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SENGUNTHAR

(The Red Dagger)

Sengunthar or Kaikolan or Kaikolar are a large group of Tamil in southern India.


Sengunthar is a distinguished caste from Tamilnadu. Sengunthar are also known as
Kaikolar. This dual name of Senguntar or Kaikolar was used for over 1200 years based
on literary evidence. Sengunthars live throughout India and around the world.
Sengunthars form a significant proportion of population in various districts of Tamilnadu
esp. in Arcot, Kanchipuram, Chingleput, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, and Dharmapuri.
Sengunthars use the title of Mudaliar after their name .In this page we will discuss about
the history of sengunthars, their culture and customs.

Origin
The Kaikolars also called as Sengunthar, are a large Tamil people. Their name comes
from a mythical hero and from the words "kai" (hand) and "kol" (shuttle used in looming
or spear). They consider the different parts of the loom to represent various gods and
sages. In Andhra Pradesh they were also called as Kaikola/Kaikolan

They were in the army of Chola dynasty. They are also known as Sengundhar, which
means a red dagger.

In the anthology collection of songs from various periods about Sengunthar, called
Senguntha Prabhanda Thirattu, it is claimed that Sengunthas were serving the army of
Early Cholas even about 2000 years ago.

Further even before the rise of medieval Cholas, inscriptionary evidence exists about
Kaikkola in Jain temples of Tamilnadu

Brief History of Sengunthars in South India


The earliest historically accurate evidence for Sengunthars, as per Chola inscriptions
(Thelintha Kaikola Padai) indicate that they belong to the warrior class.

They took up weaving silk and transformed to land owners and business men.

Later, during 17th and 18th century history indicate that Sengunthars were predominantly
involved in weaving. This is indicated in various sources. At the same time, weaving was
not the only occupation involved. Agriculture and business were also secondary
occupations of Sengunthars.

Since Sengunthars were not Vellalars and belonged to the Idangai (Left-hand) caste group
as per old British documents of the 18th century they did not feel bound to the land. They
also migrated across Tamilnadu from their origin to spread Tamil literature.

They form a significant population in Kancheepuram and Tirupur-Salem. They started


using Mudaliar surname even though there is no established date on when they started
using the title.

It should be noted that Sengunthars do not tend to intermarry with other Mudaliars even
though they may reside in the same area as other Mudaliars.

Kaikkolars using Mudali title from the Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai

It is customary for Kaikkolars to use Mudali title after their personal name. In
Pondicherry there were many weaver families in the 18th century. Since each caste was
represented by two head-men known as nattars, the weavers also were required to select
two head-men. Since there was dispute in selecting these two-headmen, the chief dubash
of that time Ananda Ranga Pillai was requested by the Governor of Pondicherry to select
the two head-men.

The two head-men selected were Muttu Mudali and Ana Nayakka Mudali both from
Kaikkolar caste. From this we understand that Mudali surname was used by Sengunthars
as early as 1750AD.

History and Historical Evidence


During chola rule kaikolars served as soldiers and called as "Thelintha kaikolar padai"

Sengunthars were considered as descendents of lord Muruga having a kol{Vel}. There is


another story indicating that Sengunthars are descendants of VeeraBahu the general of
Lord Muruga.

Sengunthars Temple Trustees

According to India before Europe by Catherine Ella Blanshard Asher, Cynthia Talbot,
Sengunthas attained positions of responsibility at the two major Vaishnavite temples of
Srirangam and Tirupati. In Tirupati, they were in charge of distributing the consecrated
food offerings to the worshippers.

In the book The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India, 1500-1650, author
Sanjay Subrahmanyam states that many Senguntha families were rich enough to
contribute both land and gold to temples.
According to Ruth Barnes in Textiles in Indian Ocean Societies, in AD 1418 in
Tiruvannamalai, Sengunthars were given the right to blow the conch, ride palanquins and
elephants and wave the temple fly whisk.

