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Arya Idiga is a Hindu community of people concentrated mainly in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and other parts of India. Idigas were involved in soma and Ayurvedic medicine developers in ancient days who are classified as Somavanshi Kshatriyas. In coastal areas of Karnataka, we are known by various names such as Billava, Namadhari, Deevaru, Halepaika, Namadhari naik and Thiyya. In some parts of Karanataka we are also called deevaru which means islanders. Our main profession were toddy tapping, brewing arrack etc, but now only few people are in this traditional job. Ours is one of the progressive communities of Karnataka.

The word Idiga or Ediga is 'people of Eda' or Ida believed to an ancient Kannada name for Sri Lanka in one of the source. The word Deevaru might have come from the Sanskrit word Dweep means island which again denotes the island nation of Sri lanka. Another theory is that the word Eda or Ida is derived from archaic kannada word ira for Toddy.

Our population is said to be about 40,00,000. Mainly located in Bangalore, Chikmagalur, Chitradurga, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan, Mysore and Tumkur districts. 'Yellamma thaayi' is the community deity. The temples of Devi Yallamma also known as Shree Renuka Devi is situated on a hill near Soundatti Taluka in Belgavi District & on Chandragutti hill in Soraba Taluka in Shimoga District of Karnataka.

Attempts have been made to trace the origin of Idiga community to history and mythology. There are references in Mahabharata, Ramayana, Skanda Purana and Matsya Purana. We are also said to be ancient community, historically. The history dating back to Chandragupta, Pratapa Rudra, Vijayanagara empire, Aurangazeb, Basaveshwara, Adi Shankaracharya and others records the existence of the Idiga (Gowda Vamshasta) community. History and mythology project Idigas to be of Gowda Vamshasta origin. The community has now its presence across the globe under varied names. There are more than 26 sub-sects of Idigas with diverse language, culture and tradition in Karnataka alone. However, they have a common avocation. Idigas are estimated to be in the fourth place in terms of their numbers. The government has included all the 26 sub-sects in the list of Backward Classes.

The community’s name - Gowdaru, Gowlaru or Idigaru – can be traced to the birth of its progenitor. Mythology says the progenitor took birth under the influence of ‘Gowda Mantra’ of Atri Maharshi, a sage. Varunidevi (the heavenly elixir), the daughter of Varuna (the God of Wind) is their deity. Atri Maharishi embodied Kaundinya through Gowda Mantra. Sage Kaundinya, with his powers created fruit-yielding trees, herbs and the concoction of ‘Somarasa’ to help mankind get rid of all the disease. Thus Kaundinya became the progenitor of Idiga community and Idigas derive their Gotra, (Kaundinya Gotra) from this sage. Further, the sage, through his ‘tapas’ obtained a promise from Lord Eshwara that those consuming the elixir shall have no rebirth.

‘Rudrabharata’ has a legend relating to the Idiga community. Lord Eshwara and his consort Parvathi were once on a jolly ride to Bhooloka (the abode of human beings). It was a hot summer day and Parvathi felt thirsty. The couple from Devaloka (the abode of Gods) found a cluster of toddy and wild date trees. Parvathi suggested she could quench her thirst with the juice from the stems of these trees. Meanwhile, Lord Eshwara found a bangle seller coming on the way. He asked the seller to extract the juice from the stems of the trees and gave him a sharp weapon for the task. The bangle seller complied. Satisfied with the service, the couple blessed him to continue the profession of extracting juice from the trees and that his future generation would prosper in the profession. Idiga community came into existence from that day. There is a reference in the book, Castes and Tribes of Southern India that this incident occurred in Goruru (place of Goravas) in Hassan district.

“Brahmanotpatti Marthanda” has one more legend relating to the origin of Idiga community. The king Jananamejya performs a yajna by inviting sage Vateshwara. The king gifts a village to each of 1,444 disciples of the sage. They all came to live in Aryavartha and became Adigowda. The legend says the same people later became progenitors of Gowda Vamsha. There are also references in some puranas that Idigas were Brahmins earlier and ostracized by the Brahmins, who had deviated from their dharma.

Gopavashwa and Kalyani couple, who were the descendants of sage Kaundinya got a son by name Gopalagowda. He married a girl by name Veeramambe and the couple begot a son, Katamagowda. This Katamagowda was an ardent devotee of Lord Eshwara and is the Guru for the Idiga community. He is also known as Kantamaya, Katamaya, Katamagowda and Katamaheshwara (Shivatatvasara – Shivanandeeshwara dialogue). Gopalagowda ruled Vidarbha and renounced the world in his old age. He went to Himalaya for tapas. Katamagowda took over the reins of Vidarbha. With his divine powers, Katamagowda made toddy and other trees touch the earth’s surface and thus became responsible for the profession of people tapping the juice from their stems.

With the intention of immortalize his progenitor sage Kaundinya, Katamagowda installed a linga brought from the Himalayas in Muktapura ( a village now in Ananthpur district) and constructed a temple with 18 enclsoures. He also set up a ashrama and named it Kaundinya ashrama. Katamagowda later started to reside at the ashrama and came to be known as Katama Maheshwara and Katama Rusheeshwara. He penned Shivaleela Mahatme, Shivatatava Saara and other works there. In his old age, Katamagowda entrusted the responsibility of the kingdom to his relative Veerabhoja and left for the Himalayas to secure Moksha, leaving his 3,000 disciples in the ashram. (Few books opine Katamagowda’s period to be the initial years of Kaliyuga, after the completion of the Great War of Mahabharata)

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