Kamma or the Kammavaru is a social group found largely in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Starting from the 1960s, a sizable number have emigrated to other parts of the world, particularly to Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
A group of local chieftains formed in opposition to Muslim rule and were led by a Kamma called Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka, of the Musunuri Nayak family, although details of the circumstances surrounding his rise are uncertain. Also uncertain are the methods used that enabled some limited amount of success for the venture, which saw the rebels defeating the Muslim armies in some battles and disrupting their cohesion in the region. The nobles were able to assert control in the Godavari area, over which Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka became ruler from 1325 until his death in 1333. He left no children and was succeeded by a cousin, Kapaya Nayaka, who governed until 1368 and attempted further to expand the Hindu rule. He took control of Warangal from Malik Maqbul in 1336 and thus also of a wider swathe of eastern Telangana that was governed from there. He also tried to support other rebels in surrounding areas, although in the case of aid given to Jaffar Khan — also known as Alauddin Baharnan Shah — the outcome was that his ambitious, unscrupulous and emboldened fellow rebel turned on him. Several military engagements with Khan followed over a period of years, during which Kapaya Nayaka had to cede various forts and territories. His weakened position was exploited by the Reddis and the Velamas, the latter of whom caused his death in battle at Bhimavaram and ended the period of Kamma rule.
After the death of Kapaya Nayaka, many Kammas migrated to the Vijayanagara kingdom. During the reign of Sri Krishnadevaraya Kammas belonging to thirty seven gotras were living in the city of Vijayanagar. Kamma Nayaks formed the bulwark of Vijayanagara army and were appointed as governors in many areas of Tamil Nadu. Their role in protecting the last great Hindu kingdom of India was significant.
The Kammas were largely reduced by the status of peasants in the post-Kakatiya period. The Vijayanagara kingdom underwent very difficult times after the battle of Tallikota in 1565. Pemmasani Nayaks, Ravella Nayaks and Sayapaneni Nayaks steadfastly helped the Araviti kings in keeping the Muslims at bay. It took another 90 years to consolidate the Muslim power in Andhra country with the capture of Gandikota in 1652. Kamma nayaks migrated in large numbers to the Tamil region. During the Golkonda period, the Sayapaneni Nayaks (1626–1802) ruled Dupadu region as vassals of the Golkonda sultans.
The British gained control of Andhra by 1788 from Golkonda Nawabs. Another Kamma principality during Golkonda period was Devarakota with Challapalli as its capital. Its ruler, Yarlagadda Guruvarayudu was subdued by Abdullah Qutb Shah in 1576. His successors ruled as vassals of Golkonda till the French took over in 1751 and later the British in 1765.
Construction of dams and barrages and establishment of an irrigation system in Godavari and Krishna River deltas by Arthur Cotton was a great boon to the Kamma farmers. Availability of water and the natural propensity for hard work made the Kammas wealthy and prosperous. The money was put to good use by establishing numerous schools and libraries and encouraging their children to take up modern education.
The Kammas of Southern Tamil Nadu have also excelled in the cultivation of black cotton soils and later diversified into various industrial enterprises, particularly in Coimbatore and Kovilpatti.
Classification of social groups in the Andhra region is particularly complex and has changed frequently as the various communities jostle for status. During the British Raj, the Kammas were considered to be "upper Shudra", along with the Reddy and Velama castes, under the varna system of Brahmanic ritual ranking.
Selig Harrison said in 1956 that
Kamma lore nurtures the image of a once-proud warrior clan reduced by Reddi chicanery to its present peasant status. Reddi duplicity, recounted by Kamma historian K. Bhavaiah Choudary, was first apparent in 1323 AD at the downfall of Andhra's Kakatiya dynasty. Reciting voluminous records to prove that Kammas dominated the Kakatiya court, Chaudary suggests that the Reddis, also influential militarists at the time, struck a deal at Kamma expense with the Moslem conquerors of the Kakatiya regime. The Kammas lost their noble rank and were forced into farming.
Prior to the bifurcation of Andra Pradesh, creating the new state of Telangana, the Kammas and the Reddys were politically and economically dominant in the state.
During the 1980s, they played a key role in state and national politics with the inception of the Telugu Desam Party by its then President Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao also called as NTR. N. Chandrababu Naidu, the current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, gave a progressive direction to Andhra Pradesh and won global recognition to the state and is also recognized for bringing industries and development to the city of Hyderabad, including the construction of HITEC City.