Welcome to Arya Vysya

 

The Arya Vaishya or Arya Vysya (also known as Komati) is a Telugu-speaking Indian caste. Orthodox Komatis follow rituals prescribed in the Vasavi Puranam, a religious text written in the late medieval times. Vasavi (Kanyakamba) is the kuladevi of the Komatis. The Komatis are divided into two sub-sects, the Gavara Komatis and the Kalinga Komatis.

 

Inclusion into the Vaishya Varna

 

The Komatis became a part of the Vaishya during British colonial times. The Komatis desired to be members of the Vaishya caste. However, the Niyogi (Brahmin) councillors who controlled the powerful Mandri Mahanad did not accept or support their claim.

 

Attempts by Komatis to adopt orthodox Vaishya rituals drew the hostile attention of Niyogis. When a Komati family in Masulipatnam announced their intention to perform the Upanayana ceremony for their son, leaders of the Mahanad invaded the house, polluted the fire and stopped the ceremony. Violent encounters along these lines leading to loss of lives were noted in 1784, 1803, 1809, 1817 and 1820.

Of the approximately 1000 Komati families living in Masulipatnam in 1825, the Gavara Komatis were one of the two main Komati groups. They had 102 gotras, which were not considered to correspond in identity with the gotras deemed appropriate for Brahmanas or Vaishyas. From 1784 to 1825 few families organized the Upanayana, but by 1825 a majority of the caste's males wore the sacred thread.

The Upanayana ceremonies were officiated by the Vaidiki Brahmins who were tolerant of the wishes of their patrons. However, the Niyogis continued to mobilize the untouchable Dalits to riot and organized offensives against such ceremonies. This led three Komati litigants to take their complaints to the civil court. One litigant, Mamedy Venkia, had studied the Dharmashastras and took a leading role in Komati activities with regard to the Upanayanams. The litigants were supported by the Vaidiki Brahmins.

The Niyogis and their lawyers attempted to destroy the Vaidiki support in court by arguing that the Vaidikis were unread in the Dharmashastras, and that they supported the Komatis because they depended on Komati fees for their livelihood. In 1833 the Sadr Adalat decided in favour of the Niyogis. In 1845 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council refused to make a formal decision.

Niyogi resistance to these activities may be viewed as the protective strategy of a community which was experiencing new opportunities for advancement through service with the consolidating imperial state. Niyogi action to prevent encroachments on the domain of the twice-born could have been motivated in part by a desire to limit the field of possible high-status competitors in this situation of new opportunities for employment with the government of Madras.