Mala (caste)

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Mala Community
Total population
85,00,000 ( 85 Lakhs as per 2001 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Andhra Pradesh
Telugu language
Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism
Related ethnic groups
Telugu people, Dravidian peoples

Mala or Malla (different from the family/last name Malla from Andhra) is a social group or caste mostly from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Mala is derived from the Sanskrit malla, which means wrestler. They are one of the dominant Dalit castes in Andhra Pradesh, the other being Madigas.[2]

According to Government of India census data from 2001,[3] Malas constitute a total of 41.6 percent (5,139,305) of the scheduled caste population of the state. They are largely concentrated in the Coastal Andhra region. During the Adi-Andhra movement of the 1930s, several Mala caste people, including few Madigas, especially from coastal Andhra called themselves as 'Adi-Andhra' and were recorded in the census with the 'Adi-Andhra' caste name akin to Adi Dravida of Tamil Nadu. (Adi-Andhra is synonym word instead of using MALA or MADIGA . In the ancient times, Malas were mostly village watchmen,domestic laborers etc., They were skilled workers too and were also recruited by the British Army because of their martial skills. Presently they don't have a specific caste profession and can be seen in many professions.It is directly the skill set which was identified by the upper caste people and segregation thereof. As such, Malas do not have any caste profession where the entire Indian castes were based on profession they have chosen to be associated with. Like Kapu community who originally are farm workers, soldiers who are very much known for their bravery 'Padma saali' caste are the only people who are weavers. Malas have chosen to take up the profession of other castes which was at their reach.

The Mahars in neighbouring Maharashtra are akin to the Malas[4] and the two dominant dalit castes in Tamil Nadu, Paraiyar and Pallar, tend to claim the inter-relation with the Malas, Mahars and Pulayas.


Mala and Madiga military exploits form an important part of Kakatiya history, culture and tradition. Mainly Madiga's and some what Mala's played a vital role in expansion of Kakatiyan kingdom.[citation needed] In Kakatiya military Malas are used to be called as Mohari (Telugu: mohari), the street which they lived is known as "Mohariwada". The warrior Yugandarudu who was the army chief of Prataparudra is a Madiga.

The anthropological evidence shows that the Mahars or Malas seemed to have hailed primarily from the drier upland areas like the Deccan plateau. According to researchers like Ambedkar, the Mahars and similar communities like Malas were actually warriors of some defeated kingdom, they were pushed down in social status,they were disarmed but retained as village servants.

Mala caste has got prominence during the period of Palanati Bramha Naidu (Prime Minister to Nalagam King of Macherla) (1170 to 1180 AD). The Mala Warrior Mala Kannamadasu was the first Senapathi in the history along with Kammas, Velamas and Reddies in those days. He was given high regard by Palanati Bramha Naidu, since then Macherla Chennakesava swamy became Kuladaivam to Malas in the Palnadu area.

Sanskrit roots[edit]

Like all castes in India, today they generally believe in prestigious origins (see Sanskritisation). One such theory speculates that Mala or Malla (not the same as the family name Malla) is derived from Sanskrit word Malla for wrestler.

According to the story by Gurram Malla; Malas are the descendants of Mala Chennappa, the son of Lord Shiva.

As a community they believe at some point they were independent people not subject to any caste restrictions and resent the present condition as unfair. Thus, unlike many other Dalit communities, they are not resigned to their fate which is a requirement for caste control along with social violence. There is a strong ethnic, cultural and linguistic relation with Mahar in neighboring Maharastra state and with Pallan.



Malas, who were considerable in number, were mostly agricultural workers like Holeyas in Karnataka. And it has been pointed earlier, some of them were employed village messengers (Maskoori or Elodu) and some as watchmen of the village chavadi by the middle of Twentieth century. Malas were also employed to dig graves. Malas employed to see the irrigation in villages called Neerati, Neeradu. Mala women were skilled in basket making.

