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Regions with significant populations
Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada
Om.svg Hinduism, Atheism
Related ethnic groups
Padmashali, Salagama, Devanga, Pattariyar, Thogataveera

Saliyar or Saliya or Chaliyan or Sali or Sale is an Indian caste. Their traditional occupation was that of weaving and they are found mostly in the regions of northern Kerala, southern coastal Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu, India.


Among the weaving castes of South India are the Padmashali, Devanga and Kaikolar, the first two of which appear from the evidence of inscriptions to be native to Kannada- and Telugu-speaking regions.[1] However, the Kaikkolar community is native to Tamil-speaking regions. The earliest mention of Kaikkolar as weavers comes in an 8th-century Jain lexicon.[2]The ancestors of weavers of Kerala were migrants from Kannada, Telugu and Tamil regions.

Caste names[edit]

The oldest names for weavers in Kannada and Telugu regions were Saliga (or its variants, Sale, Sali, Saliya etc) or Jeda (or its variants Jada, Jandra etc). However, the present day names like Devanga and Padmasali are the results of Sanskritisation with myths of origins. The original names simply meant weaver (spider). While Saliga is tadbhava of jalikha, spider or weaver in Sanskrit, Jeda is a Kannada word for spider. According to Ramaswamy, as part of the Virasaiva movement weavers initially championed caste negation or anti-casteism initially.[3] However, as time passed even that movement became caste-ridden and various communities started claiming ritual superiority vis-a-vis other communities part of the same religion and also against non-Virasaiva communities like Brahmins. As caste negation gave way to caste exaltation even weavers tried to obtain higher caste credentials and privileges. In 1231, at Chintamani (in the present day Karnataka region with a mixed Kannada/Telugu population) it is said (a dubious claim according to Vijaya Ramaswamy) that a king granted privileges like right to the yajnopavita (the sacred thread worn by Brahmins), right to ride a palanquin, right to one's own flag and symbol etc... to Devanga weavers. Many of these privileges were later granted to Padmashali weavers too.[4]

Edanga and Valanga[edit]

According to Ramaswamy, Sali weavers were always part of right hand castes while Devanga and Kaikkolar were part of left hand castes.[5] But in Kerala, Sali or Chaliyans themselves divided into both right hand and left hand castes.[citation needed]

The lineage system of Edanga Saliya is called illam(house). These are exogamous septs. This lineage system is similar to that practiced by non-Brahmin Tuluvas. The Saliyan's in Tamil Nadu too have these exogamous septs also known as vidu(house) but they have also acquired gotras in addition to vidus.[citation needed]

Saliya association with other Malayali castes[edit]

According to Malayali caste system, Saliyas were part of 18 Malayali castes who were collectively known as Nairs.[6] The Saliya men were part of Nair pada(Nair brigade)s and would actively participate in battles/wars in old days.[citation needed] In South Malabar they even adopted surname Nair.[7]

In Kannur, Ashtamachal Bhagavathy temple part of Payyannur Teru has a unique tradition of a festival called Meenamrithu which is related to sea trading culture of the past. It was believed to have belonged to a merchant community called Valanjiyar belonging to left-hand caste group in the past. However, now Saliyas conduct this ritual. But relationship between Valanjiyar and Saliya communities at present is still a speculation.[8]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2006). Textiles and Weavers in South India (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-19-567633-4. 
  2. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2006). Textiles and Weavers in South India (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-19-567633-4. 
  3. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2006). Textiles and Weavers in South India (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-567633-4. 
  4. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2006). Textiles and Weavers in South India (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-19-567633-4. 
  5. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2006). Textiles and Weavers in South India (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-0-19-567633-4. 
  6. ^ Jatinirnaya, believed to be eighteenth century work
  7. ^ Social change in Modern India, Author: M N Srinivas
  8. ^ Meenamruthu Festival Archived 2007-04-13 at the Wayback Machine.

Additional references[edit]

  • Caste and Race in India by G.S. Ghurye
  • History of Handlooms [1]
  • Report on Growth and Prospects of the Handloom industry.[2]