Mala (caste)

Total population
85,00,000 ( 85 Lakhs as per 2011 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Andhra Pradesh

Telugu language


Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism

Related ethnic groups

Telugu people, Dravidian peoples

Mala or Malla (different from the family/last name Malla from Andhra) is a social group or caste mostly from Andhra Pradesh state of India. Mala or Malla is derived from the Sanskrit word "Malla" which means wrestler. They are one of the dominant Dalit castes of Andhra the other being Madigas.[2]

They constitute around 8.5% of the total state population.[citation needed] They are largely concentrated in the Coastal Andhra region. During Adi-Andhra movement in 1930s several Mala caste people, including few Madigas, especially from coastal Andhra called themselves as 'Adi-Andhra' and were recorded in the census with the 'Adi-Andhra' caste name akin to Adi Dravida of Tamil Nadu. (Adi-Andhra is synonym word instead of using MALA or Madiga, in Adi-Andhra Malas are 90% and 10% belonged to Madiga caste). In the ancient times, Malas were mostly village watchmen or hardworking laborers. They were skilled workers too and were also recruited by the British Army because of their martial skills. Presently they don't have a specific caste profession and can be seen in many professions.

The Mahars in neighbouring Maharashtra are akin to the Malas[3] and the two dominant dalit castes in Tamil Nadu, Paraiyar and Pallar, tend to claim the inter-relation with the Malas, Mahars and Pulayas.



Mala military exploits form an important part of Kakatiya history, culture and tradition. Mala's played a vital role in expansion of Kakatiyan kingdom.[citation needed] In Kakatiya military Malas are used to be called as Mohari (Telugu: mohari), the street which they lived is known as "Mohariwada". The warrior Yugandarudu who was the army chief of Prataparudra is a Mala.

The anthropological evidence shows that the Mahars or Malas seemed to have hailed primarily from the drier upland areas like the Deccan plateau. According to researchers like Ambedkar, the Mahars and similar communities like Malas were actually warriors of some defeated kingdom, they were pushed down in social status,they were disarmed but retained as village servants.

Mala caste has got prominence during the period of Palanati Bramha Naidu (Prime Minister to Nalagam King of Macherla) (1170 to 1180 AD). The Mala Warrior Mala Kannamadasu was the first Senapathi in the history along with Kammas, Velamas and Reddies in those days. He was given high regard by Palanati Bramha Naidu, since then Macherla Chennakesava swamy became Kuladaivam to Malas in the Palnadu area.

Sanskrit roots

Like all castes in India, today they generally believe in prestigious origins (see Sanskritisation). Mala(Tel) is derived from the word 'maila'( Dirt)gives the meaning (Noun)Periah,Vile,base etc., an outcaste,chandaludu,(adj.,) chandala. (See C.P.Brown Telugu-English Dictionary 2nd edition.,p. 985 see under Mala). 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 Nepal( See Malla-yuddha to know more). It should be noted that the word Mala in Proto-Dravidian means a mountain.

According to the story by Gurram Malla; Mala's are the descendants of Mala Chennappa, the son of Lord Shiva.

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 Maharastra state and with Pallan -similar to MADIGA]] & Paraiyan -similar to MALA community of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Karnataka states as well.

Tribal roots

There is also 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.[citation needed]



Malas, who were considerable in number, were mostly agricultural workers like Holeyas in Karnataka. 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 dasari / Mala Dasu / Mithaalayyalavalu, Dandems, Nethakani or Mala sale, Mala Jangama.[4] Mala Dasari/Mala Dasu has been a tradition of tamilanadu, which spreadover to AP in 9th and 10th centuary. Regarding Mala dasari caste a mention was made by Emperor Shri Krishna Devaraya in his 15th century book "AMUKTA MALIYADA" OR VISHNUCHITTIAM OR MALA DASARULA KATHA. Further Sri Krishna Devaraya mentioned that Malas were bandits along with Boya commnity, that was the reason why Malas in later period were appointed as Kavalivaru or Talavari to prevent thefts and bandits in village. 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 build the Bodrai and completes the Pooja, Balulu, 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 Sidda Vaidyam 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.[1]

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 hesitate to weave or sell or stitch cloths.

