2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

14. kṣatriyavargaḥ

(Über Kṣatriyas)

1. Erster Abschnitt

Anhang 3

Athelstane Baines über Schreiberkasten (1912)

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer 

Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam. -- 14. kṣatriyavargaḥ  (Über Kṣatriyas). -- 1. Erster Abschnitt. -- Anhang 3: Athelstane Baines über Schreiberkasten (1912).  -- Fassung vom 2017-06-01. -- URL:                                   

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2017-06-01


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Baines, Athelstane <1847 - 1925>: Ethnography (castes and tribes) / by Athelstane Baines. With a list of the more important works on Indian ethnography by W. Siegling <1880 - 1946>. -- Strassburg : Trübner, 1912. -- 211 S. -- (Grundriss der indo-arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde = Encyclopedia of Indo-Aryan research ; II, 5). -- § 30

§ 30. Writer castes (2,750,300): The profession of scribe or clerk was in all probability unusually late in establishing itself in India owing to the jealousy with which all instruction was monopolised by the Brāhmans, as well as to the extraordinary development of memory and oral tradition fostered by them. Setting aside the art of inscribing rock and copper, writing as a profession appears in inscriptions of the 8th century A. D., and a few generations later, the caste of the Writer is referred to under the same name as it bears in the present day. It may be gathered from the data available that the calling was in anything but good odour amongst the Brāhmans and that the castes exercising it occupied but a low position. Their chance came when the Muslim conquerors, having established themselves permanently in the country, felt the need of clerical ability to help them through the labours of administration, and were unwilling, on sectarian grounds, to have recourse to the Brāhman. In the writing castes the very material they wanted was at hand. The Khatrī, as mentioned in a former paragraph, furnished several most efficient ministers to the Moghal régime ; the principal supply, however, was, as it still is, from the Kāyasth [कायस्थ / કાયસ્થ] caste, which, from the upper Ganges, was introduced into Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] by the Muslim Viceroys and naturalised there. A similar colonisation was begun by the same agency in the Dekkan [dakṣiṇa], but the local Brāhman was there too numerous and too well-established throughout the country to leave room for a rival, and the offshoot from the main Kāyasth [कायस्थ] branch, under the name of Prabhu [प्रभु], forsook the tableland for the coast, and settled in Bombay [मुंबई] and its vicinity. Here they were found so useful by the early British merchants and officials that until a generation or so ago, Prabhu [प्रभु] and clerk were synonymous terms in those parts. In the present day the main stronghold of the Kāyasth [কাযস্থ] is in Lower Bengal [বঙ্গ], into which they were introduced from upper India. Distance, however, as usual in India, has entirely divided the two communities, and there is no intermarriage between the Kāyasth [কাযস্থ] of Bengal [বঙ্গ] and his caste-fellows of Bihār [बिहार] and the north any more than with those of the west coast. Even the local bodies of this caste are much subdivided into smaller endogamous sections, generally territorial.

The position of the Kāyasth [कायस्थ] and other writer castes in the social hierarchy has long been a matter of heated controversy. In what may be called the primary distribution of rank according to function no place could be assigned to a body which was not then recognised as distinct from others. Literary qualifications which may well set off a Brāhman, are, by themselves, of little value as a passport to the esteem of a public deliberately illiterate. Distinguished members of the writing class, such as those mentioned above, were duly honoured as individuals, but did not ennoble the community in which they were born. The disproportion between the ability of the writer castes and the value of their work on the one side, and the company they were classed with in private life on the other, grew more apparent as, under the British system of administration, their prosperity and influence increased. It is no wonder, therefore, that efforts have been strenuous and frequent on their part to establish themselves upon a social footing higher than that now recognised by the arbiters in such matters. The line taken as that of least resistance is the usual claim to Kṣatriya lineage. There is not, however, in their case, the probability of racial difference between them and the Indian masses of the north and east which is lent, in the case of the Khatrī and their offshoots, by tradition, physique and locality of origin.

In the parts of the country, therefore, where Rājputs [राजपूत] are found in strength and Brāhmanic influence is strong, the Kāyasth [कायस्थ] is a respected caste high up in the middle classes, but nothing more.

In Lower Bengal [বঙ্গ], however, where the Rājput [राजपूत] is a casual exotic and the weight of Brāhman opinion is insufficient to appease the jealous ferment of an inchoate social system, the Kāyasth [কাযস্থ] ranks within a place or two of the Brāhman, and practically, though not avowedly, above the warrior.

In Gujarāt [ગુજરાત], where the clerical professions are by no means the monopoly of the writing castes, there is, in addition to the small colony of Kāyasth [કાયસ્થ], a still less numerous community called the Brahmakṣatriya [બ્રહ્મક્ષત્રિય], whose appearance and customs confirm their assertion of relationship to the Khatrī [ਖਤ੍ਰੀ] of the Panjāb [ਪੰਜਾਬ] . Their immigration, indeed, occurred as late as the 14th century. They are not only writers, but also holders of considerable landed estates in the most prosperous parts of the province, and their position is in many respects higher than that of their compeers in the north.

Another nominal offshoot of the writers of the north is the Karan [କରଣ] or Mahant [ମହନ୍ତ] of Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା]. This community is considerably subdivided into endogamous bodies, the more southern of which retain traces of non-Brāhmanic marriage rules. It is very probable, therefore, that those nearer Bengal [বঙ্গ] affiliate themselves to the Kāyasth [কাযস্থ] of that province, whilst the rest remain in closer communion with the corresponding groups of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country [తెలంగాణ].

These last, with their Tamil [தமிழ்] congeners, stand on a different footing from the writer castes of the north. The upper grades amongst them, it is true, are strict in their observance of Brāhmanic ceremonial, and wear, occasionally at least, the sacred thread. But, like the Dravidian traders, they appear to have arisen out of the cultivating castes, and began with being, what most are still, the accountants of the village, a branch of clerical work which, when not kept in the hands of Brāhmans, is relegated to the lower grade of writers or even, as in Bihār [बिहार], to another caste, and connotes an inferior social rank to that of the rest of the order. 

Intermediate between the Brāhman and the Karnam [କରଣ] comes the Vidhūr [विधूर], of the Marāṭhā [मराठा] country, a small caste which supplements the clerical staff of the Central Provinces and Berār [वर्हाड] [वर्‍हाड] [वर्‍हाड]. By origin the Vidhūr [विधूर] is Brāhman on the father’s side, but maternally of a lower caste. Similarly constituted communities are found in the Konkan [कोंकण] and other parts of the Marāṭhā [मराठा] country.

Finally, a place is found under this head for a caste difficult to grade elsewhere, though, according to its title of Vaidya [ৱৈদ্য], it ought to be dedicated to the practice of medicine. Nowadays, however, it includes both members of other learned professions and landholders. It is only found in Lower Bengal [বঙ্গ], where it occupies, thanks to the local obnubilation of the Rājput [राजपूत], a position inferior only to that of the Brāhman. This high rank is due to the fact that one of the most powerful dynasties in this part of India between the nth and 13th centuries, belonged to this caste; and the most renowned occupant of the throne, Ballāl Sen [বল্লাল সেন, regn. 1160 – 1179], appears to have exercised with drastic results the regal function of making and graduating castes, a function which in the present time is retained in working order by the Chieftains of the Panjāb [ਪੰਜਾਬ]  Himālaya alone.

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