|Original state||Telangana, Andhra Pradesh|
|Related groups||Kapu, Vellalar and Vokkaliga|
|Kingdom (original)||Reddy Kingdom|
Reddy (also transliterated as Reddi, Reddiar, Reddappa, Reddy) is a caste of India, predominantly from Andhra Pradesh. They are listed as a forward caste by the government. Traditionally, they were a diverse community of merchants and cultivators. According to academics, they were a warrior caste in the past and later became feudal overlords and peasant proprietors. Historically they have been the land-owning aristocracy of the villages. Their prowess as rulers and warriors is well documented in Telugu history. The Reddy dynasty (1325–1448 CE) ruled coastal and central Andhra for over a hundred years. The origin of the social group of Reddys has been linked to the Rashtrakutas.
The varna designation of Reddys is a contested and complex topic. Even after the introduction of the varna concept to south India, caste boundaries in south India were not as marked as in north India, where the four-tier varna system placed the priestly Brahmins on top followed by the Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. In south India, on the other hand, there existed only three distinguishable classes, the Brahmins, the non-Brahmins and the Dalits. The two intermediate dvija varnas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas did not exist.
The dominant castes of south India such as Reddys and Nairs held a status in society analogous to the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas of the north with the difference that religion did not sanctify them i.e. they were not accorded the status of Kshatriyas and Vaishyas by the Brahmins in the Brahmanical varna system. Historically, land-owning castes like the Reddys have belonged to the regal ruling classes and are analogous to the Kshatriyas of the Brahmanical society.
The Brahmins, on top of the hierarchical social order, viewed the ruling castes of the south like the Reddys, Nairs and Vellalars as sat-Shudras meaning shudras of "true being”. Sat-shudras are also known as clean shudras, upper shudras, pure or high-caste shudras. This classification and the four-tier varna concept was never accepted by the ruling castes and the latter challenged the authority of the Brahmins who described them as shudras.
The Rashtrakutas and Reddys seem to share a similar origin to the ancient Ratta rulers of the Deccan. The "Rathis" ruled over small principalities in the Deccan plateau before 200 BCE, before the Satavahanas and Mauryas. The word "Rathi" or "Ratti" is found under various forms such as Reddi, Ratta, Rashtrakuta, Rahtor, Rathaur. The usage of the word Reddy specifically was first seen in the inscriptions made during the Renati Chola period (7th century CE).
The 19th century writer Edgar Thurston in his book, Castes and Tribes of Southern India stated that Reddys were the village chiefs and listed them under the section Kapu. The village chiefs were given the title "Reddy".
The Rashtrakutas were initially the elite troops of the Chalukyas. They founded an empire after the Badami Chalukyas faded from the scene. After the Rashtrakutas declined, the Kalyani Chalukyas succeeded them. The Kalyani Chalukyas often appointed Raddis (Rashtrakuta soldiers) as chieftains of villages. The inscriptions of the Kalyani Chalukyas in Andhra Pradesh mention Reddys (900 CE). A Kalyani Chalukyan inscription dated 1065 CE found in Mulug in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh records the procedure of how one Kadiraddi Miniraddi was formally appointed as headman of the area in the presence of other headmen and important persons (maha janam) of the neighbouring areas. The witnesses include Reddys of the villages around Mulug. The inscription mentions the name of the appointee, the authorised appointer, the important personages of the areas and surrounding villages.
After the decline of Kalyani Chalukyas at the beginning of the 12th century, Prola II (1110–1158 CE) declared himself independent from the Chalukyas and established the Kakatiya dynasty. Prola used the title of Reddi in his inscriptions. The first of the Reddy clans came into prominence during this period. The Reddy chiefs were appointed as generals and soldiers under the Kakatiyas. Reddys were among the feudatories of Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra. During this time, the Reddys carved out feudal principalities for themselves. Prominent among them were the Munagala Reddy chiefs. Two inscriptions found in the Zamindari of Munagala at Tadavayi, two miles west of Munagala—one dated 1300 CE, and the other dated 1306 CE show that the Munagala Reddy chiefs were feudatories to the Kakatiya dynasty. The inscriptions proclaim Annaya Reddy of Munagala as a chieftain of Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra.
