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Total population
2,272,265 (19.2%)[1]
Regions with significant populations
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Hindu, Christianity, Islam

The Pallar (previously Mallar)[2] is a caste from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Pallar are mostly agriculturalists in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and some of them are still involved in menial jobs. They are spread across the Tamil diaspora demographic.[3] They are also referred to as Mallar, Devendra Kula Velalar, kaaladi or kudumban. Their inner sub-sect castes are in all communities of Tamil Nadu. The Pallan are an ancient community, engaged extensively in wet land farming and distributed mainly in Thanjavur,Madurai and Ramanathapuram districts (Ramaiah 2004). The Pallan rank themselves highest among the scheduled castes, and number around 2.2 million (Census of India 2001).[4]

  1. Kudumban SC List (SC 35)
  2. Moopan BC List (BC 65)
  3. Kaaladi BC List (BC 35)
  4. Kaaladi DNC List (DNC 28)
  5. Mannadi MBC List (MBC 16)
  6. Vathiriyar SC List (SC 72)[5]
  7. Devendrakulathan(17)[5]


They are become agriculturalist. Panel to consider plea to rename Pallar as Mallar.[6]

A number of historians support the argument that the Pallar are the same community as that formerly called Mallar in the region.[7][8][9][10][11][12]


According to Guruswamy, the Pallar is an ancient group of people originating in the Marutam land. The land was said to be good for agriculture, and situated near a river.[13] These people claim to be the descendants of Devendran (the god of Marutham Land). Worship of the God Devendran was popular in ancient Tamil Nadu. Their ancestral linkage to the Sangam age God Devendran explains their rich heritage. Because these people were known for charity, heading and presiding village panchayat meetings, and being kind, they were referred to as kudumban. For their ability to control flood, on the other hand, they were Velallar. From the available research on ancient Tamil paddy history and evolution, there is a strong paddy culture prevailing in Tamil Nadu – Marutha Nilam and it is a continuation of 5000 years old paddy cultivation heritage by native people (pallars). Their age old customs, festivals and day-to-day life activities supports their claim to be the first cultivators of rice in Tamil Nadu.[14] So these people prefer to call themselves Devendra Kula Vellalar.[13][15][16]

The ancient people were described as warriors and farmers. The leader of the group, called the vendan (Indran) was later called the god of their land.[17][18][19][20] The Pallars of today were most likely actually known as Mallar belonging to the Dravidian race about 2,300 years ago. These people were the rulers of Tamil country (Chera, Chola and Pandiya Trikings called Moovendhars - Vendhar or Vendhan). They are also most likely the descendants of Pallavas,who once ruled the Andhra and Tamil countries. Putting all these qualities together, the Mallar (Pallar) call themselves Devendra Kula Velalar. There are over 84 branches among Pallars. The Mallar were called Pallar only after the 15th century by more powerful tribes from other parts of South India with a view to degrading their social status.[13][15][16]

Colonial depiction

On the Pallar, Edward Balfour's 1885 The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia noted:

PALLAN, Pallar, or Puller are a slave race attached to the Vellala agriculturists of the south of India. The Mallar are the agricultural labourers of the Pallar tribe. Pallan is applied specially to one who works in the fields. Their tribal title is Kudumpan, which means a headman or chief.[21]

Edgar Thurston's Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Volume 1, states:

The headman of the Pallans is, in the Madura country, called Kudumban, and he is assisted by a Kaladi, and, in large settlements, by a caste messenger entitled Variyan, who summons people to attend council-meetings, festivals, marriages and funerals. The offices of Kudumban and Kaladi are hereditary...

In connection with the caste organisation of the Pallans in the Trichinopoly district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows. "They generally have three or more head- men for each village, over whom is the Nattu Muppan. Each village also has a peon called Odumpillai (the runner). The main body of the caste, when attending council- meetings, is called ilam katchi (the inexperienced). The village councils are attended by the Muppans and the Nattu Muppan. Between the Nattu Muppan and the ordinary Muppans, there is, in the Karur taluk, a Pulli Muppan. All these offices are hereditary. In this taluk a rather different organisation is in force, to regulate the supply of labour to the landholders. Each of the village Muppans has a number of karais or sections of the wet-land of the village under him, and he is bound to supply labourers for all the land in his karai, and is remunerated by the landowner with ij marakkals of grain for every 20 kalams harvested. The Muppans do not work themselves, but maintain discipline among their men by flogging or expulsion from the caste. In the Karur taluk, the ordinary Pallans are called Manvettai-karans (mamoty or digging-tool men)."[3]


