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Castes of India
Dravidian race
Regions with significant Population
Tamil Nadu
Upa Subramanya
Tamil people

Sengunthar ([sɛŋkʊnʈɻ]) or Kaikolar is a Tamil community found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and also in some parts of Kerala,[1] Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Northern Province, Sri Lanka. Sengunthars use the title of Mudaliar after their names. They are classified into various sub-sects based on a patrilineal system called Koottams, which is similar to gotras.


  1. The word Kaikkolar comes from the words kai (hand) and kol (shuttle used in looms) [2]
  2. Kaikkolar also means men with stronger arms.[3][4]
  3. Senguntham means a red dagger. Sengunthar literally means a warrior with Red Dagger.[2]

Literary evidences about Sengunthar[edit]

Senguntha Prabanda Thiratu[5] is a collection of various literary works written about Kaikkolars. It was originally published by Vannakkalanjiyam Kanji Shri Naagalinga Munivar in the year 1926 and later it was republished in the year 1993 by Sabapathi Mudaliar.[6] These literary works contain the following:

  1. Senkunthar pillai tamizh by Gnanaprakasa swamigal, Tirisirapuram Kovintha Pillai & Lakkumanaswami: Senkunthar pillai tamizh is a collection of songs from palm-leaf manuscripts about Sengunthars. It was published by Ñanappirakacacuvamikal, Tiricirapuram Kovinta Pillai, Ilatcumanacuvami in 18th century in Kanchipuram
  2. Eetti ezhubathu: The major literary work about Sengunthar was a poetry by Ottakkoothar,a poet of the same caste, known as Eetti ezhupathu[7] in 12th century AD during the reign of Rajaraja Chozha II. This work describes the mythical origin of Sengunthar, expeditions of Sengunthar chieftains and also praises 1008 Kaikolar who gave their heads for the same work to be written by the court poet of chozha[8]
  3. Ezhupezhubathu: Ezhupezhubathu is a sequel to Eetti ezhubathu written by Ottakkoothar. In this work, he prays Goddess Saraswathi to fix the heads of 1008 Sengunthars to their respective bodies.
  4. Kalipporubathu: Kalipporubathu is a collection of 10 stanzas compiled by Kulothunga Chozha III. These stanzas were written after Ezhupezhubathu in express of joy when the 1008 heads of Kaikolars got attached to their respective ones. These stanzas include the songs who witnessed it in the court of Raja Raja II including himself which was later compiled by his successor Kulothunga Chozha III
  5. Thirukkai vazhakkam: Thirukkai vazhakkam describes the good deeds of Sengunthars and their saivite religion principles. It was written by Puhalendi
  6. Sengunthar silaakkiyar malai: Sengunthar Silaakkiyar malai was written by Kanchi Virabadhra Desigar which describes the legends and eminent personalities born in Sengunthar community

Kaikolar Warriors[edit]

Commander-in-chiefs and Chieftains[edit]

Kaikkolar were Chieftains and Commander-in-chiefs of Later chozhas. Kaikkolar Commander-in-chiefs were known as Samanta Senapathigal[9][10] or Senaithalaivar.[11][12][13] The Chieftains of Sengunthar caste were mentioned in works such as Vallaan kaviyam, Vira Narayana Vijayam[14] and Eeti ezhubathu. They were Suban, Chieftain of Thiruchendur, Padaimaruthan, Chieftain of Thiruvidaimarudur, Gomathi, Chieftain of Pazhuvur, Kachithaniyan, Chieftain of kachi(kanchipuram), Otriyuran, Chieftain of Thiruvotriyur, Kalanthaiyarasan, Chieftain of Ponvilaintha kalathur, Putridamkondaan, Chieftain of Thiruvarur, Kolanthagan, Chieftain of Kodunkundram, Puliyur palli kondaan, Chieftain of Chidambaram, Pinavan, Chieftain of Kadambur, Kandiyuran, Chieftain of Thiru kandiyur, Mudhukundra Maniyan, Chieftain of Virudhachalam, Thanjai Vemban, Chieftain of Thiruvaiyaru and chief minister under Parantaka I's reign. Pazhuvur Narayanan and Pazhuvur Veeran, twin-sons of Pazhuvur Chieftain,[15] were the famous Commander-in-chiefs mentioned in the above works. One Sengunthar chieftain of Kanchi during twelfth century named Kangeyan was a patron to the poet Ottakoothar of the same caste.[16]

Therinja kaikolar padai[edit]

Sengunthars who were initially weavers were militarised during the chozha empire and formed a major part of the chozha army from 8th century to 13th century. There were no Sengunthar army before or after the chozha empire. Sengunthar army was known as Therinja kaikolar padai (Terinja means well known in Tamil and Padai means Battalion). Some of the regiments were further divided into Ilaya Samakkattu and Mutha Samakkattu[17]

Smarakesarit-terinja-Kaikkolar and Vikramasingat-terinja-Kaikkolar derived their names from possible titles of Parantaka[18][19][20][21] Udaiyar-Gandaradittatterinja-Kaikkolar[8] must have been the name of a regiment called after king Gandaraditya, the father of Uttama-chozha.[22][23] Singalantaka-terinda-Kaikkolar (a regiment named after Singalantaka i.e. Parntaka I)[24][25] Danatonga-terinja-Kaikkola (regiment or group). The early writing of the record and the surname Danatunga of Paranataka I suggests its assignment to his reign.[26][27][28] Muttavalperra seems to indicate some special honour or rank conferred on the regiment by the king.[29]

