|Subdivisions||Padayatchi, Gounder, Naicker, Kandar|
The Vanniyar, who were once known as the Palli, are a community or jāti found in Southern India.
Researcher Lloyd I. Rudolph notes that as early as 1833, the Vanniyar filed a claim in Pondicherry to prove they were high caste, and in preparation for the 1871 Indian census they petitioned to be recognised as being of the Kshatriya (warrior) varna of Hindu society. By 1931, due to their successful politicking, the term Palli was removed from the Madras census, with the term Vanniya Kula Kshatriya appearing instead.
The Vanniyar formed a number of caste organisations, with the Vanniyakula Kshatriya Maha Sangam appearing in Chennai in 1888.
Traditionally most Vanniyars are agricultural labourers. Increasingly however, they are benefiting from political influence and organization and they now own 50% of the lands of the traditional landowners. The Vanniyars who previously were of the Backward Class Category, were now designated as the Most Backward Caste after successful agitations in the 1980s by Vanniyar Groups. The reason for the agitation and subsequent re-classification was to avail more government benefits for the community. Vanniyars are the single largest community in Tamil Nadu.
Many castes today claim descent from Malayaman. Dennis B. McGilvray states "Malayaman is a section of the Udaiyar caste in South Arcot today, but Burton Stein also finds the title in a thirteenth-century inscription identifying Vanniyar subcastes of South Arcot in the left-right caste classification typical of the Chola empire."
Noboru Karashima believes that epigraphic evidence proves that leaders of the Kadava dynasty were Vanniyar by caste. He says "We have three more inscriptions of Kulottungachola Kadavarayan, which are found in Viriddhachalam (SII, vii-150: SA, 1148), Srimushnam (ARE, 1916-232: 1152), and Tirunarunkondai (SITI-74:SA, 1156). In the first two he is described as a Palli". Karashima also refers to other Kadava chiefs, being Kachchiyarayan, Cholakon and Nilagangaraiyan.
Karashima says "From the above it is clear that the Kadava chiefs, who were Pallis (Vanniyars) by jati and had established their power in Gadilam River area."
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- S. Ramadoss, Founder, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)
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