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Kamma or the Kammooru is a social group found largely in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Starting from the 1960s, a sizable number have emigrated to other parts of the world, particularly to the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
There are many theories about the origins of the word "Kamma" and the social group known as the Kammas. These include:
- Buddhist origin: the people who lived in the Krishna River valley, where Buddhism prevailed, were named from the Theravada Buddhist concept of Kamma (in Pali) or Karma (in Sanskrit). This region was once known as Kammarashtram, Kammarattam or Kammanadu, which was under the control of the Pallavas, Eastern Chalukyas and Cholas. According to some historians the Kammas existed since the time of the Mauryas.
- Kamma origin: Buddhist's from the Gangetic plains migrated to the Krishna River delta in large numbers to escape the persecution of Pushyamitra Sunga (184 BCE). Buddhism was already flourishing in Dharanikota, Bhattiprolu, Chandavolu etc., in this fertile area. Historians surmised that the Sanskrit word Karma became Kamma (pali word) in later years.
The kings and military persona of Kammanadu started using the title Nayaka/Nayakudu from 10th century onwards as observed in many inscriptions. There are about 1200 Kamma surnames (Intiperu) which are discernible from this time. The surnames and gotras of Kammas and Velamas were catalogued by Badabanala Bhatta in 1068 CE.
The inscriptions of many Kamma Nayakas mentioned that they belong to Durjaya clan of Shudra communities. For instance, the inscription (1125 CE) of Pinnama Nayudu in the temple of Sagareswara in Madala village mentioned that he belonged to Durjaya clan and Vallutla Gothra. Another inscription (1282 CE) in the same temple mentioned that Devineni Erra Nayudu, Kommi Nayudu and Pothi Nayudu belonged to the lineage of Buddhavarma, Durjaya clan and Vallutla Gothra. The inscription at Ravuru mentioned that the bodyguards of Queen Rudrama Devi, Ekki Nayudu, Rudra Nayudu, Pinarudra Nayudu and Pothi Nayudu belong to Durjaya vamsa and Vallutla Gothra. It is worth mentioning here that many of the martial clans of Kammas belong to Vallutla Gothra. Many of the Telugu Chodas of Kammanadu had relations with Eastern Chalukyas and later with Kakatiyas. According to many inscriptions and “Velugotivari Vamsavali” Kammas with surnames such as Yalampati, Sammeta, Maccha, Choda, Vasireddy, Katta, Adapa etc., belong to Choda-Chalukya ancestry. Historians surmised that by the end of 10th century Durjayas, Chodas, few sections of Chalukyas and Haihayas of Kammanadu merged into Kammas.
The affiliation of Kammas as a caste to the ruling dynasties could not be ascribed till 11th century. Traces of evidence were found in the inscriptions of Telugu Cholas of Velanadu starting from Gonka I (1075-1115 CE), found in many places in Kammanadu. The Kakatiya Ganapati Deva married Naramma and Peramma, the sisters of Jayapa Senani, a warrior hailing from Kamanadu.[page needed] Jayapa Nayudu is also well known for his contributions to the field of Indian dance (1231 CE) and was the head of the elephant corps in the Kakatiya army. Around this time many warriors from Kammanadu joined the forces of the Kakatiya dynasty. In Warangal region Kammas are called Kamma Kapus.
Kammas grew to prominence during the Kakatiya dynasty's reign (1083-1323 CE) by also holding important positions in their army. One of the most famous commanders during the time of Rudrama Devi and Prataparudra II was Dadi Nagadeva who played a prominent role in warding off the attack of the Yadava king of Devagiri. Nagadeva’s son Ganna Mantri, also called Ganna Senani or Yugandhar, was a great warrior and a patron of arts and literature. Ganna was the commander of Warangal fort. He was captured, converted to Islam and taken to Delhi along with Prataparudra. Subsequently, he rose to the exalted position of 'Wazir' in Delhi durbar and was sent to rule Punjab. Nagadeva’s other sons Ellaya Nayaka and Mechaya Nayaka were also valiant fighters. Another warrior of repute was Muppidi Nayaka who went on an expedition to Kanchi, defeated the Pandya king and merged it with Kakatiya dynasty in 1316 CE. Other prominent Kamma Nayaks of the Kakatiya dynasty were Gonka I who rose to become a viceroy and Beta I (AD 1000 - 1050) who emerged from a Samanta Vishti Vamsa, a feudatory family from among the Buddhist peasants.
In prolonged battles with Muslims between 1296 and 1323 CE. thousands of Kamma Nayakas perished along with others, in the defense of Warangal. The inhuman atrocities perpetrated by the Muslims on Telugu people later prompted two Kamma chieftains, Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka and Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka, who served the Kakatiya king Prataparudra, to raise the banner of revolt. After the fall of Warangal they united the Nayaka chieftains, wrested Warangal from the Delhi Sultanate and ruled for 50 years.
