Raju (Telugu:రాజు). This article is an attempt to highlight the history of the Raju caste of Andhra Pradesh based on folk stories and documented history from various sources including, Sri Andhra Kshatriyalu Vamsha Ratnakaram, a book written in Telugu by Varahala Raju Buddharaju which elaborates on the traditional accounts and genealogy of the Raju community.
People from this community have Raju or Varma as an agnomen and like other Telugu communities have their family name as the first name. Ex: Alluri Sita Ram Raju would be interpreted as, Sita Ram of the Alluri clan, and the Raju caste. They constitute 1.2% of the Andhra Pradesh population.
In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu the Kshatriya caste, which is the traditional warrior, ruler caste in Hindu society, is refered to as Rajus. It is one of the few casts in South India recognized in the census as such. While many of the kingdoms of ancient Andhra were led by non-kshatriya local agrarian warrior tribes who functioned as Kshatriyas, there were a few Kshatriya clans that migrated to the region and established kingdoms as well as a few clans that eventually attained Kshatriya status by virtue of marrying into these clans and following Vedic Hinduism.
Religion had more to do with Rajus being classified as Kshatriyas than race. Many of the rulers of South India promoted Buddhist and Jain philosophies and thus were a threat to Hinduism. This led to the non-Hindu rulers being classified as Mlechhas (barbarians, heathens, non-believers.). The Rajus on the other hand consisted of clans that followed a strict Brahminical Vedic Hinduism. This meant they believed the Vedas to be the literal words of God and performed the rituals and prayers outlined in the Vedas under the supervision of Brahman priest as well as enforce the social system outlined by the Laws of Manu. By doing this you could be called a true “Aryan” (noble) Kshatriya.
Ethnicaly they are an mix of the few Kshatriya and local warrior clans that ruled over Andhra Pradesh. This was confirmed by recent genetic studies performed in Andhra University. Culturally, they are a Telugu speaking community. Their history is unique to the region and have weak links, mostly through sporadic marriage alliances, to their Northern counterparts.
Sage Kaundinya was the son of Vasishtha and nephew of Agastya. Due to this members of the Vasistha and Kaundinya gotras traditionally can't marry each other as they would technically be considered brother and sister.
Edgar Thurston in his Castes and Tribes of Southern India Vol. 6 observed that many communities in Andhra referred to themselves as Rajus and Kshatriyas but in fact originated from other castes. About the true Rajus he postulated that their claim to being Kshatriyas was legitimate in the military sense but he was unsure of their link to the ancient Indo-Aryan Kshatriyas, as he felt since they ate meat that they couldn't be true Kshatriyas.
Thurston: "The Maharajas of Vizianagaram are Kshatriyas from the Rajputana and the leaders of the people of gotrams said to have come to the Northern Circars centuries ago. It is noted in connection with the battle of Padmanabham in the Visakhapatnam district (1794 AD) that Rajputs formed a rampart round the corpse of Vijay Rama Raju. Padmanabham will long be remembered as the Flodden of the Rajputs of Vizianagaram."
"As a class they are the handsomest and best developed men in the country and differ so much in feature and build from other Hindus that they may usually be distinguished at a glance...In religion they are mostly Vaishnavites, and their priests are Brahmans...Claiming to be Kshatriyas, the Rajus of course assume the sacred thread, and are very proud and particular in their conduct, though meat eating is allowed. In all the more well-to-do families the females are kept in strict seclusion...The Brahmanical rites of Punya Havachanam (Purification), Jata Karma (Birth ceremony), Nama Karanam (Naming ceremony), Chaulam (Tonsure), and Upanayanam (Thread ceremony) are performed...At weddings the Kasi Yatra (Mock flight to Benares) or Snatha Kavritham is performed...In some villages, Rajus seem to object to the construction of a pial, or raised platform, in front of their houses. The pial is the lounging place where visitors are received by day. The Rajus claim to be Kshatriyas so other castes should not sit in their presence. If pials were constructed, such people might sit thereon, and so commit a breach of etiquette."
