Namadhari Naik

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Namadharies ನಾಮಧಾರಿ
Total population
(3 million (approx.))
Regions with significant populations
Om.svg Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Dravidian · Kannadiga · Vaishnavism · Kshatriya ·

Namadhari Naik/Nayak (Kannada:ನಾಮಧಾರಿ ನಾಯ್ಕ Nāmadhāri Nāik), also known as Halepaika and Kumara Kshatriya Namadhari, is a Hindu community predominantly found in Uttara Kannada and Southern Central area's of Karnataka State in India and are numerically a majority community in the district. They have sub castes - Dasa Pantha and Bhakti Pantha. They are known to be the followers of Sri Raamanujachaarya. They originated from Melukote of Mandya district. They are an agricultural community, though agriculture once formed an important source of income. The people of the community use Naik (ನಾಯ್ಕ), Nayak (ನಾಯಕ), and Namadhari (ನಾಮಧಾರಿ) as surnames. The community considers the Lord of Tirupati as their deity, apart from the local gods as family deities depending on their place of origin.


The word "Namadhari" seems to be of later origin attributed to their Vaishnavite allegiance. People wore "Naama" on their forehead, hence the term "Namadhar". It can be noted here that among the Vokkaligas to there is a grouping called Namadhari Gowda which has a similar origin . This has been referred to by the greatest poet of modern Kannada, Kuvempu in his magnum opus "Malegalalli Madumagalu".

Halepaika in Kannada means "hale-old" (hale meaning "old", and paika meaning "cast"). In the Vikramarjunavijaya (ವಿಕ್ರಮಾರ್ಜುನ ವಿಜಯ) of Adikavi Pampa dating back to the 10th century there is a reference to the houses of Halepaika in the new capital of Yudhishthira, the Indraprastha.[1] This indicates the prominence enjoyed by Halepaika during that time. To refer them as "old casters" during that time should convey the fact that Halepaika formed one of the earliest martial settlers in this part of the country. This fact can be compared with another similar community in the region, the Komarapaiks, which means 'junior soldiers', in Kannada, and are said to have migrated during the 12th century.[2] There is a reference to a regiment of Halepaika (Halepaikara sainya) in one of the paintings of Mysore Palace. Kanthirava Narasaraja Vijaya (ಕಂಠೀರವ ನರಸರಾಜ ವಿಜಯ), the 17th-century panegyric of Mysore Wodeyar king Kanthirava Narasaraja I by Govinda Vaidya, describes a battle scene where in the Halepaik troops were in action against the invading Bijapur Sultanate army.[3] There is a reference in a Nagamangala inscription (Mysore Dist)to a 'Halikera' (ಹಳಿಕೇರ) (Halepaik??) chief 'Lakhana Nayaka' making a landgrant of a plot containing 400 arecanut trees to 'Shrivaishnava Koneriyayya' in Devalapura in obeisance to Ramanuja (1471 A.D) [4]

It is known that the community served as soldiers, [5] mercenaries and commanders. Nayaka or Naik in Kannada or Sanskrit means commander. Halepaiks seem to have served almost all the important Kannada dynasties from the Chutu satakarni and Kadambas to Vijayanagar kingdom and later Keladi Nayakas.

The term Deeva finds mention in the great epic Mahabharata as to one involved in the naval occupation and to denote islanders. It could also mean torch-bearing soldiers for night warfare (Deevige (ದೀವಿಗೆ) = "torch"). Since ancient times the armies equipped themselves for battles in the dark. Torch bearing infantrymen were one of the ploys employed. Adikavi Pampa in his Vikramarjunavijaya (ಪಾದಚರರ್ಗೊಂದೆನೆ ದೀವಿಗೆಗಳ್ಲ್) [6] and Kumaravyasa in his 15th-century masterpiece Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari attests to this fact (ದೀವಿಗೆ ಹೊತ್ತ ಭಟರುಗಳು.).[7]) In all probability the terms Deeva and Idiga are used to indicate the occupation of toddy tapping which the Halepaiks resorted to,and cannot be used to indicate ethnicity or origin. In this aspect the term Halepaik stands out prominently and holds the key to the origin of the community.


