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Kamma Community History and Origins
Introduction

Kamma is a dominant caste (community) mainly from the state Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Tamil Nadu in southern India. They are also referred to as Kamma Naidus or Kammavar Naidus in the southern parts of the state and neighboring Tamilnadu state, and as Choudharys in coastal AP. There are significant numbers of this community members in Chennai (Madras) and neighboring districts Coimbatore, Madurai (Sivakasi), Tirunelveli, Theni, Tutucorin Districts of Tamil Nadu and Bangalore as well. In the late decades of last century some of them migrated to other parts of the world, particularly to the US, UK and Australia.

Modern Kammas are an enterprising and hardworking community, considered as one of the prosperous communities in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Kammas are politically very active in Andhra Pradesh especially in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Their presence is particularly strong in politics, business, media, movies, industry and education. They are generally found in roles ranging from large scale industrialists to small business entrepreneurs. Many kammas in villages of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are land owners and agriculturists. Their rise makes for an absorbing reading in history of India owing to the small percentage of Kammas in the state. The factors behind their success have been noted to be their generally enterprising nature and diligence. The Kammas can legitimately claim the credit for introducing modern agricultural techniques in the state. Today, some of the most efficient and professional institutions in the state are run by the Kamaas.

Kammavar - History and origins

There are many theories about the origins of the word "Kamma" and the social group known as Kammas but none is conclusive. One such theory is that the people who lived in the Krishna valley, where Buddhism prevailed, got the name from Theravada Buddhist concept of Kamma (Pali) or Karma (Sanskrit). This region was once known as Kammarashtram / Kammakaraatam / Kammanadu.
  • Some historians opined that the name Kamma is probably derived from Kambhoja, an ancient Aryan warrior clan1
Avadh Bihari Lal Avasthi comments on the above references as follows: We find Kambhi, Kamma, Kumbhi etc castes in South India. There is also a famous city Koimb-toor. Possibly, there has also been a Kamboja country in Southern India. 2. The Kambojas in west, south-west India are also attested from inscriptions of kings Sadasiva Raya of Sangama Dynasty (1336-1478), Harihara, Bukka & Deva Raya of Narasinga Dynasty (1496-1567), and from the references of Vishnuvardhana of Hoyasala Dynasty/Mysore (of 12th century AD). 3. Inscription of 1050 AD from Mysore Tract (EC, VII SK 118) attests Trading Corporations of Nanadesa Tisaiya Yirattu Ainnurruvar which traded, among other commodities, in elephants,horses, sapphires, moonstones, pearls, rubies & other gems. The countries of trade are mostly located in middle to southern India. These corporations are stated to have trading links, among others, with the Kambhojas and Pallavas. 4. Kambhoja Raja Kathalu (Story of the king of Kambhojas) is still very popular i n Andhra Pradesh which treats the military exploits of an adventurous king of Kambhojas. The story probably refers to some historical brush of the Kambojas with the people of Andhra around Christian era.
  • In medieval times the region now known as Palnadu, which was named after the Pallavas that ruled there, was called Kammanadu, indicating that they may have been present for a very long time (2). The famous Kamma kings among palnadu are Bhrammanaidu, Nalagama raju, Balachandradu.
  • Kammas grew to prominence during the Kakatiya reign. In the middle ages they are the wise leaders possessed a strong army. Two Kamma chieftains, Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka and Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka lead the Kakatiya kingdom with Prataparudra. After the fall of Warangal they united the Nayaka chieftains, wrested Warangal from the Delhi Sultanate and ruled for 50 years (2).
  • Subsequently Kammas empowered the Vijayanagar kingdom. During the Vijayanagar rule they concured half of indian land from Tamilnadu, Andhra, Karnataka upto upper Orissa, Madhyapradesh and sustained Hidu culture fighting against Bahamany sulthans. Kamma Nayaks formed the bulwark of Vijayanagara army and were Governors in Tanjore, Madurai and Coimbatore areas of Tamil Nadu. The famous Kamma emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya flourished the glory of Vijayanagara kingdom to a wide region. He is very wise and organized. All leaders of Vijayanagara are so brave, deterministic, hard working and honest patriots. For an instance a Cheiftain Pemmasani Vishwanatha Nayudu suggested Srikrishna Devaraya to suppress the rebellion of his father Pemmasani Nagama Nayudu in Madurai. Later, Vishwanatha Nayudu was made Governor of Madurai. The Pemmasani Kamma clan still has a Zamindari near Madurai called Nayakarpatti.
  • An interesting historical episode was that another brave Kamma Nayak Pemmasani Thimma Nayudu saved the life of Krisnadeva Raya in the battle of Raichur with a nice strategic approach, ultimately rewarded as the Governor of Gandikota (Cuddapah district). Thimma Nayudu constructed a large number of temples in Rayalaseema region.
  • Kammas controlled parts of south and north Tamil Nadu for several years under the title of Nayacker, which was a legacy of the Vijayanagar Empire. Thirumala Nayacker of Madurai was the most famous among them.
  • A recent census showed there are over seven hundred thousand Kammas in Tamil Nadu.
  • After the decline of major kingdoms they still owned large fertile lands. Owing mainly to this they continued to dominate in the villages as village heads, especially in coastal A.P., much akin to the Reddys in the western parts of the state.
  • One of the well-known dynasties that is linked to the Kamma community is the Vasireddy dynasty in Amaravati, established around 1413 AD. The prominent ruler was Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu
Modern History:

