Mudaliars also Mudaliyar , Mudali or 'Moodley is a caste title used by the people belonging to various Tamil castes and in the Tamil diaspora. Castes using Mudaliar title speak Tamil as their native language, though a few may speak Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
The surname is derived from the honorary title Mudali meaning a person of first rank in the Tamil Chola feudal society which was bestowed upon top-ranking bureaucratic officials and army commanders in medieval South India. The surname is generally prevalent among Indian Tamils (Nattar) and the Tamil diaspora though it is also used in other parts of South India. literally meaning The first citizens or first ones after his son Athondai had won the battle against Kurumbars.
Thondaimandala Mudaliars are the natives of Tamil Nadu, from time immemorial. This community with rich heritage, traditions and civilization and known for their honesty, intelligence, valour, loyalty and administrative ability were occupying high positions like ministers, army chiefs, regional rulers etc. in various southern kingdoms.
Chola king Karikal Cholan has awarded the title of “Mudaliars” (meaning muthanmai (first) citizens) to these community members. Since then we are called as “Thondaimandala Mudaliars”.
These community members had the privilege of handing over the crown at the time of coronation ceremony (mudi-sootu vizha) of the kings, religious heads etc. This fact can be seen from old Tamil classical literature “Thirukkaivazhakkam” which states “mangaiyoru bhagarkum, madhavarkum, mannavarkum thunga mudiyai sootumkai (the hands that handover the crown to kings/religious heads at the time of coronation ceremony)”.
Some of the Mudali clans of Thondaimandalam migrated to Sri Lanka during the period of the medieval poet Kambar. For example, some of the Tamils in Ceylon trace their lineage to this group, some of whom had become saints called Nayanars. The book The Tamils in Early Ceylon by C. Sivaratnam traces some of the Mudaliyars in Ceylon to Thaninayaka Mudaliyar (among others), a rich Saiva Vellalar who emigrated to Ceylon from Tondaimandalam. Maanadukanda Mudali, a Vellala king of Thondai Nadu had shed over kamban a shower of gold for his work of Erezhupatu, a literary work praising agriculture. Taninayaga, a Vellala of Seyur was made the chief of Neduntiva.
Jaffna has two or three clans from Thondaimandalam with the Mudali surname. Irumarapum Thooya Thaninayaga Mudali from Seyyoor and Mannadukonda Mudali whose clan has been quoted even during poet Kambar's time. Here is the direct quotation from Kailaya Malai, a historical book of Jaffna on the migration into Jaffna from Thondai Nadu. The other clans may come under this section or under Sri Lankan Vellalar section.
The next was the Vellala of the family of him who shed over kamban a shower of gold for the work of Erezhupatu, whose country was Tondainade, who had a widespread name, who used to wear a lotus garland and whose name was Maanadukanda Mudali. He was made to reside at Irupalai. The next was the Vellala of Seyur, who was as wealthy as Indra, and who never deviated from the path of visture. whose garland was of water lilies. Whose fame was great and whose paternal and maternal lines were matchless and pure and whose name was Taninayaga. He was made a chief of Neduntiva..[unreliable source?]
Castes using Mudaliar title
Agamudayar is a community whose members are prevalent in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.] Agamudayar have been using the title of Mudaliar since the 13th century. The Agamudayars actually belong to the Mukkulathor community. These three castes are together known as Mukkulathor. Agamudayar who generally use Thevar as title also use the title of Mudaliar in Northern Tamil Nadu. Servai, Udaiyar, Pillai and Reddy are their other titles used in various parts of the state of Tamil Nadu.
The Aghamudiar identify themselves as Aghamudi Mudaliar. Aghamudi literally means a person who stood steadfast with pride. Mudaliar is one who is in the forefront. Mudaliar, Mudali and Reddy are their titles. Mudaliar also denotes a headman or the chief. The community has several synonyms, viz., Tuluva Vellala, Arcot Vellala, Arcot Mudali, Aghamudian, Agamudi Vellalar, Agamudi Reddy and Agamudi Mudaliar. They claim to be the original inhabitants of the Tulu country, on the western coast from where they migrated and settled in the ancient Pallava country. Thus the name ‘Tuluva Vellala’, which literally means the cultivator of the Tulu country. The names Arcot Vellala and Arcot Mudali are derived from the place, Arcot, located in the Tamil country, from where they migrated to their present habitat. Their ancestors are believed to have migrated to Chittoor District, during the reign of the Lingayat Rajas of Punganur some 200 years back. Some of them had served in the capacity of village munsiffs during the British period and post-Independence period and hence they style themselves as ‘Aghamudi Reddy’, since ‘Reddy’ is the title for the village munsiff in the Telugu country. It is also the title of the agricultural Kapu. The Aghamudian claim to be the descendants of one of the sons, born to Ahalya, wife of Gautama rishi and Indra.