The origin of Halepaiks is still shrouded in mystery. Of all the various speculations and hypothesis presently three theories are worthy of consideration.

According to eminent Kannada littérateur Shankar Baladikshit Joshi's (ಶಂ.ಬಾ. ಜೋಶಿ) 'Kanmareyada Kannada'(1933) and 'Maharashtrada Moola' (1934) (ಕಣ್ಮರೆಯಾದ ಕನ್ನಡ(೧೯೩೩), ಮಹಾರಾಷ್ಟ್ರದ ಮೂಲ(೧೯೩೪)), Halepaiks migrated from the Central Provinces/ Berar region long ago and these regions still have a population (1 lakh) by name 'Halaba' speaking 'Halabi' language which is a dialect of Kannada with heavy Marathi accent . Their deity is the 'Huliyayya' or Tiger-God. The writer alludes to the legend among the Halepaiks of 'Banavasi' and 'Tulunadu' that they migrated from Gulbarga region of Karnataka.

Prof D.L. Narsimhacharya in his 1935 review of the book has declined this contention. [8]

The People of India series by the Anthropological Survey of India too delves on similar lines as above. According to it, the Halepaiks/Komarpaiks are migrants from Andhra Pradesh. It refers to the legend of king Gopala Krishnaraya who was ruling Vijayanagar, when the Halepaiks were living in Kumarakshetra near the capital (read: Hampi). It says that one of the Halepaiks, Narayana, son of Ranga Naik and Laxmi Devi, impressed the king by faithfully serving him, pleased with which the King granted him the village of 'Halepaik' as inam. The above theory, in considering the legends related to Komarpaiks and Halepaiks as same loses its credibility. The 1893 'Bombay gazetteer in Karnataka' clearly mentions the legend of Komarpaiks (and not Halepaiks) originating from Gulbarga region in around the 12th century (hence the name Komarpaiks or Junior Soldiers). Further, the theory hardly takes into account the references to Halepaiks in Vikramarjunavijaya which was written in the 10th century.



The Halepaiks have a distinct culture, complete with a distinct dialect (Halepaiki) of their own.[9] Though the dialect is no more differentiable from normal Kannada, it still retains some distinct words.

Belief system[edit]

The Halepaiks worship Tirupati Timmappa or Vishnu as their lord and olden days saw them carrying out pilgrimage to Tirupati on foot akin to the pilgrimage to dhams in North India among all Hindus. Those who had completed the pilgrimage were considered as saints and were carried out in a procession and cremated in sitting position on death.

Worship of Renukambe (Yellamma) or similar deities is widespread among the Halepaiks of western ghats. They consider the Chandragutti Renukambe as their family deity (ಕುಲ ದೇವತೆ) and attend the annual fair (ಜಾತ್ರೆ) religiously.

Most of the Halepaiks of Ankola region consider Sundara-Narayan as their family deity and pray to the Murkundi Honna deity of Bankikodla.

Festivals and Rituals[edit]

Haleapiks celebrate festivals celebrated in Hinduism based on the region they settled.The rituals among the Halepaiks indicate both their martial traditions and agricultural (ಒಕ್ಕಲುತನ) moores. The widespread Hero-Stone (ವೀರಗಲ್ಲು) worship in praying to local deities Jataga/Beera (ಜಟಗ /ಬೀರ) indicates their martial origin and also the aspect of ancestor worship. Certain rituals as during marriage ceremony also indicates the same. Until recently it seems the bridegroom rode on a horse in full martial attire complete with a sword to his marriage. The betrothal ceremony too is accomplished in a manner indicating the bride being won in a duel.

