|(9 to 10 million)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Dravidian · Kannadiga · Kodava · Tuluva|
Vokkaliga (Kannada: ಒಕ್ಕಲಿಗ) (pronounced Okkaliga)also known as Gowda is a term for various agricultural, previously endogamous social groups with a martial past, found mainly in the Old Mysore Region, Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Ramanagara, Tumkur, Mandya, Shivamogga, Chikmagalur, Madikeri,Dakshina Kannada and Hassan of southern Karnataka. The Vokkaligas are primarily agriculturists. They form a politically and numerically dominant Hindu forward caste group and were the most populous group until the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 which enlarged the erstwhile State of Mysore by the inclusion of predominantly Canarese districts of the State of Bombay, State of Hyderabad and Coorg, (Mysore State was renamed Karnataka in 1973) following which the Lingayats became the most populous social group in Karnataka.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Subgroups
- 3 Organisation
- 4 Notable people
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Vokkaliga is a Kannada word of considerable antiquity finding mention in some of the earliest available literary works of the language, such as the Kavirajamarga, Pampa Bharata, Mangaraja's Nighantu et al. and has been used as an appellation for the cultivator community since time immemorial. Generally the term has come to mean an agriculturist though various etymological derivations are available. A few likely derivations are as follows:
- The word Okka or Okkalu in Kannada (Dravidian in origin) means a family or a clan and an Okkaliga being a person belonging to such a family. This is an allusion to the totemistic exogamous clans which together form an endogamous sub group, of which there are many amongst the Vokkaligas. These clans are called Bali, Bedagu, Kutumba, Gotra or simply Okkalu all of which mean 'family'. They are named after their progenitor, primary occupation or in most cases after various birds, animals or objects. All the clans have their very own patron god and goddess (called Mane Devaru or Kula Devata) and it is practice to refer to oneself as belonging to that particular god's Okkalu.
- Great(Royal dynasties) Rulers or founders such as Gangas of Talakadu, Rastrakutas,Kadambas,Badami Chalukyas,Hoysala's are vokkaligas.
- Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture and the epithet Okkaliga has been used to refer to a person belonging to the cultivator community.
- Alternate etymologies include Okku which means threshing, said to refer to their agricultural activities from which is derived Okkaliga. It is also supposed to be a contraction of the name Okkahaalu Makkalu which claims the origin of the castemen from the breastmilk of Parvati. This however is merely attributing a divine origin, a common practise in most of the Indian castes.
- Vokkaligas(15-17%)  stands 2nd largest populated community in Karnataka after Lingayats(19%).
- 55 out of 224 MLA's (55/224) are from Vokkaliga caste in Karnataka assembly. Lingayats (52) and Vokkaligas (55) constitute more than 50% in Karnataka Assembly.
Etymology of Gauda is also heavily debated by scholars. The term and its archaic forms in Old Kannada such as Gamunda, Gavunda, Gavuda, appear frequently in the inscriptions of Karnataka, recorded in the Epigraphia Carnatica. In fact the Epigraphia Carnatica is replete with such references to land grants, donations to temples, hero-stones (Veeragallu), stone edicts and copper plates dating back to the age of the Western Ganga Dynasty (est. 350 CE) and earlier. Attributing a Sanskrit origin, H. V. Nanjundayya has derived the word from Grama or Gava meaning a village and Munda meaning head, thus a Gamunda being the head of the village. Vokkaligas are traditionally known to have been feudal landlords and village chieftains and to this day remain major land-holders. Edgar Thurston, (Castes and Tribes of Southern India), the popular Kannada linguist Shamba Joshi and others propose a derivation from the Sanskrit - go (cow) and govala (cowherd) (Govala->Goula->Gowda). Moreover, though the Vokkaligas did practise animal husbandry, Govalas (from whence Golla) or the Yadavas/Kurubas form a separate caste group and they were traditionally herdsmen. According to Shamba Joshi all castes are derived from Halumatha community and they are were called as "Gowda's" in his famous research book "Halumatha Darshana". Alternatively Tamil origins to the word claim its derivation from kavundan or kamindan (one who watches over). The Vokkaligas of Tamil Nadu (found mostly in and around Coimbatore,Theni & Dindigul districts) use 'Gowdar (though sometimes addressed by tamils as Kaundar)' as their surname. Whether the name Gauda/Gowda is an allusion to the Gauḍa region or not has not been conclusively proved.