There were kin-communities of Malas such as Baindla,Jangam, Poturaju, Mala Mashtin, Relli mala, Mala Rajanna, Mala dasari / Mala Dasu / Mithaalayyalavalu, Dandems, Nethakani or Mala sale, Mala Jangama.[5] Mala Dasari/Mala Dasu has been a tradition of Tamil Nadu, which spread over to Andhra Pradesh between 9th and 10th century.

Jangams were traveling priests begging from Malas and at night they were to keep vigilance at the graveyards. Poturajus were another group of priests serving the village spirits both benevolent and malevolent. They also assist the priestess when the sacrifices were offered. Mashtis were traveling acrobats performing their heroics at the outskirts of the villages where caste villagers turn up to watch them. Mala dasoos were another set of priests who reside with Mala settlements. Dandems were agricultural laborers either hired or bought by landlords.[1]

Mala Christians[edit]

A section of the Malas also turned to Christianity but after noticing the same old caste politics in the Telugu Catholic church, shifted to Protestantism instead. They are prominent in the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), Church of South India (CSI). They have made very good use of the Christian educational programs, considerably elevating their social position and now form part of the upper middle class. These Christian Malas are commonly called Merugumala people, who came from Godavari Krishna basin. They are not considered Scheduled Castes by the Government of India but fall under the "BC-C" category (Backward castes C-category) with 1% Reservation at state level and at national level they come under Other Backward Class (OBC, List of OBC's; Andhra Pradesh list, Entry the Central List-60 (Scheduled castes converts to Christianity and their progency) ).[6] They have been demanding central Government to accord them SC status on par with Dalit Buddhists, Dalit Sikhs and not to discriminate them on religious grounds for being Dalit Christians. The case is pending with the Supreme Court since 2005 when it was filed on behalf of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims (Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz).

Opposition to SC-Categorization[edit]


Madiga Dandora Movement – For social justice Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi(MRPS) incarnated in 1994 with categorizing the SC reservations into A, B, C, and D subgroups as its prime agenda. The stated reason for its demand is "The mala community is taking more share in reservations from the pool of SCs comprising 59 communities and other castes are losing their share in reservations." All democratic, revolutionary, communist organizations, political parties, intellectuals and scholars supported, welcomed this movement. This movement helped in boosting moral strength and self-respect among Madiga community, though this movement emerged from disparities in reservations. Millions of people from Madiga community participated in this movement voluntarily. Madiga Movement is Struggle for Existence and Survival: 1980-1993

The Madiga Movement started by the Madigas during 1980s, demanding the sub-categorisation of 15% reservations meant for Scheduled Castes- into A, B, C and D categories, is a struggle for existence and survival. The innocent Madigas were neglected and were defeated in life, not because of their lack of intelligence but because of their lack of human relations and hypocritical behaviour, of which the Malas have excelled. But to a Madiga revolt is lifestyle.

After India got independence, for about 33 years the Malas have occupied all most all the posts and seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Today the Malas are the only community, in any Government office, more than any other community. They seem to be faithful, but act cunningly in nature, thus they have taken benefits provided by the Government away. The Collectors, Ministers and Officers of Mala Community have acted partially in sanctioning the Government facilities- such as hostels, loans, jobs and seats with favour to their kith and kin. The Madigas by 1980 have realised that the Malas have cheated them.

