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History of Reddys
Reddy is the name of a socio-economically and politically dominant caste found in Southern India. Reddy caste has this great history and the various people from this cast has helped people in large way throughout the ages. The largest single community grouping in Andhra Pradesh today is of the Reddi community. The name is also written in English as Reddy.
Reddy community found all over Andhra Pradesh and the neighboring states Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. In Andhra Pradesh, the Reddy’s 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.
Several members of the community are very wealthy landowners and businesmen. Reddys regard Andhra Pradesh as their homeland and telugu is their mother tongue. It was in reddies kingdom Telugu language developed. However they form an intricate part of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharastra society as well and are proficient in those languages too. Many Reddys migrated to tamilnadu centuries ago and have formed a distinct community that is completely incorporated into andhra culture and doesn't necessarily feel a closer affinity to their Andhra cousins.
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 reddis. The ones I could get some details about are the Panta reddis, including the Velanadu , Paakanadu and Motati Reddys ( these are old geographical areas) i.e. the Krishna-Guntur , Nellore and Chittoor Reddis and upland area. In Telangana there are the the Keti Reddis, There are other subdivisions but I am still collecting information.
Roots of the Reddis:
The Reddis do not constitute a ethnic group, really. There are several strands which go to make the Reddis of today. They appear to be basically Deccan plateau inhabitants, which includes Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra. Another point to note, in several areas the term Reddi was 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 Reddi grouping.
The earliest reference we have to anyone resembling the Reddis 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. Actually this "Rathi" can be traced directly to the people riding horse drawn chariot during the time of the rgveda and avesta ( 'rathaesthar' in avestan), but I dont have any specific evidence linking today's Reddis so far back in time. Could be some connection, of course.
The Satavahanas intermarried with the maharathis. Sri Satakarni married Naaganika Devi, daughter of a maha rathi.(221 -198 BC). The Satavahanas ruled over Malwa and parts of Gujarat as well and clashed with the Sakas -Pahlavas (scythians and pallavas) but eventually 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 Reddis 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 and large sized wells were constructed by the reddis of the time, and they still serve their purpose as planned a thousand years ago.
After the kakatiya kingdom broke up, 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 elaborate 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").
One actual very simple reason, which seems to have escaped 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 reddis. There is one more derivation --from Kumuda , Khumdi, Cimmerian which also rings true.
While the area and extent may not have been large, these Reddi Raja states are historically significant because Telugu literature got a strong impetus. Vemareddi has left many inscriptions, the well preserved ones detailing the repairs he made to temples like Srisailam and Ahobilam and Drakshaaram.
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 reddis are closely related to the landlord Gowdas of karnataka and the Reddiars of Tamilnadu. 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 Reddis around these areas have a tradition they are descended from ancient Chalukya ancestors.
Reddis are also prominent in Nellore and Chittoor district also. ---(some claim they are descended from pallava ancestors, but proof is lacking). In these areas, during British 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 Reddis continued to be headmen, village policemen and tax collectors and farmers. The larger Reddi landlords were styled as Desais and Doras. (and continued their bitter nine-hundred year old rivalry with the Velamas, another feudal clan. This rivalry also exists to this day in rural areas). Several Reddis were noblemen during the Nizams time, too.
The Reddis of all the various regions mentioned have different traditions and notions and do not seem to have very 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 enthusiastic backers of Saivite and Vaishnavite reform movements too. In south coastal areas --guntur, for instance--- reddis intermarried with Brahmins and others under the influence of saivite reformers. In Telangana area they used to wed girls from other communities but the offspring wouldn't 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. Eventually, a large number of Reddis went into business especially construction and films and have made a name for themselves in the field. --Nagi reddi , etc. Don't forget Kalabandhu Subbiramireddy. 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 too long to list. Generally they are embarrassed if listed).
While the older generation of Reddis had a feeling for the "land" and flair for farming, and leadership of the villages, nowadays there is a rapid change in rural areas: the younger Reddis 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 organizations in the USA. Australia and NZ also seem to be attracting Reddis.
Regarding the origin of the term and specific caste there are various theories:
The oral traditions of Reddys state (first Reddy is a charioteer who impressed the king with his courage in the battle and own some lands) that Reddy is a corruption of Ratti meaning chariot or charioteer and their ancestors were charioteers for the Rashtrakutas. The Reddys may have been early practitioners of agriculture and farming. "Reddy" is derived from the Telugu word "redu" which means farm land. Some linguists surmised the word Reddy originated from the medieval term Rattodu, which is derived from Rashtrakutudu. The Rashtrakutas employed wealthy local farmers to head villages and collect taxes in the empire and conferred the title of Reddy. The usage of the word Reddy specifically was first seen in the inscriptions made during the Renati Chola times (7th century CE)).
Another theory relates the Reddies to the Rathis, who ruled over small principalities in the Deccan plateau before 200 BCE and before the Satavahanas and Mauryas. The Rathis left coins in northern Andhra Pradesh, Kurnool district, and near Pune. The coins are found in the levels between the megalithic and Satavahana levels in excavations.