Literature & Guides
Mudaliar also Mudaliyar, Mudali and Moodley in Tamil language literally means a person of first rank in a feudal society in south India. According to Vijaya Ramaswamy in mudali in the 13th century referred to a title and not specific castes. Due to the process called "sankritization"(every caste takes up the habits and customs of its immediate superior to reach the superior status..) many of Kallars , Maravars and agamudaya thevars became Vellalars . This process started in the Pallav period . However, in recent times the Mudaliar surname is widely used by people belonging to various castes originally from Tamil Nadu, India and in the Tamil diaspora across the world. Most Mudaliars are Tamil people with Tamil as their mother tongue.
In ancient times, cultivation in South India was spread by force, people would move into virgin land which was used by tribal people for slash and burn agriculture or for hunting and convert it into prime agricultural land. These raids were organized and carried out by chieftains, feudal lords and agricultural landlords called Vellalars. Vellalars are agricultural landlords and inhabitants of the "marutha nilam" (one of the five lands advocated by the Sangam literature). Mudaliar, like Pillai is a title conferred upon prominent Vellalar chieftains and feudal lords by the King depending upon the Tamil Kingdom. More specifically, the Vellalars of Thondaimandalam or the Pallava Kingdom were given the title Mudaliar, while the Vellalars of Pandya and Chola Kingdoms were given the title Pillai.
Origin of Vellalars and other castes
During cultural diversification, the Vellalars of TamilNadu can be classified into layers. The first layer consists of Saiva Vellalars (Saiva Vellala Mudaliars and Pillais). They are strict vegetarians, literate and sophisticated like Brahmins but do not perform priestly duties. They were major landlords, feudal lords and powerful like Rajput and Thakurs of Northern India. Saiva Vellalars of the Thondaimandalam became the Thondaimandala Mudaliars. This area includes the present day areas of Chennai, Chingleput, Kanchipuram, Vellore, Cadalore, Arcot, Vadalore, Thrivannamalai, etc. The second layer consists of a number of unique castes, which do not intermarry at all like Pandia Vellalar, (Madurai) Chozhia Vellalar, those who inhabited the areas of Chola (Thichy, Thanjavur, and Pudukottai) and Pandiya mandalams (Madurai, Thuthukudi, Kanyakumari, and Nagerkovil) became the Shoziya Vellar (or "Chola Velar") and Pandiya Vellar respectively.
These communities use Mudaliar, udyar, Pillai titles. The Kaikolar also known as Sengunthar, who are predominantly weavers, cloth merchants and were soldiers under chola empire also use Mudali title. Agamudaiyar, a caste belonging to the Mukkulathor community who generally use Thevar as their surname also use the Mudaliar surname. "Kallarum, Maravarum, Agamudaiyarum mella mella vanthu vellalar anaarkal"- so goes the saying in Tamil.
Various Religions that used Mudaliar title in historical times.
People from all castes were awarded this title by the kings. Many Brahmins, Warriors, Poets and Sages were awarded this title in various countries. Even Jews in kerala were awarded this title in 1215 AD by the Maharajah of Cochin, according to the book by Si. Pi. Acyutamenon . In the 17th century a leading Muslim trader Marakkayar was given the title Mudali Pillai by the Nayak king of Madurai. Sadayappa Mudaliar, patron of the poet Kambar, was a Kongu Vellala or Gatti mudaliars (mixed race of tamill vellalas and gangas who use Gounder title) but he used Mudali title. Various castes using the "Mudaliar" title.
A brief description of various castes using the title Mudaliar is given below.
Tondaimandala Kondaikatti Vellalar
Tradition suggests that this group were the first Vellalar groups that were settled in Tondaimandalam by Adondai Chakravarti after overthrowing the Kurumbar sovereignty. Adondai Chakravarti is described in various ways: a) as a lieutenant in the Chola empire, b) as the son of ancient Chola King Kokkili and a Naga princess, c) as the illegitimate son of Rajendra Kulotunga Chola I and a palace attendant, d) son of Karikala Chola. This claim appears blurred due to the ambiguous identity of Adondai Chakravarti and the time of such settlement. There are conflicting sources, some that say, the settlement was in 7th or 8th century AD and others that say that it was much later in 11th or 12th century AD. Nevertheless, this settlement is much later than Karikala Chola's settlement of Tondaimandalam. This Vellalar group seems to have been the most successful group during British times. There were many Mirasidars and Zamindars belonging to this group. They are mainly concentrated in Madras and Chingleput district only. Their mother tongue is Tamil.