Mala Christians

A section of the Malas also turned to Christianity but after noticing the same old caste politics in the Telugu Catholic church, shifted to Protestantism instead. They are prominent in the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), Church of South India (CSI). They have made very good use of the Christian educational programs, considerably elevating their social position and now form part of the upper middle c lass. These highly educated, talented, motivated, Christian Malas are commonly called Merugumala people, who came from Godavari Krishna basin. They are not considered Scheduled Castes by the Government of India but fall under the "BC-C" category (Backward castes C-category) with 1% Reservation at state level and at national level they come under OBC category(List of OBC's; Andhra Pradesh list, Entry the Central List-60 (Scheduled castes converts to Christianity and their progency) ).[5] They have been demanding central Government to accord them SC status on par with Dalit Buddhists, Dalit Sikhs and not to discriminate them on religious grounds for being Dalit Christians. The case is pending with supreme court since 2005 when it was filed on behalf of Dalit Christians & Dalit Muslims(Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz).

Opposition to SC-Categorization


Shri Nara Chandra Babu Naidu during the period 1996-97 appointed Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission to study Categorisation among scheduled castes and later came out with A.P.Scheduled Castes(Rationalisation of Reservation) Act, 2000 categorizing the 15% SC Reservation Quota into four subgroups A, B, C, D (C-Malas, B-Madigas). The Sub-categorisation policy was implemented for a period of four years (2000–2004). The Sub-Categorisation was first challenged by {main petitioner WPNO.11472/97} UNITED FORUM OF ALL SCHEDULED CASTES, represented by its State General Secretary, DV Srinivas (Present DIRECTOR, AMBEDKAR STUDY CIRCLE, SR NAGAR, HYDERABAD-38, 9397677681)and Dr.EV Chinnayya in WPNo.21096/1996 mainly Challenged the Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission validity under the constitutional provisions.

On SC's categorisation National Commission for SC,ST,` New Delhi, called for discussions and fact findings were held from 7-7-1998 to 15-7-1998. At that time renowned and eminent Sr Parliamentarian Shri H Hanumanthappa (Sr.Advocate in Supreme Court) was the Chairman and Shri Bommidala Yadaiah (Telengana Mala) was also a Member in the National SC,ST Commission. On 7-7-1998 Shri Manda Krishna hearings were noted by the commission on behalf of MRPS(Madiaga Reservation Porata Samithi) and Madiga Community.

On 9-7-98 the National commission for SC,ST has officially invited Shri DV Srinivas,State General Secretary,UFASC,AP, as he was the main petitioner in the case to present his case on behalf of the MALA community. 0n 10th July 1998 Shri Mallela Venkata Rao another leader in Malamahanadu and on 11th July 1998 Shri PV RAO, President, Mala Mahanadu gave the stand on categorisation.

A.P.Scheduled Castes(Rationalisation of Reservation) Act, 2000 was vehemantly opposed by malas and Mala Mahanadu has challenged the Act in Supreme Court saying that it is against the Constitutional principles, which viewed SC's as a holistic single social group. Supreme Court on 5 Nov 2005 has struck down the Act and the verdict went in favour of Mala Mahanadu. " The apex court pronounced its Judgement stating that State Government has no power to sub-categorize Scheduled castes into groups to implement reservations in the field of education and employment in exercise of its power under Article 15(4) and 16(4) of Indian constitution as public employment and education." Further it was held that the parliament alone is competent to pass such an act under the article 341 of Indian constitution.

Rationale behind Opposition

Presently due to the affirmative action the Madigas are raising rapidly, but not to the extent of Malas. 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. Unfortunately this tactic is used by the dominant upper castes to polarize both groups and alienating them from political e mpowerment. Categorization of SC’s by caste basis is primarily supported by selfish Upper caste leaders who desperately try to preserve their power by promoting caste based vote-bank politics. The Mala leaders have tried hard to convince their madiga brothers about the ill effects of categorization but their efforts were in vain as madigas under MRPS have been aggressively working hard to pass the SC Categorization bill in Parliament

Malas oppose SC Categorization on 4 main grounds. They assert their stand saying that[6]

  • Not all Malas have benefited from Reservation system. Categorization would hurt the poor, landless agricultural labourers, jobless, un-educated members of the Mala community. There are so many Malas below the poverty levels who barely can afford one meal. There are small kids who work to fill their stomach and are not able to attend school. Government should clearly address the approach to uplift the needs of these economically weaker sections within Mala Group before they can do any categorization.
  • It is Unconstitutional and is against the Constitutional principles, which viewed SC's as a holistic single social group. It is against the Ideologies of Ambedkar who always wanted dalits to be united and exert their power politically and socially. We should believe in mutual talks for an agreeable solution.
  • The differential development between the two communities is also due to Historical Advantage. Christian Missionaries during British rule have promoted Education and Employment mainly in the coastal regions. The Malas whose population is largely concentrated in coastal andhra naturally got early access to education compared to their counterparts Madigas who were largely concentrated in Telangana where very little education access was available. Such a differential development is not limited to SC's alone but to many communities among BC's and Upper castes too.
  • It divides SC's and weakens the dalit progress as it diverts the attention of dalits to categorization rather than on constitutional provisions like SC Sub Plans and other benefits for them. There is no relevance for Categorization in today's context where there are almost no Govt jobs

