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Mala or Malla (different from the family/last name Malla from Andhra) is a social group or caste mostly from Andhra Pradeshmarker state of Indiamarker. Along with Madigas they form the largest segment of what is considered to be the Dalit castes of Andhra. They are also found in the neighboring states.During Adi- Andhra movement in 1930s several Mala caste people, including few Madigas, especially from coastal Andhra called themselves as "Adi-Andhra' and returned in the census with the 'Adi-Andhra' caste name akin to Adi-Dravida of Tamilnadu, Adi-karnataka of Karnataka, Adi-Hindu of Hyderabad state and Uttar Pradesh.

Mala-Mahar-Holeya-Pulaya-Parayan inter-relation

Mala of Andhra Pradesh, Mahar of Mahrashtra, Holeya of Karnataka, Pulaya of Kerala and Paraya of Tamilnadu are considered to be of the same genetic stock and they consider themselves to be related to each others caste.They are considered by anthropologists and historians as castes of Martial races and the employment of these castes in medieval armies and later in British army indicate the same.Interestingly in Southern and Western India these castes traditionally opposed and fought the the upper caste hegemony and have lead the Ambedkarite movement on post-Ambedkar era.

The two dominant dalit castes in Tamilnadu Parayan and Pallar tend to claim the inter-relation with the Malas, Mahars,Holeyas and Pulayas.

Mala's in History

The history of Mala's is as old as Telugu bravery. Their military exploits form an important part of Kakatiya history, culture and tradition. Mala's played a vital role in expansion of Kakatiyan kingdom by winning many battles, Mala's helped the Kakatiya empire. In Kakatiya Military Mala's are Mala's are used to called as Mohari (Telugu: mOhari), the street which they lived is know as "Mohariwada". The Great warrior Yugandarudu who was the army chief of Prataparudra is a Mala.

Sanskrit roots

Like all castes in India, today they generally believe in prestigious origins (see Sanskritisation). One such theory speculates that Mala or Malla (not the same as the family name Malla) is derived from Sanskrit word Malla for wrestler which can be loosely translated as soldier or even associated with an ancient ruling dynasty in North India and Nepalmarker. It should be noted that the word Mala in Proto-Dravidian means a mountain.

As a community they believe at some point they were independent people not subject to any caste restrictions and resent the present condition as unfair. Thus, unlike many other Dalit communities, they are not resigned to their fate which is a requirement for caste control along with social violence. There is a strong ethnic, cultural and linguistic relation with Mahar in neighboring Maharastramarker state.

Tribal roots

There is evidence that as recent as 100 years ago many interior tribal people who moved out of forests to find sustenance during famines were incorporated as Malas by the caste Hindu cultivators. These people holds the surname as Mannem or Manne. In telugu Mannem means forest area where tribal live.

manchiki malavaru( it explains the genorosity mala caste people)


Sub divisions

Malas, who were considerable in number, were mostly agricultural workers like Holeyas in Karnatakamarker. And it has been pointed earlier, some of them were employed village messengers(Maskoori or Elodu) and some as watchmen of the village chavadi by the middle of Twentieth century. Malas were also employed to dig graves. Malas employed to see the irrigation in villages called Neerati, Neeradu. Mala women were skilled in basket making.

There were kin-communities of Malas such as

  • Baindla
  • Pambala
  • Jangam
  • Poturaju
  • Mashti
  • Mala dasoo
  • Dandems
  • Nethakani

Baindlas were priests assisting at Mala festivals and sometimes at sacrifices for the whole village when epidemics like cholera visit the village. They were also experts in the art of black magic.

Pambala priest are famous for their black magic like Yanthra, Manthra, Thanthra and they played major role in village goddess jataras. Pambala people are very skillful in singing songs of tribal goddesses by playing a musical instrument called Jamidika.

Establishing, or upgrading village protecting goddess Bodrai called Boddu Rai a stone which symbolic to a village protecting goddess is a heavy process maintained by Pambala priests. A senior pambala priest cuts the sheep neck with his teeths and kills it. This is called as "Gou pattadam". The blood of the dead sheep collects in to a basin and mix with a heavy amount of rice and by using the rice they draw a line around the village borders called "Poli challadam". They builds the Bodrai and completes the Pooja, Balulu and etc...

Few years ago the Hindu Brahman pujaris (Ayyagarlu, Priests) hesitated to attend Mala marriages, Children Naming ceremonies and other functions in Mala people homes. At that time Pambala people have done the job of the Brahman Pojaaries. In villages, Pambala people know SiddaVaidyam or Pasaru Vidhyam a process of using raw medicinal plants in curing people and animals.

