|Classification||Landlords, feudal lords, farmers|
|Religions||Saiva Siddhanta, Hinduism|
|Region||Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma|
|Subdivisions||Arunattu Vellalar, Cherakula Vellalar, Chozia Vellalar, Karkarthar, Kodikkal Kara Vellalar, Nanjil Nadu Vellalar, Nattampadi Vellalar, Paiyur kottai Vellalar, Pandiya Vellalar, Saiva Velallar, Veerakodi Vellalar, Karuneegar Pillai|
Pillai is a Tamil and also Malayalam speaking high ranking dominant sub-group of the elite caste of landlords called Vellalars. The Vellalars identified with ruling authority and were lords in the predominantly wet-land villages which they controlled.
Origin of Vellalar Pillai
There are different theories concerning the meaning of the word 'Vellalar': Vellalar originally belongs to Marutham topography of Cauvery Delta region who indulged in agriculture and employed several Pallalar (peasant laborers) for centuries. Marutham region was chiefly occupied by Vellalars and Pallalars.
It is widely believed that the word Vellalar is from Vellanmai meaning to cultivate. The word 'Velanmai' which we take to mean as agriculture is in fact means 'Benevolence', helping others. The Manimekhalai states "He is a Vellala who would not take his food, keeping the guest hungry outside".
Another one postulates it is derived from Vellam or flood (in Tamil) and alar (ruler or controller), so Vellalar means "Lord of the floods". Sometimes they were also known as Karalar which means "Lord of the clouds" in Tamil. The Journal of Indian History, Vol VII, explains that Vellalars, the controllers of the flood, irrigated their fields when the rivers were in flood, and raised the rice-crop on damp rice-fields while the Karalar were controllers of the rain, who looked up to the sky for watering their fields and stored the rain water in tanks.
In the history it is also mentioned that those Vellalars from Cauvery Delta region were settled into Thondai Mandalam ( Northern Tamil Nadu ) during the Karikala Chola reign were later called as Mudaliyars and those who settled in Kongu region were called Kavundars, those who were settled down in Southern Karnataka were called as Ballalas, later as Goudas. During the reign of Kulothunga Chola some of them were settled down on Uttarandhra region were called as Velamas. During the 9th century those who were immigrated into Madurai regions when Pandyan country were ruled by Cholas came to called as Marans, those who settled in Trinelveli becomes Trinelveli Vellalars and those migrated into Sri Lanka were called as Jaffna Vellalars. A fraction of Vellalas took merchant as profession become Velan Chetty, they later called as Nattukottai Chetty, some of the small time merchants among them become Vettrilaikkarar, Senaithalapathi etc..
After the arrival of Nayak Kings, They have been described as Upper Shudras or Sat-shudras in the Brahmanical Varna system, especially during the British rule in Madras Presidency animosity between Vellalar and British resulted in British declared them as Shudras (Peasant Community). The Vellalar community however never accepted this classification and they have challenged the Brahmins who described them as shudras.
Some of the sub-castes of the predominant Pillai community are: Chozhia Vellalar, Arunattu Vellalar, Cherakula Vellalar, Karkarthar, Kodikkal Kara Vellalar, Nangudi Vellalar, Nanjil Nadu Vellalar, Nattampadi Vellalar, Paiyur kottai Vellalar, Saiva Velallar, Veerakodi Vellalar, Karuneega vellalar. Vellalars of Thondaimandalam who are actually a sub-caste of Saiva Vellalars adopted the title Mudaliar and became Thondaimandala Mudaliars, who were connected to Pillai community by origin
The community originally lived on the Cauvery Delta region, but it is now distributed throughout Tamil Nadu and also in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. However, they form a significant proportion of population in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Few of these people moved to Madurai as well and is now concentrated in mid Chennai, Valparai and Madurai districts. During their settlement in Madras they brought an idol symbolising Devi and is now placed in "Mariamma temple" in Sathukudi district.
- Ilayankudi maranar
- Manakkanychaara Nayanar
- Tirunavukkarasar, popularly known as Appar
- Viralminda Nayanar
Freedom fighters and social leaders
- Sardar Vedaratnam, Freedom-fighter famous for Vedaraniam Salt March
- T. S. Ramasamy Pillai (1918-2006), Freedom-fighter, politician and former Member of the Legislative Assembly.
