Article by Dr.Kanam Sankara Pillai
VELLALAS Cultivators of Tamilnadu ,Accountants & Village Officers According to "Keralolpathy "(Genesis of Keralam)
Keralam was created by Parasu Rama one of the incarnations of Lord
Eravikutty Pillai who died Kaniyamkulam war,
Plough was their symbol.
In Thelunku nadu they were called "Velar". In Karnataka they had a
They are either "sivas" or "vaishnavas". Some wear sacred thread .
In "Pathittupathu" Vellalas were called "Uzhavar".
During the reign of Balarama Varma who came after Dharma Raja, the melezhuthu pillai (Chief secretary) was vellala The Dalavas of Marthandavarmm, Arumugham and Thanu Pillai were vellalas Viranminda Nayanar of Chenganoor who donated lands for the Mahadevar templethere, was a vellala.
Temples in Kerala built by Vellalas.
Thodupuzha Chenganoor temple
by Viraminda Nayanar Chotty
Kanjirappally Madura Meenakshy Kovil,
North & South Ganapathyar Kovils (AD 1150& 1450)
Pathanamthitta Erumely Kotchamplam
built by Perisseri Pillai of Putheveedu Kondoor by Kondudayan Mankompu
Meenachil Valyakunnel Devi Temple Puliyannur,
by ThiruvudayarThattarakathu Vellappatu Devi Temple, Palai Thycaud
-site of Samadhi of Swamikal
The second layer consists of
number of unique castes, which do not intermarry at all. The castes
Kongu Vellalar, (Western Tamilnadu) Pandia Vellalar,(Madurai) Chozhia
(Trichy & Thanjavur) Tuluva Vellalar (North Tamilnadu), Arcot
(North Tamilnadu) Nanjil Vellalar (Kanya Kumari) are concentrated in
of Tamilnadu and are similar to Reddies, Kammas, Vokkaligas and
Equating them to Jats may not be appropriate since these vellala castes have a long-standing history of agriculture and leadership whereas Jats have grown to the current position recently and are considered not very cultured in Northern India. But care has to be taken with reference to Lingayats.
Lingayat is a large conglomeration that has the top creamy layer similar
Vellalars (Patels, Patils, etc.,) but also has other caste groupings
like Barber, Washerman, etc., within it. The third layer consists of certain castes
who have started using the title of vellalar like Isai vellalar
(Temple musicians and dancers), Devendrakula Vellalars (Pallars,
In Kerala and Sree Lanka vellalas are thriving.50% of Sri Lankan origin Tamilians are vellalas. Almost all political, business and academic leadership of Tamil community of Sri Lanka has been provided by vellalas.
Many castes merged into vellala. 'Kalarum maravarum agamuditarum mella mella koodi vellalar aayinere"- so goes the saying.
Which means Kalar,Maravar and Agamudaiyar, the three power castes from South Tamilnadu assumed Vellala ID with the accumilation of wealth.
Regarding Ayyappan , in Elankai, Ayyanar Swami and among Singalees Ayyanakaye are popular deities.
ORIGIN OF PILLAI.
The conversion of clans to caste system - right hand caste and left hand caste - occurred during Chola ( Kulothunga-AD 1110 ) period.
The caste system got a firm footing after the arrival of Ariyans.
Initially there were only two
Brahmins were on the top in society and second came Velalars(cultivators )
, chettiyars (business men) ,warriors (Thevar , Kallar , Vanniar ).
The Saiva Vellalas carry titles like PILLAI and Mudaliar , depending in the area of domicile.
The saiva vellalas of Pandia and Chola Kingdoms carry the title "PILLAI" and those from Pallalva Kingdom used to carry the title MUDALIARA
anakulangara Bhagavathy temple Aanakulangara Bhagavathy temple in Arunapuram, Palai, is one of the oldest temples in Kerala. Vellalas from different parts of Tamilnadu migrated to Malanadu of Kerala. They were called Thenkasy vellalar (Anjoottikkar-500 families) , Kumbakona vellalar etc.From Thenkasi they migrated to different parts of Thodupuzha .
They built the Mankombu Bhagavathy temple. Vellalas from Kumbakonam got settled at Erattupetta and Poonjar. They built the Ankalamman Kovil .In Puliyannoor, Ezhacherry ,Arunapuram Panthathala, Mevada, Meenachil and Poovarani (all in Meenachil Taluk)Vellalas from Kaveripoompattanam settled. They built the temples at Puliyannoor ,Thidanadu ,Aanakulangara (Arunapuram) ,Thattarakathu ,Kondoor ,Chotty , Kanjirappally and Meenachil Valiyakunnel .
