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Title: Vokkaliga  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kodava people, Nador (caste), Gounder, Kodagu Gowda, Veeragase
Collection: Karnataka Society, Social Groups of Karnataka
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Total population
30 million (approx)
Regions with significant populations
Kannada, Tulu
Hinduism, Jainism
Related ethnic groups
Dravidian · Kannadiga · Kodava

Vokkaliga (Lingayats became the most populous social group in north Karnataka. Together the two communities dominate Karnataka State politics.[5][6] Vokkaligas is Karnataka’s second largest caste group (after Lingayats), who are estimated to form around 15% of the population.[7][8][9]


  • Etymology 1
  • Subgroups 2
    • Hosadevara Vokkaliga (Hosadevaru/Bandidevaru Vokkaliga) 2.1
    • Gangadikara (Gangatkar) Vokkaliga 2.2
    • Morasu Vokkaliga 2.3
    • Sarpa Vokkaliga 2.4
    • Namadhari Gowdas 2.5
    • Kunchitiga Vokkaliga 2.6
    • Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada Gowdas 2.7
  • External links 3
  • References 4


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.[10][11] 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[12] and an Okkaliga being a person belonging to such a family.[10] 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.[13] All the clans have their very own patron god and goddess (called Mane Devaru or Kula Devata)[14] and it is practice to refer to oneself as belonging to that particular god's Okkalu.
  • Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture[11][12] and the epithet Okkaliga has been used to refer to a person belonging to the cultivator community.
  • Alternate etymologies include Okku which means threshing,[12] 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.[15] This however is merely attributing a divine origin, a common practise in most of the Indian castes.

Gowda People of the Vokkaliga community ascribe various honorifics to their castemen, the most popular of which is Gauda, anglicized as Gowda. The words Vokkaliga and Gowda are almost synonymous in usage and colloquially, Gowda has come to mean a Vokkaliga; however the term itself is also used by people of various other castes as an honorary title.[10]

The 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.[16] 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.[17] 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).[10][18] Moreover, though the Vokkaligas did practise animal husbandry, Govalas (from whence Golla) or the Yadavas' form a separate caste group and they were traditionally herdsmen.[19] 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[20] 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.[1] 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.[21] This system is akin to the Brahminical Gotra System and is seen as a common feature in most Indian communities.[14] 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.[1]

The major sub-groups of the Vokkaligas include the Hosadevara Vokkaliga, Gangadikara (also called as Gangatkar), Morasu Vokkaliga, Namadhari Gowda, Kunchitiga and Kodagu Gowda sections, which form the corpus of the community with several other sub-groups.

Hosadevara Vokkaliga (Hosadevaru/Bandidevaru Vokkaliga)

Hosadevara Vokkaligas are mainly found in the parts of Bangalore Rural, Kolar and Chikkaballapur Districts. 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. 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 Yelahankanadu Prabhus were Gowdas or tillers of the land. They belonged to Morasu Vokkalu sect, whose ancestors were migrants. Fourth in succession from Rana Bhairave Gowda, founder of the dynasty of Avati Nadu Prabhus and great grandson of Jaya Gowda, who established a separate dynasty, is the famous Yelahanka Nadu Prabhus, Kempe Gowda I who ruled for 46 years commencing his reign from 1513. Jaya Gowda accepted the sovereignty of the Vijayanagar emperor. The city of Bangalore itself was established by Kempe Gowda in 1537, as the capital of his erstwhile kingdom.

Gangadikara (Gangatkar) Vokkaliga

Numerically the largest among the Vokkaligas,[1][3] 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).[1] The Gangadikara Gowdas claim to be descendants of the erstwhile Ganga royalty.[10][22][23][24] 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.[25] 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.[25] 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.[19]

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. 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.[1][23] The Gangadikara Vokkaligas have as many as 40 exogamous clans called Bedagu.[1][21][26] They speak Kannada and the castemen mostly use 'Gowda' as a surname.

Morasu Vokkaliga

The Morasu Vokkaligas are found mostly in the Bangalore, Kolar, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka. The Baramahal Records[27] 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[2] (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 Karnata[28]

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.[29] 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[2] (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.[30] In fact Hosur which borders Bangalore claims to have been called Murasu Nadu during the Sangam Age[31] 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.[19] 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.

Sarpa Vokkaliga

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.[1] 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 preservation 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 called Salaparu.

Namadhari Gowdas

The Namadhari Vokkaliga group is the second largest Vokkaliga sub-group.[10] 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 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, by the celebrated Srivaishnava Acharya, Ramanuja 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. To this day they retain vestiges of Jain traditions. For instance, some Namadhari sub-sects are still strictly vegetarian (a majority of Vokkaligas being non-vegetarian) and in most families, while honouring their ancestors, a separate vegetarian offering of food called Jaina Ede is made.

Kunchitiga Vokkaliga

The Kunchitiga Vokkaligas are found mainly in Tumkur, Chitradurga, Ramanagara and Chikkaballapura districts of Karnataka. They are also found in large numbers in the cities of Mysore and Bangalore. Those in the cities have been known to be agriculturist, warriors, traders and businessmen since olden days.[1] The Kunchitigas have a reputation for being traditionally inclined. They are said to have 16 'Moola Gotras' or root families from which separated about 48 'Kulas' or exogamous clans.[1][22] 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.

Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada Gowdas

The [33]

Chola Vokkaliga


      Kempe Gowda , founder of Bangalore 
      K.C.Reddy - First Chief Minister of Karnataka, (then Mysore State) 
      Kengal Hanumanthaiah - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka (then Mysore State) 
      Shantaveri Gopala Gowda - Famous Socialist Leader & Politician 
      Kadidal Manjappa - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka then Mysore State 
      H. D. Deve Gowda - Former Prime Minister of India & Former Chief Minister of Karnataka.  
      S. M. Krishna - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka, current External Affairs Minister of India.  
      H. D. Kumaraswamy - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka. 
      H. D. Revanna - MLA  
      D. K. Shivakumar - Working , Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee 
      D. V. Sadananda Gowda - BJP Leader  
      Krishna Byre Gowda - Youth congress president & MLA  
      Narase Gowda - Leader, "Jathyatita Janata Dal"(secular) Tumkur.


      Kuvempu - Rashtra Kavi (National Poet) 
      H. N. Nage Gowda - Poet 
      Ha Ma Nayak - Writer 
      Poorna Chandra Tejaswi - Writer 
      Javare Gowda – Litterateur 

Civil Service & Judiciary

      Justice Venkatachala - Former Lokayukta 
      H. L. Nage Gowda - I.A.S, Founder of Janapada Loka, Writer 

Academicians & Founders

      Dr. K. Chidananda Gowda - Former vice Chancellor Kuvempu University 
      Dr. M. H. Marigowda (Father of Horticulture in Karnataka and India) 
      R. Dayanandasagar : Founder, Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering

Artists & Cinema

      Tirumakudalu Chowdiah - Violinist (Musician) 
      Ambarish - Actor& Politician 
      Vajramuni- Actor 
      B. Saroja Devi - Actress 
      Nagathihalli Chandrashekar - Director 


      V. G. Siddhartha - founder of Cafe Coffee Day  


      Sree Sree Sree Balagangadharanatha Mahaswamiji - Sree Adhichunchanagiri Mahasamshtana Mutt 
      Sree Sree Sree Nanjavadhutha swamigalu - Pattanayakanahalli, Sira Taluk, Tumkur Dist
      Sree Sree Sree Kumara Chandrashekaranatha Swamigalu - Vishwa Okkaligara Mahasamsthana Matt, Kengeri

External links

  • Vokkaligara Parishat of America
  • Vokkaliga World Forum
  • Vokkaligara Sangha
  • Vokkaligas Matrimony
  • Vokkaligas Army


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j H.V. Nanjundayya and Diwan Bahadur L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer (1931). The Cultivators. University Of Mysore. 
  2. ^ a b c Edgar Thurston and K. Rangachari (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Government Press, Madras. 
  3. ^ a b Benjamin Lewis Rice (1897). Mysore A Gazetteer Compiled for Government. Archibald Constable & Co. Westminster. 
  4. ^ Francis Buchanan (1870). A Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (vol II). Balmar & Co., London. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ James Manor (1978). Political Change in Indian State, Mysore(1917-1955). 
  7. ^ "Today could be former prime minister Deve Gowda's last hurrah". 
  8. ^ "In Karnataka politics, caste matters". 
  9. ^ "Today could be former prime minister Deve Gowda's last hurrah". 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Dr. Ambalike Hiriyanna (1999). Malenadina Vaishnava Okkaligara Samskruti. Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, Government of Karnataka. 
  11. ^ a b Rev.Ferdinand Kittel (1894). A Kannada-English Dictionary. Basel Mission Book & Tract Depository, Mangalore. 
  12. ^ a b c Kannada Nighantu. Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Bangalore. 1970. 
  13. ^ John Vincent Ferreira (1965). Totemism in India. Oxford University Press. 
  14. ^ a b Henry Whitehead (1921). The Village Gods of Southern India. Association Press (Y.M.C.A),Calcutta. 
  15. ^ Hebbalalu Velpanuru Nanjundayya (1906). The Ethnographical Survey of Mysore. Government Press, Mysore. 
  16. ^ Benjamin Lewis Rice, R.Narasimhacharya (1894–1905). Epigraphia Carnatica. Government Central Press,Bangalore & Mysore. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Dr. Ganapati Gowda (2011). Grama Okkaligara Samsrutika Ananyate Mattu Samakaleena Sandarbhagalu. Kannada University, Hampi. 
  19. ^ a b c Dr. Suryanath. V. Kamath (1988). Karnataka State Gazetteer. Government Press,Bangalore. 
  20. ^ Vokkaligara Directory. Vokkaligara Sangha, Bangalore. 1999. 
  21. ^ a b Dr. Bhavani Banerjee (1966). Marriage and Kinship of the Gangadikara Vokkaligas of Mysore. Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Poona. 
  22. ^ a b Dr.B. Pandukumar (2007). 1600 Varshagala Vokkaligara Itihasa. Vedavati Prakashana, Bangalore. 
  23. ^ a b Kumar Suresh Singh (2003). People of India, Volume XXVI, Part 2. Anthropological Survey of India. 
  24. ^ E.Stanley (1962). Economic Development and Social Change in South India. University of Manchester Press, Manchester. 
  25. ^ a b B.Sheik Ali (1976). History of the Western Gangas. University Of Mysore. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Govt Press (1907). Baramahal Records of the Madras Presidency. Govt Press. 
  28. ^ John Pinkerton (1814). collection of voyages and travels digested by j Pinkerton. London. 
  29. ^ Phalaksha (1999). Introduction to Karnataka History. Shashi Prakashana, Tumkur. 
  30. ^ Burton Stein (1987). Vijayanagara. Cambridge University Press,Cambridge and New York. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ Dr. Kodi Kushalappa Gowda (1976). Gowda Kannada. Annamalai University. 
  33. ^ L.A. Krishna Iyer (1969). The Coorg Tribes and Castes. Jonshon (Reprint). 
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