The Yerukala tribe has a dialect of its own which is called 'Yerukula basha' or 'Kurru basha' or 'Kulavatha'. 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 and beggars), Karivepaku Yerukala (hawkers of curry leaves), Uppu Yerukala (salt hawkers).
Each sub-division is dividend into four phraties viz., Sathupadi, Kavadi, Manupati and Mendraguthi. The first two phratries Viz, Sathupadi and Kavadi are considered to be superior to the other two. Each phratry is further sub-divided into a number of exogamous intiperlu (surnames). Some of the intiperlu are Kumbha, Mogili, Katta, Devara, Sreerama, Palaparthi, Meda etc, Endogamy at community level and exogamy at phratry and intiperlu level are observed.
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. Marriages between the maternal uncle and niece are also permitted. Monogamy is the common form of marriage, but polygyny is also socially permitted. Marriage through negotiation and exchange are the common modes of acquiring mates. Traditionally, the married women used to wear a bead necklace as the symbol of marriage. But now thali bottu or mangal sutram, the marriage pendent is being worn as a marriage symbol by most of the women. Divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery, barrenness and incompatibility between the spouses. Widows are permitted to re-marry.
Yerukalas worship Hindu benevolent Gods i.e. Lord Venteswara, Narasimhaswamy, Narayanaswamy and Rama. The Yerukalas are a spirit haunted and ghost-ridden people and attribute every disease or misfortune to the action of some malevolent spirits and ancestral ghosts. The influence of evil spirit is averted by sacrificing goats, pigs, fowls etc. They worship benevolent Gods, which are common Gods in Hindu pantheon and appease malevolent deities such as Ankamma, Kollapuramma, Sunkulamma, Poleramma and Ellamma. The Yerukalas celebrate Hindu festivals such as Sankranthi, Sivarathri, Sreeramanavami, Dasara, Ugadi (Telugu New Year's Day).
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) try and decide the domestic disputes, disputes relating to theft, adultery, loans, property and land. The characteristic feature of deciding guilt or innocence of an accused among Yerukalas was through trial by ordeal, which was in vogue till recent times such as 1. Dipping of fingers in boiling oil, 2. Picking up the burnt iron crowbar and, 3. Walking bare foot through the fire bed. Apart from solving disputes, the Kulapanchayat is also competent to maintain the solidarity of the community by checking the behaviour of the individuals. If a person commit the breach of incest taboo he is excommunicated and denied all community rights. The defaulter is readmitted into the community after the purificatory ceremony is observed.
Yerukalas are non-vegetarians. Rice is their staple cereal in coastal Andhra Pradesh, while jowar is the staple cereal in Rayalaseema and Telangana regions. They eat pork.
The traditional occupation 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.
The challa Yanadis and Paki Yanadis are considered to be unclean and low among Yanadis. Each division of the Yanadi is further divided into a number of patrilineal exogamous groups representing their lineage names (intiperlu).
Marriage by negotiations, by mutual love and elopement are usual modes of acquiring mates. The re-marriage of divorcees, widows and widowers is permitted. The nuclear type of family is more predominant.
They propitiate some village deities like Poleramma, Chenchamma, Mahalakshmamma etc. In addition to these, they worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Venkateswara, Vinayaka and Rama. They celebrate Hindu festivals such as Sankranthi, Ugadi, Dasara etc.,.
Each Yanadi habitat invariably consists of traditional village council (Kula Panchayat) for settling the disputes crop up among the Yanadis due to adultery, theft, land disputes etc. The hold of traditional council is still stronger. Generally, the culprits are admonished by way of imposing simple fines followed by feast.
Yanadis are non-vegetarians and eat the meat of rabbit, fowl, goat, sheep fish etc, but abstain from eating beef. Yanadis mainly subsist on agricultural labour. They are traditionally inland fishermen and are also engaged as watchmen to the fields and orchards of farmers. Collection of firewood, rickshaw pulling, rodents catching etc., constitutes secondary occupation of the Yanadis.With a view to settle these poverty-stricken Yanadis, land colonization schemes were started during the British period and continued after the Post Independence period for the rehabilitation of Yanadis. The State Government has also introduced land assignment schemes to provide land for cultivation to the landless Yanadis. Besides, the development schemes under the sectors like education, housing, women and child development, medical, health and nutrition, roads etc are also under implementation for the benefit of the Yanadis.
The expected results could not be achieved despite all the above developmental efforts for the Yanadis. Therefore, a decision has been taken by the Hon'ble chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on 09-09-1997 to establish a separate ITDA for Yanadis inhabiting Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasham districts.
A Yanadi Development plan has been prepared for the development of Yanadis inhabiting 3722 villages in 166 mandals of Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasham districts.
The Government vide G.O.Ms.No. 136, Social Welfare (TW.Bud.2) Department dated 19-12-2001 issued orders for establishing ITDA for Yanadis. The headquarters of ITDA is located at Nellore town in Nellore district.
The Project is headed by a Project Officer assisted by Development Officer and other supporting staff to implement various developmental programmes.