The Vokkaliga Community has several sub-groups within its fold. Previously they were mostly endogamous but in the modern context inter-group marriages have become a common affair, especially since colonial times. However to this day, within any given sub-group, exogamy at the family/clan level is strictly controlled by using the idiom of Mane Devaru (the patron god of the given exogamic clan) which dictates that the followers of same Mane Devaru are siblings and marriage is thus forbidden, allowing marital alliances only with another clan and not within. This system is akin to the Brahminical Gotra System and is seen as a common feature in most Indian communities. The community is patrilineal. It is opined that all the sub-groups previously formed a single unified community which broke into several factions over the ages.
Hosadevara Vokkaligasare spread across northern Bangalore and mainly found in the parts of Bangalore rural, Hoskote, Kolar, yelahanka, Doddaballapur, Chikkaballapur,Chintamani, Mulabagal and nearby location. The name originated from the unique tradition they follow, viz Hosadevara(Hosadyavara) once in every year, where all the relatives who worship a particular God(Mane Devru), mainly women get together at a particular place called Devara Mane(Dyavara Mane) and perform poojas to the God for 2 days.(Dec to Feb). They also celebrate another unique festival called Bandidevara(Bandidyavara) once in 10–15 years when all the people of the community get together and worship the God. the community customs and rituals during all poojas and wedding are different and unique. Each rituals have their own importance and scientific reasons hidden and we should be sound enough to explore it.
Jogi (Jogi Vokkaliga)
Jogi Vokkaligas are mostly found in the parts of Chitradurga, Shimogga, Tumkur and Mandya districts. The origin is Adichunchungiri matt and they worship Bhairava. But with due course of time, they were separated and formed as other caste. Jogis were teachers (mattpati) of Adichunchungiri matt when the matt started. The Jogi are followers of yoga and worshippers of the Hindu god Shiva. As followers of yoga, they traditionally wear saffron-colored clothing.
Gangadikara (Gangatkar) Vokkaliga
Numerically the largest among the Vokkaligas, the Gangadikaras are mostly found in the Mysore, Mandya, Chamarajnagar, Hassan, Bangalore, Ramanagara and Tumkur districts of Karnataka. Gangawadi was the name for the area covering these districts, ruled over by the Western Ganga Dynasty and Gangadikara is a contraction of the term Gangawadikara (A man of Gangawadi). The Gangadikara Gowdas claim to be descendants of the erstwhile Ganga royalty. With various theories on the origins of the Gangas, this is hard to prove but some scholars do opine that the Gangas were local chieftains who ascertained their power and rose to dominance during the political unrest caused in South India after the invasion of Samudragupta I. It is however, a fact that the administrative setup of Gangas vested power in the Ooru Gauda,Nadu Gauda, Pergade (archaic for Hegde.Pergade->Peggade->Heggade) and so on, at various levels of administration and apart from administrative duties the Gauda was expected to raise militia when called for. The Gangadikaras and the Kongu Vellalars are said to share a common origin and they regard themselves Ganga Kshatriyas. In fact the word Kongu is the Tamil equivalent for Ganga. There is a significant number of Vellala Goundars in Kollegala and T. Narsipur of southern Karnataka.
