Niyogi Explained

Group:Niyogis from Andhra Pradesh

Niyogis are a sect of Telugu Brahmins who gave up priestly occupations and are predominantly Telugu language speakers, from Andhra Pradesh, India.

Notable individuals

Theories of origin

The origin of Niyogi Brahmin community is descending from their ancestors originally from the northern as well as north-western geographical region of present day Afghanistan,Pakistan and India.[1] About six-thousand intelligent Brahmins, capable of administration, management with warfare skills were chosen to help Kshatriyas (ruling caste of India) in desperate need in defending the Indian country, by piloting the Royal vimanas (chariots) in war and in peace. Hence the origin of the word Aaruvela (Telugu: Aaru-vela = six-thousand = 6000; Niyogi = a derivative of word 'Niyogimpabadda' in Telugu which means appointed). Niyogin in Sanskrit means "employed" or "appointed" or "assigned" and it is quite probable that "Niyogi"s were given this name because they accepted secular employment assigned to them.[2] In the later centuries they migrated to various parts of the country in pursuit of better and Greener pastures. They belong to the Brahma-Kshatriya group who took secular duties like the military and administration. The peoples with the last name of Durga do consider themselves as part of this sub-caste, but their origin is subject to discussion[3]

It is said in Shastras, that one should live near a river, away from relatives but close to place where medical help is available.Thus, they crossed Vindhyas. As they crossed over Vindhyas they came across perennial River Godavari few of them followed flow of River Godavari. A few crossed the river and went farther south and came across another perennial River Krishna, they followed flow of River Krishna. Some went further down tracing origin of Krishna River and came across the main tributary Tungabhadra and some other minor tributaries of river Krishna and settled down around hundreds of itstributaries. Some who went tracing the tributaries of Tunga and Bhadra went further west and south west, nearly to the west coast in Malenadu source of river Cauvery. Some groups followed flow of River Kaveri and went to Tanjavur, Madurai and other areas in present day Tamil Nadu.

Brahmins are known by their paths of belief, like Smartas, Vaishnavas or Madhvas. Most of Brahmins in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu belong to the Smarta Brahmin group. (Though in later years population of Madhvas saw increase in Karnataka where saint 'Madvacharya' spread the message of dwaitha philosophy) like Duggaraju's.

Smarthas follow Smritis and they are all followers of Adi Guru, Adi Sankara Acharya. The Smarta Brahmins follow Apastamba Smriti or Apastamba Sutra (not Manu Smriti). Apasthamba sutra dates back to pre (~600 BC) and they were the ones who mastered the arts of administration, medicine and teaching. They are the earliest law-makers of South India who lived on the banks of the Godavari river. Soon, their works and regulations like Boudhayana, Parasara, Yajnvalkya Sutras, came into practice and were passed as laws, especially in the courts of Sri Krishna Deva Raya.[4]

The Smarta Brahmins in Andhra Pradesh can be grouped into two major divisions formed about a thousand to 700 years ago (most probably during Kakatiya rule), Niyogi and Vaidiki groups, and also the smaller group of Bhatt (Bhattu, Bhatteria, Bhatia, Bhattarika are other variants.) This classification is based on the inherent ability and mastery of each of the three groups in administration, spiritual practices and cooking respectively.

Traditionally believed to have descended from Lord Parasurama avatar, Niyogis are those who gave up religious vocations (especially the priesthood which used to be the traditional vocation of Brahmins) and moved on to various secular vocations including military activities. So Niyogis of South India are similar to Bhumihars of North India who also gave up priesthood. There is a lot of brotherhood between Niyogi and Bhumihar of whom many, though not all, belong to the Saryupareen Brahmin division of Kanyakubja Brahmins. The descendants of these Brahmin administrators, after Parashurama stopped warring and became an ascetic sanyasi, gave the thrones back to the descendants of Kshatriyas who had survived because they and their ex-ruler parents and grandparents hid in the forests. By this time, having forgotten the ways of performing their past priestly occupations, the Brahmin ex-rulers took to land-owning as a full-time occupation with the administrative experience they gained during the interruption of Kshatriya rule. The Satavahana Vamsam (dynasty) that is said to have given the name "Andhra" to the present state was from Niyogi clan. Traditionally and even today Niyogis depend on, put emphasis on, and orient themselves towards modern education. As ministers in the courts of kings and minor-zamindaars (landlords) as Palegallu feudal Lords, Niyogis earned a good name for their administrative abilities and progressive attitude (sarva dharma samanatha). Many of them were also village chief-officers like munsabs, talukdaars, and accountants, Karanams (Andhra) or Patwaris (Telangana) until recently.