The site where Vellalas used to sing became Vellappattu. According a Thamra Sasan Vaisyas came from Kaveripoompattanam built Puliyannoor temple in AD 1242.Vellalas constructed the Palai market.
(see his biography) "VELLALA PILLAI" OF
There is also indications that Tamil rulers of Kanjirappally
on live stock or Pothimadu to supplement income to
Bhagavathi Shri Madura Meenakshi.The next batch of
came two centuries later.They too were traders by
Hailing from Kumbhakonam they were called" Vellala
Thoug they were merchantsthey gradually took to farming.
After the death of Ayyappan people thought that he as the avathar of
Lord Sastha and
began to worship him .Later Sastha and Ayyappan
Some say that Ayyan was the son of a member of royal
family but Nalankal Krishna Pillai in his book Mahashekthrangulkku Munpil
that Brahmins had never the name Ayyan or Ayyappan.
3. Sreebhothaonatha Srvaswam 16th Edn.1998
4. Dravida Samskaram Sahyadry sanukkalil 1stEdn.1987
5.Social History of the Tamilians.
AYYAVU SWAMIKAL The Great Vellala
Ayya Swami Thiruvadikal was the Guru of Sree Narayana Guru , Chattampi Swamikal and Ayyankal.
Padmanabhan Neela Padmanabhan
One of the most distinguished writers from South India, noted for his identification with the suffering sections of humanity, he has authored 16 novels, 8 volumes of poems and 3 volumes of essays in Tamil and 8 volumes of short stories and 1 novel in Malayalam.
Pillays Vellalars are agricultural people and in Tamilnadu they are classified into Vellalars and Karalars. Vellalars are one who control the "Vellam" (i.e floods) in the river and grow crops and Karalars are one who control "Kar"( i.e Clouds)in the form of Tanks and Lakes and grow crops. Later when Southern parts of Tamilnadu came into the control of Telegu Nayak Chieftains both Vellalars and Karalars (Karkathars) came to work under the chieftains. They maintained Accounts in palayakaras (village) offices, and hence they assumed the title “kanakku pillays” - then Pillays.
Vellalar The standard theory is that it derived from Velanmai (ie is to cultivate), to control floods (ie Vellam). is not the standard theory but a new one has emerged that is it is derived from Vel (to win) to control to take as well as a lance an old and archaic Tamil weapon.
Cultivation in South Asia spread by force, people would move out into virgin land, which was used by tribal people for slash and burn agriculture or for hunting and convert into prime agricultural land. This involved force as well as forced conscription of slave like labor who usually was the original inhabitants of land who end up being menial bonded laborers in their own land.
Tamils as an archaic society maintained the original meaning of the word for cultivators as warrior farmers although all societies used it across the globe and in particular across South Asia.
This was a honorific title of select few people who would organize such raids and settlements (like chiefs) which spread to all including that of all ulavar- the actual Tamil name for cultivators. Similar treatment can be seen in the spread of titles such as Naidu and Gounda.
Today everybody uses it but once it was restricted to village headman. The Brahmins did not have the slightest chance of imposing their hegemony over the vellahlas.
“They (the Brahmins) were greatly outnumbered by the Vellalas, the leading agriculturalists on whom the Tamil kingdom was based. The Vellalas never gave up their ascendancy and were under no pressure to do so by the Brahmins. The only function of the Brahmins was to perform rituals in temples and at other social ceremonies.
Brahmins were, more or less, in the employ of the Vellalas, officiating in temples owned and managed by them. The political and economic ascendancy of the Vellalas has been carried into the modern democratic system by their numerical preponderance.
The Vellalas were thus the key caste in the Tamil social system. They dominated the village and ran its affairs. The numerous other castes served the Vellahlas.” (CEYLON , S. Arasaratnam – p. 110)
Three layers as far as Vellalas in Tamilnadu are concerned, they have broadly three layers. The first layer consists of Saiva Vellalars (Saiva Mudaliars and Pillais).
They are vegetarian, literate and sophisticated like Brahmins except priestly duties but also were also major landowners, feudal lords and powerful like Rajputs or Thakurs of Northern India except individual violent nature of Rajputs and were village administrators like Kayasthas of Central and Eastern India.
There are a number of sub-castes/clans among them like Thondaimandala vellalar, Karkatha vellalar, Tirunelveli saiva vellalar, etc., and most of them intermarry these days.The second layer consists of a number of unique castes which do not intermarry at all.
