Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam. -- 13. brahmavargaḥ (Über Brahmanen). -- 1. Vers 1 - 7a. (Abstammung, Stände, Brahmanen). -- Anhang: Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya [যোগেন্দ্রনাথ ভট্টাচার্য্য] über Brahmanen (1896). -- Fassung vom 2017-06-01. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/amarakosa5/amara213aAnhang.htm
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Prof. Dr. Heinrich von Stietencron
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Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath [ভট্টাচার্য্য, যোগেন্দ্রনাথ]: Hindu castes and sects : an exposition of the origin of the Hindu caste system and the bearing of the sects towards each other and toward other religious systems. -- Calcutta : Thacker, Spink, 1896. -- 623 S. -- S. 19 - 131
The most remarkable feature in the mechanism of Hindu society is the high position occupied in it by the Brahmans. They not only claim almost divine honours as their birthright, but, generally speaking, the other classes, including the great Ksatriya [kṣatriya] princes, and the rich Vaishya [vaiśya] merchants readily submit to their pretensions as a matter of course. A Brahman never bows his head to make a pranam [praṇāma] to one who is not a Brahman. When saluted by a man of any other class, he only pronounces a benediction saying, “Victory be unto you.” In some cases when the party saluting is a prince or a man of exalted position in society, the Brahman, in pronouncing his benediction, stretches out the palm of his right hand, in a horizontal direction, to indicate that he has been propitiated. The form of salutation by the inferior castes to Brahmans varies according to circumstances. When the Brahman to be saluted has a very high position, temporal or spiritual, and the man saluting desires to honour him to the utmost degree possible, he falls prostrate at the feet of the object of his reverence, and, after touching them with his hand applies his fingers to his lips and his forehead. In ordinary cases a man, of any of the three inferior castes, salutes a Brahman by either joining his palms and raising them to his forehead, in the form of a double military salute, or by simply pronouncing such words as pranam [praṇāma] or paunlagi. Thus the amount of veneration shown to a Brahman may vary under different conditions. But no member of the other castes can, consistently with Hindu social etiquette and religious beliefs, refuse altogether to bow to a Brahman. Even the Chaitanites [Anhänger von Caitanya -- চৈতন্য, 1486 - 1533] and the other classes of modern Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava], who do not profess to have any veneration for the Brahmans as such, and speak of them as heretics in their own circle, cannot do without bowing to Brahmans and accepting their benedictions in public.
The more orthodox Sudras [śūdra] carry their veneration for the priestly class to such an extent, that they will not cross the shadow of a Brahman, and it is not unusual for them to be under a vow not to eat any food in the morning, before drinking Bipracharanāmrita [vipra-caraṇāmṛta], i. e., water in which the toe of a Brahman has been dipped. On the other hand, the pride of the Brahman is such that they do not bow to even the images of the gods worshipped in a Sudra [śūdra]’s [śūdra] house by Brahman priests.
The Brahman asserts his superiority in various other ways. His Shastras [śāstra] declare that on certain occasions, Brahmans must be fed and gifts must be made to them by members of all classes. But the Brahman can accept such hospitality and gifts without hesitation only where the host or donor is a member of one of the three superior castes. The position of the Sudras [śūdra] is, according to the theory of the Shastras [śāstra] and the practice of Hindu society such, that a Brahman cannot accept, their presents without lowering himself for ever, while by eating any kind of food cooked by a Sudra [śūdra] he loses his Brahmanism and his sanctity altogether. In the house of a Sudra [śūdra], a Brahman may eat uncooked food, or such food as is cooked by a Brahman. But the Brahman who does so, while not sojourning in a foreign place, is lowered for ever in public estimation. For all these reasons, a Brahman who accepts a Sudra [śūdra]’s gifts and hospitality at a religions ceremony, is able to pose as a person who makes a great sacrifice to oblige the host and donor.
When a Brahman invites a Sudra [śūdra], the latter is usually asked to partake of the host’s prasāda, or favour, in the shape of the leavings of his plate. Orthodox Sudras [śūdra] actually take offence, if invited by the use of any other formula. No Sudra [śūdra] is allowed to eat in the same room or at the same time with Brahmans. While the Brahman guests eat, the Sudras [śūdra] have to wait in a different part of the house. It is not, however, to be supposed that the Sudras [śūdra] take any offence at such treatment. On the contrary, they not only wait patiently, but, in some places, insist upon eating the leavings of the Brahmans, and refuse to eat anything from clean plates. Such orthodoxy is against nature, and is happily somewhat rare. Ordinarily, the pious Sudra [śūdra] takes a pinch from the leavings of a Brahman’s plate, and after eating the same with due reverence, begins to eat from a clean plate.
The high caste and well-to-do Sudras [śūdra] never eat in the house of a Brahman without paying for the honour a pranami [praṇāmī], or salutation fee, of at least one rupee. The Brahman host never insists on such payment, and in fact it is usually forced upon him. But when a Brahman eats in the house of a Sudra [śūdra] on a ceremonial occasion, the payment of a fee by the host to the guest is a sine qua non. This fee is called bhojan dakshina [bhojana-dakṣiṇā], and ordinarily varies from one anna to one rupee. In special cases the Sudra [śūdra] host has to pay much heavier fees.
When a Sudra [śūdra] writes a letter to a Brahman, it must begin by declaring that the writer makes a hundred million obeisances at the lotus feet of the addressee. When a Brahman writes a letter to a man of any other caste, the style of his communication is that of a superior being, and be commences it by pouring "heaps of assurances of future bliss. ”
If the amount of honour which is shown by any community to its female members is an indication of the degree of civilization attained by it, then, the Brahmans are, the most advanced race of men on earth. They never mention the names of their ladies without the affix devi [devī] (goddess). But while thus upholding the dignity of the female members of their own class, they have taught the Sudras [śūdra] to use the word dasi [dāsī] (slave) as an affix to the names of Sudra [śūdra] females.
For conversational purposes the proper form of address by Sudras [śūdra] to Brahmans is Thākoor [ṭhākura] Mahasaya [ṭhākura mahāśaya] or Thākoorji [ठाकूर्जी] which means “venerable god. ” In the same way Brahman ladies have to be addressed by Sudras [śūdra] as Ma Thākoorain [mā ṭhākūrāṇī] or mother goddess. Formerly, even the Brahman kings of the country preferred the address of Thākoor [ṭhākura] to any other honorific expression. But of late years the word has suffered a strange degradation, and though it means “god” it is now very often taken to denote a cook. For this reason the Brahmans who have received an English education, and are engaged in secular pursuits, saw no objection at one time to be addressed as Babus [bābū] But the epithet, Babu [bābū] itself, has suffered of late a similar degradation. Before the commencement of British rule, it was applied only to the collateral relatives of the great royal families of India. But Englishmen in India applied it indiscriminately to every untitled Hindu, and specially to their Hindu clerks in Bengal. The title is, therefore, now usually taken to be the equivalent of the English words, "clerk” and "accountant,” and the higher classes of educated Hindus now consider it an insult to be called Babus [bābū]. In the absence of any other Indian word for honorific address, some Hindu gentlemen now prefer to be addressed as "Mr.” and "Esquire,” and for this they are found fault with and ridiculed, both by their countrymen and foreigners. But the fact is that the Hindu titles have suffered such degradation of late, that the untitled aristocracy of the country are compelled by sheer necessity to assume other epithets. If the word Thākoor [ṭhākura] retained its original signification, surely no Brahman, however exalted his secular position might be, would feel ashamed of that glorious honorific, or prefer the foreign epithets “ Mr ” and “ Esquire. ”
According to the commandments of his religion, the proper avocations of Brahmans are the following: —
Until recently the teaching of the Shastras [śāstra] was considered as the most honourable profession for a Brahman. The great Pandits [paṇḍita] of the country are still honoured and subsidized by the well-to-do classes. But their pretensions to superior learning are not admitted by those who have received an English education, and as their vaunted lore does not open the doors to any kind of service under Government, or to the liberal professions, they are fast sinking to a very inferior position. There was a time when the first Pandit [paṇḍita] in the country was the first man in the country. The people believed in the Pandits [paṇḍita] and, under the Hindu kings, the entire administration was very often left in their hands. But under British rule, the Pandits [paṇḍita] are nowhere. They still exercise very considerable influence over the uneducated classes. But the dignity of their profession is gone, and the class itself is fast becoming extinct in consequence of the superior attractions of English education.
As to the priestly profession, it is to be observed that the ordinance which recommends it as a proper one for a Brahman, is subject to very important limitations. Those who officiate as priests for Sudras [śūdra], and those who perform the service of idols in public or private shrines, are, according to the dogmas of the Hindu scriptures, degraded persons. The performance of priestly functions for the superior castes is nowhere condemned in the sacred codes, and is, in fact, recommended as a proper avocation for a Brahman. But, according to Hindu notions, a priest is a very inferior person, and no Brahman, who can live otherwise, would willingly perform the work of a priest. The duties of the Brahman pastor involve long fastings, and, in respect of the worship of idols, almost menial service. Further, the men who actually perform the function of priests are, in the majority of cases, ignorant persons with just the amount of the knowledge of rituals that is necessary for discharging their duties. The Pandits [paṇḍita], who study the original works that regulate these rituals, can find fault with the priest, at every step, and reserve for themselves the higher functions of the critic and superintendent.
Whatever be the reason, the priest has a very inferior position in Hindu society. The relative status of Brahman families depends partly upon the hereditary rank of its members, as determined by the records of Indian heraldry. But, apart from aristocratic lineage, the highest position among the Brahmans is, according to orthodox notions, occupied by the Pandits [paṇḍita] and the Gurus who have only Brahman disciples. The Gurus are principally of two classes—namely, Tāntric and Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava]. The Tāntric Gurus inculcate mainly the worship of Siva [śiva]’s consorts; while the Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] Gurus or Gossains [गोसाईं] insist upon the worship of one of the incarnations of Vishnu [viṣṇu]. The disciples of the Gossains [गोसाईं] are men of very low castes, including vintners, oilmen, and even the “unfortunates” of the towns. Having such followers, the Gossains [गोसाईं] are a very well-to-do class, but are held in very low esteem, and very few good Brahmans eat in their houses.
Among the Tāntric Gurus there are a great many who have only Brahman disciples. They are generally very learned men, and are not like the Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] Gossains [गोसाईं], who are usually so illiterate that the few among them who can barely recite the Sri Bhāgavat are reckoned by their followers as prodigies of Sanskrit scholarship.
A few words about the probable origin of the modern Guru’s profession may not be out of place here. There is no mention of it in the ancient scriptures of the Hindus, and it is recognized and regulated only by their new testaments. The word Guru or Acharya [ācārya] originally meant a teacher of the Vedas. The ancient legal and moral codes of the Hindus gave a very high position to the Vedic teachers. Manu says: —
“ Of him who gives natural birth, and him who gives knowledge of the whole Veda, the giver of sacred knowledge is the more venerable father, since the second or divine birth ensures life to the twice-born, both in this world and hereafter eternally. ”—Manu II, 140.
When, by such teachings, the position of the Guru became associated in the Hindu mind with the tenderest sentiments of regard and affection, the Brahmanical theologians began to think of devising ways to exact that reverence even from persons who have never been Vedic pupils, and who have not even the right to read our holy scriptures. The Vedic mantras are too voluminous and prosaic to attract any considerable number of pupils. Females and Sudras [śūdra] are not allowed to study them at all. For these reasons, no actual teacher of the Vedas could at any time hope to attract round him any considerable number of actual Vedic students. But the position of a Guru having a large number of pupils is a desirable one, and the Tāntrics invented a short cut to that position. They gave the name mantra to some mystic and meaningless syllables which might be communicated and learnt at one sitting. Sudras [śūdra] and females were made eligible for these mantras, and every Brahman with a little tact and show of piety was enabled to gather round him an army of chellas bound by their vow to worship him as a god and to pay a yearly tax to him and his descendants from generation to generation. The chellas are regarded by the Guru as his property, and when the sons of a deceased Guru make a partition of his estate and effects, the chellas are partitioned and distributed among them in the same manner as any other property inherited by them.
The simple method invented by the Tāntrics for acquiring the power and position of a Guru over a large number of disciples, has been remarkably successful. Looked at a priori such mystic syllables as hoong [hūṁ], doong [dūṁ], kling [klīṁ] or hring [hrīṁ] are an outrage on common sense. But the gullibility of man has no limit, and the Guru who whispers these meaningless expressions in the ears of his disciple is worshipped and paid by him as the bestower of untold benefits. He is not allowed to reveal its nature to any one. The matter is certainly not such as to be capable of bearing the daylight of intelligent criticism. The Guru, therefore, acts wisely in insisting that the communication should be treated as strictly confidential.
The Gossains [गोसाईं] discard the mystic syllables more or less, and inculcate that in this age of sin the only way to attain salvation lies in constantly repeating the name of Hari! Their doctrine may not at first sight seem to be consistent with their professional policy. A Tāntric mantra is a. mystic syllable which must necessarily be received from a Guru by those who may value it. But if, as the Vishnuvites [vaiṣṇava] say, a man can save his soul by merely repeating the name of some deity a certain number of times, surely he cannot be absolutely in need of a spiritual teacher to initiate him in the adoption of that method. But logic or reason has very little connection with faith, and as Gurus of all classes, including both the Tāntric and the Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava], insist upon the necessity of a spiritual teacher for every human being, the idea has become too firmly implanted in the Hindu mind to be eradicated by any occasional gleam of common sense.
The abominations worshipped by the Tāntrics are eschewed altogether by the Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava]. But the latter by reciting stories or singing songs about the illicit amours of Krishna [Kṛṣṇa], gives perhaps greater encouragement to immorality than any Tāntric the nature of whose phallic emblems is understood by very few of those who worship them. So there is very little to choose between the morality of the one or the other. But the Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] can perform their operations openly, while the Tāntrics require a shroud of mysticism to envelop them. Anyhow, the Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] are very fast extending the sphere of their influence, and many of the Tāntrics are now espousing Vaishnava [vaiṣṇava] tenets in order to have the advantage of enlisting among their followers the low classes that are becoming rich under British rule.
Cannot a man of one caste pass* as a member of another caste?
* I once heard a story about an attempt made by a shoemaker to pass as a Brahman. With a view to have a share of the nice eatables provided for the Brahman guests of a local Dives, he equipped himself like a Brahman with his sacred thread, and quietly joined the company when they assembled in the evening. As usual on such occasions, one of the party asked him what his name and his father’s name were. He said, in reply, that his own name was Ram Chatterjea, and that his father’s name was Kasi Lahiri. Being thus found out, he was hustled out of the place. His low position in caste saved him from kicks and blows, and while effecting his exit he gave expression to the sad moral of his adventure by muttering "a shoemaker cannot conceal his caste even under cover of night.”
This is a question which must occur to every foreigner interesting himself in the subject. But, as explained already, there cannot be any strong motive for such false impersonation, and the checks which are provided by Hindu social etiquette, are powerful enough to repress any such attempts. The unwritten law of Indian society requires that every Hindu, when asked, must mention not only the names of his paternal and maternal ancestors, but give also every information that he can about such queries as the following: —
There are also special enquiries for each caste and clan, and these go into such details that it must be quite impossible for an outsider to answer them. I shall refer to some of those details further on, but it seems to me absolutely necessary to give some information about Gotra, Pravara, &c., in this place.
Gotra. —The Gotra of a Brahman is the name of the Rishi [ṛṣi] [ṛṣi] or Vedic poet from whom he and his agnates are supposed to be descended. The Gotra of a man of any other caste is the name of the Rishi [ṛṣi] who and whose descendants were entitled to officiate as priests in the family of his ancestors. The original meaning of the word was, in all probability, a place for keeping cattle. But, with the highest possible respect for the authority of Professor Max Müller, I see no reason whatever to suppose that the Brahmans, Rajputs and Vaishyas [vaiśya], who now profess to he of the same Gotra, have this tradition, because their ancestors lived within the same cow-pen. In the vernacular languages of India, the word got means simply a company of men, and the authority of the Shastras [śāstra] is distinctly in favour of the view that the men who profess to be of the same Gotra, are either the actual descendants, or the progeny of the spiritual sons of the same primitive priest. The origin of the Gotra is to he traced not to actual residence within the same cow-pen, but to a metaphorical use of the word similar to that which is made of the term ‘flock’ by the priests of the Christian Church.
Pravara. —The word literally means a person duly appointed. On the view which I take of the Gotra, the Pravaras of a Hindu are the Rishis [ṛṣi] who were entitled to be appointed as assistant priests for the performance of the religious ceremonies of his ancestors. On any other view the Pravaras can have no meaning whatever.
Vedas and Sakha [śākha] [śākha]. —Every Brahman is supposed to be a reader of one of the four Vedas, and though the study has, for various reasons, been suppressed long since, yet every member of the priestly caste is expected to know by tradition the name of the Veda, and the recension of it of which his family profess to be students. Hence, when any enquiry is made about the lineage of any member of the twice-born castes, he is asked to mention the name of his Veda.
Sutra [sūtra] [sūtra]. —The Sutras are ritualistic works, and the Sutra [sūtra] of a Brahman is the name of the Rishi [ṛṣi] whose manual of rituals regulates the religious ceremonies of his family. Every Brahman in the country is supposed to know his Gotra, Pravara and Veda, and is expected to mention them whenever asked. But the Sakha [śākha] and the Sutra [sūtra] are known only to the learned, and it is not very usual to make any enquiry about them even on formal occasions.
A difference of Gotra, Pravara, Vedas or Sakha [śākha] does not usually imply any difference of caste or clan; nor does any identity in these respects imply an identity of class. There is a saying in Bengali according to which there are only five Gotras in the world. As a matter of fact there are more than 100 different Gotras, and each one of these is to be found in almost all the primary castes. The Gotra is not only something very different from caste, but involves very opposite incidents. The most important feature of caste is that no Hindu can contract a marital alliance outside its limits. But as to Gotra the rule among the higher castes is that marriage can only be valid between persons of different Gotra.
According to some authoritative texts of the Shastras [śāstra], and according to popular belief also, the Brahmans of India are divided into two main classes, each of them being sub-divided into five sub-classes as shown in the following table: —
1. Panch Gaur [pañca gauda] or the five classes of Northern India.
2. Panch Dravira or the five classes of Southern India.
As a matter of fact the divisions among the Brahmans are so numerous that it is exceedingly difficult, if not actually impossible, to frame an exhaustive and accurate list thereof. For the purpose of giving an account of the Brahmans of Northern India alone, each of the following provinces and districts must be taken into consideration separately:
Even within the limits of each of the above-mentioned territorial divisions, the Brahmanical population are not, in any case, of the same class. In Bengal proper alone, there are, besides the degraded and the semi-degraded Brahmans, about half-a-dozen different divisions in the sacerdotal population which are, for all practical purposes, different castes altogether. The case is no better in any of the other provinces. On the contrary, among the Sarswatas [sārasvata] of the Punjab, what were merely hypergamous groups formerly, now threaten to be separate castes, and when this transformation becomes complete, it will be quite as impossible to count their sub-divisions as those of the Guzratis.
Abb.: Political divisions of the Indian Empire
[Bildquelle: Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909 / Wikimedia]
Excepting the recent immigrants from other provinces, the Brahmans of Bengal proper are divided into the following classes: —
It is said that there is, besides these, another class in Bengal called the Sapta Satis [sapta-śatin], or the Seven Hundred, who were the only Brahmans in Bengal before the colonisation of the live priests invited by King Adisur [আদিসুর - ādisūra] in the 9th century of the Christian era. I have never met with any Sapta Sati Brahmans; but, so far as my information goes, members of this class may be found in some parts of East Bengal, and especially in Maheshpore [মহেশপুর - maheśapūra] in the eastern part of the Nadiya district [নদিয়া জেলা]. They usually intermarry with the Radhiyas, and, for all practical purposes, may he regarded as a section of that class.
The numerical strength of the Paschatya Vaidikas is not very considerable. Their name indicates that they came from the west, and according to the traditions in their families, they are of the Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj]ia stock, their ancestors having, at the commencement of Mahomedan rule, migrated from their original habitat to Tirhoot [तिरहुत], and subsequently from Tirhoot to Bengal. Most of the Vaidika immigrants were specially invited by one or other of the many Hindu Rajas, who ruled over the country as semi-independent chiefs, during almost the entire period of Moslem ascendancy. The ancestor of the leading Vaidikas of Nadiya [নদিয়া জেলা] was a reader of the Mahabharat [mahābhārata] who could recite it from memory, and was made to settle in Bengal by a Raja Kashinath [rājā kāśīnātha], who was the ruler of the Nadiya [নদিয়া জেলা] district before it was given by the Emperor Jehangir [جهانگیر] to Bhava Nanda, the ancestor of the present Raja of Nadiya. The founder of the Vaidika family of Kotalipahar was invited from Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj] by a Hindu prince who ruled over the district of Bakergunge [বাকেরগঞ্জ - bākeragañja] in the thirteenth century, and was led to celebrate at an immense cost a religious ceremony for avoiding an evil that was foreboded by the fall of a dead vulture on the roof of his palace. The lucky priest secured for himself, by way of remuneration for his services, a valuable zemindari [zu زمیندار] which is now in the possession of his descendants. The most important colonies of the Vaidikas are to be found now in the districts of Nadiya [নদিয়া], Burdwan [বর্ধমান - Bardhamāna], 24-Pergunnahs [२४-परगना / ২৪-পরগনা - 24-paraganā], Malda [মালদা - māladā], Rajshahi [রাজশাহী - rājaśāhī], Jessore [যশোর - yeśora], Bakergunge [বাকেরগঞ্জ - bākeragañja], Dacca [ঢাকা - ḍhākā] and Faridpore [ফরিদপুর - pharidapūra].