With the exceptions of the Satavahanas, Brihatpalayanas, and Salankayanas, who were from the Brahman caste and the Ikshavakus, Vishnukundinas, Haiheyas, and Chalukyas who belonged to the Kshatriya cast, many of the primary and fuedatory kingdoms of Andhra were established by powerful local agrarian warrior castes, including the Parichedi, Kota and Nandimandalam and Karvetinagar clans connected to the Rajus. Most of the modern day Kshatriya families can trace their origins to the Chalukya period.Template:Ref
The commonly held belief by historians is that the Satavahanas were originally powerful Brahmin generals and administrators like the Sungas of Magadha who declared their independence after the fall of the Maurya dynasty. Another account of their origins is that the Satvahanas were actually a Kayastha family. The Kayasthas according to ancient texts originate from a Brahman/Non-Brahman mix. They now declare themselves Kshatriyas who fight with a pen rather than a sword. This account correlates well to what was written about the Andhras in the Puranas which referred to the ancient Andhra tribe as Indo-Aryans who lived next to the Daradas, Kambojas and Pahlavas (Pallavas) around the River Oxus in Central Asia. They eventually settled around the Vindhya Range in an area that the ancient manuscripts called Assaka. In later manuscripts the Andhras began to be referred to as Mlechhas (Barbarians), as they had started to mix with the indigenous Dravidian tribes and began to follow Buddhism and Jainism with no regard for the Aryan caste system and religion. The royal name changed over time from Satakarni to Sakasena (Lords of Sakas) to Saxena, which is still common in the Kayastha caste.
 Jewish Connection
From the Old Testament, Chapter-26, Verse-58: These are the families of the Levites: the family of the Lib’nites, the family of Hebronites, the family of the Mah’lites, the family of the Mu’shites, the family of the Ko’-rath-ites. And Ko’hath begat Amram.
The Levites were a Jewish tribe associated with priestly duties and considered one of the lost tribes of Israel. The family of the Mu’shites is of interest in the above statement as the ancient Telugu people of Andhra Pradesh were known as Mushikalu, during which time a city was built in the mane of Mushikaa Nagaram, which belonged to the Sathavahana kings. Thus, the Sathavahanas could be the Mushika Kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharata.
After the Satavahana dynasty fell, during the period from A.D.180 to A.D.624, Ikshvakus, Brihatpalayanas, Salankayanas, Vishnukundinas, Vakatakas, Pallavas, Ananda Gotrikas, Kalingas and others ruled over the Andhra area with their small kingdoms. Also a dynasty called Peddapalli was ruled by Adicherla Raju
(225-325 AD) Based on the similarity of the names, historians have tried to link the Ikshvaku of Andhra with the Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya. They hypothesis that they may have been a distant branch of the main Ikshvaku family who migrated to the Deccan and established their own kingdom in the Krishna River-Guntur region.
A Kannada poem called “Dharmamrita” and Buddhist writings aver that the Ikshvakus of Andhra were the descendants of the renowned Ikshvakus of Northern India. Historians like Buhler and Rapson are in agreement with this view. According to the Vayu Purana, Manu, the great patriarch of ancient India had nine sons of whom Ikshvaku was the eldest. Ikshvaku was the reputed founder of the Solar dynasty of monarches. His capital was Ayodhya. He had a houndred sons, and the eldest Vikushi succeeded his father as the ruler of Ayodhya. Of the rest, fifty sons founded small principalities in Northern India. Forty eight of his sons migrated to the south and carved out kingdoms for themselves. According to the Vishnu Purana, the founder of the Dakshina Kosala Kingdom was Kusa. His capital was Kusasthali. Several northern Indian Kshatriya scions came down to the south and founded the Matsya, Pandya and Kekaya principalities there.
The Puranas mention them as the Sriparvatiyas (Foresters), Rulers of Sriparvata (forests) and Andhrabhrityas (`Servants of the Andhras'). The Satavahanas were also referred to as Andhras. Though seven kings are said to have ruled for 100 years in all, only a few are known by name from Inscriptions. Originally they were feudatories of the Satvahanas and bore the title Mahatalavara.
 Ananda Gotrikas
Ananda Gotrikas (335 AD to 425 AD). Ruled coastal Andhra with Kapotapuram as the capital. Historians are unsure of their affiliation.