The detailed account of the origin and culture of the Aghamudiar is described in Thurston (1909). It is said that their ancestor stood before the sage Gautama, without any fear. Hence his descendants are known as ‘Aghamudiar’. They trace their historical past to the Pallava dynasty. Many of them have served in the armies of Vijanagar kings of the 15th Century and the Ballala Rajas. Till recent times, they served the Punganur rulers, in the army as well as in the palace. They are concentrated in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu and are also distributed in the Chittoor and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh. They speak Tamil language among themselves and Telugu with the natives. Some of them are conversant with Dakkani Urdu and Kannada also. They use Tamil and Telugu scripts. Telugu is the medium of instruction in schools. The educated people converse in English. Their dress pattern resembles that of the local people. Men wear a dhoti, shirt and headgear. Women wear blouse, sari and other modern dresses. Their women anoint vibhudhi (sacred ash) mark below the vermilion mark (kumkum bottu) on their forehead. The mukuthi (nose-stud) and grasshopper- shaped thali (marriage locket) worn by their women are the identification markers of the community.
The Aghamudiar are non-vegetarian, who avoid beef and pork. Rice and ragi are their staple cereals besides bajra and wheat. They take all the locally available roots and tubers, vegetables and fruits. They consume all varieties of pulses and oilseeds like sesamum, niger and groundnut seeds. Groundnut oil is their cooking medium. Some of the men consume locally available liquor, like kallu, sarai and other intoxicants occasionally. They take coffee, tea, fruit juice, butter-milk, regularly. They use milk and milk products. Some men smoke either beedis or cigaretts. Both men and women chew betel leaves along with tobacco and arecanut.
The Aghamudiar are divided into two main sects, namely, Saiva gotram and Vishnu gotram, based on their religious affiliations. They have clans named after the deities, and prefix the ancestral place names as surnames, e.g., Balagulam, Kattamanchivaru, Katpadivallu, Aranivallu, Arcotvallu, Chittoorvaru, Vellorevallu, Amburvallu, Punganurvallu etc. These regulate their marital alliances and indicate their ancestry. They claim equal social status with the local Kapu/Reddy communities. The community’s self-perception in terms of its social status at the regional level, in the local social hierarchy, is medium. Traditionally, they do not have surnames, but they have adopted the ancestral place names as surnames like the Telugu communities after their immigration. Traditionally, ‘Mudaliar’ is the community’s title, but some families have adopted the ‘Reddy’ title, as their ancestors were holding posts as village munsiffs. They are aware of the varna system and recognise their place as Sudras.
The aghamudiar follow community endogamy and surname exogamy. Marriage with one’s own father’s sister’s daughter, mother’s brother’s daughter and sister’s daughter is the custom. They practise adult marriages. The age at marriage for girls varies between 16 and 20 years, while for males it ranges between 20 and 25 years. The general mode of acquiring a mate is through negotiations by their elders. Marriage by mutual consent and by exchange of sisters are also practised occasionally. Monogamy is the norm. Polygyny is allowed in case of infertility and with the consent of the first wife and elder. Kumkum (vermilion),toe-rings (mettelu),thali and mukhuthi (nose-stud) are the symbols of married women. They observe the kanyadanam ritual during marriage. The earlier practice of bride-price (parisa panam or oli) of three and a half rupee to the girl’s parents, has been replaced by dowry. They generally follow the patrilocal rule of residence after marriage. Divorce can be obtained with judicial approval, on the grounds of maladjustment, cruelty by the in-laws, and adultery, to either party. Children are the liability of both parents. Remarriages for widowed or divorced women are prohibited. A male divorcee or a widower can remarry. Junior sororate is allowed in case of infertility, whereas levirate is prohibited. There has been an increase in the age at marriage of both males and females. Changes have been noticed in divorce and remarriage rules due to modernisation.
