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Kempegowda I.jpg
Kempe Gowda - Founder of Bengaluru
Regions with significant populations
Karnataka, India
Predominantly Kannada and Tulu (Karnataka)
Related ethnic groups
Dravidian · Kannadiga · Kodava · Tuluva

Vokkaliga, also referred as Gowda, is a community with its origin in India.[1] The word Gowda literally means head of territory. They are identified as landlords and village headmen. They are known to be a dominant and powerful caste in South Karnataka [2][3][4] They are primarily a farming community and politically dominant.

Vokkaligas are socially forward but considered economically backward compared to other forward communities, hence given reservation under Other Backward Class.[5] They are classified as 3A category in the state of Karnataka and as OBC in the central list.[6][7]

They are mostly found in the erstwhile Mysore State, of what is now southern Karnataka.


Vokkaliga is a Kannada-language word found in some of the earliest available literary works of the language, such as the Kavirajamarga, Pampa Bharata, and Mangaraja's Nighantu. It has been used as an appellation for the cultivator community since time immemorial.[8][page needed][need quotation to verify] Generally, the term has come to mean an agriculturist though various etymological derivations are available, including:

  • The word okka or okkalu is a Kannada word for a family or a clan[9][page needed] and an okkaliga is a person belonging to such a family.[8] 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.[10][page needed]
  • Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture[9] and the epithet okkaliga has been used to refer to a person belonging to the cultivator community.[citation needed]
  • Alternate etymologies include okku, which means threshing,[9] which is said[who?] to refer to their agricultural activities and from which is derived okkaliga.[citation needed]

The Kannada linguist Shamba Joshi and others propose a derivation from the Sanskrit - gau (cow) and govala (keeper of Gau/Cow)(Govala->Goula->Gowda).[8][11] Moreover, though the Vokkaligas did practise animal husbandry, Govalas (whence Golla) or the Yadavas/Kurubas form a separate caste group and they were traditionally herdsmen.[12]

Alternatively Tamil origins to the word claim its derivation from kavundan or kamindan (one who watches over). The Vokkaligas found in Western part of Tamil Nadu use Gowndar (though sometimes addressed by Tamils as Kaundar). Kongu Vellalars of Tamil Nadu use Gounder as their surname. Whether the name Gauda/Gowda is an allusion to the Gauḍa region or not has not been conclusively proved.[citation needed]

Vokkaligas are the second-largest community in Karnataka after the Lingayats.[13]


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.[citation needed] 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.[14] This system is akin to the Brahminical Gotra System and is seen as a common feature in most Indian communities. The community is patrilineal.

Gangadikara Vokkaliga[edit]

The Gangadikara Gowdas, also known as the Gangatkar, claim to be descendants of the erstwhile Ganga royalty.[8][15][16] 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, at various levels of administration and apart from administrative duties the Gauda was expected to raise militia when called for.[17] 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 Kongu Vellalars Goundars in Kollegala and T. Narsipur of southern Karnataka.[12]

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.[citation needed] The Gangadikara Vokkaligas have as many as 40 exogamous clans called Bedagu.[14][18]

Morasu Vokkaliga[edit]

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.[19][full citation needed] In Kanchi, they were known as Morasu Vellala since they had migrated from Morasu Nadu which is identified as the eastern province of Mysore.[citation needed]

According to Burton Stein, the region of modern-day Bangalore and Tumkur districts was known as Morasu Nadu, dominated by the Morasu Vokkaligas.[20] In fact Hosur which borders Bangalore claims to have been called Murasu Nadu during the Sangam Age[21] 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.[12]

Kunchitiga Vokkaliga[edit]

The Kunchitiga Vokkaligas.

Namadhari Vokkaligas[edit]

The Namadhari Vokkaliga group is the second largest Vokkaliga sub-group.[8]

Halakki Vokkaliga[edit]

Halakki Vokkaligas are an indigenous tribe in of Uttar Kannada district. Taking cognisance of the tribe’s demands to be recognised as a Scheduled Tribe a study was commissioned by the social welfare department in 2010 and a report was submitted.[22]


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.[23]

Sri Adichunchanagiri Maha Samsthana Math, is a Vokkaliga Hindu mutt in Nagamangala Taluk, Mandya District, Karnataka State. (The Mutt runs more than 450 educational institutions worldwide.[24])

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.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ www.thenewsminute.com https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/nauseating-karnataka-politicians-turn-give-money-when-farmers-kill-themselves-32712. Retrieved 16 March 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ May 5, IANS; May 6, 2013UPDATED:; Ist, 2013 18:11. "The caste vocabulary of Karnataka politics". India Today. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Born to be a force to reckon with". DNA India. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Gov gazette of Hassan district" (PDF).
  5. ^ "PDF - Economic and Political conditions of castes and communities" (PDF).
  6. ^ Aji, Sowmya (13 July 2015). "I was India's first OBC PM, not Narendra Modi: H D Deve Gowda". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  7. ^ "PDF - National OBC list for Karnataka" (PDF).
  8. ^ a b c d e Dr. Ambalike Hiriyanna (1999). Malenadina Vaishnava Okkaligara Samskruti. Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, Government of Karnataka.
  9. ^ a b c Kannada Nighantu. Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Bangalore. 1970.
  10. ^ Ferreira, John Vincent (1965). Totemism in India. Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Dr. Ganapati Gowda (2011). Grama Okkaligara Samsrutika Ananyate Mattu Samakaleena Sandarbhagalu. Kannad University, Hampi.
  12. ^ a b c Dr. Suryanath. V. Kamath (1988). Karnataka State Gazetteer. Government Press, Bangalore.
  13. ^ "Lingayats and Vokkaligas rule the roost in Karnataka politics - Times of India". The Times of India.
  14. ^ a b Dr. Bhavani Banerjee (1966). Marriage and Kinship of the Gangadikara Vokkaligas of Mysore. Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Poona.
  15. ^ Dr.B. Pandukumar (2007). 1600 Varshagala Vokkaligara Itihasa. Vedavati Prakashana, Bangalore.
  16. ^ E.Stanley (1962). Economic Development and Social Change in South India. University of Manchester Press, Manchester.
  17. ^ B.Sheik Ali (1976). History of the Western Gangas. University Of Mysore.
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Phalaksha (1999). Introduction to Karnataka History. Shashi Prakashana, Tumkur.
  20. ^ Burton Stein (1987). Vijayanagara. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.
  21. ^ "Krishnagiri District Website". Krishnagiri.tn.nic.in. 9 February 2004. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Halakki Vokkaligas await inclusion in Scheduled Tribes' list - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  23. ^ "HugeDomains.com - VokkaligaraSangha.com is for sale (Vokkaligara Sangha)". www.hugedomains.com.
  24. ^ "Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana Math". Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana Math.
  25. ^ http://www.myvpa.org/