Important components of the development of the Kamma community are:
  • Their embrace of education. Among the non-Brahmin communities, Kammas were one of the first to take to education in large numbers. Over a period of 10 years, in Guntur District alone, 130 High schools were established by their initiative. Zamindars of Challapalli and Kapilewarapuram founded many schools and libraries.
  • Historically, they have been one of the wealthy communities in Andhra Pradesh; more recently, their success has been magnified and based on per-capita income Kammas are probably the wealthiest caste in Andhra. They have had notable achievements in business, farming, arts and movie industry, education, medicine, engineering, and high technology.
  • They have a progressive social outlook and work hard at anything they take up.
  • They were adept farmers and as a consequence of the changes that affected the economic landscape of rural India down the centuries, they became prosperous.
  • Kammas gradually diversified into other specialties such as films, media, academia, medicine, business, real estate, industries etc
  • Even though they fall less in number to the Brahmin Social Reformers, Poets, famous Politicians in whole of Andhra history, they have gained good inroads in recent past.
  • They have an enterprising and diligent nature.
  • Kammas can claim credit for introducing modern agricultural techniques in the state. Today, some of the most efficient professional institutions in the state are run by the Kammas.
  • They are generally found in roles ranging from large scale industries to small scale businesses.
  • Kamma caste is considered a regional caste mainly based in Andhra. Other similar castes in South India include Reddys, Velamas, Kapu and Vokkaligas.
  • One admirable characteristic about them is their recognition and belief in the dignity of labor, and are not above lending a hand to hired help and doing some field work themselves in agriculture if they see a need, which is generally considered something to be avoided in India by the upper castes.
Many Kammas in villages are not only peasants but are landlords as well. The Kamma community can also be found in large numbers in Anantapur, Chittoor, Bellary, Nizamabad, Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Khammam districts besides their significant presence in Guntur, Krishna, Godavari, Nellore and Prakasham Districts of Coastal Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu they can be found in Coimbatore, Thirunelveli, Tutucorin, Kovilpatti, Madurai, Theni, Karur, Dindigal, North Arcot and South Arcot districts.

Surnames:

Most of the Kamma surnames end with 'neni' denoting descent from an ancestor having title 'Nayakudu/Nayudu/Nayuni. For example, persons with surname 'Veeramachaneni' are descendants of 'Veeramacha Nayudu'. Other surnames indicate the villages to which the persons originally belonged to. Kammas use different titles in different regions such as Choudary, Rao, Naidu and Naicker. In Tamil Nadu and Southern A.P., Naidu is commonly used. Naicker is added in the areas south of Coimbatore district. However, Telugu speaking Balija and Gavara communities also add the title Naicker in Tamil Nadu. Politics:

Kammas are politically very active, especially in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. During the twentieth century a number of leaders like Prof N.G. Ranga, Gottipati Brahmaiah, and Kalluri Chandramouli took prominent roles in the national freedom movement. Several Kammas were attracted to leftist ideals and joined the Communist Party.

It was a strong political force in the state until the mid sixties. Many wealthy Kammas willingly relinquished their lands and actively worked for the land distribution reforms. This helped many landless individuals attain middle class status and brought about greater economic development of the state as a whole rather than to just one particular community. We are witnessing the benefits of this sacrifice now in the state as Andhra Pradesh has developed into an economic hub. However, their affinity towards the communist party in the early days led them to lose political clout along with the diminished influence of the Communist party throughout the world.

During the 1980s, they again played a key role in state and national politics with the inception of the Telugu Desam Party. Later, Nara Chandra Babu Naidu gave a progressive direction to Andhra Pradesh and got himself and the state global recognition. This recognition of the political and economic importance of Andhra Pradesh was manifest in the visits of American Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush.


Crossroads:

The educated Kammas are at a crossroads today. They are trying to decide if they are an impatient, forward looking, leftist, creative, artistic, bold, young and rebellious community which does not fit into the old feudal society structure or as a prosperous, right wing, conservative, reactionary, cautious, money minded and clannish community?

This dilemma is real, and several Kammas have expressed such views. With increased global horizons, like prospering in the USA and UK and Australia it will be interesting to see what route the creative Kammas will take. Most probably there will be a split between the wealthy and not so wealthy sections, each allying with various other similar groups but overall maintaining a trend towards progressive views.

Zamindaris:
  • Amaravati (Vasireddy clan), Challapalli (Yarlagadda clan),Undrajavaram (Mullapudi clan),Kapileswarapuram (Bulusu clan), Rangapuram (Adusumalli clan), Muktyala (Vasireddy clan), Nayakarpatti near Madurai(Pemmasani clan), Rachuru kingdom (suryadevara clan)
Source: Wikipedia and kammavar Sangam
 
 
 
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