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Kapu (caste)

Kapu (Telugu కాపు) The word Kapu or Kaapu in Telugu means protector and refers to a community or social grouping found primarily in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. They speak Telugu and are primarily an agrarian community. They are also referred by their Caste title 'Naidu' . Naidu means 'leader'.

Kapu community is also found in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Chattisgarh. They constitute about 25% percent of the population of Andhra Pradesh, making them the single largest community in the state.

Origin

There are several theories regarding the origin of the Kapu and sone are listed below

  • Kapus were the earliest inhabitants of the Deccan region, people who migrated from the north, cleared forests for agriculture and built settlements.
  • Kapu are descendants of the Kaampu tribe, who migrated from Kampilya (near Ayodhya). Ancestors of the Kapu are mentioned in ancient texts (also referred to as the Kossar tribe).
  • Kapus are too large and geographically dispersed a community to determine one ethnic root or origin but like many Telugu communities, is culturally and linguistically Dravidian.

But their Origin's and settlement patterns show an Aryan connection.

  • The Kapu community has origin's similar to the Kurmi, Kunbis and Maratha castes.
  • Ancient India was originally inhabited by non-Dravidian, non-Aryan aboriginal hunter/gathering tribes, still found throughout India. Dravidians then migrated to the region and founded the Harappan society. Centuries later, Indo-Aryans arrived and eventually mingled with the Dravidians settled in the Ganges plain. The Kapus are the earliest descendants of this mixed race of people which migrated south of the Vindhya range.
  • Kapus formed the bedrock of Telugu society and was certainly the mother of all the subcastes of this community. In the villages, small and medium scale farmers were the majority and referred to themselves as Palle Kapu (Farmer). Amongst the larger landowners a leader was picked and was given the title of Pedda Kapu or Reddy. Amongst the rest, trusted individuals were picked by these Pedda Kapus to protect the village and called Vuuru Kapu/Prantha Kapus. Others were picked to protect the livestock and Farms and were called Panta Kapus.
  • Kapus engaged in trade were referred to as Balija. Balijas engaged solely in trade were referred to by the title of Setty. Balijas organized themselves into trading guilds, which referred to themselves by whatever product in which they specialized (e.g. traders in glass were referred to as Gajula Balijas.) Similarly, Balijas who served within enclosed fortifications came to be called Kota Balijas and Balijas who protected trading caravans were called as Balija Naidus.
  • Kapu subcastes dedicated to military service include Ontaris (who served as Special Forces) and Munnuru Kapus. The Telagas were the commanders of the Chalukyas who became fuedatories and vassals of the Chola Dynasty and the Eastern Chalukyas such as the Velanati Chodas. Many Telagas served in the armies of the Vijayanagar Kings, Nayaks of Madhurai, Tanjore and Kandi.
  • Because of the wealth and influence enjoyed by them they were appointed as as tax collectors and administrators by the ruling clans and given the title of Nayaka, which eventually became Naidu.
  • A significant number of Kapus in the modern time have diversified into industry, films and academia. However, a large segment of the population is quite poor.

Sub Castes

The following are Kapu castes and they simply prefer to be called "Kapus". Naidu is their caste name as well as the title.

Kapu

The Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh is located predominantly in the coastal districts and they are found in large numbers in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Orissa. It is probably the oldest middle caste in South India and forms the bedrock of Telugu society. They have the caste title "Naidu", which is a derivation of the word "Nayaka" (meaning "leader"), which was first used during the era of Vishnukundina period, which ruled from the Krishna and Godavari river deltas during the 3rd Century A.D.

Occupation

  • The Kapu community served during the medieval ages as warriors or protectors of villages and regions from bandits or invading forces.
  • During times of peace, warriors who stayed close to villages served as village heads or practiced agriculture.
  • During times of war, they served as soldiers, governors (i.e. Nayaks) and commanders in armies of many south Indian dynasties.
  • The modern day Kapu community is predominantly agrarian, but some have diversified into business, industry, films, academia, and IT.

Some Kapu names are associated with occupations practiced during the medieval period:

  • village and area defence committees (Vuuru Kapu, Pranta Kapu)
  • administration (Chinna Kapu,Pedda Kapu/Reddy)
  • responsible for protecting farms and livestock from bandits (Panta Kapu).

Agricultural laborers refer to landlords as Kapu. Landlords and farmers who served as village heads are also given the title "Pedda Kapu" or "Reddy". This is why the title Reddy is found not only in the separate Reddy caste but also among the Kapu / Balija / Telaga / Munnuru Kapu castes. It is a title used in many castes by members who are landowners. Another point of confusion is that the Reddy community refers to themselves as Kapus in Rayalaseema and Telangana. Here the Kapu community is referred to as Balija / Balija Naidu.

