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Gowda, also spelled as Gauda (Kannada: ಗೌಡ) is a titular surname widely used in the state of Karnataka in India. The word Gowda which traces its origin with Kannada, one of the Dravidian languages, refers to the administrative head of a typical Karnataka village. In practice, the title might annex through the generations as the hereditary Surname of the headman's family. Typically, a Gowda in person commands huge clout, respect and landholding in the village and has been vested with the authority of decision making in the village by the virtue of his rights over Gowdike. Vokkaligas, Lingayats, kurubas the dominant, landholding and politically conscious communities of Karnataka widely use the surname in practice.

Vokkaliga is an umbrella term for various agricultural, previously endogamous social groups with a martial past, found mainly in the Old Mysore Region of southern Karnataka.

The Vokkaligas are primarily agriculturists.They form a politically and numerically dominant caste group and are the most populous group in Karnataka. Vokkaliga is a Kannada word of considerable antiquity finding mention in some of the earliest available literary works of the language, such as the Kavirajamarga, Pampa Bharata, and has been used as an appellation for the cultivator community since time immemorial.Generally the term has come to mean an agriculturist though various etymological derivations are available. A few likely derivations are as follows:

The word Okka or Okkalu in Kannada (Dravidian in origin) means a family or a clan and an Okkaliga being a person belonging to such a family.

Okkalutana in Kannada means agriculture and the epithet Okkaliga has been used to refer to a person belonging to the cultivator community.

Alternate etymologies include Okku which means threshing, said to refer to their agricultural activities from which is derived Okkaliga.

Gowda = People of the Vokkaliga community ascribe various honorifics to their castemen, the most popular of which is Gauda anglicized as Gowda. Titles such as Reddy, Hegde, Shetty and so on are also popular, generally used according to their sub group, language spoken and geographical area they belong to.

The words VokkaligThe words Vokkaliga and Gowda are almost synonymous in usage and in colloquial; Gowda has come to mean a Vokkaliga.