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Religions Hinduism
Languages Kannada, Kuruba language, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil
Populated States Southern India

Kuruba (also known as Kuruma, Kurumbar or Kuruba Gowda) is a Hindu caste whose traditional occupation was that of shepherding and farming. The community is present in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. They are known by different names such as Dhangar,[1] Hatkar and Telwar Lingayat in Maharashtra.

Some sources connect them to Pala, the shepherd dynasty of the Ahirs and suggest that Kuruba is a Dravidian name for Ahir.[2]


The term kuruba is derived from kuri, meaning sheep; kuruba means shepherd.[1] The History of Kurubas is traced at the times of Mahabharata and is considered as one of the oldest existing communities in India.

Kurubas ruled the entire southern India for nearly 325 years and achieved their zenith of prosperity between the 13th and 15th century under the "Great Vijayanagara Empire". Pallava Kingdom in Tamil Nadu and Hoysala Kingdom in Karnataka were also ancient Kuruba Kingdoms. Meaning of Kuruba The word Kuruba means "warriors" and "trustworthy people." The word "Kuru" means "do or seek" in Sanskrit, and "Kuruhu" means "trust" in Kannada. "Kuruba" can be inferred to mean "doers" or "trustworthy (male person)". Kuruba can also be inferred to mean Seeker of Knowledge, Kuru (seek), Bha (Knowledge, Light). Kuruba has a direct meaning of one who herds "Kuri" (Sheep) in Kannada, mainly a Shepherd.


The Kurubas are said to have been connected to the Yadu or Yadava lineage mentioned in Puranas. Traditional sources claim that the Kurubas founded the Sangam dynasty and the Vijayanagara Empire.[3]

According to Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere, a scholar of the religious traditions of Maharashtra,

The history of South India shows clearly that all the southern royal dynasties who arose from pastoralist, cowherd groups gained Kshatriya status by claiming to be Moon lineage Kshatriya, by taking Yadu as their ancestor and by continually keeping alive their pride in being "Yadava". Many dynasties in South India from the Pallavas to Yadurayas were originally members of pastoralist, cowherd groups and belonged to Kuruba lineages.[3]

The Kuruba community is one of the oldest existing communities of India, tracing its history back to Mahabharata times. Kurubas have a great love for kanada language .The population of the Kuruba community in Karnataka alone is nearly 80 lakhs. People of the Kuruba community have long practiced a variety of professions, and have not been confined to their traditional (and still predominant) occupation as shepherds and farmers. They have been the source of several ruling dynasties, most recently the Holkars of Indore; it has also been stated by some scholars that the Hoysala dynasty may have hailed from this community. Undeniably, a very large section of rural gentry in Karnataka, and many chieftains and feudal barons in past eras, have belonged to the Kuruba community

Most prominent Kurubas have been Hakkaraya and Bukkaraya, founders of Vijayanagara Empire, Hoysalas, Pallavas, Holkars, Sangolli Rayanna, Mauryas, and Yadavas etc. Some Kurubas have been social thinkers and poets, such as Kalidasa and Kanakadasa.

The Great Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar was the first freedom fighter who made an army, in 1803, mostly consisting of Kurubas (Dhangars) to fight with the British and to drive them out of India. He built a factory to manufacture tanks. He appealed to the rest of the Kings of India and said, "First Country and then Religion. We will have to rise above caste, religion and our states in the interest of our country. You too must wage a war against the British like me". His appeal fell on deaf ears as all of them had already signed treaties with the British. The Kurubas took part in the revolt of 1857. Many of them were hanged to death in Berar (M.P.). The British were so much afraid of Kurubas that they made a law banning purchase of land by Kurubas stating a reason that they were not Kunbis (agriculturists). They were oppressed in all spheres of life.

He was the only king in India to whom the British approached to sign a peace treaty. Initially he refused to sign any treaty with the British, but when he saw that rest of the kings were not ready to unite and were interested in personal benefits he was the last to sign a treaty with the British on 24 December 1805 at Rajghat. He did not accept any condition which would affect his self respect.

