas, Chedis, Haihayas and Kalachuris seem to share a common mythylogical and historical background with possible ancestry links to ancient Matsya Desa. The Chedis (A.K.A. Haihaya, Kalachuri) eventually became the Chodarajus of Kona. Historians such as Dr. P.B. Desai are emphatic about the central Indian origin of the Karnataka Kalachuris who are also referred to as Katachuris (shape of a sharp knife), Kalanjara-pura-vara-dhis-vara (Lord of Kalanjara) and Haihaya (Heheya). Mount Kalanjara is in north central India, east of the Indus Valley floodplain.
Historians have also pointed out that several Kalachuri kings were related to Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances and had ruled from places like Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur. By the time they are mentioned in the Telugu epic Battle of Palnadu, they are referred to as the Haihaya family of the Kona region (Amalapuram and Razole taluqs of the present East Godavari District), and the Haihaya family of Palanadu, feudatories of the Chalukyas. The Kona Chiefs later took the title of Chodas, loyal governors for the newly formed Chola-Chalukya empire. Their gotra is Kasyapa.
The Kota kings, Kshatriyas of Dhananjya gotra ruled from Dharanikota during the 11th and 12th century AD. Last King of this dynasty was Kota Betaraja. The Jampana, Dantuluri, Uppalapati, Pakalapati and Nallaparaju royal families of Dhananjaya Gotra, who were Zamindars of Rama-Chandra-Puram, Mogalthur, Kotapalli, Ghandavaram, Kuppili, Moida and Mutta Talaga Chirala, of which the current direct descendent is actor turned politician Krishnam Raju Uppalapathi, uncle of popular Telugu actor Prabas Uppalapathi, all claim descent from this ancient dynasty.
The Chagis have been around since the Chalukyas at least and possible the 6th or 7th century. They were mentioned as subordinate Chiefs of the Chalukyas and Kakatiyas. In Yanama-lakud-uru, south of Bezawada and inscription is left in honor of Tulukam Velnadu Sagi Doraya Raju dated 1215 A.D. In 1246 inscriptions describe the reign of Chagi Manma Raju and in 1230 grants by Chagi Pota Raju. An inscription in Gudimetla on a fort dated around 1268 A.D. during the reign of Kakatiya Rudrama Devi Maharaju states that Sagi Pota Raju was her commander in chief. Sagi Gannama was a governor under Vira Pratapa Purushottama Gajapati (AD 1462-1496). He built a hill fort in Vinukonda. This fort was captured by Krishna Deva Raya. Munagalapalle south of Nandigama.
The royals of Kota Uratla and Thangedu royal families claim to be descendents of the Chagis, with their name changing over time to Sagi. The founder of Peddapuram line of kings was Sagi Potha Raju who participated in the battle of Palnadu in 1178-1182. The family attained the title of Jagapati in the 16th century and changed their surname to Vatsavai in honor of a fort during the times of Vatsavayi Timma Raju 1555-1607.
All these clans were important participants in the battle of Palnadu which turned out to be a battle over social changes. In it a Brahma Naidu sought the cooperation of all the royal families to bring about social change to do away with caste distinctions and bring about a more egalitarian society. He was opposed by the Chalukyas and especially the Haihayas as well as their loyal supports who wanted to keep the current rigid social system that was being practiced. It was supposedly a very bloody battle in which Brahma Naidu's faction lost but in the long run it brought about the demise of the caste system as it was practiced amongst Telugu royals.
The Eastern Chalukyas through marital alliances merged into the Cholas and ruled from 1076 C.E to 1019 C.E as Chalukya-Cholas and finally lost control to the Kakatiyas.
There were few Kshatriya kingdoms in Kakatiya period. The Chagis, Kota Kings and Paricchedis continued to hold onto their regions albeit as subordinate rulers of Kakatiyas. There are inscriptions during Kakatiya rule mentioning Pericheda Bhimaraju splitting lordship of the Guntur region with Kota kings, the Chodarajus were ruling in Narasaraopeta, the Sagis were described as Kshatriyas ruling with Gudimetal as their capital and a Rudraraju was the General of Nathavadi region allied to the Kakatiyas.