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 great discrimination and jeering : many farsighted forward caste Hindus as well as Christian missionaries gave them a boost—but the Malas put in the required effort. Overall the community today clearly 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 showing great determination, utilizing all avenues. The unskilled farm laborers are gradually migrating to the towns and picking up technical subjects as best as they can, and joining the service workers and industrial workers. Some save up money to buy small farms but these are a very small number. The affirmative action programs mandatory on the Government have also helped a very large number to "rise" especially the educational programs. Some members have benefited by joining the various bureaucracies.

The Malas are said to be followers of the Reddis and 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 conversions that had their origin in early 19th century, when missionaries like Father Heyer evangelized parts of Andhra Pradesh. These missionaries, later eatablished educational and cultural institutions of great significance, across the erstwhile state of Madras. Places like Guntur, Kurnool and Rajamundry, received a voluminous boost in terms of education for the masses. This had led to a mass upheaval in the cultural orientation of caste Hindus, as well as converted Malas. Henceforth, a large chunk of the Mala population embraced a biblical culture interspersed with traditional characteristics from Hindu culture. Many theological colleges were established across the state. These Christians from Andhra, found gainful employment in mission schools and colleges, significantly elevating their social position. They now form part of the upper middle class sections of society. The Telugu land has seen umpteen men and women of excellence, in various fields, from the Mala community. Overall, at least in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Mala-Mahar are forging ahead very rapidly. They are very deeply attached to the works of Dr. Ambedkar. The Mala quarters in villages generally have a statue of Dr.B. R. Ambedkar. [2]

Notable People

  1. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, by Hunter, William Wilson, Sir, 1840–1900; Cotton, James Sutherland, 1847-1918 ed.; Burn, Richard, Sir, 1871-1947 joint ed. and Meyer, William Stevenson, Sir, 1860-1922. joint ed.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mala — may refer to: Geography Kingdom of Cheras, South India Mala, Kerala, a village in southern India Malå Municipality, in northern Sweden Mala, Nepal, a village and Village Development Committee Mała, Poland, a village Mala, Homalin, a village in… …   Wikipedia

  • Mālā — Mâlâ Pour les articles homonymes, voir Mala. Mâlâ bouddhiste Le Mâlâ (Japa Mala ou Mâlâ, signifiant guirlande ) est un chapelet …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mâlâ — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Mala. Mâlâ bouddhiste Le Mâlâ (Japa Mala ou Mâlâ, signifiant guirlande) est un chapelet bouddhique ou hi …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Japa Mala — Mâlâ Pour les articles homonymes, voir Mala. Mâlâ bouddhiste Le Mâlâ (Japa Mala ou Mâlâ, signifiant guirlande ) est un chapelet …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mali caste — Mali Total population [1] Regions with significant populations  India • …   Wikipedia

  • List of Nepal-related topics — This is a list of topics related to Nepal. Those interested in the subject can monitor changes to the pages by clicking on Related changes in the sidebar.Nepal* Nepal * Nepal, Travel information * * Nepal Bhasa * Institute of Medicine, Nepal *… …   Wikipedia

  • Malla-yuddha — ( Boxing Match ) Also known as Malyutham, Niyuddha kride Focus Grappling Hardness Full contact Country of origin South Asia Parenthood Historic Olympic sport …   Wikipedia

  • Malas — may refer to: Malas (Ayurveda) the waste products of the body in Ayurveda Mala (caste) malas are, in Indian religions, the three bondages (anava, karma, and maya) which limit the soul in earthly incarnation Malas River, river in Papua New Guinea… …   Wikipedia

  • Pallar — Mallar/Devendra Kula Vellalar/Pallar Immanuvel Devendrar Thalapathi Sundaralinga Deve …   Wikipedia

  • Madiga — Mahadiga redirects here. For the 2004 film, see Mahadiga (film). Madiga Total population 8000000(80 lakhs) Regions with significant populations Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka Languages Telugu language, Kannada …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.