Pillai (community)

Classification Landlords, feudal lords, farmers
Religions Saiva Siddhanta, Hinduism
Languages Tamil
Region Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma
Subdivisions Arunattu Vellalar, Cherakula Vellalar, Chozia Vellalar, Karkarthar, Kodikkal Kara Vellalar, Nanjil Nadu Vellalar, Nattampadi Vellalar, Paiyur kottai Vellalar, Pandiya Vellalar, Saiva Velallar, Veerakodi Vellalar, Karuneegar Pillai
Related groups

Pillai[1] [2] [3] is a Tamil and also Malayalam speaking high ranking dominant sub-group of the elite caste of landlords called Vellalars. The Vellalars identified with ruling authority and were lords in the predominantly wet-land villages which they controlled.[4][5]

Origin of Vellalar Pillai

There are different theories concerning the meaning of the word 'Vellalar': Vellalar originally belongs to Marutham topography of Cauvery Delta region who indulged in agriculture and employed several Pallalar (peasant laborers) for centuries. Marutham region was chiefly occupied by Vellalars and Pallalars.

It is widely believed that the word Vellalar is from Vellanmai meaning to cultivate. The word 'Velanmai' which we take to mean as agriculture is in fact means 'Benevolence', helping others. The Manimekhalai states "He is a Vellala who would not take his food, keeping the guest hungry outside".

Another one postulates it is derived from Vellam or flood (in Tamil) and alar (ruler or controller), so Vellalar means "Lord of the floods". Sometimes they were also known as Karalar which means "Lord of the clouds" in Tamil.[23][24] The Journal of Indian History, Vol VII, explains that Vellalars, the controllers of the flood, irrigated their fields when the rivers were in flood, and raised the rice-crop on damp rice-fields while the Karalar were controllers of the rain, who looked up to the sky for watering their fields and stored the rain water in tanks.

In the history it is also mentioned that those Vellalars from Cauvery Delta region were settled into Thondai Mandalam ( Northern Tamil Nadu ) during the Karikala Chola reign were later called as Mudaliyars and those who settled in Kongu region were called Kavundars, those who were settled down in Southern Karnataka were called as Ballalas, later as Goudas. During the reign of Kulothunga Chola some of them were settled down on Uttarandhra region were called as Velamas. During the 9th century those who were immigrated into Madurai regions when Pandyan country were ruled by Cholas came to called as Marans, those who settled in Trinelveli becomes Trinelveli Vellalars and those migrated into Sri Lanka were called as Jaffna Vellalars. A fraction of Vellalas took merchant as profession become Velan Chetty, they later called as Nattukottai Chetty, some of the small time merchants among them become Vettrilaikkarar, Senaithalapathi etc..

After the arrival of Nayak Kings, They have been described as Upper Shudras or Sat-shudras in the Brahmanical Varna system, especially during the British rule in Madras Presidency animosity between Vellalar and British resulted in British declared them as Shudras (Peasant Community). The Vellalar community however never accepted this classification and they have challenged the Brahmins who described them as shudras.

Some of the sub-castes of the predominant Pillai community are: Chozhia Vellalar, Arunattu Vellalar, Cherakula Vellalar, Karkarthar, Kodikkal Kara Vellalar, Nangudi Vellalar, Nanjil Nadu Vellalar, Nattampadi Vellalar, Paiyur kottai Vellalar, Saiva Velallar, Veerakodi Vellalar, Karuneega vellalar. Vellalars of Thondaimandalam who are actually a sub-caste of Saiva Vellalars adopted the title Mudaliar and became Thondaimandala Mudaliars, who were connected to Pillai community by origin[6]


The community originally lived on the Cauvery Delta region, but it is now distributed throughout Tamil Nadu and also in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. However, they form a significant proportion of population in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Few of these people moved to Madurai as well and is now concentrated in mid Chennai, Valparai and Madurai districts. During their settlement in Madras they brought an idol symbolising Devi and is now placed in "Mariamma temple" in Sathukudi district.

Notable people

Historical Personalities


Modern Personalities

Freedom fighters and social leaders




Tamil literature

H. A. Krishnapillai, Christian kambar Thanjavur Vedhanayagam Sastriyar






External links


  1. "Orientation - Vellala". Everyculture.com. 2012-02-11. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  2. "Vellalar History". Dino-latchmi.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  3. "Who are Vellalars and History of Vellalars Mudaliars Gounders". Saivaneri.org. 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  4. Mines, Diane P. (2005-01-01). Fierce Gods: Inequality, Ritual, and the Politics of Dignity in a South Indian Village. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253345766.
  5. Kingship and Political Practice in Colonial India - Pamela G. Price. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  6. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 2003-05-19. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  7. A garland: a biographical dictionary of Carnatic composers and musicians - N. Rajagopalan, B. Ramamurthi - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
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