Brihatpalayana (3rd century AD). Ruled Northern Andhra with Kodur in Krishna District as the Capital after the Ikshvakus, a part of the Andhra region north of the river Krishna was ruled over by Jaya Varma of Brihatpalayana gotra. They are also believed to be of Brahmin origin.
(300 AD to 440 AD.) Salankayanas ruled over a part of the East Coast with Vengi as their capital. Salankayanas and Vishnukundinas were two of the many dynasties that succeeded the Ikshvakus Both Salankayanas and Vishnukundinas were vassals under Pallava kings who ruled from southern Telugu and northern Tamil lands. From their time, the script for Telugu and Kannada languages began clearly separating from that of the other south Indian and north Indian dialects. They ruled between 300 AD and 440 AD. Salankayanas were succeeded by Vishnukundinas from Vinukonda. Based on the interpretation of Puranic texts, they are believed to be of Brahmin origin.
One of three dynasties that ruled southern Kalinga. The others being the Eastern Gangas and Matharas.
(425-624 AD) The Vishnukundinas were a Kshatriya dynasty that ruled over the eastern Deccan in South India comprising of the area covered by modern day Andhra Pradesh and Kalinga (Orissa). It played an important role in the history of the Deccan during the 5th and 6th centuries AD.
It is generally believed the Vishnukundins were an Andhra clan and they hailed from Vinukonda in the Guntur district. The early rulers of the dynasty migrated to the west in search of employment and under the Vakatakas they might have attained feudatory status. They had Indra-Pala-Nagara in the Nalgonda district as their capital.
During the reign of Madhava Varma they became independent and conquered coastal Andhra from the Salankayanas and shifted their capital to Amaravati. One of the forts later traditionally connected to Rajus is Kalidindi in Krishna district, which was under the Vishnukundin sway for a long time.
According to Edward B. Eastwick, The Maharaja of Vijayanagaram descends from the Maharajas of Udaipur and is of the Sisodia branch of the Gehlot tribe. A brother of the Maharaja migrated to Oudh, and in 529 A.D. a descendant, Madhav Varma, marched with 5 clans into the Deccan, and conquered the lands between Ramanad to Katak. His capital was initially Vijayanagar then Bezawada. In 1512 A.D. they were conquered by the Golkonda dynasty and were made Subahdar of the North Sarkars. The title was conferred by Emperor Aurangzeb, who gave him a two-edged sword (zulfikar), which is still used in the coat-of-arms of the family. In 1817 the estate was handed over partially to the British to pay off his debts. In 1827 he gave more of his estate and died in Banaras. Maharaja Vijayarama Gajapati Raju III, in 1845 had several honors conferred on him by the British Government. Lord Northbrook conferred the title of His Highness. He cleared off his debts and distinguished himself by many acts of charity. His son was born December 31st , 1850 and a daughter was married to His Highness Maharaj Kumar Singh, cousin and heir apparent of H.H. Maharajah of Rewah. The Rajahs of Vizianagaram obtained the title of 'Gajapathi' after the battle of Nandapur, in the Northern Circars in the sixteenth century.