The nuclear family predominates among the Aghamudiar. Very few joint families exist. An avoidance relationship between mother-in-law and son-in-law existed earlier. Joking relations are allowed between cross-cousins, maternal uncle and niece, with wife’s younger brothers and sisters and with one’s own grandparents. Sharing of property is the main reason for conflicts within the household. Only sons inherit equally the ancestral property. Daughters can claim the jewels and other valuables of the mother, after her death. In the absence of male heir, they can claim the parent’s property. The eldest son succeeds his father as the head of the family. Due to modern laws and amendments, the women also have a right to share ancestral property, nowadays.
The Aghamudiar women participate in agricultural operations, like sowing and weeding, besides animal husbandry. Some of them work as casual labourers in construction, road laying etc. Some are vegetable vendors, and others involved in petty business. A few are employed as teachers and clerks, in public and private institutions. Though they participate in social, ritual and religious spheres they enjoy a lower status than their men. They contribute to the family income and control family expenditure.
Seemantham, a pre-deliverry ritual, is performed for the expectant Aghamudiar mother during her fifth, seventh or ninth month of pregnancy by her parents, who resent gifts and perform arathi rituals. They invite perantalu (married women) and distribute gifts, coconut, flowers, kumkum and bangles. They conduct the delivery either at home by an experienced elderly woman (mantrasani) or at nursing homes. The expenses towards first and second deliveries are borne by the woman’s parents. Post-delivery pollution is observed for eight days, followed by a purificatory bath to the mother and child (purudu) and punyaham (sacred water mixed with cow-dung) is sprinkled in the house to remove pollution. The naming ceremony is also observed the same day. The mother has to observe postnatal restrictions for about a month. They feed cooked cereals to the child after it attains six month age. The tonsure ceremony is performed for both boys and girls at their family deity shrine in the first, third or fifth year of age. The maternal uncle of the child formally cuts a tuft of hair and the barber completes the job.
The Ahamudiar observe sadangu (puberty rites) for females on attaining menarche. She is secluded for seven days in a corner of the house, or in a specially erected pandal. The final purificatory bath is given on the seventh or ninth day, after which she is admitted into the kitchen.
The Aghamudiar celebrate marriage rituals only for one day, instead of three to five days in the past. They perform munidevara to the clan deity, before the commencement of marriage. Animals are sacrificed to appease the deities and ancestors, and invoke their blessing. Traditionally, rituals are conducted at the bride’s residence. They keep ariveni pots and god’s images in the marriage pandal, if they follow puranic rites, whereas a homam is set up, if they perform with vedic rites. The Brahman purohit officiates.Kanyadanam, kankana dharana, pradhanam, nischitartham, basingam dharana, Ganga puja, muhurtham etc., are the main marriage rituals. Expenses are borne by the bride’s parents. The nuptial ceremony is conducted at the bride’s residence.
The Aghamudiar generally bury their dead but the eldest born child, after death is cremated. They use a red cloth to cover the body. The eldest son is the chief mourner in the case of a father’s death. The deceased is buried in a lying position, with the head towards the south. Death pollution is observed for ten to fifteen days, initial obsequies on the third day, and final obsequies either on the 11th or 16th day. The Mala, Jangama and Sathani play the mourning music. The Brahman conducts the final obsequies. Annual shraddha rituals are observed in memory of the ancestors and offerings are made on the Mahalaya Amavasya day or on Pongal or Sankranthi festive days. The Sathani attends to the death rites for the Vaishnavites, while the Jangama or Pandaram attend to the Saivites.
Most of the Aghamudiar are small and marginal farmers, who cultivate paddy, betel leaves, mulberry, sugarcane, groundnut and vegetables. A few of them cultivate other’s lands on a sharecrop basis (koru) or on lease basis (gutha). Some of them work as agricultural or casual labourers. Some are in government and private institutions as teachers, clerks, etc. Child labour also exists.
The traditional community councils or village councils of the Aghamudiar have become defunct. The statutory gram panchayats and the recent Mandal panchayats, plan and implement welfare and development programmes, like sanitation. They approach the judiciary to resolve disputes over land and water, rape, theft, etc., cases.
