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This article is an excerpt from
Castes and Tribes of Southern India
By Edgar Thurston, C.I.E.,
Superintendent, Madras Government Museum; Correspondant
Étranger, Société d’Anthropologie de Paris; Socio
Corrispondante, Societa,Romana di Anthropologia.
Assisted by K. Rangachari, M.A.,
of the Madras Government Museum.

Government Press, Madras


In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Aiyarakam is summed up as being a caste of Telugu cultivators, who, in their social and religious observances, closely follow the Kāpus and Balijas, may intermarry with Telagas, and will accept drinking water from the hands of Gollas. According to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao, to whom I am indebted for the following note, the Aiyarakulu are a section of Kāpus, who rose in the social scale by Royal favour. The name is derived from aiya and rikam, denoting the act of being an aiya or distinguished person. The Aiyarakulu state that their forefathers were soldiers in the Vizianagram army, and rendered great services to the Rājas. They have a story [20]to the effect that, on one occasion, they proceeded on an expedition against a Golconda force, and gave so much trouble to the Muhammadan commander thereof that, after putting them to the sword, he proceeded to their own country, to destroy their homes. On hearing of this, the women, dressing themselves in male attire, advanced with bayonets and battle-axes against the Muhammadans, and drove them off in great disorder. The Rāja, in return for their gallant conduct, adorned their legs with silver bangles, such as the women still wear at the present day.

The Aiyarakulu are divided into gōtras, such as nāga (cobra), tābēlu (tortoise), etc., which are strictly totemistic, and are further divided into exogamous septs or intipērulu. The custom of mēnarikam, according to which a man should marry his maternal uncle’s daughter, is in force. Girls are married before puberty, and a Brāhman officiates at the wedding rites, during which the bride and bridegroom wear silver sacred threads, which are subsequently converted into rings. Some Aiyarakulu call themselves Rāzus, and wear the sacred thread, but interdine and intermarry with other members of the community. The remarriage of widows, and divorce are forbidden.

The principal occupation of the Aiyarakulus is cultivating, but, in some parts, many of them are cart-drivers plying between the plains of Vizagapatam and the Agency tracts. The usual title of members of the caste is Pātrudu.

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