 Varnataka / Karnataka
Chalukyas were a royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between 550 and 750, and again between 973 and 1190. As early as the 1st Century, they were mentioned as being vassals and chieftains under the Satavahana rule. They succeeded the Vishnukundinas. Their heartland was the area between the town of Ellora and the Godavari delta. Most historians agree that the Chalukyas originated from Karnataka, however there are some fringe scholars who thought that the Chalukyas descended from Kandachaliki Remmanaka, a subordinate of the Ikshvakus in Andhra, thereby implying that they belonged to Andhra Pradesh. The aggressive Chalukyas of Badami under Pulakesin expanded from Karnataka into Andhra, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The Eastern Chalukyas, also known as Vengi Chalukyas, ruled large parts of Andhra from 624-1190 AD. Pulakesin I established the dynasty in 550 AD. by taking Vatapi (Badami) under his control. In the east, Pulakesin II overthrew the Vishnukundinas and appointed his younger brother Vishnu Vardhana, the Viceroy of Vengi. They parceled out their territory into many small principalities (estates) held by the nobility consisting of collateral branches of the ruling house such as those of Elamanchili, Pithapuram and Mudigonda, and a few Kshatriya families closely connected by marriage ties (Kona Haihayas (Heheya, Kalachuris), Kolanu Saronathas, and other non-Kshatriya families (Kota Vamsas, Parichedas, Velanadus, Velanti Chodas, Kondapadamatis etc.), who were raised to high position for their loyalty, Valor and statecraft.Template:Ref
Satya Narayan Kambhampati mentioned in his article that the Kshatriyas continued to be the ruling caste, but now they were not the only fighters. From records he found that anyone, including Brahmins, Vaisyas and Sudras could take up arms during times of danger. Latitude was shown to Kshatriyas marrying women of lower castes, because such unions added to the number of Kshatriyas. Kings belonging to the Sudra caste enjoyed equal status with those of higher birth. So any discussion of caste lost it's old meaning. A couple of generations of independent rule or even high office as governor or feudatory prince encouraged an ambitious family to claim Kshatriya status and trace a descent from the Sun or Moon. (P. Srinivasachari: Hyderabad Archeological Series No. 13, Part 1)
The Parichedi's were fuedatories of the Chalukyas. They had two branches with Kollipaka and Bezawada as their capitals.
 Kota Vamsa
The Haihaya/Kalachuri Kshatriyas of Berar. The Kalachuris were related to the early Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances. It is argued that they migrated to the south and made Magaliveda or Mangalavedhe (Mangalavada) in Tumkur District their headquarters. Their emblem was Suvarna Vrishabha or the golden bull. They started as feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyani. The Haihaya family of the Kona region (Amalapuram and Razole taluqs of the present East Godavari District) and The Haihaya family of Palanadu were some of the minor ruling Kshatriya dynasties of that age. They were the principle players in the Battle of Palnadu. They are from the North India namely the Jaiswals. They worship Krantivirya Sahasrarjun who killed Bhagwan Parshurama's father Rishi Jamdagni.
The Kakatiyas proudly declared that they were from the Sudra Varna early in their career but near the later stages of their reign started to follow Brahmanical Hinduism and claimed Kshatriya status as evidenced by an inscription found on the huge Nandi pillar lying near the ruined temple in Malkapuram, Guntur Taluk, Guntur District. No. 395. (A. R. No. 94 of 1917.) (Published in the Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society, Vol. IV, pp. 147-64.) S. 1183. (Durmati) which gives a detailed account of the Kakatiya family and are described as belonging to the Solar race of Kshatriyas.
A few Raju families during this time still retained control of their small territories as vassals to the Kakatiyas. The number of Kshatriyas were quite small and an inscription found in warrangal listed 2,000 Kshatriyas living in the capital during this time. They were part of the Kakatiya army along with other castes.
Interestingly, the royal family of Bastar believes that Kakatiya King Pratap Rudra's brother, Annam Deo, left Warangal and established his kingdom at Bastar, Chhattisgarh around the late 14th century. A later descendant named Raja Rudra Pratap Deo's daughter, Praphul Kumari Devi ascended the throne in 1922. Later in 1927, she was married to Praphul Kumar Bhanj Deo, who belonged to the royal family Mayurbhanj of Orissa. Praphul Kumari Devi died in 1936 in London and her elder son Maharaja Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo 'Kakatiya' ascended the throne in 1936 at a minor age. Praphul Kumari Devi is believed to be the last link to the Kakatiyas. The current descendant of this dynasty is Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo.
