Yes , I wish more people woud realize this.
Though there may be multiple versions, and a few distortions might have taken place over generations where they were passed down orally, the basic theme generally remains the same.
Once there was a lunar dynasty king Kamra. He was son of king Raji and great-grandson of Emperor Pururava. Kamra was very powerful and arrogant and along with his 500 brothers used to challenge and subdue any powerful king, who came under their way.Once they challenged the king of gods,Indra for a fight.Ultimately, Indra struck them with his Vajra ( lightning ),and reduced them to ashes.
The meaning for this is that they couldn't withstand the penance involved in attaining to Indra and perished.
After a long time, a solar dynasty king, Khamitra did penace seeking children. He was blessed with Kamra and his 500 brothers by Lord Brahma after resurrecting them. Their descendants were known as 'Khammas' or "Kammas".
Resurrection in this context probably means restoration or bestowing of Kshatriya status for sons of various mistresses etc who otherwise would be considered simply bastards.
According to another version, the sages unable to bear the attrocities of the rakshasas, prayed to Lord Vishnu to save them. His consort, Goddess Lakshmi, granted them her ear-ring (Kamma). The sages performed a Yagna and put the Kamma into the homam(fire).From the fire emerged 501 warriors who were none other than Kamra and his brothers.They destroyed the Rakshasas and made the sages happy.On the plea of the sages,they became rulers and came to be called 'Kammas'.
This is a version of the Agni Kula legend where mlecchas such as Hunas, Sakas etc are accepted in the Vedic fold . Usually as Rajputs. In this case the legends points to Kambojas which some claim are the ancestors of Kamma. I personally don't think that is the case.
It may be noted that all versions agree that the Kammas are basically a martial race and an amalgam of solar and lunar clans.(Khamitra adopts Kamra).
let us compare the above with the actual oral version that is prevalent among the people ( Jana-Sruti)of Narasaraopet area(near Konda veedu) till some time ago, that has come down from generations.
A thousand years ago a very serious conflict broke out between the brahmins and the Kshatriyas. The brahmins hatched a plan. They built a Kattula Bavi(well of swords) in the Kondaveedu hills which is in the heart of Kammanadu. The Kattula bavi is a treacherous arrangement, wherin a person comes under the illusion of entering a big hall, but as soon as he steps into the entrance, he falls into a deep well which is studded with swords and spears pointing upwards. The brahmins then invited the kings for a meeting and killed many of them with this trap. The kings on coming to know of this ghastly incident, out of hatred towards the brahmins, removed their sacred threads and rishi-gothras which were a sign of submission to the brahmins. They took the names of the places they were ruling as their gothras (almost all in Kamma nadu) and came to be known as Kammas.
These days Brahmins in AP are good friends of Kammas.
Now let us try to draw some parallel between the two versions.
Indra, king of gods represents brahmins, who call themselves 'Bhu Suras', gods on Earth.
Kamra and his 500 brothers represent the kings killed on that day. It might probably be around 50, as exaggeration is normal.
The kings killed belong to both the solar and lunar clans.
Some adversaries try to play down the status of Kammas by bringing forth the version that the Kammas were couriers(Vaartaharas) in the courts of kings, since 'Kamma' in telugu means not only ear-ring, beauty and tasty, but also letter. They claim that the deliverers of letters(kammas), came to be known as kammas. They were carried away by the humble picture of today's postman. They forgot to realise that in the olden days, couriers had to be brave and adventurous,exellent swordsmen and adept in horse-riding. They had to single handedly tackle enemy soldiers and also dacoits and thugs. They had to be highly educated,able to transact with the courtiers and kings and also quiet intelligent and adoptive. Most important, they had to be the most trusted people to the king and even this version points to the martial background of the Kammas.
(During the American war of Independence(at a time of no telegraphy and telephony),the couriers who passed on important documents evading the Red Indians had enoromous following and were considered as national heroes)
For comparision sake and to understand how the puranas contain information in coded form the the story of Renuka Devi, (also worshipped as 'Ellamma'), serves as a classical example
The Renuka Devi episode has some 'Kamma' connection as they contain some 'Haihaya' element which might be a reason for the brahmins turning against them in the 'Kattula Bavi' episode.
Renuka Devi was an extremely beautiful Brahmin lady. She was wife of sage Jamadagni and mother of Parasu Rama,one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
One day she went to the Narmada river and by chance saw the mighty and handsome king Kartaveeryarjuna,of the Haihaya clan of Kshatriyas, playing with his wives in the river waters.
Karta Veerya Arjuna was a king who defeated Ravana before Rama.
Her heart throbbed, but she quickly controlled herself, fetched water and returned to her Ashram. But sage Jamadagni, through his divine powers,knew what happened and ordered his sons to kill her. No one came forward,but Parasurama,who knew his father's divine powers, without hesitation beheaded his Mother with his Parasu (war-axe).Pleased with his son's benevolence, Jamadagni on his request, pardoned his wife and brought her back to life. But in some versions,the request was turned down on the pretext that her head rolled off into a Chandala Vatika (Untouchables ward).
Parasurama though a casteist was not averse to raising lower castes and foreigners to Brahminhood if the situation demanded it.