Jangams were traveling priests begging from Malas and at night they were to keep vigilance at the graveyards. Poturajus were another group of priests serving the village spirits both benevolent and malevolent. They also assist the priestess when the sacrifices were offered.Mashtis were traveling acrobats performing their heroics at the outskirts of the villages where caste villagers turn up to watch them. Mala dasoos were another set of priests who reside with Mala settlements. Dandems were agricultural laborers either hired or bought by landlords.

NETHAKANI used to weave cloths. The word (Telugu:"Netha") means weaving cloths. In old Hindu religion the Weavers who we called as Sale or Shali or Padmashali, Chowdary and the tailors Mera or Merugu people hesitates to weave or sell or stitch cloths.

The highly educated, talented, motivated, christian malas are commonly called merugumala people. who came from godavari krishna basin.

Supernatural World

Dalit religion could discern the divine in natural objects and the presence of supernatural in natural forces.For Madigas or generally all dalits, beneath every object, whether a growing tree or a static stone, there is life supernatural. As symbol of this kinship of nature and the supernatural innate they have deified objects like stones and trees. In every hut or outside every Mala hamlet a stone or a tree had been dedicated as representation of the Deity called "Uppalamma". The worship of nature resulted itself in the preservation of the nature.

Clarence Clark, in his Talks on an Indian Village, describes this phenomenon to children in the West in following sentences, there were evil spirits all around him (a dalit) living in trees and streams and large stones, and they would do him a great harm if he is not careful." Clarence continues to 'talk' on how offerings were made to the 'special' stone outside the hamlet smeared with red plant as follows, . . (dalit women) would take a little grain or a few marigolds and put them down in front of this stone, so that the spirit would not be unkind to her. . About the deity in the hut which usually was a rough wooden image painted with few colors placed in a shelf at the corner of the hut he says, "Pedda Devudu" a name of Lord Kālī.

some rice was put in a bowl in front of her in case she should be hungry, and some times thread for sewing. But strangest thing of all was this -- as well as food and drink and thread, there was a stick in case she needed to be kept in order.

The symbolism involved with food, thread and stick suggests they believed in God (dess) who can be hungry and thirsty, God (dess) who is industrious and God (dess) who is vulnerable. Malas behind every natural calamity saw the divine wrath and behind every bounty the divine blessing. Often offerings were made to propitiate the Deity who withholds the rain. Even as construction of canals and dams were shown as the means to water the lands and provide livelihood to Mala during the famine.

Mala worship

The rituals and ceremonies of the Mala mirror the space that women occupied in the society. Dalits had recognized the feminine dimension of the Deity and it is evident in the fact that in most cases Deity manifested Her (Him)self in the form of feminine. They worshipped Goddesses like Maremmamarker, Yellamma, Kaamma, Pochamma, Uppalamma, Morasamma, Matangi, Somalamma and Moosamma.

And in the list of Goddesses there were many victims whose past was characterized by the experiences of pain and humiliation. Women victims regardless of their caste and creed were not only given shelter but were later deified by Malas. Mala cult had both men and women as priests and priestess to mediate with the Deity and to officiate at the sacrifices. But it was women who had the lead in the cult.

As far as specific cultural elements are concerned, there is a link of the Malas to the deity Vetal also called Bhetal, dismissed by upper caste researchers as a goblin. But he could be a hunter's deity of prehistoric times. Vetal is also depicted as a horse rider just like Ayyannar in Tamil Nadu , so there seems to be a cavalry connection to the old Mala-Mahar. Vetal shrines are extremely common in Deccanmarker area, especially in Maharashtra. Further in medieval times an important Vetal shrine was modified to become a well known pilgrimage centre for Hindus in Pandharpurmarker. The name was modified to Vitthala. The annual convoys of pilgrims still traverse the old routes. During medieval times the reformers incorporated this shrine in their movements for social reform.

Similarly another old cultural element which could be linked to Mala-Mahars is the deity Khandoba or sword bearing protector akin to Hindu Skanda or Murukan. Here also hunting and warfare link is seen. Then there is some connection with the Parasurama legends, especially his mother Renuka. This group of legends is connected to the Yellama cult. Possibly the stories are a residual history of very long ago times, since they are shared by other communities also. In neibhouring Karnatakamarker, Khandoba is known as Mallaiah, the Mala elder brother.

Mala Protest

Just like the Madiga protest is lifestyle. There were several ceremonies that reflect the element of protest and some of them were incorporated into the Hindu culture.

