Introduction / History
Yerukala or Erukala or Erukula is a caste or social group found largely in the Southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Yerukalas are indigenous people of South India. They call themselves "Kurru". They are called "Yerukula" after their women's traditional profession of fortune telling (Eruka chepputa, Telugu term).
The population of Yerukala tribe according to 1991 census was 387,898. The total literacy rate among Yerukulas as per the 1991 Census reports is 25.74%. The Yerukala tribe has a dialect of its own which is called "Yerukula basha" or "Kurru basha" or "Kula vaatha". It is derived from Dravidian languages, mostly Telugu, Tamil and Kannada.
The Yerukala tribe is divided into a number of functional and endogamous sub-divisions and each such sub-division is named after the commodity, which they traded in and the occupation they adopted. The sub-divisions of Yerukula are Dabba Yerukala (those who make baskets from split bamboo), Eethapullala Yerukula (Date twigs) (those whom make baskets from wild date leaves), Kunchapuri Yerukala (those who make weaver's combs), Parikamuggula Yerukala (Sooth Sayers), Karivepaku Yerukala (hawkers of curry leaves) and Uppu Yerukala (salt hawkers).
The type of family among Yerukala tribe is usually nuclear. Descent is patrilineal, residence is patrilocal and authority is patriarchal. Cross-cousin (menarikam) marriages are preferred. Monogamy is the common form of marriage, but polygamy is also socially permitted. Marriage through negotiation and exchange are the common modes of acquiring mates. Divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery, barrenness and incompatibility between the spouses. Widows are permitted to re-marry.
Yerukalas worship benevolent Gods, which are common Gods in Hindu pantheon and appease malevolent deities. The Yerukalas celebrate all the Hindu festivals.
The Yerukala tribe has its own social control mechanism at each habitation inhabited by Yerukala to ensure proper observance of prescribed codes of conduct. This traditional council (Kula Panchayat) is headed by an elderly man whose office is hereditary traditionally. The traditional council (Kula Panchayat) tries and decides the domestic disputes, disputes relating to theft, adultery, loans, property and land.
The traditional occupations of Yerukalas include basket-making, mat weaving, pig rearing, rope-making etc. The Yerukala women are specialized in sooth saying and fortune telling. Some of them also participate in the economic activities like basket making, mat weaving etc, and make baskets with wild date leaves.
Today, most of the Yerukalas are settled in the villages/towns and trying to make their way out of the poverty by getting education to obtain financial freedom which has been denied to them since ages. Yerukalas are using reservations and other benefits from the government to a greater extent to obtain the freedom they used to have long time age. Even though they live in a free democratic country like India, they are still living under harsh social conditions because of the caste system and face social discriminations time and again.