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ClassificationFarmers, cultivators
Populated statesKaRnataka and goa, kerala
Ethnicitykudubi ,Kunbis of Goa

The Kudumbi, also referred to as the Kunubis, the Kurumbi, or the Kunbi, are traditionally a Konkani-speaking farming community residing Karnataka, goa, Kerala, India.[1][2] The majority of the group are agriculturally-inclined workers, settled across crentral and southern Karnataka, goa, Kerala. Kudubis are part of the larger KunbiKurmi diaspora, a generic farming community spread out over India, with the probable exception of only Jammu and Kashmir.


Goan legacy[edit]

According to Goan historian Anant Ramakrishna Dhume, the Kunbi caste are modern descendants of ancient Mundari tribes. In his work, Dhume mentions several words of Mundari origin in the Konkani language and also elaborates on the deities worshipped by the ancient tribe, their customs, methods of farming, etc.[3] The Portuguese, who ruled over Goa for over 500 years, considered the Kunbi, Velip and Gowada communities as Tribu, which means tribes. The Central Government failed to extend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950 to the Union Territory of Goa, Daman, and Diu immediately after the liberation of Goa in 1961 and that was perceived as an injustice by many.[4][5] Kunbis are included in ST list in Goa state only in the year 2002.[6] It is mentioned in the book People of India by Suresh Kumar Singh, in the Anthropological Survey of India (2003), and in Gujarat (page 731) that the term 'Kunbi' is derived from kun, meaning "people", and bi, meaning "seeds". Fused together, the two terms mean "those who germinate more seeds from one seed".[7] In the book Caste and Race in India, author Sr. G S Ghurye has opinionated (page 31) the idea that "Kurmi, Kanbi and Kunbi perhaps signify the occupation of the group, viz., that of cultivation, though it is not improbable that the name may of tribal origin."[8]

In 1510 A.D, Goa was captured by the Portuguese general Alfonso Albuquerque from the Adil Shah dynasty of Bijapur, and Portuguese rule was established. In 1545 St. Francis Xavier, sent a letter to John III of Portugal, requesting an Inquisition to be installed in Goa. The inquisitor's first act was to forbid any open practice of the Hindu faith on pain of death. The Portuguese colonial administration enacted anti-Hindu laws to encourage conversions to Christianity. Prohibition was laid upon Hindu rituals as well. In all, over 42 Hindu practices were prohibited. All the people above 15 years of age were compelled to listen to Christian preaching or otherwise be punished. Several Hindu temples were destroyed as well. An order was issued for suppressing the Konkani language and making it compulsory to speak the Portuguese language. The law provided for dealing toughly with anyone using the local language. Following that law all the non-Christian cultural symbols and the books written in local languages were sought out to be destroyed. In the first hundred years, the Inquisition burned 57 alive at the stake and 64 in effigy. Others were sentenced to various punishments, totalling 4,046. The Kudumbi were forced to migrate from Goa following religious persecution by the Portuguese during the said infamous Goa Inquisition. The Kudumbis, along with Gouda Saraswat Brahmins (Malayalam: ഗൌഡ് സാരസ്വത്), Daivajnas and Vaishya Vanis who wanted to preserve their religious and cultural identity, migrated from Goa along the west coast of India, primarily through sea voyages.

Some of the groups that fled Goa landed in coastal districts of state of Karnataka, that is, the Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, and some groups voyaged further to Kerala.[9][10][11] One of these first exodus groups landed on the island of Cherai, near Paravur Taluk in the Ernakulam district of Kerala. They slowly migrated southwards from Ernakulam and settled in coastal areas including Kochi, (Cochin) Vypeen, North Paravur, Mala, Kerala, Kodungallur, Trichur, Kozhikode, Tellicherry, Kannur, Tripunithura, Alapuzha, Changanacherry, Kottayam, Thuravoor, Cherthala, Kayamkulam, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram. The largest Kudumbi settlement is in Vypeen near Kochi. They were experts in paddy cultivation, especially in the low-lying fields of the Kerala Backwaters, and they pioneered cultivation of the well-known "Chettiverippu" strain of paddy rice, brought from Konkan (ref. Castes and Tribes of South India by E Thurston, Volume 4, 1909).