The Reddy feudatories fought against invading Muslim sultans and defended the region from coming under Muslim rule. Eventually, the Muslim army of the Delhi Sultanate invaded Warangal and captured Pratapa Rudra. After the death of Pratapa Rudra in 1323 CE and the subsequent fall of the Kakatiya empire, the Reddy chiefs became independent. Prolaya Vema Reddy proclaimed independence and established the Reddy kingdom in Addanki.
The Reddy dynasty (1325–1448 CE) ruled coastal and central Andhra for over a hundred years. The Reddy chieftains who were feudatories to the Kakatiya dynasty became independent after the death of Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra in 1323 CE and the subsequent fall of the Kakatiya empire. Prolaya Vema Reddy proclaimed independence and established the Reddy kingdom in Addanki. The Reddy dynasty that first rose to power came from the Pantakula or the Panta Vamsa Reddys. Prolaya Vema Reddy was the first king of the Reddy dynasty. Prolaya Vema Reddy was part of a coalition of Telugu rulers who overthrew the invading Muslim armies and then established independent kingdoms of their own. The capital of the Reddy kingdom was Addanki which was moved to Kondavidu and subsequently to Rajahmundry.
Extent of rule
They ruled coastal and central Andhra for over a hundred years from 1325 to 1448 CE. At its maximum extent, the Reddy kingdom stretched from Simhachalam to the north, Kanchi to the south and Srisailam to the west. The initial capital of the kingdom was Addanki. Later it was moved to Kondavidu and subsequently to Rajahmundry. The Reddys were known for their fortifications. There are Reddy hill forts at Kondapalli, north west of Vijayawada and at Kondavidu, near Guntur. The forts of Bellamkonda, Vinukonda and Nagarjunakonda in the Palnadu region were also part of the Reddy kingdom. The dynasty remained in power till the middle of the 15th century and was supplanted by the Gajapatis of Odisha, who gained control of coastal Andhra. The Gajapatis eventually lost control of coastal Andhra after the death of Gajapati ruler Kapilendra. The territories of the Reddy kingdom eventually came under the control of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The post-Kakatiya period saw the emergence of the Reddy dynasty (established in 1325 CE) and the Vijayanagara Empire (established in 1336 CE). Initially, the rising kingdoms of Vijayanagara and the Reddy kingdom were locked up in a territorial struggle for supremacy in the coastal region of Andhra. Later, they united and became allies against their common archrivals—the Bahmani sultans and the Recherla Velamas of Rachakonda who had formed an alliance. This political alliance between Vijayanagara and the Reddy kingdom was cemented further by a matrimonial alliance. Harihara II of Vijayanagara gave his daughter in marriage to Kataya Vema Reddy’s son Kataya. The Reddy rulers of Rajahmundry exercised a policy of annexation and invasion of Kalinga (modern day Odisha). However, the suzerainty of Kalinga rulers was to be recognised. In 1443 CE, determined to put an end to the aggressions of the Reddy kingdom, the Gajapati ruler Kapilendra of Kalinga formed an alliance with the Velamas and launched an attack on the Reddy kingdom of Rajahmundry. Veerabhadra Reddy allied himself with Vijayanagara ruler Devaraya II and defeated Kapilendra. After the death of Devaraya II in 1446 CE, he was succeeded by his son, Mallikarjuna Raya. Overwhelmed by difficulties at home, Mallikarjuna Raya recalled the Vijayanagara forces from Rajahmundry. Veerabhadra Reddy died in 1448 CE. Seizing this opportunity, the Gajapati ruler Kapilendra sent an army under the leadership of his son Hamvira into the Reddy kingdom, took Rajahmundry and gained control of the Reddy kingdom. The Gajapatis eventually lost control of coastal Andhra after the death of Kapilendra. The territories of the Reddy kingdom eventually came under the control of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Later, Reddys became the military chieftains of the Vijayanagara rulers. They along with their private armies accompanied and supported the Vijayanagara army in the conquest of new territories. These chieftains were known by the title of Poligars. The Reddy poligars were appointed to render military services in times of war, collect revenue from the populace and pay to the royal treasury. The chieftains exercised considerable autonomy in their respective provinces. The ancestors of the legendary Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy – who led an armed rebellion against the British East India company, were poligars. The famous Vellore Fort was built in the 16th century by Bommi Reddi who was a chieftain of the Vijayanagara ruler Sadasiva Raya. Reddys were historically dominant in the province of Rayalaseema—part of modern day Andhra Pradesh. By the end of the 16th century, during the regime of the Vijayanagara king Aliya Ramaraju, when the Vijayanagara empire was declining, several Poligar chieftains from Rayalaseema declared their independence and continued to rule over their territories.
