Vokkaligas - An Introduction

Vokkaliga is an umbrella term for various agricultural, previously endogamous social groups with a martial past, found mainly in the Old Mysore Region of southern Karnataka. The Vokkaligas are primarily agriculturists.They form a politically and numerically dominant caste group and are the most populous group in Karnataka.

Vokkaliga is a Kannada word of considerable antiquity finding mention in some of the earliest available literary works of the language, such as the Kavirajamarga, Pampa Bharata, and has been used as an appellation for the cultivator community since time immemorial.Generally the term has come to mean an agriculturist though various etymological derivations are available. A few likely derivations are as follows:

 *   The word Okka or Okkalu in Kannada (Dravidian in origin) means a family or a clan and an Okkaliga being
     a person belonging to such a family.
 *  Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture and the epithet Okkaliga has been used to refer to a person
     belonging to the cultivator community.
 *  Alternate etymologies include Okku which means threshing, said to refer to their agricultural activities
     from which is derived Okkaliga.
 *  Gowda = People of the Vokkaliga community ascribe various honorifics to their castemen, the most popular of which is Gauda anglicized as Gowda. Titles such as Reddy, Hegde, Shetty and so on are also popular, generally used according to their sub group, language spoken and geographical area they belong to. The words Vokkaliga and Gowda are almost synonymous in usage and in colloquial; Gowda has come to mean a Vokkaliga.

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Our History

The Yelahankanadu (14 Kms. from Bangalore) Prabhus were Gowdas or tillers of the Land. They belonged to Morasu Vokkalu sect, the ancestors of which were migrants from Morasunadu near Kanjeepuram.Fourth in succession from Rana Bhairave Gowda, founder of the dynasty of Avanti Nadu Prabhus and great grandson of Jaya Gowda, who established separate dynasty, the famous Yelahanka Nadu Prabhus, Kempe Gowda I ruled for 46 years commencing his reign from 1513. Jaya Gowda accepted the sovergnity of the Vijayanagar emperor. There were the Gangadicara Gowdas of other parts of Karnataka. The name Gangadicara, which is derived from the word Gangawadi-kara, meaning the inhabitant of Gangawadi is a relic of Ganga Rule and has since survived in this part of Karnataka. However the MorasuVokkalu sect got assimilated with the other gowdas of Karnataka who are now called Vokkaligas.

Today the Vokkaliga community embraces within its fold the Morasu Vokkaligas, the Gangadicara Vokkaligas, Reddy Vokkaligas, Kunchitiga Vokkaligas, Hallikaru Vokkaligas and so on. Kempe Gowda was a great ruler, was concerned in the welfare of his subjects and spent lavishly in the construction of tanks, agraharas, temples and forts. The Vokkaligas rendered great service in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and soldiery. He conquered Sivaganga principality, 30 miles from Bangalore on Bangalore-Poona Hwy. Next he annexed Domlur which is on the road from Bangalore to Bangalore Airport. Within this vast forest area he erected a fort and built the Township of Bangalore in 1537.

Kempe Gowda next annexed Ulsoor and Hesaraghatta. Bangalore four main streets Chickpete and Doddapete leading to Ulsoor gate, Sondekoppa gate , Yelahanka gate and Anekal gate were laid. Kempe Gowda shifted his capital from Yelahanka to Bangalore. Emperor Achuta Raya granted Kempe Gowda the neighboring villages of Begur, Jigani, Varthur, Kengeri, Banavara and Kumbalgode, besides many other hamlets yielding a revenue of 30,000 varahas. Kempe Gowda built the cave temple of Gavi Gangadhareswara at Gavipur, the Bull Temple in Basavanagudi, the Kempambudhi Tank and Dharambudhi Tank. His successor Kempe Gowda II built the Ulsoor Tank, the Karanjee Tank, the Sampangi Tank, the Someswara Temple of Ulsoor, the famous four Kempe Gowda Towers and the Ranganatha Temple in Balapete, Bangalore.

