culture series...

Some very preliminary info on Kapu or Kaapu community of Andhra Pradesh


The Kaapu are a very large community in Andhra Pradesh primarily into agriculture today. They seem to be similar to farming peoples in neighbouring Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Orissa Rajasthan and also Madhya Pradesh -Bihar etc further away.

'Kaapu' or kapu means 'protector' and usually it is taken to be protector of a village or region. (uuru kaapu, praanta-kaapu, palle-kaapu, etc). Maybe it was a post, a title in ancient times. The Kapus are the bedrock of Andhra Pradesh. They form the largest community in AP, but as a matter of fact this is a broad grouping and regionally they seem to be of different stocks. All the same it appears they were earlier inhabitants than most other farmers here. According to old tradition the king lists refer to kapu dynasties ruling in earlier times. This is not well known, and some people don't like to hear this.

Some kapu sections merge into the Reddis (another title) in parts of Andhra Pradesh. The reddis are detailed in a separate page, but it is a fact that many Reddis have a kapu background. It also seems that in very ancient times people from Kapu farming community took up the job of protecting merchant caravans. Eventually they organised themselves into their own trading guilds--eg. 'veera balanja'. Sanskrit "vanijya" became "balanja" and "balija" here, like elsewhere it became "baniya". (More details on medieval trade guilds of Balijas later.)

The Kapus are likely to be the descendants of the very early agriculture- introducing immigrants, who cleared forests and founded villages and towns. This could be either copper-neolithic or megalithic from archeology point of view, or early aryan -buddhist from culture point of view.

In my humble opinion the Kapus and similar associated communities ALL OVER INDIA have the best claim to be descendants of the old Aryans. . I mean they are descended from the early 'aryans' who spread all over India with their metal ploughs and implements and colonised forested areas a very long time ago. Interestingly, similar ancient darker-complexioned farming--herding communities in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh Bihar MP Maharashtra Gujarat Karnataka, Orissa, even Tamilnadu (!) would be likely to be the genuine aryan descendants. Not the usual fair upper caste Indians who mostly seem to be linked with more recent arrivals like iranian sakas and kushans and hunas. Sorry if it initially goes against your ideas, but this is the most likely thing. (you have to be detached when examining these matters. Disclaimer for the cranks :-- I'm not kaapu nor any of the communities mentioned).

According to some friends some sections of the kapus are de-mobilised soldiers of old dynasties, like eastern chalukyas who turned to agriculture for a living. Says Bhuvan Kumar, given the large numbers and ancient traces, the Kapus are traditionally warriors, and kings as well, of most of the Andhra dynasties. This viewpoint is criticised by some: but examine the matter without prejudice, and you'll see he's right. Never mind fighting and war---even agriculture and herding sheep and cattle, before the era of tools and tractors was taken up only by physically very strong people. Guess why all militaries prefer healthy recruits from rural areas and not people from polluted cities....

Roots:--Since it is a diverse , large, geographically well spread group there is no one root. (Genetic analysis in India merely shows regional clustering without any "caste" affiliation, by the way). Many sections of Kapus resemble people of Rajasthan and Haryana particularly the darker complexioned rajasthanis ( for instance some bhatti rajputs). Several kapus can pass for marathi, kannada or madhya pradesh people, too.

rashtrakuta painting. the couple resemble TODAY's telugu fimstars. note the girl's blue-black complexion and yellowish brown eyes. courtesy Govt. Museum.On the whole they are sturdy, tall, sharp featured, usually dark brown in complexion. Many of today's Kapus strongly resemble people in Chalukya Rashtrakuta and Chola paintings, especially the girls. Note the pic... looks like today's Naidu girl in Nalgonda or Adoni or Vuyyuru. ( or anywhere in AP...most of the folks featured in old paintings are sharp featured and dark complexioned....).

The Kapus are particularly cheerful and of a sunny disposition. Many Kaapu friends said their people in rural areas were mostly farmers but inclined to be lazy, fond of toddy and good food and minor gambling. They also said they were also inclined to get into fights all the time, but were basically good natured happy go lucky folk with a great sense of humour. (Says Mr. Kumar --Not in all areas ! Please don't believe this generalisation !...relax man, you don't expect traditional warrior people to be gandhian type anyway)

I've seen that they consider themselves as just "the people", no fancy airs at all. In fact they ARE the people, if numbers are any indication.