According to Jogendranath Bhattacharya, the word Niyogi is derived from Yoga, which means "religious contemplation" or "meditation", as opposed to Yaga, which means "religious sacrifice". Niyogin in Sanskrit also means "employed" or "appointed" and it is probable that Niyogis were given this name because they accept secular employment.


Over the past millennium the Niyogis have been further divided further into various groups:

The Pradhamasakha group which belongs to the Shukla Yajurveda School. They are believed to have migrated from Maharashtra after the fall of Shivaji's empire. In Maharashtra too, they are considered Marathas / Kshatriyas of the Pradhamasakhi community. After migrating to Andhra Pradesh, they claimed themselves Pradhamasakha Niyogis since they were always in secular vocations. They belong to the Yagnavalkya, Kanveyua clan.

The Aruvela Niyogis are the largest Niyogi group. Different explanations exist for the coining of the phrase "Aruvela Niyogilu" or 6000 Niyogis. They, as well as the majority of Brahmins in Andhra Pradesh, belong to the Krishna Yajurveda School. Some part of Krishna District, Guntur District and the surrounding areas was called as "Aru vela naadu". As these people belong to that area, they were called so.

Another theory asserts that 6000 Brahmins left drought- and famine-stricken regions of present-day Maharashtra and travelled to coastal and riverine regions of Andhra. These Brahmin settlers and their descendants, who adopted secular vocations, were termed the 6000 (or Aaruvela) Niyogi. Many surnames among Maharashtra Brahmins and Aruvela Niyogis are sound similar, this fact is considered by many to support for this theory of migration.

According to prominent scholars like Korlimarla Lakshmayya Pantulu, Gundlapalli Subba Row, and others Aaruvela Niyogi Brahmins were appointed as village heads and accountants and training imparted to them, way back in 13th or 14th century AD


Every Brahmin family will belong to a particular Gotram and every Gotram will have a Pravara. A Pravara indicates the foremost noble ancestor(s) that contributed to the propagation of a particular Gotram to which the family belongs. This means that every Gotram descends from a lineage of Rishis. This lineage may be patrilinear or a continuation of a line of teachers and students (Guru-Sishya parampara). A Pravara may indicate just one Rishi or a line of Rishis (which may number up to nine) and is named based on the number of Rishis is indicates. For instance, if a Pravara contains just one Rishi, it means that the Gotram descends directly from that one Rishi and is termed 'Ekaarsheya Pravara' (Eka + Arsheya) and similarly, one with three Rishis is called 'Trayaarsheya' and so on.

Pravaras are broadly grouped under the names of seven Rishis - Agastya, Angirasa, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Vasishtha and Vishwamitra. It means that all Brahmins, regardless of their ethno-linguistic group, will have one of these seven Rishis as the only one or one of the foremost ancestors. Among all Brahmins, marriages are fixed solely based on what the Gotrams and Pravaras indicate. Horoscopes are matched after verifying the Gotram and Pravara.

A Gotram may have more than one variants for a Pravara. For instance, Shandilya Gotram has a Trayaarsheya Pravara which is Kashyapa, Aavatsara Daivala. But for some families, for the same Shandilya Gotram, there may be a different set of Rishis in their Pravara. E.g. Kasyapa, Daivala, Asitha or Kasyapa, Aavatsaara, Shandilya. This may mean that some families consider a guru-sishya line and others, a patrilinear line.


The Nandavariks are Rig-vedins and come under ‘Asvalayana Sutra’ or principle and follow ‘Smartha Sampradaya’ as distinguished from ‘Madhava’ or ‘Vaishnava sampradayas’. ‘Asvalayana Sutra’ is one of the six Sutras followed by Rig Vedins, the others being Apastabmha (Krishna Yahjur Vedins), Kathyayana (Sukla Yajur Vedins) Drakshayana (Sama Vedins), Vatsyayana (Sukla Yajur Vedins).

