Edgar Thurston.

Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 3) online

. (page 17 of 37)
Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 3) → online text (page 17 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sacred herd, but the male calves are kept distinct from
the male calves thereof. Many miracles are attributed
to the successive king bulls. During the fight between
the Tottiyans and Kappiliyans at Dindigul, a king bull
left on the rock the permanent imprint of its hoof, which
is still believed to be visible. At a subsequent quarrel
between the same castes, at Dombacheri, a king bull
made the sun turn back in its course, and the shadow

KAPU 222

is still pointed under a tamarind tree beneath which
arbitration took place. For the assistance rendered by
the bull on this occasion, the Maragalas will not use the
wood of the tamarind tree, or of the vela tree, to which
the bull was tied, either for fuel or for house-building.
The Kappiliyans have recently (1906) raised Rs. 11,000
by taxing all members of the caste in the Periyakulam
taluk for three years, and have spent this sum in building
roomy masonry quarters at Kambam for the sacred herd.
Their chief grievance at present is that the same grazing
fees are levied on their animals as on mere ordinary
cattle, which, they urge, is equivalent to treating gods as
equals of men. In the settlement of caste affairs, oaths
are taken within the enclosure for the sacred herd.

" Local tradition at Kambam (where a large propor-
tion of the people are Kappiliyans) says that the
Anuppans, another Canarese caste, were in great
strength here in olden days, and that quarrels arose
between the two bodies, in the course of which the chief
of the Kappiliyans, Ramachcha Kavundan, was killed.
With his dying breath he cursed the Anuppans, and
thenceforth they never prospered, and now not one of
them is left in the town. A fig tree to the east of the
village is shown as marking the place where Ramach-
cha's body was burned ; near it is the tank, the
Ramachchankulam ; and under the bank of this is his
math, where his ashes were deposited." *

Kapu. The Kapus or Reddis are the largest caste
in the Madras Presidency, numbering more than two
millions, and are the great caste of cultivators, farmers,
and squireens in the Telugu country. In the Gazetteer
of Anantapur they are described as being the great

Gazetteer of the Madura district.

223 KAPU

land-holding body in the Telugu districts, who are held
in much respect as substantial, steady-going yeomen, and
next to the Brahmans are the leaders of Hindu Society.
In the Salem M.anual it is stated that "the Reddis are
provident. They spend their money on the land, but are
not parsimonious. They are always well dressed, if they
can afford it. The gold ornaments worn by the women
or the men are of the finest kind of gold. Their houses
are always neat and well built, and the Reddis give the
idea of good substantial ryots. They live chiefly on ragi
(grain : Eleusine Coracana), and are a fine, powerful
race." Of proverbs relating to the hereditary occupation
of the Reddis, the following may be quoted. "Only a
Reddi can cultivate the land, even though he has to
drink for every clod turned over." " Those are Reddis
who get their living by cultivating the earth." " The
Reddi who grows arika (Paspalum strobiculatum) can
have but one cloth for man and wife."

" The term Kapu," Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,* " means
a watchman, and Reddi means a king. The Kapus or
Reddis (Ratti) appear to have been a powerful Dravidian
tribe in the early centuries of the Christian era, for they
have left traces of their presence at various places in
almost every part of India. Though their power has
been put down from time to time by the Chalukyas, the
Pallavas, and the Bellalas, several families of zamindars
came into existence after the captivity of Pratapa Rudra
of Warrangal in A.D. 1323 by the Muhammadan emperor
Ghiyas-ud-din Toghluk."

Writing in the Manual of the Salem district concern-
ing the Kongu kingdom, the Rev. T. Foulkes states
that " the Kongu kingdom claims to have existed from

** Madras Census Report, 1891.

KAPU 224

about the commencement of the Christian era, and to
have continued under its own independent kings down
to nearly the end of the ninth century A.D., when it
was conquered by the Chola kings of Tanjore, and
annexed to their dominions. The earliest portion of
the Kongu Chronicle (one of the manuscripts of the
Mackenzie collection) gives a series of short notices of
the reigns of twenty-eight kings who ruled the country
previous to its conquest by the Cholas. These kings
belonged to two distinct dynasties : the earlier line was
of the solar race, and the later line of the Ganga race.
The earlier dynasty had a succession of seven kings
of the Ratti tribe, a tribe very extensively distributed,
which has at various periods left its mark throughout
almost every part of India. This is probably the earliest
reference to them as a ruling power, and it is the most
southern situation in which they ever held dominion.
They disappear in these parts about the end of the
second century A.D. ; and, in the next historical references
to them, we find them high up in the Northern Dakkan,
amongst the kingdoms conquered by the Chalukyas
about the fourth century A.D. soon after they first
crossed the Nerbudda. In the Kongu Chronicle they
are stated to be of the solar race : and the genealogies
of this tribe accordingly trace them up to Kusha, the
second son of Rama, the hero of the great solar epic of
the Hindus ; but their claim to this descent is not
undisputed. They are, however, sometimes said to
be of the lunar race, and of the Yadava tribe, though
this latter statement is sometimes confined to the
later Rathors." According to the Rev. T. Foulkes, the
name Ratti is found under various forms, e.g., Irattu,
Iretti, Radda, Rahtor, Rathaur, Rashtra-kuta, Ratta,
Reddi, etc.



