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Classification Weavers
Religions Om.svg Hinduism
Languages Telugu
Populated States
Population 1,20,00,000[1] (estimated)
Subdivisions Based on Sampradaya

Based on type of cloth weaved
Related groups
Status OBC

Padmashali (also spelt as Padmasali) (Telugu: పద్మశాలి) is a Telugu-speaking Hindu artisan caste predominantly residing in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and were at associated with the Satavahana empire in olden days. The caste is traditionally occupied in weaving and textile businesses[1] and is identified by different names in various regions throughout India.


There are two interpretations for the origin of the word "Padmashali" and its group, one from the Vaishnava group and the other from the Shaiva group. Some believe it is derived from the Sanskrit word Shali meaning "silk cloth".[4] However, linguistic construction of Dravidian languages traces its root to the Proto-South-Dravidian word saal. In Tulu, Saalye or Taalye means "spider". Also, saaleedu means spider in Telugu. Probably, symbolising the weaving activity with the spider's web, this word was coined for weavers.[4]

The word Padmashali has a very deep meaning in Hindu mythology. The Vaishnava group interprets that the word Padmashali is a combination of two words, viz., padma and shali. The word Padma is "Sahasradala Padma", meaning the highest order of human intelligence. The word Shali in Sanskrit is "beholder". Thus Padmashali literally means "beholder of Sahasrara". In physical term it means intelligence. Another mythological story relates to Padmavathi, the wife of Lord Srinivasa. It is believed that Padmavathi of Mangapuram of Tirupati declared that she was the daughter of Padmashali. Hence the name Padmashali. There exists written evidence in Tirupati to support the statement of Padmavathi as the daughter of Padmashali. Padma also refers to lotus. The lotus also refers to the intelligence or awakening of "Sahasrara".[4]

The Shaiva group has a different interpretation to account for their origin. It is said that in order to clothe the nakedness of people in the world, Lord Shiva commissioned Markandeya to perform a sacrifice. One Bhavana Rishi came out of the holy fire, holding a lotus (Padma) in his hand. He married two wives Prasannavati and Bhadravati, daughters of Lord Surya and had a hundred and one sons, who all took to weaving cloth out of the fiber of the lotus flower and became the progenitors of the one hundred and one Gotras of this caste.


The Padmashali community profess to have been following all the religious rites prescribed for Brahmins till the beginning of Kali Yuga. One of the members of their caste named Padmasaka declined to reveal the virtues of a miraculous gem which Lord Brahma had given to their caste to Lord Ganesha who sought to learn the secret which they had been enjoined to keep, and who on his wish not being gratified cursed them to fall from their high status. It is said however that one Parabrahmamurti born in Srirama Agrahara pleased Lord Ganesha by his tapas, who relaxed the curse, so that after 5000 years of Kali Yuga, they should regain their Brahminical status. This Parabrahmamurti, otherwise known as Padmabavacharya, it is said redistributed the caste into 101 gotras arranged in eight groups and established four Mathas with gurus for them.[4] However, as a result of the curse, and also because their occupation was related to manufacture and trade, the Padmashalis were never accepted as Brahmins and instead were considered by some as Vaishyas[4] and by others as even Shudras.[5]

All Padmashalis are reported to have originated from the Satavahana Empire.[4] It is said that the Padmashalis and another weaver caste, the Devangas, were originally one single caste in ancient times, following Vaishnavism.[2] The Devangas later split from this single caste owing to differences in faith; these members were influenced by Shaivism and Lingayatism and accepted Goddess Chamundeswari, the fierce form of Goddess Durga as their kuladevi,[2][4] while the remaining members i.e. the Padmashalis, continued to adhere to Vaishnavism.[2][4]

The Padmashalis eventually specialised in weaving clothes of all varieties.[2] They also made cloth from cotton and animate yarn (silk). Caste communities involved in the leather and wool-based household industries - which perhaps have an older history than cloth weaving - have developed an integrated process of production of raw material and its conversation into commodities. But unlike them, the Padmashalis developed exclusively cloth-weaving skills. They produced cloth as a marketable commodity, without having any organic links or skills in the production of the raw material. The Padmashali men had no expertise in ploughing and their women lacked seeding and crop-cutting skills. Thus their skill structure, over a period of time, became one-dimensional. By the time the British arrived, the Padmashalis were producing huge quantities of cloth and controlled a leading cottage industry in India.[4]

