|Languages||Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Oriya, Marathi|
|Populated States||Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, United States, United Kingdom|
Arya Vaishya is a primarily Telugu-speaking Indian caste. Orthodox Arya Vaishyas follow rituals prescribed in the Vasavi Puranam, a religious text written in the late Middle Ages.Their kuladevata is Vasavi.
The Arya Vaishya are divided into two sub-sects, the Gavara Komatis and the Kalinga Komatis.
Hanumantha Rao noted that the merchant classes preferred Jainism for gaining social status and respectability, and the erstwhile Banias became Gomati or followers of the Gomata cult in medieval times. The story of Vasavi, the caste goddess of the Vaisyas narrated in the Vaisya Purana is said to have definite Jain overtones.
According to Rao, there is an alternative etymology for the word Komti, as the "derivation of the word from gomata, the great Jaina saint, which implies that they were followers of Gomata cult or were originally Jains".
Dwarakanath Gupta says that "These tradesmen (Beharulu) who hailed from Gouda Desa took to Jainism and adopted the 'Gomata' cult. The word Gomata got distorted slowly as Gomatlu, Kommathulu, Komattulu. In the Tamil and Malayalam languages the word 'Komati' is in use. These Jain Vysyas slowly gave up Jainism and embraced the Vedic religion during its revival".
Vasavi Purana, also called Vasavi Kanyaka Purana or Sri Vasavi Kanyakaparameshwari Purana, is the story of a deity, Vasavi Devi or Vasavi Kanyaka Parameshwari. Vasavi Purana was authored by Bhaskaracharya, believed to belong to the 16th century A.D. The Andhra territory at this time was ruled by the Gajapatis on one side and the Vijayanagar empire on the other side. The Vasavi Purana, also called Vaisya Purana, gives a list of places around these regions, and prescribes the manner in which disputes are to be settled; by involving all the setti-pattana-swamins, presided by the chief-setti residing at Penugonda, and attended by the caste guru, Bhaskaracharya. The existence of Nakara or Nakaram, a trade guild at Penugonda, is supported by several inscriptions. The Nakara and Gavare were amongst the many Trade Guilds of South India.
The Mackenzie manuscripts provide a record of the copper plate grant of the guru, Bhaskaracharya, given by the 102 gotras which formed the Gavara grouping. According to the Vasavi Purana, the Vaisyas of Penugonda and 17 other towns belonged to a group of Vaisyas of 714 gotras. However, the 102 gotras of Gavaras separated out, and formed the Gavara Komati community.
Inclusion into the Vaishya Varna
The Komatis became a part of the Vaishya during British colonial times. The Komatis desired to be members of the Vaishya caste. However, the Niyogi (Brahmin) councillors who controlled the powerful Mandri Mahanad did not accept or support their claim.
Attempts by Komatis to adopt orthodox Vaishya rituals drew the hostile attention of Niyogis. When a Komati family in Masulipatnam announced their intention to perform the Upanayana ceremony for their son, leaders of the Mahanad invaded the house, polluted the fire and stopped the ceremony. Violent encounters along these lines leading to loss of lives were noted in 1784, 1803, 1809, 1817 and 1820.
Of the approximately 1000 Komati families living in Masulipatnam in 1825, the Gavara Komatis were one of the two main Komati groups. They had 102 gotras, which were not considered to correspond in identity with the gotras deemed appropriate for Brahmanas or Vaishyas. From 1784 to 1825 few families organized the Upanayana, but by 1825 a majority of the caste's males wore the sacred thread.
The Upanayana ceremonies were officiated by the Vaidiki Brahmins who were tolerant of the wishes of their patrons. However, the Niyogis continued to mobilize the untouchable Dalits to riot and organized offensives against such ceremonies. This led three Komati litigants to take their complaints to the civil court. One litigant, Mamedy Venkia, had studied the Dharmashastras and took a leading role in Komati activities with regard to the Upanayanams. The litigants were supported by the Vaidiki Brahmins.
The Niyogis and their lawyers attempted to destroy the Vaidiki support in court by arguing that the Vaidikis were unread in the Dharmashastras, and that they supported the Komatis because they depended on Komati fees for their livelihood. In 1833 the Sadr Adalat decided in favour of the Niyogis. In 1845 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council refused to make a formal decision.
Niyogi resistance to these activities may be viewed as the protective strategy of a community which was experiencing new opportunities for advancement through service with the consolidating imperial state. Niyogi action to prevent encroachments on the domain of the twice-born could have been motivated in part by a desire to limit the field of possible high-status competitors in this situation of new opportunities for employment with the government of Madras
The magistrates of Masulipatnam continually received charges from Komatis and Niyogis and could not manage the dispute. The magistrates attempted to solve the dispute by asking Komatis to stop performing the rituals. The Komatis however remained undaunted by the court orders and kept going with their attempts.
By the beginning of the 20th century, it was common for the Komatis to describe their clan membership in terms of Brahmanical rishi gotras. And in the 1901 census the Komatis — significant numbers of whom had prospered in the 19th century — were the only Telugu community who succeeded in getting the government to rank them as Vaishyas. Following this inclusion, a group of Komatis established the South India Vysia Association in 1905.
There are 102 gotras among Arya Vaishyas. They followed 102 Rishis for conducting their rituals. Surname gotras and Rishis for identification and classification for all the Arya Vaishyas are the same. The gotras is equivalent of the Sanskrit names of Rishis.
- Gupta, Dwarakanath C., & Bhaskar, S., 1992. Vysyas: a sociological study. Ashish Publishing House. ISBN 8170244501
- Rao, Hanumantha B. S. L., 1973. Religion in Āndhra: a survey of religious developments in Āndhra from early times upto A.D. 1325, Part 1325, Issue 69 of Archaeological series. Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Andhra Pradesh, p. 175
- Rao, Hanumantha B. S. L., 1995. Socio-cultural history of ancient and medieval Andhra, p.130. Volume 172 of Telugu Viśvavidyālaya pracuraṇa. Telugu University.
- Rao, B.S. L. Hanumantha. Social mobility in Medieval Andhra. p. 176.
- Gupta, C. Dwarakanath. Socio-cultural history of an Indian caste. p. 10.
- Andhra Historical Research Society., 1964. Journal of the Andhra Historical Society, Volume 30, Parts 1-4, Pages 207-209.
- Paul, John Jeya; Yandell, Keith E. (2000). Religion and public culture: encounters and identities in modern South India. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press. pp. 33–55. ISBN 9780700711017.
- "Arya Vysya Gothras". Vysyamala.com. Retrieved 2012-09-19.