Tondaimandala Saiva Vellalar
The Tondaimandala Saiva Vellala Mudaliars are forward-caste and are vegetarians. They are the original homogeneous group of Mudaliyars who were settled in Tondaimandalam or Tondai Nadu in South India by Chola King, Karikala Chola. Karikala Chola annexed Thondai naadu and gave it to his son Athondai after whom the region is named after. They are feudal lords, major landowners in Thondaimandalam area which includes the present day areas of Chennai, Chengalpet, Kanchipuram, Vellore etc. A significant population of Thondaimandala Saiva Vellala Mudaliars have also migrated to other areas such as Madurai, Tirunelveli etc. Dalawai Ariyanatha Mudaliar who is regarded as the founder of the Poligar system also settled some of them in areas outside of Thondaimandalam. They are endogamous and inter-marriage with other Mudaliars is quite rare. Their mother tongue is Tamil . Some of the Tamils in Ceylon also trace their lineage to this group some of whom had become saints called Nayanars. The book: The Tamils in Early Ceylon By C. Sivaratnam traces some of the Mudaliyars in Ceylon to Thaninayaka Mudaliyar (among other), a rich Saiva Vellala who emigrated to Ceylon from Tondaimandalam.
The Agam udayar actually belong to the Mukkulathor community, which also includes the Kallars and Maravars. These three communities together known as Mukkulathor generally use "Thevar" as their surname. But later the Agam udaiyars (the most upward community among the three) slowly migrated towards the northern part of Tamil Nadu, settled there, changed their caste name to Thuluva Vellala. So in reality Thuluva vellalar is just the renaming of Agam udayar and hence are classified as one by the Tamil Nadu government, India. So intermingling of on a large scale between two distinct communities is very unlikely and has no historical evidence. The Agam udaiyars changed their name to Thuluva Vellala. As early as 13th century, Agam udayars were using Mudaliar title. This inscription illustrates the accounts of the temple of Rajaraja-Isvaram-Udaiyar at Rajraja-Kulattur in Tiruvindalur-nadu, a subdivision of Rajraja-valanadu were audited by Kayiladamudaiyan alias Solakon-Pallavaraiyar, an agambadi-mudali of Solakon, between the 23rd and 25th [days of Adi]
Kerala Muthali (Mudali) belongs to various Mudaliar communities. They are predominantly found in the areas of Trivandrum and Palghat Districts of Kerala and Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. They migrated to these places starting late 17th Century onwards for various purposes including Agriculture, Coconut Oil extraction, Coir Trade and as Specialized Fighters and Reliable Spies. They were given special preference by Royal Family of Travancore due to their cultural similarity and loyalty. This status resulted in furhter deepening their area of influence with in Travancore. During the British era many families came in to the influence of Christianity and became strong supporters and eventually embraced that religion. Unlike the Tamil Brahmins settled in various places of Kerala, Muthalis/Mudalis engage with marital relationships with Nairs, Chakravar, Sakravar (Kavathi) and those who are converted to Christianity but retaining Mudaliar identity. Kerala Muthalis still keep their separate identity even though they are a micro-minority caste in Kerala. Due to their linguistic and educational backwardness Kerala, Tamilnadu and Pondicherry states have categorized them as BCs. Gradually after independence and state reorganization, Kerala Muthalis have completely integrated with the Kerala Culture, but still consider Lord Muruga/Subramanya as their primary god of worship while most of the Kerala Hindus are devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Sri Lankan Mudaliyars
History of Jaffna has at least two or three clans from Thondaimandalam with Mudali surname. Irumarapum Thooya Thaninayaga Mudali from Seyyoor and Mannadukonda Mudali whose clan has been quoted even during famour poet Kambar's time. Please read Vaipava Malai and migration of people from Thondai Nadu to Jaffna and then write about Sri Lankan Mudaliars. It is not a British Phenomenon. Here is the direct quotation from a part of Kailaya Malai a historical book of Jaffna on the migration into Jaffna from Thondai Nadu. The other clans may come under this section or under Sri Lankan Vellalar section. The next was the Vellala of the family of him who shed over kamban a shower of gold for the work of Erezhupatu, whose country was Tondainade, who had a widespread name, who used to wear a lotus garland and whose name was Maanadukanda Mudali. He was made to reside at Irupalai.
