Saraswat Brahmin

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The Saraswat Brahmins are a Hindu Brahmin subcaste, who are spread from Kashmir in the North India to Konkan in the West India to Kanara (coastal region of Karnataka) and Kerala in South India. The word Saraswat is derived from the Rigvedic Sarasvati River.[1][2][3]

Parashurama with Saraswat Brahmin settlers, commanding Varuna to make the seas recede in order to create the Konkan Region[1]

Classification

Saraswats Brahmins fall under the Pancha Gauda Brahmin classification of the Brahmin community in India.

In Western and South India, Along with the Chitpavan, Karhades (including Padhyes, Bhatt Prabhus), and Daivadnya Brahmins, Konkani-speaking Saraswat Brahmins are referred to as Konkani Brahmins, which denotes those Brahmin sub-castes of the Konkan coast which have a regional significance in Maharashtra and Goa.[4] Here the Saraswat Brahmins are divided into three sub-groups, they are, Gaud Saraswat Brahmins, Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins and Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins. Vaishnavas among them are followers of Kashi Math and Gokarna Math, while the Smarthas are followers of Kavale Math and Chitrapur Math.[5]

Based on Veda and Vedanta

In Western and South India, The Saraswat Brahmins are Rigvedi Brahmins and they follow Ashwalayana Sutra and are of Shakala Shaka[6] Saraswat Brahmins are divided into two groups based on the Vedanta they follow, the first of which follows the Dvaita Vedanta of Madhvacharya and second group are followers of Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara.

In Karnataka and Kerala, Majority of Gaud Saraswat Brahmins are followers of Madhvacharya, while the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins are Smarthas, followers of Adi Shankara.[7][8][9] Writer Chandrakant Keni and former I.C.S officer V. N. Kudva says, "The majority of the Saraswats, including those in Goa, are now Vaishnavas".[10][11][12]

History

In Kalhana's Rajatarangini (12th century CE), the Saraswats are mentioned as one of the five Pancha Gauda Brahmin communities residing to the north of the Vindhyas.[2] They were spread over a wide area in northern part of the Indian subcontinent. One group lived in coastal Sindh and Gujarat, this group migrated to Bombay State after the partition of India in 1947. One group was found in pre-partition Punjab and Kashmir most of these migrated away from Pakistan after 1947. Another branch known as Dakshinatraya Saraswat Brahmin are now found along the western coast of India.[3][13]

Philosophy and literature

Saraswats have contributed to the fields of Sanskrit, Konkani, Marathi and Kannada literature and philosophy. All the mathadhipathi's of Kashi Math, Gokarna Math, Kavale Math and Chitrapur Math without a single exception are from the Saraswat Brahmin community.[14][15] The 17th century Madhva Saraswat scholar, Sagara Ramacharya, the author of Konkanabhyudhaya,[16] the 19th century Konkani scholar Shenoi Goembab,[17] and the 20th century multi-faceted Marathi scholar Purushottam Laxman Deshpande[18] are some of the prominent scholars from the Saraswat Brahmin community.

Advaita saints such as Gaudapada, grand-teacher of the philosopher Shankaracharya, Sureśvara, the first peetadhipathi of Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Mandana Mishra,[19] and Parijnanashram I, the first peetadhipathi of Chitrapur Math; the Vaishnava saints such as Surdas,[20] Narayana Tirtha,[21] the first peetadhipathi of Gokarna Math and Yadavendra Tirtha,[21] the first peetadhipathi of Kashi Math, are some of the prominent saints from the Saraswat Brahmin community.