Similar to Kurubas who are Yaduvamsha Kshatriyas, there are gouds/Idigas who are Somavamsha Kshatriyas and Palli, Jalari who are Mathsya vamsha kshatriyas.Meat selling community who are Are Kshatriya (Katika). Padmasali / Devanga who are having brahminical lineage.

Allama Prabhu, President of Lingayat Temple at the time of allowing saint Rewad in the temple stated "Kuruba Hutavamunna Kulavilla Gotra Villam, Kuruban fal kani Basawanna." meaning "Before the kurubas there were no gotras, gotras came with kurubas, Basawanna, we are the decendants of kurubas". This shows that many Lingayats were kurubas/Dhangars previously.

Kurubas are Hindus who follow Halumatha. Halumatha is also referred to as palamatha in some parts of India. Religion of the Palakas Worshiping Almighty Source in stone (Linga) form might have originated from Halumatha. Stone is the source for the soil. Soil is the source for the plants. Plants are the source for the animals. This may be the reason for worshiping Almighty in Stone. Through the ages, this stone worship tradition might have led to worshiping Shiva as Beeralingeswara, Mailara Linga, Mahadeshwara, Nanjundeswara, Mallappa, Mallara, Mallikarjuna, Junjappa etc.

Even the worshiping of Shakti as Yellamma, Renuka, Chowdamma, Kariyamma, hallehoramma, thottilhiramma Chamundi, Bhanashankari, and Gullamma etc. might have come from this tradition. Even today ancestral worship as deities is very common. The worship of ancestors like Revanasidda, Rama, Hanuman, Krishna, Keshava, Ranganatha, Eera Thimmanna, Tirupati Thimmappa, Venkateswara, Kalidasa, Siddarama, Kanakadasa, etc. as Devaru very much exists in Kuruba traditions.

Beeralingeswara temples have Balaga with Gowda, Buddhivanta, Bandari, Kolkara etc. Generally priests in Beeralingeswara and Milaralingeshwara temples are Kurubas. Kurubas were great warriors and had established many ancient kingdoms such as the Hoysala kingdom in Karnataka and Pallava kingdom in present day Tamil Nadu; they reached their zenith of prosperity between AD 1300 and AD 1600 under the great Vijayanagara Empire.

Kurubas are known by different names in different regions of the country. In some locations in Karnataka, people from the Kuruba community use Naiker as surname. It means the same as Gowda (a leader of village or temple). The following are used: Andar, Ahiyaru, Ahir, Appugol, Maldhari / Bharwad / Rabari, Bharavadaru, Dhangar, Dhangad / Dhanwar / Dhanka /Dhangod, Doddi Gowda, Goravar, Gadhariya, Gadaria, Gowda, Gaddi, Gadri, Gollavadu, Gounder, Halumatha, Heggades, Idyar, Kaude, Khuruk, Kuda, Kuruba, Kuruba Gowda, Kurama, Kurumba, Kurmar, Kurumbar, Kalavar, Kuruma, Kurumavaaru, Kurkhi, Kurupu, Naikers, Nikhers, Oraon, Pal / Pala, Palaru, Paalakyatriya, Poduvar, Yadavalu, Mane (being the upper class of the following).

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  1. ^ a b Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere, Translated by Anne Feldhaus (2011). Rise of a Folk God: Vitthal of Pandharpur, South Asia Research. Oxford University Press,. p. 241. ISBN 9780199777648. 
  2. ^ John G. R. Forlong (2008). Encyclopedia of Religions. Cosimo, Inc.,. p. 50. ISBN 9781605204840. 
  3. ^ a b Dhere, Ramchandra Chintaman (2011). Rise of a Folk God: Vitthal of Pandharpur, South Asia Research. Feldhaus, Anne (trans.). Oxford University Press,. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-19977-764-8. 

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