The introduction of the railways in 1853 by the colonial British government helped penetrate the self-sufficient rural economy. With the forced introduction of machine manufactured goods, especially finished cotton goods from the factories in Britain (making use of advances from the Industrial Revolution), the domestic textile industry suffered losses. Being an important node in the rural economy, the Padmashali community also naturally felt the impact. Many Padmashalis as a result settled in the urban and semi-urban areas for better opportunities.[4]

Padmashalis today[edit]

Today, Padmashalis are spread in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and also in parts of the Indian states of Maharashtra,[5] Orissa and Chhattisgarh. They are the third largest backward caste in Telangana roughly about 15% of the state's total population, and another 30,00,000 population settled in Maharastra, Karnataka, TN etc.[1][6] The mother tongue of most members of the community is Telugu, even in areas where they have migrated generations ago such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, except in the Dakshina Kannada district of Coastal Karnataka, where they speak Tulu.[4] They have a visible tendency towards urbanisation since the occupation of weaving and marketing cloth is easy from urban and semi-urban centers. Some urban Padmashalis have abandoned their ancestral profession and have diversified into secular professions such as engineering, medicine, law, academia, administration, politics and business to name a few.[4] A few of them have also migrated to foreign countries like the USA, UK and Australia. Though the community was always a socially advanced one, the majority of its members are economically and educationally backward, as a result of which in the present day, Padmashalis are categorised as an Other Backward Class (OBC) by the Government of India despite its Brahminical origin.[4]

Padmashalis are divided into subcastes based on the type of cloth they weaved such as Kaikala, Karna Bhaktulu, Senadhipathulu and Thogata Sali.[3] These subcastes are further divided into two groups based on Sampradaya- the Shaivas and the Vaishnavas.[2] While the Shaivas give preference to worshipping Lord Shiva, the Vaishnavas give preference to worshipping Lord Vishnu. These religious and occupational distinctions are no bar to intermarriage and interdining.[2] The community people usually do not use caste-based surnames, preferring to use family-based surnames like other Telugu people, but some of them do use caste-based surnames like Netha, Padmashali Setty/Chetty and Mudaliar.

The Padmashali caste is highly Sanskritised, with all the men wearing the sacred thread.[4] Some Padmashalis even do liturgical work which is usually done by Brahmins. They are well-versed in the Agama Shastra and perform poojas and Vedic rites based on it.[4] Most Padmashalis are non-vegetarian.[2] They also worship local gods such as Goddess Yellamma, Goddess Gangamma and Goddess Chamundeswari.[2] Thus their culture is a blend of both Aryan as well as Dravidian cultures. However in terms of social consciousness, this caste is more Brahminical than any other OBC caste in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.[4] Because they largely stay indoors or because of characteristics genes, the community members have developed reddish skin and are hence known as erra kulamu (red caste) among the OBCs.[4]

Notable Padmashalis[edit]

  • Pragada Kotaiah, Ex.M.L.A. and Ex-M.P.(Rajya Sabha) Leader of Handloom Movement.
  • P. T. Usha - popular Indian athlete (Padma Shri and Arjuna Award winner)
  • Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
  • Aelay Narendra [also called Tiger Narendra] (Active leader in BJP)
  • Devarakonda Vittal Rao (Ex Member of Parliament represented Mahbubnagar Constituency)
  • Suddala Ashok Teja - Lyricist (won National Film Award for Best Lyrics)
  • Uttej - Actor/Dialog writer
  • Gajam Anjaiah - Indian master handloom designer (Padmashri Awardee)
  • Jaya Prada- Hindi film actress & MP
  • Sharada_(actress)- Telugu, Malayalam film actress & Member of Parliament
  • Chalam- Notable Telugu film actor
  • Umashree-Notable Kannada film actress & Present Karnataka Govt. Honourable minister for women and child development
  • KC Kondayya- Indian politician and presently a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council[1] from Bellary. He is a former member of the (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) from Karnataka.
  • V Nagendra Prasad- is a famous lyricist,dialogue writer and director in kannada film industry

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Padmashali population
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i P, Swarnalatha. The World of the Weaver in Northern Coromandel, C.1750-C.1850 (2005 ed.). Hyderabad: Orient Longman Private Limited. p. 31. ISBN 9788125028680. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Padmasali subcastes
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q History of the Padmashali community
  5. ^ a b Singh, Kumar Suresh. People of India: Maharashtra, Volume 3 (2004 ed.). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. p. 1610. ISBN 9788179911020. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Padmashali third largest community
  7. ^ Panchmarthi Anuradha. Mayor Vijayawada 2000-2005. Youngest Mayor in India as per Limca book of records

External links[edit]