There are two interpretations for the origin of the word "Padmashali" and its group, one from Vaishnava group and the other from Shaiva. Some anthropologists believe it is derived from the Sanskrit.
However, linguistic construction of Dravidian languages traces its root to Proto-South-Dravidian word saal. In Tulu, Saalye or Taalye means "spider". Also, saali means spider in Telugu. Probably, symbolising the weaving activity with the spider's web, this word was coined for weavers. In Tamil, it's Saalikan or Saaliyan. In Kannada, it is Shaaliga or Shaaliya. In Malayalam, Chaaliyan. In Telugu, it's Saalidu or Saalivaallu or Saalollu.
The word Padmashali has a very deep meaning in Hindu mythology. The Vaishnava group interpret in essence the word Padmashali is a conflation of two words, padma and shali. The word "Padma" is sahasradala padma, meaning the highest order of human intelligence. In body chakras "Padma" refers to sahasrara. The word "Shali" in Sanskrit is 'be holder'. Thus "Padmashali" literally means holder of sahasrara. In physical term it means intelligence. It is believed that Padmavathi of Mangapura/tiruchanur of Tirupati, the shasanam of the temple, declares that Padmavathi, as daughter of Padmashali. Hence, the name Padmashali. There exists writing in Tirupati to evidence the statement of Padmavathi as daughter of Padmashali's. Another aspect of Padmashali, Padma also refers to Lotus. The Lotus also refers to the intelligence or awakening of sahasrara. The word padma also means lotus thread.
The Padmashali thus basically Brahmins and even today a group who are qualified agama shastra pandits perform the poojas and vedic rites. They are identified as "Padma Brahmins". Their performances include homa avan poojas marriage performance etc. It should be appreciated that the origin of Padmashalis relates to Brighu Maharshi and Brighu Marharshi gave astrology to the world. Further down in the order of heritage Markandeya who wrote the epic on Devi and her shakti. It also means that we were shakti aradhaks.
The Padmashalis are the third largest community in Andhra Pradesh. They are spread all over the world, but have a visible tendency towards urbanization since the occupation of weaving and marketing cloth becomes easy from urban and semi-urban centers. This community produces cloth from cotton and animate yarn.
Caste communities involved in the leather and wool-based household industries - which perhaps have an older history than cloth weaving - have developed an integrated process of production of raw material and its conversion into commodities. But unlike them, the Padmashalis developed exclusively cloth-weaving skills. They produce cloth as a marketable commodity, without having any organic links or skills in the production of the raw material. The Padmashali men have no expertise in ploughing and their women lack seeding and crop-cutting skills. Thus, their skill structure, over a period of time, became one-dimensional. By the time the British arrived, the Padmashalis were producing huge quantities of cloth and controlled a leading cottage industry of India.
Perhaps because they largely stay indoors, or because of characteristic genes, community members have developed reddish skin and are hence known as erra kulamu among the OBCs. The Padmashali caste is highly Sanskritised, with all the men wearing the sacred thread (Yajnopavitam/Gayatri dharan). In terms of social consciousness, it is more Brahminic than any other OBC caste in Andhra Pradesh and some of them in Maharashtra also(In Maharashtra,state government declare Padmashali as a SBC caste). Where as, group of padma Brahmins and their descendants remains in the general category. Following all these Brahminic characteristics, the sub groups under this caste got integrated into ritual Brahminism. In spite of all these Brahminic characteristics, this caste remained uneasily within the broad Vaishya category.
It is not same caste, the weavers of different groups have different names. The Padmashali sources its origin to Brugu Maharshi, followed down to Markandeya, Bhakta Markandeya, the chiranjeevi who wins the life from yama. The technique of weaving came from ayoni putra, Sri Bhavana maharshi.
The caste in weavers sources their origin do different aspects.
The Shettigars who are mainly settled in South Canara region generally refer themselves with Padmashalis. However, in Kinnimulki, a taluk near Katil, near Udupi, the Padmashalis are known as shettigars. The weavers in Andhra Pradesh has following names (as per the OBC list of central government - List no 155), they are all not Padmashalis. But the weavers, depending upon on the nature of basic material used in the earlier times, the name of caste originated.
In Karnataka, there are nearly 30 groups of castes in weavers and Padmashalis are one of the weavers, independent of other group castes, with their culture practice based on vedic principles. Saliya - Other saliweaver castes.
This deals with only Northern Kerala Malyalee Saliya(Chaliya)s. Some of the other Sali castes are listed here.
1.Padmasali : Andhra Pradesh(Telugu)
2.Devanga : Karnataka(Kannada)
3.Saliyar/Padmasaliyar : Tamilnadu(Tamil/Telugu)
4.Pattarya : Kerala(Malayalam)
5.Shettigar : Karnataka(Tulu)
Saliya/Padmashali/Devanga is widely and sometimes interchangeably used. However, Kannada and Telugu Salis differ from Malayalee Salis in many cultural aspects. Th former are patriarchical follow many Brahmanical customs
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