Another interesting article - Author : Mr.Mani M Manivannan
- Mudaliars and Pillais
Mudaliars and Pillais are both titles. Some scholars think that the
title Mudaliar was given to leaders of various castes/commnities
during the Chola Empire who were responsible for collecting taxes
from the peasants. In that sense one can compare them to the
Zamindars who did similar work for the Mughal emperor or the various
Nawabs, or the British Collectors who collected taxes for the British
East India Company and later the British Empire. Apparently there
were Mudaliars among brahmins as well as paraiyars, though a lot of
these titles were indeed awarded to agricultural communities.
A lot of the castes that have the Mudaliar title today seemed to have
served the King in someway. The Agamudaiyars are said to be the
Agambadiyars or the bodyguards of the King. The KaikkoLas and the
Sengunthars served the Kings too. There is a saying that goes
something like "kaLLar, maRavar, agamudaiyaar mella mella veLLaLar
aanaar." Those three castes are primarily martial castes that served
the King and had land grants and in peace did agricultural work.
But it is the Saiva veLLaLars who were entitled to the posts of heads
of Saiva Atheenams who seemed to have been really powerful. Along
with the brahmins they had state patronage, usually were
administrators of the Saiva temples that dot the Tamil country as
well as the lands that were associated with these temples. It is this
group that was powerful in Sri Lanka.
Some schloars think that the veLLaLas allied with the Tamil brahmins
to eradicate the Jain/Buddhist inflence over the Tamil country. This
alliance lasted until the Vijaya Nagar empire extended its influence
over Tamil Nadu. It appears that the Vijaya Nagar strategists
successfully persuaded the Tamil brahmins to ally with
the "nationalistic" Hindus and look past the Tamil country. These
scholars believe that schism between these two dominant Tamil castes
started to develop around that time.
During the early part of the 20th century, both of these castes were
vying with each other for power, though even then some prominent
leaders of both these castes did come together in the Congress party.
The Justice party was at first dominated by the veLLaLas, Tamil as
well as other Dravidian agricultural castes. Even the D.K. and later
D.M.K. managed to retain the loyalties of significant portion of the
veLLaLas for a long time. But independence and the powerful movements
of the backward castes within and out of the D.M.K. started to erode
the power of both these castes. While at the turn of 20th century a
significant portion of the land owners were either brahmins or
veLLaLas, at the end of the 20th century very few of them owned any
Almost all of the battles between brahmins and high caste veLLaLas on
the one hand and the backward castes on the other are now being
replayed as battles between the current land owning castes and the
dalit farm hands.
Mr. A. C. Shunmugam appears to be a small fry who is trying to make
some noise to get some attention and possibly divide the Mudaliar
vote bank in the northern districts. But even in the best of times,
the orthodox veLLaLas were loyal Congress supporters while the
relatively backward, non land-owning Mudaliars tended to ally with
As for non-Tamil origin of the Tuluva veLLaLa mudaliars, your Tamil
teacher was probably interpreting the word "TuLuva" as those from the
TuLu country. It appears that tuLuva veLLaLars are predominantly
found in the ThoNdai mandalam (Chennai, Chengalpattu, vada aarkkaadu
districts) as well as the South Karnataka and Southern Andhra Pradesh
Except for that name there is nothing much that differentiates them
from other veLLaLa mudaliars. It is doubtful that they really are of
Tulu origin since there aren't any TuLu speakers among them nor do
they have any marital alliances with any TuLu castes.
Those in Tamil Nadu can probably provide more details. I vaguely
recall seeing a book on the History of veLLaLas by maRaimalai adigaL,
who belonged to the PiLLai caste. Other prominent mudaliars and
piLLais of 20th century include V. Vu. Chithambaram PiLLai, Drs. A.
Ramasamy and Lakshmanasamy mudaliars, Thiru. Vi. Kaliyanasundara
Mudaliar, Mu. Varatharasnaar and M. Bhakthavathchalam. While the
Mudaliar party now claims the former Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai
as a mudaliar, while he was alive, his subcaste was not recognized as
a Mudaliar caste by the orthodox. In fact, some of C.N.A.'s
propaganda plays were notorious for their acidic attacks on the
Mudaliar paNNaiyaars. Sivaji Ganesan and M. R. Radha used to play
delicious Mudaliar villain roles. The Mudaliar establishment was as
shocked as the brahmin establishment when the D.M.K. was swept to
power and Anna became chief minister. However, Anna did carry the
votes of poor mudaliars in addition to the Rajaji led brahmins along
with the rest of Tamil Nadu.
Most of the information in this post needs to be cross-checked
against authoritative references that I don't have. I am hoping that
scholars with access to such works in Tamil Nadu will correct the
mistakes in my post and provide more details. For details on the
veLLaLa-brahmin alliance, see the archives of the Indology list.