Kunbis of Goa, ladies wearing dethli

The Census Report of India, 1961 – Volume VII, Kerala (page 210) refers to the Kudumbi community, and it is recorded that,

"As to the fact that they were originally inhabitants of the area north Goa, there can be no doubt for the language, the ornament and the mode of dress of the woman show striking similarities with the present inhabitants of that area, proclaiming common origin. They are believed to have traveled by country crafts and landed at the sea port of towns Kerala which accounts for their concentration in places like Cranganore, Cochin, Parur, Kayamkulam, Alleppey, Purakkad and Quilon".[12] A small number of the Kudumbi are also found in cities like Bangalore, Mangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, particularly those members of the group who migrated from Kerala in search of better prospects and livelihood.

Early Cochin Princely State[edit]

A group of Kudumbis may have migrated from Cochin to Travancore at the invitation of a Maharaja, Marthanda Varma and on arrival been given (free of tax) a coconut garden and land to grow rice. In return they were required to supply Avil to the palace and temple free of cost.[13][14]

Current status[edit]

K. R. Gowri Amma, a prominent figure in the communist movement in Kerala and former Minister, in her autobiography narrates the backwardness of Kudumbi Community as:

In the socio-political and in educational fields, the Kudumbis are backward. Very few of them are educated and officers are scarce. Kudumbi women do not wear a blouse but wrap the sari, sarong wise about them. In 1936, an association of young Kudumbis was established in Cochin and later in Travancore. In 1951, the two associations merged into one. Yet they have not achieved their rightful place in society. They have demanded that they be counted as scheduled castes. In reality their lot is worse than that of the scheduled castes.[1].[15]

A vivid description of the Kudumbi Community is available in Chapter 13 of the book Keralathile Stala Charitrangal, Eranakulam Jilla[16] It is noted by the learned author that the main agricultural laborers in the islands around Kochi have been from the Pulaya and Kudumbi castes. It is also observed that during the Portuguese period, a lot of people belonging to the Pulaya and Mukkuva castes were converted to Christianity. However Kudumbis adhered to their religion and language until the last leg.[16]

The community is officially classified as being within the Socially and Economically Backward Communities (SEBC)[17] by the State Government. Many students have utilized the benefits of reservation legislation to improve their lives. A mass struggle and hunger strike were organized by the social organization Kudumbi Seva Sanghom (KSS) during 2006–2007, demanding a 1% reservation for Kudumbis seeking admission to various professional courses in Kerala. In 2008 the State Government finally acceded to the demand vide GO (MS)No.95/08/SC/ST dated 06.10.2008. Further, the Kudumbi community is totally exempted from the creamy layer.[18] Kudumbi Community is one among eight communities having hereditary occupations/calling, which had been excluded from the category of 'creamy layer' on account of its "Social Backwardness" as per GO (P) No.81/09/SCSTDD dated 26 September 2009.[19]

In 2014 K.V. Bhaskaran[20] contested as an independent candidate from Ernakulam parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. He contested in the Lok Sabha elections to raise certain unfulfilled social demands raised by the kudumbi community during the last five decades.[21]

Caste status[edit]

The KIRTADS[22] submitted a report stating that the Kudumbis should be included in the Scheduled Caste list.[23] After his election on 23 March 1987, and when challenged in court, K. Karunakaran, former chief minister of Kerala, supported inclusion of Kudumbis in the list.[24] United Democratic Front (UDF)had assured to use maximum pressure on the center for including the Kudumbies in the SC list.[25][26] However the legitimate claim of the Kudumbi Community stands in the ST list and not in SC List. On 10 March 2008, Veerendra Kumar, member of parliament (MP) of the 14th Lok Sabha, writer and chairman and managing director of Mathrubhumi press, made mention before the parliament under rule 377 concerning the classification of the Kudumbis. He pointed to the community's poverty, low level of literacy, and lack of ability to take any important government position.[27] On 4 May 2012, K. P. Dhanapalan MP, also made a special mention to the parliament about the classification of the Kudumbis.[28] In December 2011 in New Delhi, and on 30 May 2012 in Kochi a public protest was organised by supporters of the rights of the Kudumbi, including the Janathipathiya Samrakshana Samithy (Association for Defence of Democracy, J.S.S.) to demand inclusion of the community in the list of Scheduled Castes.

