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Kamma (caste)

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Religions Hinduism
  • India
  • United States
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Karnataka
Status Forward caste

Kamma or the Kammavaru is a social group found largely in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.They are classified as a forward caste[1][2].

A sizeable number of Kammas have emigrated to the United States.[3]

Medieval history

The community of Kammas is thought to be that of agricultural families (Kapus) originating from the Kammanadu region of the Guntur and Prakasam districts in Andhra Pradesh.[4][5]

Post-Kakatiya period

The tradition holds that the Kammas, along with Velamas, evolved out of the community of Kapus (cultivators) in the post-Kakatiya period. A popular legend collected by Edgar Thurston narrates that Kammas originated from the youngest son of a certain Belthi Reddi, who managed to recover his mother's ear-ornament (called "kamma" in Telugu) which had been appropriated by a king's minister. The other sons of Belthi Reddi are similarly said to have given rise to the other prominent caste communities of the Telugu people.[6]

Vijayanagara period

During the reign of Krishnadevaraya Kammas belonging to 37 gotras were living in the city of Vijayanagar. Kamma Nayaks formed the bulwark of the Vijayanagara army and were appointed as governors in many areas of Tamil Nadu.[7][dubious ] Their role in protecting the last great Hindu kingdom of India was significant.[8]

Golkonda period

The Kammas were largely reduced by the status of peasants in the post-Kakatiya period.[9] The Vijayanagara kingdom was troubled after the battle of Tallikota in 1565. Pemmasani Nayaks, Ravella Nayaks and Sayapaneni Nayaks helped the Araviti kings in keeping the Muslims at bay. It took another 90 years to consolidate the Muslim power in Andhra country with the capture of Gandikota in 1652. Kamma nayaks migrated in large numbers to the Tamil region. During the Golkonda period, the Sayapaneni Nayaks (1626–1802) ruled Dupadu region as vassals of the Golkonda sultans.[10]

Modern history

Kamma landholdings were consolidated, and their influence consequently increased, by the introduction of the ryotwari system as a replacement for the zamindari system in the 19th century.[11]

Construction of dams and barrages and establishment of an irrigation system in Godavari and Krishna River deltas by Arthur Cotton was a great boon to the Kamma farmers. Availability of water and the natural propensity for hard work made the Kammas wealthy and prosperous.[12] The money was put to good use by establishing numerous schools and libraries and encouraging their children to take up modern education.[13]

The Kammas of Southern Tamil Nadu have also excelled in the cultivation of black cotton soils and later diversified into various industrial enterprises, particularly in Coimbatore and Kovilpatti.[14][15]


The varna system of Brahmanic ritual ranking never took hold in South Indian society outside Kerala. There were essentially three classes: Brahmin, non-Brahmin and Dalit.[16] Kammas naturally fall into the non-Brahmin class[17] Classification of social groups in the Andhra region has changed frequently as the various communities jostle for status.[18] During the British Raj, the Kammas were considered to be "upper Shudra", along with the Reddy and Velama castes, under the varna system.[19][20]

Selig Harrison said in 1956 that

Kamma lore nurtures the image of a once-proud warrior clan reduced by Reddi chicanery to its present peasant status. Reddi duplicity, recounted by Kamma historian K. Bhavaiah Choudary, was first apparent in 1323 AD at the downfall of Andhra's Kakatiya dynasty. Reciting voluminous records to prove that Kammas dominated the Kakatiya court, Chaudary suggests that the Reddis, also influential militarists at the time, struck a deal at Kamma expense with the Moslem conquerors of the Kakatiya regime. The Kammas lost their noble rank and were forced into farming.[9]


Prior to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, creating the new state of Telangana, the Kammas and the Reddys were politically and economically dominant in the state.[21]

During the 1980s, they played a key role in state and national politics with the inception of the Telugu Desam Party by its then President Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao also called as NTR.[22] N. Chandrababu Naidu, the current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, gave a progressive direction to Andhra Pradesh and won global recognition to the state and is also recognized for bringing industries and development to the city of Hyderabad, including the construction of HITEC City.[23]

