THE HISTORY OF KONGU GOUNDERS
The Kongu Gounders were referred as Gangakulam (Tamil: கங்காகுலம்) meaning the one descended from the King Gangadatta (Sanskrit: meaning "the one" given by the Goddess Ganga) (Tamil: கங்கதத்தன்) in Tamil, Hindu literature and religious works.
The name Gounder is a caste title derived from the Sangam Tamil word Kamindan (root word being Kavunda) which means "people who protected land, people and country" and was originally accorded to the "Feudal Lords" of the Kongu Nadu who had distinguished themselves bravely and fiercely in protecting the honour of the Kongu region and its people. References to this can be seen in the copper-plate inscriptions of the Chola, Chera and Pandya dynasties of Tamil Nadu. It is also found in the later Ganga and Pallava dynasties of South India. The name Gounder is the Prakrit of Sanskrit word Gamunda, meaning head or chieftain, which is Kaminda(n) in Tamil. It was later modified as Kavundan in speech.
Gounder was a hereditary title of the Village Headman in the system of decentralised panchayat administration in South India. The root word Kavunda became Kavundan (கவுண்டன்). This system gained greater prominence and wider political ascendancy during the reign of King Durvinita of the Ganga dynasty. The posts of the Village Headmen (நாட்டாமை) is hereditary and was usually bestowed on the Kshatriya warrior clans of the Kongu Nadu and hence accustomed to the ruling Gangakulam (ref.: Kongudesa Rajakkal).
The ancient recorded history of Kongu Nadu and Tamilakam reveals that the Chola warriors expanded into then heavily forested Kongu territory, took up agriculture and made the lands cultivable. They are traditionally considered to be Tamil speakers of the Kongu Nadu, an ancient division of Tamilakam that includes parts of northwest Tamil Nadu, portions of neighbouring Kerala and the southern Mysore region of Karnataka. They are one of the prominent castes within the Tamil community who have their roots in the Sangam Tamil culture. Their elaborate marriage festivities are mentioned by Kavirayar Kambar in his famous Kongu Mangala Vazhthu songs.
"These cultivators’ families have been growing from before the third century BCE (before the current era), so were their requirements. One notices an amount simplicity, politeness, and sincerity in their manners and customs. Their language is known for courtesy and respect. The Gaunders never go back on their word and are akin to “Satya-putras”, Sons of Truth. It is not with out basis that they call the ancient Atiyamaan Chieftains as a vellala. They are never tricky in their dealing but always straight forward. They are God fearing and large hearted people. Though Saivites they were never exclusive in their but patronize all sects of Hindu religion alike."
Kongu Gounders (கொங்கு கவுண்டர்கள்)
1. Nattu Gounder (நாட்டுக் கவுண்டர்)are a endogamous subsect of the Sendalai Gounders who are from the Pattagar gotras
2. Vellala Gounder (வெள்ளாள கவுண்டர்) akaSendhalai Gounder oth Tendisai Vellalar(தென்திசை வெள்ளாளர் என்பது மறுவி செந்தலைக் கவுண்டர்)
There have been 36 titled royal families of the Kongu region, known as the Pattakarars. They are;
1) Pundurai Pattakarar - Nannavudayar - ('Sa' Kadai gotram)
2) Vellode Pattakarar - Ulagudayar - (Sathandhai gotram)
3) Nasiyanur Pattakarar - ('Moda' Kanna gotram)
4) Elumathur Pattakarar - Nallakumarudayar - (Panangadai gotram)
5) Morur Pattakarar - Kangayar - (Kanna gotram)
6) Paruttipalli Pattakarar - Mudali Kamindan - (Chella gotram)
7) Elur Pattakarar - Kangayar - (Panna gotram)
8) Sankaradamplayam Pattakkarar - Venadudayar - (Periya Kulam)
9) Mulanur Pattakarar - Tondaiman - (Pusa gotram)
10) Puthur Pattakkarar - Pallavarayar - (Cenkannan Kulam)
11) Kadaiyur Pattakkarar - Kangayar - (Muzhukkadhu Porulanthai Kulam)
12) Anoor (Palayakottai) Pattakkarar - Sarkkarai - (Payiran Kulam)
13) Valliyarachal Pattakarar - Tondaiman - (Pilla gotram) are the top thirteen
The traditional Kongu Gounder belt is the western region of Tamilnadu known as Kongu Nadu. This area now comprises the following regions in the western part of Tamil Nadu: Coimbatore, Gobichettipalayam, Pollachi, Tirupur, Erode, Nilgiris, Udumalaipettai, Avinashi, Perundurai, Bhavani, Komarapalayam, Sathyamangalam, Thiruchengode, Namakkal, Rasipuram, Karur, Kallakurichi, Palani, Dharapuram, Kangeyam, Omalur, Salem, Konganapuram, Sankagiri, Attur, Dharmapuri, Hosur, Krishnagiri, northern Dindigul, western parts of Tiruchirapalli, Perambalur, Vellore and Villupuram. They are also sparsely distributed in Thanjavur, Madurai and Theni districts of Tamil Nadu.
Kongu Gounders are one of the Tamil Speaking majority communities in Tamil Nadu. They are also spread across the globe ranging from Srilanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, America, Australia, Europe, Fiji, South Africa and many other countries abroad.