Millitary & administration

Historically, in Maharashtra, Saraswats had served as low and medium level administrators under the Deccan Sultanates for generations. In 18th century, the quasi-independent Shinde and the Holkar rulers of Malwa recruited Saraswats to fill their administrative positions.This made them wealthy holder of rights both in Maharashtra and Malwa during the eighteenth century. During the same period in Peshwa ruled areas, there was a continuation of filling of small number of administration post by the Saraswats.[22] During the rule of the Chitpavan Brahmin Peshwas in the 18th century, Saraswat Brahmins was one of the communities against whom the Chitpavans conducted a social war which led to Gramanya (inter-caste dispute).[23]

After the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese colonial rule in 1961, many Goan Saraswats opposed merger of Goa into Maharashtra.[24]

Society and culture

Northern and Eastern India

According to M. K. Kaw (2001), Kashmiri Pandits, a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community hold the highest social status in Kashmir.[25]

Based on the calendar used, they divided into two groups-Malmasi (who remained in the valley despite religious persecution) and Banmasi(who are said to have immigrated or re-immigrated under King Zain ul Abidin in the fifteenth century)

The former follow the lunar calendar while latter who are in the majority follow the solar calendar.[26][27]

Walter Lawrence states ,that the Kashmiri Pandit community to be divided into the following classes- the Jotish (astrologer),the priestly class Guru or Bachabat and the Karkun(working class) that was employed in government service.[28]

Punjabi brahmins who are prominently saraswat brahmins have a deep historical, spiritual and cultural identity with punjab; they were there from very beginning and in later centuries divided in various regional fractions like dogra, punjabi, kumauni and garhwali saraswats. Mohyal a fully modified warrior version of punjabi saraswats was also sprung out of ruling brahmin section, nearly all saraswat of punjab specific region have non priesthood prefrence as because of continuous conflict from Islamic invaders. Punjabi brahmin have special associations with punjabi khatri castes. Presently punjabi saraswats are the most populous section of community.

Sindhi saraswat are more or less offshoot of punjabi brahmins.

In Rajasthan there is a good population of local saraswat community, these people are basically divided in two endogamous groups Kundia marwari saraswats and marwari shekhawati saraswats they are nearly equal in there population. One group prominently found in districts of jodhpur, barmer, bikaner, jaisalmer, churu and nagaur. And other group is found nearly in whole rajasthan and nebouring districts of conjouing states such as haryana and madhya pradesh.

In bihar there is smaller group of bhumihar saraswat brahmins who are part of larger bhumihar brahmin group.

In uttar pradesh most saraswat brahmins are of vishnavite faith under Radha Valabh tradition and called gauswami.

In bengal region vaidya caste which is part of bengali bhadralok or upper caste crust consist of three groups including bengali brahmins, kyashtha and vaidyas; these vaidyas are considered as descendants of saraswat brahmins who migrated from Punjab to gaud(bengal) region for special purpose of healing people by ayurvedic knowledge they possess.

Western and Southern India

The majority of Saraswats speak Konkani, one of the languages of the Indo-Aryan language family. The major dialects of Konkani used by Saraswats are Goan Konkani, Maharashtrian Konkani and Canarese Konkani.

Rivalry between the Saraswat Brahmins and the other Brahmins such as the Chitpavans led to conflicts over ritual status[29] During Shivaji's coronation, the ritual status of the Saraswats to be Brahmins was supported by Gaga Bhat a leading Brahmin from Benares.[30]

Anthropologist Karen Michaelson states that even after Independence, Saraswats of Bombay, are not considered[by whom?] part of the Brahmin community and thus ritually lower than the Brahmins. She gives that as the reason for the Brahmins to not eat cooked food from the Saraswat household.[31]

Similarly, Saraswats of the Western Indian Konkan belt historically had no knowledge of vedas, no priesthood, and even ate non-vegetarian food, according to Sociologist S.D.Pillai, based on the studies by G. S. Ghurye. Claim of Brahminhood by communities such as these groups demonstrates that the Brahmin claim was available on other grounds and using legends to justify Brahmin origins. But the non-vegetarian tradition did not apply to Saraswats of the south.[32][33]

As per sociologist R.Bairy "Saraswat claim to Brahminhood is still strongly under dispute, particularly in the coastal districts of Karnataka".[34][by whom?]