Branches

  • Pakanati (eastern territory)
  • Nagaralu, which means the "dwellers in a nagaram" (i.e. city).
  • Patrulu
  • Telaganati(Telaga)
  • Simhapuri (Balija/Reddy)
  • Velanati
  • Oruganti
  • Neravati
  • Pedakanti (narollu)
  • Naagali
  • namadarlu
  • modikarlu
  • Mungaru
  • Mogili
  • Mekala
  • Moosu kamma
  • Chalukya Kapu
  • Koraganji
  • Makena
  • Gandla
  • rayalam(royal)

Balija or Balja Naidu

Balijas/Balija Naidu are found in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The term Balija is a Telugu derivative of the Sanskrit word, Vanijya, meaning merchant. Balijas are the merchant branch of the Kapu caste, with subcastes based on occupation (members who are purely merchants use the title "Setty".) Balija's also have a warrior branch whose members use the title Naidu. Some Balija Naidu families were appointed to supervise provinces as Nayaks (governors, Commanders) by the Kakatiya and Vijayanagaram Kings and, after these empires lost power, they continued to rule parts of southern Andhra Pradesh and northern Tamil Nadu independently. This includes the Madurai Nayaks, Tanjavur Nayaks, and the last rulers of Sri Lanka, the Kandy Nayaks, before the British occupied Sri Lanka.

There is regional variation in the Balija community as to how they call themselves. In coastal Andhra, they call themselves Kapu/Telaga, Munnuru Kapu in Telangana, and in Rayalaseema they are referred to as Balija / Setty Balija / Balija Naidu / Naidu. Interestingly in these areas Kapus call themselves Reddy, however they use Naidu in their names.

Origins

As per one theory the Balija branch of Kapus migrated from Balijipeta, Srikakulam District and arose by social changes that occurred among some sections of Telugu society. The Encyclopedia of World History states, “ Balijas were originally part of the great Telugu migrations southward into the Tamil country in the 15th and 16th centuries, Balija merchant-warriors who claimed these Nayaka positions rose to political and cultural power and supported an ethos that emphasized non-ascriptive, heroic criteria in legitimizing political power. The new egalitarian ethos made it easier for claimants from a variety of communities to succeed to political control".

Veera Balaingyas were mentioned in Kakatiya inscriptions as powerful tax collectors and wealthy merchants who were highly respected in Kakatiyan society and used the title Setty. They are previosly known as ayyavolu/ihole kshatriyas/lords. Kasturi Nayadu and Peda Koneti Nayudu of the Vasarasi family belonged to the Balija subcaste, and ruled some provinces. The first Rebellion against British Rule was launched by another famous Balija Nayak Katta Bomma Naicker in Tamil Nadu long before the Sepoy Mutiny in Bengal.

It is believed that Vijayanagar emperor Krishna Deva Raya had a Balija origin. In Edgar Thurston's "Castes And Tribes of Southern India" and R.V.Russell's "The Tribes and Castes of Central Provinces of India", the ruling clans of Vijayanagar, Madurai and Thanjavur came from the Balija caste. According to Kante Narayana Desayi's, "Balijakula Charithra", Kings of Vijayanagar, Madurai, Thanjavur, Khandi (Kandy) and Thundeera (Gingee/Chenchi) were interrelated and belonged to Balija caste.

Branches

  • Setty Balija: These were traders and merchants of the Kakatiya dynasty. There was mention of some very old trading guilds concentrated in Bellary, Karnataka. Historian's suggest this was the first branch in Balijas.
  • Balija Naidu: A derivation of the term Balija Nayakulu. This sub caste formed during the Kakatiya dynasty time, primarily to protect the Balija / Setty trading caravans from bandits. The current Anantapur Dt and Nellore Dt were ruled by Balijas.
  • Kota Balijas: The Madurai Nayaksand the Tanjavore Nayaks are from this lineage. Kandy Nayaks were descendants of Madurai Nayaks.
  • Gajula Balija/Sugavansi Balija: Myth is that Siva’s wife Parvati made a penance in order to look beautiful for Siva and the person that brought her bangles was the ancestor of the Gajula Balija.
  • Kavarai (Kavara Balija Naidu/Gavara Balija Naidu): "Kavarai is the name for Balijas (Telugu trading caste), who have settled in the Tamil country" as per Thurston. Kavarais call themselves Balijas (Born from fire). They use the titles Naidu, Nayakkan, Chetti or Setti and Nayak. According to Jogendranath Bhattacharya in "Hindu Castes and Sects" though Kavarais were originally devoted entirely to agriculture,in the capacity of land owners, and their lands were cultivated by inferior castes,they were also involved in the other professions such as trading,sailing etc.Gajula Balija is the largest sub-division of Kavarais. The equivalent name for Gajula Balija in Tamil is Valaiyal Chetti. The meaning of Tamil name Valaiyal in Telugu is Gajulu (Bangles). Gajula Balijas attained this name as they were involved in manufacturing and selling bangles initially though they made their mark in various other fields later.The other branch of the Kavarais is Kambalattars(Thottiyars/Thottiyans). Kambalattars were originally the Telugu speaking cultivators that had migrated from Telugu and Karnataka lands to Western parts of Madura Country in sixteenth century during the reign of Madurai Nayaks.They had found employment in Madurai Balija Nayak dynasty and even got promoted as Poligars. Veerapandiya Kattabomman Naicker belonged to this branch of Balija caste (Rajakambala Balija).Kambalattars primarily practiced Vaishnavism.They were known to be energetic and industrious people.



