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Nayaks of South India

Nayaks of South India

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Published by: sramarmdu on Oct 26, 2012
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The first king of Madurai kingdom
Place of death
Royal House
Nagama Nayaka
Etymology in South India
As a conferred title:
The term
is an abbreviation of 
, composed of three syllables,
Amara literally stands for a command of a thousand foot soldiers.2.
Nayaka stands for the military chief who held land from the king.3.
Kara probably means an office.Thus the term
may be taken to refer to a military chief who was granted land,yielding a fixed revenue for the sovereign.
Medieval Andhra dynasties like the Vishnukundins and Chalukyas conferred the titleNayaka / Nayakudu to a commander or a leader of a band of soldiers.
A title bestowed (to usually warriors) who had received land and the title as a part of the
 system for services rendered to the court during the Kakatiya  dynasty. Nayaka was one among approximately 25 titles used by the Kakatiyas to createa new political infrastructure to undercut the authority of heredity regional elites.
[edit]Nayankara System in South India
The first widespread use of the title
appeared during the Kakatiya period and was conferred to whoever served as a commander in the military. Its use spread throughout theDeccan during the expansion of the Vijayanagar Empire,the title was conferred upon individuals who served as commanders or governors. It was predominant during the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries in Vijayanagar dynasty in southern India
The provincial three level administration of the Vijayanagara empire consisted of:1.
Hereditary Kings2.
Imperial provinces: They were directly administered by the emperor through hisrepresentatives and were generally referred to as Rajas or Mandaleshwars or sometimesas Chavidis. The distinguished members of the royal family were appointed as governors.At times when suitable members were not found in the royal family or when a capableand trustworthy officer of the central government was required to administer a troubledarea, such a person was appointed as governor. Generally the king used to appointgovernors after consulting his ministers.3.
Vassal states: They were administered through the Nayakas (or Samantas).The first division of administration was the royal family who held ultimate power. In the secondtype of provinces, the administration was done by the feudal vassals, variously called Samanta,Nayaka, etc. The system of administration of the kingdom through these feudal vassals(Nayakas) is known as the Nayankara system in the Vijayanagara times. This system resemblessomewhat the feudal system of medieval Europe. The king being the owner of the soil grantedlands to some persons as a reward. They were called nayakas and ruled over the territory undertheir charge with great freedom. In return they had to pay a fixed amount as tribute to the kingbesides maintaining a prescribed number of troops for the service of the sovereign during war.On ceremonial occasions, these Nayakas offered the king great presents of money and costlygifts or presentations. Failure to conform to these obligations was liable for punishment.The governors were required to submit regular accounts of the income and expenditure of theircharges to the central government and render military aid in times of necessity. They maintainedan agent at the imperial capital to keep themselves informed of the happenings at the court. Incase of oppressive and tyrannical governors, the central government used to transfer them fromone place to another. The autonomy enjoyed by these governors later led to the disruption of theempire under incompetent rulers.The position of Nayaka was quite different from that of the Governor. He was merely a militaryvassal who had been assigned a district in lieu of certain military and financial obligations. Hewas not transferable and his office was personal but later on became hereditary, when the kingsat the centre became weak. The Nayakas maintained two agents, one military and the other civil,representing their masters interests at the imperial city. The Nayankara system had its own meritsand demerits. It was because of this system of administration, new settlements were formed,irrigation facilities were extended, new hands were brought under cultivation and Hindu cultureand civilization was fostered and developed. However the amount of autonomy which theNayakas enjoyed gave them sufficient opportunity to engage themselves in local wars andmutual feuds. They even defied at times the central authority. In spite of its inherent weaknesses,it served its purpose tolerably well.
[edit]Origins (in South India)
Nayaka's origins can be traced to the expansion of the Western Chalukyas into Andhra country during the 7th Century. The Nayaka / Danda Nayaka term started being used during the
Vishnukundina dynasty which ruled from the Krishna and Godavari deltas during the 3rdCentury A.D. Little is known about the title usage prior to that.
[edit]Usage (in South India)
Naicker, Nayaka and Naidu
 In Tamil Nadu, Naicker title is used to denote persons of  Telugu or Kannada origins who moved into Tamil lands with the expansion of  Vijayanagar empire. They were also referred to as Vadugar or Northerners. Both titles carry the same meaning.In the medieval times, the title
was associated primarily with the people who served ascommanders under various Andhra dynasties, such as Chalukya, Kakatiya,etc. However, during the expansion of the Vijayanagar kingdom into Southern India, the title was conferred upon othernon-Telugu speaking communities who served as Commanders, Barons or Governors under theVijayanagar emperors in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
hence the widespread usage of thesurname
among many non-Telugu speaking communities in states like Tamil Nadu,Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa.The word Naidu is used by the older writers in southern India in several senses, of which thefollowing example given by Yule and Burnell may be cited:
It denoted a Commander or a Governor.
Native captain or headman.
Title of honor among Hindus in the Deccan. "The kings of deccan also have a customwhen they will honor a man or recompence their service done, and raise him to dignityand honor. They give him the title of Nayak." (Linschoten).
The general name of the Kings of Vijayanagar.
Naidu, Naickan, Naicker, Nayak or Nayakkan has also been used by Tamil communitieslike Pallis, Vanniars,Irulas, Vedans apart from various Kannada and Telugu speaking Communities.Though originally not meant to be a heredity title, by modern times, the Nayaka / Naicker / Naidu title had been inherited by many, although they no longer were governors, armycommanders or tax collectors.
[edit]Tamil Nadu
Many communities use the title Naidu / Nayaka/ Naicker. And most of them are sometimesreferred to as subcastes of Naidu which is not correct as they are different communities. The title
is used only by people of  Telugu origins, whereas the title Naicker is used by both Tamil  and Telugu speakers. Both titles carry the same meaning. For example, Veerapandiya Kattabomman Naicker was a Balija Naidu and had the title Naicker.A section of Vanniars (Vanniakula Kshtriya or Agnikula Kshtriya) use Naicker as title innorthern parts of Tamil Nadu and southern parts of Karnataka.

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