The castes like Kongu Vellalar, (Western Tamilnadu) Pandia Vellalar,(Madurai) Chozhia Vellalar,(Trichy & Thanjavur) Tuluva Vellalar (North Tamilnadu), Arcot Mudaliar,(North Tamilnadu) Nanjil Vellalar (Kanya Kumari) are concentrated in specific parts of Tamilnadu and are similar to Reddies, Kammas, Vokkaligas and Lingayats.
Equating them to Jats may not be appropriate since these vellala castes have a long standing history of agriculture and leadership whereas Jats have grown to the current position recently and are considered not very cultured in Northern India.
But care has to be taken with reference to Lingayats. Lingayat is a large conglomeration that has the top creamy layer similar to Vellalars (Patels, Patils, etc.,) but also has other caste groupings like Barber, Washerman, etc., within it.
The third layer consists of certain castes who have started using the title of vellalar like Isai vellalar (Temple musicians and dancers), Devendrakula Vellalars (Pallars, agricultural labourers), etc., --- Vellalas Does anyone know if the Saiva vellalar community belongs to the Vaisya varna as spoken of in the Hindu 'saastram' - since they are involved in trade and agriculture. if so - then vellalars, at least the saiva vellalars (pillai-mudaliar- chettiyar) should be entitled to get ceremonies done in vedic way, and not puranic way which is reserved for sudra/laborer community.
According to V.Kanakasabhai - vellalars constitute the ulavar community in the Tolkappiyam -equivalent to Ksatriya-Vaisya varna.
baramahal records say that in the mythology - the vellalar was born from the banks of ganga nadi, making them Ganga-vamsa, and on the creation of the vellalars the daivangal (deities) invested him with poonool(sacred thread), to show he is dvija (belongs to vaisya caste) from his birth.
Pillai may stand for Saiva pillai from Tirunelveli region or other non veg Pillai from Tamilnadu also Saiva Pillai means a Pillaimar who worship Lord Siva of Saiva religion. 'Saiva' generally refers to those who adopt the vegetarian diet, apart from the Sivan.
hence Saiva Pillais are entirely vegetarian, whereas other Pillais are not.
Pillai is "little one" referring to wrong side of bed i.e. kids of unofficial wife no 2, 3 etc. It is not a slur.
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|Sir, The nairs are the descendents of the Nagas
who happen to be also the only survivors of the Mahabharatha war at
Kurukshetra.Parusarama is the Kalari guru and it is said that he
taught the Nairs how to fight and the art of Kalari..and so it
bacame an art form of the Nairs.Also what we can now understand is
that the Chera kings probably were Nagas...the word chera means
snake in malayalam of today.But the Chera empire had already
declined by the time the Brahmana came from the north.Once
aryanised,the Brahmins had no problem in making them kings..There is
an ancient story of a Chera king Vel Kuttavan throwing the spear
into the sea to raise Kerala. This was reinterpreted as Parasurama
throwing his axe into the sea to reclaim Kerala.The Brahman do not
accept the Nairs as Kshatriya because they do not accept the Aryan
varna system which places the Brahman at the top. It is evident that
in the ancient Varna system the Kshatriya was the highest caste in
the Hindu varna system.Parasurama therefore had to annihilate the
Kshatriya to establish Brahman.He did so 21 times..21 vamshas...and
then handed the axe to his guru Kashyapa..Kashyapa then probably
gave the axe to
his sons...the Rajput in the north(The Sissodiya Rajput of Ramgarh claim that they are Naga..one of the highest houses)...also this explains mostly everything the surname Nair..the sarpa kavs at the back of evry Nair house etc.Also the words Nagar which means city and probably even Nayak is derived from Naga..these were later used by the Aryans to mean city and city administrator and given to seperate castes to denote leader..only title and not necessarily same caste..Naik in Karnataka were Brahmana....so these are again very interesting facts i collected.Also the title Pillai could also just mean eldest son to indicate who gets the property..but it is interesting that in Kerala too the Pillai are mostly in the southern partsand in the northern parts only in Palakkad.My grandad was Raman Pillai and he was also a close friend of Mannathu Padmanabhan the founder of NSS. My dads uncle was MN Govindan Nair,one of the CMS of kerala and they are both from Pandalam which is the birthplace of Lord Ayyappa and the Pandyas were always ruling there.Nice to know that they were Vellanattu pillai.
Thankyou, Rajeev. [rajeev_dev7@...]
Kerala is a Vellala Nadu
Tretises on Thevaram Saivaite way of Living