The majority of the other classes of Bengali Brahmans are the spiritual disciples of the Vaidikas [বৈদিক] of Nadiya [নদিয়া] and Bhatpara [ভাটপাড়া - bhāṭpāṛā]. A Vaidika never enlists himself as a disciple of a Brahman of any other class. Some Vaidikas have Sudra [śūdra] disciples, and have even stooped so far as to officiate as priests for Sudras [śūdra] and in public temples. But, generally speaking, their Brahmanical pride is such that the poorest among them would rather die than do any kind of manual work. Till recently they kept themselves aloof from English education and Government service. But their disciples do not submit nowadays to he taxed by them to the same extent as in former times, and stern necessity has been compelling the Gurus of Nadiya and Bhatpara, to pocket their pride, and to qualify themselves for Government service and the liberal professions, by English education.
The usual surname of the Vaidikas is Bhattacharya [ভট্টাচাৰ্য - Bhaṭṭācārya]. There are some in the class who have other family names such as Chackravarti [চক্রবর্তী - cakravartī], Roy [রায় - rāya] and Chowdry [চৌধুরী - caudhūrī]; but all these are honorific titles, and are not peculiar to the class. For the meanings of these titles, see Glossary.
The Rārhiya and the Bārendra Brahmans of Bengal trace their descent from the five priests brought from Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj] , in the 9th century, by King Adisur [আদিসুর - ādisūra] of East Bengal, for the purpose evidently of performing one of those Vedic. sacrifices for which competent priests could be had only in the capitals of the great Hindu kings. The Rārhiyas and Bārendras are very proud of their descent. But even on the supposition that King Adisur [আদিসুর - ādisūra] was a Ksatriya [kṣatriya], and not a Vaidya, it cannot be said that, according to Hindu notions, the five priests imported by him were entitled to be regarded as very high class Brahmans. The very title of Upadhya [উপাধ্য], which their patron gave them, shows that they were regarded as middle class, and not first class Pandits [paṇḍita]. The Rārhiyas and the Bārendras may, with much better reason, boast of having had in their clans such great men as Raghunnath [রঘুনাথ], Gadadhar [গদাধৰ], Kulluka [কুল্লূক] and Raghunandan [রঘুনন্দন], the last being by way of pre-eminence known throughout India as Smarta Bhattacharya [স্মার্ত ভট্টাচার্য], or the great professor of jurisprudence and theology.
The Rārhis derive their clan name from that of the tract of country which now forms the northern portion of the Burdwan [বর্ধমান] division. Brahmans of this class are to be found in every part of Bengal proper, and their numerical strength is perhaps greater than that of all the other classes of Bengali Brahmans taken together. They are divided into about one hundred sub-classes, and grouped under the four main heads mentioned below: —
A Rārhiya Kulin can give his daughter only to a Kulin. If he gives his daughter to a Bansaja or Srotriya his Kulinism is destroyed forever. A Kulin can marry the daughter of a Kulin or that of a Sudha Srotriya. If he marry the daughter of a Kashta Srotriya, he is lowered at once in rank. If he marry into a Bansaja family, his Kulinism lasts for some generations in a decaying condition, and his descendant in the eighth degree becomes a regular Bansaj. A Kulin who first marries into a Bansaj family generally gets a very high premium. The Kulins who have kept their Kulinism intact, generally find great difficulty in marrying their daughters, and are obliged to keep them unmarried, notwithstanding the Shastric injunctions that require every Hindu to give his female children in marriage before puberty. A Srotriya can give his daughter to a Bansaj as well as to a Kulin. A Bansaj cannot give his daughter to a Srotriya.
The usual and peculiar titles of the Rārhiyas are: —
Each of the first four of these titles consists of two words joined together. The first word is the name of the village* granted to the ancestor of the holder by King Ballalal Sen, and the last word is Upadhya [উপাধ্যায়], which means an assistant teacher or priest.
* This is in accordance with the explanation of the above-mentioned names given by Rārhiya Gattaks or College of Heralds. But Banodh being the ancient name of the tract of country, including the modern districts of Unao and Rai Bareilly in the vicinity of Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj], it is quite possible that Bandyopadhya means an Upadhaya of Banodh. Similar explanations seem to be possible regarding Mukhopadhya, Chattapadhya and Gangopadhya.
The Rādhis have also other titles such as Putitunda, Kanji Lal, Pakrasi, &c., which are peculiar to their class; but an exhaustive enumeration of these is unnecessary in a book like this. Among the Rādhiyas, there are also Bhattacharyas [ভট্টাচার্য], Majumdars [মজুমদার], Roys [রায় - rāya], Chowdries [চৌধুরী], &c., but these titles are not peculiar to their class.
Formerly the Rādhiyas of the eastern and central districts of Bengal devoted themselves generally to the cultivation of Sanskrit, and abstained from all such pursuits as are considered to be derogatory to the dignity of a Brahman. But even under the Mahomedan rulers some of them accepted service as, for instance, Bhabananda Majumdar of Nadiya [নদিয়া], and the unfortunate Raja Nand Kumar who, according to Macaulay himself, “had been great and powerful before the British Empire in India began to exist, and to whom in the old times Governors and Members of Council, then mere commercial factors, had paid court for protection. ”
Under British rule the Rādhiyas, and especially their outcasted Pirāli section, have been the first to adapt themselves to the exigencies of the new régime, and to take advantage of such opportunities for advancement as it offered to the people of the country. Dwarka Nath Tagore [দ্বারকানাথ ঠাকুর, 1794 - 1846] and Prasanna Kumar Tagore [প্রসন্নকুমার ঠাকুর, 1801 - 1886] were Pirālis. Ram Mohan Roy রাম মোহন রায়, 1772 - 1833] and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar [ঈশ্বর চন্দ্র বিদ্যাসাগর, 1820 - 1891]9 were Brahmans of a better class, but even they did not hold a very high position in their caste. In fact until recently the high class Rādhiyas were usually quite illiterate. Their hereditary rank made them highly prized as bridegrooms for the daughters of their well-to-do clansmen, and many of them lived in former times by making marriage their sole profession. A Kulin of a high class might then marry more than a hundred wives without any difficulty, and there are still some who have such large numbers of wives as to necessitate their keeping regular registers for refreshing their memory, about the names and residences of their spouses. Not only each marriage, but each visit by a Kulin to his wife brought him valuable presents, and as his wives and children were supported by his fathers-in-law, he could pass his days in comfort without being qualified for any kind of service or profession. The Kulin's sons sometimes became rich by inheriting the property of their maternal relatives. But it was until lately very rare for a Kulin to be the architect of his own fortune. The state of things in Hindu society is, however, undergoing great changes. Most of the Kulins have become lowered in rank by marrying into inferior families, and Kulinism, even where it is preserved intact, is not now-a-days valued in the matrimonial market to the same extent that it used to be in former times. Wealth, university degrees and official position command a much higher premium at present than an ancient pedigree. The Kulins themselves have been taught, by the bitter experience of their ancestors, to be not too eager for polygamy. And the coup de grace to the practice has been given by a decision of the Bengal High Court declaring that, according to the law of the Shastras [śāstra] applicable to all Hindus, even the Kulins are bound to give maintenance to their wives. Whatever be the cause, monogamy is now becoming the rule among the Kulins, and they are fast on the way towards again taking their proper place among the most refined and cultured classes of the country. A Kulin of the highest rank has just retired on pension after having served the Government of Bengal for several years as Head Assistant in the Judicial Department. Even among the greatest of the living celebrities of Bengal there are at present some Kulins of a more or less high position in the Rādhiya peerage, the foremost among them being Mr. W. C. Bonnerjee [উমেশ চন্দ্র ব্যানার্জী, 1844 – 1906], Advocate, Bengal High Court; Dr. Guru Das Banerjee [স্যার গুরুদাশ ব্যানার্জী, 1844 - 1918], Judge, Bengal High Court; Mr. Pramada Charan Banerjee [1848 – ca. 1930], Judge, N. -W. P. High Court; Mr. Pratul Chandra Chatterji, Judge, Panjab Chief Court.
The late Mr. Justice Anookul Chandra Mookerji was also a Rādhiya Kulin. Mr. W. C. Bonnerjee is a member of the clan called Pandit Ratni or “the jewel of Pandits, ” and is lineally descended on his mother’s side from the great Jagannath, the author of the Digest translated by Mr. Colebrooke Babu Pratul Chandra is of the Kharda clan. His grandfather made a fortune by marrying the daughter of Gokool Ghosal, one of the chief fiscal officers in the early days of the East India Company, and the founder of the Raj family of Bhu Kailas.
The Bārendras trace their origin from the same stock as the Rādhis, from the five priests invited by King Adisur [আদিসুর - ādisūra] from Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj]. The Bārendras derive their class name from the ancient name of North Bengal. Their numerical strength is less than that of the Rādhis, but greater than that of the Vaidikas.
The usual family names of the Bārendras are the following: —
These surnames are peculiar to the Bārendras, They have also among them Bhattacharyas [ভট্টাচার্য], Majumdars [মজুমদার], Joadars, Roys [রায়], and Chowdries [চৌধুরী]. There are some high caste Bārendras who have the Mahomedan title of Khan. The Bārendras, like the Vaidikas, never do any kind of menial work, and the only class of Bengali Brahmanas who serve as cooks are the Rarhis of West Burdwan [বর্ধমান]. The Rarhis of the eastern districts of Bengal, i. e. of the districts to the east of the river Hooghly [হুগলী], are quite as aristocratic as the Bārendras and the Vaidikas.
The hypergamous divisions among the Bārendras are similar to those of the Rarhis in certain respects, the only important difference being that the Bārendras have a section among them called Cāp* who have a somewhat unique position, though resembling to some extent the Bansaj among the Rarhis.
* With regard to the origin of the (Cāps it is said that they are the descendants of a great Kulin named Madhu Moitra by his first wife. Madhu was an inhabitant, of a village on the river Atrai [আত্রাই/আত্রেই নদী], situated near the place where it is now crossed by the North Bengal State Railway. An inferior member of the clan, being treated at a dinner party of his castemen with great contumely, determined to form a matrimonial alliance with the great Kulin at any cost, and with that object hired a boat to take him to the vicinity of Madhu’s residence and was careful to have with him on board of the vessel his wife, an unmarried daughter and a cow. On reaching the neighbourhood of Madhu’s village, he inquired of a Brahman, who was saying his prayers after performing his ablutions on the banks of the river, whether he knew where the great head of the Bārendra clan lived. The Brahman, who was interrogated, was himself the person about whom the enquiry was addressed. When the fact, was made known to the Brahman on hoard the boat, he produced a hammer and a chisel threatening to sink the boat with all its inmates unless Madhu agreed to marry the Brahman’s daughter. The old man was too far advanced in life to be quite ready for complying with any request of the kind. But, as an orthodox Hindu, he could not take upon himself any share of the three great crimes, namely, the killing of a female, the killing of a Brahman, and the killing of a cow—which were threatened to be perpetrated in his presence. So he reluctantly gave his consent. But when his sons came to know what he was going to do they were very much annoyed, and they separated from their father at once. The old man was supported by his sister’s husband, who was then the other great Kulin of the caste, and the sons who separated became Cāps. The position of their descendants is superior to that of the Srotriyas [śrotriya], but inferior to that of the Kulins. Matrimonial alliance between a Kulin and a Cāp reduces the former to the position of the latter.
Polygamy is rare among the Bārendras; but the marriage of a daughter among their higher classes is quite as expensive as among the Rarhis. There are many big Bārendra landholders, the most noted among them being the great house of Nattore [নাটোর ] that held possession of more than one-third of Bengal proper, at the time of the conquest of the country by the East India Company. Next in importance to the Nattore Rajas, but more ancient than their family, is that of the Putia [পুঠিয়া] zemindars. The late Maharani Sharat Sundari [মহারানি শরৎ সুন্দরী], whose name is venerated throughout India for her extensive charities, and for her character as a model Hindu widow, was a member of the Putia house. Among the other great Bārendra landholders of Bengal are the zemindars of Susang and Muktagacha [মুক্তাগাছা] in the district of Mymensing [ময়মনসিংহ]. Babu Mohini Mohan Roy [মেহিনী মোহন রায় ], who is one of the most successful pleaders of the Bengal High Court, and who has lately been made an Additional Member of the Supreme Legislative Council of India, is a Bārendra.
The majority of the Vaidikas, Rarhis and Bārendras are moderate Saktas [śākta]. They worship all the ancient deities of the Hindu pantheon: but Durgā, Kālī and Siva [śiva] have the largest share of their devotion. Many of them sacrifice goats and buffaloes before the deities they worship; but among such of their orthodox members as are not affected by English education, and the temptations of modern town life, the drinking of spirituous liquors is still practically unknown.
The name of this class indicates that they originally came from the south. They are found chiefly in the district of Midnapore [মেদিনীপুর], and seem to have been originally Brahmans of Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା]. A few small colonies of the Dākshinatyas are to be found in the southern portion of the metropolitan district of 24-Pergunnahs [२४-परगना ২৪-পরগনা - 24-paraganā]. They are a separate caste altogether, and there can be neither intermarriage nor interchange of hospitality between them and the Paschatya Vaidikas. Pandit Siva Nath Sasrti [শিবনাথ শাস্ত্রী, 1847 - 1919], of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj [সাধারণ ব্রাহ্ম সমাজ], is a Dākshinatya Vaidika.
The Madhya Srenis are a very backward class of Brahmans, to be found only in the district of Midnapore [মেদিনীপুর]. As they have the very same surnames and Gotras as the Rādhis of Bengal, they are evidently a section of the Rādhis. They themselves profess to be so, and account for their want of connection with the Rādhis properly so-called, by saying that as they refused to acknowledge the authority of the Ghataks [ঘটক] to determine their status, the Rādhi College of Heralds refused to recognise their very existence. The true cause of their forming a separate caste seems, however, to be that they accepted the gifts of the Kaibartas [কৈবর্ত], and lived in an out-of-the-way district. The Madhya Srenis are generally very poor and without any literary culture beyond what is necessary for doing the work of a priest.
The distinction between Kulins and Srotriyas [śrotriya] is not recognised by the Madhya Srenis. The descendants of those who, at one time or other, became famous as Sanskrit scholars, enjoyed, until lately, a higher position than the secular Brahmans. But at present, the status of a party for matrimonial purposes depends chiefly upon the amount of wealth possessed by him. The Madhya Srenis partake of the hospitality of the Kaibartas, and minister to them as priests in all ceremonies except Shradhs [śrāddha]. *
* Mr. Risley in his account of the Madhya Srenis says that they have eight Gotras, and that the Madhya Srenis of Mayna and certain other places have a higher position than the rest. But his account seems to be based upon erroneous information.
The Shradhs [śrāddha] of the Kaibartas are performed by a class of Brahmans called Vyasokta.
The Brahmans of Mithila [मिथिला] or Tirhoot [तिरहुत] are called Maithila [मैथिल] Brahmans. They form one of the five leading classes of North Indian Brahmans called Panch Gaur [pañca gauḍa]. They have no sub-castes, though they are divided into many groups which are of importance for the purpose of arranging marriages among them. The following are the names of these hypergamous groups: —
A man of a higher group may take in marriage a girl from a lower group. But a girl of a higher group is never given to a bridegroom of a lower class, except where the parents of the former are too poor to marry her to a boy of the same or a superior group.
The Maithila Brahmans have a special kind of headdress. Their usual surnames are the following: —
* Persons who profess to exorcise evil spirits or cure snake bites are usually called Ojhas [औझा], or, by a further corruption of the word, ‘Roja.’ They do not belong to any particular caste, and are generally low class men.
The Maithilas are very conservative, and still think that it is beneath their dignity to accept service under the British Government, though such feeling has died out completely even among the highest classes of Bengali Brahmans.
The head of the Maithila Brahmans is the Maharaja of Darbhanga [दरभंगा]. The founder of the family, Mahesh Thākoor [महैश ठाकुऱ], bore a Brahmanical surname. But whether on account of the degradation of that highly honorific title, or on account of their belonging to a royal family, his descendants at, present use the Ksatriya [kṣatriya] surname of Sing [सिंह]. The transformation is exactly the opposite of what has taken place in many Ksatriya [kṣatriya] families, though the ambition of a Rajput to be elevated from the rank of a Sing [सिंह] (lion) to that of Thākoor [ठाकुऱ] (god) is certainly more intelligible, than the desire on the part of any royal family to be degraded from the rank of a god to that of a lion.
Besides the Maharaja of Darbhanga [दरभंगा], there are many other families of big landholders among the Maithila Brahmans. One of the most conspicuous of these is the Raja of Banaili [बनैली], who is the owner of the extensive estate of Kharakpore [খড়্গপুর] in the district of Monghyr [মুঙ্গের], but is about to be ruined by family quarrels, mismanagement and litigation. The Purnea Zemindars of Srinagar, who are also big landholders, are a branch of the Banaili family. The Banaili family belong to that division which is called Jog.
From very early times Mithila has been famous for the cultivation of Sanskrit. It has given birth to some of the greatest authorities in Hindu jurisprudence, and in the branch of Hindu philosophy called Nya [nyāya]. The great lawgiver Yājñavalkya is described in the opening lines of his work as a native of Mithila, and tradition still points to a place near the junction of the Ghogra [घाघरा] with the Ganges, which is believed to have been the residence of the sage Gautama, the founder of the Nya [nyāya] philosophy. Of the mediaeval and modern Maithila authors, the names of Gangesha Upadhya [गंगेश उपाध्याय, 12. Jhdt.], Pakshadhar Misra, Udayanacharya [उदयनाचार्य, 10. Jhdt.], Chandeshwar [चन्देश्वर] and Bachaspati Misra [वाचस्पति मिश्र, 9./10. Jhdt] will continue to be honoured so long as Hindu law and philosophy remain in existence. Among the Maithila Sanskritists of recent times, the late Pandit Bapu Jan Jha attained great eminence, and his son, Chumba Jha, is fully sustaining the reputation of the family. The other two great living Pandits of Mithila are Halli Jha and Vishwa Nath Jha.
The majority of the Maithila Brahmans are Sakti [śakti] worshippers. They offer sacrifices before the deities they worship, and eat flesh and fish, but are not known to be in the habit of drinking spirituous liquors, as the extreme Saktas [śākta] are required to do by their Shastras [śāstra]. The Maithila Brahmans do not smoke tobacco.
There is a class of Brahmans in South Behar who call themselves Sakaldipis [शाकद्वीपीय] or Sakadipis. The majority of them live either by ministering to the other castes as priests, or by the practice of medicine. There are, however, a few Pandits and landholders among them. One peculiar custom in the community is that, like the Sarswat Brahmans of the Panjab, a Sakaldipi may marry within his Gotra, though such marriage is strictly prohibited among the three superior castes by Hindu law. The Sakaldipis are divided into a certain number of Purs or sections, and marriage is impossible only within the Pur.
The most important classes of Brahmans in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh [अवध] are the following: —
Kanojia [कान्यकुब्ज / कन्नौजिया]. —The Kanojias hold a very high position among the Brahmans of Northern India. They form one of the five divisions called Panch Gaur [pañca gauḍa], and the Brahmans of Bengal take a great pride in claiming to have been originally Kanojias. The name is derived from the ancient Hindu city of Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj], at the confluence of the Ganges and the Kālinadi [कालीनदी], in the district of Farrakkabad. The Kanojia Brahmans are to be found in almost every part of Northern India. But their original home is the tract of country which, before the time of Wellesley, formed the western half of the kingdom of Oudh, including the modern districts of Philibit [पीलीभीत], Bareilly [बरेली], Shajehanpore [शाहजहाँपुर], Farakkabad, Cawnpore [कानपुर], Fatehapur, Hamirpur [हमीरपुर], Banda [बांदा] and Allahabad [इलाहाबाद]. The usual surnames of the Kanojia Brahmans are the following: —
In each of these there are many sub-sections, having different positions for matrimonial purposes.
The Kanojias, notwithstanding their high position from the point of view of caste, freely enlist in the army as sepoys [सिपाही], and do not consider it beneath their dignity to serve even as orderlies, peons and gatekeepers. The title Pande [पाण्डेय] has a very bad odour with Englishmen since the Mutiny of 1857. But as a class the Kanojia Brahmans are very remarkable for their aristocratic demeanour and manners, and for their quiet and inoffensive nature. They seldom give way to bad temper, and the practice of any kind of cruelty seems to be quite inconsistent with their general character. They acted no doubt like fiends in some of the episodes of the sepoy revolt. But “the greased cartridge” was a matter serious enough to lead any Hindu to the perpetration of things far worse. Would the British soldiers willingly obey their officers if ordered to bite the dead bodies of their enemies in a battle field? And if they disobeyed the order, and in doing so subjected their officers to any kind of insult or ill-treatment, would any reasonable man find fault with them? The whole world would be horrified at any coercive measure for enforcing such a perverse order. The situation of the sepoys with respect to the “greased cartridge” was exactly the same, and yet it is thought that they have not sufficiently expiated by either being hanged in batches from the boughs of trees, or by being blown away from guns.