One day the king on a hunting trip,visited Jamadagni with his army. The sage gave a grand treat to the guests with the help of a divine cow,KamaDhenu. Karthava Raya asked the sage to give the Kamadhenu,in exchange for one lakh cows. When the sage refused, he killed him and took Kamadhenu forcibly. Renuka fell upon her husband's body and yelled 'O Rama!', 'O Rama!', 21 times, to call her son who was in deep forest. On returning to the Ashram and seeing what has happened,the enraged parasu Rama raided Mahishmati, capital city of Kartava,who was also known as Sahasra Bahu (or thousand armed; probably to stress how strong he was). Despite their personal valor and huge army, the Haihayas were no match to the one-man army and were mercilessly slaughtered. Still not content, Parasu Rama toured the entire country and slaughtered all the Kshatriyas. This he had repeated 21 times, wiping out almost the entire Kshatriya race from the face of the Earth.
While the above is the puranic or Brahminic version which is widely in vogue, there is a different version,which one can know only if one visits the innumerable Renuka temples in Maharashtra and North Karnataka.Here, Renuka is being worshipped as a goddess and one can find small idols of Kartaveeryarjuna mentioned as 'Kartava Raya- Renuka Mata's lover'. The priests tell the actual story,from which one can gauge how unwarrantedly, Kshatriyas were killed by Parasu Rama.Here is the story.
Obviously the above story doesn't make sense from a historical POV and is simply Brahmin propaganda. All it may mean is that Kshatriyas were reduced in status by perhaps 21 different Brahmins who refused to do their coronations and reduced them to Shudra status. And that Haihayas were defeated by many of unknown lineages fighting on behalf of Parasurama, hence their names and ethnicities are not recorded and hence forgotten. This morphed to a one man army of Parasurama!
Parasurama later made his way to the Konkan coast to Kerala by reclaiming land from the Varuna by throwing his axe in the sea. This most likely alludes to some sort of civil engineering project resembling a dam in reverse! Only a couple of generations prior Sagara and Bhagiratha managed to get inter link various small rivers and divert a major Himalayan torrent into Western UP/Uttarakhan to form the Ganga(I think the captain just had a heart attack, who knew Zionist interlinkers existed in the pre Ramayanic era!)
It was believed that Kerala stretched all the way to Gujarat at one point. He then established Brahmin and Kshatriya communities , the latter were rather orthodox in that they were especially beholden to Brahmins to do their bidding. Nairs and Nambuthiris come to mind. Another innovation was the creation of Brahmo Kshatriyas ie Brahmins who adopt Kshatriya vocations such as Chitpavan Brahmins of the Konkan Coast and Aaruvela Niyogi(the caste of yours truly) in AP. Tuluva and Saraswat Brahmins also belong to this category.
Renuka deeply loved Kartava Raya and she eloped with him. Parasu Rama killed Kartava in the battle ( Whether Kartava was trecherously killed,we will never know).On hearing the news,Renuka fled for her life,crossed the Narmada and travelled South and entered into deep forests of present Maharashtra.There she was given shelter by some low-caste people (indicative of the Chandala-vatika),where she spent the rest of her life. She to some extent educated these people and instructed them to construct temples in her remembrance and her lover and gave them a boon that their kin will become priests in her temples.
Till recently, nude prayers used to be performed in Renuka temples of North Karnataka. On a full moon night, devotees go to a river or pond nearby, remove all their clothes, and from there walk to the temple singing songs in praise of her love and dance all night. Could this ritual be a symbol of her failed and unsatiated love ?
Who knows? If Renuka is associated with Yellama, then these rituals are more due to the latter than the former. As Yellama is the patron diety of Devadasis. Interestingly both Renuka and Pararsurama elevated low caste fisherman into Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Not to mention (especially West Asian)foreigners who arrived by coast. This is the basis of the legend of the fair skinned,green eyed Chitpavans being descended from Jews though in reality they are most likely Hindu Afghans fleeing Muslim aggression via the sea.
There are too many cognates between Tulu and Telugu castes for it to be a coincidence. Apparently Tulu and Telugu languages were part of the same Dravidian family which later split up. Even as people of Andhra trace descent from the fallen sons of Vishwamitra, there is a strong Parasuramic element perhaps best exemplified by Brahmin dynasty Satavahanas who were singlehandedly stopped a confederacy of Scythians,Persians and Greeks from overrunning the Deccan and the most illustrious monarch Gautamiputra Satakarni threw them back beyond Gujarat and conquered Malwa.
The most great Teluguphile dynasty of the Vijayanagar empire were of the Tuluva dynasty of which KrishnaDevaRaya was the pre eminent. KDR referred to himself as Andhra Bhoja. As King Bhoja Paramara of Malwa had defeated the Turushkas such as Salar Masud and Mahmud Ghazni and rebuilt the Somnath temple.
According to wikipedia:
The Paramara kingdom was established by the Rashtrakuta dynasty of southern India as governors of Malwa when the south Indian Emperor Govinda III of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty conquered Malwa.According to the Bhavisya Purana, the Kamadhenu (a cow which grants all wishes of one) of the sage Vasishtha was stolen by another sage Vishvamitra. Vasishtha therefore made an offering to the sacrificial fire at Mount Abu. A hero sprang out from the sacrificial fire and brought back the cow to the sage Vasishtha, who bestowed the name Parmar (slayer of the enemy) on him.
Bhoja ...He took Konkan in 1020 from the Silhara dynasty.
So we are back to Kamadhenu and Konkan!