On certain days in a year, especially after the grains were gathered and stored, a couple of dalits were permitted to beg in the village. This procession was called 'garaga'. A Mala and a Madiga who in ordinary circumstances do not socialize had made the pair to go begging. While the Mala was to collect the grains in a container placed above his head the Madiga joined him to beat the drum. Mala would go each doorstep abusing the family with the filthiest language known to him. The rhythm of the drum heightens the Mala's fury to abuse them more. And caste people were to reciprocate this gesture politely by giving a winnow full of grain. This indicates the amount of space dalits could make for themselves in Hindu religion to express their protest.

Mala-Madiga Conflict

Presently due to affirmative action the Madigas are raising rapidly, though not to the extent some other scheduled castes are. This has led to a curious rivalry between the scheduled caste communities for government benefits. The rivalry is legendary and traditional, going back to tribal times and manifested clearly in national and regional politics. It used to be called the division between right hand and left hand communities (Based on occupational artisan castes vs. agricultural labor). Unfortunately this is also very useful for the exploiting groups to keep down both the scheduled communities.

Current conditions

Malas still live in segregated settlements in rural Andhra,but in urban areas it is not so. Several pioneering members have taken to education after tackling greatdiscrimination and jeering :many farsighted forward caste Hindus as well asChristian missionaries gavethem a boost -- but the Malas put in the requiredeffort. Overall the community todayclearly understands education is the key. Maaku sakti ledu saar --we can't afford it (referring to children's education)is the refrain heard over and over again especially in rural areas. However the womenfolk are showinggreat determination, utilizing all avenues. Theunskilled farm laborers are gradually migrating tothe towns and picking up technical subjects as bestas they can, and joining the service workers andindustrial workers. Some save up money to buy smallfarms but these are a very small number. The affirmativeaction programs mandatory on the Government have also helped a very large number to "rise"especiallythe educational programs. Some membershave benefited by joining the various bureaucracies.

The Malas are said to be followers of the Reddisand by extension the Congress Party.This has its roots in the landholdings of the Reddis, where Malas are said to be traditionally employed. Mala Christians, are the result of conversionsthat had their origin in early 19th century, whenmissionaries like Father Heyer had come to preachthe gospel. These missionaries, later eatablishededucational and cultural institutions of greatsignificance, across the erstwhile state of Madras.Places like Guntur, Kurnool and Rajamundry, received a voluminous boost in terms of education for themasses. This had led to a mass upheaval in thecultural orientation of caste Hindus, as well asconverted Malas. Henceforth, a large chunk of theMala population embraced a biblical cultureinterspersed with traditional characteristicsfrom Hindu culture. Many theological collegeswere established across the state. These Christiansfrom Andhra, found gainful employment in missionschools and colleges. The Telugu land has seen umpteen men and womenof excellence, in various fields, from the Malacommunity. Overall, at least in Andhra Pradesh andMaharashtra, the Mala-Mahar are forging ahead veryrapidly. They are very deeply attached to the worksof Dr. Ambedkar. The Mala quarters in villagesgenerally have a statue of Dr.Ambedkar.

Notable Malas

  • Damodaram Sanjivayya (1921-1972)[62956](First dalit Chief Minister of a state in India and first dalit President of Indian National Congress party)
  • B.Shyam Sunder ( founder of Bhim Sena Movement)
  • Gaddar [62957] ( Gummadi Vittal Rao) Revolutionary telugu Balladeer, inspiration to revolutionary movements
  • Korivi Vinay Kumar, founder of Dalit Bahujan movement, Andhra pardesh; Head of Dalit Bahujan Front
  • G.M.C.Balayogi (1951-2002)[62958](First dalit speaker, Lok Sabha, India )
  • Prof. K.S. Chalam (Member, Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi)
  • Prof. M.V. Chalam (Prof in Mech Engg, J N T University)
  • Dr.Dasari Prasada Rao, Cardiologist, Padmashri Awardee
  • Dr.Yagati Chinna Rao, Historian,Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Mallepalli Laxmiah, Journalist and Television personality
  • Pydi Theresh Babu, Telugu Dalit Poet