In her autobiography, political activist, K. R. Gowri Amma wrote,

"In the socio-political and in educational fields, the Kudumbis are backward... They have demanded that they be counted as scheduled castes. In reality their lot is worse than that of the scheduled castes."[29]

Kudubis of Karnataka (who were migrated from Goa and settled in the coastal districts of Karnataka) are non–scheduled tribes . They are also suffering from problems including non – recognition as a tribe in Karnataka (Caste Practices and influences Affecting Tribals – A Case study of Kudubis of Karnataka by Dr. Y Ravindranath Rao)[30][31] Kudubis of Karnataka has also urged state government to include them in the Scheduled Tribe list.[32][33]

Cultural diffusion and language convergence[edit]

For decades the Kudumbi led a socially secluded life. During the late 19th century in Kerala, when a socio-cultural revival took place in many backward communities, the Kudumbi opened themselves up to mainstream socio-cultural and economic developments. Unfortunately, newer socio-economic and cultural changes in the community spurred a slow reverse cultural diffusion.[14]

Kudumbi temples[edit]

According to Kerala tradition, the ceremony of Talapoli, as a procession of ladies carrying oil lamps accompanied by chenda (percussion instruments) or tappu melam, can be seen during the festivals in these devi temples. The traditional haampu (multi-stacked portable brass lamp or a similar stone lamp) found in a number of Kudumbi temples is lit on special puja days. Votive items made from Aval (puffed rice) or beaten rice and jaggery are still offered as prasadam in many Kudumbi temples. Holi, the festival of colors, is celebrated in many Devi temples by the Kudumbi. During this festival, "Kamadeva" (Bodhan) the symbolic entity of "Kama" will be burnt to fire, purifying the life of all who participate in the festival. There will be a procession on the streets where all the participants will be applying colour each other, dancing with songs sung in Kudumbi language. Youngsters and children go in a group, pour yellow water from the pot kept in front of every house, and finally gather at their local devili temple.[34] In the night there will be a special group dance by women (fuguda) by gathering in a circle and clapping and doing brisk movements. After this there will be delicious dinner and food will be offered to souls. Even Kudumbis of Karnataka, who had migrated from Goa along with their brethren in Kerala and other places continue to celebrate their traditional festival 'holi' by preserving their own unique culture.[35][36]

Social organizations[edit]

Kudumbi Seva Sanghom (KSS), Kerala Kudumbi Federation, Kudumbi Seva Samiti, Kudumbi Samajam, Kudumbi Karayogams, and Kudumbi Mahajana Sabha-Vypeen are the social organizations representing the community in Kerala. KSS is the predominant organization representing the majority of Kudumbis in Kerala, and it supports the social, educational and cultural uplifting of the community.

Educational institutions[edit]