Vokkaliga leaders Marappa and Muniswamappa from Ulsoor, Bangalore donated Rs. 50000,- in the beginning of the 20th century and founded the Vokkaligara Sangha and built the Vokkaligara Hostel in Bangalore. Vokkaliga leaders were in the forefront in the freedom movements launched in Karnataka. Sri. K.C.Reddy and Sri. K. Hanumanthaiah prominent among them were the Presidents of Mysore Pradesh Congress and after freedom became the Chief Ministers of Mysore State. Sowcar Channaiah and Sri. Nagaiah Reddy also became Presidents of Mysore Pradesh Congress, Sri. Kadidal Manjappa another freedom fighter also became the Chief Minister of Mysore State for a period of (2) months until the reorganization of States till Mysore State became of part of Karnataka.

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Growth of Vokkaligas

The growth of VOKKALIARA SANGHA can be broadly classified as under:

1906-1947 - ARUNODAYA

1948-1972 - NAVODAYA

From 1972 - MAHODAYA


The First General Meeting (Maha Sabha) of the Sangha was held for 3 days from 7th Oct.1906 to 9th Oct.1906 at Bangalore. This meeting was presided by Sri B S Marappa. Sri V P Madhava Rao, Dewan of was Mysore the Chief Guest. The Sangha had the blessings of the Maharaja of Mysore. The British regime also recognised the Sangha. Sri Madhava Rao announced that an area of 12 acres and 13 guntas was granted to the Sangha to carry on its activities. A sum of Rs.30,000/- (very hefty amount during those days) was donated by Sri B S Marappa and his brother Sri B S Muniswamappa to construct a students hostel in a portion of the land that was granted.

On 9th September, 1907 the Sangha registered two governing bodies, The General Council and the Executive Council to carry out the day to day activities of the Sangha and also to look after the general administration. However from the year 1935 the Executive Committee was formed and it is the only body looking after all the functions of the Sangha.


This was the period when the activities of the Sangha saw a quantum jump. A host of Educational Institutions were built and educational assistance to the needy and deprived were provided. A government hospital was also built in the land of the Sangha which was later to be handed over to the Sangha. All-round progress was witnessed among the people of the Community and their patronage to the Sangha also increased.


The period from 1973 onwards saw the Sangha's activities reach the zenith. With pro-active leaders from among the community putting untiring efforts more and more new projects were taken up and the activities of the Sangha started expanding to new new horizons. The land that was originally allotted way back in 1906 was not marked properly and there was some confusion. This job was taken up and after some corrections the total area of the land that now belongs to the Sangha is 13.9 acres in what is now the bustling Visveswarapuram in the Heart of Bangalore. The glorious Bangalore Institute of Technology and the renowned Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) and hospital came into existence in the early 1980s. Since then these institutes have been churning out innumerable and efficient engineers and doctors. This apart, the Sangha has been into several acts of phiolantrophy. Almost every Vokkaliga in Bangalore is today a member of the Sangha.

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Noted Personalities

Some prominent Vokkaliga personalities are:

Kempe Gowda I - Founder of Bangalore.

Kuvempu - Writer and poet.

K.C. Reddy - First Chief Minister of Karnataka.

K. Hanumanthaiah, Kadidal Manjappa - Former Chief Ministers of Karnataka.

H. D. Deve Gowda - Former Prime Minister of India & Chief Minister of Karnataka.

Balagangadharanatha Swamiji - 71st Pontiff of the Sri Adichunchanagiri Maha Samsthana Math.

S. M. Krishna - Former CM, former Governor of Maharastra& former foreign minister.

D.K. Shivakumar - Member of Legislative Assembly, Kanakapura.

D.V. Sadananda Gowda - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka.

H. D. Kumaraswamy - Former Chief Minister of Karnataka.

H. N. Nage Gowda - Poet

H. L. Nage Gowda - Author.

Dr. K. Chidananda Gowda - Vice Chancellor of Kuvempu University.

Dr. M. H. Marigowda - Horticultural expert.

Tirumakudalu Chowdiah - Violinist.

B. Saroja Devi - Famous South Indian film actress.

Nagathihalli Chandrashekar - Kannada film director.

Ramya - Actress & Member of Parliament, Mandya.

Jaggesh, Devaraj, Prajwal Devaraj - Actors.

V. G. Siddhartha - Founder of Cafe Coffee Day.

Kavya Shivashankar - USA National Spelling Bee Champion.

Arjun Halappa - Men's hockey player.

Dodda Ganesh - Indian pace Bowler.

Vikas Gowda - Athlete.

Ambareesh - Actor & Member of Legislative Assembly.

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