Malas in Civil Services

***Dr.P Subrahmanyam (1953-2009) IAS, AP, 1983- died along with AP CM in a Helicopter crash on 2.9.2009

****C. Gopala Reddy (died 2008) IAS,Karnataka-1966, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India
  • K.S.R.Murthy IAS,Retired, Former MP,Lok Sabha
  • Kaki Madhava Rao, IAS, Retired
  • K. Arjuna Rao , IAS Retired
  • T. Gopala Rao, IAS, Retired
  • B. D. Danam, IAS Retired
  • Ms.M Chaya Ratan,IAS( Indian Administrative Service),AP( State allotted),1977 (entry year into service or batch)
  • G Ambedkar Rajkumar,IAS,Tamilnadu,1978
  • M Samuel,IAS,AP,1978
  • Devarapalli Kishore Rao,,IAS,Gujarat,1980
  • Koppula Raju IAS, AP, 1981
  • Busi Sam Bob, IAS, AP, 1983
  • Dr. V Varaprasada Rao,IAS, TN,1983- resigned and contested Tirupathi Lok Sabha elections, 2009 on a PRP ticket
  • Juvviguntla Sundarasekhar,IAS,West Bengal,1983
  • K.Vidyasagar,IAS,Bihar,1985
  • Dr. P Rama Mohana Rao,IAS,Tamilnadu,1985
  • Erubothu Venkataiah,IAS,Karnataka,1985
  • Peyyala Ramesh Kumar,IAS,West Bengal,1986
  • K.P.Ramiah,IAS,Bihar,1986
  • Dr.Ajay Vara Prasad Adithela, IAS, Himachal Pradesh,1986
  • Dr.Medithi Ravi Kanth,IAS, Kerala,1986
  • D Sreenivasulu, IAS, AP,1987
  • M.Mohan Rao,IAS,Madhya Pradesh,1987
  • C.J.Venugopal,IAS, Orissa,1988
  • K.Durga Prasada Rao,,IAS,Chattisgarh,1988
  • Kathikithala Shrinivas, IAS, Gujarat,1989
  • K. Sanjay Murthy, IAS, Himachal Pradesh,1989
  • T.Dharma Rao,IAS, Madhya Pradesh,1989
  • Raja Sekhar Vundru, IAS, Haryana,1990
  • Ganji Kamala Vardhana Rao, IAS, Kerala,1990
  • Gudey Srinivas, IAS, Orissa,1990,
  • Rentala Venkat Ratnam, IAS, Punjab,1990
  • Dr.Ganji Anupama, IAS, Haryana,1991
  • Budithi Rajasekhar, IAS, AP, 1992
  • Vundru Laxmi Kantha Rao, IAS, Madhya Pradesh,1992
  • Ganta Ramesh Kumar,IAS, Punjab,1993,
  • Nagaraju Maddirala,IAS, Tripura,1993
  • D Kadmiel,IAS,AP,1993, Promoted
  • K Sreenivasulu,IAS, Sikkim,1994
  • B Kalyan Chakravarthy, IAS,Assam,1995
  • K Devanand, IAS,AP,1995,Promoted
  • M Dana Kishore, IAS,AP,1986
  • K. Sunitha, IAS, AP,1996,Promoted
  • Pamu Sampath Kumar,IAS,Assam,1997
  • D Varaprasad,IAS, AP,1997,Promoted
  • Tatipudi Ravikanth,IAS,Rajasthan,1998
  • Kanti Lal Dande,IAS,AP,1999
  • Rahul Bojja, IAS, AP,2000
  • A.Srinivas, IAS, Haryana,2004
  • Dunna Muralikrishna, IAS

                  • IPS and other services

  • B.D.Paulson, IPS, UP, 1997
  • B.D.M.Ambedkar, IIS, Min. of I&B
  • Gotte Sudheer Babu, IPS,AP, 2001
  • Burugu Raja Kumari, IPS,AP,2007
  • Matta Ravi Kiran,IPS,Haryana,1996
  • Y.Puran Kumar,IPS,Haryana,2001
  • Mrs.Neeraja Voruvuru, IPS, Punjab,1994
  • Ms.Neeraja Gotru,IPS,Gujarat,1993
  • Nalli Morris Babu,IPS,Rajasthan,1989
  • K.Laxminarayana Rao, IPS,Gujarat,1992
  • K.Narsimha Rao,IPS,Rajasthan,1988
  • K.Babu Rao,IPS,Madhya Pradesh,1991


The Imperial Gazetteer of India

Hunter, William Wilson, Sir, 1840-1900Cotton, James Sutherland, 1847-1918 ed.Burn, Richard, Sir, 1871-1947 joint ed.Meyer, William Stevenson, Sir, 1860-1922. joint ed.

  • [
Kridabhiramamu written by Srinadhudu about the realistic and highly eroticized panorama of life in the alleys and streets of Kakatiyans capital Warangal]

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