There are many sections among the Kaapu. It seems this community is actually the original grouping for several others who got differentiated down the centuries and started a separate sub regional kaapu grouping. The Reddis share affiliation to Kaapu, too. Curiously in recent times some Kaapus have managed to get themselves classified as "backward community" ---so as to get some benefits from Government. There is nothing particularly backward about them. They are basically farmers today but seem to take easily to technical-industrial subjects. There are several educationists among the community, and businessmen with a kapu background too have prospered. They are quite prominent in films, too.(mega star etc). Now, politics too. (details further down)

A common Kapu surname is Naidu, the name is derived from Nayaka, (kakatiya commander-warlord, later Vijayanagar commander and governors. The naidu surname in Tamil nadu and south andhra pradesh is found among kammas too).

Many of the people with Naidu surname had some remote ancestor who was a knight , promoted to something like baron--"nayaka" which means law-giver. This became Nayakudu--nayadu-naidoo. Kakatiya dynasty had many prominent nayakas, of which several were from Kapu background. Later vijayanagar promoted several warriors to military governors (nayaka) thus you have many 'naidus' who trace links to Vijayanagar. ( please note not all nayakas were kapu, there were velama, reddi and even kamma nayaks.) The subsequent development of Vijayanagar to areas of Madurai and Tanjavur, Tamilnadu also shows prominent Kapu Naidus. The Nayaka kings ruled in these parts. Hence there is a very large Kapu Naidu population in Tamil nadu even today. (Friends have posted some info and I will soon collect them on this page. There are persistent claims Tirumala nayaka was of balija-naidu background: could anyone point to the actual inscription/epigraph? --Not the absurd madras presidency english "caste" legislation)
Naidus especially of kapu background have migrated to several countries like South Africa, Mauritius etc. They are active in the local Telugu and Tamil associations.

In recent times there has been a series of attempts to combine politically as a community based pressure group. However the kapus on the whole find "caste-politics" distateful and say they leave this to certain communities. Instead, they have turned their attention to a new political party called Praja Raajyam party. An immensely popular film star named Chiranjeevi was instrumental in forming this party: while he is from a kapu background, the party is not keen on being a vehicle for communities as such, and has a vaguely leftist pro-poor agenda. Forecasting is difficult, but the crowds even at their whistle-stop election meetings all over the state are spontaneous.

Note: Friends, I've recd some over enthusiastic emails, I'd like you to please keep in mind this roots thing is based mainly on cultural history. Dont jump to "casteist" "genetic" conclusions. Mischief makers want to provoke you : dont fall into their trap.

Addition by Bhuvan Kumar:

LIST OF KAPU COMMUNITIES (and affiliated ones)

Kapu, Balija, Telega, Munnuru Kapu, Turpu Kapu, Ontari (Kapu), Balija Naidu. (Naidu)

The word Naidu in Andhra and Telangana means Kapu/ Telaga/ Ontari/ Tuurpu Kapu community.
In Nellore it refers to Kammas. Here Kapu means Reddy.
In Rayalaseem Naidu can be either Balija Naidu or Kamma Naidu.
In Kurnool Naidu means Balija Naidu.

Here's a (small) list of prominent Kapu personalities

Freedom Fighters:--

Kanneganti Hanumanthu (Palnadu Rebellion),
Katta Bomma Naicker (T.N Rebellion).


Erode Venkata Ramaswamy Naicker(Periar) (Founder Dravidian Movment)
Kurma Venkat Reddy Naidu (Chief Minister, Madras Presidency)

* Chiranjeevi....... if the voters choose so


C.K.Naidu (Father of Indian Cricket)
Kodi Ramamurthy Naidu (Famous Indian Wrestler)

Arts & Movies

Raghupati Venkatratnam Naidu --- (Father of Telugu Cinema/South Indian Cinema)

Pandit Dwaram Venkata Swamy Naidu (Top classical Violinist)

Film stars ------
S.V.Ranga Rao, Savithri, Chiranjeevi, Vijay Kanth etc

..... who's the top ? My vote goes here , but others may have different opinion.

It will take some time to collect verified info about their traditions customs etc. If you want to add anything interesting about these folks pl. do !

back to index of cultural stuff, other communities too

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