Pillai (surname)

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Pillai, Pillay,or Pillaimar is an upper caste title used by land-owning castes of Tamil- and Malayalam-speaking people of India, Sri Lanka and others living in Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and Fiji, mostly from the Vellalar , Yadava[1][2] community in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka and Nair community in Kerala.

South African Tamils use the spelling Pillay, whereas some Sri Lankan castes may also uses same title.

Regions with significant populations
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sri Lanka
Tamil, Malayalam
Related ethnic groups
Vellalars, Mudaliars, Kongu Vellalars, Elur Chettys,Nagarathars Nairs

History of the title[edit]

"Pillai", is an ancient honourable surname given to prince of ruling family in Tamil dynasties and to prominent members of Vellalars caste. At recent times been surname of various classes.[3][4]

Vellalar is derived from Tamil word 'Velanmai' means agriculture. Those who practice agriculture i.e. 'வேளாண்மை'- Velanmai' in Tamil are called 'வேளாளர்' -Vellalar. Prominent members of Vellalars also hold title 'Vel'.

They are predominantly landlords and agriculturalists and In modern time most of them concentrate on business and trading also.

Vellalars are described as a landed gentry who irrigated the wet lands and the Karalar were the landed gentry in the dry lands.

Numerous poems in the ancient Sangam literature extol these chieftains' charity and truthfulness. Among the most prominent were those known as the 'seven patrons' (kadaiyezhu vallal); Vel-Pari, Malayaman Thirumudi Kaari, Ori, Adigaman, Began, Nalli and Ay Kandiran.

In modern times they entered in various fields.They also influential in the revival of Tamil tradition and literature.[5]

Surname used by[edit]

Vellalars sub castes are formed according to their geographical presence of ancient Tamil Nadu.Following Vellalars sub castes using 'Pillai' surname are Karkathars, Sozhliya Vellalars, Pandiya Vellalars, Aarunattu Vellalars, Veerakodi Vellalars, Nanjil vellalars.

'Vellala Pillaimar' Distribution in Tamil nadu[edit]

Vellala pillaimar predominantly residing in Cauvery Delta regions and in southern Tamil Nadu.

  • Saiva Vellalars
    • Tirunelveli and Thanjavur Saiva vellalars are karkathars uses 'Pillai' surname. Thondaimandala saiva vellalars use 'Mudaliar' surname. They are vegetarians and classified as Forward caste.
    • Saiva vellalars are also closely related with Desigars play an important role as head of various Saiva mutts, These Adheenams, helps to promote various social and cultural activities and supervises many famous temples present in Tamil Nadu.
  • Nanjil Vellalars are from Kanyakumari district .They predominantly residing in Thovalai, Agastheewaram areas .
  • Nangudi Vallalar are predominantly from Tirunelveli and Tuticorin
  • Pandiya Vellalars are hailing from Madurai, Theni, Dindugul districts.
  • Sozhliya Vellalars are predominantly from Cauvery delta region Trichy, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and in East Salem areas.
  • Karkathars significantly hailed from Mayiladuthurai, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam areas.
  • Aarunattu vellalars (Vellalars residing in six countries i.e. today six taluks ) predominantly present in Thuraiyur, Uraiyur, Manachanallur areas in Trichy district.
  • Veerakodi Vellalar is a sub-caste of the Vellalar community with a significant proportion of population residing around Pattukottai in Thanjavur district. Collectively termed as Musugundha Nadu, named after the legendary early Chola king Musugundhan. Veerakodi Vellalar are also known as Musugundha Vellalar. Veerakodi Vellalars present other than Pattukottai are in few areas of Tiruvanamalai, Ramanathapuram districts.
  • Karaikattu vellalars similar to Karkathars residing in Ramanathapuram, Virudhunagar,Sivagangai Districts.They are classified as Forward caste.
  • Gotra system: Each Vellalar sub castes have their own gotra system . Predominantly they belong to Siva gotra because they are followers of saivism.
  • karuneegar are well educated from earlier generations.Mostly employed as accountants present in Kanchipuram,cudalore,villupuram districts.They are vegetarians. They are called as karnam in chittor district of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Isai vellalars from musical heritage Pioneers in carnatic music, Bharathanatyam, Musical instrument belonged to Tamil heritage nadaswaram, mirudangam. The Tamil Trinity (also known as the Tamil Moovar) commonly refers to the three Tamil composers of early Carnatic music. Muthu Thandavar Arunachala Kavi and Marimutthu Pillai .Promintent members of isai vellalar started using 'Pillai' surname.
  • lllathupillaimar, Nairs from kerala also uses the 'Pillai' surname.

Notable people named Pillai[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kapoor, Subodh (2008). The Indian Encyclopaedia: India (Central Provinces)-Indology. Indian Central Province. p. 3254. 
  2. ^ S, Jayapal (2008). Yadava Dialect of Tamil. Annamalai university. p. 7. 
  3. ^ Thurston, Edgar; Rangachari, K. (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India. VI (P to S). Madras: Government Press. p. 198. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  4. ^ "History". உலகத் தமிழ் யாதவர் பேரவை. 2009-08-05. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  5. ^ Weiss, Richard (2008). Divorcing Ayurveda: Siddha Medicine and the Quest for Uniqueness. State University of New York. 
  6. ^ Nairs Academy of Information Research and Services

External links[edit]