U-zZ4m1JqvFJIQt2G-tyy-Cj5VI TELUGU PADMASALI Blog: July 2010



Monday, July 19, 2010

Origin and History of Telugu Padmashali


Padmashali or Padmasali is a Telugu weavers' caste or social group found largely in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. They are identified by different names in various regions throughout India.


There are two interpretations for the origin of the word "Padmashali" and its group, one from Vaishnava group and one from Siva. Some anthropologists believe it is derived from the Sanskrit. Saliya - Other saliweaver castes.

However, linguistic construction of Dravidian languages traces its root to Proto-South-Dravidian word saal. In Tulu, Saalye or Taalye means "spider". Also, saali means spider in Telugu. Probably, symbolising the weaving activity with the spider's web, this word was coined for weavers. In Tamil, it's Saalikan or Saaliyan. In Kannada, it is Shaaliga or Shaaliya. In Malayalam, Chaaliyan. In Telugu, it's Saalidu or Saalollu.

The word Padmashali has a very deep meaning in Hindu mythology. The Vaishnava group interpret in essence the word Padmashali is a conflation of two words, padma and shali. The word "Padma" is sahasradala padma, meaning the highest order of human intelligence. In body chakras "Padma" refers to sahasrara. The word "Shali" in Sanskrit is 'be holder'. Thus "Padmashali" literally means holder of sahasrara. In physical term it means intelligence. It is believed that Padmavathi of Mangapura of Tirupati declares that she was the daughter of Padmashali. Hence, the name Padmashali. There exists writing in Tirupati to evidence the statement of Padmavathi as daughter of Padmashali's. Another aspect of Padmashali, Padma also refers to Lotus. The Lotus also refers to the intelligence or awakening of sahasrara.

The Siva group has different interpretation - to account for their origin it is given out that in order to clothe the nakedness of people in the world, Siva commissioned Markandeya to perform a sacrifice and one Bhavana Rishi came out of the holy fire, holding a lotus flower Padma in his hand. He married two wives Prasannavati and Bhadravathi, daughters of Surya (The Sun) and had a hundred and one sons, who all took to weaving cloth out of the fibre of the lotus flower men to wear, and became the progenitors of the one hundred and one Gotras this caste. God Surya being pleased with what they did, gave them a fifth veda called Padma Veda; and so men of this caste give out that they belong to Padma Sakha and Markandeya Sutra analogous to the Sakhas, Sutras and Gotras of the Brahmans.

The padmashali has a group who are qualified agama shastra pandits who perform the poojas and vedic rites. They are identified as "PADMA BRAHMINS". Their performances include homa avan poojas marriage performance etc. It should be appreciated that the origin of Padmashalis relates to Brighu Maharshi and Brighu Marharshi was instrumental in writing astrology. Further down in the order of heritage Markandeya who wrote the epic on devi and her shakti. It also means that we were shakti aradhaks.

They profess to have been following all the religious rites prescribed for Brahmans till in the beginning of the Kali age. One of their caste named Padma-saka declined to reveal the virtues of a miraculous gem which Brahma had given to their caste to Ganapathi who sought to learn the secret which they had been enjoined to keep, and who on his wish not being gratified cursed them to fall from their high status. It is said however that one Parabrahmamurti born is Srirama Agrahara pleased Ganapathi by his tapas, and got the curse removed, so that after 5000 years of the Kali-Yuga, they should regain their last position. This Parabrahmamurti other wise known as Padmabavacharya, it is said redistributed the caste into Ninety-Six gotras arranged in eight groups and established four Mathas with gurus for them.

Thus, Padmashali name as caste carries highest meaning that it is caste of braminical not by birth but by deeds. Like braminical class, the Padmashali's relates their origin to Vrushis, sages as gothras. Each family has separate gothras and like in brahminical following, in marriage sagothras are barred. That apart the families also carry family names, the family name and gothras will be referred at the time of marriage and sagothras and like family name are barred in going in for marriage.