The worship of Baleendra (King Mahabali worshipped in Kerala during Onam) during Deepavali has been continuing since ages and is common to almost all communities in coastal Karnataka. But according to Prof.L.R.Hegde the Baleendra worship denotes the worship of agricultural deity (Baleendra= Agridiety in folk culture) common to all agricultural communities and not the Vedic Asura King.[10] The Tulu culture too supports this in calling Baleendra as Bhumiputta (Son of soil) [11]

The Bandi-Habba (ಬ೦ಡಿ ಹಬ್ಬ)is essentially an agricultural festival related to new crop. This festival is a common factor in almost all towns and villages of coastal Uttara Kannada and also up in the Ghats. It involves the drawing of a 3–4 storey Chariot with the presiding goddess in it. The festival is akin to the 'carnival-burning' festivals among the European agricultural communities. It also involves certain rituals related to the local Sati deity in which the people pay their obeisance.

Suggi-kunita (ಸುಗ್ಗಿ ಕುಣಿತ) (suggi, Kannada for harvest season and kunita meaning "dance]") is another agricultural folk art common to all coastal towns. Apart from Halepaiks other agricultural communities like Halakki vokkaliga, Devadiga, Komarpaiks Gamokkalu and Mukri, Ambiga, Marathi-Kunbi perform it in individual fashion. It involves Kolata (ಕೋಲಾಟ) or dancing with batons in each hand (similar to Gujarati Garbha). A special instrument 'Gumate' (ಗುಮಟೆ) is used in this. The earliest reference to this instrument goes back to the 17th century when a Portuguese traveller Petro della Valle came visiting to the Keladi Kingdom. He mentions the art being performed by ladies in the city of Ikkeri.[12]

During Deepavali, the festival of lights, the Halepaiks have a ritual of singing verses called 'Bingi-Pada' (ಬಿ೦ಗಿ ಪದ) while bringing the lamp. This is followed by other communities like Madivala and Kare Vokkaliga as well.

The Dahikaala (ದಹಿಕಾಲ) festival in Ankola as in Dahi Handi of North India celebrates the playful and mischievous side of Krishna, where teams of young men form human pyramids to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This festival is very much important to the Halepaiks of Ankola in particular and the teams usually are of Halepaik youth by tradition.


Halepaiks all along the history have formed the sword-arm of the dynasties and kingdoms in the region. As soldiers, commanders, mercenaries there have been many instances where the sacrifices and valour of Halepaiks have stood out. The region of Uttara Kannada is dotted by many Jataga/Beera (ಜಟಗ /ಬೀರ) temples and Masti-kattes (ಮಾಸ್ತಿ=ಮಹಾಸತಿ). These are said to be the hero-worship memorials (ವೀರಗಲ್ಲು) of combatants succumbing in battles and their consorts/wives, committing Sati or even dying in battlefield fighting the enemy. The local folk culture identifies most of these memorials belonging to Halepaik warriors.[13] Konalli Koneshwara (ಕೋನಳ್ಳಿ ಕೋನೇಶ್ವರ), Madageri Ramanatha (ಮಾಡಗೇರಿ ರಾಮನಾಥ), Kumara Rama of Chandavara (ಚ೦ದಾವರ ಕುಮಾರ ರಾಮ), Bankikodla Murkundi Honna (ಬ೦ಕಿಕೊಡ್ಲ ಮೂರ್ಕು೦ಡಿ ಹೊನ್ನ) are important examples. While Honnamma (ಹೊನ್ನಮ್ಮ)consort of Ramanatha is supposed to have died alongside him in the battlefield and hence became a Sati (virtuous wife), Murkundi Honna is said to have died in the Bargi-Ghat battle and his wife Mankali (ಮ೦ಕಾಳಿ) is said to have committed Sati. Kumara Rama died fighting the Chandavar Sultan.

Dandina Hanuma (ದ೦ಡಿನ ಹನುಮ) temple in Chandavar is in the memory of a Halepaik captain named Hanuma. According to a popular legend the Jataga deity of this temple defeated the Sultan's army and put him to flight. Kapalira Amma (ಕಪಲಿ-ವೀರ ಅಮ್ಮ) temple in the vicinity is also related.