The Kakatiyas were from the Sudra clan, after Kakatiya King Ganapatideva married his two daughters into two Kshatriya family clans (Chalukyas and Kotas), Kakatiyas started claiming Kshatriya status as evidenced by an inscription found in Guntur District. Ganapatideva's first daughter Rudramadevi was married to Veerabhadra, Eastern Chalukyan prince of Nidadavolu and his second daughter Ganapamba was married to Kota Betaraja. But the exact caste affinity of Kakatiyas to any present caste is still unknown.
See Inscriptions, to see some of the many archived inscriptions click this link.
The region between Cuttack and Vijayawada was known as Kalinga (ancient Orissa), and was controlled often by the Oriya rulers the Eastern Gangas of the Vashistha gotra. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinga-nagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam Andhra Pradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 12th century. The Eastern Gangas were succeeded by the Suryavanshi Gajapati rulers.
The Bhoi and Suryavanshi Gajapatis of Orissa, on the height of their power in the 15th century, ruled over a kingdom extending from the Ganga river in the north to the Kaveri in the south under Gajapati Kapilendra Deva. But by the early 16th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golconda. During the Gajapathi reign an inscription mentions a Bhupathiraju Vallabha Raju Mahapatra in Chodavaram.
It was common for the Zamindari families of the border region of Orissa and Andhra to have alliances. Early on they actually sided with the Gajapathis against the Vijayanagar Empire. There was a notable exception with inscriptional confirmation of two Kshatriya generals fighting on the side of Krishna Deva Raya. Of the modern clans, the Virycharla royals of Kurupam and the Satrucharla clan of Salur have more in common with the Orissa royals, who claim descent from the Gajapathi and Ganga Dynasties, then they do with the Godavari clans.
The Rajas of Kurupam are related through marriage to Jeypore Royal family, Bhanj dynasty of Daspalla princely state,Parmar dynasty of Gangpur princely state of Orissa and Kacchawa dynasty of Talcher princely state of Orissa founded in the 12th century.
Out of the four clans that ruled the Vijayanagara empire, two clans Saluva Dynasty and Aravidu Dynasty claimed to be of the Kshatriya Varna. Raja Achutya Deva Raya was extensively interviewed by Robert Sewell in order to help him in research for his book, and is acknowledged by the Government of Karnataka as the direct descendant of this line. In his royal biography he takes on the title of Zamindar of Anegundi, Senior Representative of the Royal House of Vijayanagar, born 4th August 1936, adoptive son of Rani Lal Kumari, Guru (Religious Head) of the Hindu Kshatriya Community, enjoys the customary privileges and honors at Hampi Temple and at Anegondi Temple, during all religious functions as well as Muslim festivals. His family states they are of the Kshatriya Raju caste and marry among Telugu speaking Kshatriya Rajus settled in this area.
Raju families such as the Chodarajus, Nandyalas, Madirajus, Tirumalarajus, Gobburis, Saluvas (Bommarajus) of Karvetinagar, the Rajas of Owk and Matla Chiefs were all at one time or other, relatives of the Aravidu dynasty. All of these families still live in and around the Hampi area.
The current Bommaraju family of Karvetinagar are of Kshatriya Raju caste and trace their origins back to an ancestor who migrated from the Pithapuram area of the Godavari Delta about the 8th or 9th century. One ancestor obtained the favor of the Eastern Chalukya King, Vimala Aditya and Saluva Narasa was appointed the Chief of the region around Tirupati, where he founded a town called Narasapuram. The founder of the family Narasa was granted permission by his patron, the Chalukyas, to use the royal seal and boar-signet of the Chalukyas, a proud distinction still kept up. The family became feudatories of Vijayanagar, and had marriage alliances with the Saluva and loyalties to the Aravidu dynasties over the next two hundred years. Around the 16th century the family changed their name to the current Bommaraju, retaining Saluva as a title.
The Sultans, Nizams and British all employed Rajus and other prominent castes of Andhra as the governors of estates with the responsibility of collecting taxes. In 1857 the British broke up the estates and realigned the bigger brigands into Princely states and the lesser ones as Zamindars or Jagirdars. These zamindars were abolished after the formation of the Indian Union in 1947.