' *"*. i


225 KAPU

In a note on the Rashtrakutas, Mr. J. F. Fleet
writes* that " we find that, from the first appearance of
the Chalukyas in this part of the country, in the fifth
century A.D., the Kanarese districts of the Bombay
Presidency were held by them, with short periods of
interruption of their power caused by the invasions of
the Pallavas and other kings, down to about the early
part or the middle of the eighth century A.D. Their
sway over this part of the country then ceased entirely
for a time. This was due to an invasion by the Rashtra-
kuta kings, who, like their predecessors, came from the
north .... It is difficult to say when there was
first a Rashtrakuta kingdom. The earliest notices that
we have of the family are contained in the western
Chalukya inscriptions. Thus, the Miraj plates tell us
that Jayasimha I, restored the fortunes of the Chalukya
dynasty by defeating, among others, one Indra of the
Rashtrakuta family, who was the son of Krishna, and
who possessed an army of eight hundred elephants ; and
there is little doubt that Appayika-Govinda, who, as
we are told in the Aihole Meguti inscription, came from
the north and invaded the Chalukya kingdom with his
troops of elephants, and was repulsed by Pulikesi II, also
belonged to this same dynasty. It is plain, therefore,
that in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. the Rashtrakuta
dynasty was one of considerable importance in central or
in northern India. The later inscriptions state that the
Rashtrakutas were of the Somavamsa or lunar race, and
were descendants of Yadu. Dr. Burnell seems inclined
to look upon the family as of Dravidian origin, as he
gives ' Rashtra ' as an instance of the Sanskritising of
Dravidian names, and considers it to be a mythological

* Dynasties of the Kanarese Districts of the Bombay Presidency.

KAPU 226

perversion for ' Ratta ,' which is the same as the Kanarese
and Telugu ' Reddi.' Dr. Buhler is unable to record
any opinion as to 'whether the Rashtrakutas were an
Aryan Kshatriya, i.e., Rajput race, which immigrated
into the Dekkan from the north like the Chalukyas, or
a Dravidian family which was received into the Aryan
community after the conquest of the Dekkan. The
earliest inscriptions, at any rate, show them as coming
from the north, and, whatever may be their origin, as the
word Rashtrakuta is used in many inscriptions of other
dynasties as the equivalent of Rashtrapati, i.e., as an
official word meaning 'the headman or governor of a
country or district,' it appears to me that the selection
of it as a dynastic name implies that, prior to attaining
independent sovereignty, the Rashtrakutas were feudal
chiefs under some previous dynasty, of which they have
not preserved any record."

It is a common saying among the Kapus that they
can easily enumerate all the varieties of rice, but it is
impossible to give the names of all the sections into
which the caste is split up. Some say that there are
only fourteen of these, and use the phrase Panta padna-
lagu kulalu, or Panta and fourteen sections.

The following sub-divisions are recorded by Mr.
Stuart * as being the most important :

Ayodhya, or Oudh, where Rama is reputed to
have lived. The sub-division is found in Madura and
Tinnevelly. They are very proud of their supposed
connection with Oudh. At the commencement of the
marriage ceremony, the bride's party asks the bride-
groom's who they are, and the answer is that they are
Ayodhya Reddis. A similar question is then asked by

* Loc. cit., and Manual of the North Arcot district.

227 KAPU

the bridegroom's party, and the bride's friends reply that
they are Mithila Reddis.

Balija. The chief Telugu trading caste. Many of
the Balijas are now engaged in cultivation, and this
accounts for so many having returned Kapu as their
main caste, for Kapu is a common Telugu word for a
ryot or cultivator. It is not improbable that there was
once a closer connection than now between the Kapus
and Balijas.

Bhumanchi (good earth).

Desur. Possibly residents originally of a place
called Desur, though some derive the word from deha,
body, and sura, valour, saying that they were renowned
for their courage.

