(Last Updated on : 12-08-2010)
Balija caste is basically a trading caste of India. This merchant community is mainly spread over the southern region of the country. They are found in states of Karnataka
, Tamil Nadu
, Andhra Pradesh
. Balija caste is sometimes considered as the sub-caste of Kapu tribe
. Balija caste is often called as Naidu, which is a corruption of the Telugu word Nayakdu, meaning a leader. Scholars suggest that their ancestors probably have been Nayaks or the kings of Tanjore, Madura and Vijayanagar. Balija community is associated with the traditional occupation of making bangles and pearl and coral ornaments. They have a sub-caste known as Gazulu, or bangle-seller. In the southern province, they are considered as an offshoot of the cultivating castes of Kamma and Kapu. Balija caste is regarded as a mixed community. Another proof of the mixed ancestry can be traced from the fact that this community admit persons of other castes. The name Balija has been applied to a mixed caste originated by Basava, the creator of the Lingayat sect of Saivism.
Balija caste has two main divisions namely Desa or Kota, and Peta. Desas or Kotas claim their descent from the ancient Balija kings, whereas the Petas are the trading Balijas. The petas are further sub-divided into groups like Gazulu or bangle sellers and the Periki or salt sellers. Every family in Balija community has a surname and gotras. Marriages are regulated by surnames. Persons with the same surname are not allowed to intermarry. In their society, marriage ceremony lasts for five days. On the very first day the bride and groom are seated in the marriage pavilion, where all their relatives and invited guests assemble. The bridegroom puts a pair of silver rings on the toes of the bride and ties the mangalsutra
round her neck. On the next three days both the bridegroom and bride are seated on a cot and are made to throw flowers and play for two hours in the mornings and evenings. On the fourth day, jewels and gifts for the bride are presented, and she is then officially handed over to the family of the bridegroom. Balija caste usually buries the dead. They eat flesh and also drink liquor. In the central provinces of the country, they are mostly cultivators.