Kongu Vellalar Gounder Caste: An Overview
Caste was and has been a central determining factor for individuals born into orthodox families. It not only determines what opportunities are available at your disposal but also what you can or cannot do, in practically every sphere of life. Having realized this through various experiences, a thought occurred to me to find out, atleast, how the caste I belong to- Kongu Vellalar Gounder (in Tamil Nadu) actually came into existence. The following has been highly drawn from secondary sources. * Gounders! Who are they?
The Tamil country was ruled mainly by three dynasties- Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas. During the reign of Satru Sadhana Pandyan, a war was fought between him and Uttama Chola of the Chola dynasty for expansion of territory. The Chola king was a strong and brave fighter who put Satru Sadhana Pandyan in deep turmoil. But the general of the army of the Pandyas- Kariyan alias ‘Pillai Sakkarai’ assured Satru Sadhana Pandyan that he will route the Cholas back to their territory. He lived up to his words. The pandyas emerged victorious. Satru Sadhana Pandyan became extremely happy and gifted ‘Pillai Sakkarai’ the regions of Karaiyur, Valiarchal, Muthur, Marutharai Grama as well as half of Papani Grama. He was also conferred the title Uttama Chola for accomplishing such a feat. Overtime the title changed to Uttama Chola Kammindan, which literally means the noble protector of the country. Gradually, the term Cholan disappeared and became Uttama Kammindan. Eventually, Kammindan became what is presently called the Gounders. This information is seen in the “Nathakadayur Jayakundanathar” Temple inscription. Therefore, the progeny of ‘Pillai Sakkarai’ form what is presently called the Gounders. * Historical Role:
The regions inherited by ‘Pillai Sakkarai’ became a part of the Chera dynasty which was later a part of the Mysore Kingdom ruled by Tipu Sultan. This information is obtained from the accounts of various writers who were fascinated by the technological innovation made in the construction of the Kalingaraya Canal, from river Bhavani. Due its economic advantages, it caught the attention of foreign historians, political thinkers, leaders, engineers, alike. For instance, due to the irrigation provided by the canal, the regions of Erode (a district in Tamil Nadu) became highly popular in turmeric cultivation. Infact, even now it is Asia’s largest market for turmeric production. The accounts prove to be a great deal of historical account of the regions.
However, in the Fourth Anglo Mysore war (1799) which resulted in the death of Tipu Sultan, this can canal played a crucial role. Unfortunately it was destroyed during the course of the war. After which the Kongu regions were divided by the English into two- one of the South of the Noyal River, capital as Dharapuram; and the other to the North of the river, with capital as Bhavani. A political historian of the English East India Company – Dr Bhuchchanan gave detailed information about these occurrences.
In Tamil Nadu, this caste group is called Gounders. Since the geographical territory was not clearly defined, it is known by different names in different regions like- Vettuvars, Vanniars, Vokkaligas, Uralis and Gollas.
The Gounders refer to the cultivators of the region. They are the broad caste falling under the Kshatriya Varna and encompass as many as twenty sub-castes. Sub-groups include: Ahamudiya Gounder, Narambu Katti Gounder, Pavala Vellala Gounder, Padayacchi Gounder, Thirumudi Gounder, Vellalar Gounder, etc. * Inscriptional Records:
Numerous inscriptions substantiate the history of the region. They are found across various districts of the Kongu Nadu- Erode (204), Coimbatore (76) and in other places. These inscriptions in Tamil mention the names of the Kulam/Kootam of the Gounders. In these inscriptions are mentioned various things such as about farming, economy, status of women, language,...
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