Tamil Vanniar (Kshatriya) Sewa Samaj
தமிழ் வன்னியர் (க்ஷத்திரிய) சேவா சமாஜ்
வாழ்க சமுதாயம்!   வளர்க வன்னியர்குலம்!
Vanniar History
             Vanniyar (Tamil: வன்னியர்), refers to a very larger social group of people spread all across South India. Vanniakula Kshatriyas are a feudal caste and descendants of the Kadava dynasty and Pallava empire that ruled Andhra, Northern Tamilnadu and Southern Karnataka, with their capital at Kanchipuram. Nowadays, they primarily live in modern Tamil Nadu where they speak Tamil, while in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka they speak their native South Indian Dravidian languages namely, Telugu and Kannada respectively.

1. Origion

            The name Vanniyar is derived from the Tamil word Vanni which means fire or Agni in Sanskrit. It also means Valour or Strength. They were originally known as Pallis in South India to called as Padaiyachis. The word Palli means "village". Padaiyachi means "commandant of the group or army"

             At Sirkazhi Vaideeswaran Temple, Inscriptions about Vanniyar Puranam are observed. It denotes that at ancient times there were two Asuras known as Vatapi and Mahi, who worshipped Brahma and obtained immunity from death and subsequently they garrisoned the Earth. At the request of Gods and Lords, Jambuva Mahamuni or Sambu/Jambu Maharishi performed a Yagam, or sacrifice by his yogic powers. Soon armed horsemen sprung from the flames, named VanniRaya; they undertook twelve expeditions and destroyed the Asuras and freed the Earth. Their leader then assumed the government of the country under the name Rudra Vanniya Maharaja or Veera Vanniyan, who had five sons,the Ancestors of Vanniyar Caste. This Tradition alludes to the destruction of the city of Vatapi by Narasimhavarman, the King of Pallis or Pallavas.

2. Historical References

The Vanniar caste has close to 92 subcastes among them. The titles are awarded to them based on their contribution to the society. The Titles," Indicating Authority, Bravery and Superiority," assumed by them are Padaiyachi (Head of an Army), Goundan/Gounder, Naicker/Nayakar, Kandar, Sambuvarayas, Kadavarayas, Kalingarayas, Mazhavarayas, Samattiyars, Udaiyars, Varma, Kondiyars, Nainars, Sozhaganars, Munaiarayas and Kachirayas to name a few. Some say that they belong to Chennai and as such, they should be called as Chembians and the caste history is well known from the Mahabhartha epic at the moment of the birth of Draupathi from Agni kunda.

3. Caste titles or Surnames

        The Vanniyars are officially classed belonging to Vanniakula Kshatriya caste in Tamil Nadu [1]. Depending upon the location and status, the members of the Vanniyar caste use titles such as Padayatchi, Gounder, Naicker or Nayagar, Reddiar, Kander/Kandar, Palli and many other titles in Tamil Nadu, Vanniar Gounder, Reddiar,Padayatchi etc in pondicherry, in Karnataka they are called Tigala / Thigala, or Thigilaru with a common suffix of Gowda, Hebbar or Hebbe and Nayakar. In Andhra Pradesh, Vanniars are usually known as Palli, Agnikula Kshatriya, Vanniyakula Kshatriya, Vanne Kapu or Vanne Reddy. In Kerala, they are called Vaniya pillai, Vaniya nair and Reddiar. There are 92 different names or sub caste/sub titles given for Vannia Kula Kshatriya community.

4. Vanniar Sangam Research 

This can be seen in the book written by A.K.Natarajan of Vanniyar Sangam in the 1980s. The sub caste like Padaiyaachi, Gounder, Reddiar, Naicker, Kandar, Vanniya Pillai, Vaniya Nair, Raju, Palli e.t.c.

5. List of Vanniyar subcaste

Tamil Nadu:- Vanniakula Kshatriya ( including Vanniyar, Vanniya, Vannia Gounder, Gownder,Gounder or Kander, Padayachi, Palli and Agnikula Kshatriya,Naicker, Nayakar , Reddiar, Rayar, Mazhavarayar, Kalingarayar.

Pondicherry:- Agnikula Kshatriya, Pallekapu, Palloreddi,Vannekapu Vannereddi, Reddiar,Tigala (Tigla), Vanniyakula Khatriya including Vanniar or Vanniyar Gounder, Kondar or Vannia Gounder and Vannikandar (other than Vella Gounder belonging to Vanniyakula Kshatriya Caste).

Andhra pradesh:- Agnikulakshatriya Palli Vadabalija Bestha Jalari Gangavar Gangaputra Goondla Vanyakulakshtriya Vannekapu Vannereddi Reddiar Pallikapu Pallireddi Nayyala Pattapu Vanniar Vannikula-Kshatriya.

Karnataka:- Tigala,Thigala, thelagaru , dharmarajukappu,VahnikulaKshatriya, Vanniya, Vanniyar, Reddi,Gowdaru ,halli Gowdaru, Gounder, Gownder, , Kander,Shanbhukula Kshatriya, AgnikulaKshatriya, Dharmaraja Kapu, 

Kerala:- Vaniar, Vanniar, Reddiar, Vaniya Nair, vaniya pillai

Orissa:- Palli, Pallia, Agnikula Kshatriya

6. Demographic spread

        The Vanniyar caste live in an area where three South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka intersects. In these latter two Indian states they are in sizeable mass primarily due to migration of other sects from outside and vice versa. In Tamil Nadu, the Vanniar live predominantly in the north, east, central and parts of north western. These areas cover more than 13 districts and traditionaly called as the Vanniar Belt. It comprises the following districts in Tamilnadu: Chennai, Kancheepuram, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, northern Thanjavur, Ariyalur, Perambalur, northern Trichy, Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Salem, parts of Namakkal and northern Erode.

        Vanniyars constitute 33-35% of the population of Tamil Nadu and 60-65% of the population in Pondicherry, 15-20% of Andhara, 7-10% of Karnataka as per the 1931 Caste based Census. In terms of population they are the largest caste among the most backward classes listed in Tamil Nadu and Pondichery.[2]They are one of the very earliest caste to be socially well organized and today they are the most politically mobilized and well-informed caste from Tamilnadu.

7. Vanniyar in Sri Lanka

        Vanniar or Vannia is a title of a feudal chief in medieval Sri Lanka who ruled as a tribute payer to any number of local kingdoms. It was also recorded as that of a name of a caste amongst Sri Lankan Tamils iin the Vanni District of northern Sri Lanka during the early 1900’s. It is no longer used as a name of a caste or as chiefs in Sri Lanka. There are number of origin theories for the feudal chiefs as well as the caste as coming from modern Tamil Nadu state or as an indigenous formation. (see Pandara Vannian)

8. Vanniyar outside India

Vanniyar also migrated to South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Seychelles, Mauritius and Fiji as part of the Tamil diaspora. Variant Vanniyar titles such as Govendar, Naicker and Padayatchi are used amongst their descendants.

9. Vanniyar Charities

The Vanniyars may be linked in tradition to the vanni tree (prosopis spicigera), a holy tree in Hindu tradition.Kulasekhara,one of the early travancore kings,and one of the most renowned alwars reverenced by the srivaishnava community belongs to them.Vanniyars celebrate his anniversary in Parthasarathy temple Chennai even now.The Vanniyars have the right to present the most important camphor offering of the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple.The Ekambaranathar Temple at Kanchipuram built by them. The later kings of Kerala, Banapperumal or Vanipperumal closely related to Kulasekhara Alwars are Vanni Kula Kshatriyas.