   Andhra Pradesh Madiga Sangam
   The year 1980 marked the beginning of Madiga Movement in Andhra Pradesh. The Madigas are the single largest caste in Andhra Pradesh; at present they constitute 8.58% of the state population and 56% of SC population. Actually, the Madigas are predominant in Talangana region, when compared to Rayalaseema and Costal Andhra Pradesh. However, openly as early as in 1980 it was the students of Andhra University who raised their voice against the injustice done to them due to combined reservation policy.
   The wakening of the Madigas, as earlier said, is a result of a number of pamphlets that have been circulated though out the state, in these years. In 1980, the Bandujana Seva Mandali in Hyderabad, under the leadership of Dr. Krishna Laal circulated a handout indicating the need for division of SC reservation into A, B, C, & D, which practice that has been there for Backward Castes in Andhra Pradesh. A meeting on 12 May 1982 was convened by Dr. B. Vidya Kumar at Medchal in Ranga Reddy District to decide the future course of action. He asserted that Malas were the most beneficiaries out of the SC reservation.
   Dr. B.Vidya Kumar, the Convenor of Andhra Pradesh Madiga Sangam, demanded “to appoint an Enquiry Commission for the redress of Madigas grievances”. He asserted “95% of the vacancies are filled up by Malas since the Selection Committee is controlled by Malas” in Andhra Pradesh Study Circle. Crores of Rupees sanctioned by Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Caste Finance Corporation have been cornered by Malas, he wrote. Dealerships relating to petrol bunks and cement out-lets, printings presses, trucks (lorries), ration shops have taken up by Malas. Most of the nominated posts have been filled up by the Mala candidates in the Government Committees, Public Sector Banks and autonomous units like R.T.C. In the pamphlet both in English and Telugu, circulated throughout Andhra Pradesh Dr. B. Vidya Kumar has stated that in political parties and administration the Malas got 80% of the posts, when the Madigas are out numbered the Malas in population. 
   In Andhra University 
   Sporadic utterances of anguish and despair of Madigas have been recorded now and then. As early as in 1976 an employee of Andhra University, Mr Mallipudi Nageswara Rao, in a letter to the editor of Andhra Prabha expressed the need to divide the SC reservations in order to benefit the deprived castes among S.Cs. During a Harijan Conference in the same year at Hyderabad, Professor Vidhyarthi from Ranchi University revealed the fact that one or two castes among the list of Scheduled Castes have cornered the fruits of SC reservations, which he theorised, which may result in disturbances in the country. 
   The Madiga students, while seeking appointments, brought to the notice of the Government the need for sub-categorisations of SC reservations. Sri Mallela Parameswara Rao, a research scholar in Andhra University for the first time gave to the press that the Malas have cornered the whole of the posts reserved for the S.Cs in Andhra University. A number of district level meetings have been held in the year 1982 throughout the coastal Andhra Pradesh, in the towns of Srikakulam, Kakinada, Ramachandrapuram, Guntur and many other towns. 
   Mr. P. George Victor, a lecturer of Andhra University has organised a meeting on 2 June 1982 in the Traveller Bunglow near Paidimetta Village in Tallapudi Mandalam of West Godavari District. A pamphlet and an invitation were distributed, using the motorbike of Sri S. Kantha Rao; the villagers of Vellachintalagudem came on a Tractor. People came in on scooters and bikes, for which about 500 people have attended. Prominent among them are Sri J.Babaji Rao, who become an M.L.A. later. The employees and students have expressed their agony; and shared their sufferings, how they met in the hands of the Malas in the hostels and educational institutions. They have also felt bad about the inborn lethargy of the youth of the Madigas. The uniqueness of the meeting, which was published in the Hindu, is that a memorandum, demanding 8% of SC reservation to the Madigas, has been posted to the President, Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Minister, with one thousand signatures. 
   Andhra Pradesh Madiga Congress