The Gangadikaras have two primary sections – the Bujjanige (or Dhaare Shastradavaru) and the Pettige (or Veelyada Shastradavaru) based on differences in rituals performed during the wedding ceremony. They can be Shaiva or Vaishnava in religious affiliation (called Mullu and Dasa sects). The Dasa sect forms a separate endogamous group under the Gangadikaras and are called Dasa Vokkaligas. And the Gangatkar Vokkaligas was also split to Sarpa Vokkaliga long long years back for the sake of reservation and the person who split the community was Gangatkar Ramaiah, later on he registered it in the government as Sarpa Vokkaliga and even he (late. Gangatkar Ramaiah) did not succeed in it and they did not find a way and started following separate sub group called Sarpa vokkaliga and moved on. Cheluru Gangadikaras (also called Chelaru), another small sub-sect, are said to be strictly vegetarian, a vestige of the times when the Gangas followed Jainism. Oral traditions of the people maintain that after the decline of the Ganga power they reverted to Hinduism retaining certain Jaina practises. The Gangadikara Vokkaligas have as many as 40 exogamous clans called Bedagu.
The Morasu Vokkaligas are found mostly in the Bangalore, Kolar, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka. The Baramahal Records of the Madras Presidency state that the Morasu Vokkaligas got their name because they originally inhabited Morasu Nadu which is the eastern province of Mysore. Edgar Thurston (Castes and Tribes of India Volume 5) also states that the eastern province of Mysore consisting of Bangalore and Kolar districts is known as Morasu Nadu. According to J. Pinkerton the Morasu Vokkalu are an original people of Karnataka
The ancestors of Kempe Gowda I of the Yelahanka Nadaprabhus (the founder of Bangalore city and himself a Morasu Vokkaliga) are recorded to have migrated to these districts from Alur of Kanchi around the 15th century under Rana Bhaire Gowda, who built the fort at Devanahalli. In Kanchi, they were known as Morasu Vellala since they had migrated from Morasu Nadu which is identified as the eastern province of Mysore.
According to Edgar Thurston (Castes and Tribes of India Volume 5) the Kongu region was ruled by a series of twenty eight kings before being conquered by the Cholas of Tanjore, citing the earliest portion of the Kongu Chronicle - Kongu Desa Rajakkal (a manuscript in The Mackenzie Collection) which gives a series of short notices of the reigns of all the kings who ruled the country from the start of the Christian era till its conquest by the Cholas. These kings belonged to two distinct dynasties: the earlier line of the Solar race which had a succession of seven kings of the Ratti tribe, and the later line of the Ganga race.
According to Burton Stein, the region of modern-day Bangalore and Tumkur districts was known as Morasu Nadu, dominated by the Morasu Vokkaligas. In fact Hosur which borders Bangalore claims to have been called Murasu Nadu during the Sangam Age and has a significant population of Morasu Vokkaligas.
The four main sub-divisions being the Musuku, Hosadevru (Beralu), Palyadasime and Morasu proper which is again divided into three lines called Salu viz. Kanu salu, Nerlegattada salu, Kutera salu. The Musuku sect is so-called because the bride wears a veil or 'Musuku' during the wedding ceremony. Another section call themselves Hosadevara Vokkaligas and follow a custom known as Hosadevaru in the month of August/October every year. There are about 70 exogamous clans among the Morasu Vokkaligas.
The Sarpa Vokkaligas are also called Salaparu in the short form and are found mainly in Tumkur, Chikmagaluru and in some taluks of chitradurga and bellary districts of Karnataka. They are also found in large numbers in the cities of Chikmagalur and some parts of Tumkur. Vokkalathana in the Kannada language means tilling land and Vokkaliga means one who tills land. Alternate etymologies include the work vokku ("to thresh grain out of the ear stocks"). Those in the cities have been known to be agriculturist, warriors, traders and businessmen since olden days. The Sarpa vokkaliga's (Salaparu) have a reputation for being traditionally inclined. According to the history they say it was split from a group for the sake of reservation which would be useful to future generations and they say it was also a part of Gangatkar Vokkaliga split up and made a separate group called Sarpa Vokkaliga. Gangatkar Ramaiah was the one who split the community. And these people starting to mention themselves as Sarpa Vokkaliga and moved on.