  • Rajamahendravaram Balija or Musu Kamma Balija (named after a special ear ornament worn by women)
  • Gandavallu or Gundapodi Vandlu (Supposed to have originally been Komatis)

Balija ruling clans:

Note:

Perika Balija, Vada Balija (Fishermen), Ediga, Balija/Goud (Toddy Tappers), Setty Balija/Chettu Balija/Goud (Toddy Tappers) of Coastal Andhra are not part of Balija or Balija Naidu Caste.

Refer to Balija for further Information

Munnuru Kapu

Munnuru Kapus are located primarily in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. They are a military branch of the Kapu community, who farmed during peace time. "Munnuru" means "three hundred". The Munnuru Kapu functioned as interior palace guards or cavalry in kingdoms such as those of the Tanjavore Nayaks, Devarakonda, and Nizam.

Munnuru Kapus are also called Telugus, Telengas, Munnurwar, Telenga Kunbi and Thopatkari. They apparently moved to Chanda region from Telugu country travelling along Godavari and Pranahitha rivers.

There was a professional rivalry that lasted for decades between the Munnuru Kapus and the Mudiraju community during the Kakateeya rule. The Mudiraj's were associated with the Devarakonda Velamas. Origin

There are several stories regarding the origin of the "Munnuru Kapu":

  • King Ganapati Deva of Kakatiya needed support of agrarian communities from coastal Andhra region during the establishment and expansion of the empire, since he had not established power over the Telugu Chodas (Telaga) and Chalukyas in that region. In order to bring legitimacy to their rule and to strengthen its roots, he requested the migration of three hundred families of Kapu / Telaga soldiers from the Kondavidu region of the current Krishna District. The descendants of those who migrated with three hundred families are called Munnuru Kapu. This migration occurred around about 900 years ago.
  • Queen Rudrama Devi of Kakateeya wanted to cultivate large tracts of the Telangana region. A large migration of agriculturists from coastal Andhra region came after her alliance with the Chalukyan Prince. Three hundred Kapu / Telaga families were dispatched by the prince to bring these vast Telangana lands under cultivation. These three hundred families are called as Munnuru Kapu.
  • The Nawab of Hyderabad requested the Tanjavore Nayaks to send a battalion of his best infantry and cavalry for his personal security. The Nayak dispatched three hundred Telaga men and their families from their imperial guard. The descendants of these three hundred families are now called Munnuru Kapu.
  • The Perikas community, found in Rayalaseema, recall fighting a great battle against three hundred Balijas to prove their valor. As there was no community called Munnuru Balija at that time, it was likely to be the Munnuru Kapus who fought this battle (Kapus are referred to as "Balija Naidu" in Rayalaseema).

Telaga

Telagas are the most ancient warrior/agricultural clans of the Deccan and South India, who specialized in warfare and practiced agriculture during times of peace. Modern-day Telagas continue in their traditional agricultural occupation, but also have diversified into trading, industry, IT, films and others.

Origin

  • The origin of the Telagas can be traced to the Western Chalukyan expansion into the Andhra region during the 4th century A.D. The term "Telaga" was a derivation of the word "Telingana". Andhra was referred to as Telingana in the ancient texts as it was the area that had three major Shivinsa-Arama's, thus was called Tri-Linga. The people living there were called "Telugus" and the language spoken by the people there was called "Telugu".
  • Another source of origin mentions that when the Chalukyas invaded Andhra so in order to differentiate between the Native Commanders of the Tri-linga Desam from the commanders in the Chalukyan army the term Telugu Nayakulu was coined which eventually became Telaga Nayak/Naidu.

The Telagas have served as Nayakulu (Governors), commanders and vassals of the Western Chalukya rulers under Pulakesin. They formed the bulwark of ancient armies of the Deccan and South India like Cholas, Chalukyas, Kakatiyas, Vijayanagar and Nayaks. They seem to have a connection with the Eastern Chalukyas. The Vassals of Chalukyas entered into matrimonial alliances and ultimately established the Chalukya - Chola Dynasty. Another important dynasty of Telagas were the Telugu Cholas who were the first Andhra Kings to write inscriptions in Telugu. They ruled over the Palnadu, Velanadu and Renadu regions of Andhra Pradesh for most of the medieval ages. The Telugu Chodas formed the base on which Chalukyan Empire flourished and were the principal combatants of the Palanadu war/Palanati Yuddam. Telugu Cholas supported Bramha Naidu in this war against the Nalagam Raju.