Paluvettaraiyar regiment[edit]

Sengunthars were also soldiers in the regiment of Paluvettaraiyar and were involved in the invasion of Sri Lanka by Cholas in the 10th century.[30][page needed]

Military Exploits[edit]

In Journal of the Bombay Historical Society, the authors state that in the army of Medieval and Later chozhas, many commanders and captains were drawn from the ranks of Sengunthar. Further records of exploits of Sengunthar army in Ceylon, Bengal, Burma and Indonesia were recorded in temple inscriptions.[31][page needed][32]

According to Carla M. Sinopoli, evidence for Kaikkola armies appear from the chozha period.[33][full citation needed] They describe that Sengunthars were both weavers and merchants and maintained armies to guard their regional trading ventures. Throughout the chozha period, trading and military activities of Sengunthar are predominant. Sengunthar were members of the Ayyavole 500 regional trading corporation.[32]

Royal bodyguards (Agampadiyar)[edit]

Sengunthars served as Agampadiyar to Chola Emperors which literally means the members of the Chola emperor's royal bodyguards.[34]

Later Society[edit]

After 13th century Sengunthars had become associated with weaving completely.[31][full citation needed][32][full citation needed][35][full citation needed] According to Deepak Kumar, the Sengunthar weavers very often figure in the capacity of kudi, i.e. tenant-cultivators and also holders of kaniyachi, that is hereditary possession over the land.[36][full citation needed] During the period of Sadasiva raya, the sthanathar of the Brahmapuriswara temple made an agreement that they would cultivate certain lands of the Kaikkolar regiment.[31][36][37]

Sengunthars Temple Trustees[edit]

According to India Before Europe by Catherine Ella Blanshard Asher, Cynthia Talbot, Sengunthas attained positions of responsibility at the two major Vaishnavite temples of Srirangam and Tirupati. In Tirupati, they were in charge of distributing the consecrated food offerings to the worshippers. They were also highly influential[38] who were entitled with temple administration. [39][full citation needed]

Sanjay Subrahmanyam states that many Senguntha families were rich enough to contribute both land and gold to temples.[40][full citation needed]

According to Ruth Barnes, in AD 1418 in Tiruvannamalai, Sengunthars were given the right to blow the conch, ride palanquins and elephants and wave the temple fly whisk.[41][full citation needed] They also built some temples[42]

Community Legends and festivals[edit]

Mythical origin from Navavirars[edit]

Legend says Lord Siva was enraged against the giants who harassed the people of the earth and sent forth six sparks of fire from his eyes. His wife, Parvati, was frightened, and retired to her chamber and in so doing, dropped nine beads from her anklets. Siva converted the beads into as many females, to each of whom was born a hero with full-grown moustaches and a dagger. These nine heroes, namely Viravagu, Virakesari, Viramahendrar, Viramaheshwar, Virapurandharar, Viraraakkathar, Viramaarthandar, Viraraanthakar and Veerathirar with Lord Subrahmanya at their head, marched in command of a large force, and destroyed the demons. Kaikolar claim to be the descendants of these warriors. After killing the demon, the warriors were told by Siva that they adopt a profession, which would not involve the destruction or injury of any living creature and weaving being such a profession, they were trained in it. Chithira valli,[43] daughter of Virabahu, one of the above commanders was married to Musukunthan and gave birth to Angi Vanman. His descendants were claimed as first generation of Sengunthars. The above legend was also depicted by Adhi Saiva saint Kachiappa Sivachariyar of Kanchipuram around 14th to 15th century AD[44] in his masterpiece Kanthapuranam.[45]

Sura samharam[edit]

The Sura Samharam festival is a traditional ritual where the Sengunthars dress as the lieutenants of Karthikeya and re-enact the killing of the demon Narakasura.[46]

Legend of Ayiramkaliyamman Temple in Thirumalairayan Pattinam[edit]

Ayiramkaliyamman Temple is located in Thirumalairayan Pattinam near Karaikal. It is said that a pious Sengunthar had a dream to collect a Goddess Amman in a silver box floating in sea. The next day himself along with his friends had gone to the sea-shore and in accordance with the dream found the box. It contained the image of Goddess Amman with an inscription on a palm leaf to indicate that this deity had to be worshipped with 1000 items daily. But since that could not happen daily, people conduct pooja with 1000 items once in 5 years. The idol is dismantled part by part and kept back in the box to be opened after another 5 years only.[47][full citation needed]


Sengunthar Shaivite priests are vegetarian, wear the sacred thread, and shave their foreheads in the Brahmanic fashion. Both alcoholic and sexual abstinence are valued, as is control of the passions. But when they are concerned with the sacred locus of the interior, meat eating, blood sacrifice, spirit possession, and the worship of small gods are all prominent. Sengunthars thus follow both a priestly model and a Dravidian tradition.[48]

Prominent personalities[edit]


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Related websites[edit]