- Gooty Kesava Pillai (1860–1933), Indian journalist and freedom-fighter. Delegate from Anantapur at the first session of the Indian National Congress.
- V. O. Chidambaram Pillai (1872–1936), famous Indian freedom fighter, the man who first supported a Scheduled Caste sage Swami Sahajaanantha,Founder of first Indigenous Ship Company against British rule.
- P. Jeevanandham,Communist Leader
- Chempakaraman Pillai (1891-1934), Indian revolutionary freedom fighter during the Anti-British Movements in India.
- Kasthuri Pillai , IC5B Racism Fighter
- Maruthanayagam Pillai (1725–1764) Commandant for the British East India Company, later became Administrator for Madurai. Also known as Muhammed Yusuf Khan
- Ubagarampillai Sagayam - Indian Administrative Service
- Navanethem Pillay, South African Judge, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai, a famous minister of Ramnad during the reign of Muthuramalinga Sethupathy
- Justice T.S.Sivagnanam, Permanent Judge, High Court Of Madras, from 2009
- Subbayya Sivasankaranarayana Pillai (1901–1950), Indian mathematician
- Elagu V. Elaguppillai - Scientist
- R.KanagavelPandian, Doctrate in Tamil Literature [Madurai]
- Kavimani Desigavinayagam Pillai, Eminent Tamil poet
- Namakkal Kavignar Ramalingam Pillai,Famous Poet, freedom fighter
- Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai, eminent writer in Tamil literature
- Maraimalai Adigal
- C. W. Thamotharampillai, publisher of ancient Tamil texts
- Pudhumaipithan, revolutionary writer from Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai community
- Jayakanthan, A Tamil writer
- Ra. Su. Nallaperumal - Tamil Novelist and Writer
- Makkal Kavingar Pattukottai Kalyanasundaranar
- Suki Sivam
- Nanjil Nadan
- Nellai Kannan
- Navaneetha Krishnan
- Vijaya Lakshmi Navaneethakrishnan
- Sharada Nambi Aaroran
- K.C.Muthudevi, Madurai
H. A. Krishnapillai, Christian kambar Thanjavur Vedhanayagam Sastriyar
- Dhanraj Pillay (born 1968), Indian hockey player
- Iyappan Pillai (born 1995), Indian football prodigy
- Arumuka Navalar, born as Kandar Arumugam Pillai, a Hindu reformer
- S. Kanapathipillai, Hindu revivalist
- M. S. Thirithuvadasan, Senior Pastor, CSI Ramnad Diocese ( he do not identify himself with the caste but with God he believes)
- Naraina Pillai, a social entrepreneur and business man
- Ravi Pillai, one of the leading business men from Kollam, Kerala.
- R.KanagavelPandian - Head Coordinator, VOC illainjar orunkinnaipu kulu (வ.உ.சி இளைஞர் ஒருங்கிணைப்பு குழு) Madurai, Tamilnadu
- L. D. Swamikannu Pillai - Indian politician, historian, linguist, astronomer and administrator who served as the second President of the Madras Legislative Council.
- A. L. Subramanian - Mayor Tirunelveli Corporation
- A. R. Marimuthu- Ex MLA (Pattukkottai)
- K. Balasubramanian- Ex MLA (Pattukkottai)
- Vijayadharani- MLA (Congress)
- SM krishnan, Ex MLA Tambaram , INC
- K. Maruthachalam-Ex.MLA, AIADMK, Thondamuthur, Coimbatore
- Thalavai Sundaram- (ADMK)
- T.K.S. Elangovan- (DMK)
- A.Perumal pillai- Congress(INC),Omalur
- "Orientation - Vellala". Everyculture.com. 2012-02-11. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Vellalar History". Dino-latchmi.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Who are Vellalars and History of Vellalars Mudaliars Gounders". Saivaneri.org. 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Mines, Diane P. (2005-01-01). Fierce Gods: Inequality, Ritual, and the Politics of Dignity in a South Indian Village. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253345766.
- Kingship and Political Practice in Colonial India - Pamela G. Price. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 2003-05-19. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- A garland: a biographical dictionary of Carnatic composers and musicians - N. Rajagopalan, B. Ramamurthi - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.