Other Telaga dynasties are mentioned below.

Dynasties:

  • Telugu Chodas
    • Velanati Chodas (Velanadu region, current E.G, W.G and Krishna Districts)
    • Renati Chodas (Renadu regions, current Cuddapah, Kurnool Regions)
    • Pottapi Cholas (Renadu regions, current Cuddapah, Chittor Districts)
    • Konidena Chodas (Palanadu region, current Guntur, Prakasam Districts)
    • Nannuru Chodas (Pakanadu region Current Anantapur District)
    • Nellore Chodas (Nellore, Chittor, Chengalpeta and Cuddapah Regions)
  • Kona Kings (Visakhapatnam, E.G, W.G regions, The name Konaseema is derived after these Kings)

  • Koppula Chiefs (ruled with Pithapuram as capital, W. Godavari, were one of the main combatants along with Mununuri, Reddy and Velama Nayaks in the revolt against Muslim rule)
  • Musunuri Nayaks (Kapaaya Nayaka and Prolaya Nayaka liberated Andhra from Muslim rule by bringing all the Nayaks against the Muslims after Kakateeya Kingdom fell. They had matrimonial alliances with the Korukonda Nayaks and ruled from Warangal)
  • Korukonda Nayaks (ruled from Korukonda)

Refer to Telaga for further Information

Ontari

The Kapu Ontari community is concentrated in coastal Andhra Pradesh. They use the titles "Naidu" and "Dora". The Ontari were soldiers and special forces in Andhra Kingdoms who specialized in weapons. Their surnames start with names of weapons (e.g. Kattula (knife), Tupakula (pistol), Kommula, Bollu).

The Kapu Ontari community are different from the (Bunt Ontari community (who were individual hand to hand fighters) and the Ontari of Mudiraj community, who are not part of the Kapu Ontari caste.

Turpu Kapu

Turpu in Telugu means east. The Kapus living on the eastern frontier of Andhra Pradesh called themselves Turpu Kapus. There have been some rulers of coastal kingdoms from this community. They are hard working poor and middle farmers. They are the majority in Srikakulam District,Vizianagaram District and Visakhapatnam District but many of them still show their feudal loyalty to erstwhile Zamindars of Bobbili and Vizianagaram etc. Of late however the political awakening of this caste has led some representatives of this group to be more politically active.

Naidu

The Naidu Sub caste is primarily seen in the Krishna District and Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh.Althou this also serves as the title for the entire community through the State irrespective of the Sub- castes Naidu is a title commonly incorporated into the names of members of the Kapu community whose ancestors may have served as an army commander, governor, knight, baron, village headman or tax collector. It eventually became a hereditary title. "Naidu" is a Telugu derivation of the Sanskrit title for a head of a band of soldiers, who is known as Nayaka (i.e. protector). The first usage of the title "Nayaka" was by the Vishnukundinas, who conferred the title "Danda Nayaka" on commanders.

During times of war, rulers would call upon the local farmers to join the army. Amongst the Kapu community, some members who served became specialisst in certain types of combat and were referred to as Munnuru, Telaga or Ontari Kapus. Some were given posts as commanders and given the title of Nayak/Naidu. At the conclusion of service, some were rewarded by being given charge of territories and made responsible for tax collection, administration and security. Initially, the Naidus served only for so long as the rulers felt they were effective, but some declared independence whenever the central government became weak. They had their greatest influence in telugu society during the Chalukya, Kakatiya, Nayaka, Vijayanagar periods and had the greatest independent power following the fall of Vijayanagar in Tanjore, Madurai, Chenchi, Kandy at least until the Moghuls, Marathas and British took over. Basically although staunchly Hindu, over the centuries this large and proud community was involved in all aspects of society and developed their own social, economic and political structure outside of the rigid Hindu Varna system without developing the habit of preventing marriage between the factions.

In the medieval times the Kakatiyas had many prominent nayakas, several from a Kapu background. Vijayanagar also had several Nayakas of Kapu, Telaga and Balija background. During the expansion of Vijayanagar Empire, the Nayak title was conferred upon non-Telugu speaking communities who served in the same function in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. This title is also being used by other communities in Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.

In southern Tamil Nadu, Balija's use the title Naicker. It evolved in the following manner during different phases of history.

Nayaka --> Nayudu -->Naidu--> Naicker --> Naidoo

Dynasties

The following are some ruling clans associated with Kapu community.