Other popular temples include the Honamavu Dandina Durgi (ಹೊನಮಾವು ದ೦ಡಿನ ದುರ್ಗಿ) temple, Oorakeri Kudure Beerappa and Malamma (ಕುದುರೆ ಬೀರಪ್ಪ ಮತ್ತು ಮಾಳಮ್ಮ) temple in Kumta ; Hacchchali Kudure,Aaneya Gove Ganapa (ಹಚ್ಚಾಲಿ ಕುದುರೆ ಮತ್ತು ಆನೆಯ ಗೋವೆ ಗಣಪ) of Madageri; Jattu-Masti (ಜಟ್ಟುಮಾಸ್ತಿ), Malla-Masti (ಮಳ್ಳಮಾಸ್ತಿ), Honnamma-Masti (ಹೊನ್ನಮ್ಮಮಾಸ್ತಿ), Kondada-Masti (ಕೊ೦ಡದಮಾಸ್ತಿ), Kendada-Masti ( ಕೆ೦ಡದಮಾಸ್ತಿ) of Shirali ; Sodigadde-Masti (ಸೋಡಿಗದ್ದೆಮಾಸ್ತಿ) of Bhatkal; Sri kumararama mahasati temple of Anilgod; Shri Durga Parameshwari Tepmle of[Hodke Shiroor].

Almost all these temples have 'Kenda-Hayuvike' ritual conducted annually. It is supposed to denote the committing of Sati by the deity and is usually done by Halepaik youth. During this a Choma (ಚೋಮ)or Large mask denoting the deity is worn by volunteer doing the ritual. A Choma is peculiar to each deity and may be in the shape of a horse, elephant depending on which deity it denotes (ex:ಹಚ್ಚಾಲಿ ಕುದುರೆ ಮತ್ತು ಆನೆಯ ಗೋವೆ ಗಣಪ).A Kalasha is carried during the Bandi-Habba festival denoting the deity.

The widespread occurrence of Sati among the Halepaiks which was only limited to the warrior class in those days and which is said to be a practice of Scythian origin further strengthens the Naga/Scythian origin theory of Halepaiks.[14][15] Worship of local divine spirits can also be seen and the worship of Baleendra [King Mahabali worshipped in Kerala during Onam] during Deepavali has been continuing since ages and is common to almost all communities in coastal Karnataka. Certain rituals as during marriage ceremony indicate their martial origin. Until recently it seems the bridegroom rode on a horse in full martial attire complete with a sword to his marriage. The betrothal ceremony too is accomplished in a manner indicating the bride being won in a duel.

In popular culture[edit]

A very famous proverb popular in the Uttara Kannada, Shimoga regions pays tribute to the battleskills of Halepaiks. "ಸಾವಿರ ತಲೆ ಉರುಳಿದರೂ ದೀವರ ತಲೆ ಉರುಳೋದಿಲ್ಲ" means, even if a thousand heads roll, the Deevars (Halepaik) heads don't.

The first reference to Halepaiks as a community comes from the 10th century workVikramarjunavijaya of Adikavi Pampa[disambiguation needed]. He refers to the houses of Halepaiks: "ಸಾಲಾಗಿಹ ಹಳೆಯಪೈಕರ ಮನೆಗಳವು" in the Yudhishthiras city of Indraprastha which should be the present day Banavasi as Pampa[disambiguation needed] had adapted the Mahabharata to the local kingdom and Arjuna was identified with his patron Arikesari[disambiguation needed].

The richest tribute yet to the Halepaik valour, though in fleeting references is paid by Kanthirava Narasaraja Vijaya (ಕಂಠೀರವ ನರಸರಾಜ ವಿಜಯ), a 17th-century historical account of life of Mysore Wodeyar king Kanthirava Narasaraja I by Govinda Vaidya describes the turbulent times faced by the Mysore region and the grit and mettle of the king Kanthirava in facing the same. In one of the battle scenes the poet describes the marauding and undefeated armies of Bijapur Sultanate under the famed general Ranadulla Khan, laying siege to the Shrirangapattana fort. In this the poet aptly captures the valour of Halepaik infantry in fighting off the aggressors and wreaking havoc on them by looking very much the embodiment of battle-gods (ರಣ ಕಲಿ).