   When the Government and political leaders turned down the appeal of the Madigas, the members of the Andhra Pradesh Madiga Sangam, on Monday 26 June 1982 some of the Madiga youth from the gallery in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly dropped pamphlets demanding to divide SC reservation into A, B, C, D. The youth were jailed for 15 days, and on the next day the punishment was reduced for 2 days, realising the anguish and importance of the points, raised in the pamphlets. Dr. B. Vidya Kumar answered that the youth have resorted to do the act to draw the attention of the M.L.As in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.
   The President of Andhra Pradesh Madiga Congress, Sri MV Madhva Rao Madiga on 20 October 1982 wrote in his letter to the Editor of THE HINDU to examine, who were benefited out of the programme. He wrote: “In the political appointments, in the allocations of party tickets, in Public Services, in Loans disbursements or Social Welfare of Hijana everywhere, the Lion’s share has always gone to the Malas/Mahars at the cost of the majority Chamars/Jatavs/Malas.”
   On 15 November 1982 in Ramachandrapuram of East Godavari District, a meeting was conducted, in which the then Social Welfare Minister Smt. K. Pratibha Bharati, of Mala Community, came and has attended the meeting, in which she stated that she has no objection to the implementation of categorisation of the reservation in to A, B, C, & D, based on population. It is one of the best and big meetings that was held; the meeting was attended by Sri Kommu Simhachalam, Dr. C. Vijaya Kumar, Sri Mortha PrakasaRao, the President of District Madiga Sangam. The other facet of inspiration to the Madigas is the media that supported the cause of Madigas. In various districts, the Madiga Sanghams have been formed, though there was no central coordinating committee in the State.
   State Level Madiga Meetings
   A leader of the Madigas from Vijayawada, Sri Davala Prasada Rao has conducted for the first-time, a Madiga Meeting, inviting a number of leaders from all over the state. Particularly politicians, dynamic and enthusiastic Madiga young men and employees have attended the meeting in a big way from many districts. After a prolonged debate and discussion the prepared a memorandum and submitted to the ruling Congress Government. The meeting was conducted on 4 November 1982 in Vijayawada. The Madigas saw a ray of hope that something will come out the meeting in future. It was the first biggest meeting in the state that gave inspiration for Madigas that they could organise such a meeting. On 22 November 1982 the Andhra Patrika carried a news item stating that Sri Davala Prasada Rao warned the Government, if the government did not care to the request of the Madigas, he would ask them to boycott the elections.
   With reference to the organisation of meetings like “Maha-sabhas’, one such big meeting was organised in Visakhapatnam in the month of April 1984 for which the then general Secretary of Telugu Desam Party, Sri P. Upendra has attended. The meeting was conducted by the District Madiga Welfare Association, under the leadership of Sri Koppula Venkata Rao, a young lawyer, who’s father was a prominent Municipal Councillor and president of Adi Andhra Kendra Sangham for decades together. Sri Kotra Kanna Rao, who became Corporator in Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation and Dr. Ch. Vijay Kumar, who subsequently became Municipal Commissioner were the people responsible for it. The aim and goal of these meetings were to convince the Government to perceive the underdevelopment and poverty of the Madigas and there by to work for the introduction of categorisation in the SC reservation in order to facilitate the Madigas to develop in Education and Employment.