For the last 30 years, 90% of their families do not have more than two children. When the government announced the two children norm, the Gounders were already having up to 80% of single-child families. Now the estimates stand around a near hundred.Today one can see single child families in thousands of their families thereby might be credited as the only caste in India having reverse growth ratio thus projected to lose its majority status in the region. This along with the nuclear families concept has made the individual families prosper though shattering many of the age old cherished values of Gounders. These single children from the lonely nuclear families have become lonely isolated and self-centered individuals popularly called islands. Thus the community is losing its identity and distinct culture due to over adherence to norms. This materialist lifestyle has resulted in the steady decline of the Gounders to 10% of the total state population from the pre-independence 25%. This self centered lifestyle has resulted in the undesirable increase of egotic personalities unwilling to unite even at the most demanding situations. Thus Gounders are silently slipping into political and demographic doom though outwardly they seem to prosper. We have to remember that no government eternally is steady to guarantee safety and there is always a safety in numbers. Concerned scientists have warned the community to have at least two children per family to maintain steady trends.
Freedom fighters from Kongu Nadu
The famous story about the Maaveran Dheeran Chinnamalai (மாவீரன் தீரன் சின்னமலை) and his brothers and their historical battles against the British remains highly inspiring to the people of South India. The history of Dheeran would have been completely consigned to oblivion except for the heritage of oral story telling that existed in the Kongu culture. The credit goes to Puzhavar Kulanthai who heard this story from his grand father during early 1900s. However, during the British rule it was not possible to write about the freedom fighters as the those literature was banned. Puzhavar Kulandai could write about Chinnamalai only after independence from the colonial British rule. However, by the time he was about to write, he could not recollect everything his grand father told him. However he was able to create the first account of the story of Dheeran Chinnamalai and in course of time not just the Kongus but also people of India understood Dheeran Chinnamalai's role in their independence from the British.
Likewise, the life and history of the legendary Periyanna Venadudayar (பெரியண்ண வேணுடுடையார்), the most popular Kongu Chieftain in the recent history remains a source of inspiration to the Kongu people. Sri Periyanna Vaenadudeyar coming from the Royal family of Sankaradampalayam Pattakkarars who have strong history of bravely resisting the British attempts to subjugate Kongu Nadu and its population under British rule. The Pattakakarars of Kongu remained unfazed and withstood the onslaught of the British government to subjugate them under their Imperial rule. Many valiant men of Kongu have even laid down their lives for the noble cause of freedom and their sacrifices didn't go waste. Sri Periyanna Vaenadudeyar successfully ran a parallel independent government in the Kongu Nadu without any outside support during his life-time against the colonial British rule in India. His story of independence, remains a greater inspiration to the valiant people of Kongu Nadu even to this day but remains also in oblivion even in South India due to the earlier British regulations. Many of the Pattakkarars who have bravely resisted every British attempt to subugate them and laid down their lives fighting against the British forces and one can see statues(idols) of Ejamanar in the temples of Kongu Nadu. They are revered deeply as Ejaman by the ever grateful Kongu people.
The Tamil Nadu government earlier named a Transport corporation in the honour of Dheeran Chinnamalai. A "Mani Mandapam" (memorial) for Dheeran Chinnamalai was constructed in Arachalur, Erode district by the Tamilnadu government at a cost of about 30 lakhs. Tamil Nadu government recently placed a statue of Dheeran Chinnamalai in Chennai city.commemorative stamp on freedom fighter Dheeran Chinnamalai
Significance of the Kongu region
The Kongu region flourishes mainly due to their extreme hard work, commitment, objective nature and innovation in their respective fields.
- Agriculture- the whole of Kongunadu
- Textiles - Tirupur, Coimbatore, Erode, Perundurai, Gobichettipalayam, Attur, Pallipalayam, Tiruchengode, Salem, Rasipuram, Dharmapuri, Namakkal, Karur, Kallakurichi, Dharapuram.
- White silk - Gobichettipalayam - First automated Silk reeling unit in India.
- Poultry - Namakkal
- Education - Coimbatore, Erode, Gobichettipalayam, Tiruchengode, Rasipuram, Namakkal, Salem.
- Automobiles - Coimbatore, Namakkal, Tiruchengode, Perundurai, Salem.
- Milk - Erode (Aavin), Karur
- Edible oil - Erode
- Turmeric - Erode has the largest market in South India), Gobichettipalayam.
- Pump Industry - Coimbatore
- Vegetables - Oddanchatram
Kongu Nadu has the highest urban proportion in the Tamil Nadu state and contributes 2/3 of the Tamil Nadu's state revenue. But this is often ignored by the government.
The Gounders are an influential community in Coimbatore, Nilgiris, Karur, Tiruchirapalli, Namakkal, Erode, Tiruppur, Salem, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Dindigul districts. A good section of the community is highly educated, many from the US and UK. Most of them are third-generation businessmen and put together, they generate roughly Rs 40,000 crore of export revenue annually. Through sheer hard work, its members have attained international recognition. They figure among the global leaders in several sectors including grey cotton, home textiles, hosiery, industrial and automobile components, heavy vehicles and even turmeric and eggs.
"The Kongunad elite—the Gounder caste—were unlike the valley elite in that they continued (proudly) to work in their own fields."