Gandi Kottai. Found in Madura and Tinnevelly.
Named after Gandi Kota in the Ceded districts, whence
they are said to have emigrated southward.

Gazula (glass bangle makers). A sub-division of
the Balijas. They are said to have two sections, called
Naga (cobra) and Tabelu (tortoise), and, in some places,
to keep their women gosha.

Kammapuri. These seem to be Kammas, who,
in some places, pass as Kapus. Some Kammas, for
example, who have settled in the city of Madras, call
themselves Kapu or Reddi.

Morasa. A sub-division of the Vakkaligas. The
Verala icche Kapulu, or Kapus who give the fingers,
have a custom which requires that, when a grandchild is
born in a family, the wife of the eldest son of the grand-
father must have the last two joints of the third and
fourth fingers of her right hand amputated at a temple
of Bhairava.

Nerati, Nervati, or Neradu. Most numerous in
Kurnool, and the Ceded districts.
111-15 B

KAPU 228

Oraganti. Said to have formerly worked in the
salt-pans. The name is possibly a corruption of
Warangal, capital of the Pratapa Rudra.

Pakanati. Those who come from the eastern
country (prak nadu).

Palle. In some places, the Pallis who have settled
in the Telugu country call themselves Palle Kapulu, and
give as their gotra Jambumaha Rishi, which is the gotra
of the Pallis. Though they do not intermarry with the
Kapus, the Palle Kapulu may interdine with them.

Panta (Panta, a crop). The largest sub-division
of all.

Pedaganti or Pedakanti. By some said to be
named after a place called Pedagallu. By others the
word is said to be derived from peda, turned aside, and
kamma eye, indicating one who turns his eyes away
from the person who speaks to him. Another sugges-
tion is that it means stiff-necked. The Pedakantis are
said to be known by their arrogance.

The following legend is narrated in the Baramahal
Records.* " On a time, the Guru or Patriarch came
near a village, and put up in a neighbouring grove until
he sent in a Dasari to apprize his sectaries of his
approach. The Dasari called at the house of one of
them, and announced the arrival of the Guru, but the
master of the house took no notice of him, and, to avoid
the Guru, he ran away through the back door of the
house, which is called peradu, and by chance came to
the grove, and was obliged to pay his respects to the
Guru, who asked if he had seen his Dasari, and he
answered that he had been all day from home. On
which, the Guru sent for the Dasari, and demanded the

* Section III, Inhabitants, Madras Government Press, 1907.

229 KAPU

reason of his staying away so long, when he saw the
master of the house was not in it. The Dasari replied
that the person was at home when he went there, but
that, on seeing him, he fled through the back door,
which the Guru finding true, he surnamed him the
Peratiguntavaru or the runaway through the back door,
now corruptly called Perdagantuwaru, and said that he
would never honour him with another visit, and that he
and his descendants should henceforth have no Guru or

Pokanadu (poka, areca palm : Areca Catechu}.

Velanati. Kapus from a foreign (veli) country.


" The last division," Mr. Stuart writes, " are the
most peculiar of all, and are partly of Brahmanical
descent. The story goes that a Brahman girl named
Yerlamma, not having been married by her parents in
childhood, as she should have been, was for that reason
turned out of her caste. A Kapu, or some say a Besta
man, took compassion on her, and to him she bore many
children, the ancestors of the Yerlam Kapu caste. In
consequence of the harsh treatment of Yerlamma by
her parents and caste people, all her descendants hate
Brahmans with a deadly hatred, and look down upon
them, affecting also to be superior to every other caste.
They are most exclusive, refusing to eat with any caste
whatever, or even to take chunam (lime for chewing
with betel) from any but their own people, whereas
Brahmans will take lime from a Sudra, provided a little
curd be mixed with it. The Yerlam Kapus do not
employ priests of the Brahman or other religious classes
even for their marriages. At these no homam (sacred
fire) ceremony is performed, and no worship offered to
Vigneswara, but they simply ascertain a fortunate day

KAPU 230


and hour, and get an old matron (sumangali) to tie the
tali to the bride's neck, after which there is feasting and

The Panta Kapus are said to be divided into two
tegas or endogamous divisions, viz., Perama Reddi or
Muduru Kapu (ripe or old Kapu) ; and Katama Reddi
or Letha Kapu (young or unripe Kapus). A sub-
division called Konda (hill) Kapus is mentioned by the
Rev. J. Cain * as being engaged in cultivation and the
timber trade in the eastern ghats near the Godavari
river (see Konda Dora). Akula (betel-leaf seller) was
returned at the census, 1901, as a sub-caste of Kapus.