  • Telugu Chodas
  • Kona Kings
  • Koppula Chiefs
  • Musunuri Nayaks
  • Korukonda Nayaks
  • Madurai Nayaks
  • Tanjavur Nayaks
  • Vijayanagar- Araveeti Dynasty
  • Kandy Nayaks(Khandi kings of Ceylon)
  • C.P. Brown mentioned that the Poligars of Anantapur belonged to the Balija Naidu community.
  • The Current Nellore was also ruled by Balija Naidus.
  • Etukuri Bala Rama Murthi mentions in "Andhrula Samkshiptha Charithra" that the Cholas came to be called Kapu and Telaga. Some of their gotra (is a patrilineal classification and identification of a caste) is referred as "Cholla" or "Chola". These Kings were from the Chaturtha Kulamu (Source Palanati Veera Charitra) and Kasyapa is their gothram.
  • In Balijakula Charithra, the Kotikam Kaifiyat states: " Sree Manmahaa mandaleshwara Achyuthadeva Mahaa Raayalayya vaaru Daivaprasaada labdavasaath chethanu, karunatho goodi Balija Varna Garikepaati Vamsamuna Kalgina Sree Sree Viswanatha Naayaka gariki Paandya mandalaadhiraaju ane rendunnara koti dravya Raajyaanku sasthrothkamuga pattaabhisekham Vijayanagaramandu Cheyinchiri."
  • According to Vijaya Kumari and Sepuri Bhaskar in their book "Social changes among Balijas", Sree Krishna Deva Raya belonged to Kapu caste.
  • As per "Gazetteer of the Nellore district :Brought up to 1938 " by Government of Madras staff, the Desa section of Balija caste comprises the descendents of the Nayak kings of Madura,Thanjore and Vijayanagar.
  • According to G.S.Ghurye in "Caste and Race in India",the Nayak kings of Madura and Thanjavur were Balijas.
  • According to "Questioning Ramayana: A South Asian Tradition" by Paula Richman,the famous Thanjavur king Raghunatha Nayudu belonged to Balija caste.
  • According to "Literary Cultures in History" by Sheldon Pollock warriors/Traders from Balija caste acquired kingship of the Southern Kingdoms of Madurai and Thanjavur.
  • According to "The Castes and Tribes of The Nizam's Dominions" by Syed Siraj Ul Hassan Kakatiya king Raja Prathaparudra belonged to Kapu Caste.
  • Garikepati is the last name of Madura Balija Kings
  • Alluri is the last name of Thanjavur Balija Kings
  • Chinthalapuri is the last name of Khandi (Ceylon) Balija kings.
  • Chenchi is the last name of Chenchi Nayaks (Senji Nayaks/Genji Nayaks/Gingee Nayaks)

  • There were matrimonial alliances between Kapus and Telugu Chodas, Kakatiya, Vijayanagar,Madurai and Thanjavur Kingdoms. The following are some of the interesting matrimonial alliances among Balija/Kapus of Vijayanagar, Madura, Thanjavur, Kandy and Kakatiya.
    • Vijayanagar emperor Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s half brother was Achyuta Deva Raya. Achyutha Deva Raya's wife Thirumalamba's sister, Murthimamba (Achyuta Deva Raya's sister-in-law) was married to Naidu Alluri Sevappa of Thanjavur.
    • A relative of Naidu Sevappa of Thanjavur, Achyutha Raghunathamma was married to Naidu Garikepati Thirumala of Madura. Achyutha Raghunathamma was the daughter of Naidu Raghunatha, the grandson of Naidu Sevappa of Thanjavur and Murthimamba (sister-in-law of Vijayanagar emperor Achyutha Deva Raya).
    • The daughter of Naidu Vijaya Raghava of Thanjavur and Naidu Sevappa's great grand daughter Mangamma was married to Naidu Chokkalinga, the grandson of the celebrated Naidu Thirumala of Madura dynasty.
    • Naidu Raghunatha of Thanjavur married Chenchi Lakshmamma and Kalaavathemma of Madurai and Thundeera (Gingee/Chenchi) dynasties.
    • One of the kings of Kandy was married to a family member of the last king of Thanjavur dynasty, Chengamala Dasu. One of the family members of Madurai dynasty was married to the daughter of Naidu Vijaya Raghava, the son of Chengamala Dasu, the last king of Thanjavur dynasty. The royal members from Thanjavur lived in Khandi (Kandy) of Ceylon for a certain period of time.
    • Queen Sri Ranga Devi, sister of Veera Narasimha Rayalu of Narapathi dynasty was married to king Bhuvanaika Malla of Kakatiya dynasty. (Note: Narapathis are also called Chalukyas. Araveeti families come under genealogical tree of Narapathis).
    • Naidu Chinthalapuri Vijaya Bhupala (Also called Lakshmana Simha Vijayapalana Raju) who ruled Khandi was the brother-in-law of Naidu Kumara Krishnappa (Son of Naidu Viswanatha Garikepati) of Madurai Balija Dynasty. The sister of Naidu Vijaya Bhupala of Khandi (Kandy) was married to Naidu Kumara Krishnappa of Madurai. When Naidu Kumara Krishnappa crowned Naidu Vijaya Bhupala of Khandi(Kandy), he sent 60 families of relatives to Khandi as help. A total of six kings ruled from Kandy Nayak dynasty.

