Malaysian Telugu

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Malaysians of Telugu origin
Telugus in Malaysia
మలేషియా తెలుగువారు
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia)
Telugu  • Bahasa Malaysia  • English  • Tamil
Hinduism and others
Related ethnic groups
Malaysian Indian

The Telugu Malaysians or Malaysian Telugus (Telugu: మలేషియా తెలుగువారు; Malaysian: Orang Telugu Malaysia), consists of people of full or partial Telugu descent who were born in or immigrated to Malaysia. Most of Malaysian Telugus today are 4th or 5th generation who migrated during the colonial period. While most of current Malaysian Telugu ancestors originated from what is now Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras state), substantial number of them originated from area of Orissa and Bengal state. While most Telugus come to Malaysia as labourers, some were professionals and traders who arrived as refugees. In 1930s anti Indian riots in Burma results in large number of ethnic Telugus fleeing from Burma either back to India, Thailand or Malaya. Another wave of Telugu migration from Burma occurs during world war two, when Japanese invaded Burma.

In recent years new wave of migration of Telugu speaking population from India results in some rejuvenation of Telugu linguistic interest in Malaysia. In 1981 the World Second Telugu Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur. Telugu Association of Malaysia, a non profit NGO serves as representative of Malaysian Telugus and is platform for Telugus to voice their opinions. The Telugu Association was first formed in the region of Lower Perak District in Malaysia on 17 July 1955, under the banner of Malaya Andhra Sangamu and officially registered on 17 February 1956. On 16 December 1963 it was renamed as Malaysia Andhra Sangamu. The association name evolved from 1983 onwards as Telugu Association of Malaysia (TAM) which is also known as Malaysia Telugu Sangamu.[2] The association is formally registered and operates under the banner of as Persatuan Telugu Malaysia in Bahasa Malaysia.


Telugus along with other Indians from the east coast of India and the Bengal Bay arrived to the shores of ancient Suvarnabhumi (referring to Malay Peninsula and Lower Burma, meaning "Land of Gold" in Telugu language) and other parts of Southeast Asia.[3] Indians from Godavari basin arrived in ancient Malay peninsular, trading and settling down, thus influencing local customs and culture. Sejarah Melayu addressed India as Benua Keling and Indians as "Keling", a word taken from Kalinga, an ancient Indian kingdom which is likely the source of Indian influence over Southeast Asia. Kalinga is located at the northern part of Andhra Pradesh covering Godavari basin and the southern part of Orissa and people of this region now speak either Telugu or Oriya.

The current population of Malaysian Telugus are mostly third and fourth generation Telugus who descended from indentured laborers under the kangani system who arrived in the 19th and early 20th century.[4] Some also paid their own passage after the Kangani system ended in the early 20th century. Most of the Telugus migrants to the Malay peninsula during the colonial era were from northern coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh,[3] often recruited by maistries or kanganis (foremen) from the Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam regions, with some from the East Godavari and Chittoor regions.[5] The migrants usually shared the same neighbourhood background, blood ties or caste connections.[6] Telugus who arrived during British colonial era were mainly non-Brahmin middle-ranking or low caste Hindus from the Kamma and Reddy to the untouchables,[7] and included the Gavara, Kapu, and Velama, with some from the Chakali, Mangali (barber) and others castes.[8] While the Indian immigrants in the early period were predominantly men, the Telugus were more willing to bring with them their womenfolk.[9] The Telugus were most commonly found in the rubber and coconut plantations in Perak (such as Telok Anson), Johor, and Kedah.[9]

As the Telugus formed only a small minority of Indians in British Malaya with Tamils the great majority, they weren't particularly visible as a group and thus their identity was subsumed into the larger group of South Indians. They were referred to as Klings or Madrasis used as general terms for South Indians.[10] In 1955, the Malaya Andhra Sanghamu (later Malaysia Andhra Sanghamu) was formed to support the Telugu community, foster their culture and promote their language.[8]

More recently, an increasing number of Telugu expatriates have arrived from India.[citation needed]


The Malaysian Telugus form the third largest group of Indians in Malaysia. In British Malaya they formed around 4% of the Indian population. As the early Telugu migrants tended to bring their womenfolk with them, they had the highest sex ratio among Indian migrants with 1.5 males to 1 female according to the 1921 census.[9] The Telugu population is estimated to be 118,000 in 2018.[1]


Telugu language is the native language of Malaysian Telugus, It is the world's most spoken Dravidian and it comes under the category of "South Central Dravidian" language family. Until late 1980s there were few primary Telugu medium schools[citation needed]. These schools were poorly maintained and there were support by the estate owners only. The last of Telugu school were closed in 1990 due to socioeconomic reasons and urbanization of Telugu people .There was no Indian political party in Malaysia to voice out Telugu people concerns. Some Telugus (along with other Indian minority groups) also had start adopting and assimilating into the majority Tamil language and culture due to tamil dominance[citation needed]. There was resurgence in learning Telugu language following political and financial support from the Malaysian government .There was a increase in students enrollment in Telugu classes conducted by Telugu Association of Malaysia with partial financial support from government of Malaysia. Today there are more than 5000 new generation of students who can read and write in Telugu language[citation needed].


  1. ^ a b Joshua Project. "People Groups". Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Association". Telugu Association of Malaysia. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  3. ^ a b Chinna Rao Yagati (2009). "Kurmana Simha Chalam". Perspectives on Economic Development and Social Change: Essays in Honour of Professor K.S. Chalam. Rawat Publications. p. 77. ISBN 81-316-0246-X.
  4. ^ Kwen Fee Lian, Md Mizanur Rahman & Yabit bin Alas, ed. (2015). International Migration in Southeast Asia: Continuities and Discontinuities. Springer. p. 119. ISBN 98-128-7712-6.
  5. ^ Gijsbert Oonk, ed. (9 February 2014). Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory. Amsterdam University Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-9053560358.
  6. ^ Sirpa Tenhunen, Klaus Karttunen (eds.). Contentious Connections: Social Imagination in Globalizing South Asia. Cambridge Scholars. p. 185. ISBN 9781443858342.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  7. ^ R. Rajoo (1985). Mohd. Taib Osman (ed.). Malaysian World-view. Inst of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 149–150. ISBN 978-9971988128.
  8. ^ a b Gijsbert Oonk, ed. (9 February 2014). Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory. Amsterdam University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-9053560358.
  9. ^ a b c Sirpa Tenhunen, Klaus Karttunen (eds.). Contentious Connections: Social Imagination in Globalizing South Asia. Cambridge Scholars. p. 184. ISBN 9781443858342.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Satyanarayana Arapa. by Sirpa Tenhunen, Klaus Karttunen (eds.). Contentious Connections: Social Imagination in Globalizing South Asia. Cambridge Scholars. p. 171. ISBN 9781443858342.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)

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