Gowda, also spelled as Gauda (Kannada: ಗೌಡ) is a titular surname widely used in the state of Karnataka in India. The word Gowda which traces its origin with Kannada, one of the Dravidian languages, refers to the administrative head of a typical Karnataka village. In practice, the title might annex through the generations as the hereditary Surname of the headman's family. Typically, a Gowda in person commands huge clout, respect and landholding in the village and has been vested with the authority of decision making in the village by the virtue of his rights over Gowdike. Though not belonging to any one particular group Kurubas and Vokkaligas popularly use this title and to a lesser extent other communities including but not limited to Lingayats, Idigas and in some cases even Brahmins. Vokkaligas and Lingayats being the two most dominant and politically conscious communities owing to their numerically large population in Karnataka widely use the surname in practice.
Junje Gowda, a rich Kuruba Gowda built the famous Male Mahadeshwara Swamy temple. Kempe Gowda, arguably the most famous individual with the title Gowda is the founder of Bengaluru city. Deve Gowda, the former Prime Minister of India with the title Gowda. He belonged to the Vokkaliga Commuity . Lingayats of North Karnataka also use a variant, Nadagowda or Nadagauda, who is a head among the gowdas of a cluster of villages.
The etymology of Gauda is also heavily debated by scholars. The term and its archaic forms Gamunda, Gavunda, Gavuda (and hence Gauda), appear frequently in the inscriptions of Karnataka, recorded in the Epigraphia Carnatica. In fact the Epigraphia Carnatica is replete with such references to land grants, donations to temples, hero-stones (Veeragallu), stone edicts and copper plates dating back to the age of the Vijayanagara Emperor and earlier. During the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire Kempe Gowda, a vassal of the empire founded Bangalore city.
The following communities actively use and nurture the surname:
- The Mysore Tribes and Caste. Mysore: Mittal Publications. 1928. pp. 27, 28.
- "Gowda surname".