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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


“The Telagas,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes, “are a Telugu caste of cultivators, who were formerly soldiers in the armies of the Hindu sovereigns of Telingana. This may perhaps account for the name, for it is easy to see that the Telugu soldiers might come to be regarded as the Telugus or Telagas par excellence. The sub-divisions returned under this name show that there has been some confusion between the Telagas proper, and persons who are members of other Telugu castes. The Telagas are Vaishnavites, and have Brāhmans for their priests. Their customs closely resemble those of the Kāpus.

They eat flesh, but are not allowed to drink liquor. They are usually farmers now, but many still serve as soldiers, though their further recruitment has recently been stopped. Their common titles are Naidu and Dora.”

In a note on the Telagas and Vantaris (strong men), it is suggested that they should be classed with the Kāpus, of which caste they are an offshoot for the following reasons:—”(1) Members of the three classes admit that this is so; (2) a collation of the intipērulu or septs shows that the same names recur among the three classes; (3) all three interdine, and intermarriage between them is not rare. A poor Telaga or Vantari often gives his daughter in marriage to a rich Kāpu.

The Telagas and Vantaris are highly Brāhmanised, and will have a Brāhman for their guru, and get themselves branded at his hands. A Kāpu is generally content with a Sātāni or Jangam. Though they do not differ in their marriage and funeral rites from the Kāpus, they usually marry their girls before puberty, and widow remarriage and divorce are disallowed. A Kāpu is invariably a cultivator; a Vantari was in olden days a sepoy, and, as such, owned inām (rent-free) lands.

Even now he has a prejudice against ploughing jirāyati (ordinarily assessed) lands, which a Kāpu has no objection to do. Similarly, a Telaga takes pride in taking service under a Zamindar, but, unlike the Vantari, he will plough any land. Kāpu women will fetch their own water, and carry meals to the fields for their fathers and husbands. The women of the other classes affect the gōsha system, and the men carry their own food, and fetch water for domestic purposes, or, if well-to-do, employ Kāpus for these services. It may be added that rich Kāpus often exhibit a tendency to pass as Telagas.”

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