      "ಕವಿದು ಕೋಟೆಯ ತೆನಗೆ ಉರುಬುವ ಖಾನರು ಕರಾಚೂರಿ ಯಿಂದ ತಿವಿಯೇ, ಕೆಳಗೆ ತಲೆಯಾಗಿ ಸುರುಳಿ ಬಿದ್ದ ಅಸುರರ ಹವಣನು ಈಶ್ವರ ತಾನೆ ಬಲ್ಲ .
ಚಿಗಿದು ಆಳವೆರಿಗಿಳಿವ ಖಾನಖಾನರ  ಮುಂದಲೆಗಳ ನಗುತ ಪಿಡಿದು, ಆಯುಧಗಳ ಉಗಿದು, ಶಿರಗಳ ಖಂಡಿಸಿ, ಅಗಳಿಗೆ ಇಟ್ಟರು"
           "ವಸುಧೇಶ್ವರ ಕಂಠೀರವ ಸಾಕಿರ್ದ 
                         ಅಸಹಾಯ ಶೂರ ಮನ್ನೆಯರು 
                         ದೆಸೆದೆಸೆಯೋಳು ಕೋಟೆಗದರ್ವ
                         ಖಾನರುಗಳ   ಕುಸುರಿದರಿದು ಕೆಡಹಿದರು"
       "ಮೈಸೂರಿನ    ಹಳೆಯ ಪೈಕದ ಕೋವಿಯ ಭಟರು ವೈರಿಗಳ ತಲೆ ಚೆಂಡಆಡಿದರು, ಏರಿ ಬರುವ ತುರುಕರ ಸೈನ್ಯವನ್ನು ಚೆದುರಿಸುತ..." 

Halepaiks find continuous reference in Kuvempu's Malegalalli Madumagalu & Kanooru Subbamma Heggaditi which deal with life in the Western Ghats in the 19th century. The then contemporary condition of Halepaiks, vague reference to their origins, social standings, inter relation with other communities, ongoing class struggle can be summed up from this work.[16] Kuvempu indicates that there was a decision taken among the landlords that Halepaiks were to be not allowed to hold their own lands and were to be confined to tilling others' lands. The discrimination extended to ceremonies and rituals as well with the Halepaik groom not allowed to ride a horse to his marriage as was the practice for ages.[17] The landlords seem to have guarded this privilege of theirs very closely. This also indicates the social downfall Halepaiks had attained by then.

Present conditions and social status[edit]

The martial Halepaiks took to agriculture in peacetime and down the centuries were left with small landholdings, a condition which led to them being downtrodden and marginalized. Until recently Halepaiks were known for their status as resident cultivators (Gross-crop sharing), that is working on lands passed on by heredity on the condition of parting with a portion of produce. This system is known as Geni paddati (tenure system) in Kannada. There are two versions, Moola geni (protected tenant with certain rights; similar to Bhoomidar of U.P) being the hereditary one and Chala geni (tenant at will; ex Sirdars and Asamis of U.P) [18] given on a contract lasting 4–5 years. Halepaiks became almost synonymous with the Moolageni system. With the undergoing changes at the socio-political level and the onset of lenders the condition became such that over the last century every family which was poor to own land by themselves took to the above said system irrespective of caste, creed and community. From Brahmins to Muslims they were at it for livelihood.[19] Most became resident cultivators in their own land due to debt trap. Even so, there was oppression in the Geni system with the landlords resorting to arm twisting and violence to extract greater share. This led to one of the most important agrarian movements in post independent India, the Kagodu satyagraha. The Kagodu Satyagraha of 1951 turned out to be a memorable period for the community, with many from community assuming leadership in the movement. The doyen of community like H.Ganpatiyappa, Savaji Beera Naik, Mandagadale Ram Naik worked closely with leaders like Shantaveri Gopalagowda, Yusuf Meherally to make it a success.[20] This movement was very much responsible for the future land reforms that took place giving the land to the tiller.