See also


  1. ^ "Castes | Andhra Elections". 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  2. ^ Jaffrelot, Christophe; Kumar, Sanjay (2012-05-04). Rise of the Plebeians?: The Changing Face of the Indian Legislative Assemblies. Routledge. ISBN 9781136516627. 
  3. ^ Bhaskar, T. L. S.; Bhat, Chandrashekhar (2007). "Contextualising Diasporic Identity". In Oonk, Gijsbert. Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 108–109, 112. ISBN 978-90-5356-035-8. 
  4. ^ Nāgabhūṣaṇaśarma, M.; Sastry, M. V.; Śēṣagirirāvu, C. (1995), History and culture of the Andhras, Telugu University, p. 80  Quote: "Next to birth and profession, it was region which accounted for sectarian sub-divisions in all the castes like those of Kammanadu being called Kamma-Brahmana, Kamma-Kapu, Kamma-Sresthi and so on."
  5. ^ Sastry, P. V. Parabrahma (1996), Rural Studies in Early Andhra, V.R. Publication, p. 59  Quote: "The modernn Kamma sect of people in Andhra desa is originally of the Kapu families hailing from Kamma nadu or Kamma rashtra of the medieval period."
  6. ^ Talbot, Austin Cynthia (2001), Pre-colonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra, Oxford University Press, p. 206, ISBN 978-0-19803-123-9 
  7. ^ Dutt, K. I. (1926). "Kamma Commanders of the Vijayanagara Empire". Journal of the Andhra Historical Society. X: 223. 
  8. ^ Jackson, William (2005). Vijayanagara Voices. Ashgate Publishing. p. 124. ISBN 0-7546-3950-9. 
  9. ^ a b Harrison, Selig S. (June 1956). "Caste and the Andhra Communists". The American Political Science Review. 50 (2): 378–404. JSTOR 1951675.  (subscription required)
  10. ^ Narayanarau, V.; Shulman, D. D.; Subrahmanyam, S. (2003). Textures of Time: Writing History in South India. Other Press LLC. p. 264. ISBN 1-59051-044-5. 
  11. ^ Kumar, P. Pratap (2013). "Andhra Pradesh: Economic and social relations". In Berger, Peter; Heidemann, Frank. The Modern Anthropology of India: Ethnography, Themes and Theory. Routledge. p. 18. ISBN 9781134061112. 
  12. ^ Murty, K. R. (2001). Parties, Elections and Mobilisation. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. p. 20. 
  13. ^ Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi (2002). Education and the disprivileged: nineteenth and twentieth century India. Orient Blackswan. p. 58. ISBN 978-81-250-2192-6. 
  14. ^ Stein, Burton (1989). Vijayanagara. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-26693-9. 
  15. ^ Chari, Sharad (2004). Fraternal Capital. Stanford University Press. p. 162. ISBN 0-8047-4873-X. 
  16. ^ Fox, Richard G. (January 1969), "Varna Schemes and Ideological Integration in Indian Society", Comparative Studies in Society and History, 11 (01): 27–45, doi:10.1017/S0010417500005132 : "When recognition of a regional varna scheme has been unavoidable—such as the tripartite division into Brahmins, non-Brahmins, and Untouchables in much of the South— it has been explained in terms of an historical corruption or breakdown of the standard four-class system, rather than regarded as a functional entity in its own right."
  17. ^ Gopi, K. N. (1978), Process of Urban Fringe Development: A Model, Concept Publishing Company, p. 35 
  18. ^ Kumar, P. Pratap (2013). "Andhra Pradesh: Economic and social relations". In Berger, Peter; Heidemann, Frank. The Modern Anthropology of India: Ethnography, Themes and Theory. Routledge. p. 14. ISBN 9781134061112. 
  19. ^ Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi (2002). Education and the disprivileged: nineteenth and twentieth century India. Orient Blackswan. p. 17. ISBN 978-81-250-2192-6. 
  20. ^ Ayres, Alyssa; Oldenburg, Philip (2002). India briefing: quickening the pace of change. M. E. Sharpe. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-7656-0813-0. 
  21. ^ Srinivasulu, K. (September 2002). "Caste, Class and Social Articulation in Andhra Pradesh: Mapping Differential Regional Trajectories" (PDF). London: Overseas Development Institute. p. 3. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Political Parties in South Asia, S. K. Mitra and M. Enskat, 2004, Praeger/Greenwood, p.115, ISBN 0-275-96832-4
  23. ^ The Impact of Asian Powers on Global Developments, E. Reiter and P. Hazdra, 2004, Springer, p. 125, ISBN 3-7908-0092-9

Further reading