Namadhari Vokkaligas (Namadhari Gowdas)
The Namadhari Vokkaliga group is the second largest Vokkaliga sub-group. Found mainly in the 'Malnād' region of Karnataka in the districts of Shimoga, Hassan, Chickamagalur, Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada though they have spread to the Karāvaļi (Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttar Kannada) and Bayalu Seemae also. (Karnataka is divided into three Seemaes or geographical areas: starting from the coastline called Karāvaļi, the Western Ghats called Malnād and the plain lands called Bayalu Seemae).
Though originally said to belong to 18 root families or Balis the vast Namadhari population encompasses numerous sub-sects and folds. Like most Vokkaligas, they have Shaiva and Vaishnava folds. It is said that the ‘Namadhari Gowdas’ acquired their name after they were re-converted to Hinduism during the time of the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana, as he practiced ‘Srivaishnava faith’ preached by ‘Ramanujacharya’ and they started wearing the ‘Srivaishnava Nama or Tilaka’. The Namadhari Gowdas who had earlier been converted to Jainism (which had gained popularity in Karnataka during the period of the Western Gangas) thus came to be Vaishnavas and ardent followers of ″ Tirupati Timmappa". Present practice of ' Hari Seve' , 'Shanivarada Oppathu Oota' are the reminiscent of this Vaishnava faith.
However, it could be noted that ‘Namadhari Gowdas’ spread around Bayalu Seemae region in the districts Mysore, Mandya, Hassan are ‘Strictly Vegetarians’.
During the rule of kings, who were of Gowda Origin and later followers of lingayat sect, many of the Gowdas wore Shiva linga, Obstained from consuming meat as they got converted to 'Veera Shaiva' faith and subsequently re-converted to Gowdas of 'Natha Pantha'. Like wise frequent reversal of faiths and religious developments had a profound impact on their religious practices of Gowdas and their culture and never return to their old faith.
Over the time, Dasajanas (Dasa Vokkaligas), followers of Vishnu, were called as ‘Namadhari Gowdas’. This is noticed in parts of Hassan District.
'Namadhari Gowda' has been referred to by the greatest Novelist, poet of modern Kannada, Kuvempu in his magnum opus "Malegalalli Madumagalu".
The Kunchitiga Vokkaligas are found mainly in Bengaluru Rural,Tumkur, Chitradurga, Ramanagara,Shivamogga and Chikkaballapura districts of Karnataka. They are also found in large numbers in the cities of Mysore and Bengaluru. Those in the cities have been known to be agriculturist, warriors, traders and businessmen since olden days. The Kunchitigas have a reputation for being traditionally inclined. They are said to have 16 'Moola Gotras' or root families from which separated about 'Kulas' or exogamous clans. The kunchitiga gowdas are also found in parts of Theni, Madurai, Dindugal, Coimbatore, Dharmapuri & Krishnagiri Districts of Tamil Nadu and they are found in all taluks of Ananthapura district bordering tumkur and chitradurga district.Kunchitigas are known to be conservative in their eating and spirutual habits and are god fearing."
Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada Gowdas
The Kodagu Gowda/Dakshina Kannada Gowdas (Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada Gowda) communities, as their name indicates, hail mostly from those districts. Originally they are the migrants from Ikkeri (Keladi) Maha Samsthana (present Shimoga, Chikka Magaluru and Hassan Districts). They were originally Natha Pantha and Shivaites owing allegiance to Kigga and Sringeri Matha. Later Emperor Vishnuvardhana's rule they became Vaishnavites and worship 'Tirupati Timmappa' (Balaji of Thirupati) and 'Sabbakka' (Sharada of Sringeri). They are also called Tuluva Gowdas as they spoke Tulu when they came from Ikkeri, later in the Haleri kingdom, and settled the Mangalore-Udupi (Dakshina Kannada-Udupi) region. They now speak the Are Bhashe or Gowda Kannada dialect of Tulu and Kannada. They are said to have 10 Kutumba and 18 Balis as their primordial root families, from which arose around a Nooru Mane or hundred families. In Kodagu, there were quite a few families settled in Kodagu from the time of Talakadu Gangas (200Ad - 1004AD) under whose rule Kodagu fell. Gangas built/ Renovated Shiva Temples like Bhagandeshwara and TalakaveryTemples and left their own people as "Kshethrapalaks", Oora gowda and Seeme Gowda for administration of Villages like Haleri, Bhagamandala etc. Concerning the Vokkaligas in the district of Coorg, Rev. G. Richter, in Gazetteer of Coorg (1870) lists them as Tulu Gowdas (Vokkaligas in Kodagu and Dakshin Kannada) who migrated to Coorg (Kodagu) from the Mangalore-Udupi (Dakshina Kannada-Udupi) region under the Canarese (Kannada) speaking peoples.
There are many organisations that cater to the needs of the community. These include the Vokkaligara Sangha based in Bengaluru. The Sangha runs institutions such as Kempegowda Institute of Medical Science, Bangalore Institute of Technology, V.V.Puram Arts and Commerce College among others such institutions. The Sangha also runs several hostels for the welfare of students from the community.
Sri Adichunchanagiri Maha Samsthana Math, a religious mutt in Nagamangala Taluk, Mandya District, Karnataka State, India is a Vokkaliga community Mutt. The Mutt runs more than 450 educational institutions worldwide.
Since the 20th century when Vokkaligas began to emigrate out of their native region various organisations have been formed elsewhere, such the Vokkaligara Parishat of America, USA and in the United Arab Emirates.
- Kempe Gowda I - Founder of the Bengaluru city
- H. D. Deve Gowda - former Prime minister of India, former Chief Minister of Karnataka
- K. Chengalaraya Reddy - 1st Chief Minister of Karnataka (then Mysore State)
- K. Hanumanthaiah - former Chief Minister of Karnataka (then Mysore State)
- Kadidal Manjappa - former Chief Minister of Karnataka (then Mysore State)
- S. M. Krishna - former Chief Minister of Karnataka, former Governor of Maharashtra, Union External Affairs Minister in 15th Lok Sabha
- D. V. Sadananda Gowda - former Chief minister of Karnataka, Union Law Minister
- H. D. Kumaraswamy - former Chief Minister of Karnataka, President of Karnataka state JD(S)
- Shantaveri Gopala Gowda - Foumous socialist leader and politician
- R. Ashoka - former Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister, Government of Karnataka
- K. G. Bopaiah, MLA and speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly
- D. K. Shivakumar - Minister for Energy, Government of Karnataka
- Shobha Karandlaje - Member of Parliament, Udupi-Chickmagalur constituency, former minister in Karnataka
- C. P. Yogeshwar, MLA of Channapatna constituency & Ex–Forest minister, Government of Karnataka
- C. S. Puttaraju - Member of Parliament, Mandya constituency
- D. K. Suresh - Member of Parliament, Bengaluru Rural constituency
- S. P. Muddahanumegowda - Member of Parliament, Tumkur constituency
- Pratap Simha - Member of Parliament, Mysuru constituency
- Krishna Byre Gowda - Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka
- T. B. Jayachandra - Minister of Law, Parliamentary affairs, Animal Husbandry and Muzrai, Government of Karnataka
