Reddy Sangham
a non-profitable organization

Jul
12

The largest single community grouping in Andhra Pradesh today is of the Reddy community. The name is also written in english as Reddy. They are found all over Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring states. In Andhra Pradesh, the Reddys are considered traditional village headmen. The duties of headmen included the collection of tax, guarding the village and basically representing the village in dealing with outsiders or even the government. Physically they are very well built and strong, ’solid farmer stock’ according to some english observers, and they retain a residual military -aristocratic tradition. (In short they are upper caste). Several members of the community are very wealthy landowners and businessmen, but most are small farmers. In most areas of Andhra Pradesh, in the small villages it is the Reddy who speaks authoritatively on behalf of the village: they are the traditional “leaders” of the village. But this is changing fast. Younger members are losing interest in living in rural areas and striking out to work in towns …even to the USA.

There are various sects/clans among the reddys. The ones I could get some details about are the Pakanati reddys,Panta reddys, including the Velanadu , Paakanadu and Motati Reddys ( these are old geographical areas) i.e. the Nellore, Chittoor,Cuddapah,Ongole,Krishna-Guntur reddys and upland area. In Telangana there are the the Keti Reddys, There are other subdivisions but I am still collecting information.

Roots of the Reddys:

The Reddys do not constitute a ethnic group, really. There are several strands which go to make the Reddys of today. They appear to be basically Deccan plateau inhabitants, which includes Maharashtra, karnataka and Andhra of today. Another point to note, in several areas the term Reddiywas treated as a sort of title for anyone who was appointed as village headman. Usually this meant a soldier, who got along fine with the other headmen. Gradually the descendants would be absorbed into the larger Reddy grouping.

The earliest reference we have to anyone resembling the Reddys are the Rathis and the Maha rathis before 200 BC. These kings ruled over small principalities in the Deccan plateau area of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra before the Satavahanas and mauryas. They have left coins in northern Andhra Pradesh, also in Kurnool district, and near Pune etc. The coins are found in the levels between the megalithic and satavahana levels in excavations. The term Rathi might refer to “one riding a chariot” (Ratha=horse drawn chariot in prakrit and old sanskrit). A grander Rathi king might be called Maha rathi.

The Satavahanas intermarried with the maharathis. Sri Satakarni married Naaganika Devi, daughter of a maha rathi.(221 -198BC). The Satavahanas ruled over Malwa and parts of Gujarat as well and clashed with the Sakas -Pahlavas (scythians and pallavas) and also intermarried with them. The Deccan was covered with thick forests, only scattered areas were under agriculture, and that too likely slash and burn primitive agriculture. Castes and communities were still forming. Even feudalism hadn’t really developed in those days, the tribal structure was slowly dissolving with the influence of Buddhism. So one shouldn’t take the caste thing too seriously.

The next mention of the Reddys seems to be during the rise of the Rashtrakutas. The Reddys are also called ratthi, raddi and rattodi in old inscriptions dating back to the 9th century. The Rashtrakuta soldiers were among the elite troops of the Chalukyas: they founded an empire after the Badami chalukyas faded from the scene. A section who migrated to rajasthan became the well known rathodis, who later are found as one of the Rajput clans. After the Rashtrakuta empire faded away we find interesting inscriptions of the succeeding Kalyani Chalukyas in Andhra Pradesh, where Reddys are mentioned (900 ad). They were soldiers appointed as headmen of villages in Medak district by the kalyani Chalukyas. Some of the names mentioned are Mini Raddy and Kati Raddy. (these are surnames even today).

The Reddys in the Telangana region were active in the kakatiya kingdom. (AD 1000-1223). They were knights and barons and subordinate kings who ruled regions, in turn they had to pay taxes/ a part of the plunder and organise troops for campaigns. Several large dams and lakes were constructed by the reddis of the time, and they still serve their purpose..