There are learned Sanskritists as well as good English scholars among the Kanojias. Many of them practise agriculture, and it is said some till the soil with their own hands. The majority of them are Sivites [śaiva]. There are among them a few Saktas [śākta] and Srivaishnavas [śrīvaiṣṇava] also. The Sivites and Srivaishnavas are strict vegetarians. There are some ganja-smokers [गांजा] and bhang-eaters [भांग] among the Kanojias, but very few that would even touch any kind of spirituous liquor.
The late Pandit Sheodin, who was prime minister of Jaipore [जयपुर] for several years, was a Kanojia Brahman of Moradabad [मुरादाबाद].
Sarujuparia [सरयूपारीण/ सरवरिया/ सरयूपारी]. —The Sarujuparias derive their name from the river Saruju [सरयु] which flows past the city of Ayodhya [अयोध्या]. They are most numerous in the vicinity of the river Ghogra [घाघरा]. They are said to be a branch of the Kanojias [कान्यकुब्ज / कन्नौजिया]. But whatever may have been their original connection there can be no marriage at present between the two classes, and they must be held to be independent castes. The usual family names of the Sarujeeans are the same as those of the Kanojians. There are good Sanskritists among the Sarorias. They never till the soil with their own hands.
Sanadhya [सनाढ्य]. —The Sanadhyas are also said to be a branch of the Kanojia [कान्यकुब्ज / कन्नौजिया] tribe. They are very numerous in the central districts of the Doab [दोआब], between Mathura [मथुरा] to the south-west and Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj] on the north-east. They live chiefly, as shopkeepers and pedlars. The number of educated men among them is very small. The following are their usual surnames: —
The late Guru of the Maharaja of Jaipore [जयपुर], who was believed to have the power of working miracles, and who was venerated as a saint by most of the great Hindu potentates of Central India and Rajputana [राजपूताना], was a Sanadhya.
Gaur [गौड़] Brahmans. —The original home of the Gaur [गौड़] Brahmans is the Kurukshetra [कुरुक्षेत्र] country. The Gaurs say that the other four main divisions of North Indian Brahmans were originally Gaurs, and have acquired their present designations of Sarswat [sārasvata], Kānya-kubja, Maithila and Utkal by immigrating to the provinces where they are now domiciled. The name Adi Gaur [आदि गौड़] adopted by the Kurukshetra Brahmans is in consonance with this view. In Sir George Campbell’s Ethnology of India, it is suggested that the Gaurs may have derived their name from the river Ghagar [घग्गर], which, in ancient times, was a tributary of the Sarswati [सरस्वती], and which now discharges its water into the Sutlej [सतलुज] near Ferozepore [फिरोजपुर]. According to popular usage the word Gaur means a priest, and it is not impossible that the name of Gaur Brahmans was given to those who served as priests to the ancient kings of Kurukshetra. The Adi Gaurs practise agriculture and till the soil with their own hands. But there are many good Sanskritists* among them, and they are the only Brahmans whom the Agarwala Baniyas [बनिया] would employ as their priests.
* One of the greatest of these is Pandit Laksman Sastri [लक्ष्मण शास्त्री], of Patiala [ਪਟਿਆਲਾ], now residing in Calcutta [কলকাতা], from whom I have derived the greater part of the information contained in this chapter. The late Pandit Gauraswami, who was the first Pandit [paṇḍita] in his time in the holy city of Benares, was also a Gaur.
There is a class of Gaur Brahmans called the Taga Gaur [तागा गौड़]. These are so designated because they have only the Brahmanical Taga [तागा] or sacred thread. They are all addicted to agriculture, and are quite ignorant of the Brahmanical prayers and religious rites. They neither study the Shastras [śāstra] nor perform the work of a priest. The other castes do not make to them the kind of humble salutation (pranam [प्रणाम - praṇāma]) due to Brahmans, but accost them as they would a Rajput or Baniya by simply saying “Ram Ram [राम राम]. ” Some of the Adi Gaurs are now receiving English education. The general surname of the Gaurs is Misra [mizra]. Their special surnames are the following: —
The majority of the Gaurs are Sivites [śaiva]. Like the other high caste Brahmans of Northern India they worship also the Salagram [शालीग्राम] ammonite as an emblem of Vishnu [viṣṇu], and a triangular piece of Phallic stone representing the Devī or the consort of Siva [śiva]. There are a few Ballabhachari [वल्लभाचार्य,1479-1531] Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] among the Gaurs. The majority of the Gaurs are strict abstainers from animal food and intoxicating drinks. Some of the Gaurs keep the sacred fire, and occasionally celebrate some of the Vedic sacrifices.
Kashmiri Brahmans [काश्मीरी ब्राह्मण]. — The usual surnames of the Kashmir Brahmans is Pandit [पण्डित - paṇḍita]. The following observations in Sir George Campbell's Ethnology of India, give an exact description of their ethnology and character: —
The Kashmiri Brahmans are quite High Aryan in the type of their features, very fair and handsome, with high chiselled features, and no trace of intermixture of the blood of any lower race * * * * The Kashmiri Pandits are known all over Northern India as a very clever and energetic race of office-seekers. As a body they excel the same number of any other race with whom they come in contact. —Ethnology of India, pp. 57-59.
The late Mr. Justice Sambhu Nath Pandit [শম্ভুনাথ পন্ডিত, 1820-1867] of the Bengal High Court was a member of this class. So was also the late Pandit Ayodhya Nath [पण्डित अयोध्यानाथ], who was one of the ablest advocates of the Allahabad High Court, and also one of the principal leaders of the Congress. Babu Gobind Prasad Pandit [गोविन्द प्रसाद पण्डित], who was one of the pioneers of the coal mining industry of Bengal, was also a Kashmiri. He amassed such wealth by the success of his enterprise, that he became known as one of the richest men in the country in his lifetime, and, after his death, his descendants obtained the title of Maharaja from the Government of India.
Dogra [डोगरा] Brahmans. —As there are Dogra Rajputs [राजपूत] and Dogra Baniyas [बनिया], so there is a class of Brahmans, called Dogra Brahmans. The name is said to be derived from that of a mountain or valley in Kashmir. According to a Dogra student of Nya [nyāya] philosophy at Nadiya [নদিয়া], whom I consulted, the name is derived from the Sanskrit compound Dwau Gartau [द्वौ गर्तौ], which means the “ two valleys. ”
Sarswats [सारस्वत]. —The Brahmans of the Punjab are chiefly of this class. They derive their name from that of the sacred river Sarswati [सरस्वती], which at a very remote period of antiquity was a noble river, and the course of which may still be traced from its source near the sanitarium of Simla [शिमला] to Thaneshur [थानेसर] in the Kurukshetra [कुरुक्षेत्र]. The Sarswats form one of the five primary classes of North Indian Brahmans, called Panch Gaur [pañca gauda]. A great many of the Sarswats practise agriculture, and freely partake of the hospitality of the Baniyas [बनिया] and the Kshetris [क्षेत्री]. There are, however, many among them who are very erudite Sanskritists* and who, in point of culture and Brahmanical purity, are not inferior to the Brahmans of any other class.
* One of the greatest of these is Pandit Sadanand Misra of Calcutta, from whom I have derived a considerable part, of the information contained in this chapter. In respect of personal appearance, obliging nature, and refined manners, it is hard to find a superior specimen of humanity.
The majority of the Sarswats are Sakti [śakti] worshippers, but very few of them eat flesh. They minister to the Kshetris of the Panjab as priests, and there is, in many respects, a close connection between the two castes. Until recently the Sarswats were divided into only two sub-castes, namely, the Banjais+ and the Mohyals [ਮੋਹਯਾਲ / मोहयाल].
+ The word Banjai seems to be a corrupted form of the Sanskrit compound Bahu Yaji [बहुयजी], which means a Brahman who ministers to many men. But the Sarswats say that their common name Banjai is a corrupted form of Bayanna Jayi, which means the fifty-two victorious clans, and to account for the origin of this name they add that they obtained this name by setting at defiance an order of an Emperor of Delhi directing them to allow the re-marriage of a widow.
The Banjais minister to the Kshetris, but the Mohyals never serve as priests. There are many hypergamous groups among the Banjais, which are on the way towards becoming separate castes. So long as the lower of these classes gave their daughters in marriage to the higher, they could not be regarded as independent castes. But, in very recent times, the lower classes have resolved not to give their daughters to the higher classes, unless they choose to reciprocate the compliment. The result is that marriage alliances between the different classes are now extremely rare, and they are fast on the way towards becoming independent castes. The general surname of a Sarswat is Misr [मिश्र]. But each clan has a special surname. The names of the several hypergamous groups among the Banjai Sarswats together with the special surnames of each class are given below: —Names of Groups.
Titles.Names of Groups.
A Sarswat cannot marry within his clan. But a marriage may take place among them within the Gotra, though such matrimony is strictly prohibited by the Shastras [śāstra].
The Mohyals [ਮੋਹਯਾਲ / मोहयाल] are found chiefly in the western districts of the Panjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] and in Kabul [کابل]. Intermarriage between them and the other Sarswats is possible, but not very usual.
The Brahmans of Sindh are mainly Sarswats [सारस्वत]. They are divided there into the following classes: —
All these classes eat animal food, though some of them are Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] of the Vallabhachari [वल्लभाचार्य, 1479 - 1531]sect. Like the Sarswats of the Panjab proper, those of Sindh also eat cooked food from the hands of Kshetris [क्षेत्री] and Roda Baniyas [बनिया]. The Bavanajahis are Sakti [śakti] worshippers of the extreme class, and not only eat flesh but drink wine. Some of the Shetapalas are also Sakti [śakti] worshippers of the same type.
In speaking of the several classes of Sindh Brahmans Dr. Wilson says: —
All these classes of Sarswats are Sukla Yajur Vedis [शुक्लयजुर्वेद]. In using animal food they abstain from that of the cow and tame fowls, but eat sheep, goats, deer, wild birds of most species, and fish killed for them by others They also eat onions and other vegetables forbidden in the Smritis [स्मृति]. They are generally inattentive to sectarian marks. They dress like the Hindu merchants and Amins of Sindh, though using white turbans. They shave the crown of their heads, but have two tufts of hair above their ears. They are the priests of the mercantile Lohanas or Lowanas. They have many small pagodas dedicated to the worship of the ocean, or rather the river Indus. Their fees are derived principally from their services at the marriages, births and deaths of their followers. They are partial to popular astrology, as far as easy prognostication is concerned. They pretend to know where lost articles are to be found. They also cultivate land, and sometimes act as petty shopkeepers. Wilson’s Hindu Castes, Vol. II, pp. 137-138.
The majority of the Brahmans of Assam profess to be Vaidakas, though, in fact, they practise either the Tāntric or the Vishnuvite [vaiṣṇava] cult. The inferior families among them appear to be of the Mongolian race, while even among their most aristocratic classes there appears to have been a copious admixture of Mongolian with Aryan blood. In Upper Assam, including the districts of Sibsagar [শিৱসাগৰ] and Lakhimpur [লখিমপুৰ ], which, before its annexation to British India, was for several centuries under the rule of the Ahang dynasty [আহোম ৰাজ্য] of Sibsagar, a great many of the Brahman families profess to be descended from seven Kanojia priests imported into the country about the middle of the seventeenth century by the Ahang King Chutumala alias Jayadhwaja [স্বৰ্গদেউ জয়ধ্বজ সিংহ, 1648 - 1663]. The Aryan features of most of the members of these families, and the genealogies preserved by them, give very strong support to their claim; but, at the same time, it is equally certain that there has been a large infusion of non-Aryan blood among them. The fact is conclusively proved by their ethnology, and also by their traditions and customs. They themselves entertain the suspicion that many of the families with whom they now intermarry were originally Sudras [śūdra], and were made Brahmans only by the edicts of their former kings. That their suspicions are not groundless is proved almost conclusively by some of the curious customs which still prevail among them as to interdining. In other parts of the country, the most puritanic Brahmans do not hesitate to partake of the hospitality of their fathers-in-law or maternal uncles. But among the aristocratic Brahmans of Upper Assam claiming to be descended from the Kanojian stock, no one will eat any kind of food in the house of either his father-in-law or his maternal uncle. It is said that even the daughter of a low class Brahman will not, after being married to a Kanojia of pure descent, eat in her father's house any kachi [कच्ची] food though cooked by her own mother. The daughter’s sons will eat in their maternal grandfather’s house till their initiation with the sacred thread, but not afterwards. It seems that in practice, the alleged custom, so far as the daughter and the daughter’s sons are concerned, is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. But the very recognition of such rules, if only for theoretical purposes, and the existence of Mongolian and Aryan types in the same families, clearly establish that the higher Brahmans are of the Aryan stock, and that they intermarried with local Brahmans of the Mongolian race, though with a very considerable degree of reluctance.
Among the superior Brahmans of Orissa there are two main divisions which rest on territorial bases, and which are as follows: —
There can be no intermarriage between these two divisions, and they have nothing in common between them except the status of being Brahmans.
The Dākshinatya Brahmans of Southern Orissa are subdivided as follows: —
The sub-classes that have the highest status among the Dākshinatya Brahmans of Orissa are the Kulins Kulins [କୁଲିନ୍] and Srotriyars [ଶ୍ରୋତ୍ରିଯ] of the sixteen Shashan and the thirty-two Kotbar villages. The Shashanis evidently derive their name from the fact of their obtaining, from some ancient Hindu king of the country, grants of land attested by Shashanas or royal firmans. The name Kotbar seems to be a corruption of Krobar and to be the proper designation of the suburban population of the Shasanas. The Shashan villages are inhabited only by the Kulin and Srotriya Brahmans of the ecclesiastic class. In the Kotbars there are other castes also.
The Shashani Kulins have a higher status than all the other classes of Orissa Brahmanas. There are a few good Pandits among the Shashanis, and the majority of them acquire a sufficient knowledge of Sanskrit to be able to discharge the duties of a priest. The following observations are made with regard to the class in Hunter’s Gazetteer of India: —
They live on lands granted by former Rajas, or by teaching private students, or as spiritual guides, or more rarely as temple priests. They are few in number, for the most part in tolerable circumstances, though often poor, but held in such high estimation that, a Srotriya Brahman will give a large dower in order to get his daughter married to one of them. But the Kulin who thus intermarries with a Srotriya loses somewhat of his position among his own people. The pure Brahman rarely stoops below the Srotriya, the class immediately next to him, for a wife. —The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. X, p. 434.
The majority of the Srotriyas earn their living in the very same manner as the Kulins. All the Vaidikas are very aristocratic according to Brahmanical ideas of respectability, and a Shashani Kulin or a Srotriya Brahman will rather live by begging than be engaged in any menial occupation. In fact, there are among them, and especially among the landless Srotriyas, a great many who are regular beggars. But it would be hard to find any one of them tilling the soil, or employed as a domestic servant.
The Adhikari [ଅଧିକାରୀ] Brahmans are mainly followers of Chaitanya [ଚୈତନ୍ୟ, 1486 - 1533], and have the same position in Orissa that the Gossami [গোস্ৱামি] and the Adhikari [অধিকারী] Brahmans have in Bengal. It is said that many of the Oriya Pujaris [ପୂଜାରୀ] were originally men of low castes. They have generally many low caste disciples, and are employed as priests in the temples. The Adhikari Brahmans are known by the necklace of basil beads which they wear in addition to their sacred thread. They are not all the followers of one teacher, and the disciples of each individual Guru form a distinct subdivision.
Of the several classes of secular Brahmans the Mahajan Panthis or Panigiris have a high position; but the Masthans are regarded as a low class, and their very touch is regarded by some as contaminating.
With regard to the Masthan Brahmans, Mr. Stirling in his Description of Orissa Proper says: —
There is another class known commonly in Orissa by the name of Mahasthan [ମହାସ୍ଥାନ] or Masthan Brahmans, who form a very considerable and important class of the rural population. Besides cultivating with their own hands gardens of the Kachu (Arum Indicum [= Alocasia macrorrhizos]) cocoanut and areca, and the piper betel or pan, they very frequently follow the plough, from which circumstance they are called Halia Brahmans, and they are found everywhere in great numbers in the situation of Mukadams and Sarbarakars, or hereditary renters of villages. Those who handle the plough glory in their occupation, and affect to despise the Bed or Veda Brahmans who live upon alms. Though held in no estimation whatever by the pious Hindu, they are unquestionably the most enterprising, intelligent, and industrious of all the Company’s ryots or renters of malguzari land in Orissa. Asiatic Researches, Vol. XV., p. 199.
The Pandas who serve as priests and cooks in the public temples receive in their official capacity some homage from other people. But irrespective of their connection with the holy shrines, they are regarded as a very low class everywhere; and throughout the greater part of India they form separate castes with a very inferior status. In Calcutta there are many Panda Brahmans of Orissa who serve as cooks in the houses of the rich Sudras [śūdra]. The Pandas who tout* for pilgrims are not all of the Panda caste.
*The tours of these Oriya touts are so organised that during their campaigning season, which commences in November and is finished by the approach of the car festival at the beginning of the rainy season, very few villages in any of the adjoining provinces of India can escape their visit and taxation. The very appearance of one of them causes a serious disturbance in the even tenor of every Hindu household in the neighbourhood. Those who have already visited the “Lord of the World” at Puri [ପୁରୀ] are called upon to pay an instalment towards the debt contracted by them while at the sacred shrine, and which debt, though paid many times over, is never completely satisfied. That is, however, a small matter compared with the misery and distraction caused by the “Jagannath mania,” which is excited by the Pandas’ preachings and pictures. A fresh hatch of old ladies become determined to visit the shrine, and neither the wailings and protestations of the children, nor the prospect of a long and toilsome journey can dissuade them. The arrangements of the family are for the time being, upset altogether, and the grief of those left behind is heightened by the fact that they look upon the pilgrims as persons going to meet almost certain death. The railway about to he constructed between Calcutta and Puri may make a visit to Jaggannath [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ] a less serious affair.
Jajpur [ଯାଜପୁର] is one of the sixteen Shasana towns of Orissa, but, as intermarriage cannot take place between the Jajpuria Shasanis, and the Brahmans of the Shashans in Southern Orissa, the Jajpurias form a distinct class, They are said to be divided into thirteen Houses with the following six Gotras: —
Their usual surnames are
There are Adhikari and Mahajanpanthi Brahmans in the northern parts of Orissa as in its southern parts. These do not form separate castes, but intermarriage can take place between them, and the corresponding sections of the Brahmanical caste of southern Orissa. The Jajpuria Adhikari are to be found in large numbers in Calcutta, a great many of them being keepers of stalls on the banks of the holy Bhagirathi [भागीरथी], supplying the bathers with oil for anointing their persons before ablution, and materials for painting their foreheads with holy figures and names after bathing. In the town of Jajpur there are some families who have been keeping the sacred fire from generation to generation.
Besides the good Srotriyas and Mahajanpanthis there are in Orissa, as in every other part of the country, some classes of inferior Brahmans who are regarded as more or less degraded. One of these classes is called Atharva Vedi [ଅଥର୍ଵଵେଦୀ]. *
* Some say that the Atharva Vedis are the same as the Masthanis. But the result of my enquiries tends to establish that there are other Atharva Vedis besides the Masthanis.
There may be intermarriage between the followers of Rik [ṛgveda], Sham [sāmaveda] and Yajus [yajurveda], but not between these and the Atharva Vedis. The other classes of degraded Brahmans will be noticed in their proper place.
To make the description of the Brahmans of Rajputana [राजपूताना] intelligible, it is necessary to say something about the geography of the province. Broadly speaking, it is that portion of India which lies between the river Chambal [चम्बल] on the east, and the valley of the Indus on the west. The greater part of this vast tract of country is ruled still by semi-independent Rajput [राजपूत] chiefs, and hence it is called Rajasthan [राजस्थान], Raithana or Rajputana. The number of chiefs whose territories collectively go by these names is not less than twenty, and the only British possession within the circuit is the district of Ajmere-Merwara [अजमेर - मेवाड़], which lies in the centre of the province. The country of the "Kings’ children” is, however, not endowed with much of nature’s gifts. It is divided into two parts by the Aravali hills [अरावली], which extend from Abu [माउंट आबू] on the south to the historic ridge in the suburbs of Delhi. The western half of Rajputana comprising the territories of Marwar [मारवाड़], Jesalmere [जैसलमेर] and Bikanir [बीकानेर], consists mainly of sandy deserts utterly unfit for growing any kind of food-grains. Of the eastern half which is more fertile, the southern portion is included within the dominion of Udeypur [उदयपुर]; the central portion is ruled by the chiefs of Kota [कोटा], Boondi [बूंदी] and Jaipore [जयपुर]; while the northern portion is taken up by Dholepore [धौलपुर], Bhurtpore [भरतपुर] and Alwar [अलवर].