- Kimmane Rathnakar - Minister for Primary and Secondary education, Government of Karnataka
- H. D. Revanna - former Minister for PWD, Government of Karnataka
- D. B. Chandre Gowda - former Speaker of Karnataka Legislative Assembly
- Tejashwini Gowda - Member of the 14th Lok Sabha of India
- Ramachandra Gowda - former Minister for Science & Technology, Government of Karnataka
- Narayana Gowda - President of the pro-Kannada organization Karnataka Rakshana Vedike
- G Madegowda - Former Member of Parliament and Ex–Forest minister, Government of Karnataka and kavery river leader
- K V Shankaregowda - Ex minister, Government of Karnataka
- Kuvempu - Jnanpith Awardee. Padma Vibhushan Awardee and Many more awards
- Javare Gowda - Kannada author and winner of the Padma Shri and the Karnataka Ratna and Nadoja awards
- Poornachandra Tejaswi - Very famous novelist, writer and Ornithologist. He has received Sahitya Akademi Award, Pampa Award etc
- H. M. Nayak - Kannada writer and academician
- Shilpi Somaya Gowda - Canadian novelist
Civil Services and Judiciary
- Justice N. Venkatachala - Retired Judge of Supreme Court of India, former Lokayukta of Karnataka
- Justice Venkate Gopala Gowda - Judge of the Supreme Court of India, former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court
- D. K. Ravi - Indian Administrative Service officer, Karnataka
- H. L. Nage Gowda - Indian Administrative Service officer, founder of Janapada Loka, Writer
Academicians and founders
- M. H. Marigowda - Also known as Father of Horticulture in India
- K. Chidananda Gowda - former Vice Chancellor, Kuvempu University
- Rajeev Gowda - Chairperson of the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
- B.Thimme Gowda - Vice Chancellor, Bangalore University
Artists and cinema
- Ambareesh - Born DoddaArasinakere (D A Kere) maddur(T) Mandya District Huchche Gowda Amarnath - is an Indian film actor, media personality and a politician from the Karnataka state
- B. Saroja Devi - Indian actress, who has acted in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi Movies, Padma Bhushan Awardee
- K.C.N.Gowda - Kannada film producer
- Yash - Born Naveen Kumar Gowda - Indian film actor who primarily works in Kannada films
- Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar - Kannada film director
- Vajramuni - Indian actor
- Jaggesh - Indian actor and politician
- Devaraj - Indian actor who has acted in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu Movies
- Prem - Indian film actor and director
- Prajwal Devaraj - Indian actor who has acted in Kannada movies
- Ravishankar Gowda - Indian film actor
- Jai Jagadish - Indian film actor
- Ramya - Indian film actress
- Deepa Sannidhi - Indian film actress
- Nabha Natesh - Indian film actress
- Akshara Gowda - Indian film actress who has appeared in Hindi and Tamil films
- Sonu Gowda - Indian film actress who has appeared in Kannada and Tamil films
- Gurunandhan Gowda (1st Rank Raju) - Indian Film Actor
Chikkanna - Indian Film Actor
- T.Chowdiah - Violin maestro
- Sheela Gowda - Contemporary artist living and working in Bangalore
- Shamitha Malnad - Indian Playback Singer
- Jadugar dinesh s Gowda - Magician in Karnataka
- V. G. Siddhartha - Founder of Cafe Coffee Day, Way2Wealth, Daffco Furniture, Global Village Tech Park, Board Member on MindTree
- Manjunath Gowda - Indian serial entrepreneur
- Balagangadharanatha Swamiji - Sree Adichunchangiri Mahasamsthana Mutt
- Nirmalananda Swamiji - Head of Adichunchungiri Mutt
- Vikas Gowda - International Indian Athlete
- Arjun Halappa - Former captain of Indian Hockey Team
- V.R.Raghunath - Indian Hockey player
- Dodda Ganesh - Former Indian Cricketer
- Manju Nadgoda - Indian Lady Cricketer
- Girisha Nagarajegowda - Indian athlete
- Akash Gowda - International car racer
- Dr.C.N.Manjunath - Indian cardiologist and Director of the Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research
- Tulsi Gowda - Environmentalist
- Kavya & Vanya - 2009 and 2015 Spelling Bee Champions - USA.
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