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Regions with significant populations
Central and Southern Tamil Nadu

Mukkulathor (Tamil: முக்குலத்தோர், translit. Mukkulattōr) is a political term used to identify the three caste groups Agamudayar, Kallar and Maravar found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.[1] These caste groups use the title Thevar.[2]

The Thevars are associated with the Paalai Sangam landscape who are reputed for their martial history and some were petty chieftains and army soldiers under the Chola and Pandyan dynasty.[3][4].But since medieval times the community as a whole seems to have sustained itself by thieving and robbery[5][6]


The terms Mukkulathor and Thevar are used synonymously. The word Mukkulathor is derived from the Tamil words meaning "three" and kulam meaning "clan" and the word translates as "the three clans".[7] Their title Thevar literally means "celestial".[8]

The three constituent communities of Agamudayar, Kallar and Maravar.[9]Both names were originally granted to people as titles by poligars (local chieftains) but the holders were not exposed to caste-defining influences such as Brahmanic Hinduism, the concept of varna and practices such as endogamy until the late 18th century. She says that the claims of distinct caste status "were clearly not ancient facts of life in the Tamil Nadu region. Insofar as these people of the turbulent poligar country really did become castes, their bonds of affinity were shaped in the relatively recent past".[10] Thereafter, the evolution as a caste developed as a result of various influences, including increased interaction with other groups as a consequence of jungle clearances, state-building and ideological shifts.[11]

Criminal Tribes[edit]

The Mukkulathor were considered a criminal tribe until 1949. This criminal tribe list was introduced by the British for better administration and law/order maintenance since these communities were prone to thievery and bandit. Only after India’s independence, they were removed from criminal tribes list.[12][13]


The Mukkulathor communities live mostly in central and southern areas of Tamil Nadu, such as Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivagangai, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Tiruchirapalli and Thirunelveli. They have been recorded as practising female infanticide as recently as the 1990s.[14][15][a]

Although the Mukkulathor own significant amounts of land, the sociologist Hugo Gorringe noted in 2005 that "their educational and economic achievements have been negligible", with many being small farmers or agricultural labourers.[17] The community has mostly been given the status of Backward Class (BC) by the Government of Tamil Nadu,[18] although some subgroups are omitted. They are mostly listed as Other Backward Classes (OBC) by the National Commission for Backward Classes.[19]


Human Rights Watch has documented allegations that the members of the government of Jayalalitha, including the chief minister herself, favoured the Mukkalathors during the 1990s, leading to them gaining influential positions in the police and in politics. The Mukkalathor community at that time was the most populous of the backward classes in the state but Dalit communities - notably, the thevar king were becoming increasingly wealthy and aspirational.

The Mukkulathors celebrate the coincident birth and death anniversary of U. Muthuramalingam Thevar (also spelled Mathuramaliga Thevar; 1908-1963) annually in October. He was a noted politician from the community and the event, known as Thevar Jayanthi, gained the approval of the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1993, which enabled the event to obtain police protection, road closures and the like. The Mukkulathors treat Muthuramalingam Thevar as a deity and it was from this time that the Jayanthi shifted from being a fairly minor affair to one of considerable significance. The Dalit surge since the 1980s was countered by the growth of the Jayanthi, which gave the Mukkulathors an opportunity to react against the Dalits and assert their own perceived superiority, historic status as rulers, and caste pride. Damodraran Karthikeyan, a journalist-turned-academic, notes the historic animosity between the two groups and that "The institutionalised nature of Thevar Jayanthi, through consciously created myths surrounding Mathuramaliga Thevar, his iconisation, canonisation and the construction of a social identity provides a point of entry to study the process of how political power is ritually constructed through social ceremony."[20]

The Mukkulathor-Dalit antagonism was not one-sided. Dalits, too, committed violent acts.[21]

Martial arts[edit]

Thevars, traditionally practise a Tamil martial art variously known as adi murai, chinna adi and varna ati. In recent years, since 1958, these have been referred to as Southern-style Kalaripayattu, although they are distinct from the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu itself that was historically the style found in Kerala.[22] This and other displays of aggression are prominent during Thevar Jayanthi.[20]

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ Female infanticide and foeticide have been significant practises among some communities in various areas of Tamil Nadu. The state government has sought to address these through legislated schemes as recently as 2011.[16]


  1. ^ Bloomer, Kristin C. (2017-11-10). Possessed by the Virgin: Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, and Marian Possession in South India. Oxford University Press. p. 292. ISBN 9780190615109. 
  2. ^ Narendra Subramanian (1999). "Ethnicity and Populist Mobilization: Political Parties, Citizens, and Democracy in South India". Social Sciences. Oxford University. pp. 54, 87. 
  3. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2017-08-25). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 181–182. ISBN 9781538106860. 
  4. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2017). "Historical Dictionary of Tamils". History. Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 221 and 373. 
  5. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2017). "Historical Dictionary of Tamils". History. Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 221 and 373. 
  6. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2016). "Women and Work in Precolonial India: A Reader". History. SAGE. 
  7. ^ General, India Office of the Registrar (1964). Census of India, 1961. p. 124. 
  8. ^ "தேவர் | அகராதி | Tamil Dictionary". University of Madras Lexicon. Retrieved 2018-08-06. 
  9. ^ Pandian, Anand Sankar (2004). Cultivating Heart and Soil in South India. University of California, Berkeley. 
  10. ^ Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-521-79842-6. 
  11. ^ Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-521-79842-6. 
  12. ^ AsiaHugo Gorringe, Roger Jeffery, Suryakant Waghmore (2001). "From the Margins to the Mainstream: Institutionalising Minorities in South". History. Sage. p. 197. 
  13. ^ Pi Rāmamūrtti (1987). "The Freedom Struggle And The Dravidian Movement". History. Orient Longman Limited. p. 57. 
  14. ^ Cite error: The named reference Muthulakshmi was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  15. ^ Pati, Rabindra Nath (2003). Socio-cultural Dimensions of Reproductive Child Health. APH Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-8-17648-510-4. 
  16. ^ "TN: Cradle Baby Scheme In Districts With Low Sex Ratio". Outlook. 24 June 2011. Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. 
  17. ^ Gorringe, Hugo (2005). Untouchable Citizens: Dalit Movements and Democratization in Tamil Nadu. SAGE Publications India. p. 59. ISBN 978-8-13210-199-4. 
  18. ^ "Tamil Nadu Public Services Commission: List of Communities". Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  19. ^ "Central List of OBCs - State: Tamil Nadu". National Commission for Backward Classes. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  20. ^ a b Karthikeyan, Damodraran (2016). "Contentious Spaces". In Gorringe, Hugo; Jeffery, Roger; Waghmore, Suryakant. From the Margins to the Mainstream: Institutionalising Minorities in South Asia. SAGE Publications India. pp. 187–189. ISBN 978-9-35150-624-9. 
  21. ^ Narula, Smita (1999). Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "untouchables". Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-56432-228-9. 
  22. ^ Zarilli, Philip B. (2001). "India". In Green, Thomas A. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia. A – L. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-57607-150-2. 

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