Though, according to its very name, Rajputana is the country of the Rajputs, and though the military Ksatriya [kṣatriya]s are the ruling caste almost throughout its length and breadth, yet its Brahmanical population is twice as large as that of the fighting clans, and the influence of the sacerdotal caste in the province is exactly as it is in other parts of India. There are in Rajputana large colonies of Sarswat, Gaur, Sanadhya and Kanojia Brahmans whose connection with the members of their respective races in their original homes, has not yet been completely severed. Of the several classes of Brahmans whose proper home is Rajputana, the following are the most important: —
The Bhats [भट] and the Charanas [चारण], who are the hereditary bards and genealogists of Rajputana, claim to have the rank of Brahmans, but as they are not regarded as such by Hindu society, I shall speak of them in the part of this work which is devoted to the semi-Brahmanical castes. I conclude this chapter with a few details of the more important sections of the Rajputana Brahmans, collected chiefly from English authorities.
The Srimalis [श्रीमाली] have a very high position whether regarded from a religious or secular point of view. They minister as priests not only to the Srimali Banyas, but to all the higher castes including the Brahmans of the other classes. They hold also very high offices in the service of the local chiefs.
The following account of the Srimalis is taken from Wilson’s Indian Castes: —
The Srimalis [श्रीमाली] derive their designation from the town of Srimal [श्रीमाल], now called Bhinmal [भीनमाल], lying to the north-west of Abu [माउंट आबू] and intermediate between that mountain and the river Loni [लूनी]. Their first representatives are said to have been collected by a local prince from no fewer than forty-five of the most sacred places of the north, west, south and east of India; but to the traditions to this effect little importance is to be ascribed. The Aryan physiognomy is perhaps more distinctly marked in them than in any other class of Brahmans in India. In fact, they do not appear to differ much from the type of some of the European nations, especially of those who have claims to Roman descent. Their costume is generally of a simple but not unbecoming character. Their turbans are on the whole of a graceful form, though not so large as those of many of the other natives of India. On their brows they wear the sectarial marks of the Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava], Vishnu [viṣṇu] being their favourite deity. The Srimalis are now scattered not only through several of the provinces of Rajputana, but through Gujarat [ગુજરાત] and Kacha [કચ્છ], Central India, the countries bordering on the Indus, and the island of Bombay [मुंबई]. In consequence of this dispersion of their body, they have been broken into several distinct castes, most of which now neither eat nor intermarry with one another. They are also divided into two castes, founded on the Vedas which they profess: the Yajur Vedi [यजुर्वेदी] (White and Black), and the Sama Vedi [सामवेदी] of the Kauthumi Sakha [कौठुमशाख]. In the former there are seven gotras or lines of family lineage:
- the Gautama [गौतम],
- Sandilya [शाण्डिल्य],
- the Chandras [चन्द्र],
- Kapinjalas [कपिञ्जल].
In the latter there are also seven gotras,
- the Shaunakas [शौनक],
- Bharadvaj [भरद्वाज],
- Parasara [पराशर],
- Kausika [कौशिक],
- Vatsa [वत्स],
- Aupamanya [औपमन्य], and
- Kashyapa [काश्यप].
Most of all their classes are either mendicants or officiating priests, though secular service appears to be on the increase among them. They act as gurus and ceremonial Brahmans to the Srimali, Poraval, and Patolya and Urvala Vanyas (merchants) and Sonis [सोनी] or goldsmiths; and about 5,000 of them, now apart from their brethren, act as gurus to the Oswalas, a class of mercantile Jainas, and are called Oswala Brahmans [ओसवाल]. A favourite Kuladevi [कुलदेवी] or family goddess among them is that of Mahalaksmi [महालक्ष्मी], the spouse of Vishnu [viṣṇu], a celebrated image of whom was transferred from Bhimmal [भीनमाल] to Auhilpur, or Pattan [पाटन] in the times of the Gujarat kings. The celebrated Sanskrit poet Magh [माघ], who is said to have lived in the time of Bhoja Raja [भोज, 11. Jhdt], belonged to their fraternity. Their greatest living ornament is Dalpatram Daya [દલપતરામ ડાહ્યાભાઈ ત્રવાડી, 1820 - 1898], the Kaviraj [કવિરાજ], or Poet Laureate of Gujarat [ગુજરાત], who is also distinguished for his historical research, and sincere aims at social reform. This stirring author and singer supposes that there are 500 Srimali houses in Kacha [કચ્છ] and Kattiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ]; 5, 000 in Gujarat [ગુજરાત]; and 35,000 in Marwad [मारवाड़] and Mewad [मेवाड़], exclusive of 50 of impure birth called Daskori [દસ્ક્રોઇ] near Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ], 1,500 of them being in Jodhpur [जोधपुर] (the capital of Marwad [मारवाड़]) alone. —Wilson’s Indian Castes, Vol. II, pp. 109-111.
The Pallivals [पालीवाल] are numerous in Jesalmere [जैसल्मेर], Bikanir [बीकानेर], Marwad [मारवाड़], Jaipur [जयपुर] and Kishangarh [किशानगढ़]. Very few of the clan are to be found in Ajmere [अजमेर]. The following account of the Pallival Brahmans of Rajputana is also taken from Dr. Wilson’s Indian Castes: —
The Pallival Brahmans receive their name from the town of *Palli [पाली], the commercial capital of Marwad in Rajputana.
* “Palli."—Town in Jodhpur [जोधपुर] State, Rajputana situated on the route from Nasirabad [नसीराबाद] to Disa [डीसा], 108 miles to the south-west of the former cantonment. An ancient. place acquired by the Rahtors [राठौड़] of Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj] in 1156 A. D. It is the chief mart of Western Rajputana, being placed at the intersection of the great commercial road from Mandavi [માંડવી] in Cutch to the Northern States, and from Malwa [माळवा] to Bahalpur [بہاولپور] and Sind [سندھ ]. —Hunter’s Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. XI, p. 1.
They have twelve gotras. They are shrafs [Geldwechsler], merchants, and cultivators, but serve only in their own caste. They don’t eat or intermarry with other Brahmans. They are found in Jodhpur [जोधपुर], Bikanir [बीकानेर] and Jesalmere [जैसलमेर], and some others of the Rajput. States. A few of them are at Delhi [दिल्ली], Agra [आगरा], and in the Panjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], Gujarat [ગુજરાત] and Mewad [मेवाड़]. Only one or two of them are in Bombay. They are Smartas and do not use animal food. They do not drink the water of the houses of their own daughters+ or any persons not belonging to their own castes.
+ Here Dr. Wilson has evidently misunderstood the information given to him. The custom spoken of here is not the speciality of the Pallivals, but is a common one to all the orthodox Hindus throughout India. It is based not on any aristocratic feeling on the part of the father, but to too much obedience to the injunction of the Shastras [śāstra] forbidding the acceptance of any kind of gift from a son-in-law.
They don’t eat with those of their own caste, who have got isolated from them as with the Gurjas and Mewad Pallivalas. They belong to the Kanya Kubja [कान्यकुब्ज] division of the Brahmans. “The Nandavana and Pallivala Brahmans are traders; were formerly located at Nandavana and Palli [पाली], and were there chiefly robbers, conducting their excursions on horseback. They subsequently became traders. They are said still to worship a bridle on the Dasara [दशहरा] in memory of their former state. ”++
++ Irving's Topography of Ajmere.
They are scattered throughout the north of India, as Bohras [बोहरा] or middlemen between the cultivators and Government. —Wilson’s Indian Castes, Vol. II, p. 119.
The following account of the Pallivals of Jesalmere is from Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan: —
Next to the lordly Rajputs, equalling them in numbers and far surpassing them in wealth, are the Pallivals. They are Brahmans, and denominated Pallivals from having been temporal proprietors of Palli [पाली] and all its lands, long before the Rathores [राठौड़] colonized Marwar [मारवाड़]. Tradition is silent as to the manner in which they became possessed of this domain; but it is connected with the history of the Palli, or pastoral tribes, who from the town of Palli to Pallitana, in Saurashtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર], have left traces of their existence; and I am much mistaken if it. will not one day be demonstrated that all the ramifications of the races figuratively denominated Agnicula [अग्निकुल] were Palli in origin: more especially the Chohans [चौहान], whose princes and chiefs for ages retained the distinctive affix of Pal.
These Brahmans, the Pallivals, as appears by the Annals of Marwar [मारवाड़], held the domain of Palli [पाली] when Seoji, at the end of the twelfth century invaded that land from Kanoj [कन्नौज - Kannauj], and by an act of treachery first established his power. It is evident, however, that he did not extirpate them, for the cause of their migration to the desert of Jesalmere [जैसलमेर] is attributed to a period of a Mahomedan invasion of Marwar [मारवाड़], when a general war contribution (dind) being imposed on the inhabitants, the Pallivals pleaded caste and refused. This exasperated the Raja, for as their habits were almost exclusively mercantile, their stake was greater than that of the rest of the community, and he threw their principal men into prison. In order to avenge this they had recourse to a grand chandi or act of suicide; but instead of gaining their object, he issued a manifesto of banishment to every Pallival in his dominions. The greater part took refuge in Jesalmere, though many settled in Bikanir, Dhat [थार] and the valley of Sind. At one time, their number in Jesalmere was calculated to equal that of the Rajputs. Almost all the internal trade of the country passes through their hands, and it is chiefly with their capital that its merchants trade in foreign parts. They are the Metayers [Verpächter] of the desert, advancing money to the cultivators, taking the security of the crop; and they buy up all the wool and ghi [घी] (clarified butter) which they transport to foreign parts. They also rear and keep flocks. The Pallivals never marry out of their own tribe; and directly contrary to the laws of Manu the bridegroom gives a sum of money to the father of the bride. It will be deemed a curious incident in the history of superstition, that a tribe, Brahman by name, at least, should worship the bridle of a horse. When to this is added the fact that the most ancient coins discovered in these regions bear the Palli character and the effigy of the horse, it aids to prove the Scythic character of the early colonists of these regions, who, although nomadic, were equestrian. There is little doubt that the Pallival Brahmans are the remains of the priests of the Palli race, who, in their pastoral and commercial pursuits, have lost their spiritual power. —Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, pp. 318 320.
The Pokaranas [पोकरण] are very numerous not only in every part of Rajputana, but in Gujarat [ગુજરાત] and Sind [سندھ] also. They derive their designation from the town of Pokarana [पोकरण - Pokhran], which lies midway between Jodhpore [जोधपुर] and Jesalmere [जैसलमेर]. The priests at Pushkar [पुष्कर] are called Pushkar Sevakas [पुष्कर सेवक] or the “worshippers of the lake.” The Pokarana Brahmans have no connection whatever with the holy lake called Pushkara near Ajmere. They are devoted chiefly to secular pursuits. They are also the priests of the Bhatyas [भाटिया], and there are a few among them who are good Sanskritists and astrologers. They do not eat any kind of animal food. Their physiognomy is distinctively Aryan.
By Central India is meant the part of Northern India enclosed by the river Chambal [चम्बल] on the west, the river Narmada [नर्मदा] on the south, the upper half of the Sone [सोन] on the east, and the valley of the Jumna [जमुना] on the north. The majority of the Brahmans settled in this tract are foreign immigrants belonging chiefly to the Maharashtra [महाराष्ट्र], Gujrati [ગુજરાત] and Kanojia [कन्नौज] stocks. The only classes of Brahmans whose original home can be said to be Central India are the following: —
The Jijhotias [जिझोतिया] derive their designation from the old name* of Bundelkhand.
* The name of Jijhota is mentioned in Huen Tsiang’s [玄奘, 7. Jhdt.] Travels.
As there are Jijhotia Brahmans so there are Jijhotia Banyas and Rajputs also. The usual surnames of the Jijhotia Brahmans are the same as those of the Kanojias. It deserves to be noted here that among the Jijhotia Brahmans there is a Mauna Gotra [मौण गोत्र] apparently derived from the name of the great Hindu legislator [Irrtum!].
It has boon already observed that both according to the Shastras [śāstra] and the popular belief of the people of this country, the Brahmans of India are divided into ten classes, of which five are natives of Northern India, and the remaining five have their habitat in the Deccan [दक्खिन]. The majority of the Deccani or Panch Dravira [pañca drāviḍa] Brahmans are Sivites [śaiva]. The number of Vishnuvites [vaiṣṇava] among them is also very considerable. But there are very few Sakti [śakti] worshippers among them, and they are strict abstainers from every kind of animal food and intoxicating drink. The Sivites [śaiva] paint three horizontal lines of white colour on their forehead. The Vishnuvites [vaiṣṇava] have perpendicular lines of red, black or yellow colour painted on their foreheads between the upper part of the nose and the scalp. The colour and the form of the lines differ in the different sects, of which a full description is given in a subsequent part of this work. Some of the Vishnuvites [vaiṣṇava] of the Deccan are regularly branded like cattle, either only once when they are first initiated in the privilege of the mantra, or from time to time whenever they are visited by their spiritual preceptors. Among the South Indian Brahmans the line of demarcation between the ecclesiastics and the laity is maintained with much greater strictness than in Northern India. In Bengal [বঙ্গ] and Hindustan [हिन्दुस्थान] proper, a Brahman devoted to secular pursuits is not deemed to be altogether incapable of performing the functions of a Guru or priest, or of receiving religious gifts. For the discharge of clerical functions, those who do not stoop to any kind of secular employment are generally deemed to be best qualified. But in the North religious donations are very often given to, and received by, the secular Brahmans, and cases are known in Bengal in which the privilege of even administering the mantra has been allowed to be exercised by graduates of the Calcutta University, and by persons in the service of Government. The case, however, in Southern India is different. There the laity cannot accept religious gifts, and are debarred altogether from the performance of clerical work. Throughout the greater part of the Deccan, a Bhikshu [bhikṣu] may at any time become a member of the secular order, and intermarriages take place usually between the ecclesiastics and the laity. But in the Andhra [ఆంధ్ర] country the distinction is carried to a far greater extent than anywhere else. There the laity form a different caste called Niyogis [నియోగులు], and there cannot possibly be any intermarriage between them and the Vaidikas. Throughout the Deccan the laity are called Laukika Brahmans; and the ecclesiastics have the designation of Bhikshus. Another peculiar feature, common to the several classes of South Indian Brahmans, is the fact of their being all subject to the spiritual authority of the Sankarite [शंकर, 8. Jhdt.] monasteries. This fact has been noticed already. See p. 16, ante.
Though Gujarat [ગુજરાત] is situated to the north of the river Narmada [नर्मदा], yet, according to Shastric texts, the Gujarat Brahmans form one of the main divisions of the Panch Dravira [pañca drāviḍa] or the sacerdotal class of Southern India. The majority of them are either Sivites [શૈવ] or Vishnuites [વૈષ્ણવ]. But it is said that there are a few Saktas [શાક્ત] among them of an extreme type not to be found in Bengal. The profession of the Guru is said to be unknown among them. It may be so among the followers of the ancient Sivite cult, the actual nature of which is by very few clearly understood or thought of. But, considering the character of the rites said to be practised by the Gujarati Saktas [શાક્ત] and Vaishnavas [વૈષ્ણવ], it does not seem likely that the Guru is less active among them than in other arts of the country.
Every Gujarati’s name consists of two parts: the first part being his own name, and the second that of his father. The usual surnames of the Gujarati Brahmans are
The number of separate clans among the Gujarati Brahmans is very large. They generally say that there are not less than 84 different sections among them. The list given in Wilson’s Hindu Castes includes 160 independent clans among them. However that may be, the following are the most important: —
These are the most aristocratic clans among the Gujarati Brahmans. There are very few among them who live by begging or manual work. But a great many of them have a high secular position, and the majority of them are in well-to-do circumstances. Of the other clans, the Sanchoras usually serve as cooks. The Valodras are, generally speaking, very well-to-do people, a great many of them being money-lenders on a large scale. But they all go about the country begging for alms. They usually perform their tours on horseback.
The Audichyas [ઔદીચ્ય], as their name indicates, profess to have come from the north. According to their traditions and the Audichya Prakas [audīcyaprakāśa], a reputed section of the Skanda Purana [skandapurāṇa], their origin is stated to be as follows: —
Mulraj [મૂલરાજ], King of Anhilwara Pattana [અણહિલપુર-પાટણનું], the Hindu capital of Gujarat, collected the following numbers of Brahmans from the different sacred places mentioned: --
- From the junction of the Ganga and Yamuna 105;
- from the Chyavanasrama 100;
- Samavedis, from the country of Kanya Kubja 200;
- from Kashi 100;
- from Kuru Kshetra 272;
- from Gangadvara 100;
- from Naimisha forest and from Kuru Kshetra, an additional supply of 132,
- making a total of 1,109.
He conferred upon them as a Krishnarpan, the town of Sihor [સિહોર], with 150 adjoining villages, and the town of Sidhapura [સિદ્ધપુર], with 100 adjoining villages. By this liberality he did what satisfied those Brahmans denominated the Sahasra (thousand) Audichyas. But other intelligent Audichyas did not accept his dāna (largesses) but forming a toll of their own, became the Talakya Audichya, who acquired for themselves Khambhat (Cambay) [ખંભાત] and twelve other villages; while of the others 500 were of Siddhapura and 500 of Sihor. —Wilson’s Indian Castes, Vol. II, p. 94.
According to the above account, the Audichyas ought to be divided into the following three classes only: —
According to the Audichya Brahmans of Gujarat whom I have been able to consult, there are many independent sections among them, of which the following are the most important: —
There can be no intermarriage between these sections, and, for all practical purposes, they are separate castes though they may eat together without violating any rule of caste.
Siddhapur [સિદ્ધપુર] is an ancient town and a place of pilgrimage within the territories of the Baroda Raj [વડોદરા].
Sihor [સિહોર] is within the Bhaunagar State [ભાવનગર], Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ], about 13 miles west of the Bhaunagar town. Its ancient names were Sinhapur and Sarswatpur. It formed the capital of the Gohel Rajputs [गुहिलोत] until Bhaunagar town was founded.
The Jhallwaris take their name from the district of Jhallwar in Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ].
Kherali is a petty State in the Jhallwar division of Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ].
Gohelwar [ગોહિલવાડ] is a tract of country to the south-east of Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ], and forms one of its four main divisions.
Kheral is a petty State in Mahi Kantha [મહી કાન્થ], a province of Gujarat.
Una was an ancient town in Junagarh State [જુનાગઢ], ruled at one time by the Unawar Brahmans. Its modern name is Dalawar.
Garh is the name of a petty State in Rewah Kanth [રેવા કાન્થ], Gujarat.
Abb.: Owdich [Audichyas [ઔદીચ્ય] Brahmins (Some Employed as Clerks, Some Water Procurers)
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
The majority of the Audichyas are devoted to secular pursuits. But there are many among them who are regular beggars. There are a few Vedic Pandits in the class. But the number of these is not very considerable. Wilson says that some of the Audichyas act as domestic servants in the capacity of water carriers. Considering how proud the Brahmans usually are, that may seem as quite impossible. But the existence of the practice among the Gujrati Brahmans is borne out by the result of my own enquiries. The Siddhapurias, like many other classes of Brahmans, may be found to be engaged as cooks; and the Siddhapuria cooks are said to be very expert in their line.
Abb.: Nagar [નાગર] Brahmin
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
Abb.: Nagar [નાગર] Brahmin women
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
The Nagar [નાગર] Brahmans are the priests of the Nagar Banyas. There are very few Sanskrit scholars among them. But they count among their numbers many who hold and have held high secular positions. The main divisions among them are the following: —
The information which I have been able to collect regarding these several classes of the Nagara Brahmans coincides in all material points with what is given about them in Wilson’s book. I therefore cite from it in extenso the following account of them: —
The Vadnagora [વડનગર] Brahmans receive their designation from the city of Vadnagora [વડનગર] lying to the east of Annhilavada Pattana. They are mostly found in the Peninsula of Gujarat, formerly Saurashtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્], now Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ], where the business of the native estates is principally in their hands: but individuals of them are scattered over nearly the whole of the province of Gujarat, being found at Nadiyad [નડિયાદ], Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ], Baroda [વડોદરા], Surat [સુરત], &c. Most of them are Rig-Vedis [ઋગ્વેદી], following the Sankhyana Sutras [śāṅkhāyanasūtra] ; but some of them profess the other three Vedas, particularly the White Yajur Veda. The majority of them are Smartas; but an inconsiderable number of them are Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] of the sects of Swami Narain [સ્વામિનારાયણ, 1781 - 1830] and Vallabhacharya [वल्लभाचार्य, 1479 - 1531]. None of them are practical cultivators, but a few of them act as Desais [દેસાઇ - landlord]. The mendicants among them are few in number. They do not eat oven with the Nagars of other denomination’s.
The Vishalnagora [વિશાલનગર] Brahmans receive their name from the town of Vishal [વિશાલ] founded by Vishal [વિરધવલ (વિશાલ), 12. Jhdt.], the first king of the Vaghela [વાઘેલા] dynasty of Gujarat, sometimes called Visaldeva (said by Colonel Tod to have been installed in Sumvat 1249, A. D. 1192) and which lies a little to the south-west of Vadanagora. They are principally Rig-Vedis [ઋગ્વેદી], and are either Smartas or Vaishnavas [vaiṣṇava] of the sect of Swami Narain [સ્વામિનારાયણ, 1781 - 1830] . They are mainly either public servants or agriculturists.