Some of the Pallar consider the term Pallar to be derogatory, instead preferring to be known as Mallar (Tamil: மள்ளர்) (a term also used by an ancient tribe that lived in the region), or by the name Devendra Kula Vellalar, a name connoting they were created by Devendra.[13][22][23]

Many of the Pallar reject the term Pallar, a term which they say was introduced in the 17th century by Nayak kings to discriminate against them. They claim that prior to that they were known as Mallar, and wish to be called Devendra Kula Vellalar (DKV). In support of a name change to DKV, Pallars have undertaken hunger strikes and rallies. In January 2011, the government of Tamil Nadu appointed a one man commission to change their name as Devendra Kula Vellalar.[24]

The Pallars have also demanded the Tamil Nadu government change the name Adi Dravidar (which is used to denote the people of Scheduled caste in Tamil Nadu) to Pattiyal sathigal (the Tamil translation of "Scheduled caste"). They argue that Adi Dravidar is the name of a caste which is presently in the Scheduled caste list.

The name of the caste was previously given as Pallan, however some caste members replaced the Tamil non-honorific terminal-"n" with an honorific "r", resulting in the name Pallar; a similar process was seen in the fellow Dalit Paraiyar (or Paraiyan) community.[25]

Alternately, the term Pallar may derive from the word pallam, meaning a pit or low-lying region. Accordingly the community may have been named at one point Pallam after the type of land they cultivated.[15][16]

In Tamil literature

Mallars are mentioned in Tamil literature from the ancient Sangam Literature to the recent 19th century poems, including Purananuru, Kamba Ramayanam, Thirumurukkatruppatai, Silapathigaram, Agananuru, Pathirtrupattu, Kurunthogai, Aingurunooru, Kalithogai, Natrinai, and Paripaadal.

The Mallar (farmer) are praised in the Tamil poem Tirukkuṛaḷ. The name Pallar is mentioned only in pallu poems and later poems.[26]

Pallu poetry

The Pallar are the focus of a genre of Tamil poetry known as pallu. The genre developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and depicts the Pallar hero dealing with the jealousies of his two wives and the oppression of his landlord in a satirical depiction of Pallar zeitgeist. The pallu, while maintaining its basic storyline, developed into many forms, with the Mukkudal pallu the oldest, including depiction of the struggles between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.[27]

Among the Christian Tamils of Sri Lanka, the genre has been modified into nanapallu, a genre where the same story is told, but with the satirical and erotic elements replaced by Christian religious themes.[28]

Pallu poems are part of chitrilakiyangal in Tamil literature. Pallu poems were also known as 'aesal'(a kind of ironical poem). They were written during the Nayak rule. The first pallu poem was 'mukkoodar pallu'. Many pallu poems were written which include vaiyapuri pallu, sengottu pallu, thandigai kanagaraayan pallu.[clarification needed] All the Pallu poems consist of a Pallan who has got two wives. It also explains about the farming and the life of a Pallar farmer.[29][30]

Outside India

In Sri Lanka, Pallars are currently found in Jaffna and eastern Batticalo region and were primarily agricultural workers.

