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Chief Editor: Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, MS, LLM, JD, PhD

Issue 93
5107 Kali Era , paardhiva Year, Bhadrapada month
1927 Salivahana Era,
paardhiva Year,Bhadrapada month
2063 Vikramarka Era,paardhiva
Year,Bhadrapada month
2005 AD, October
Dravida Brahmins of Andhra(1)

There are two major divisions among Brahmins of Andhra Pradesh: Niyogi and Vaidiki, and the Vaidiki Brahmin division is further divided into several groups, one of which is Dravida Brahmin group that arrived in Andhra via Tamil or Dravida (draaviDa) country.

A group of Brahmins migrated approximately 600 years ago (~1300-1400 AD) from Saurashtra(2) towards south of Vindhyas and settled on the banks of River Kaveri in Tamilnadu and adopted Tamil language. These Brahmins are related to the Ayyars of Tamilnadu. Later, some of these Brahmins migrated northward towards coastal Andhra to the River Godavari basin and henceforth are called Dravida Brahmins.

It is possible that Dravida Brahmins migrated to Andhra around 400 years ago(3) from Tamilnadu. The Dravida Brahmin group continued the migration deep into north coastal Andhra, settling at various places of their convenience and based on the locations they settled in, further divided into:
Divili Brahmins
Dravidas or suddha dravidas
Tummagunta Brahmins

Aaraamadravidas are those Brahmins who settled and lived in gardens (aaraamas) initially. They are also called thota aravalu (thota = garden, aravulu = Tamils or Dravids). Some Dravida Brahmins settled in the villages and are identified by the area or the name of the village in which they settled down. For example, the Brahmins who settled in the town Peruru near Amalarpuram came to be known as Perurudraavidulu. Similarly, the Brahmins settled in the towns of Ryali, Divili, Puduru and Tummagunta came to be known as Ryalidraavidulu, Divili Brahmins, Pudurudraavidulu, Tummagunta Brahmins, respectively. In addition, there is another branch called dravidulu or suddha dravidulu.

The Dravida Brahmins included 6 jaatis (tribes), 6 vamshams (stock or clan), 18 pakshams (parts) and 18 gotrams (lineage) and several family names(4). Due to their expertise and learning, the rulers of Coastal Andhra(5) gave not only refuge, but also gifts and rewards of lands and agrahaaras (villages) to the migrated Brahmins. Dravida Brahmins continued their migrations in search of opportunities and are found in several states in the Indian Union, especially in the cosmopolitan cities like Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc., and also in the New World.

Dravida brahmins such as perurudaravidas, dhimiladaravidas, Dravidas etc. are very much into vedic rituals like yajnas and yagas. Aaraamadravidas are not big on perfoming yajna and yaagas like others Dravida Brahmins, but excelled in vedic studies, poetry and literature, medicine, music, astrology etc. As the Indian society has changed from Islamic rule to Christian rule to independence and democracy, Brahmins have lost,to a large extent, their traditional life style and religious vocations, and are left with secular vocations in competition with rich, powerful forward castes and privileged SC, ST and BC communities everywhere in India. (Visit also The Mouths that Recited Vedas are Grieving)

1) "aaraamadraavida vamsacharitra," written (1935) by Anamtapadmanaabham Dvivedula (1888-1947), published by his son Venkataramarao Dvivedula, Samkhavaram, Andhra Pradesh - 533446. To obtain a copy of the original text write to Venkataramarao Dvivedula or to:
Sankararao A, 6-2011, East Point Colony, Chinna Waltair, Visakhapatnam 530023
Venkatarao D, 8-2-1 purohit, Peda Waltair, Visakhapatnam, 530017
Kameswararao Nagabhatla, SVVSS Devasthanam purohith, Annavaram 533406 or
Dhanvantari CVSNLN, No 10 TTD Grade I purohit, Purohita Samgham, Tirumala Hills, 517504.
(Addresses are not verified)

The author thanks Dr. Rajgopal Duddu for the above reference and for his input and discussions.

2) Brahmins have been migrating from time immemorial. The Brahmin families that migrated made an impact peacefully by example rather than converting people by any means.

The Brahmin migration to the South features in legends of the sage Agastya. The Vindhya mountain range in central India continued to grow higher showing its might and obstructed cloud movement causing draught. Sage Agastya decided to solve the problem and traveled south. The Vindhya mountain bowed to Agastya and the sage requested Vindhya to stay prostrated until he returns. Vindhya complied with this request and sage Agastya never returned to north.

The earliest Brahmins to arrive in Andhra were most probably sage Viswamitra's students and progeny around 1200 BC. South Indian kings showed respect and patronage for Brahmins and Brahminism since ancient times, e.g., Satavahana dynasty that ruled for five centuries and extended over Andhra and central India, founded by Srimukha (221-198 BC), supported Brahminism and Vedic tradition (History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh, Rao PR, pp.viii and 8-22). One of the most important features of Satavahana dynasty was granting land to Brahmins. (History of India, Herman Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, p. 102). Sangam era of Chera, Chola and Pandya kings in Deep South also used to grant lands to Brahmins (History of India, Herman Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, p. 104). Similarly there have been Brahmin migrations back and forth that continue even today. Due to these waves of Brahmin migrations, we see today various sub-castes and traditions among Brahmins.

