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Rama Kshatriyas (also known as 'Rama Rajakshatriya') are a Kannada/Konkani speaking community of former royal army officials/caretaker-administrators of forts who mainly hail from the region of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada Districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod, Kanhangad areas of Kerala, and in the area of Goa bordering with Karnataka. Other communities refer to them by various synonyms, such as, 'Shervegar',' Koteyar', 'Kote Shervegar/Kote Kshatriya' etc.
As per the document, 'Castes & Tribes of South India by Thurston - 1909', they are also present in Bellary to some extent.
They are called 'Koteyavaru' because 'Kote' in Kannada means 'Fort' and 'Koteyavaru' means 'people belonging to fort'. Alternatively they are also called 'Shervegars' because 'Sherve' means 'military' in Kannada and 'Shervegar' means 'military person'.
The title 'Servaikaran/Servaigaran' (meaning 'commander or captain of the military') is also found in Tamil Nadu (source: Castes and Tribes of South India by Thurston). The word 'Servai' also denotes 'Service' (perhaps service under royalty / military service) according to the same book.
The origin of the word 'Rama Rajakshatriya' which is more used in Mangalore, Kasaragod areas to formally denote this community is not known. Since they were associated with Kings and Royalties, perhaps the word 'Raja' was introduced into the word 'Ramakshatriya'.
In olden days, RK community used to live in and around forts serving royalties in military and administration, e.g. Bekal Fort, Mirjan Fort, Chandragiri Fort etc. They were also local chieftans and clansmen of local kings.
Their mother-tongue is Kannada.In Uttara Kannada district, their mother-tongue is both Kannada and Konkani.
'Rao' is a widely used surname in RK community. Other surnames are Nayak meaning Leader / Captain (many times wrongly spelt as Naik or Naika), Shervegar (and its incorrect variants like Sheregar, Sherugar, Sherogar, Sherigar, Seregar), Sara/Shara (in olden days), e.g. Thimma Sara, Bhaira Shara etc. Some other surnames are Kothwal, Havaldar, Hoblidar, Patel, Shanbhag, Hegde, Shroff etc. Rarely some families have Sawant, Sayil as their surnames in Uttar Kannada district. Many of these surnames represent military or administrative titles. In olden days, names of men of this community used to end with -Aiyya, -Annayya, -Appayya, -Appa (denoting a high social status), e.g. Naagappa, Jannappa, Baalayya, Devappayya, Annappayya etc. and names of women used to end with -Amma.
However, like Saraswats, majority of the community members do not add surnames to their names. Instead, they add names of their ancestral places to their name, e.g. Bekal, Kumble, Jeppu, Bolar, Kundapur, Uppoor etc. In some cases, the surname is place-name with the added word 'kar', e.g. Bekalkar, Chandarvarkar, Hospattankar, Kanakonakar etc.
RK Community members are requested to use surname 'Shervegar' in the place of Sheregar, Sherugar and other wrong forms of 'Shervegar' and surname 'Nayak' instead of the wrong form 'Naik'.
RK community is said to have its origins in Maharashtra (Vijayadurg fort region), migrated first to Goa Region and subsequently to Uttara Kannada/Dakshina Kannada, Shimoga districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod/Kanhangad districts of Kerala more than three and a half centuries ago. In an early historic record (i.e. letter written to Shringeri Mutt in the year 1633), they have referred to themselves as Ramakshatriyas of Vijayadurga Fort.
It is said that Maharashtrian Kings who owned forts in South, sent this community to guard and administer these forts. Traditionally this community had preference for Military and Police Department jobs in particular and Government service in general. Unlike other communities, Ramakshathriyas do not have a traditional occupation linked to them, except being associated with Military/Police/Government posts and with Village administration as Patel/Shanbhog/Ugrani (Village Headman, Secretary, Storekeeper respectively).
Late Bhikshu Lakshmanananda Swamiji was a monk from this community who played a role in developing a spirit of 'community' in Ramakshatriyas. The Swamiji was a medical doctor, spiritual seeker, freedom fighter and social reformer. He was also an associate of Lokamanya Tilak.
Late Bekal Rama Nayak was a noted Kannada writer, hailing from Ramakshatriya community. He has researched this community and written a book on the subject. Two other authors, i.e. Late Mr. S. K. Nayak and Late Mr. K. L. Shilahar (Lakshman Kumble) also have written books on the history and roots of this community. Mr Shilahar is of the opinion that Ramakshatriyas are descendants of Shilahar royal dynasty.
RKs have been a progressive and cosmopolitan community from a long time. Unlike other communities, the practice of shaving widow's head never existed in this community. Late Mr Bekalkar from our community took a very progressive and bold step in marrying a child-widow when widow remarriage was unheard of in the society.
Some Historical Excerpts on Ramakshatriyas
1. Extract from the South Kanara District Manual, Vol. I - 1894 Edition
"Servegaras, Koteyawas, Ramakshathriyas or Ramarajakshathriyas are said to be a branch of the Konkan marathas of Goa from whence they were invited by the Lingayat kings of Nagara to serve as warriors and to defend their forts ( 'KOTE' ) whence the alternative name of Koteyawa. The mothertongue of the Servegaras of South Kanara is Canarese, while their brethren in the north speak Konkani. They have now taken to cultivation, but some are employed in the Revenue and Police Departments and a few are shopkeepers. The name Servegara is derived from Canarese "Serve" meaning an army. They wear the sacred thread. They do not drink. Their titles are Nayak, Aiya, Rao and Sheregar.