Other branches of the Bhanj dynasty are Baud, Nilgiri, Keonjhar (which was founded in the 12th century by Adi Singh Kachhawa (Bhanj)) and Daspalla, who's former ruler Purna Chandra Deo Bhanj (Chairman of Daspalla Hotels) was married to Rani Kamala Devi of Chemudu. Their daughter, Rani Preeti Devi married Raja Vyricharla Kishore Chandra Deo Raju of Kurupam (MLA and MP from Kurupam). Raja Kishore Vyricharla's aunt was married to Raja Bir Udit Pratap Shekhar Deo of Gangpur. Raja Kishore Vyricharla's son is married to Sudhani Devi, daughter of the former Maharaja of Vizianagram, Pusapati Ananda Gajapathi Raju (MLA and MP) and who's brother Ashok had been the Finance Minister of the TDP regime of Chandra Babu Naidu.Template:RefTemplate:Ref
 Eastern Ganga of Kalinga (Ancient Orissa)
The region between Cuttack and Vijayawada was known as Kalinga(ancient Orissa), and was controlled often by the Oriya rulers the Gangas,The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinganagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam Andhra Pradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 12th century. The religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the Raja Choda Ganga Deva who re-built the temple at Puri. Narasimha Deva built the Sun Temple at Konark. The Gangas were succeeded by the Suryavanshi Gajapati rulers. Two copper plates of the early Pallava dynasty have been found in the Kolleru lake, traces its history to Gajapati Langula Narasimha Deva an Oriya ruler. According to legend, the Gajapathi fort was located at Kolleti Kota on one of the eastern islands of the lake. The enemy general encamped at "Chiguru Kota" located on the shores. In some ways, the lake protected the Oriya forces. The enemy finally tried to excavated a channel, the modern-day Upputeru, so that the water of the lake would empty into the sea and the level would fall so that they could attack the Gajapathi fort. The Orissa army general sacrificed his own daughter to propitiate Gods and ensure his success against his enemies. Her name was Perantala Kanama.
 Gajapati of Orissa
The Bhoi and Surya Vansi Gajapatis of Orissa, on the height of their power in the 15th century, ruled over a kingdom extending from the Ganga river in the north to the Kaveri in the south under Gajapati Kapilendra Deva. But by the early 16th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golconda. This period was marked by the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and by the construction of Jaganatha temples across the length and breadth of the empire.The last independent Oriya emperor was Gajapati Mukunda Deva.
After the decline of the Gajapatis, the kingdom began to disintegrate and was taken over by the Mughals, the Marathas and then the British. Two kingdoms emerged from this. Peddapuram of the Vathsavai dynasty and the Vizianagaram (not Vijayanagara) dynasty, who belong to the Pusapati clan.
 Vijayanagar Empire
The Vijayanagar rulers did not originate from Andhra, they claimed to be Chandravanshi Kshatriyas of the Atreya Gotra. This Gotra is found in Karnataka Rajus and Yadavas. Some historians claim that the founders of the Vijayanagar empire were generals in the Kakatiya empire that ended up forming their own empire, others claim they were the five sons of the Hoysala King, another theory claims they were northern officials of the Mughal empire sent to administer the territory for them but ended up declaring their independence under the influence of a Hindu sage. Most reliable historians believe they are originally from Karnataka and from the Kuruba or Yadava caste, who eventually began to be regarded as Kshatriyas. The Aravidu dynasty's modern descendants are the Pampapati family of Hampi.
In Robert Sewell's, Historical inscriptions of Southern India pg. 387, he states the Rajas of Karvetinagar claim descent form the Saluva lineage. There is inscriptional evidence of marital alliances between some of the Vijayanagar rulers with the Andhra Kshatriyas. During Vijayanagar rule, a few of the defeated Andhra Kshatriyas such as Samanta Raju Krishna Raju Nandyala (Kurnool Dt.), Mahamandeleshwar Rama Raju Tirumalaraju, Krishna Raju Ganapathiraju, Konda Raju Thirupathiraju, and Rachi Raju Pusapati were put in control of parts of Andhra as feudatories, while others like the Orissa Gajapati dynasty, were in constant conflict with them.
After the brothers Harihara and Bukka reconverted to Hinduism under the influence of sage Vidyaranya, The Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646) was founded as the last bastion of Hinduism against Islamic oppression from Tughlaq rule in the Deccan. It lasted for more than two centuries as the dominant power in South India.