   In the making of Madiga Movement, another state level meeting was organised in Hyderabad on 29 May 1994 in the Nizam College grounds. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Sri Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy was the Chief guest; and many politicians and ministers from Madigas were invited. It was Sri N Venkata Swamy, Sri TV Narayana, Dr. Manda Jagannadham and many other prominent Madiga leaders of Hyderabad, who have conceived this meeting, for which leaders from various districts have attended. This meeting was considered futile for the leaders did not touch the categorisation of the SC reservations for which the organisers aspired. The politicians in authority made announcements to supply instruments and necessary machinery for professional development. This is the meeting for which the future Messiah of the Madigas, Manda Krishna Madiga have attended as a spectator and visitor. To perceive the out come of the meeting, Madiga youth, who have attended the meeting, get disillusioned there, formed their hopes scattered. 
   Telugu Desam Party and the Press
   It is not the major cities that gave inspiration to the Madigas, but the rural area and the media have helped the Madigas for the rise of their conciseness. When Sri NT. Rama Rao started his Telugu Desam Party; Madigas were considered as the most depressed to be considered for the State’s help; a promise has been made in the manifesto of the Telugu Desam Party. The press at this time published that the Madigas are more in number among the Harijan population. The Madiga youth and elite got the moral strength or the basis of their strength in population.
   From Tadepalligudem, Sri Tenneti: Pushpa Raju, wrote many letters to various news papers indicating that the Madigas did not get the benefits provided by the Government. Sri E. Tukkeswara Rao, is another Madiga elder who wrote letters to the newspapers, demanding equal distribution of seats in political parties on par with the Malas.
   Sri HMN Acharya wrote an essay published in Andhra Patrika that “Caste” is an element, which is an essentiality in Indian life, and the Malas and Madigas are totally different castes, which was rightly pointed by the poet Gurram Joshva. Sri K. Nagappa stated in his article, “Evaremanna Madigala Udyamam Konasagi teerutundhi” (The Madiga Moment continues, whatever been said).
   In June 1985 in the name of his wife, Esther Siromani, Dr. P George Victor, started a monthly magazine “MAHADIGA PRABHA” (Light of the Great Descendent), the first copy of which was released in Hyderabad by Smt. TN Sada Lakshmi, in the presence of Ms and Mr Vemuri Ananda Rao of Guntur District, who was instrumental for what Dr. P George Victor and Dr. Jaya Raju contributed to the Madigas by organising the Madigas and publishing the news respectively in Visakhapatnam. Sri Devaiah, who continued in the MRPS movement at Hyderabad today, was also present
   The Andhra University Madiga Welfare Association has been representing the injustice done to the candidates of the Madigas in appointments, but no body has noticed, as the Malas have been advanced in maintaining human relations. The Malas have been given posts, because of their dynamism, human relations and go-after-the authorities and meek-servitude-attitude, but not due to their merit. Though the Madigas are intelligent they did not get the appointments due to straightforwardness and independent outlook and of revolt behaviour against evil practices in the society, but not due to lack of merit.
   This is to state that the Malas, who are 6% of the population in Andhra Pradesh are occupying nearly the whole of 15% SC reservation, and became the dominating caste in the government sector and education field, indirectly obstructing the development of the upcoming Madigas, who are 8% of the population. Here are the examples how the Malas have occupied the posts in the higher educational institutes in Andhra Pradesh.
   Teacher Appointments in Andhra University
   With reference to Teachers appointments in Andhra University, the following table shows how the Madigas were not selected for appointments, and the in-justice being done to the Madigas.
   The above facts speak themselves that there are discrepancies in appointments and difference in development among the different Castes in the list of Scheduled Castes. According to Censes, among the SC population, the Madigas are 51% and the Malas are 43%, while the other SCs constitute 6%; therefore the Madigas should have half of the posts, but they are only 22 members, recruited. This alarming disproportion is due to the combined reservation system implemented, which leads the Madigas to demand for the categorisation of 15% SC reservation in to ABCD to benefit different Castes among the list of Scheduled Castes.