It is to be noted that it is likely the only caste that has a parasite lineage of families who live praising the Padmashali heritage and they are called as "Pogadaraju" (meaning Pogada = praising and Raju = king,) in praising the family is king. These Pogadaraju during the course of time are now known as padagaraju. These Padagaraju circuits to families of Padmashali and praises padmashali by bahuparak (Praises) referring the origin of Padmashali from Brugu maharshi to bhavana maharshi.

Padmashali exists at the time of Parasurama itself. It can be derived that Shivalli brahmins of Karnataka region (Tulu region) first developed weaving and gave it to padmashalis.


The Padmashalis are the third largest community in Andhra Pradesh. They are spread all over the world, but have a visible tendency towards urbanization since the occupation of weaving and marketing cloth becomes easy from urban and semi-urban centers. This community produces cloth from cotton and animate yarn (silk).

Caste communities involved in the leather and wool-based household industries - which perhaps have an older history than cloth weaving - have developed an integrated process of production of raw material and its conversion into commodities. But unlike them, the Padmashalis developed exclusively cloth-weaving skills. They produce cloth as a marketable commodity, without having any organic links or skills in the production of the raw material. The Padmashali men have no expertise in ploughing and their women lack seeding and crop-cutting skills. Thus, their skill structure, over a period of time, became one-dimensional. By the time the British arrived, the Padmashalis were producing huge quantities of cloth and controlled a leading cottage industry of India.

The introduction of the railways - starting 1853 - by the colonial British government helped penetrate the self sufficient rural economy. With the forced introduction of machine manufactured goods, especially finished cotton goods from the factories of Birmingham (making use of advances from the Industrial Revolution) etc., from imperial Britain, the domestic textile industry suffered losses. Being an important node in the rural economy, the Padmashali community also naturally felt the impact. Today, many urban Padmashalis have abandoned their ancestral profession and have diversified into other activities. One can see an increasing number of Padmashalis become engineers, doctors, politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, advocates professionals etc.


Perhaps because they largely stay indoors, or because of characteristic genes, community members have developed reddish skin and are hence known as erra kulamu (red caste) among the OBCs. The Padmashali caste is highly Sanskritised, with all the men wearing the sacred thread (Yajnopavitam/Gayatri dharan). In terms of social consciousness, it is more Brahminic than any other OBC caste in Andhra Pradesh & some of them in Maharashtra also(In Maharashtra,state government declare Padmashali as a SBC caste). Following all these Brahminic characteristics, the sub groups under this caste got integrated into ritual Brahminism.

Different names

It is not same caste, the weavers of different groups have different names. The Padmashali sources its origin to Brugu Maharshi, followed down to Markandeya, Bhakta Markandeya, the chiranjeevi who wins the life from yama. The technique of weaving came from ayoni putra, Sri Bhavana maharshi.

The caste in weavers sources their origin do different aspects.

The Shettigars who are mainly settled in South Canara region generally refer themselves with Padmashalis. However, in Kinnimulki, a taluk near Katil, near Udupi, the Padmashalis are known as shettigars. The weavers in Andhra Pradesh has following names (as per the OBC list of central government - List no 155), they are all not Padmashalis. But the weavers, depending upon on the nature of basic material used in the earlier times, the name of caste originated.

In Karnataka, there are nearly 30 groups of castes in weavers and Padmashalis are one of the weavers, independent of other group castes, with their culture practice based on vedic principles. Saliya - Other saliweaver castes.

This deals with only Northern Kerala Malyalee Saliya(Chaliya)s. Some of the other Sali castes are listed here.

Padmasali : Andhra Pradesh(Telugu) Devanga : Karnataka(Kannada) Saliyar/Padmasaliyar : Tamilnadu(Tamil/Telugu) Pattarya : Kerala(Malayalam) Shettigar : Karnataka(Tulu) Saliya/Padmashali/Devanga is widely and sometimes interchangeably used. However, Kannada and Telugu Salis differ from Malayalee Salis in many cultural aspects. Th former are patriarchical follow many Brahmanical customs.

Courtesy: Wikipedia.org