In the Census Report, 1891, Kapu (indicating culti-
vator), is given as a sub-division of Chakkiliyans,
Dommaras, Gadabas, Savaras and Tel is. It further
occurs as a sub-division of Mangala. Some Maratha
cultivators in the Telugu country are known as Are
Kapu. The Konda Doras are also called Konda Kapus.
In the Census Report, 1901, Pandu is returned as a
Tamil synonym, and Kampo as an Oriya form of Kapu.

Reddi is the usual title of the Kapus, and is the title
by which the village munsiff is called in the Telugu
country, regardless of the caste to which he may belong.
Reddi also occurs as a sub-division of cultivating Linga
Balijas, Telugu Vadukans or Vadugans in the Tamil
country, Velamas, and Yanadis. It is further given as
a name for Kavarais engaged in agriculture, and as a
title of the Kallangi sub-division of Pallis, and Sadars.
The name Sambuni Reddi is adopted by some Palles
engaged as fishermen.

As examples of exogamous septs among the Kapus,
the following may be cited :

* Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879-

Avula, cow.
Alia, grain.
Bandi, cart.
Barrelu, buffaloes.
Dandu, army.
Gorre, sheep.
Gudise, hut.
Guntaka, harrow.
Kodla, fowl.

231 KAPO

Mekala, goats.

Kanugala, Pongamia glabra.

Mungaru, woman's skirt.

Nagali, plough.

Tangedu, Cassia auriculata.

Udumala, Varanus bengalensis.

Varige, Setaria italica.

Yeddulu, bulls.

Yenuga, elephant.

At Conjeeveram, some Panta Reddis have true
totemistic septs, of which the following are examples :

Magili (Pandanus fascicularis). Women do not, like women of
other castes, use the flower-bracts for the purpose of adorning them-
selves. A man has been known to refuse to purchase some bamboo
mats, because they were tied with the fibre of this tree.

Ippi (Bassia longifolia). The tree, and its products, must not
be touched.

Mancham (cot). They avoid sleeping on cots.

Arigala (Paspalum scrobiculatum). The grain is not used as

Chintaginjalu (tamarind seeds). The seeds may not be touched,
or used.

Puccha ( Citrullus vulgaris; water melon). The fruit may not be

The Pichigunta vandlu, a class of mendicants who
beg chiefly from Kapus and Gollas, manufacture pedi-
grees and gotras for these castes and the Kammas.

Concerning the origin of the Kapus, the following
legend is current. During the reign of Pratapa Rudra,
the wife of one Belthi Reddi secured by severe penance
a brilliant ear ornament (kamma) from the sun. This was
stolen by the King's minister, as the King was very
anxious to secure it for his wife. Belthi Reddi's wife
told her sons to recover it, but her eldest son refused
to have anything to do with the matter, as the King
was involved in it. The second son likewise refused,

KAPU 232

and used foul language. The third son promised to
secure it, and, hearing this, one of his brothers ran away.
Finally the ornament was recovered by the youngest
son. The Panta Kapus are said to be descended from
the eldest son, the Pakanatis from the second, the
Velamas from the son who ran away, and the Kammas
from the son who secured the jewel.

The Kapus are said to have originally dwelt in
Ayodhya. During the reign of Bharata, one Pillala
Mari Belthi Reddi and his sons deceived the King by
appropriating all the grain to themselves, and giving him
the straw. The fraud was detected by Rama when he
assumed charge of the kingdom, and, as a punishment,
he ordered the Kapus to bring Cucurbita (pumpkin)
fruits for the sradh (death ceremony) of Dasaratha.
They accordingly cultivated the plant, but, before the
ceremony took place, all the plants were uprooted by
Hanuman, and no fruits were forthcoming. In lieu
thereof, they promised to offer gold equal in weight
to that of the pumpkin, and brought all of which they
were possessed. This they placed in the scales, but it
was not sufficient to counterbalance a pumpkin against
which it was weighed. To make up the deficiency in
weight, the Kapu women removed their bottus (marriage
badges), and placed them in the scales. Since that time
women of the Motati and Pedakanti sections have sub-
stituted a cotton string dyed with turmeric for the bottu.
It is worthy of notice that a similar legend is current
among the Vakkaligas (cultivators) of Mysore, who,
instead of giving up the bottu, seem to have abandoned
the cultivation of the Cucurbita plant. The exposure
of the fraud led Belthi Reddi to leave Ayodhya with one
of his wives and seventy-seven children, leaving behind
thirteen wives. In the course of their journey, they had


