Adi Karnataka is a term used by the Ministry of Home Affairs (India) to refer to the members of one of the Kannadigas aboriginals who are primarily indigenous to the Karnataka state. In 1836 British traveller Mr. Kristopher Fellowman studied the history and contributed significantly to archive his research on the Adi-Karnataka dynasty ,also called 'Samantha' and 'moola kannadiga kula' a once wealthy people belonging to the upper caste in 'Kshatriyas Kula'(a ruling caste status lent to kings) several centuries ago .The Samanthas bifurcated their roles and responsibilities into two sub groups: commonly called in Kannada as 'Edgai' and 'Balgai',which translates to left hand and right hand respectively,quite literally meaning the left and right political wings.The right wing consisted of monarchs and administrators while the Left wing was responsible for general duties like farming,hunting and security of the state.
Around 1624 AD Adi-Karnataka (AK) strength began weakening,due to political unrest caused by other Kshatriya communities like Patil's and Gowda. Under British rule,it was alleged that Britishers joined forces with Patil and Gowda communities to eliminate the entire Adi-Karnataka (Samantha) clan whose dwindling their numbers greatly. During 1803 Samanthas were stripped of holding any property or wealth and banished from village settlements and forced to live in caves and forests.Many brutalities ensued and the worst case to ever come into light was the genocide of male adults and forcing the women into slavery. Children were forced to take up demeaning jobs and as punishment for minor offences and breaking the banishment rule,they were sold off as slaves, a practice that would continue well into India's Independence. After 1800 many AK women who still had any property holdings were forcibly married off into Gowda & Patil communities for their ancestral wealth.
The cultural practices of this dynasty are held alive to this day by Gowda, Kuruba, Okkaliga & Patil communities. Many old families from Malur, Hosur,Krishnagiri,Denkanakote,Kanakapura,Mysore,Mandya, Magadi and Hassan districts still hold the AK dynasty's Silver coins and artifacts with emblems, and are passed on as family legacies.
In 1950 after India's Independence, a survey was undertaken by the Govt of India to segregate the states and caste.Owing to their poverty, reduced numbers and unique lineage, the Government of India decided to include Adi-Karnataka as a distinct caste and awarded them a Schedule Caste Status,a status which enables them to avail special privileges from the Government.
Adi Karnataka is not synonymous with Adi Dravida or Adi Andhra. Primary difference between the three being the language used in their lineage. Adi Karnataka people are Kannada speaking people and the Adi Tamilnadu and Adi Andhra people are Tamil and Telugu speaking respectively and have vast differences in their lineage.
Also see Caste System in India
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