One of those Brahmin migrations pertinent to Dravida Brahmins was from Saurashtra to the south to River Kaveri. It is not clear why this particular group of Brahmins migrated to Tamil country in 13th and 14th centuries. However, the period in which the Dravida Brahmins migrated was full of strife and destruction due to Islamic incursions in the Northwestern Indian Continent (current Afghanistan, Pakistan and present Western India), including Gujarat. Saurashtra forms part of the area where the ancient Saraswati river existed. Saurashtra is also known as Soruth and Sorath, a former state in the Indian continent, located on the Kathiawar peninsula of western India, which is now part of the Indian State of Gujarat. The Rig-Veda refers to the River Saraswati as a mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea and was adored as the nurturing mother of a civilization, which drew its life sustenance on the banks of the river. It is not clear if the southward-migrated Brahmins are related to Saraswat Brahmins of this region who migrated to other parts of the Indian continent.

From the River Kaveri region, they migrated to various other parts of Tamilanadu and up north into Andhra Pradesh somewhere between 600 to 300 years ago. Some of the Aaraamadravida Brahmin families have migrated from Kumbhakonam, an ancient temple town in Tamilnadu on the banks of river Kaveri, 194 miles away by train from Chennai. Kumbhakonam has mythical connections - visit Kanchi Kamakoti peetham site.

3) Although it is not clear when Dravida Brahmins migrated to Andhra, according to Anamtapadmanaabham Dvivedula (ref 1), about 300 years ago they adopted Telugu language and integrated with Telugu speaking people. If we consider the studies on language adoption in the US, the immigrants (first generation of immigrants) and their offspring (second generation immigrants) continue to speak their native tongue as well as the language of the land. The third generation of immigrants forget their ancestral language or only a small minority in that group maintains bilingualism. Speaking only English is the predominant pattern by the third generation in the US. Thus, by extrapolation, we may assume Dravida Brahmins began migrating to Andhra around 400 years ago, which is, of course, an assumption. It could be 600 years ago!

4) Some of the aaraamadravida family names (see ref 1): Allamaraaju, addamki, addamki bhaagavatulua, ayilaavajhala, abbaavajhala, akkapamtula, annapamtula, anamtapamtula, avadhaanula, akkabhaagavatula, anamtavjhala, ayitta, anivilla, aakomdi, aayupilla, upamaaka, oarigamti, oaleti, kamchi, kaakaraparti, kaakara, kaakaraala, kaaraadavajhala, kaampamtula, kaamavarapu, koochibhotla, kolloori, komdaari, kolgamti, koata, gamdavarapu, goakulaanamdam, gummaa, charla, chellapilla, chakravartula, chaamarti, chilakamarti, chimtalachervu, chittapamtula, tampella, taatapoodi, tirumaamidi, toata, dvivedula, dvivedi, dvibhaashyam, duddu, sasiraaju, naldeegela, nrusimhadevara, narasimhadevara, pamtula, pullaapamtula, puraanapamda, paalamki, pinnimti, peddimti, podila, ponnapalli, perumaalla, paina, patraayudu, ballamoodi, bulambu, boani, bhaagavatula, brahmayila, bheemasoala, bhairavabhatal, madhunaapamtula, madhuraapamtula, maddaal, madhurakavi, mahendravaada, maarepalli, muddu, munnamgi, raavooru, raamanugula, raamavarapu, raajulu, raaghavabhatlu, raamabhaktula, varadaa, vajhala, vedula, sannidhi, saamavedula, soamayaajula etc.

Usually, Telugu Brahmin family names are based on their vocation, villages, awards, recognition etc. Family names like Kuchibhatlu, Nagabhatlu, Bhairavabhatlu, Raghavabhatlu, etc. are names based on "battir", Tamil word for pundit. Some say that Bhattu is a derivative of bhata, which means a person who works for hire and as these Brahmins were hired by kings for various priestly duties, they are called bhat-lu. It is also said that Brahmins who considered themselves as bhattus (servants) of their family God (kula-daivam) gave their family name as bhattu or bhatla of their family God. For example, Nagahatlu means bhattus of Naga or snake God. Raghavabhatlu means bhattu of Lord Raghava or Rama. Pamtulu, Madhurapamtulu, etc. based on their recognition as pamtulu, which means pundit or guru or teacher. Ponnapalli, Marepalli, Kolluru, Addanki, etc are based on village names. Vedulavaru, Dvi-vedulavaru, etc. based on their learning in vedas and others like soamayaajula are based on ancestral achievements, jobs and deeds.

It should be noted that some of the above family names of Brahmins are also found in various other castes and tribes, especially those related to villages. So it is not correct to assume that a person with a family name listed above to be an aaramadravida Brahmin.

5) Around 400 years ago, coastal Andhra was under the rule of Tuluva dynasty. Srikrishnadevaraya ascended to the throne in 1509 and brought peace and glory to the Andhra. Telangana was already taken over by Muslim rule, several centuries ago. Quli Qutub Shah of Golconda (Hyderabad), Ismail Adilshah of Bijapur and Gajapatis of Orissa waged wars against Vijayanagara dynasty. The reign of Srikrishnadevaraya was considered to be the Golden Age of Telugu literature. Soon after Srikrishnadevaraya, Quli Qutub Shah defeated Vijayanagar dynasty and Andhra came under Muslim rule for the first time. Later, British took over coastal Andhra and formed Madras province combining with Tamil land. (See History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh, Rao PR.pp. 92-153)

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Vepachedu Educational Foundation, Inc
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