Kapu refers to a social grouping of the sub-castes Munnuru Kapu, Telaga, Balija, Turpu Kapu and Ontari found primarily in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.They are also referred to by the title Naidu, which means Leader. The word Kapu or Kaapu in Telugu means Protector. Kapus speak Telugu and are primarily an agrarian community.

The Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh is predominantly concentrated in the coastal districts, North Telangana and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh. They are also found in large numbers in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Orissa and some other Indian states as well as Sri Lanka.

The Kapu subcastes Balija, Telaga, Munnuru Kapu, Turpu Kapu and Ontari constitute about 22% of the population of Andhra Pradesh, making them the single largest community in the state. In the last decades of the 20th century, some of them have settled abroad, particularly inUnited States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Singapore,Trinidad.

Origin:

  • Kapus were the earliest inhabitants of the Deccan region, people who migrated from the north, cleared forests for agriculture and built settlements.
  • Kapu are the descendants of the Kaampu tribe, an Indo-Aryan tribe, which migrated fromKampilyaMithila and Ayodhya, ancient cities situated in the Gangetic Plains of North India .
  • This migrant tribe initially settled down along the banks of the Godavari river, cleared forests and built Settlements and Towns. To this day, a heavy concentration of Munnuru Kapus and Telagas are found on the banks of the Godavari in the North Telangana districts of Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal,Khammam, Nalgonda and the coastal districts of East Godavari and West Godavari, in which lies the Godavari delta and the Krishna Delta(Krishna & Guntur Dt).
  • The settlement slowly spread among the geographical area of the three Shaiva Lingams of Draksharamam (East Godavari district), Srisailam (Kurnool district) and Srikalahasti (Chittor district).
  • This Settlement& Geographical Area was referred to as Tri-linga Desam in the Ancient Texts and the people who were settled in this region were called Telaga and the language spoken by them was called Telugu.
  • This settlement of Telagas started referring to themselves as Balija when the Balijas became quite prominent in the medieval period (around about 1000 CE) with their political and economic contributionsprimarily the Setty Sub-Division of Balija.
  • The caste title of the Kapus, Naidu, which is a derivation of the word Nayaka (meaning “leader”), was first used during the era of theVishnukundina dynasty, which ruled the Krishna and Godavari river deltas during the 3rd Century A.D.
  • Kapus share their origins along with similar warrior/agrarian communities like the Kurmis of Bihar and UP and Kunbis/Marathas of Maharashtra and Vokkaliga of Karnataka.
  • The Kapus were primarily a military/agrarian community who took up military service and were into cultivation during peace time. Consequently the Kapu subcastes also evolved based on occupation.
  • Kapu subcastes dedicated to military service included Telaga, Munnuru Kapu and Ontaris (who served as special forces). Munnuru Kapu’s were a detachment of the Telagas who migrated to the current Telangana Districts and served under the Kakatiyas and Nizams.
  • Kapus engaged in trade were referred to as Balija. Balijas who took up military service and protected trading caravans were called Balija Nayakulu or Balija Naidu.
  • A significant number of Kapus have today diversified into industry, arts and academia. However, a substantial segment of the population are still farmers.

The Kapu community served during the medieval ages as warriors or protectors of villages and regions from bandits or invading forces. During times of peace, warriors who stayed close to villages served as village heads or practiced agriculture. During times of war, they served as soldiers, governors (i.e. nayaks) and commanders in armies of many South Indian dynasties. The modern day Kapu community is predominantly agrarian, but a significant number have diversified into business, industry, arts and academia.

Some Kapu names are associated with occupations practiced during the medieval period.

  • Village and regional defence committees: Vuru Kapu, Pranta Kapu
  • Administration: Chinna Kapu, Pedda Kapu.
  • Protection of farms and livestock from bandits: Panta Kapu

Most of these Branches do not exist today as all of them have merged into one and they mostly prefer to call themselves Kapu.

  • Peddakapu
  • ChinnaKapu
  • Telaganati (Telaga)
  • Chalukya Kapu
  • Mungaru
  • Mogali
  • Mekala
  • Nagaralu(Patrudu)
  • Pakanati (eastern territory)
  • Simhapuri (Balija/Reddy)
  • Velanati
  • Oruganti
  • saka
  • Neravati
  • Pedakanti (Narollu)
  • Naagali
  • Namadarlu
  • Modikarlu
  • Koraganji
  • Makena
  • Uggina

The Kapu community during later centuries spread into other regions developing the Telugu language and culture. The Kapus were originally a peace loving community but due to onslaught of the invading forces from the north it formed itself into a force which protected its individuality by war. The ability to defend the cultural and religious fabric of the society from the invading forces allowed the Kapus to elevated themselves to superior status among all the other varnas all throughout the medieval ages. The Kapu caste through the Vijayanagara Empire and through the various Nayaks played a significant role in the formation and expansion of the Telugu Empire and its culture throughout South India and Sri Lanka.

Many leaders who have contributed to the social, cultural and political aspects of South India came from this community. Some of them contributed greatly to the freedom struggle against British and in the upliftment of the downtrodden by fighting hard against oppression and social evils.

The Kings of Madurai and Kandy expanded the Telugu empire and its culture to Southern most parts of India and Sri Lanka. Some of the Kakatiya chiefs belonging to the Kapu descent protected the Telugu land from Muslim invasions.

Many Kapu Nayak kings themselves being great poets enriched Telugu language by encouraging many Telugu poets. It was a common practice for the king’s son to compose a Dwipada poem equating his father with Vishnu in Madurai Nayak Dynasty. Two views, one depicting the king as the deity Vishnu and the other depicting the king as a human being representing an aspect of Vishnu had surfaced during the period of Sri Krishna Devaraya which gained prominence when the warriors/traders from Balija caste became kings of Madurai dynasty in the seventeenth century. Poets were allowed to use Dwipada style with the subject of the court being the king himself.

Though the Kapu community did have a great role to play in the various social, economic, political and cultural aspects of the Telugu society up until the 19th century, it has not enjoyed economic and political success after India’s independence. They started getting into a steady decline except for a few sections of the community who adopted to modern education and economic transition. The decline peaked during the 1970s and 1980s. With economic liberalization and with the removal of License Raj and government monopoly on sectors, the community is slowly but steadily rebuilding itself.

The Kapu community were slow in adopting the modern techniques of cultivation, education, business and politics. The richer sections of the community primarily in Coastal Andhra took part in the renaissance but to a larger extent the middle farmers from Rayalaseema and Telangana could not take advantage of this because of not being blessed with natural resources like their coastal counterparts. This resulted in a drastic decrease in education among the community in Rayalaseema, Telangana and North Andhra resulting in poverty.

Although socially still a forward community, lack of Government support by the way of political representation, reservations, welfare measures made the some sections of the Kapus economically deprived. They currently have only about 5% representation in government jobs and services despite being about 20.5% of the state population. They have only about 48 members representing both the Parliament and Assembly seats which does not represent the numbers the community has in the state. It is of the opinion that both the major political parties, the Congress and Telugu Desam did not equitably allocate assembly seats to Kapus as per their population. For instance, Balijas, even after being a majority in the Rayalaseema districts have hardly any MLAs representing them in the State Assembly. The lack of strategic or collective decision making and disinclination to join politics are believed to have had a detrimental effect on the community. Off late, however, they are trying to consolidate their representation in elected bodies. With the emergence of Chiranjeevi and his joining the Indian National Congress there are indications of a larger representation for the community.A large number of Kapus have diversified into business, industry, arts and academia both in India and abroad. There are also a number of budding entrepreneurs who have succeeded in different fields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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