The Nandavariks, were known as such as they were ‘Nandavara Agrahara Graheetas’, meaning that the Agrahara or village of Nandavaram was given as a reward to them. In the early years of the Kali age, King Nandana Chakravarti who ruled over Nandavaram is said to have invited 500 families of Brahmins from Benaras. These 500 families belong to thirteen Gothrams. They prayed 'kasi vishalakshi' as 'Sri Choudeswari Devi',and feel like daughter & sister (Adapaduchu/Adabidda). Because Sri Vishalaksi Devi came from Benaras to Nandavaram as witness for them of Challenge to King Nandana Chakravarti . After this, these families became 'Winners of Nandavaram Agrahara'.Sri Vishalakshi Devi settled as ‘Sri Choudeswari Devi’ in ‘Nandavaram’. Sri Choudeswari Devi gave surname 'Raja Karanalu', Means 'The Kings of Karanams', and also gave the village of Nandavaram to them as reward. Allasani, Kristipati Karanam, Kakanuri Karanam, Kanala Karanam, Apparaju, Mallamaraju are some of families belongs to Nandavarika Niyogi Brahmins. [5]

Current status

Niyogis, possibly even before the time of the Vijayanagar empire, gave up religious priesthood and took up various secular vocations such as scholars, administrators, ministers, social reformers. So they comprised a secular 'scholar' caste, but with the caveat that their traditions still required them to follow religious practices such as vegetarianism and rituals for prayer/puja in their own homes with their own families. In these modern times they haven't forgotten their heritage of the knowledge of the Vedas, and they still try to follow and understand the vedas with their implications in life. But since Niyogis aren't priests, religious gifts are rejected by them while Hindu religious, marriage and other ceremony rituals aren't performed by them. Andhra state's Niyogis have counterparts in other states such as Chitpavans in Maharashtra, Mohyals in Punjab, and Tyagis and Bhumihars in many other parts of the Indian Subcontinent.[6]

Niyogis are dependent upon and put emphasis upon modern education, administration (Niyogis have traditionally been well represented in the local administration in Andhra Pradesh state), management (Diplomats, bureaucrats, Administrators and politicians) etc. A historical Telugu aphorism is Yendu Niyogimpavalenanna Niyogimpadagina vaadu Niyogi translated "Niyogi is the person who can be trusted for successful completion of the entrusted tasks" where Niyogi-mpa translates as entrusted and/or assigned. In the past, Niyogis were ministers in the courts of kings and feudal lords, zamindars and talukdars. Sometimes Niyogis were well-off farmers with ownership of land acreage holdings.They owned thousands of acres until the land ceiling act was introduced.These niyogis are a combination of the valour of the kshatriyas and the intelligence of a brahmin, that made them a successful community in Andhra Pradesh.[7]

Many Niyogis held the positions of village heads, chief-officers known in the native language as Karanams (in the coastal region of Andhra) or Patwaris (in inland/Telangana region of the Telugu-speaking lands), or Patnaik (uttarandhra, Orissa, A.P. - srikakulam, vijayanagaram, vishakapatnam and E.G. Dists.) until recently, as heritage vocations. As a result of legislation of the Indian federal and state and local governments undertaking affirmative action programs such as reservations/quotas in educational, administrational, professional and public sector institutions for some castes (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other backward castes) from which Niyogis are excluded (as Niyogis are considered to be among the highest castes) while the Niyogi 'heritage' village positions were abolished, Niyogis lost a major fraction of their economic position in their local societies. When the zamindari system was abolished by the NTR government, the landlords lost a major chunk of their land to the government in the process of ceiling act, that was introduced by the government. But in the present generation, things have changed for the better of the Niyogi community, as its members are doing well in other vocations due to their continuation of scholastic pursuits leading to them being able to find good employment in knowledge-based industries such as information technology, biotechnology, engineering while also achieving senior positions in private sector with many Niyogis even establishing their own businesses.

See Also

Further reading

External links

Notes and References

  1. P. 130 The Pakistan gazetteer, Volume 3 By Cosmo Publications (Firm)
  2. Article on Brahmins of Andhra Pradesh at Vepachedu Educational Foundation
  3. The Tale of Tuluva Brahmins
  4. The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India By R.V. Russell
  5. Mackenzie Collection: a Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts and Other Articles Illustrative of the Literature, History, Statistics and Antiquities of the South of India; Collected by the late Colin Mackenzie, Surveyor General of India; By H. H. Wilson; Asiatic Press; 1828. Vol 1 - Page cxxii, Vol 2 - Pages lxxv, lxxvi
  6. P. 29, Cultural History from the Matsyapura?a, by Sureshachandra Govindlal Kantawala
  7. P. 201, Professor A.L. Basham, My Guruji and Problems and Perspectives of Ancient, by Sachindra Kumar Maity