The Sathodra Brahmans get their name from the town of Sathod on the Narmada [नर्मदा]. There are some Rig-Vedis [ઋગ્વેદી] among them; but they are principally of the Madhyandina Sakha [śākha] of the White Yajur Veda. They are found at Anand [આણ્ંદ], Nadiyad [નડિયાદ], Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ], Dabboi [ડભોઇ] and other places. Some of them are in public service, or engaged in buying and selling; but a good many of them are still Bhikshus, or act as Gurus. They are principally if not wholly Smartas.
The Prasnoras are said to belong to Prasnora. They are Rig-Vedis [ઋગ્વેદી], and of the Vallabhacharya [वल्लभाचार्य, 1479 - 1531] sect, their chief residence being in Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ]. They are principally mendicants.
The Krishnoras of Krishnapura [કૃષ્ણપુર] are of the Rig [ṛg], Sama [sāman], and Yajur Vedas. Most of them are Bhikshukas of a “ kind respectable for learning. ”
The Chitrodas [ચિત્રોડ] are of the town of Chitrod [ચિત્રોડ]. They are found at Bhaunagar [ભાવનગર] and Baroda [વડોદરા]. They say that they have among themselves professors of each of the Vedas. They are not a numerous body.
The present Dewan of Baroda [વડોદરા], Mr. Muni Bhai, is a Vadnagora [વડનગર] Brahman. So was also Mr. Gouri Shankar [ગૌરી શંકર], Udaya Shankar [ઉદય શંકર], C. S. I., formerly Dewan of Bhaunagar [ભાવનગર], whose portrait is given in Sir Monier Williams’s recent work on Brahmanism and Hinduism.
The Raikwars are to be found chiefly in Kach [કચ્છ] and in the district of Kheda [ખેડા] in Gujarat. There are many Sanskritists and English scholars among them. The spiritual guide of the Rao of Kach is a Raikwar; so is the eminent Pandit Badri Nath Trimbak Nath. Mr. Bhai Sankar, who is one of the leading attorneys of the Bombay High Court, is also a Raikwar.
The chief habitat of the Bhargavas [ભાર્ગવસ્] is the district of Broach [ભરૂચ] at the mouth of the Narmada [નર્મદા]. The name of the tract inhabited by them is evidently a corrupted form of the Sanskrit Bhrigu Kshettra [bhṛgukṣetra], the territory of Bhrigu. The Bhargavas were formerly one of the poorest and most ignorant of all the classes of Gujarati Brahmans. In Wilson’s book it is stated that, under the British Government, they were certainly rising. The correctness of his forecast is demonstrated by the fact that there are now many learned men and high officials among them.
The Srimalis [શ્રીમાલી] are, properly speaking, Brahmans of Rajputana राजपूताना9, and an account of them has been given in the chapter on Rajputana Brahmans in Part III,
Mr. Dalpatram Daya [દલપતરામ ડાહ્યાભાઈ ત્રવાડી, 1820 - 1898 ], C. I. E., the celebrated poet of Gujarat, and the author of the work on caste entitled “Gnati Nibandba,” [જ્ઞાતિ નિબંધ] is a Srimali of Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ]. The great Sanskrit poet Magha [माघ, 8. Jhdt.], is also said to have been a Srimali.
The Srimali Brahmans of Gujarat have the following sub-divisions among them: —
Wilson gives the following account of the Girnar [ગિરનાર] Brahmans: —
The Girnars derive their name from the ancient mountain city of Girinagar, now represented by Junagadh [જુનાગઢ], the old fort at the root of the celebrated Girnara [ગિરનાર] mountain. In this locality they are principally to be found. They are also met with in other towns of the peninsula of Gujarat. A few of them are in Bombay [मुंबई]. They are divided into the following castes.
- The Junagadhya Girnaras.
- The Chorvada Girnars of the town of Chorvad [ચોરવાડ] on the coast of the peninsula of Gujarat between Pattana Somnath and Mangrol [માંગરોળ].
- The Ajakyas, so called from the village of Ajak.
These three castes readily eat together, but do not intermarry. They now rank low in the Brahmanhood, from their acting as Gurus to Kolis [કોળી], and having a variety of occupations as those of administrators to native chiefs, clerks, astrologers, cultivators and mendicants. They are of various sects as suits them for the time being. They are said to profess all the Vedas but the Sama, but are principally of the White Yajur Veda. They must be a very ancient confederation of Brahmans. —Wilson, Vol. II, p. 101.
The other classes of Gujarati Brahmans are mentioned in the following list with brief descriptive notices: —
1. Anavalas or Bhatelas. —Found chiefly in the tract of country between Broach [ભરૂચ] and Daman [દમણ]. The Bhatelas are secular Brahmans, the majority of them being devoted to agriculture and trade. Some of them are employed as Government servants and mercantile assistants.
2. The Borasidhas. —These derive their name from the town of Borsad [બોરસદ] in the Kaira district, Bombay Presidency.
3. The Chovishas. —This tribe has representatives at Baroda [વડોદરા], and at Sinor [શિનોર] and Janor near the Narmada [નર્મદા].
4. The Dadhichis. —Numerically a small body. Found chiefly on the Mahi [મહી]. There are beggars, cultivators and ecclesiastics among them.
5. The Dashaharas. —Said to be found near Aunilwara Pattan. They are Sakti [śakti] worshippers.
6. The Deswali. —Literally, the people of the country. They are found chiefly in the district of Kheda [ખેડા].
7. The Jambus. —The Jambus are the Brahmans of the town of Jambusara in the district of Broach [ભરૂચ]. There are cultivators as well as mendicants and astrologers among them.
8. The Khadayatas. —The Khadayatas are chiefly of the ecclesiastical profession, acting both as priests and Gurus. They are to be found in the districts of Khedra, Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ] and Broach [ભરૂચ].
9. The Masthanas. —The Masthanas are found in large numbers in the vicinity of Siddhapura. Like the Masthanas of Orissa, those of Gujarat also are chiefly cultivators.
10. The Modhas. —The Modha Brahmans are to be found chiefly in the districts of Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ] and Kheda [ખેડા]. They are the Gurus or spiritual preceptors of the Modha Banyas.
11. The Nandodras. —So named from Nandod [નાંદોદ], the capital of the Rajpipla State [રાજપીપલા], situated about 32 miles east by north from Surat [સુરત] in a bend of the Korjan river. The Gurus of the Rajas of Rajpipla and Dharmpore [ધરમપુર] are said to be Nandod Brahmans, There are both mendicants and cultivators among the Nandods.
13. The Naradikas. —The Naradikas are to be found chiefly in Cambay [ખંભાત] and its neighbourhood. They are a small body. There are cultivators as well as mendicants among them.
14. The Narsiparas. —The Narsiparas are followers of Vallabhacharya [वल्लभाचार्य, 1479 - 1531]. The priests of the shrine of Krishna [Kṛṣṇa] at Dakor [ડાકોર], in the Thasra sub-division of the Kaira district, are Brahmans of this class.
15. The Parasaryas. —The Parasaryas are said to be found in the south-east of Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ].
16. The Sachora. —The Sachoras are followers of Vallabhacharya [वल्लभाचार्य, 1479 - 1531]. A great many of them serve as cooks.
17. The Sajhodras. —So named from the town of Sajodh near Broach. Like that of the Bhatelas the chief employment of the Sajhods is cultivation.
18. The Somparas. — The Somparas are the Brahmans who have charge of the temple of Siva [śiva] at Somenath [સોમનાથ]. They have a somewhat higher position than is usually assigned in the caste system to the priests of other shrines. The Somparas are all Smartas. After the destruction of the great temple at Somenath by [محمود غزنوی] Mahmud Ghazni [971 - 1030] a new one was erected by Bhima Deva I. [ભીમદેવ, 11. Jhdt.]. This new temple was destroyed by the renegade Hindu, Sultan Muzaffer I. The present temple was erected by Rani Ahalya Bai [अहिल्या बाई, 1725 - 1795].
19. The Somthiyas. —The Sorathiyas derive their name from Saurashtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્], modern Surat [સુરત]. They are found chiefly in Junagadha [જુનાગઢ].
20. The Talajyas. —The Talajyas derive their name from the town of Talaja [તળાજા] in the Bhaunagar State [ભાવનગર], situated about 31 miles south of Bhaunagar [ભાવનગર] town. The Talajyas are now mainly shopkeepers, and are to be found at Jambusar [જંબુસર], Surat [સુરત], Bombay [मुंबई], Nasik [नाशिक] and other towns of Western India.
21. The Tapodhanas. —The Tapodhanas derive their name from the river Tapti [તાપ્તી] on the banks of which they are to be found. Some of them are priests in the local temples of Siva [śiva]. But the majority of them are cultivators.
22. The Valadras. —The Valadras seem to derive their name from Wala, the capital of the Wala State in the Gohelwar [ગોહિલવાડ] division of Kathiwar [કાઠીયાવાડ]. The ancient name of Wala was Walabhipur. Some of the Valadras are very rich, being money-lenders on a large scale. But the majority of them are mendicants and beggars. Some of the latter class perform their tours on horseback. The Valadras are Smartas and Sakti [śakti] worshippers.
23. The Valmikis. —The Valmikis are to he found in Kheda [ખેડા], Cambay [ખંભાત] and Idar [ઇડર]. There are both beggars and cultivators among them.
24. The Vayadas. —The Vayadas are the spiritual preceptors of the Vayada Vanyas. The Vayada Brahmans are a very small body.
The other classes usually included in lists of Guzrati Brahmanas are either foreigners, or degraded and semi-degraded Brahmans, corresponding to the Agradanis, Maha-Brahmanas and Barna Brahmanas of Northern India. The following are like Barna Brahmans: —
Abb.: Brahmins of the Mahrattee Country
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
Abb.: Brahmin Women of the Konkan
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
The most important classes of Brahmans in Maharashtra [महाराष्ट्र] and the Kankan [कोंकण] are the following:—
It was on Brahmans of the first four of these classes that the Peshwas [पेशवे] bestowed religions gifts, and donations in acknowledgment of literary merit. The last have great secular importance.
The word Deshastha [देशस्थ] literally means “residents of the country,” and, in Maharashtra, the name is given to the Brahmans of the country round Poona [पुणे], which was the metropolis of the Maharashtra empire. Most of the Deshasthas pursue secular professions as writers, accountants, merchants, &c. However, there were, and still are, among them great Pandits in almost every branch of Sanskrit learning. As among the other classes of South Indian Brahmans, the laity among the Deshasthas are called Laukikas [लौकिक] (worldly men ) or Grihasthas [गृहस्थ] (householders). The Bhikshus [भिक्षु] or ecclesiastics are also householders, as every Brahman is required to be in his youth; but as they devote themselves entirely to the study of the Shastras [शास्त्र], they alone are held entitled to receive religious donations, and are called Bhikshus or beggars. The secular Deshasthas have such secular surnames as
The Bhikshus भिक्षु] are sub-divided into several classes, according to the branch of learning which they cultivate. Those who study the Vedas are called Vaidika [वैदिक]; those who expound the law are called Shastri [शास्त्री]; those who make astrology their speciality are called Jotishi or Joshi [जोशी]; the votaries of the medical science are called Vaidyas [वैद्य]; and the reciters of the Purans are called Puranikas पुराणिक]. These distinctions, however, do not affect their caste status. In fact the son of a Laukika Brahman may he a Bhikshu, and a Bhikshu himself may, at any time, by accepting secular employment, cease to be of the ecclesiastical order. The usual surnames of the Bhikshus are
The Deshasthas are followers of the Rik [ऋग्] and the Krishna Yajus [कृष्ण यजुस्]. There are some Vishnuvites [वैष्णव] among them of the Madhwa [माध्व] sect. But the majority are Sivites [शैव]. There is, however, nothing to prevent intermarriage between the Sivites and the Madhwas. There is a large colony of' the Deshasthas in Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]. There are a great many Brahmans of this class in Benares [वाराणसी] also. Pandit Govinda Shastri [गोविन्द शास्त्री], of the Government Sanskrit College of Calcutta [কলকাতা], is a Deshastha. The great Sanskrit jurists, Nilkanta [नीलकण्ठ] and Kamalakar [कमलाकर] were Deshasthas. The celebrated Tantia Topi [तांत्या टोपे, 1814 - 1859] of the Sepoy war [سپاهی] was a Brahman of the same class. He was born in a village called Gowala [richtig: Yeola - येवला], in the district of Nasik [नाशिक]. His proper name was Raghu Nath Rao [richtig: रामचंद्र पाण्डुरंग राव यवलकर]. Tantia Topi was the name of his boyhood. The late Sir T. Madhava Rao [1828 – 1891] was of the same class.
As their name indicates, the original home of the Kankanasthas [कोकणस्थ] is the Kankan [कोंकण], or the narrow strip of country extending from Broach on the north, to Ratnagiri on the south, and bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea, and on the east by the Western Ghats. The Kankanasthas are also called Chitpavana [चित्पावन], a word which evidently means a “purifier or curer of the soul.” But on the authority of the Sahyadrikhanda [सह्याद्रिखण्ड] of the Skanda Purana [स्कन्दपुराण], which seems to be the composition of a Deshastha, the other classes of Maharatta Brahmans say that Chitpavana is not a corrupted form of Chitta Pavana [चित्तपावन], but of Chitapavana [चितापावन], which means a purifier of a funeral pyre. According to the Skanda Purana, the Kankanasthas are so-called because the Brahminical hero and incarnation, Parushuram [परशुराम], created them out of a chita [चिता] or funeral pyre. Leaving aside legends, the name of Chitpavan given to the Kankanastha Brahmans seems to be derived from the town of Chiplun [चिपळूण] in the Ratnagiri district [रत्नागिरी], situated near the head of the Kumbharli pass [कुंभार्ली घाट], which is one of the easiest routes from the Deccan [दक्खिन] to the sea-board. The Peshwas [पेशवे], who very nearly succeeded in establishing Hindu supremacy in India during the last century, were Kankanastha Brahmans. Of the same class also were many of the high officials of the Mahratta empire [मराठा साम्राज्य]—the
Raja Dinkar Rao [दिनकर
राव, 1819 - 1896], who was Prime
Minister of Scindia [शिंदे] at the time of the Sepoy war, and who was regarded as one of
the greatest administrators of his time, was a Kankanastha. Mr. Justice Ranade
गोविंद रानडे, 1842 -
of the Bombay High Court, is a Brahman of the same tribe. So was the late Rao
Saheb Vishwanath Narayan Mandalika [विश्वनाथ
As among the Deshasthas, so among the Kankani Brahmans, the majority are devoted to secular pursuits. They are the persons who generally fill “offices of every kind, including the village and perganah [subdistrict] accountantships all over the country."*
* Campbell’s Ethnology of India, p. 73.
A great many of them are khotes or landholders, who enjoy valuable proprietary over the Kankan villages. Though mainly secular, the Kankanasthas do not keep themselves quite aloof from the cultivation of letters. On the contrary, they have had among them some of the best scholars in every department of learning. One of the greatest of these in recent times was the late Pandit Bapu Deva Sastri [बापूदेव सीताराम शास्त्री, 1821 - 1890] of the Government Sanskrit College, Benares. The following is from the appreciative notice of his life in Mr. Sherring’s Hindu Tribes and Castes: —
Bapu Deva Sastri [बापूदेव सीताराम शास्त्री, 1821 - 1890] has greatly distinguished himself as a scholar, and has, by his works, shed a lustre on the Sanskrit College, in which for many years he has been a Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, and on the city in which he lives. The titles of some of his numerous works are as follows: On Trigonometry in Sanskrit; Translation of the Surya Siddhanta [सूर्यसिद्धान्त] into English; On Algebra in Hindi; On Geography in Hindi; On Arithmetic in Sanskrit; Symbolical Euclid in Sanskrit. * * * * In consideration of the great services rendered to science and education in India, the Sastri has been made an Honorary Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, and also of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. —Sherring’s Hindu Tribes and Castes, Vol. I, p. 90.
Like the Deshasthas, the Kankanis are followers of the Rik [ऋग्वेद] and the Krishna Yajus [कृष्णयजुर्वेद]. The Rig Vedis are of the Ashwalayana Sakha [आश्वलायनशाख], and the Yajur Vedis of the Taittiriya Sakha [तैत्तिरियशाख]. The following are sub-classes of the Kankanasthas: —
The Kankanis have more than three hundred surnames peculiar to their class.
The Yajurvedis among the Deshasthas [देशस्थ] are followers of the Black Yajus [कृष्णयजुर्वेद. The class of Maharatta Brahmans called Yajurvedi [यजुर्वेदी] are followers of the White Yajus [शुक्लयजुर्वेद]. They have two branches, namely, —
The Kanvas [काण्व] are so called on account of their adopting the Kanva rescension of the White Yajus. The Madhyandinas [माध्यन्दिन] derive their name in the same manner from the Madliyandina Sakha of the White Yajus. Both the Kanvas and the Madhyandinas follow the Shatapatha Brahmana [शतपथ ब्राह्मण], and the Srauta Sutras [श्रौतसूत्र] of Katyana [कात्यायन]. The Madhyandinas* attach great importance to the performance of the Sandhya prayer at noon, i. e., after 11 a. m.
* The name of the Madhyandina Sakha [śākha] of the White Yajus seems to be derived from that of the Madhyandina School of Hindu astronomers according to whom the day is regarded as beginning at noon, and not at sunrise or midnight.
But the Rig Vedis [ऋग्वेदी] might perform the mid-day prayer even at 7 o’clock in the morning. The Madhyandinas cannot celebrate any Sradh [श्राद्ध] except at noon, whereas the Rig Vedis can perform such a ceremony any time during the day. The Yajurvedis are to be found in every part of the Maharatta country, properly so-called, from Nasik [नाशिक] on the north to Kolhapur [कोल्हापुर] on the south. They enjoy a very high position among the Brahmans of the country. The majority of them keep themselves aloof from secular pursuits, and devote themselves entirely to the study of the sacred literature and to the practice of the Vedic rites. During the reign of the Peshwas [पेशवे], they had perhaps the largest share of the religions gifts made by the State as well as in those made by private individuals. The families of the Guru of the Maharaja of Kolhapur, and of the titular Pratinidhi of Sattara [सातारा] are Yajurvedis of the Madhyandina Sakha.
The Karhades [कर्हाडे] derive their name from the town of Karhad [कर्हाड] near the junction of the Krishna [कृष्णा] and the Koina [कोयना] rivers, about fifteen miles to the south of Sattara [सातारा]. While the Deshasthas [देशस्थ] are Sivites [शैव], and the Yajurvedis [यजुर्वेदी] are observers of the Vedic rites, the Karhades are the extreme Saktas [शाक्त] of the Maharashtra country. In Northern India, Sivites, Saktas [śākta], Vishnuvites [vaiṣṇava], and Vedists are to be found within the same class; and a difference of cult, though giving rise to great animosity, has very seldom brought about the formation of subdivisions in any caste. But in the Deccan [दख्खन], which has been ruled by great Hindu kings down to recent times, the case is naturally otherwise. The Peshwas [पेशवे] were Sivite [शैव] Brahmans, and, during their ascendancy, the Vishnuvites [वैष्णव] never could flourish in their country. The only cults, besides that of the Sivite, which then found a congenial soil in the country round Poona [पुणे], were Sakti [शक्ति] worship, which is only the counterpart of Saivism, and the Vedic rites which, though rendered obsolete by more effective and less wasteful forms of worship invented in later times, have still a great charm for the Hindu mind. The Sivite, the Sakta and the Vedic forms of worship have flourished side by side in the Maharashtra [महाराष्ट्र] country, and naturally there was great bitterness between the professors of these forms of faith. Wherever there are two or more competitors for favour from the same quarter, and each tries to rise in the estimation of the common patron, at the expense of his rivals, sectarian hatred and bigotry must necessarily be rampant.
In the Sahyadri Khanda [सह्याद्र्खण्ड] of the Skanda Purana [स्कन्दपुराण], which bears evidences of being the production of a Desastha Brahman, the Karhades are charged with the practice of offering human sacrifices, and of even murdering Brahmans to propitiate their deities. The charge being preferred by an infallible authority, the Karhades admit its truth, though with the usual qualification that the practice has been given up by them long since. As a matter of fact, perhaps, the practice never existed on a large scale among any class of Brahmans. The Tantras [तन्त्र] recommending human sacrifice are accepted as authorities by the Brahmans of almost all the classes throughout India. Yet, in practice, the only animals that are usually sacrificed by the Sakti [शक्ति] worshippers in Northern India are the goat and the sheep, i. e., the animals, the flesh of which the Brahmans eat. The flesh of the buffalo is eaten by some of the low castes, and sometimes buffaloes are sacrificed by the Saktas [शाक्त]. But human sacrifice, though recommended by one set of texts, is prohibited by others, and as it must be naturally revolting to every one excepting a few depraved fanatics, and as actual instances of it are extremely rare, if not quite unknown, in modern times, the case was apparently never very different in mediaeval or ancient India. In the Mahabhart [महाभारत], which is undoubtedly a very ancient work, Krishna [कृष्ण] himself is made to observe* that the slaughter of human beings for sacrificial purposes was unknown in practice.