After the kakatiya kingdom disintegrated many Reddis migrated to coastal Andhra—Addanki and Kondaveedu, and later Rajahmundry on the Godavari and founded their own independent kingdoms which flourished between 1325-1448 AD. Komati Prolaya Vemareddy , son of Komati Prola reddy founded this kingdom . There are foolish explanations of why the name Komdi or Komati was their surname (apart from silly fake legends, there is an attempt to discover some “jain goddess”.)

The actual very simple reason, which sems to have escaped so called scholars, is Komdi or Komda is a name of a tribal deity Kumara, Kumra, Kartikeya, Mayura, Mora, Velan, Murugan— the warlike son of Siva. A merchant community called komati also is derived from this ancient name, while they have very little to do with reddys While the area and extent may not have been large, these Reddy Raja states are historically significant because Telugu literature got a strong impetus. Vemareddy has left many inscriptions, the well preserved ones detailing the repairs he made to temples like Srisailam and Ahobilam.

During the Vijayanagar empire (roughly 1300 -1600 AD) too they were prominent especially in Rayalseema, where they became independent zamindars or landholders and were constantly engaged in clan feuding. (the feuds continue to this day). The Rayalseema reddiys are closely related to the landlord Gowdas of karnataka and the Reddiars of Tamilnad. There are also a few Reddi principalities which managed to survive independently between large warring states, in Mahabubnagar district (Old Palamoor) like Gadwal and Wanaparthi. The Reddys around these areas have a tradition they are descended from ancient Chalukya ancestors.

Reddys are also prominent in Nellore and Chittoor district also. — in these areas, during Brit times they often visited closeby Madras, took to modern education in the Madras presidency, and also joined the military.

In the Golkonda region, all during the Turkish rule and recent Nizams too , the Reddys continued to be headmen, village policemen and tax collectors and farmers. The larger Reddy landlords were styled as Pakanati,Panta,Desais and Doras. ( and continued their bitter nine-hundred year old rivalry with the Velamas, another feudal clan. The rivalry exists to this day in rural areas). Several Reddys were noblemen during the Nizams time, too.

There does not seem to be any ethnic /social connection between the plains Reddys and the tribal Kondareddy of the Godavari hills.

The Reddys of these various regions have different traditions and notions and do not seem to have much in common with each other : they have more in common with other communities of their regions. Given the background one would expect they are all feudal reactionary upper caste bigots : not so, they were prominent in reform activities too. In medieval times they were enthusisatic backers of Saivite and Vaishnavite reform movements too. In south coastal areas the saivite Reddys intermarried with Brahmins. In Telangana area they used to wed girls from other communities but the offspring wouldnt bear the clan name. In north Andhra Pradesh, during the communist-led Telangana people’s movement against the feudal Nizam state in the 1940’s, there were many comrades from a reddy background. Large number of Reddys went into business especially construction and films and have made a name for themselves in the field. –Kalabandhu Subbiramireddy, for instance. (I believe he has several websites. Any URLs?). In recent times they are prominent in the world pharmaceutical industry too, like Dr Anji Reddy. Dr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was a President of India. (etc etc, many others. Please send a good list if you have )

Taken as a whole, they are healthy, strong, cheerful, generally smiling, broadminded, and impulsively generous. They are somewhat conservative, but not really clannish: managing soldiers or running a village or district or kingdom efficiently means you have to take along everybody with you: the feudal man management skills honed over the centuries are still useful.

Socially overall, it appears today their outlook or watchword is ” status quo” or ’slow gradual change is best’. Womenfolk are not as independent minded as in some other communities. In politics they are usually backers of the Congress : they are not well represented in the Telugu Desam party which is in power in the state. While the older generation of Reddys had a feeling for the “land” and flair for farming, nowadays there is a rapid change in rural areas: the younger Reddys are losing interest in rural life (not just farming, but the ramifications like district politics) and migrating to the cities, becoming urban professionals and businessmen. Fairly large numbers have migrated to the USA. They are prominent in Telugu organisations in the USA.