233 KAPU

to cross the Silanadi (petrifying river), and, if they passed
through the water, they would have become petrified.
So they went to a place called Dhonakonda, and, after
worshipping Ganga, the head of the idol was cut off, and
brought to the river bank. The waters, like those of the
Red Sea in the time of Pharaoh, were divided, and the
Kapus crossed on dry ground. In commemoration of
this event, the Kapus still worship Ganga during their
marriage ceremonies. After crossing the river, the tra-
vellers came to the temple of Mallikarjuna, and helped
the Jangams in the duties of looking after it. Some time
afterwards the Jangams left the place for a time, and placed
the temple in charge of the Kapus. On their return, the
Kapus refused to hand over charge to them, and it was
decided that whoever should go to Nagalokam (the abode
of snakes), and bring back Naga Malligai (jasmine from
snake-land), should be considered the rightful owner of
the temple. The Jangams, who were skilled in the art
of transformation, leaving their mortal frames, went in
search of the flower in the guise of spirits. Taking
advantage of this, the Kapus burnt the bodies of the
Jangams, and, when the spirits returned, there were no
bodies for them to enter. Thereon the god of the
temple became angry, and transformed the Jangams into
crows, which attacked the Kapus, who fled to the country
of Oraganti Pratapa Rudra. As this King was a Sakti
worshipper, the crows ceased to harass the Kapus, who
settled down as cultivators. Of the produce of the land,
nine-tenths were to be given to the King, and the Kapus
were to keep a tithe. At this time the wife of Belthi
Reddi was pregnant, and she asked her sons what they
would give to the son who was about to be born. They
all promised to give him half their earnings. The child
grew into a learned man and poet, and one day carried

KAPU 234

water to the field where his brothers were at work. The
vessel containing the water was only a small one, and
there was not enough water for all. But he prayed to
Sarasvati, with whose aid the vessel was always filled
up. Towards evening, the grain collected during the
day was heaped together, with a view to setting apart
the share for the King. But a dispute arose among the
brothers, and it was decided that only a tithe should be
given to him. The King, being annoyed with the Kapus
for not giving him his proper share, waited for an oppor-
tunity to bring disgrace on Belthi Reddi, and sought
the assistance of a Jangam, who managed to become
the servant of Belthi Reddi's wife. After some time, he
picked up her kamma when it fell off while she was
asleep, and handed it over to Pratapa Rudra, who caused
it to be proclaimed that he had secured the ornament as
a preliminary to securing the person of its owner. The
eldest son of Belthi Reddi, however, recovered the
kamma in a fight with the King, during which he car-
ried his youngest brother on his back. From him the
Kammas are descended. The Velamas are descended
from the sons who ran away, and the Kapus from those
who would neither fight nor run away.

Pollution at the first menstrual ceremony lasts, I am
informed, for sixteen days. Every day, both morning
and evening, a dose of gingelly (Sesamunt) oil is admin-
istered to the girl, and, if it produces much purging, she
is treated with buffalo ghl (clarified butter). On alter-
nate days water is poured over her head, and from the
neck downwards. The cloth which she wears, whether
new or old, becomes the property of the washerwoman.
On the first day the meals consist of milk and dhal (Caj-
anus indicus), but on subsequent days cakes, etc., are

235 KAPU

In their marriage ceremonial, the Panta Reddis of
the South Arcot and Salem districts appear to follow the
Brahmanical form. In the Telugu country, however, it
is as follows. On the pradhanam or betrothal day, the
party of the bridegroom-elect go in procession under
a canopy (ulladam), attended by musicians, and matrons
carrying betel, cocoanuts, date and plantain fruits, and
turmeric on plates. As soon as they have arrived at
the courtyard of the future bride's house, she seats
herself on a plank. A Brahman purohit moulds a
little turmeric paste into a conical mass representing
Vigneswara (the elephant god), and it is worshipped
by the girl, in front of whom the trays brought by the
women are placed. She is presented with a new cloth,
which she puts on, and a near female relation gives her
three handfuls of areca nuts, a few betel leaves, and the
bride-price and jewels tied up in a turmeric-dyed cloth.
All these things the girl deposits in her lap. The
fathers of the contracting couple then exchange betel,
with the customary formula. "The girl is yours, and
the money mine " and " The money is yours, and the
girl mine." Early on the wedding morning the bride-
groom's party, accompanied by a purohit and washerman
(Tsakala), go to fetch the bride from her house. The
milk-post is set up, and is usually made of a branch of
Mimusops hexandra or, in the Tamil country, Odina
Wodier. On the conclusion of the marriage rites, the
Odina post is planted in the backyard, and, if it takes

Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 3) → online text (page 17 of 37)