Marriages

The Saraswat Brahmins are divided into various territorial endogamous groups, who at one time did not intermarry.[35] According to the sociologist, Gopa Sabharwal (2006),[36] marriages between Saraswat and non-Saraswat Brahmins are on the increase though they were unheard of before, mainly because the Saraswats eat fish and occasionally meat, while all other Brahmins in that region are vegetarians.[37][38]

Diet

North India

Kashmiri Pandits eat mutton and fish, but obey restrictions laid down by the shastras of not eating the meat of forbidden animals.[26] Professor Frederick J. Simoons says according to some reports, Saraswat Brahmins from northern India also consume fish as part of their diet.[39][40][41]

Western and South India

In Goa and Konkan region, Saraswat Brahmins have both vegetarians and pescetarians among them,[42][43][44] while in Maharashtra they are pescetarians.[45]

In Karnataka, Saraswat Brahmins are mainly concentrated in the coastal Kanara region. The sub-groups among Saraswats are Gaud Saraswat Brahmins, Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins and Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins are largely vegetarians.[46][47]

In Gujarat, Saraswat Brahmins are pure vegetarians and do not even consume masur dal and garlic. They chiefly live on Bajri (millet), wheat roti (unleavened bread) with rice during the lunch and Khichdi (a mixture of rice and pulse) in the Dinner.[48]

In Kerala, Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins are pure vegetarians and mainly consume rice as staple food, while Gaud Saraswat Brahmins have both vegetarians and pescetarians among them .[49]

