Rahul Sharma (Editor)


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Religions  Hinduism
Related groups  Sengunthar, Vellalar
Languages  Tamil
Classification  Tamil people-Dravidian race
Region  Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Union Territory of Puducherry
Similar  Arunattu Vellalar, Ashtasahasram, Balija
Poster of Senaithalaivar, a Tamil-speaking caste.

Senaithalaivar (Tamil: சேனைத்தலைவர்) is a Tamil speaking caste mainly from south and central Tamil Nadu. They are also known by the names Senaikudiyar, Senai Mudaliar and Ilaivaniar.Senaithalaivar were of the noble and aristocratic having served in Chola dynasty as commanders.




Senaithalaivar/Senathipathi means commander-in-chief as they were the commander-in-chief of army groups in Chola military. Ilaivaniar means leaf seller as few of their sub-sects were occupied for betel-leave sellings in the past.

Senaithalaivar were Chieftains and Commander-in-chiefs of Later chozhas. Senaithalaivar Commander-in-chiefs were known as Samanta Senapathigal or Senaithalaivar.

Sura samharam

The Sura Samharam festival is a traditional ritual where Senaithalavars dress as the lieutenants of Karthikeya and re-enact the killing of the demon Surabathman.

Legend about origin

Senaithalaivar claim that they are the descendants of Veerabahu Devar, the great lieutenant of Lord Muruga. Since Veerabahu devar is the chief for military of Lord Muruga in surasamharam, the descendants of Veerabahu use Senaithalaivar name for their caste. So these people are descendants of Veerabahu Devar. Their only profession was fighting and leading their soldiers.Veerabahu devar is closely related to Sengunthar community as well. Sengunthar sub-caste people in Northern region of Tamilnadu believes that they are the descendants of Veerabahu devar same as Senaithalaivar. Common title for Senaithalaivar community is Senaiyar/Senaithalaivar in south Tamilnadu. They commonly use Mudaliar title in North Tamilnadu same as Sengunthar sub-caste.

Vaishnava Tradition

A photo showing Senaithalaivar Matrimony, featuring Uday Kiran and Vishitha Kiran both wearing a colorful outfits.

In vaishnavism, Senai mudaliar is very important for starting any religious ceremonies to Lord Vishnu. Sri Vishvaksena (Senai mudaliar/Senai thalaivar) is the commander-in-chief of the army of the Hindu god Vishnu. In Sri vaishnava tradition Vishvaksena occupies the third place - Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi and Sri Vishvaksena. Thiruvallur Sri Veeraraghava Perumal temple has a separate small shrine for Sri Vishvaksena (Senai nathan) and believed that he always removes obstacles in performing our duties.

Both Veerabahu and Vishvaksena are the supreme commander-in-chief for the military force of Sri Subramanya Swamy and Lord Vishnu, descendents of them are called as Senai thalaivar and Senai Mudaliar in Tamilnadu.

Adhi Diwakaram

The earliest literary evidence about Senaithalaivar occurs in Adhi Diwakaram, a Tamil lexicon written by Sendan Diwakarar. This dictionary dated 8th-9th century AD says செங்குந்தப் படையார் சேனைத் தலைவர் தந்து வாயர் காருகர் கைக்கோளர். It meant the profession of Senaithalaivar (commander-in-chief)

Prestigious Title

Senaithalaivar being the commander-in-chiefs of lord muruga were referred to as Samantha Senapathigal.

Distribution and title

Senaithalaivar common title is Senaiyar and they are mainly populated in Tirunelveli District including places like Sengottai, Thachanallur, achanpudur Tenkasi, Ambasamudram, Vickramasingapuram, Kayatharu, Surandai, veerakeralampudur, Kadayanallur, Sethur, Sivagiri, Rajapalayam,Ayan Kollan kondan,thalavaipuram,mugavoor,devathanam,srivilliputhur, thenmalai, sankarankovil,puliangudi, Seyadunganallur and Pettai and a considerable number of people also live in Bodinayakkanur, Porayar, Nagapattinam, Tharangambadi, Chidambaram, [[Thanjavur {CHITHIRAKUDI}]], Pudukottai, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Pondicherry, Tuticorin, Trichy and Pattukottai. They use Chettiar title in Dharmapuri, Pudukottai and Pondicherry. Mooppanar title is prevalent in and around Tirunelveli region and Pillai title in and around Madurai, Theni, Ramnad Districts.

Wedding customs

Wedding process is based on Tamil culture. Use of mangalyam or manjal thaali kayiru tied around the girls neck loosely with three knots by the boy in the presence of friends and relatives. Divine music by Nadaswaram and Thavil are performed live.

Family Deity

Like any other Tamil caste, each family of the caste has their own kula deivam either male or female.But for every people who belongs to Senaithalaivar their only Kula Deivam is Lord Muruga(Skanda) Intermarriage between families having the same family deity does not happen in the community.

Writing on the caste

  • Senaithalaivar Marabu Vilakkam by Mahavidwan Kanchi Sabapathy
  • Senaithalaivar Sempotralai by Naganandhiyar
  • Velaanmanthar Senaithalaivar or Senaikudaiyar Poorva Charithram by Gopal
  • Senaithalaivar Kula Varalaru by Dakshinamurthy
  • Society and caste organization

    They are included in the Tamil Nadu state's list of Backward castes. They are classified as OBC by Indian Government. The Madras Presidency Senaithalaivar Mahajana Sangam was formed on 23/6/1912 by K.C. Subramania, Pattukottai Siva. MA. Narayanasamy, Thillayadi Tamil Scholar Thambiyappa and Kollam D.P. They have their own in-house magazine called Senaiyar Murasu published monthly. The very first state level Mahanadu was held at Mylam, near Pondicherry on 9 June 1913.

    Notable Personalities in the Senaithalaivar Community

  • R. M. Veerappan, former minister and film producer
  • Nambi Narayanan, Former senior scientist in ISRO
  • Subbiah Arunan, Senior scientist in ISRO
  • S. Peter Alphonse, congress leader
  • References

    Senaithalaivar Wikipedia