Subsequent to the martyrdom of Kaapaaneedu (Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka) many Kammas migrated to the Vijayanagara kingdom. During the reign of Sri Krishnadevaraya Kammas belonging to thirty seven gotras were living in the city of Vijayanagar. Kamma Nayaks formed the bulwark of Vijayanagara army and were appointed as governors in many areas of Tamil Nadu. Their role in protecting the last great Hindu kingdom of India was significant.
Vijayanagara kingdom underwent very difficult times after the battle of Tallikota in 1565. Pemmasani Nayaks, Ravella Nayaks and Sayapaneni Nayaks steadfastly helped the Araviti kings in keeping the Muslims at bay. It took another 90 years to consolidate the Muslim power in Andhra country with the capture of Gandikota in 1652. Kamma nayaks migrated in large numbers to the Tamil region. During the Golkonda period, the Sayapaneni Nayaks (1626–1802) ruled Dupadu region as vassals of the Golkonda sultans. Gangappa Nayudu, Venkatadri Nayudu and Rangappa Nayudu were famous among them. Ibrahim Qutb Shah captured Kondavidu in 1579. Khasa Raya Rao, his Maratha commander, appointed Deshmukhs and Chowdarys in 497 villages. The usage of the title ‘Chowdary’ in coastal Andhra Pradesh commenced at this time.
According to Mackenzie, Virappa Nayudu was appointed as Deshmukh of Nandigama paragana in 1670. Chinapadmanabha Nayudu got a grant of 500 villages from Abul Hassan Tanisha in 1685. He built a fort at Chintapalli and ruled it until 1710 CE. His successors ruled until 1760. During this period the French and the British were trying to gain control of the Andhra country. Jaggayya ruled Chintapalli from 1763 onwards. He was killed by French troops sent by Basalat Jung, brother of the Golkonda Nawab in 1771. Jaggayya’s wife Acchamma committed Sati. Jaggayya’s son Venkatadri recovered Chintapalii in 1777 and earned fame as a benevolent and illustrious ruler. (Vasireddy Venkatadri Nayudu and Vasireddy Clan). The British gained control of Andhra by 1788 from Golkonda Nawabs. Another Kamma principality during Golkonda period was Devarakota with Challapalli as its capital. Its ruler, Yarlagadda Guruvarayudu was subdued by Abdullah Qutb Shah in 1576. His successors ruled as vassals of Golkonda till the French took over in 1751 and later the British in 1765.
After the decline of major kingdoms, Kammas controlled large fertile areas in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, as a legacy of their martial past. The British recognized their prominence and made them village heads (Talari) also known as Chowdary to collect taxes.They also proved themselves to be adept at farming.There are many proverbs in Telugu language which speak of the Kammas’ adeptness in agriculture and their emotional attachment to the soil, such as Kammavaariki Bhumi Bhayapaduthundi (Telugu: కమ్మవారికి భూమి భయపడుతుంది ) (The earth fears Kammas).
Construction of dams and barrages and establishment of an irrigation system in Godavari and Krishna River deltas by Sir Arthur Cotton was a great boon to the Kamma farmers. Availability of water and the natural propensity for hard work made the Kammas wealthy and prosperous. The money was put to good use by establishing numerous schools and libraries and encouraging their children to take up modern education. Over a period of 10 years, in Guntur District alone, 130 High schools and hostels were established by their initiative. The zamindars of Challapalli and Kapileswarapuram founded many schools and libraries. In the modern times, the pace of the growth in wealth accelerated due to their enterprise and notable achievements in business, real estate, farming, arts and movie industry, education, medicine, engineering, media and high technology.
The Kammas of Southern Tamil Nadu have also excelled in the cultivation of black cotton soils and later diversified into various industrial enterprises, particularly in Coimbatore and Kovilpatti.
- Challapalli - Yarlagadda Clan
- Chintapalli/Amaravati - Vasireddy clan
- Ilayarasanendal (Tirunelvelli Dt) - Ravella clan
- Kuruvikulam (Tirunelvelli Dt) - Medasani clan
- Neikarapatti (Dindugal Dt) – Pemmasani clan
According to the census of British India (1891) there were six divisions viz., Peda Kamma, Godachatu Kamma and Illuvellani Kamma(Krishna, Guntur, Anantapur districts); Bangaru Kamma (North Arcot); Vaduga Kamma (Coimbatore) and Kavali Kamma (Godavari districts). In addition, divisions such as Gandikota Kamma, Gampa Kamma and Macha Kamma also exist. In modern times these divisions have all but vanished.
During the 1980s, they played a key role in state and national politics with the inception of the Telugu Desam Party by its then President Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao also called as NTR. Nara Chandrababu Naidu gave a progressive direction to Andhra Pradesh and won global recognition to the state.
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