Kammas were kings belonging to the Solar,lunar and Haihaya clans of Kshatriyas(warriors),who ruled over a famous land called Kamma rashtra or kamma nadu.They were basically an amalgam of the lunar clan Chalukyas and the solar clan Cholas who initially fought ferociously for the coveted land of kamma nadu, and later on made peace by entering into marital alliances.Practically all the ruling families of South India as well as Sri Lanka excepting Kerala were related to the Kammas. A clan of chalukyas conquered Gujarat and are known as "Solankis", which is one of the major clans among the Rajputs.
According to the puranas Kammas were descendants of a lunar dynasty king Maharaja Kamra and his 500 brothers.
The Kammas were hailed as kamma Prabhus,kamma Nayakas and Kamma Doras. Their names were suffixed by raju,naidu,needu,neni,deva,verma etc.They were called Manneelu (Mannan or king) in Tamil Nadu.
The events of 11th and 12th centuries brought a seachange in the social heirarchy of south India. Due to the rise of veerasaivism, hitherto low castes gained in wealth and power. A dynamic farmer lady Reddi Nagamma was able to become minister in the court of the kings of Palandu. She laid the foundation for politics based on groupism, treachery, propaganda, and assassinations ( akin to the present politics in which her descendants are excelling ) in the place of the cultured, noble politics practiced by the valiant aristocrats. As she became very popular among the low castes in the soceity including her kapu community, the existing minister Brahma Naidu who was a relative of the royal family and himself a very popular personality, tried to check her by following the method of appeasing the low castes including the untouchables (whom Nagamma left out) by giving them elevated posts like military generals and adopting them and treating them on par with high castes. His efforts to unite the soceity actually fragmented it further like all similar efforts in India did. Seelam Brahma Naidu belonging to the Recherla gothra ( one of the two most famous gothras among the Kammas; the other being Vallutla) of the Kammas was ostracised (or veli)from the community and he became the founder of a new caste, the Velamas
The various gameplans of Nagamma and Brahma Naidu's efforts to counter them snowballed into a catasrophic war famous as 'Palanati Yuddam' or Battle of Palnadu which was fought between two Kamma brothers of haihaya clan around 1180 A.D.,in which all the royal families of South India Participated. This battle took a very heavy toll of the Kammas and at the same time provided ideal ground for some agrarian communities like Reddis to take up military jobs and climb up in social heirarchy .
The fatal impact of the battle of Palnadu was felt in 1323 A.D.,some 150 years later when the mighty Kakatiya Emperor Pratapa Rudra Deva II,after having thrashed the muslim invaders many a time before,finally succumbed because of the treachery of the low castes in his army, who have attained military status during the tumultuous period of the battle of Palnadu, on the pretext that the Emperor did not treat them on par with the Kamma and Velama generals.
The aftermath of the muslim conquest of Andhra was horrible as was anywhere else. These conquerers were total strangers; their appearence, language, customs everything was strange. While the Hindus were soft hearted,kind even to the defeated enemy, had a code of war which was strictly followed by all, like maintaining scheduled timings, sparing the lives of fleeing or surrendering and unarmed enemy etc., the muslims didn't have any such morals. They resorted to all sorts of treacheries, massacred fleeing armies and subjected captured enemy kings to most horrific and barbaric forms of tortures like burning alive, cutting of tongue, deskinning alive etc. Even ordinary people were not spared. Villages were looted, men killed, women raped, temples destroyed. No one was secure. An unprecedented catastrophe, that changed the course of history forever fell over the people of Andhra because of the treachery of a few mean and jealous people.
In this dark period, two Kamma brothers Musunuri Prolaya Naidu and Kapaya Naidu rose to the task of saving Andhra. They were relatives of the Emperor and rulers of a province in present krishna district.They regrouped all the scattered generals and soldiers of the defeated army,and started recapturing the lost kingdom. As a classical example of the meanness of Indian rulers, in such dire circumstances, where helping a neighbouring king was most due, the rulers of Oodhra(Orissa), saw an oppurtunity to invade Andhra and avenge previous humiliations.Prolaya Naidu was killed in one such battle with the Kalingas and it was left to Kapaya Naidu to carry on the fight against the muslims.
Musunuri Kapaya Naidu (or Nayaka) waged a relentless war against the muslims and after 13 years of relentless fighting, recaptured the capital city Warangal and freed Andhra soil totally from the conquerers.(It is to be noted that the success of Kapaya naidu was one of the greatest moments in Indian history, where a Hindu king was able to recapture his capital lost to muslims.Even Rana Pratap was able to recapture only a part of his kingdom from Akbar,but failed to take the capital Chittoregarh). He was recognised as the successor to the Kakatiya empire with the titles Andhra Desadheeswara and Andhra Sura Trana .
Kapaya Naidu restored order, rebuilt the temples, patronised brahmins and ruled Andhra for 35 years.After his death in a battle, Andhra again fell into the hands of muslims. The Kammas retreated to the south of the river Krishna and were patronised by the newly formed Vijayanagar kings who offered them the highest military and governor posts.
The Vijayanagar Empire was found by two brothers Harihara and Bukka,probably of kannada origin and courtiers of the Hoysala king Veera Bhallala.Veera Bhallala struck terror in the hearts of the muslim invaders.Unable to take him on in a straight battle,the muslims played a game of surrender and deceitfully captured him and put him to a horrific death.
Harihara and Bukka were said to be closely related to Kapaya Naidu(mentioned as 'Kanhaiyya nayak' by muslim historians) and helped Kapaya in his struggle against muslims.After the demise of Kapayya,the Vijayanagar Kingdom effectively restricted the advance of muslims to the south of the river Krishna for 250 years.The Kammas formed the cream of the Vijayanagar army with majority of the Generals being chosen from them. The Vijayanagar kings followed the Nayankara or feudatory system of the Kakatiyas and honored the Kammas by giving them the lion's share of these feudataries. The supreme commander of the army invariably used to be from the Gandikota royal family, who also had marital relations with the Vijayanagar kings.(Similar to the Jaipur royal family vs the Moghuls).The Gandikota king Pemmasani Bagaru Thimma Naidu,became a folk hero by defeating the combined forces of the Bahamani Sultans(popular in folklore as Bangaru Thimma Raju Katha).Pemmasani Ramalinga Naidu,Ravella Mallikarjuna Naidu etc.,were some other extremely famous supreme commanders of the Vijayanagar army.
After the fall of Vijayanagar in the battle of Talli kota around 1565 A.D., and Gandikota a 100 years later,the Kammas retreated into deep south as the kings of Tanjavur,Madurai,Ginjee,Ramanathapura in Tamil Nadu and Candy in Sri Lanka were Kammas who conquered them under the behest of Vijayanagar kings.The Kammas were reduced to the Status of big Zamindars and landlords by the British after suppressing their revolts and confiscating their armies.After the fall of the Kakatiya empire in 1323 A.D., a section of the Kammas entered into the deep forests of Bastar in today's Chattisgarh under the leadership of Raja Ammaya Deva, brother of the Emperor Pratapa Rudra. They found a kingdom there which existed till the advent of the Indian independence.
After India attained Independence and Zamindaries were abolished, the social and political clout of the Kammas started to decline as the changed circumstances did not suit them. Neverthless they have become successful farmers, industrialists, doctors, engineers and film heroes and producers. Due to their high success rate because of their sincere and hardworking nature, they are being grudged and envied by other communities. Their aristocratic behaviour and unwillingness to treat others as their equals and mingle with them may also be the reasons. Now, the Kammas are at the crossroads and they have to organise themselves and brace up for the rapidly changing circumstances, if at all they want to keep up their affluence.