  • S.N.G.S.U.P. School, Kakkathuruthy, Thrissur – owned and managed by the Kudumbi Education Trust (KET), under KSS
  • Mahathma College and Saraswathy Vidhya Mandir, North Paravoor – owned and managed by the Kudumbi Education Society (KES), North Paravor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Loes Ch. Schenk-Sandbergen (1988). Poverty and survival: Kudubi female domestic servants and their households in Alleppey, Kerala. Manohar Publications. p. 37. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  2. ^ Georges Kristoffel Lieten; Olga Nieuwenhuys; Loes Ch. Schenk-Sandbergen; Werkgemeenschap Zuid-Azië (1 June 1989). Women, migrants, and tribals: survival strategies in Asia. Manohar Publications. p. 124. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  3. ^ Dhume, Anant Ramkrishna (1986). The cultural history of Goa from 10000 B.C.-1352 A.D.(see pages 53, 94, 83, 95)
  4. ^ Parliamentary Committee Observation /recommendation regarding inclusion of Gowada, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Communities of Goa in the list of Scheduled Tribes
  5. ^ Parliamentary Committee Observation /recommendation regarding inclusion of Gowada, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Communities of Goa in the list of Scheduled Tribes
  6. ^ Caste system in Goa
  7. ^ Singh, K.S.; Lal, R.B.; Anthropological Survey of India (2003). Gujarat. Anthropological Survey of India. ISBN 9788179911044. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  8. ^ Ghurye, G.S. (1969). Caste and Race in India. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 9788171542055. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  9. ^ Tribal Tradition and Change: A study of Kudubis of South India, by Dr. Y Ravindranath Rao.
  10. ^ Rao, Y.R. (2003). Tribal Tradition and Change: A Study of Kudubis of South India. Mangala Publications. ISBN 9788188685004. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  11. ^ "IUAES AAS ASAANZ Conference 2011". anthropologywa.org. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  12. ^ The Census Report of India (1961). Vol. VII, Kerala, p. 210.
  13. ^ Marthanda Varma (1706–1758). Travancore State Archives records.
  14. ^ a b Thampuran R. "Convergence and language shift: a case study of the Kudumbis of Kerala." Ciil-ebooks website.
  15. ^ 'Atmakatha', by K R Gouri Amma
  16. ^ a b Sri. V V K Valath (1991). Keralathile Stala Charitrangal, Eranakulam Jilla. Second Edition, 2006, published by Kerala Sahitya Academy.
  17. ^ SEBC list of Kerala State Govt
  18. ^ GO(MS)No.95/08/SC/ST dated 6 October 2008
  19. ^ GO (P) No.81/09/SCSTDD[permanent dead link] dated 26 September 2009
  20. ^ http://eciresults.nic.in/ConstituencywiseS1112.htm?ac=12 ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA GENERAL ELECTION TO LOK SABHA TRENDS & RESULT 2014
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) KOCHI: K V Bhaskaran, the independent candidate of Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency, has obtained the second highest number of votes in the state by an independent candidate without the backing of any political party. Bhaskaran clinched 22,683 votes, which is a major vote share considering his foothold in the Kudumbi community.
  22. ^ "KIRTADS". kirtads.kerala.gov.in. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Kudumbi." New Indian Express.
  24. ^ "Scheduled Caste view." Rishabhdara website.
  25. ^ Politics of Democracy and Decentralisation in India. A Case Study of Kerala by M R Biju
  26. ^ Biju, R. (1997). Politics of Democracy and Decentralisation in India: A Case Study of Kerala. Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. p. 15. ISBN 9788171567058. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  27. ^ "Need To Include Kudumbi Tribe Of Kerala In The List Of Scheduled ... on 10 March, 2008". indiankanoon.org. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Need To Include The Kudumbi Community Of Kerala In The List Of ... on 4 May, 2012". indiankanoon.org. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  29. ^ Nair J. R. and Nair H. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Samyukta website.
  30. ^ Eradication of Caste and birth of new Humanity, edited by D M Ravi Prasad
  31. ^ Prasad, D.M.R. (2004). Eradication of Caste and Birth of New Humanity. Deep & Deep Publications. p. 46. ISBN 9788176295130. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  32. ^ Hindu Newspaper Report
  33. ^ "Kudubi Samajodh Sangha seeks ST status – The Hindu". thehindu.com. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  34. ^ "The Hindu: Holi, Kerala style". hindu.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  35. ^ "Udupi Kudubis Preserve Traditional Flavour of Holi with Unique Customs". daijiworld.com. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  36. ^ "India News, Latest Sports, Bollywood, World, Business & Politics News – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 6 May 2015.


  • The Kurmis-Kunbis of India by Pratap Singh Velip Kankar. Published by Pritam Publishers PajiFord, Margoa, Goa Year −2006.
  • 1956 An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (Popular Book Depot, Bombay) – D.D. Kosambi.
  • Kudumbikalude Charithravum-Samskaravum - written by Dr. Vini M. Published by Sahithya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society, Kottayam, Kerala

External links[edit]