Their original home is said to be Vijayadurga, one of the ancient forts north of Goa. And the men had enlisted largely in the armies of the Vijayanagara kings and also served the Lingayat kings of Nagara and Keladi chiefs and defended the numerous forts built by them in the Canarese country. They seem to have also served Hyder and Tippu and after their defeat by the British, settled down as cultivators."
2. Castes & Tribes of South India by Thurston - 1909
"The Servegaras are a caste found in South Kanara and to a small extent in Bellary. They are said to a branch of the Konkan marathis of Goa from they were invited by Lingayat kings of Nagara to defend their forts ( 'KOTE' ), whence the alternative name of Koteyava (Kotegara). Another name for them is Ramakshathri."
3. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Vol. XV Part I - Kanara -1883 - Chapter III
"SHEROGARS number 3070 of whom 1582 are males and 1488 females are found on the coast of Honnavara and Kumta. They are said to have come from Goa and to be a branch of Konkan marathas who have Sawant, Naik, Nayaka, Serugar and other surnames. Their hometongue is Konkani spoken with a Canarese accent and much mixed with Canarese words. Men's names generally end in "Ayya" as Purushayya, Appayya, Santayya and women's names in Amma as Nagamma etc.
Most of the men are tall, regular featured and wheat coloured. Some are fair and women are fairer and better made than men and much like Saraswat Brahmin women. They live in large families. They drink no liquor. They were formerly warriors but now most are farmers and cattle-owners.
The men wear the sacred thread. The heads of widows are not shaved. Social disputes are settled by committees of the caste under the presidency of the headman. Each village has its headman called 'Budvant'.
They are skilful cultivators and are likely to rise in importance as they send their boys to schools and are continuously improving their conditions."
4. Sheregars of North Kanara (Source:- North Kanara District Gazetteer)
"The Sherogars are originally warriors.Their ancestors are said to have come from Goa and are described as a branch of Konkan marathas.Their mothertongue is Konkani. They were formerly warriors mostly engaged by the Keladi rulers in their forts. They are chiefly found in Honnavar and Kumta taluks. They call themselves Ramakshathriyas, and their kinsmen in Dakshina Kannada speak Kannada."
"To man the forts built by them, the Keladi rulers brought warriors from outside. They are called Shervegars and are found even today in places like Chandavar, Mirjan etc."
In Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka, RKs speak both Kannada and Konkani.
RKs follow all Hindu Vaidic /brahmanical traditions. Thread ceremony and wearing of sacred thread is mandatory for all male adults. Their looks, food habits, traditions and rituals have some similarity with Konkani speaking Saraswats/Maharashtrians.
Ramanavami has a special place for this community. They are ardent devotees of Lord Rama.
Traditions of Ramakshatriyas
No systematic sociological study of this Community has been undertaken. They have maintained their traditions and distinct identity despite living for centuries in Tulunadu (Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts), where the majority culture and language is Tulu and in Kasargod where the majority culture and language is Malayalam.
They have maintained their food habits, distinct form of Kannada in Kasargod/Dakshina Kannada/Udupi Districts, distinct form of Konkani in Uttra Kannada District. Many families have their Kuladevathas in Goa and still have kept alive their link with the temples of their Kuldevathas in Goa. One of their Kuldevathas is the Mallikarjuna Temple at Cancona, Goa.
They celebrate all Hindu festivals in accordance with Lunar Calendar (e.g. Chandramana Yugadi).
Present status of Ramakshatriyas
After the downfall of royalties, RKs diversified into other occupations. Earlier generation of RKs served in military/police or other government departments like revenue/pwd/postal department etc. Many from this community rose to high positions in Government departments of old Madras State and Karnataka State and in Central Government. A section of the community took to Agriculture, Dairy/cattle farming and small business.
From their preference to Government posts/agriculture, the present generation has shifted to medium-scale business/industry/self-employment and to professions/private sector jobs. Many youngsters have migrated to US and other countries in good number. The community has given high importance to education of their younger generation.
Like many other communities, the social ills such as dowry, high and wasteful spending for ceremonies such as marriage and other functions, extravagant / highly materialistic lifestyle are adversely affecting many households of this small community.
RK community is making good progress in the three areas of EDUCATION, BUSINESS and POLITICAL POSITION. The community is transforming itself quickly into a community of highly educated doctors, engineers, software professionals and scholars.
Because of the dependence on jobs, RKs got scattered into different places in India and abroad. Except in a few places of Udupi district, they are not a majority social group in any region. Since the community does not have numerical strength in any area, they have not gained significant political or social strength. However, despite this disadvantage, they have a nominal presence in Karnataka politics.
Late Mr. M M Jalisatgi of Kumta, Uttara Kannada was the first person from the RK community to become an MLA. He was a Gandhian, freedom fighter and a leading advocate of Uttara Kannada district.
- http://www.ramakshatriya.org/ Website of Ramakshatriya Sangha
- http://www.rkss.org/ Website of Ramakshatriya Sangha
- http://www.rkvivah.com/ Ramakshatriya Matrimonial site
- http://rkgenealogy.com/gen/ Ramakshatriya Family Tree
- http://rkgenealogy.com/gen/histories/History01.php An article on the History of Bekal Koteyars