Sengunthars becoming weavers

Only during the 13th century Sengunthas have become associated with weaving
completely. Further during this time as the Chola Empire weakened the role as soldiers’
decreases and their role as weavers’ increases.

Diverse nature of the Sengunthar Nadus forming


separate castes with a single name
There are 72 subdivisions or Nadus in Sengunthar. These are separated across hundreds
of kilometres in distance. As time progressed, these subdivisions got separated from one
another and lost the common cultural bondings. Further based on the location of the
subdivisions, whether in Tamilnadu or Kerala or Andhra or Karnataka, customs and even
language changed for these nadus.

Finally all that remains common are

• the name of the caste - sengunthar/Kaikolar

• The chief goddess - Kanchipuram Kamatchi.

So while Sengunthar is recognized as a single caste for all legal purposes, in reality these
72 subdivisions are separate castes with different customs and never intermarry. However
this is now changing once again due to globalization.

Community Legends and festivals

The Sura Samhara festival is a ritual tradition practised a long time ago by the
Sengunthars. According to the mythology of weaver community, the Sengunthars
weavers were born out of nine gems that were scattered from Parvati's anklet. At the Sura
Samhara festival, they dress up as the nine warriors of Virabahu, the lieutenant of Lord
Karthikeya and enact the killing of the demon Narakasura..

Modern Clans
While the 4 desai nadus, 16 peria nadus and 72 nadus in the Sengunthar have now
disappeared as Sengunthar have embraced the modern growth of India, there is still a lot
of diversity among Sengunthars.

Certain regions of Sengunthars are still very much separated both by distance, culture and
marriage relations. They are
a. Kanchipuram (more than 2 major subgroups)

b. Tiruvannamalai

c. Salem, Erode (more than 10 subgroups)

d. Coimbatore

e. Madurai and southern districts (multiple subgroups)

f. Tanjore, Tiruchi(multiple subgroups)

g. Kerala (Cochin, Trivandrum)

h. Andhrapradesh (Chittoor, Nellore, Prakasam, Hyderabad, etc)

i. Karnataka (Kolar, Bangalore, Mangalore, etc)

j. Sri Lanka (Nallur/Yaalpaanam(Jaffna)) Mass emigration from Kanchipuram during


Yaalpaana Kingdom era.

Even within these geographical regions many exogamous (no intermarriage) subgroups
exist.

These are a legacy of the old classification of Sengunthars.

Associations
There are many associations for Sengunthars.

They are:

Socio Economic Service Society (SES) in Nungambakkam - Chennai.

Sengunthar Mahajana Sangam.

Business Establishments
Gomathi Mills

The Chennai Silks

Nilgiris Dairy Forms

Sharp tools
Kodai International Hotels

Modern Personalities
Politics
CN Annadurai

Bharathidasan

Tiruppur Kumaran

Pulavar Govindhan: Former Speaker of Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Governor of the State of Uttar Pradesh Shri T.V. Rajeswar

Arts
Prashanth actor

Thyagrajan actor

P. S. Veerappa villan actor

ANANDRAJ villan actor

Kennedy alias vikram actor

Thiagarajan actor

P.S.veerappa actor

Perumal mudaliar national pictures

R.k.Selvamani director

Pa. Vijay lyrist

P.Vasu director

G.V.Prakash, Music Director


Business

Ariyanatha Mudaliar: Founder of Chennai Silks

Ethiraj mudaliar: Chairman, Binny Group, partner Ram Chandra medical college.

M. Nandagopal Executive Chairman, Mohan Breweries and Distilleries Limited,


Chennai

Education

Vallal sabapathi mudaliar: vallal sapabathy mudaliar educational trust.

Prof. Dr.Arumuga perumal.S, Professor of Computer Science, Fellow of IETE.

Philanthropist Raja Sir Ramasamy Mudaliar a well known phillanthropist endowed


a hospital and dispensary in the Native Infirmary

Miscellaneous

Thillairajan

Vellaivaarananaar

Pammal sambanda mudaliar

Kirubanandha varriar

Vedhathiri Maharishi

Balan Thevaraya Swamigal