* See Mahabhart, Sava Parva [Sabhāparvan], Chapter XXII.
Coming down to historical times there is nothing in the early records of British rule, or in the Mahomedan chronicles to warrant the conclusion that the practice prevailed very extensively during the last seven centuries. The injunctions about it in the Tantras were, it seems, meant only to excite awe on the minds of the common people, and to enable the priest to make the votaries more ready to offer as a substitute a goat or a sheep than they would otherwise be. The case is only that of an application of the maxim of priestly politics which the Brahmanical clerics formulate by saying that they must ask for a Kashmere shawl in order to get a bathing towel.
Whatever room there may be for comment on the religion of the Karhades, they are equal to the Kankanasthas and the Deshasthas in every other respect. The great Maharatta poet Moropant [मोरोपंत = मोरेश्वर रामजी पराडकर, 1729–1794] was a Karhade. So was the late Bala Gangadhar Shastri Jambhekor [बाळशास्त्री गंगाधरशास्त्री जांभेकर, 1812 - 1846], who was a professor in the Elphinstone Institution.
The Karhades distinguished themselves sometimes in secular service also. Govinda Pandit [गोविन्द पण्डित], a Karhade Brahman, was sent by the Peshwa [पेशवे] as his agent to Saugor [सागर], and the Pandit succeeded in taking possession of the district for his master, from Chattra Sal [छत्रसाल], in 1753. Sheo Ram Bhao was the Sir Soobah or Governor of the province of Jhansi [झाँसी] at the time of the conquest of Northern India by the English. His descendants ruled the province as semi-independent kings, till the annexation of the State by Lord Dalhousie [1812 - 1860]. The Karhade dynasty of Jhansi has been rendered particularly famous by the name of the great Rani [राणी] whose political genius and ability as a military commander have elicited the admiration of even English historians and generals. There is still a large colony of Karhade Brahmans in Saugor [सागर] and Damoh [दामोह] who trace their descent from the companions-in-arms of their great clansmen who first conquered the country. There are many Karhades among the officers of the Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] Raj, the majority of them being connected with its Revenue Survey Department.
The Shenavis are believed to be a branch of the Sarswat [ਸਾਰਸ੍ਵਤ] Brahmans of the Panjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]. They are found chiefly in the Kankan [कोकण], Goa [गोंय], and Bombay [मुंबई]. There are a few among them who are of the priestly profession. But the majority of them are devoted to secular pursuits in which they are now generally far more successful than perhaps any other class of Brahmans. Like the Sarswatas, the Shenavis are in the habit of eating fish and such flesh as is not prohibited by the Shastras [शास्त्र].
The Shenavis are not all of the same religion. There are Sankarites [शंकराचार्य, 8. Jhdt.] and Madhwa Vishnuvites [माधव] among them. The late Dr. Bhau Daji [भाऊ दाजी लाड, 1822 - 1874], the late Mr. Justice Telang [काशिनाथ त्र्यंबक तेलंग, 1850 - 1893], and the late Pandit Shankar Pandurang [शंकर पाण्डुरङ्ग, 1840 - 1894] were all Shenavis. So is also Mr. Bhandarkar [रामकृष्ण गोपाळ भांडारकर, 1837 - 1925], the present Vice-Chancellor of the Bombay University.
The following are the middle class Brahmans of the Maharashtra country: —
Deva Ruke. —The Deo Rukes are found chiefly in the Kankan [कोकण]. They are generally very poor. They are devoted mainly to agriculture. The Deshasthas [देशस्थ] will eat with them; but the Kankanasthas [कोकणस्थ] generally refuse to do them that honour.
Savashe. —The Savashes are found chiefly in the Southern Maharatta [मराठा] country. They engage in trade, and are a prosperous class. The name is evidently derived from the Sanskrit word Sahavasi [सहवासी] which means an “associate.” The origin of the application of this designation to them is explained as follows: —
In remote times, a certain Brahman came upon a hidden treasure; but to his amazement, the contents appeared in his eyes to be all live scorpions. Out of curiosity, he hung one of them outside his house. A little while after, a woman of inferior caste, who was passing by the house, noticed it to be gold, and upon her questioning him about it, the Brahman espoused her and, by her means, was able to enjoy the treasure. He gave a feast in honour of his acquisition of wealth. He was subsequently outcasted for his mésalliance with the low caste female, while those who were with him were put under a ban, and thus acquired the nickname. —Mysore Census Report, p. 235.
Kirvantas. —The Kirvantas are found chiefly in the Kankan [कोकण]. Many of them are cultivators. But some of them are very rich, and there are good Sanskrit scholars too among them. They are now being recognized as good Brahmanas by the Kankanasthas [कोकणस्थ].
The following classes of Maharashtra Brahmans minister to the Sudras [शूद्र] as priests, and have consequently a very inferior position: —
Palashe. —The Palashes are found chiefly in Bombay [मुंबई] and its neighbourhood. They act as priests, astrologers and physicians to the
The high caste Maharatta Brahman say that the Palashes are no Brahmans. But as they are accepted as priests by the many Sudra [शूद्र] castes mentioned above, they are certainly entitled to be regarded as one of' the sacerdotal clans, however low their status may be.
Abhiras. —The Abhiras are found chiefly in Kandeish [खानदेश]. They act as priests to the cowherd caste called Abhira [अहीर].
The Javala Brahmans have a low status on account of their serving as cooks, and their habit of eating fish. They are found chiefly in the Kankan [कोकण].
The following classes of Maharashtra Brahmans are mainly agricultural, and have a very low status: —
The following are the classes of Brahmans that in Maharashtra are regarded more or less as outcastes: —
An account of some of these will be given in a subsequent part of this work. See p. 118, post.
Abb.: Canarese Brahmins
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
Abb.: Canarese Brahmin Women
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
In English works on the history and the geography of India, the name Karnatic is usually applied to the tract of country on the east coast of the Deccan between Arcot [ஆற்காடு] and Madras [மதராஸ் = சென்னை]. But the name of Karnat is properly applicable only to the tract where Kanarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] is the prevailing language. It embraces almost the whole of Mysore with the British districts of North Kanara [ಉತ್ತರ ಕನ್ನಡ], Dharwar [ಧಾರವಾಡ], and Belgaum [ಬೆಳಗಾವಿ] of the Bombay Presidency. In external appearance, the Karnat Brahmans differ but little from the Deshasthas [देशस्थ] of Maharashtra [महाराष्ट्र].
The following classes are regarded as the indigenous Brahmans of Karnat: —
Of these, the first seven classes are found chiefly in Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು], and the last in North Kanara [ಉತ್ತರ ಕನ್ನಡ].
The Havikas or Haigas have their principal home in North Kanaraand the Shimog [ಶಿವಮೊಗ್] division of the Mysore territories. They claim to derive their name from the Sanskrit word Havya, which means “oblation.” Their usual occupation is the cultivation of the supari or areca-nut gardens. But there are among them many who are of the priestly order.
The Hubus of North Kanara are a degraded class. A great many of them live either by the practice of astrology, or by serving as priests in the public temples.
The Hale Karnatikas [ಹಳೆ ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ] of Mysore are considered as a still more degraded class. Their very Brahmanhood is not generally admitted, in spite of their having lately secured a Srimukh from the Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] monastery recognising them as a class of the sacerdotal caste. Their chief occupations are agriculture and Government service, as Shanbhogs or village accountants. By way of reproach they are called Maraka [ಮಾರಕ], which literally means slaughterer or destroyer. The following account is given of them in the Mysore Gazetteer: —
“A caste claiming to be Brahmans, but not recognised as such. They worship the Hindu triad, but are chiefly Vishnuvites [ವೈಷ್ಣವ] and wear the trident mark on their foreheads. They are most numerous in the south of the Mysore district, which contains five-sixths of the whole number. The great majority of the remainder are in Hassan district [ಹಾಸನ]. They call themselves Hale Kannadiga [ಹಳೆ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ] or Hale Karnataka, the name Maraka being considered as one of reproach. They are said to he descendants of some disciples of Sankaracharya [ಶಂಕರಾಚಾರ್ಯ, 8. Jhdt.], and the following legend is related of the cause of their expulsion from the Brahman caste to which their ancestors belonged—
One day Sankaracharya, wishing to test his disciples, drank some tadi [Toddy] in their presence, and the bitter thinking it could be no sin to follow their master’s example indulged freely in the same beverage. Soon after, when passing a butchers shop, Sankaracharya asked for alms; the butcher had nothing but meat to give, which the guru and his disciples ate. According to the Hindu Shastras [ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ], red hot iron alone can purify a person who has eaten flesh and drunk tadi. Sankaracharya went to a blacksmith’s furnace, and begged from him some red hot iron, which he swallowed and was purified. The disciples were unable to imitate their master in the matter of the red hot iron, and besought him to forgive their presumption in having dared to imitate him in partaking of forbidden food. Sankaracharya refused to give absolution, and cursed them as unfit to associate with the six sects of Brahmans, —Mysore Gazetteer, Vol. 1, p. 311.
Dravira [திராவிட] is the name given to the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula, including the districts of Trichinopoli [தி௫ச்சிராப்பள்ளி], Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்], Arcot [ஆற்காடு], Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], Kambakonam [கும்பகோணம்], and Madura [மதுரை]. This tract of country being inhabited by the Tamil-speaking [தமிழ்] tribes is roughly distinguishable from the provinces of Karnat and Andhra towards its north, the prevailing languages of which are respectively Kanarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Telugu [తెలుగు].
The Brahmans of Dravira are divided into two main classes according to their religion.
All the Dravira Brahmans are strict vegetarians and teetotalers.
Abb.: Smartha [ஸ்மார்த்தம்] Brahmins
[Bildquelle: Johnson, William: Photographs of Western India, ca. 1855-1862, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University]
Abb.: Smartha Brahmin man from Tamil Nadu, 1837
The majority of the Smarta Brahmans are Sivites [சைவ], and there are very few Saktas [சாக்தம்] or Vishnu [திருமால்] worshippers among them. They are all followers of Sankaracharya [ஆதி சங்கரர், 8. Jhdt.], and regard the Superior of the Sankarite monastery at Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] as their spiritual head. Those among the Smartas who devote themselves entirely to Vedic study and to the practice of Vedic rites are called Vaidikas, and those who earn their living by secular pursuits are called Laukikas, The Vaidikas alone are entitled to religious gifts, and the Laukikas cannot lay claim to largesses for pious purposes. But in other respects the distinction is of no importance whatever, as intermarriage is freely allowed between them.
The usual surname of the Smartas is Ayar [ஐயர்]. The Sanskritists among them use the title of Shastri [சாஸ்திரி] while the title of Dikshit [தீட்சித்] is similarly used by those in whose family any of the great Vedic sacrifices has ever been celebrated.
The following are the most important classes of Bravura Brahmans of the Smarta order: —
Warma Brahmans. —The Warma Brahmans are very numerous in and near Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்]. They are divided into the following classes: —
These may eat together, but there can be no intermarriage between them. The late Sir Muttuswami Ayar [முத்துசுவாமி ஐயர்], of the Madras High Court, was a Warma Des Warma of the Tanjore district. Mr. Subramhanya Ayar [சுப்பிரமணிய ஐயர்], who has been appointed to succeed him on the Bench of the Madras High Court, is also a Warma Des Warma. Sir Muttuswami was not only an able Judge, but a great man in every sense of the term. Upon his death, which occurred in January last, the Chief Justice said of him: —
“We are assembled here to express our very great regret, at the loss we have sustained by the death of Sir T. Muttuswami Ayar. His death is undoubtedly a loss to the whole country and the Crown. A profound Hindu jurist, a man with very excellent knowledge of English law, with very great strength of mind possessing that most useful quality in a Judge, common sense; he was undoubtedly a great Judge, very unassuming in manners, he had great strength of mind and independence of character, his judgments were carefully considered, and the decisions be ultimately arrived at were, in a great majority of instances, upheld in the final Court of Appeal. His advice was often asked for by the Judges of the Court, and—I can speak from experience—was always freely given and was most valuable. He was a man who did honour to the great profession of law, an upright Judge who administered justice without distinction of race or creed, a well read scholar and a gentleman in the best and truest acceptation of the word. The High Court by his death has sustained a heavy loss, a loss which undoubtedly it can ill bear. ”
The Warma Brahmans paint their foreheads in two different ways. Some have transverse lines of sandal or sacred ashes; while others have a perpendicular line of sandal or Gopichandana [gopīcandana]. *
* A kind of calcareous clay, said to be obtainable only from a tank near Somnath [સોમનાથ], where the wives of Krishna [Kṛṣṇa] drowned themselves after his death.
Brihat Charana. —Among the Dravira Brahmans the Brihat Charanas are next in importance only to the Warmas. The Brihat Charanas paint their forehead with a round mark of Gopichandana in the centre, in addition to transverse lines of white sandal. Sir Sheshadri Ayar [1845 - 1901], K.C.S.I., the present Dewan of Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು], is a Brihat Charana. So is also Mr. Sundar Ayar, Advocate, Madras High Court.
Ashta Sahasra. —The Ashta Sahasras are, generally speaking, more handsome than the other classes of Draviri Brahmans. Like the moderate Sakti [śakti] worshippers of Bengal, the Ashta Sahasras paint between their eyebrows a round mark which is either of white sandal or of a black colouring material formed by powdered charcoal.
Sanket. —The Sankets are Dravidians, but are found also in Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]. The Mysore Sankets cannot speak pure Tamil. There are two sub-divisions among them, namely,
Their religion and their social customs are the same, but there can be no intermarriage between them.
The following remarks are made with reference to the Sanketis by Mr. Narsimmayangar in his report on the last Census of Mysore
The Sanketis are proverbially a hardy, intensely conservative, and industrious Brahman community. They are referred to as models for simultaneously securing the twofold object of preserving the study of the Vedas, while securing a worldly competence by cultivating their gardens, and short of actually ploughing the land, they are pre-eminently the only fraction of the Brahman brotherhood, who turn their lands to the best advantage. —Mysore Census Report, 1891, p. 236.
The Vishnuvite Brahmans of Dravira are followers of Ramanuja [രാമാനുജൻ, 11. Jhdt]. They are divided into two classes, namely,
An account of these sect will he given in a subsequent part of this work.
The late Mr. Rangacharlu [1831 - 1883], who was Prime Minister of the Mysore Raj, was a Vadagala Vaishnava. Mr. Bhasyam Ayangar [1844 - 1908] and Rai Bahadur Anandacharlu [పనప్పాకం అనంతాచార్యులు, 1843 – 1908], who are now the leading advocates of the Madras High Court, and have lately been appointed as Members of the Legislative Council of India, are also Vadagala Vaishnavas of the Tamil country.
Telingana [తెలంగాణ] is one of the names of that part of the Deccan where Telugu [తెలుగు] is the prevailing language. In ancient times this tract of country was included in the kingdoms then called Andhra and Kalinga. At the present time Telingana includes the eastern districts of the Nizam’s [نظام الملك] dominions, in addition to the British districts of Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ], Vizigapatam [విశాఖపట్టణం], Godavari Krishna [గోదావరి ಕೃಷ್ಣಾ], Nellore [నెల్లూరు], North Arcot [வடாற்காடு ], Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ], Cudapa [కడప], Karnoul [కర్నూలు], and Anantpore [అనంతపురం]. The Brahmans of this part of the Deccan are known by the general name of Tailangi Brahmans. They are mainly followers of the Apastamba Sakha [ఆపస్తమ్బ శాఖ] of the Yajur Veda. There are also Rig Vedis [ఋగ్వేదీ among them. Nearly a third of them are Vishnuvites [వైష్ణవ] of the Ramanuja [రామానుజ, 11. Jhdt] and Madhava [మధవ, 13. Jhdt.] sects, the rest being Smartas [స్మర్త]. There are very few Sakti [శక్తి] worshippers among them even of the moderate type, like most of the other classes of the Deccani Brahmans, the Tailangis are strict vegetarians and abstainers from spirituous liquors. The orthodox Tailangi does not smoke tobacco.
The Brahmans of Telingana are sub-divided into several distinct sections. On account of difference of cults there are among them the following three main sub-classes: —
The followers of Madhava [మధవ, 13. Jhdt] form a single caste.
The Sri Vaishnavas [శ్రీవైష్ణవ] among the Telingana Brahmans form a distinct caste called Andhra Vaishnava [ఆంధ్ర వైష్ణవ]. They are not sub-divided as Vadgala and Tengala like their co-religionists of Dravira.
The Smartas [స్మర్త] are sub-divided into two classes, namely,
The Niyogis [నియోగీ] profess to value Yoga [యోగ] or religious contemplation more than Vedic sacrifices. In practice the Niyogis devote themselves mainly to secular pursuits, while the Vaidiks [వైదిక] constitute the priestly class. The Niyogis are considered to be eligible for priestly service. But they will never either accept a religious gift, or partake of Shradha food. The several divisions and sub-sections among the Tailangi Brahmans are shown in the following table: —
Velnadu. —The Velnadus are the most numerous class of Tailangi Brahmans. Vallabhachari [శ్రీ పాద వల్లభాచార్యులూ, 1479 - 1531], who in the 15th century attained great success as a prophet with very little sacrifice of personal ease, and whose descendants are worshipped almost as gods still in Rajputana [राजपूताना], Gujrat [ગુજરાત] and Bombay [मुंबई], was a member of this tribe. According to the Hindustani account of Ballava’s [Vallabha] “conquests ” his father was a native of Kankarkom, but his birth took place at a place named Champa near Raipore, while his parents were on their way from their native village to Benares [वाराणसी]. A full account of Ballava is given in the part of this book dealing with the Indian sects. The Velnadus are most numerous in the Godavari and Krishna [గోదావరి ಕೃಷ್ಣಾ] districts. Colonies of the tribe are found also in every part of Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] except Kadur [ಕಡೂರು].
Venginadu [వేంగి నాడు]. —The Venginadus are next in importance to the Velnadu, and are found chiefly in the British districts of Godavari [గోదావరి] and Vizigapatam [విశాఖపట్టణం], formerly called the Vengi country.
Kasalnadu. —The Kasalnadus derive their name from Kosala [कोशल], the ancient name of Oude [अवध], from whence they profess to have emigrated to the Kalinga [କଳିଙ୍ଗ] country where they are now found.
Murakanadu.— Brahmans of this class are found chiefly in the tract of country to the south of the Krishna [ಕೃಷ್ಣಾ]. They are pretty numerous in Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]. There are among them both priests and men devoted to secular pursuits. The present Superior of the chief Sankarite monastery at Sringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] is a Murakanadu.
Telaganadu. —The Telaganadus are quite as numerous as the Velnadus. The former are found chiefly in the north-eastern part of the Nizam’s [نظام الملك] dominions.
Yajnavalkya. —This name is given in the Telugu country to the followers of the Kanwa Sakha [kānva śākha] of the White Yajur Veda. They are called also Pratham Sakhi as in the Mahratta country.
Niyogis [నియోగీ]. —The Niyogis are secular Brahmans. They derive their name from the word Yoga, which means religious contemplation, as opposed to Yaga, which means religious sacrifice. As the word Niyoga in Sanskrit means “employment, ” it is more probable that the Niyogis are so-called because they accept secular employment. The Komatis and the Sudras [śūdra] bow to them, but the ecclesiastical Brahmans address them with a benediction. From a secular point of view they have great importance. They are usually employed as writers and village accountants.
Aradhyas. —The word Aradhya signifies “deserving to be worshipped.” The Aradhyas do not form a separate caste, as intermarriages take place between them and the Smartas [స్మర్త]. The Aradhyas of the Telugu country profess to be Brahmans, but are, in fact, semi-converted Lingaits [లింగాయతి], and are not regarded as good Brahmans. Though following Basava [ಬಸವಣ್ಣ, 12. Jhdt.] in attaching great importance to Linga worship, they adhere to caste and repeat the Gayatri [గాయత్రి] prayers. They act as Gurus or spiritual preceptors to the higher classes of lay Lingaits, while the lower classes among the followers of Basava are left to the guidance of the Jangamas [జంగం] or the priestly Sudras [śūdra] of the sect.
As a considerable portion of the territories included in what is now called the Central Province was formerly ruled by kings of the Gond tribe [गोंड], and as there is still a large Gond population in the districts round Nagpore [नागपूर] and Jubbulpore [जबलपुर], the tract of country inhabited by them is popularly called Gondwana [गोंडवाना], and the Brahmans settled within it receive the designation of Gond Brahmans [गोंड ब्राह्मण]. They are called also Jhara Brahmans from the fact of their country being still, to a very large extent, covered by forest. Like some of the Mahratta Brahmans, the Gond Brahmans are divided into distinct sections on account of the differences in the Vedas and the Sakhas [शाख] which they profess. The majority of them are followers of the Yajur Veda. There are also Rig Vedis [ऋग्वेदी] among them, but very few followers of any of the other Vedas. The Yajur Vedis [यजुर्वेदी] are divided into various Sakhas, the Madhyandinas [माध्यन्दिन], Kanvas [काण्व], and the Apastambis [आपस्तम्बी] being the most numerous. There cannot be intermarriage between these. But marriage alliances are possible between the Rig Vedis and the Apastambi section of the Yajur Vedis. All the Rig Vedis are of the Ashwalayana Sakha [आश्वलायनशाख].
