There are two interpretations for the origin of the word “Padmashali/Padmasali“. 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 Saalodu or Saalollu or sale vallu.
The word Padmashali has very deep meaning in Hindu mythology. In essense the word Padmashali is coinaage of two words, viz., 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.
Another mythological story relates to the Padmavathi, wife of Sri Srinivasa. It is believed that Padmavathi of Mangapura of Tirupati declares that she was the 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.
Thus, Padmashali name as caste carries highest meaning that it is caste of braminical not by birth but by deeds.
Like braminical class, the Padmashali’s relates their origin to Vrushis, sages as gothras. Each family has separate gothras and like in brahminical following, in marriage sagothras are barred. That apart the families also carry family names, the family name and gothras will be referred at the time of marriage and sagothras and like family name are barred in going in for marriage.
It is to be noted that it is likely the only caste that has a parasite leanage of families who live praising the Padmashali heritage and they are called as “Pogadaraju”, meaning, (Pogada = praising and Raju = king,)in praising the family as king. These Pogadaraju during the course of time are now known as padagaraju. These Padagaraju circuits to families of Padmashali and praises padmashali by bahuparak (Praises) refering the origin of Padmashali from Brugu maharshi to Bhavana maharshi (weaving was originally started by Bhavana rishi). Even today, Pogadaraju’s perform plays on “Padmashali vamsha charitam”.
All Padmasalis originated from Satavahana empire and their mother tongue remains Telugu, except for a few migrants who had taken longer and numerous stages of migration such as the Shettigars of Dakshina Kannada. Most Padmashali’s in Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chatttisgadh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa speak Telugu as mother tongue.