Today amongst the Tamil diaspora across the world, Pallars are found as part of the greater Tamil community and caste distinctions are minimal.[31]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Tamil Nadu Date Highlights: The Scheduled Castes Census of India 2001 (pdf)
  2. ^ John R. Campbell; Alan Rew (20 February 1999). Identity And Affect: Experiences of Identity in a Globalising World. Pluto Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-0-7453-1423-5. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Edgar Thurston. Castes and Tribes of Southern India (7 volumes). 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Times of India |url= missing title (help). [dead link]
  7. ^ Durga, S.A.K. (25 July 2006). "Book Review: MARUDANILATHU MALLAR ISAI". The Hindu. 
  8. ^ M. Srinivasa Iyangar (2000), Tamil Studies: Essays on History of Tamil, Asian Educational Service, p. 71, "There was no such caste as pallan but instead we find in early Tamil Literature Mallar and Kadaignar, the later appearing as a sub-division of pallar caste. They are chiefly found in the Pandya country and correspond to the traditional occupation to the palli or Vanniyar caste of Tondaimandalam. These people are agricultural labourers and soldiers" 
  9. ^ Velupillai, T.K., ed. (1940). Travancore State Manual. 
  10. ^ Oppert, Dr Gustav (December 1988). The Dravidians: On the Original Inhabitants of Bharatvarsa or India. Laurier Books Ltd. p. 30. ISBN 978-8120603486. "'The indigenous title of the south india Chera, Chola, Pandya kings was Perumal. Mallan was the name of a Perumal who built Mallur in Polanadu. Mallan is also called a rural deity which is set up on the borders or ridges of the rice field'. 'The word Tirumal-Perumal are also derived from Mala, Malla. Both terms were originally the titles given by the Mallas to their great chiefs and kings. Each Perumal was elected to rule for 12 years. The term sacred Mala or the great Mala being once connected with the deity lost its original meaning which was in course of time entirely forgotten. This circumstance explains their peculiar derivation so often found in Tamil dictionaries and strange attempts of grammarians to explain their startling formation. The name perumal the great Mala is still a royal title in Malabar'" 
  11. ^ Hanumanthan, K. R. (1979). Untouchability, A Historical Study up to 1500 A.D.: with special reference to Tamil Nadu. Koodal Publishers. p. 100. "The Pallas are also denoted by the title Kadaignar. The ancient heroic tribe called Mallar described in the Sangam classics were probably the ancestors of Pallas" 
  12. ^ Thurston, Edgar. Castes and Tribes of Southern India. "The common titles of peoples are said to be Muppan and Kudumban and some style themselves Mannadi. Mannadi is a corruption of manradi, a title borne by Pallava people. It seems not improbable that pallas are representatives of the old pallavas." 
  13. ^ a b c d Thiru Gurusamy Siddhar. Tamil Elakiyathil Pallar yendra Mallar, Devendrakula Vellalar (Adipadai Saandrugal) [Tamil Literature Portraying Pallar alias Mallar, Devendrakula Vellalar (Basic Facts)]. 
  14. ^ Maruthamalai Murugan R. P. (9 January 2012). Evolution of Rice in Tamil Nadu: An Ancient History. International Research Institute on Tamil Language, Philosophy and Culture, Tamil Nadu, India. 
  15. ^ a b c Ramaiah, A. (1998). Protest Movement and Scheduled Caste Identity: The Impact of Constitutional Provisions on Scheduled Castes in Selected Villages of Tamil Nadu (Ph.D.). CSSS/SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 
  16. ^ a b c Ramaiah, A. (2004). "Untouchability and Inter-Caste Relations in Rural India: The Case of Southern Tamil Villages". Journal of Religious Culture (70). 
  17. ^ N. Subrahmanian (1996). Śaṅgam polity: the administration and social life of the Śaṅgam Tamils. Ennes. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  18. ^ S. Viswanathan; S. Viswanathan (Journalist.) (2005). Dalits in Dravidian land: Frontline reports on Anti-Dalit violence in Tamil Nadu, 1995-2004. Navayana. ISBN 978-81-89059-05-7. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  19. ^ Sachchidanand Sinha (1982). Caste system: myths, reality, challenge. Intellectual Pub. House. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  20. ^ T. K. Venkatasubramanian (1986). Political Change and Agrarian Tradition in South India, C. 1600-1801: A Case Study. Mittal Publications. GGKEY:G5HUNAS9SN3. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: commercial, industrial and scientific, products of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures. B. Quaritch. pp. 87–. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  22. ^ Political Change and Agrarian Tradition in South India. Mittal Publications. pp. 51–. GGKEY:G5HUNAS9SN3. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  23. ^ Madras (India : State); B. S. Baliga (2002). Madras District Gazetteers: Tirunelveli District ( 2 v.). Printed by the Superintendent, Govt. Press. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "Tamil Nadu government constitutes panel to rechristen sub-castes – World News 133641". New Kerala News (Chennai). 27 January 2012. [dead link]
  25. ^ Leo Paul Dana (2007). Handbook of Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship: A Co-Evolutionary View on Resource Management. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 602–. ISBN 978-1-84542-733-7. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Folk music genre". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 25 July 2006. 
  27. ^ Ayyappappanikkar; Sahitya Akademi (1997). Medieval Indian Literature: An Anthology. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 531–. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  28. ^ Jorge Manuel Flores; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (2007). Re-Exploring the Links: History and Constructed Histories Between Portugal and Sri Lanka. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-3-447-05490-4. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  29. ^ Gnanasekran, Thiru. Pallu ilakiyam maruvasippu. 
  30. ^ "2.5 பள்ளு இலக்கியம்" [Pallu Literature]. Tamil Virtual Academy. 
  31. ^ Hoole, Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. (20 December 2003). "Caste, the last frontier". Daily News (The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.). 

External links