All the Gond Brahmans are vegetarians and abstainers from intoxicating drink. The Yajur Vedis are chiefly Sivites [शैव] . There are a few Bhagabats [भागवत] and moderate Saktas [शाक्त] among them. The Bhagabats are moderate Vishnuvites [वैष्णव], paying reverence to Siva [शिव] also.
Among the Rig Vedis the majority are Bhagabats [भागवत] and Sivites [शैव]. There are a few extreme Vishnuvites [वैष्णव] among them. There may he intermarriage between the Sivites, Bhagabats, Vaishnavas and Saktas [शाक्त] of the same class. Intermarriage is possible also between the Bhikshus [भिक्षु] and the Laukikas [लौकिक].
There are very few wealthy men among the Gond Brahmans. But they have in their community many learned Sanskritists and English scholars. There is in Gondwana a class of Brahmans called Charaki. There are also colonies of the Malwi and the Narmadi.
Tulava Brahmans. —Tulava [ತುಳು ನಾಡು / துளு நாடு] is a small tract of country embracing only the British District of South Kanara [ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಕನ್ನಡ] and a part of Coorg [ಕೊಡಗು]. Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ], the chief centre of the Madhava [ಮಾಧವ] sect, is in Tulava, and is regarded by its members as a very holy place.
Dr. Wilson gives the following account of the Tulava Brahmans: —
“ The Brahmans taking to themselves the designation of Tulavas are scattered not merely through this province but through some of the territories above the Ghats where they have nearly forgotten their original language. Mr. Stokes mentions the following local varieties of them as found in the Nagara districts [ನಗರ]:
- Shiwali [ಶಿವಳ್ಳಿ].
- Kota [ಕೂಟ].
“These are all varieties, ” he adds, “of Tulava Brahmans, and appear to be almost aboriginal (in a certain sense). They are very numerous in the South of Nagara [ನಗರ], Kauladurga, Koppa [ಕೊಪ್ಪ] and Lakavali [ಲಕ್ಕವಳ್ಳಿ], where they hold the greatest portion of the betel-nut gardens. They are mostly of Smarta sect [ಸ್ಮರ್ತ], and disciples of the Shringeri [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ] and its subordinate Mathas of Tirtha [ಟಿರ್ಥ], Muthar, Hariharpura [ಹರಿಹರಪೂರ], Bandigadra, Mulavagal, &c. They speak Kanarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] only, but their books are partly in the Grantha [கிரந்தம்] and partly in the Bal Bodha [बाळबोध] character. Some sign their names in the Tulava character [ತಿಗಳಾರಿ ಲಿಪಿ]. They are indifferently educated except a few who are either brokers or in public employ. ”
The Tulava Brahmans do not intermarry with the other Brahmans on the Malabar [മലബാര് ] Coast. In the regulations, attributed to Sankaracharya [शंकराचार्य], possessed by the Namburi Brahmans [നമ്പൂതിരി], “ it is decreed that intermarriages among the Brahmans north of Parampol, forming thirty-two Gramas of Tulanod [ತುಳು ನಾಡು] with the Brahmans of thirty-two Gramas to the south called Malaylam [മലയാളം] are forbidden. *
* MS. of Col. Mackenzie, quoted in South Indian Christ. Repository, Vol. II, p. 408.
A synonym of the Tula Brahmans is Imbran or rather Tambaran.
The Tulava Brahmans resemble the Namburis [നമ്പൂതിരി], and consider themselves as the proper lords of the country, pretending that it was created expressly for their use by Parashurama [ಪರಶುರಾಮ]. They are polygamists. They cohabit, too, Dr. F. Buchanan tells us, with the daughters of the Rajas. Speaking of the Kumali Raja, a professed Ksatriya, he says: “ The eldest daughter in the female line cohabits with a Tulava Brahman; her sons become Rajas, and her eldest daughter continues the line of the family. Whenever she pleases, she changes her Brahman. ”*
* Buchanan's Journey, Vol. III, pp. 31, 16.
They prevent widow re-marriage, but promote widow prostitution in the name of religion; and with widows and women who have forsaken their husbands and become “ Moylar ” and attached to the temples, they hold intercourse. They burn their dead. They abstain from animal food and spirituous liquors.
The Tulava Brahmans are equally divided between the sects of Sankaracharya and Madhavacharya.
In Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] there are some Brahmanic colonists who call themselves Kavarga [ಕವರ್ಗ] and Shishyavarga [ಶಿಷ್ಯವರ್ಗ] and who are believed to have been originally inhabitants of Tulava. The word Kavarga [ಕವರ್ಗ] literally means the first five letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. The reason why the designation is applied to the tribe of Brahmans bearing the name is explained as follows in the report on the last Census of Mysore: —
The name is said to have a reproachful allusion to a legend, according to which a brother and sister of this tribe deceitfully received a gift by representing themselves as husband and wife at a Brahmanical ceremony. By the patriarchal law of visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, the tribe is to this day distinguished by the name of Kavarga (of the Ka class), Ka [ಕ] being the initial syllable of the Kanarese word Kullu [ಕಳ್ಳ] (= thief). — Mysore Census Report, p. 235.
In Coorg [ಕೊಡಗು] there is a priestly class called Amma Kodaga or Kaveri [ಕಾವೇರಿ] Brahmans; but as they do not profess to follow any particular Veda, they are, properly speaking, no Brahmans. They are a very small community. With regard to them, Richter says: —
The Amma Kodagas live principally in the S. -W. parts of Coorg, and are the indigenous priesthood devoted to the worship of Amma [ಅಮ್ಮ] the Kaveri [ಕಾವೇರಿ] goddess. They are of a quite unobtrusive character; do not intermarry with the other Coorgs, and are, generally speaking, inferior to them in personal appearance and strength of body. Their number is about 50, they are unlettered and devoid of Brahmanical lore. Their diet is vegetable food only, and they abstain from drinking liquor. Their complexion is rather fair, their eyes dark-brown, and their hair black and straight. —Ethnological Compendium of the Castes and Tribes of Coorg, by the Rev. G. Richter, p. 1.
The part of the western coast of the Deccan which extends from Cannanore [കണ്ണൂര്] and the Chandra Giri river [ചന്ദ്രഗിരിപ്പുഴ] on the north to Cape Comorin [கன்னியாகுமரி] on the south, and which embraces at present the British district of Malabar [മലബാര്], and the principalities of Cochin [കൊച്ചി] and Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], is, in many respects, a homogeneous tract distinguishable from every other part of India. This strip of country was called in ancient times Kerala [കേരളം] or Chera [ചേര], and governed by its own king. The language spoken by its people is Malayan [മലയാളം] which, though allied to the Tamil [தமிழ்], is a quite distinct dialect. The Nairs [നായർ] and the Namburi Brahmans [നമ്പൂതിരി], who form the chief elements in the population of Kerala, are not to be found in considerable numbers even in the adjoining districts of Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], Trichinopoly [திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி], Madura [மதுரை] or Tinnevely [திருநெல்வேலி]. It is, however, the peculiar law's and customs of Kerala that distinguish it most from other parts of India.
The very family type among the Nairs [നായർ] is so different from what is found in other countries, that it is very difficult for an outsider to form an idea of it. Among most of the nations throughout the world, each male member when he marries, becomes an unit of the society. During the lifetime of his father he may, with his wife, and in some cases with his children also, live under the parental roof. But each of the male members of the society is, in the eye of law, the centre of an independent group actual or possible. After his death, the usual rule is that his sons succeed to his property´and his status, and every one traces his lineage in the male line, i. e. , in the line of his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, &c. The case among the Nairs is very different. Among them every girl is married formally when a child with a Brahman. But the titular husband can never claim her as his wife, and when she grows up she may choose any one, either of her own or of the Brahman caste, provided he is not a member of the same tarwad (the common residence of the children of the same maternal ancestor). A female member of a wealthy tarwad never leaves her maternal home, but is visited there by her husband. In the case of less wealthy tarwads, the women generally live with the husbands chosen by them. But in all cases the children succeed to the property and status of their mother’s tarwad, and not to their male ancestors.
The marriage customs of the Namburi Brahmans [നമ്പൂതിരി] of Malabar are not the same as those of the Nairs; nor are they quite identical with those of the Brahmans in other parts of India. In a Namburi family, it is only the eldest brother who is ordinarily allowed to take a wife by a regular marriage. If no male children be born to the eldest, then the brother next in rank may marry in the regular way, but not otherwise. The younger brothers, who are forbidden marriage, are allowed to form connexions with Ksatriya [kṣatriya] and Nair women.
The Namburis exact greater deference from the Sudras [śūdra] than the Brahmans in other parts of the country. A Nair, who is a high caste Sudra [śūdra], may approach, but must not touch, a Namburi. A Tir, who is a cultivator by caste, has to remain thirty-six steps off from one; a Malayaer hillman three or four steps further. A member of the degraded Puliyar caste has to keep himself at a distance of ninety-six stops. If a Puliyar touch a Brahman, the latter must make expiation by immediate bathing, and change of his Brahmanical thread.
The Namburis are, like most of the other classes of Deccani Brahmans, strict vegetarians. Their male members are allowed to eat with the Ksatriyas. The most striking peculiarity in a Namburi is the tuft of hair grown near the forehead, instead of the usual Brahmanical Sikha at the central part of the head. There are both Sivites [ശൈവ] and Vishnuvites [വൈഷ്ണ] among the Namburis. The former are called Chovar, the latter Panyon. The Namburi Brahmans seldom go abroad without holding a chatra or large umbrella. Their women also screen themselves with a chatra when they go out, which they do very seldom. The foreign Brahmans residing in Malabar are called Pattara. The Ambalvashis, who are the employes of the public shrines, are Namburis by descent, but degraded by their avocation.
The great Sankaracharya [ശങ്കരാചാര്യർ, 8. Jhdt.], whose name stands most conspicuous in the struggle for rooting out Buddhism from India, and who is regarded by Brahmans in every part of the country as an incarnation of Siva [śiva], was a Namburi.
There are various legends regarding the origin of this caste. The Bhuinhar [भूइंहार] Brahmans themselves claim to be true Brahmans descended from the rulers whom Parusu Ram [परशुराम] set up in the place of the Ksatriya [क्षत्रिय] kings slain by him. The good Brahmans and the Ksatriyas of the country, however, look down upon them, and insinuate that they are of a mixed breed, the offspring of Brahman men and Ksatriya women. It is even said that the class was formed by the promotion of low caste men under the orders of a minister to a Raja who wanted a very large number of Brahmans to celebrate a religious ceremony, but for whom his minister could not procure the required number of true Brahmans. But this legendary theory is very strongly contradicted by the Aryan physiognomy of the Bhuinhars who, in respect of personal appearance, are in no way inferior to the Brahmans and the Rajputs [राजपूत]. One of the most important points of difference between the Bhuinhar Brahmans, and the majority of the ordinary Brahmans is, that while the latter are divided into only those exogamous clans called Gotra [गोत्र], the former have among them, like the Rajputs, a twofold division based upon both Gotra and tribe. From this circumstance Mr. Risley* has been led to conclude that the Bhuinhar Brahmans are an offshoot of the Rajputs, and not true Brahmans.
* The grounds on which Mr. Risley rests his view will appear clear from the following extract
"An examination of the sections or exogamous groups into which the Babhans [बाभन = भूइंहार] are divided appear, however, to tell strongly against the hypothesis that they are degraded Brahmans. These groups are usually the oldest and most durable element in the internal organization of a caste or tribe, and may therefore be expected to offer the clearest indications as to its origin. Now we find among the Babhans section names of two distinct types, the one territorial referring either to some very early settlement of the section, or to the birthplace of its founder, and the other eponymous, the eponym being in most cases a Vedic Rishi [ऋषि] or inspired sage. The names of the former class correspond to or closely resemble those current among Rajputs [राजपुत]; the names of the latter are those of the standard Brahmanical Gotras [गोत्र]. Where the matrimonial prohibitions based on these two classes of sections conflict, as must obviously often happen where every member of the caste necessarily belongs to both sets, the authority of the territorial class overrides that of the eponymous or Brahmanical class. Suppose, for instance, that a man of the Koronch territorial section and of the Sandilya [शाण्डिल्य] eponymous section wishes to marry a woman of the Sakanwar territorial section, the fact that she also belongs to the Sandilya eponymous section will not operate as a bar to the marriage. Whatever may be the theory of the purohits [पुरोहित] of the caste, the Brahmanical Gotra is disregarded in practice. This circumstance seems to indicate that the territorial sections are the older of the two, and are probably the original sections of the caste, while the eponymous sections have been borrowed from the Brahmans in comparatively recent times. It would follow that the Babhans are an offshoot, not from the Brahmans, but from the Rajputs, ”—Risley’s Tribes and Castes, Vol. I, Introduction.
But as there are similar tribal divisions among the Maithila [मैथिल] Brahmans of Tirhoot [तिरहुत] and the Saraswat [सारस्वत] Brahmans of the Panjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], it might, on the same ground, be said that the Saraswats and the Maithilas are offshoots of the Rajputs.
The theory that Bhuinhar Brahmans are an offshoot of the Rajputs, involves the utterly unfounded assumption that any of the military clans could have reason to be ashamed of their caste status. The ‘royal race’ had very good reasons to be proud of such surnames as Sinha [सिन्हा,], Roy [राय] and Thākoor [ठाकुर], and it seems very unlikely that any of their clans could at any time be so foolish as to club together for the purpose of assuming the Brahmanic surnames of Dobe, Tewari [तिवारी], Chobe and Upadhya [उपाध्याय]. On the theory that the Bhuinhar Brahmans are an offshoot of the Rajputs, the clans that now profess to be Bhuinhar Rajputs are the residue that have stuck to their original status, and have never aspired to a higher one. But on this supposition it would be difficult to find any reason for the distinction between Bhuinhar Rajputs and the ordinary Rajputs.
The clue to the exact status of the Bhuinhar Brahmans is afforded by their very name. The word literally means a landholder. In the language of the Indian feudal system, Bhum [भूमि] is the name given to a kind of tenure similar to the Inams and Jaiyirs of Mahomedan times. By a Bhum, according to the Rajputana Gazetteer, an hereditary, non-resumable and inalienable property in the soil was inseparably bound up with a revenue-free title. Bhum was given अs compensation for bloodshed, in order to quell a feud, for distinguished services in the field, for protection of a border, or for the watch and ward of a village. *
* The Assamese Bhuinhars do not. wear the sacred thread, and do not claim to be either Brahmans or Ksatriyas.
The tenure is very highly esteemed by Rajputs of all classes. The Maharajah [महाराज] of Kishengarh [किशानगढ़], the Thākoor [ṭhākura] of Fategarh, the Thākoor [ठाकुर] of Gunia, the Thākoor of Bandanwara, and the Thākoor of Tantoti are among the Bhumias of Ajmere [अजमेर]. In Bengal the fact of the frontier districts of the east, having been at one time under twelve Bhumia Kings is well known still by tradition.
The meaning of the designation Bhuinhar being as stated above, the Bhuinhar Brahmans are evidently those Brahmans who held grants of land for secular services. Whoever held a secular fief was a Bhuinhar. Where a Brahman held such a tenure he was called a Bhuinhar Brahman. Where the holder was a Ksatriय्a he was called a Bhuinhar Ksatriya . Bhuinhar Brahmans are sometimes called simply Bhuinhars, just as the masons, whose class name in Bengali is Raj mistri (royal architect), are generally called Raj, which means a king.
In Assam the Bhuinhars hold their lands on very favourable terms; but no exceptional indulgence is shown to the Bhuinhars of Behar or Benares by the local zemindars [زمیندار]. As may be expected the Bhuinhars are now chiefly an agricultural class; but like the good Brahmans, they never touch the plough. They will, however, do any kind of manual work except personal service. They serve not only as soldiers, constables, orderlies and gate-keepers, but also as porters, cartmen, and cutters of wood. Many of the Hindu cartmen and porters in Calcutta [কলকাতা] are Bhuinhars. Some of them are very proud and cantankerous. The fact that the Bhuinhars readily enlist in the army and in the police may be taken to show, to some extent, what their caste profession must have been in former times.
The Bhuinhars observe all their religious ceremonies in the same manner as the good Brahmans; but as they practise secular avocations they, like the Laukika Brahmans of Southern India, are not entitled to accept religious gifts, or to minister to any one as priests. The best Brahmans officiate as priests for the Bhuinhars, and it is not considered that they are degraded by doing so.
On the view that the Bhuinhars were anciently a fighting caste, it is not at all a matter for wonder that there are among them, as among the Rajputs, many big landholders. The Rajas [राज] named below are of the Bhuinhar caste: —
Like the Rajputs the Bhuinhar Brahmans form one great caste, and there are no sub-castes among them. They are divided into a large number of clans which, for purposes of marriage, are, with very few exceptions, all equal. The usual surnames of the Bhuinhar Brahmans are the same as those of the other Brahmans of Northern India. Being a lighting caste, a few of them have Rajput surnames.
The Bhats [भाट] and the Charanas [चारण] are very important castes in Rajputana [राजपूताना] and the adjoining provinces. They are the minstrels, historians and genealogists of the Rajput [राजपूत] chiefs, and are very much feared by their constituents, as it is in their power to lower any family by distorting history. They all take the holy thread, and as their persons are considered to be sacred by all classes, they seem to have been originally Brahmans. The very name of Bhatta [भट्ट] points also to the same conclusion, as it means a learned man, and is an honorific surname of many of the best families of Brahmanas in every part of the country. In all probability the Bhats are the caste who were usually employed by the Rajput princes in diplomatic service, while the Charanas, as their very name indicates, were the spies. At any rate this view not only explains the fact that the Bhats have a higher caste status than the Charanas, but is supported also by the custom which still prevails among the Rajputs of employing the Bhats to conduct negotiations for marriage alliances.
Sir John Malcolm gives the following account of the Bhats: —
The Bhats or Raos seldom sacrifice themselves; but as chroniclers or bards, they share power, and sometimes office with the Charanas. Among the Bhilalas [भीलाला] and lower tribes they enjoy great and exclusive influence; they give praise and fame in their songs to those who are liberal to them, while they visit those who neglect or injure them, with satires, in which they usually reproach them with spurious birth and inherent meanness. Sometimes the Bhat, if very seriously offended, fixes the figure of the person he desires to degrade on a long pole, and appends to it a slipper as a mark of disgrace. In such cases the song of the Bhat records the infamy of the object of his revenge. This image usually travels the country till the party or his friends purchase the cessation of the ridicule and curses thus entailed. It is not deemed in these countries in the power of a prince, much less any other person, to stop a Bhat, or even punish him for such a proceeding: he is protected by the superstitious and religious awe which, when general among a people, controls even despotism. — Malcolm’s Central India, Vol. II, Chap. XIV, pp. 113-114.
The poetic castes in fact performed the functions of the tiers-état in Rajasthan [राजस्थान], and the privilege of commenting on the actions of their Kings, which they possessed and very often abused, was very nearly unlimited. In Rajputana [राजपूताना] there are many big landholders and men of influence among the Bhats and the Charanas; but there are very few Sanskritists among them. The usual surname of the Bhats is Rao [राव]. They are divided into two classes, namely,
- the Brahma Bhats [ब्रह्म भाट] and
- the Yoga Bhats [योग भाट].
The former are poets and minstrels who recount, in verse, the history of the great Rajput heroes, ancient and modern. The Yoga Bhats are the genealogists. The Bhats of Bengal are mere beggars, without regular constituents, and without the slightest pretension of poetic capacity. On the occasions of Pujas [पूजा] and Shradhas [श्राद्ध] in the houses of the rich, they present themselves uninvited, and make such a horrid uproar by shouting and singing, that the master of the house besieged by them is glad to pay something to get rid of them. If refused, they will get to the top of a tree or wall, and threaten to commit suicide by falling headlong on the ground. Being thus terrorised the ladies of the house insist upon their immediate dismissal anyhow, and it is therefore quite impossible to avoid submitting to their exactions on ceremonial occasions.