The community today has produced many notable personalities and the younger generation continues the remarkable work done by its predecessors. Today the community is prosperous & boasts of a workforce including software professionals, doctors, lawyers, actors, civil servants, teachers, entrepreneurs and people in other successful fields. The literacy rate is high in both males and females and presently the emphasis has been rightly placed on education as may be evident from the fact that many youngsters are opting for higher studies abroad.


Namadhari population in Karnataka[edit]

In Karnataka while Namadhari form the fourth largest caste group among Hindus, constituting 6-7% of the population of Karnataka, but due to use of different nomenclature they are misunderstood to be a small community. Namadhari are called Ediga in southern central Karnataka, Namadhari Naik in Uttara Kannada(North Canara), Halepaik in Uttara Kannada and Deevaru/Idiga in Central Karnataka.

Namadhari in neighbouring states[edit]

  • Namadhari are called Thiyya/Ezhava in Kerala who form approx 25% population of Kerala and thereby forming numerically dominant community with largest community among Hindus.
  • Namadhari are called Nadars in Tamil Nadu who form arount 10% of Population, they are economically dominant with majority of business owners in the state belonging to Nadar community.
  • Andhra population and significant political group among OBCs.
  • Gowdas and namadhari Poojaries are same caste,Namadhari are called Idigas/ Gouds Telangana and Gowda Andra Pradesh and constitute around 17% of Telangana

Notable people[edit]

Some prominent Namadhari personalities are:


  • Devaray Naik - former MP
  • J.D. Naik - ex-MLA
  • K.N. Naik Chitrapur, Shirali - ex-Taluk (Bhatkal) Panchayat President
  • L.S. Naik, Mundalli, Bhatkal - ex-Taluk (Bhatkal) Panchayat President
  • R.N. Naik - ex-Minister
  • R.S. Naik - ex-MP (RS)
  • Shivanand Naik - ex-Minister and former chairman of KSDL[21]
  • S.V. Naik - ex-MLA


  • Raghu Chaitanya Nayak - Friendly Motors
  • Y.G. Nayak - Friendly Logistics

Young entrepreneurs:

  • Gajanan K. Nayak - Green Sai
  • Prashanth S. Naik - Creative R

Government services:

  • Ganesh S.Naik(Ankola), ex-Director, Education Dept.
  • M.T. Naik, DCP (retired)
  • Dr. Tejaswi S.Naik, IAS


  • Ramananda Naik - Kannada activist, Head of IT wing, Karnataka Ranadheera Pade

Similar communities[edit]


  1. ^ Pampana samastha bharata kathamruta, Dr. L.Basavaraju
  2. ^ Bombay gazetteer in Karnataka: Dharwad,Belgaum,Bijapur and Kannara districts, Venkataramgo Katti
  3. ^ Karnataka Janajeevana, Betgeri Krishnasharma
  4. ^ Inscriptions of Mysore District, Epigraphia Carnatica, B.L. Rice
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ 5, Dwadashashwasam,Vikramarjunavijaya, Pampa
  7. ^ Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari, Kumaravyasa
  8. ^ D.L.N Avara Ayda Lekhana, Kamala Hampana
  9. ^ Dravida Bhashavijnana, Hampana
  10. ^ Bimba-Pratibimba, Dr.L.R.Hegde
  11. ^ Paadgavite,Tuluvala Baliendre
  12. ^ The Nayakas of Ikkeri, K.D. Swaminathan
  13. ^ Bimba-Pratibimba, Dr.L.R.Hegde
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kanooru Subbamma Heggaditi, Kuvempu
  17. ^ Malegalalli madumagalu, Kuvempu
  18. ^ Land Revenue, M.G. Pimputkar, M.G. Pimputkar land revenue
  19. ^ Kaada toreya jaadu: Autobiography of Kadidal Shamanna
  20. ^ Kagodu ondu nenapu, C.B. Chandrashekhar
  21. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)