The Aghamudiar profess Hinduism and belong to both Saivite and Vaishnavite sects. They worship all the Hindu gods and goddesses. Lord Ganesh is the patron deity for both the sects. Lord Venkateswara, Perumal, Ayyanar, Anjaneya, Lakshmi Narasimha, Varadarajaswamy, Sri Ranganatha etc., are the family deities for the Vaishnavites, while Iswara, Puliar, Subramanya, Muneswara, Bharava, Murugan, Veerabhadra, Palaniswamy etc., are the family deities for the Saivites. Mariamma, Boyakonda Gangamma, Ankalamma, Yellamma, Dharmaraja etc., are their village deities. They visit Tirupati, Tiruttani, Srikalahasthi, Srisailam, Palani, Kancheevaram, Vellore, Tiruvanmayur, Srirangam, Thanjavur, Guruvayur etc., sacred centres for pilgrimage. They observe all the Hindu festivals which are of socioreligious significance.
The Aghamudiar maintain traditional intercommunity linkages in economic and socioreligious activities with other communities. They accept water and cooked food from castes like the Brahman, Vysya, Komati, Chettiar and Raju and with equal ranking groups like the Kapu (Reddy), Kamma (Naidu), Balija and Yadava 9golla), agricultural communities. All the lower castes like the Odde, Boya, Chakali, Mangali, Kummara and Gandla; the Scheduled Castes like the Mala, Madiga, Thoti, Parayan, Asadhi, Relli and Pambala; and the Scheduled Tribes like the Korava, Yerukula, Koracha, Sugali and Yanadi accept water and food from their hands.
The Aghamudiar favour various development programmes launched by the Government. They have a positive approach towards education for their children, who are usually educated upto higher secondary level and a few upto postgraduate level. They avail of modern health and medicare facilities to a moderate extent. They favour family welfare schemes, adopting modern methods of birth control. They avail of modern civic amenities.
S. YASEEN SAHEB
THURSTON, E., 1909. Castes and Tribes of Southern India, I: 516, Government Press, Madras.
Kerala Mudali is an aggregation of various castes that use Mudaliar title. They are predominantly found in the areas of Trivandrum and Palakkad Districts of Kerala and Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. They migrated to these places starting late 17th Century onwards for various purposes including Agriculture, Coconut oil extraction, Coir Trade and as Specialized Fighters and Reliable Spies. They were given special preference by Royal Family of Travancore due to their cultural similarity and loyalty. This status resulted in further deepening their area of influence within Travancore. During the British era, many families embraced Christianity. Kerala Muthalis still keep their separate identity even though they are a micro-minority caste in Kerala. Due to their linguistic and educational backwardness Kerala, Tamil Nadu  and Pondicherry  states have categorized them as BCs. Gradually after independence and state reorganization, Kerala Muthalis have completely integrated with the Kerala Culture, but still consider Lord Muruga/Subramanya as their primary god of worship while most of the Kerala Hindus are devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Alienation from Travancore Royal family begun with Swathi Thirunal's acceptance of Thanjavoor Sugandhavalli alias Sugandha Parvathi Bhai as his wife. His first wife Thiruvattar Amma Veettil Paanapillai Ayikutti Narayani Pillai was belonging to a powerful Nair family from Central Travancore. After Swathi Thirunal's mysterious death at an early age of 33, the Kerala Muthali community faced various threats. Then British resident, General Cullen's timely involvement helped to avert a great backlash on the community. The South Travancore Keralamuthali Samajam is the umbrella organisation currently working for the cause of the community.kerala mudalis were (once upon a time) very active in this community.kerala mudalis are basically senguntha mudaliars who migrated from poombugar to kerala, poombugar got submerged in oceans ,kerala mudhali's were migrated from poompuhar,sirkali,vaitheeswaran kovil and some parts of chidambaram areas and settled in kerala.The origin of kerala mudali belongs to senguntha mudhali's. The pazhambalacode senkunthar mudaliar is the unity of 300 & more families staying in the heart of pazhambalacode.The south travancore kerala mudhali samajam & kerala senkunthar samajam (palapuram & pazhambalacode)is the umbrella organization worked for the cause of the community.
Saiva Vellalar (otherwise known as Thondaimandala Saiva Vellalar or Thondaimandala Mudaliar) is a Forward caste and vegetarian community in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. They trace their lineage to Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam. They are the original homogeneous group of Mudaliars who were settled in Thondaimandalam (otherwise known as Thondai Nadu) in South India by Chola King, Karikala Chola. The legendary great king “Karikal-cholan” of “Chola- dynasty” had two sons. He divided his kingdom into two and gave the northern part including “Kanchipuram”region to second son named “Aathondai Chakravarthi”. This region has come to be called as “Thondai-mandalam”, named after the founder-emperor. Aathondai chakravarthy has divided his kingdom into 24 divisions (kottams) and appointed members from ‘Saiva-velalars” community as “rulers” of these regions or “kottams”, under his empire. They were emerging as 'Landlords' during the time of British rule.