With regard to the Charanas [चारण] Sir John Malcolm gives the following account: —
They are divided into two tribes, the Kachili who are merchants, and the Mara who are bards. These again branch out into one hundred and twenty other tribes, many of whom are the descendants in the female line of Brahmans and Rajputs [राजपुत]. They are taught to read and write, and the class who traffic (generally in camels and horses) are shrewd men of business; while the Maru Charanas apply their skill to the genealogy of tribes, and to the recital of numerous legends (usually in verse), celebrating the praises of former heroes, which it is their duty to chant, to gratify the pride and rouse the emulation of their descendants. The Charana’s chief power is derived from an impression that it is certain ruin and destruction to shed his blood, or that of any of his family, or to be the cause of its being shed. They obtain a high rank in society, and a certain livelihood, from the superstitious belief which they are educated to inculcate, and which they teach their children to consider as their chief object in life to maintain. A Charana becomes the safeguard of travellers and security for merchants, and his bond is often preferred among the Rajputs, when rents and property are concerned, to that of the wealthiest bankers. When he trades himself, he alone is trusted and trusts among the community to which he belongs. The Charana who accompanies travellers likely to be attacked by Rajput robbers, when he sees the latter approach, warns them off by holding a dagger in his hand, and if they do not attend to him, he stabs himself in a place that is not mortal, and taking the blood from the wound, throws it at the assailants with imprecations of future woe and ruin. If this has not the desired effect, the wounds are repeated, and in extreme cases one of the Charana’s relations, commonly a female child or an old woman, is made a sacrifice. The same process is adopted to enforce the payment of a debt to himself or a claim for which he has become security. It is not unusual, as the next step, to slay himself; and the catastrophe has been known to close in the voluntary death of his wives and children. The females of the Charanas are distinct from all the other population, both in dress and manners. They often reside in separate villages, and the traveller is surprised to see them come out in their long robes, and attend him for some space, chanting his welcome to their abode. The Charanas are not only treated by the Rajputs with great respect (the highest rulers of that race rising when one of this class enters or leaves an assembly), but they have more substantial marks of regard. When they engage in trade, lighter duties are collected from them than others. They receive at all feasts and marriages presents that are only limited by the ability of the parties. The evil consequences of a Charana being driven to undergo a violent death, can be alone averted by grants of land and costly gifts to surviving relations; and the Rajput chief, whose guilt is recorded (for all these sacrifices are subjects of rude poems), as the cause of such sacred blood being shed, is fortunate when he can by any means have his repentance and generosity made part of the legend. —Malcolm’s Central India, Vol. II, Chap. XIV, p. 108 et seq.
About the peregrinations of the Bhats and the Charanas, and the periodical visits paid by them to their constituents, a graphic account is to be found in the following extract: —
When the rainy season closes, and travelling becomes practicable, the bard sets off on his yearly tour from his residence in the Bhatwara [भटवारा] of some city or town. One by one he visits each of the Rajput [राजपुत] chiefs who are his patrons, and from whom he has received portions of land, or annual grants of money, timing his arrival, if possible, to suit occasions of marriage or other domestic festival. After he has received the usual courtesies, he produces the ‘Bahi,’ [बही] a book written in his own crabbed hieroglyphics, or in those of his fathers, which contains the descent of the house; if the chief be the Tilayet or head of the family, from the founder of the tribe; if he be a Phatayo, or cadet, from the immediate ancestor of the branch, interspersed with many a verse or ballad, the dark sayings contained in which are chanted forth in musical cadence to a delighted audience, and are then orally interpreted by the bard, with many an illustrative anecdote or tale. The ‘Bahi’ is not, however, merely a source for the gratification of family pride, or even of love of song; it is also a record of authority by which questions of consanguinity are determined when marriage is on the tapis, and disputes relating to the division of ancestral property are decided. It is the duty of a bard at each periodical visit to register the births, marriages and deaths which have taken place in the family since his last circuit, as well as to chronicle all other events worthy of remark which have occurred to affect the fortunes of his patron; nor have we ever heard even a doubt suggested regarding the accurate, much less the honest, fulfilment of this duty by the bard. —Forbes’s Ras Mala, Vol. II, pp, '263-64.
There are various classes of degraded Brahmans who now form, more or less completely, separate castes. Their social ostracism is due to one or other of the following causes: —
Hosainis [होसेनी]. —These are a class of Brahmans to be found in many parts of Western India, and especially near Ahmednagar [अहमदनगर]. They have actually adopted to some extent the Mahomedan faith and its observances, though they retain some of the Brahmanic practices too, and generally intermarry only among themselves. As a class they have no importance. They are chiefly beggars.
Kuvachandas. — Found in Sind [سندھ], and they generally resemble the Mussalmans in their habits.
Of the several classes degraded by alleged intercourse with Mahomedans, the Piralis [পিরালী] of Bengal are the most important from many points of view. They claim to be a section of the Radriya [ Brahmans of the country with whom alone they intermarry, though such alliance is always very expensive to them. The good Radriya who marries into a Pirali family is himself reduced to the rank of a Pirali, and always demands a heavy premium as a sine qua non. With the exception of the family of Babu Debendra Nath Tagore [দেবেন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর, 1817 – 1905] who are Brahmos [ব্রাহ্মসমাজ], the Piralis are very orthodox Hindus. The following account relating to the degradation of Purushottama [পুরুষোত্তম], the ancestor of the clan, is given by one of their leading members, the late Honorable Prasanna Kumar Tagore [প্রসন্নকুমার ঠাকুর, 1801 - 1886], C. S. I.: —
Purushottama [পুরুষোত্তম] was called Pirali [পিরালী] for having married the daughter of a person blemished in caste. According to the books of the Ghattaks [ঘটক], Janaki Ballabha [জানকী বল্লভ] and Kamdeva Roy Chowdri [কামদেৱ রায় চৌধুরী], inhabitants of Gurgain, in Pergana Chengutia, brought a suit against an ancestor of Sri Kanta Roy [শ্রীকান্ত রায়], of Jessore [যশোর]. An Amin [আমিন], named Pirali Khan, was deputed by the zemindar for the purpose of holding an investigation into the case. There was an altercation between the Amin and some of the inhabitants of the place as to whether the smell of a thing was tantamount to half-eating it. Some time after the said Pirali Khan invited several persons all of whom lost their caste, as he made them smell forbidden food. Janaki Ballabha and Kamadeva having sat near the Amin and been reported to have eaten the food, became Mahomedans, under the names of Jamal Khan and Kamal Khan, pursuant to the decision of the Pandits of those times. Their descendants, Arjuna Khan, Dinanath Khan, &c., live like Mahomedans up to this day in Magura [মাগুরা] and Basundia [বাসুন্দিয়া, Pergana Chengutia, zillah Jessore [যশোর]. They form their connections by marriage with the Khan Chowdries of Broome, but not with any other Mahomedans. The remaining persons present on the occasion were called Pirali. Purushottama was one of the latter. Others give a different account. They say that when Purushottama was in Jessore, on his way to bathe in the Ganges, the Chowdries [চৌধুরী] of that place, who became polluted in the above mentioned way, forcibly took him to their house with a view to give him a daughter of theirs in marriage. Seeing that the bride was very beautiful, Purushottama agreed to marry her. After this marriage, Purushottama left the original seat of his family and settled in Jessore. Purushottama had a son named Balarama. Panchanana, the fifth in descent from Balarama left Jessore and came to Govindpore [গোবিন্দপুর], the site of Fort William, where he purchased land, and built thereon a dwelling-house and a temple. His son Jairam was employed as an Amin [আমিন] in the settlement of the 24-Pergunnahs [২৪-পরগনা] and discharged his duties with considerable credit. At the capture of Calcutta he is said to have lost all his property with the exception of Rs. 13,000 in cash.
Jairam’s house was taken by the English for the purpose of building Fort William. He received some money and land as compensation, and removed himself to Pathuriaghata [পাথুরিয়াঘাটা]. He died in the year 1762, leaving four sons, named Ananda Ram, Nilmani, Darpa Narayan and Govinda. The eldest, Ananda Ram, was the first who received a liberal English education. His family and that of his youngest brother, who superintended the building of the Fort William, have become extinct. Nilmani was the grandfather of Dwarkanath Tagore [দ্বারকানাথ ঠাকুর, 1794 - 1846], who occupied a foremost rank in the society of his day. See S. C. Bose’s Hindus as they are, pp. 171—74.
With reference to the above, it may be observed here that the alleged enjoyment of the smell of a Mahomedan’s savoury meat, cannot, by itself, explain the perpetual degradation of Purushottama, or of any of the other guests of Pirali. The sin of even voluntary and actual eating of such food is not an inexpiable one, and there is not within the four corners of the Shastras [শাস্ত্র], any such utterly unreasonable and Draconian law as would visit a man with eternal degradation for involuntarily inhaling the smell of forbidden food. There are also other inherent improbabilities in the story as narrated above. Unless the Amin [আমিন], and the inhabitants of the locality where he was conducting his investigations, were quite demented, there could not possibly be an occasion for any altercation between the parties as to a question of the Hindu’s religion. Then, again, if the habits and prejudices of the Hindus in those times be taken into consideration, it would seem quite impossible that Pirali would have invited any number of them to his house, or that they would have responded to the invitation so far as to enter his dining-room. Hindus and Mahomedans very often exchange visits for ceremonial and official purposes. But even when they are on the most friendly terms, a man professing the one religion will not ask a votary of the other to sit by his table while he is at dinner. The orthodox Hindu’s prejudices are such that after sitting on the same carpet with a Mahomedan or a Christian friend, or shaking hands with such a person, he has to put off his clothes, and to bathe or sprinkle his person with the holy water of the Ganges. The Mahomedan gentleman of the country who know well of these prejudices on the part of their Hindu fellow-countrymen, therefore, never ask them to mix too familiarly, and the Hindus also keep themselves at a sufficient distance to avoid that they must regard as contaminations. The dwelling-house of every native of India, be he a Hindu or a Mahomedan, consists of two parts, namely, the zenana [زنانہ] and the boytakhana. The zenana apartments are reserved for the ladies, and the dining-rooms for the members of the house are always within the zenana. The boytakhana is the outer part of the house where visitors are received. The Mussalmans do sometimes entertain their co-religionists in the boytakhana; but no orthodox Hindu would enter such a place while the plates are in it, or would remain there a moment after any sign of preparations for introducing any kind of cooked eatables.
From what is stated above, it would appear that the causes assigned by the Piralis themselves for their degradation cannot satisfactorily account for their status in the Hindu caste system. From the general tenor of their story, it seems more probable that Purushottama was an officer in the staff of the surveyor, Pirali, and that, as Amins [আমিন] and their underlings usually do, he made himself very unpopular among his coreligionists by attempting to invade the titles to their patrimony, so as to lead them to club together for ostracising him on the allegation that he had tasted or smelt forbidden food.
The reason why the Piralis left their original habitat, and settled in Calcutta [কলকাতা], is not far to seek. Purushottama who was first outcasted had evidently made his native village too hot for him. He removed to Jessore [যশোর]; but even at Jessore he could not have, in his degraded condition, found many friends. His descendant, Panchanana, therefore removed to Calcutta in search of employment, and a place where he could live in peace. Calcutta was then practically ruled by the East India Company, who had no reason whatever to pay any regard to any rule or decree of caste discipline. The majority of the well-to-do population of Calcutta were then of the weaver caste, with a sprinkling of Sonar Banyas and Kayasthas [কায়স্থ]. Good Brahmans visited the towns sometimes for ministering to their disciples or collecting the donations of the rich Sudras [শূদ্র] to their toles or Sanskrit schools. But those were days when the orthodox and respectable Brahmans of Bengal considered it beneath their dignity to engage in secular pursuits, and even to those who were inclined to pocket their pride for the sake of pelf, the service of the East India Company could not then have much attraction. Whatever the cause might have been, the Brahmanic population of Calcutta was not very large in its early days. When such was the state of things Panchanana settled in it. A Brahman is a Brahman though outcasted by his clansmen. The Sonar Banyas of Calcutta were themselves outcastes, and as for the Tantis and Kayasthas, they could have neither the motive nor the power to subject the outcaste Panchanana to any kind of persecution. The Setts and the Malliks actually befriended his family, though apparently without recognizing their status as Brahmans so far as to accept their hospitality in any shape. In Prasanna Kumar Tagore’s [প্রসন্নকুমার ঠাকুর, 1801 - 1886] account of his family history it is stated that Ram Krishna Mallik [রাম কৃষ্ণ মল্লিক] exchanged turbans with his ancestor Darpa Narain. That was no doubt a sign of friendship, but not of the kind of veneration which Banyas [বনিয়া] must have for good Brahmans. It is said however that for nearly half a century after the arrival of their ancestor, Panchanana, in Calcutta, the Piralis were recognized as good Brahman. But when they became wealthy and influential, the late Babu Durga Charan Mukerji, of Bag Bazar [বাগবাজার], formed a party for degrading them. Perhaps some of the Kayastha magnates of Calcutta secretly supported Durga Charan in persecuting the Piralis.
The way in which the Tagores of the last century attained their wealth is not well known. Panchanana’s son Jairam, by serving as an Amin [আমিন] for the survey and settlement of the villages acquired by the East India Company under the charter of Emperor Ferokshere, apparently laid a substantial foundation. His youngest son Govinda, who superintended the building of Fort William, presumably improved the patrimony materially. Darpa Narain, the third son of Jairam and the greatgrandfather of Sir Maharaja Jotindra Mohan [যতীন্দ্রমোহন ঠাকুর, 1831 – 1908], held for some time a high office in the service of the French East India Company. Nilmoni, the second son of Jairam and the grandfather of the celebrated Dwarka Nath Tagore, did not inherit any share of the family estate. But he was befriended by one of the Sonar Banaiya millionaires of his time, and was enabled by his friend to build a separate house for his residence on the site now occupied by the palatial mansion belonging to his descendants. Nilmoni’s second son, Ram Moni, served as a clerk in the Police Court. Dwarka Nath, the second son of Ram Moni, made himself wealthy and famous in various ways. He began his career by entering the service of the Government of Bengal in the Salt Department.
About the beginning of the present century when the estates of most of the great zemindars of Bengal were brought to sale, for arrears of revenue, the Pirali Tagores bought many valuable properties, and became themselves great zemindars. The total income of the several branches of the Tagore family must at present be more than £100,000. The leading members of the clan in the last generation were Dwarka Nath Tagore [দ্বারকানাথ ঠাকুর, 1794 - 1846], Prasunna Kumar Tagore [প্রসন্নকুমার ঠাকুর, 1801 - 1886] and Ramanath Tagore [রমানাথ ঠাকুর, 1801 - 1877]. Among the living celebrities of the family, Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohun Tagore [যতীন্দ্রমোহন ঠাকুর, 1831 – 1908] is deservedly esteemed as one of its brightest ornaments. He was a member of the Legislative Council of India for several years, and the British Government of India has conferred upon him every possible title of honour at its disposal. His brother Maharaja Sourendra Mohan Tagore [1840 - 1914] is a votary of the science of music, but at the same time has been steadily improving his estate by efficient management like his illustrious brother. Dwarka Nath’s son Devendra Nath [দেবেন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর, 1817 – 1905] is now in “sear and yellow leaf” of life. On account of his devotion to religion he is usually called a Maharshi or Saint. His son Satyendra Nath [সত্যেন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর, 1842 - 1923] is the first Hindu member of the Indian Civil Service, and is now employed as a District Judge in the Bombay Presidency. Babu Kali Krishna Tagore [কালীকৃষ্ণ ঠাকুর, 1840 - 1905], who represents another branch, does not move much in Calcutta society; but next to Sir J. M. Tagore, he is perhaps the richest member of the family.
From a long time the Tagores have been struggling hard to be restored to caste. Ward says that Raja Krishna Chundra [রাজ কৠষ্ণ চন্দ্র] of Nadiya [নদিয়া] was promised one lac [100.000] of rupees by a Pirali, if he would only honour him with a visit for a few minutes, but he refused. Similar offers, though of smaller amounts, have been again and again made to the great Pandits of Nadiya, but have been similarly declined. But the Tagores are now fast rising in the scale of caste. Poor Brahmans now more or less openly accept their gifts, and sometimes even their hospitality; and Sir J. M. Tagore is on the way towards acquiring an influence on the Pandits [পণ্ডিত] which may one day enable him to re-establish his family completely in caste.
The Brahmans that minister to the low Sudra [śūdra] castes and outcastes, are looked upon as degraded persons, and they generally form separate castes. The good Brahmans will not take even a drink of water from their hands, and intermarriage between them is quite out of the question. In Bengal the following classes of Sudras and outcastes have special priests: —
The priests of each of these classes form independent castes, without the right of intermarriage or dining together with any other section of the Brahmanic caste. With the exception of a few of the Sonar Vaniya Brahmans, these Barna Brahmans, as they are called, are mostly very poor, and utterly without any kind of social position. The priests of the Kaibartas are in some places called Vyasokta Brahmans.
The following castes of Mithila [मिथिला] have special Brahmans: —
The following are regarded as Barna Brahmans in Gujrat [ગુજરાત], and have a low caste status: —
The following are the names of the classes of Tailangi Brahmans that minister to the low castes: —
Of the Brahmans who are considered as having a very low status on account of their being connected with the great public shrines, the following classes are the most important: —
Most of these classes are very rich, but utterly illiterate. Mere residence in a place of pilgrimage, for a few generations, tends to lower the status of a family. The Bengali Brahmans settled at Benares are called by their clansmen Kashials, and looked down upon as men whose birth is spurious, or as being in the habit of earning their livelihood by accepting forbidden gifts. The Brahmans of Southern India also look down upon their clansmen permanently residing in Benares, without any connection with their native country. *
*The reader may have some idea of this feeling from the following passage in Mr. Wilkin’s Modern Hinduism: — A few months ago, when travelling on the East India Railway, I met with two Brahmans from Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]. They are educated men; one of them was expecting to appear in the following B. A. Examination of the Madras [மதராஸ்] University. When we were leaving Benares [वाराणसी], it occurred to me to ask if they had any friends in that holy city. They said, —“ No, but we soon found some Brahmans from our part of the country. ” I said “Oh, then you were well received and hospitably entertained by them of course? ” I shall never forget the look of infinite disdain with which one of them replied “Do you think we would eat with men who live in such a city as Benares, and associate with Brahmans of this district? No, we contented ourselves whilst there with one meal a day, which we cooked for ourselves.” My question appeared to them about as reasonable as if I had asked a nobleman in England if he had dined with scavenger. —Wilkin’s Modern Hinduism, pp. 163 164.
The Somparas connected with the shrine of Somnath [સોમનાથ] seem to have a higher position than the priests of the public shrines usually have.
There is a class of Brahmans in the Doab [दोआब] who call themselves Chowbays of Mathura [मथुरा], but have nothing to do with priestly work. These are very high class Brahmans. There are many learned Sanskritists and English scholars among them. Some of them hold high offices in the service of Government and also of the Native States. One of the greatest of these is Kumar Jwala Prasad, who is at present the District Judge of Azimgarh. His father, Raja Jai Kishen [1832 - 1905], rendered eminent services to the Government at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny, and is still employed as a Deputy Collector. Another member of the Chowbay caste, named Raghu Nath Das, is the Prime Minister of Kota [कोटा].
By the religious codes of the Hindus, the acceptance of certain kinds of movables, such as elephants, horses, etc., is strictly forbidden. But in actual practice even high caste Brahmans are sometimes led by poverty to accept such gifts, especially where the transaction takes place in a distant part of the country, and under circumstances that may render it possible for the donee to keep his act of sin unknown to his clansmen. If the fact becomes known to them he is outcasted, and his descendants remain in the same condition, so long as the nature of the original cause of their degradation is remembered by their fellow-castemen. But in almost every such case the family recovers its lost position after a few generations, and no separate caste is formed. There are, however, certain kinds of gifts which good Brahmans never accept, and which only certain classes of degraded Brahmans are held to be entitled to. These Brahmans are called
The Maha-Brahmans or Great Brahmans [महा ब्राह्मण] are so-called by way of irony. Their caste status is so low that good Hindus consider their very touch to be contaminating, and actually bathe if accidentally affected by such pollution.
Almost all the classes mentioned above take a part in the ceremonies which have to be performed within the first ten days after a man’s death. A great many of them claim also the wearing apparel of the deceased and his bedding, as their perquisites.
There is a class of Brahmans in and near Benares [वाराणसी] called Sawalakhi [सवालखी]. They are considered as degraded on account of their being in the habit of accepting gifts from pilgrims within the holy city of Benares. The Sawalakhis are not treated as an unclean class, and a good Brahman will take a drink of water from their hands.
There is a class of Brahmans in the N. -W. Provinces called Bhattas [भट्ट] who minister as priests in ceremonies for the expiation of the sin of cow-killing. They are regarded as very unclean.
The Maruiporas who officiate in some public burning-ghats as paid priests have a lower position than that of even the Maha-Brhmans and the Agradanis. Generally the function is performed by the ordinary family priests without fee of any kind. But in some burning-ghats certain families claim an exclusive right to administer the sacrament to the dead, and claim heavy fees in the most heartless manner. These are in Bengal called Maruiporas, literally, dead burners. In Western India they are called Acharyas [आचार्य].
In Rajputana [राजपूताना] and the neighbouring districts there is a kind of Brahman called Dakot and also Sanichar, who accept gifts of oil and sesamum made for propitiating the planet Saturn. They are, therefore, regarded as degraded Brahmans.
The Bhuinhars [भूइंहार] are now chiefly tillers of the soil; but apparently the original cause of their being lowered in the scale of caste was the adoption of the military profession, and their subsequent practice of agriculture has served only to degrade them a little further. Of the sections of the Brahmanical caste which are held to be more or less degraded on account of their being agriculturists, the following may be mentioned here: —
Among the classes degraded by menial service may be mentioned the following: —
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