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The Pallar is a caste from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Pallar are mostly agriculturalists in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and some of them are still involved as agricultural labourers. They are spread across the Tamil diaspora demographic and densely populated in southern parts of Tamil Nadu.
The Pallar are distributed mostly in the districts of Thanjavur, Madurai and Ramanathapuram and, as of 2001, numbered around 2.2 million.
Origin and name
The name of the caste has previously been spelled as Pallan, however some caste members replaced the Tamil non-honorific terminal-"n" with an honorific "r", resulting in the name Pallar; a similar process was seen in the fellow Dalit Paraiyar (or Paraiyan) community.
The Pallar name may be derived from pallam, which means a pit or low-lying area. This aligns with their traditional occupation of cultivators of the low wetlands. However, there is literary evidence that suggests the Pallar were previously known as Mallar, an indigenous Dravidian community whose roots may go back over 2300 years and who ruled in the Tamil region around the 14th and 15th centuries. There are also claims that they are connected to the Pallava dynasty, who were rulers in both the Tamil and Andhra regions.
The change of name from Mallar to Pallar is thought to have been imposed upon them after the decline of the rule, when the leaders (nayaks) of competing tribes wanted to suggest a degradation in status. Some Pallars today prefer the Mallar name due to their belief that Pallar is a derogatory term.
The ancient people were described as warriors and farmers. The leader of the group, called the vendan (Indran) was later called the god of their land. Nowadays, community members prefer to refer to themselves as Devendra Kula Vellalar, a name connoting they were created by the god Devendra. In support of a name-change to DKV, Pallars have undertaken hunger strikes and rallies. In January 2011, the government of Tamil Nadu appointed a one-man commission to consider this latest change. 
In Tamil literature
Mallars are mentioned in Tamil literature from the ancient Sangam Literature to the recent 19th century poems, including Purananuru, Kamba Ramayanam, Thirumurukkatruppatai, Silapathigaram, Agananuru, Pathirtrupattu, Kurunthogai, Aingurunooru, Kalithogai, Natrinai, and Paripaadal.
The Pallar are the focus of a genre of Tamil poetry known as pallu. The genre developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and depicts the Pallar hero dealing with the jealousies of his two wives and the oppression of his landlord in a satirical depiction of Pallar zeitgeist. The pallu, while maintaining its basic storyline, developed into many forms, with the Mukkudal pallu the oldest, including depiction of the struggles between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
Among the Christian Tamils of Sri Lanka, the genre has been modified into nanapallu, a genre where the same story is told, but with the satirical and erotic elements replaced by Christian religious themes.
Pallu poems are part of chitrilakiyangal in Tamil literature. Pallu poems were also known as 'aesal'(a kind of ironical poem). They were written during the Nayak rule. The first pallu poem was 'mukkoodar pallu'. Many pallu poems were written which include vaiyapuri pallu, sengottu pallu, thandigai kanagaraayan pallu.[clarification needed] All the Pallu poems consist of a Pallan who has got two wives. It also explains about the farming and the life of a Pallar farmer.
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