The next was the Vellala of Seyur, who was as wealthy as Indra, and who never deviated from the path of visture. whose garland was of water lilies. Whose fame was great and whose paternal and maternal lines were matchless and pure and whose name was Taninayaga. He was made a chief of Neduntiva. See Sri Lankan Mudaliyars for the class of Mudaliyars created by the British administrators during 19th century Sri Lanka.
See main article at Sengunthar The Kaikolars also called as Sengunthar, are a large Tamil people in the states of Southern India. Historically, there were seventy-two subdivisions (nadu or desams). Their name comes from the Tamil 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. They are also known as Sengunthar, which means a red dagger in Tamil. During Chola rule Kaikolars served as soldiers and were called "Terinja kaikolar padai". (Terinja means "known" in Tamil and Padai means "regiment"), so "terinja-kaikolar padai" were the personal bodyguards. Kaikkolars were militarised during the Chola empire and formed a major part of the Chola army from 8th century to 13th century. There were no Kaikolar army before or after the Chola empire. Kaikkolar formed merchant groups and maintained a military unit to protect the merchants. They formed many regiments in the Chola army. Kaikolars were prominent members of Tamil society even during the 10th century AD during Chola rule. Smarakesarit-terinja-Kaikkolar and Vikramasingat-terinja-Kaikkolar derived their names from possible titles of Parantaka Udaiyar-Gandaradittatterinja-Kaikkolar must have been the name of a regiment called after king Gandaraditya, the father of Uttama-Chola. Singalantaka-terinda-Kaikkolar (a regiment named after Singalantaka i.e. Parntaka I) Danatonga-terinja-Kaikkola (regiment or group). The early writing of the record and the surname Danatunga of Paranataka I suggests its assignment to his reign. Muttavalperra seems to indicate some special honour or rank conferred on the regiment by the king.
Nanjil Mudali is another group of people who have Mudali surname. They belong to Nanjil nadu in Kanyakumari district
Mudaliars of Bangalore
Mudaliars constitute a significant percentage of the population in South Bangalore (surrounding Ulsoor Lake, MG Road, High grounds). Many well-known buildings on MG Road & surrounding areas of Infantry Road and Kamaraj Road are still owned by Mudaliars (e.g - Gangaram's, Vimal Chambers). The famous "Attara Kachheri" or the red court house that stands opposite of Vidhana Sauda was built by Rai Bahadur Arcot Narayansamy Mudaliar. Palatial homes surrounding Windsor Manor (5 star hotel) are even today owned & inhabited by affluent Mudaliar families. The Bangalore Exhibition is usually conducted on the RBANMS grounds in Ulsoor which is owned by Rai Bahadur Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar trust. The trust has several schools and colleges affiliated to it.
Gatti mudalis of Taramangalam
The Gatti Mudaliars were in charge of the most dangerously exposed province of the Nayak Kingdom with Kaveripuram on the right bank of the Cauvery as their strategic capital commencing one of the principal passes to the Mysore Plateau. The centre of their power seems, however, to have been Taramangalam where they have built a grant edifice of a temple. It is said their domination extended as far as Talaivasal to the east, Dharapuram in Erode district in the west and Karur district in the south. The forts of greatest strategic importance held by the Gatti Mudaliars were Omalur and Attur. By about 1635 A.D., the Muslim Sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda made inroads into the south when the power of Tirumalai Nayak had wanted palacode area came under Bijapur. Meanwhile Kantirava narasa Raja of Serangapatnam took several places in Coimbatore from Gatti Mudaliars in 1641 A.D