Kapu names and Gothrams

  • Kapu/Balija/Telaga/Ontari/Turpu Kapu communities use the caste title Naidu.
  • Balija/Kapu/Telaga/Munnuru Kapu communities use the title Setty / Setti in their surnames to indicate that they are traders (e.g. Polisetty, Perisetty, Pinisetty, Sennamsetty, Sankarasetty, Bolisetti, Lakkimsetty)
  • Munnuru Kapu/Modikarlu/namdarlu/rayalamkapu/Telaga/Kapu/Balija communities use the suffix Reddy in their surnames in Telangana, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra indicating that ancestors had served or were appointed as Borons under the Rashtrakutas and Eastern Chalukyas.
  • Kapu and Balija communities also use the tite Rayudu in their names indicating Vijaynagar affiliation and lineage.
  • Kapu/Telaga surnames ending with the Neni (e.g. Lakkineni), which is a derivation of Senani, indicate ancestors served as commanders under the Kakateeya dynasty.
  • Some Munnuru Kapu/Telaga/Kapu/Balija surnames end with the suffix Pati (e.g. Garikepati), which indicates ancestors owned large tracts of land in medieval times.
  • Chola-Chalukyas have used the title Udayar or Odeyar.
  • people from Krishna District have their occupation mainly agriculture with surnames "Thota","Papolu","Naraharasetty","Mutyala","Rallapalli","Chinnamsetty"..,etc

Some of the most common gothrams found in the Kapu community are:

  1. Athreya
  2. Achyuta
  3. bangaru
  4. Chatla
  5. Challanillu
  6. Dhanunjaya
  7. Dharbanala
  8. Govindapala
  9. gomayam
  10. Janakula
  11. Kandalla
  12. kanuga
  13. Kasyapa
  14. Mahipala
  15. Mrutyunjaya
  16. Nageswara
  17. Narikella
  18. Pashupala
  19. Paidipalla
  20. Pagadipula
  21. Vamsarla
  22. Vegendla
  23. veparalla

  1. Nagula
  2. Puligolla
  3. Paidipaala
  4. Raghukula
  5. Ramanuja
  6. Pagidipala
  7. Settypala
  8. Chittella
  9. Pasupunolla
  10. Akshantala
  11. Vinnakota
  12. Thabelu
  13. Cherukunolla
  14. Pagada Thangedu
  15. Palacharla
  16. Ulletla
  17. Ulindra

Political, social and cultural contributions to South India

History records of the Kapu community state that it lived in the area between the Krishna and the Godavari rivers. This community which has prospered even before the Christian era had Telugu as the mother tongue. According to historians the Kapu community during later centuries spread into other regions developing the Telugu language and culture. It is evident that the Kapus were originally a peace loving community but due to onslaught of the invading forces from the north it formed itself into a force which protected its individuality by war. The ability to defend the cultural and religious fabric of the society from the invading forces allowed the Kapus to elevated themselves to superior status among all the other varnas all throughout the medieval ages. The Kapu caste through the Vijayanagaram Empire and through the various Nayaks played a significant role in the formation and expansion of the Telugu Empire and its culture throughout South India and Sri Lanka. Many inspiration leaders who have contributed greatly to the social, cultural and political aspects of South India came from this community. Some of them contributed greatly to the freedom struggle and in the upliftment of the downtrodden by fighting hard against oppression and social evils. The most prominent among them are listed below:

  • Telugu Cholas Kings under whom the Telugu language flourished.
  • Telugu speaking Nayaks of Vijayanagar, Tanjore, Madurai, Kandy expanded the Telugu empire and its culture to Southern most parts of India and Sri Lanka.
  • Many of the Kakatiya chiefs belonging to the Kapu/Telaga/Balija descent protected the Telugu land from Muslim invasions.
  • Poligars fought against foreign rule and oppression in the series of British-Poligar wars. Katta Bomma Naiker was the first to revolt against the British in 1857.
  • Kanneganti Hanumanthu led the anti-tax revolution in the Palnadu area and sacrificed his life to the bullets of Rutherford, the Palnadu rebellion was later followed by Manyam struggle led by Alluri Sita Rama Raju.
  • Periyar Father of the Dravidian Movement. He was instrumental in ending age old domination of upper castes and opened the doors for the socially backward and oppressed.

  • Father of South Indian cinema Raghupathi Venkiah Naidu who fought against social evils prevalent at his time through his socially conscious films.
  • Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga fought for the downtrodden and the oppressed.
  • T. Venkata Surya Prasad (Kalaprapurna, Andhra Kalidasa, Kavibhushana) made great contribution to Telugu literature.
  • Dwaram Venkatswamy Naidu, Musician and Violinist, Gandharva Vidya Bhushana
  • Chiranjeevi, iconic film star, social worker and philanthropist who has won the hearts of the people of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Col C.K. Naidu, first Indian Cricket captain and is considered as the Father of Indian Cricket.
  • S.V. Ranga Rao, one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian Cinema.
  • Kodi Ram Murthy Naidu, famous Indian Wrestler and freedom fighter known as Indian Hercules and Kaliyuga Bhima.