The then Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu enacted “categorization of SC reservation into A, B, C, D 20/2000” bill because of pressures from many democratic organizations, and different forces of the society.Former Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu, from 1996 to 1997, formed the Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission to study categorisation among scheduled castes. The commission's findings would eventually form the basis for the A.P. Scheduled Castes (Rationalisation of Reservation) Act, 2000, categorizing the fifteen percent reservation quota into four subgroups (designated "A", "B", "C" and "D"; "B" and "C" represent Madigas and Malas, respectively).

The sub-categorisation policy was implemented for a four year period (2000–2004). The act, however, was first challenged by {main petitioner WPNO.11472/97} the United Forum of All Scheduled Castes, represented by that organisation's state general secretary, Dasari Srinivas.V (Present DIRECTOR, AMBEDKAR IAS STUDY CIRCLE, SR NAGAR, HYDERABAD-38, 9397677681)and Dr.EV Chinnayya in WPNo.21096/1996 mainly Challenged the Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission validity under the constitutional provisions wantedly.

On SC's categorisation National Commission for SC,ST, New Delhi, called for discussions and fact findings were held from 7-7-1998 to 15-7-1998. At that time renowned and eminent Sr Parliamentarian Shri H Hanumanthappa (Sr.Advocate in Supreme Court) was the Chairman and Shri Bommidala Yadaiah (Telengana Mala) was also a Member in the National SC,ST Commission. On 7-7-1998 Shri Manda Krishna hearings were noted by the commission on behalf of MRPS(Madiaga Reservation Porata Samithi) and Madiga Community.

On 9-7-98 the National commission for SC,ST has officially invited Shri Dasari Srinivas.V, State General Secretary,UFASC,AP, as he was the main petitioner in the case to present his case on behalf of the MALA community. 0n 10 July 1998 Shri Mallela Venkata Rao another leader in Malamahanadu and on 11 July 1998 Shri PV RAO, President, Mala Mahanadu gave the stand on categorisation.

A.P.Scheduled Castes(Rationalisation of Reservation) Act, 2000 was vehemantly opposed by malas and Mala Mahanadu has challenged the Act in Supreme Court saying that it is against the Constitutional principles, which viewed SC's as a holistic single social group. Supreme Court on 5 Nov 2005 has struck down the Act and the verdict went in favour of Mala Mahanadu.

The apex court pronounced its Judgement stating that State Government has no power to sub-categorize Scheduled castes into groups to implement reservations in the field of education and employment in exercise of its power under Article 15(4) and 16(4) of Indian constitution as public employment and education." Further it was held that the parliament alone is competent to pass such an act under the article 341 of Indian constitution.

Rationale behind Opposition[edit]

Presently due to the affirmative action the Madigas are raising rapidly, to the extent of Malas. This has led to a curious rivalry between the scheduled caste communities for government benefits. The rivalry is legendary and traditional, going back to tribal times[citation needed] and manifested clearly in national and regional politics. Unfortunately this tactic is used by the dominant upper castes to polarize both groups and alienating them from political empowerment. Categorization of SC’s by caste basis is primarily supported by selfish Upper caste leaders who desperately try to preserve their power by promoting caste based vote-bank politics. The Mala leaders have tried hard to convince their madiga brothers about the ill effects of categorization but their efforts were in vain as madigas under MRPS have been aggressively working hard to pass the SC Categorization bill in Parliament

Malas oppose SC Categorization on 4 main grounds. The site explains this stand, stating:[7][dead link]

  • Not all Malas have benefited from Reservation system. Categorization would hurt the poor, landless agricultural labourers, jobless, un-educated members of the Mala community. There are so many Malas below the poverty levels who barely can afford one meal. There are small kids who work to fill their stomach and are not able to attend school. Government should clearly address the approach to uplift the needs of these economically weaker sections within Mala Group before they can do any categorization.
  • It is Unconstitutional and is against the Constitutional principles, which viewed SC's as a holistic single social group. It is against the ideologies of Ambedkar who always wanted dalits to be united and exert their power politically and socially. We should believe in mutual talks for an agreeable solution.
  • The differential development between the two communities is also due to historical advantage. Christian Missionaries during British rule have promoted Education and Employment mainly in the coastal regions. The Malas whose population is largely concentrated in coastal andhra naturally got early access to education compared to their counterparts Madigas who were largely concentrated in Telangana where very little education access was available. Such a differential development is not limited to SC's alone but to many communities among BC's and Upper castes too.
  • It divides SC's and weakens the dalit progress as it diverts the attention of dalits to categorization rather than on constitutional provisions like SC Sub Plans and other benefits for them. There is no relevance for Categorization in today's context where there are almost no Govt jobs


Further information: List of Malas


  • The Imperial Gazetteer of India, by Hunter, William Wilson, Sir, 1840–1900; Cotton, James Sutherland, 1847-1918 ed.; Burn, Richard, Sir, 1871-1947 joint ed. and Meyer, William Stevenson, Sir, 1860-1922. joint ed.