The capital Vijayanagar was built in an easily defensible position south of the Tungabhadra River. The city was a royal ceremonial and administrative center and the nexus of trade routes. Foreign travelers and visitors were impressed by the variety and quality of commodities that reached the city, the architectural grandeur of the palace complex and temples, and by the ceremonial significance of the annual Mahanavami celebrations, at which the Nayakas and other chiefs assembled to pay tributes. The kingdom's expansion in the first century of its existence made it the first South Indian state to incorporate different linguistic and cultural regions under a single regime, albeit with sub regional and local chiefly powers exercising authority as its agents and subordinates.
The Empire was divided for the purposes of administration into a number of kingdoms and provinces called Rajas. They were also known as Mandalams. A governor, known by different names like Samanta Raju, Nayaka, Danda-Nayaka, and Mandal-eswara etc., were appointed over each province by the central government at Vijayanagar. Although technically under the direct control of the central power, they enjoyed a good measure of local autonomy within their jurisdiction without interference from the central government as long as they discharged their obligation to it regularly. They held their own courts and maintained their own armies. There were also areas which were administered through feudal vassals who claimed to enjoy a semi-independent status.
Under Vijayanagar rule, temples emerged as major political arenas. Monastic organizations (Mathas) representing various religious traditions also became focal points of local authority, often closely linked with the Nayak chieftains. A fairly elaborate and specialized administrative infrastructure underlay these diverse local and regional religio-political forms.
After Vijayanagar was destroyed in the Battle of Tallikota in 1565 AD from the combined forces of the Muslim states of Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Bidar, the tributary kingdoms that were under Vijayanagar fell under the control of the Sultans of Golconda and Bijapur. Golconda and Bijapur Sultans employed Velamas, Reddys, Kapus and Kammas as the governors of estates and had them collect taxes and pay tribute. This is how many Samsthanams or Zamindars came into existence.
Between 1650 and 1750 A.D. with collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire a few Andhra Kshatriyas migrated towards the south to Madurai region as Commanders and administrators. They named their settlement Rajapalayam (Land of Kings).
The Golconda Empire came under the control of The Mughal Dynasty in 1686 and became known as Deccan Subah. Mughal rule didn't last long however. Nizamul Ul Mulk Asaf Jah controlled Andhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu and Orissa as the governor of the Deccan.
 Colonial Rule
In the beginning the French had influence over Hyderabad but when Salabat Jang came to power, he realized that the French were losing ground to British and realigned himself with them. In 1761, the British East India Company helped Nizam Ali Khan depose his brother Salabat Jang and occupy the Deccan Subah. The East India Company initially leased the coastal regions of Andhra from the Nizam. However the accords of 1768 and 1779 gave the East India Company complete control of these regions and were named Circars. Telangana remained under the Nizam.
In 1802 the British government restored the rights and powers of the Kings of Andhra under a revenue settlement agreement. The estates were however rapidly broken up. In 1857 the British decided to realign the bigger brigands into "Princely states" and the lesser ones as "Zamindars" or "Jagirdars". Since the British had no caste bias, some individuals with cash and influence were able to buy large temple estates and the title that came with them. This allowed locally prominent tax collectors to become Rajas. In the Andhra context, Raju is also a title and did not necessarily refer to the specific Kshatriya community. There were Zamindaris lead by Rajus and other Telugu castes. These zamindars were abolished after the formation of the Indian Union in 1947.
 Modern Community
Before independence they were either Zamindars or were landlords that leased out their lands for cultivation to the peasant communities. A couple of government acts greatly affected many families in the early days of independence. One was the repeal of the Privy purses to the Zamindars and Princely states and the other was the land reform acts of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in the 70's, which forced many to sell there lands, greatly affecting their economic position. Some of the families had enough foresight to invest their proceeds from land sales into industries, others into education. Some of the early industrial houses that were formed were the SIRIS group, Nagarjuna group, Ramco group and Biological Evans.
In the 80's and 90's, amongst the educated, there was a large migration to the west and other parts of the world for economic opportunities. Unlike the 70's, in the 90's P.V. Narasimha Rao's economic liberalization acts gave an opportunity for many to attain wealth. The existing industrial houses gained greater wealth and new companies such as Satyam computer services, Deccan Cements, Visual Soft etc. grew. The community is using this regained wealth to have a bigger political influence in the state.
 See Also