See List of Kapus

Contribution of Kapus/Balija/Telagas to literature

Lot of Kapu Nayak kings themselves being great poets enriched Telugu language by encouraging many Telugu poets. It was a common practice of the king's son to compose a Dwipada poem equating his father with "Vishnu" in Madurai and Thanjavur Nayak dynasties as per the "Literary Cultures in History" by Sheldon Pollack . Two views,one stating the king as the diety Vishnu and the other stating the king as the human being representing an aspect of Vishnu had surfaced during the period of Sreekrishna devaraya.They became more obvious when the warriors/Traders from Balija caste became kings of Madurai and Thanjavur dynasties in the seventeenth century.The revolutionary concept of the king being the diety Vishnu gained even more significance as the Nayaka kings happened to be Sudras of left -hand caste of warriors/Traders ,belonging to Balija caste.The Nayaka Kings' concept of the king being the God led to the sweeping changes in the idealized Brahmanical Varna system and the poets no longer needed to be the males or Brahmins.In the place of Brahmins non-Brahmin male poets and courtesans were encouraged as court poets.Non-Brahmin poets were allowed to use Dwipada style with the subject of the court being the king himself.During Nayak dynasty the differences between court and temple as well as court poet and temple poet were erased. The following is the list of Balja Naidus that made enormous contribution to Telugu and Sanskrit languages.

  • Sreekrishna Devaraya (Vijayanagar emperor): Amuktha Malyada/Vishnuchittiyam
  • Raghunatha Naidu(Thanjavur king): Sangeetha Sudha,Ramayana Katha Sangrahamu,Bharatha Katha Sangrahamu,Ramayanam,Parijathapaharanam,Nalabhyudayamu,Achyuthabhyudayamu,Valmiki Charithram.
  • Vijaya Raghava Naidu (Thanjavur king,son of Raghunatha Naidu): Yakshaganas and composition of poems,Raghunatha Nayakabhyudayamu
  • Mannaru deva Prabhuvu(Son of Vijaya Raghava Naidu):Vijaya Raghavabhyudayamu
  • Pasupuleti Rangajamma (One of the queens of Vijaya Raghava Naidu): Mannarudasa Vilasam
  • Vemanayogi: Centum(Sataka) of verses
  • Queen Ganga devi (wife of Vijaya nagar prince Kumara Kampana): Madhura Vijayam
  • Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Naidu (Madura king): Maghamahathmyamu,Sreeranga Mahathmyamu
  • Samukham Venkata Krishnappa Naidu (Poet in the court and Army chief of Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha Naidu of Madura dynasty): Jaimini Bharatham,Ahalya Sankradana Vilasam,Radhika Santhwanam,Saarangadhara Charithra.
  • Thupakula Anantha Bhoopaludu (Poet and Dalavai of Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha Naidu of Madura): Vishnupuranam,Bhagavatham,Ramayanam,Bharatham,Garalapuri Mahathmyam,Bhagavadgeetha.
  • Nanne Choda Prabhuvu(Telugu Choda prince,son of Chodaballi of Pakanadu, and Poet): Kumara Sambhavam.
  • Gudaru Venkatadasa Kavi(Poet's sur name is Gudaru and Gothram is Paidipala) : Balarama Charithram.
  • Konidena Nagaya Kavi(Born in Yellammapeta in Kadapa district): Vedavedantha Sarasagraham,Ashtottara Sathakam,Brahmanarada Samvadam
  • Chekuri Siddha Kavi ((Born in Yellammapeta,Kadapa district): Sreerama Karnamrutham,Dwadasa manjareesthavam,Chathurdasa manjareestavam,Venugopala sathakam,Vishnupuranam,Sreeranga mahathmyamu,Haribhakthamrutha saaramu.
  • Macha Venkataraya Kavi (Born in Jalumuru,Visakhapattanam district): Vydarbhee Parinayam,Haribhajana Keerthana kruthi,Chennakesava Ramayana Sangraham,Chaya putra Sathakam,Mukhalingeswarodaharanamu,Rukmini Natakam,Droupadi vasthrapaharanam,Mayuradhwajopakhyanamu,Suddhandhra nirvachana niroshtya kusa charithram.
  • Thumu Ramadasa Kavi (Born in Warangal): Rukmini Kalyanam,Gopika vilasam,Mitravindo dwaham,Kalidasu Natakam,Andhrapada nidhanamu.
  • Tripurana Venkata Surya Prasada Rao (Born in Siddhantham in Visakhapattanam district): Nirvachana Kumara Sambhavamu,Raghu vamsamu,Kiratharjuneeyamu,Uttararama Charithramu,Raghudayamu,Indumati mandaramu,Rati vilapamu,Pathala khandamu,Moilu Rayabharamu,Sree Bhagavadgeethamruthamu
  • Erra Venkata Swami: Vasthuguna Deepika
  • Erra Ayyanna: Telugu Kavaathu
  • Matla Anantharaju(Kadapa district,Telugu Chola descendent):Kakustha Vijayamu

See List of Kapus for information.