Sengunthar also known as Kaikolar is a caste found in the state of Tamil Nadu. Historically, there were seventy-two subdivisions (nadu or desams). Their name comes from the Tamil words "kai" (hand) and "kol" (shuttle used in looming or spear). They consider the different parts of the loom to represent various gods and sages. They are also known as Sengunthar, which means a red dagger in Tamil. During Chola rule Kaikolars served as soldiers and were called "Terinja kaikolar padai". (Terinja means "known" in Tamil and Padai means "regiment"), so "terinja-kaikolar padai" were the personal bodyguards. Kaikkolars were militarised during the Chola empire and formed a major part of the Chola army from 8th century to 13th century. There were no Kaikolar army before or after the Chola empire. Kaikkolar formed merchant groups and maintained a military unit to protect the merchants. They formed many regiments in the Chola army. Kaikolars were prominent members of Tamil society even during the 10th century AD during Chola rule. Smarakesarit-terinja-Kaikkolar and Vikramasingat-terinja-Kaikkolar derived their names from possible titles of Parantaka Udaiyar-Gandaradittatterinja-Kaikkolar must have been the name of a regiment called after king Gandaraditya, the father of Uttama-Chola. Singalantaka-terinda-Kaikkolar (a regiment named after Singalantaka i.e. Parntaka I) 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. Muttavalperra seems to indicate some special honour or rank conferred on the regiment by the king.
History of Jaffna has at least two or three clans from Thondaimandalam with Mudali surname. Irumarapum Thooya Thaninayaga Mudali from Seyyoor and Mannadukonda Mudali whose clan has been quoted even during famour poet Kambar's time. Please read Vaipava Malai and migration of people from Thondai Nadu to Jaffna and then write about Sri Lankan Mudaliars. It is not a British Phenomenon. Here is the direct quotation from a part of Kailaya Malai a historical book of Jaffna on the migration into Jaffna from Thondai Nadu. The other clans may come under this section or under Sri Lankan Vellalar section. The next was the Vellala of the family of him who shed over kamban a shower of gold for the work of Erezhupatu, whose country was Tondainade, who had a widespread name, who used to wear a lotus garland and whose name was Maanadukanda Mudali. He was made to reside at Irupalai.
The next was the Vellala of Seyur, who was as wealthy as Indra, and who never deviated from the path of visture. whose garland was of water lilies. Whose fame was great and whose paternal and maternal lines were matchless and pure and whose name was Taninayaga. He was made a chief of Neduntiva.
Nanjil Mudali is another group of people who have Mudali surname. They belong to Nanjil nadu in Kanyakumari district.
Thuluva Vellalar or Arcot Mudaliar is a sub-caste of Agamudayar and were immigrants from the Tulunad, a part of the modern district of South Canara. A King named Athondai Chakravarthy had brought down the people of Thuluva Vellalar to the present day Thondaimandalam of Tamil Nadu. Athondai Chakravarthy had established his rule over Northern Tamil Nadu after winning the battle over the Kurumbar. This is the reason that part of North Tamil Nadu was named as Thondaimandalam, named after this victorious king.
List of Prominent Personalities
- Irschick, Eugene F. Dialogue and History: Constructing South India, 1795-1895. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. direct web reference: http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=ft038n99hg&brand=eschol
- History of Tirupati: The Tiruvengadam Temple By T. K. T. Viraraghavacharya
- Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture - Page 161 by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar
- The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago By V. Kanakasabhai
- Thondaimandala Mudaliars, http://mudaliartm.org/history.htm
- The Tamils in Early Ceylon By C. Sivaratnam, http://books.google.com/books?vid=0PrqSaY8TV9DtgCG9v&id=hlocAAAAMAAJ&q=mudaliyar+vellala&dq=mudaliyar+vellala&pgis=1
- Rural Society in Southeast India By Kathleen Gough By Kathleen Gough
- "Irschick, Eugene F. Dialogue and History: Constructing South India, 1795-1895. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994."
- Order and Disorder in Colonial South India Eugene F. Irschick Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (1989), pp. 459-492,
- The Hindu : Of tilting pillars
12 THURSTON, E., 1909. Castes and Tribes of Southern India, I: 516, Government Press, Madras.