Once independent, the erstwhile chiefs of the Vijayanagara empire indulged in several internal squabbles for supremacy in their areas. This constant warring between powerful feudal warlords for fiefdoms and power manifests itself even in modern day Rayalaseema in the form of a brutally violent phenomenon termed as “factionalism”, “factional violence” or simply “faction”. Thus the origin of factionalism in Rayalaseema can be traced to the Poligar chieftains of the medieval period.
During this period, Reddys ruled several "samsthanams" (dominions) in the Telangana area. They ruled as vassals of Golkonda sultans. Prominent among them were Ramakrishna Reddy, Pedda Venkata Reddy and Immadi Venkata Reddy. In the 16th century, the Pangal fort situated in Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh was ruled by Veera Krishna Reddy. Immadi Venkata Reddy was recognised by the Golkonda sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah as a regular provider of military forces to the Golkonda armies. The Gadwal samsthanam situated in Mahbubnagar was ruled by king Somasekhar Ananda Reddy also known as Raja Somanadri. The famous Gadwal fort was built in 1710 CE by Raja Somanadri. Reddys continued to be chieftains, village policemen and tax collectors in the Telangana region, throughout the Golkonda rule.
Reddys were the landed gentry known as the deshmukhs and part of the Nizam's administration. The Reddy landlords styled themselves as Desais, Doras and Patel. Several Reddys were noblemen in the court of Nizam Nawabs and held many high positions in the Nizam's administrative set up. Raja Bahadur Venkatarama Reddy was made Kotwal of Hyderabad in 1920 CE during the reign of the seventh Nizam Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII. Raja Bahadur Venkatarama Reddy was the first Hindu to be made kotwal of Hyderabad as in the late 19th and early 20th century, during the Islamic rule of the Nizams, the powerful position of Kotwal of Hyderabad was held only by Muslims. His tenure lasted almost 14 years and he commanded great respect among the public for his outstanding police administration. He was conferred the title of Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George V.
Several Reddys were at the forefront of the anti-Nizam movement. In 1941, communist leaders Raavi Narayana Reddy and Baddam Yella Reddy transformed the Andhra Mahasabha into an anti-Nizam united mass militant organisation and led an armed struggle against the Nizam's regime. A. Lakshmi Narasimha Reddy and Kodanda Rami Reddy were also part of this movement.
Reddys ruled many local dominions (samsthanams) until the British seized their power.The British appointed Reddys as zamindars and tax collectors. They were also enlisted in the British army. One of most prominent figures from the community during the British period is Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy. He challenged the British and led an armed rebellion against the British East India company in 1846. He was finally captured and hanged in 1847. His uprising was one of the earlier rebellions against the British rule in India as it was 10 years before the famous Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Some of the prominent Reddy zamindaris/samsthanams:
- Domakonda 
- Gadwal—Raja Somasekhar Ananda Reddy or Somanadri
- Munagala—Gurlapaty clan
- Vardhamanapuram—Gona clan
- Wanaparthy (Originally known as Sugur)—Founded by Veera Krishna Reddy
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