Kapus in the 20th century

Though the Kapu community did have a great role to play in the various social, economic, political and cultural aspect of the Telugu society up until the 19th century, it has not enjoyed economic and political success after India's independence. They started getting into a steady decline except for a few sections of the community who adopted to modern education and economic transition. The decline peaked during the 1970 and 1980s.Offlate with economic liberalization and with the removal of License Raj and Government monopoly on sectors the community is slowly but steadily rebuilding itself but is till a long way away from restoring its Golden Age.

  • The Kapu community were slow in adopting the modern techniques of cultivation, education, business and politics.
  • The Richer sections of the community primarily in the Coastal Andhra did take part in the renaissance but to a larger extent the middle farmers from Rayalaseema and Telangana could not take advantage of this because of not being blessed with natural resources like their Coastal cousins.
  • This resulted in a drastic decrease in education among the community in Rayalaseema, Telangana and North Andhra resulting in poverty.
  • Although socially still a Forward community, lack of Government support by the way of political representation, reservations,welfare measures made the Kapus economically deprived.
  • They currently have only about 5% representation in government jobs and services despite being about 22% of the state population.
  • They have only about 48 members representing both the Parliament and Assembly seats which does not represent the numbers the community has in the State.
  • Both the major political parties, the Congress and Telugu Desam did not proper allocated assembly seats to Kapus as per their population for e.x Balija's even after being a majority population in the Rayalaseema districts (Chitoor, Tirupathi, Cuddapah, Ananthapur etc) have hardly any MLAs representing them in the State. Assembly.
  • The lack of strategic or collective decision making and dis-inclination to join Politics has cost the community dearly but off late they have realized their mistakes and are moving steadily in this direction to consolidate their representation in the elected bodies.
  • The situation is steadily changing with the community realizing it's mistakes of the past and uniting itself to play a more active role in deciding the Political future of the state. It's now trying to diversify from its traditional occupation of Agriculture and focusing more on Education, Business,Finance, IT,Cinema etc
  • There are a lot of budding Entrepreneurs who have succeeded in different fields.

Notes

References and sources

Important information about Kapu origins can be obtained from Balijapuranam in the Chennai library.

  • American Kapu Association (AKA)- Famous Kapus
  • Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in Chennai (Madras), W. C. Mackenzie: Colonel Colin Mackenzie, first Surveyor-General of India. Edinburgh: W&R Chambers, 1952
  • Castes And Tribes of Southern India (Edgar Thruston)
  • A Hand Book of the Fighting Races of India by P.D Baneerjee .1975
  • Mughal State and Tribes in 17th century - by Sunita Ziadi Indian Economic Social History Review.1989; 26: 343-362
  • Further Sources Of Vijayanagara History (K.A.Nilakanta Sastry)
  • Andhrula Sanghika Charitra (Suvarnam Pratapa Reddy)
  • Caste & Class Articulation of Andhra Pradesh
  • Social status of Kapus in Hindu Varna system
  • Genetic Evidence on Caste Origins
  • Caste politics in the North, West and South India before Mandal
  • Social Changes among Balijas (by Vijaya Kumari and Sepuri Bhaskar)
  • Caste and Race in india (by G.S.Ghurye)

  • AP assembly caste wise statistics
  • Andhrula Sankshiptha Charitra (E. Balarama Murthi)
  • Religion in Vijaya nagara Empire (Konduri Sarojini Devi)
  • History in telugu
  • History in english
  • All about kapu community
  • Balijakula Charithra (By Kante Narayana Desayi)
  • The Mughal State, Oxford in India Readings, Oxford University Press
  • Kerala Naidus
  • http://nfwa-kerala.com/ABOUT.HTM
  • The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India(R.V.Russell)
  • The Encyclopedia of World history
  • Gazetteer of the Nellore district:Brought up to 1938
  • Caste and Race in India (by G.S.Ghurye)
  • Questioning Ramayana: A South Asian Tradition(Paula Richman)
  • Thanjavuri Andhra Rajula Charitha (Veturi Prabhakara Sastri)
  • "Literary Cultures in History" (Sheldon Pollock )
  • The Madura Country(James Henry Nelson)
  • Hindu Castes And Sects(Jogendranath Bhattacharya)
  • The Castes and Tribes of The Nizam's Dominions(Syed Siraj Ul Hassan)

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