Notable people

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Shree Scanda Puran (Sayadri Khandha) -Ed. Dr. Jarson D. Kunha, Marathi version Ed. By Gajanan shastri Gaytonde, published by Shree Katyani Publication, Mumbai
  2. ^ a b D. Shyam Babu and Ravindra S. Khare, ed. (2011). Caste in Life: Experiencing Inequalities. Pearson Education India. p. 168. ISBN 9788131754399.
  3. ^ a b James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. Rosen. pp. 490–491. ISBN 9780823931804.
  4. ^ P. P. Nārāyanan Nambūdiri (1992). Aryans in South India. Inter-India Publications. p. 78. ISBN 9788121002660.
  5. ^ Saraswats in Goa and Beyond. Murgaon Mutt Sankul Samiti. 1998. p. 10.
  6. ^ Kamath, Suryanath U. (1992). The origin and spread of Gauda Saraswats. Archana Prakashana.
  7. ^ P. Thankappan Nair (2004). South Indians in Kolkata: History of Kannadigas, Konkanis, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, South Indian Dishes, and Tippoo Sultan's Heirs in Calcutta. Punthi Pustak. p. 93. ISBN 9788186791509. As a result of this , the Saraswats living in the south of the Gangavali in North Kanara separated into what is known as the Gowda Saraswat community consisting mostly of Vaishnavas and Chitrapur Saraswats , mostly of Smarthas.
  8. ^ Karnataka State Gazetteer: South Kanara. Director of Print., Stationery and Publications at the Government Press. 1973. p. 111. The Gauda Saraswats are the Madhva Vaishnavite Saraswat Brahmins, while the Saraswats [Chitrapur] have continued to be Smarthas.
  9. ^ S. Anees Siraj (2012). Karnataka State: Udupi District. Government of Karnataka, Karnataka Gazetteer Department. p. 189.
  10. ^ Chandrakant Keni (1998). Saraswats in Goa and Beyond. Murgaon Mutt Sankul Samiti. p. 62. The majority of the Saraswats , including those in Goa , are now Vaishnavas
  11. ^ The Illustrated Weekly of India, Volume 91, Part 2. Published for the proprietors, Bennett, Coleman & Company, Limited, at the Times of India Press. 1970. p. 63. The Saraswats are largely a vegetarian community, whose coconut- based cuisine is famed for its variety.
  12. ^ Venkataraya Narayan Kudva (1972). History of the Dakshinatya Saraswats. Samyukta Gowda Saraswata Sabha. p. 154. The majority of the Saraswats, including those in Goa, are now Vaishnavas. Nearly the whole of the prosperous trading community on the West Coast are now Madhvas.
  13. ^ Dakshinatya Sarasvats: Tale of an Enterprising Community,page 6
  14. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 474.
  15. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 577.
  16. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 580.
  17. ^ Olivinho Gomes (2004). Goa. National Book Trust, India. p. 176. ISBN 9788123741390. Shennoy Goembab , the great Konkani writer and scholar , himself a Saraswat Brahmin by caste ,
  18. ^ "Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 14". Sameeksha Trust. 1979: 1519. Deshpande a college graduate from a progressive Gaud Saraswat Brahmin community.. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ P. Thankappan Nair (2004). South Indians in Kolkata: History of Kannadigas, Konkanis, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, South Indian Dishes, and Tippoo Sultan's Heirs in Calcutta. Punthi Pustak. p. 93. ISBN 9788186791509. Remembering that some of his predecessors like Sureshvaracharya ( the famous Mandana Misra , the successor of Sankaracharya on the Sringeri Sharada Pitha ) were Kashmiri Saraswats , the Jagadguru readily gave them a letter in which ...
  20. ^ Medieval Indian Literature, an Anthology: Selections (Gujarati - Konkani). Sahitya Akademi. 1997. p. 457. SURDAS ( Sürdās , 1488 - 1591 ) was born in the village of Sihi, near Delhi, as the son of Ram Das, a Saraswat Brahmin.
  21. ^ a b Sharma 2000, p. 578.
  22. ^ Gordon, Stewart (2017). The Marathas 1600-1818, Volume 2. Cambridge university press. pp. 130–145. ISBN 9780521033169.
  23. ^ Gokhale, Sandhya (2008). The Chitpwans. Shubhi Publications. p. 204. The jati disputes were not a rare occurrence in Maharashtra. There are recorded instances of disputes between jatis such as Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus and the Chitpawans, Pathare Prabhus and the Chitpawans, Saraswats and the Chitpawans and Shukla Yajurvedi and the Chitpawans. These intra-caste dispute involving the supposed violation of the Brahmanical ritual code of behavior was called Gramanya in marathi.
  24. ^ Arun Sinha (2002). Goa Indica: A Critical Portrait of Postcolonial Goa. Bibliophile South Asia. p. 50. ISBN 8185002312. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  25. ^ M K, KAW (2017). Kashmiri Pandits: Looking to the Future. APH Publications. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9788176482363.
  26. ^ a b Michael Witzel (September 1991). "THE BRAHMINS OF KASHMIR" (PDF). Retrieved 25 January 2021. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ Dhingra, Rajni; Arora, Vaishali (March 2005). "At the Cross Roads: Families in Distress". Journal of Human Ecology. 17 (3): 217–222. doi:10.1080/09709274.2005.11905784. S2CID 54701622. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ http://www.michaelwitzel.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/KashmiriBrahmins1.pdf
  29. ^ . Gokhale, Sandhya (2008). The Chitpwans. Shubhi Publications. p. 204. The jati disputes were not a rare occurrence in Maharashtra. There are recorded instances of disputes between jatis such as Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus and the Chitpawans, Pathare Prabhus and the Chitpawans, Saraswats and the Chitpawans and Shukla Yajurvedi and the Chitpawans. These intra-caste dispute involving the supposed violation of the Brahmanical ritual code of behavior was called Gramanya in Marathi.
  30. ^ Manu S Pillai (2018). Rebel Sultans: The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji. Juggernaut Books. pp. 279–. ISBN 978-93-86228-73-4.
  31. ^ Karen L. Michaelson (1973). Class, Caste, and Network in Suburban Bombay: Adaptive Strategies Among the Middle Class. University of Wisconsin, Madison. p. 132. A pure Brahmin woman frequently sent plates of batata wada to a Maratha couple upstairs for their morning tea. The Maratha woman filled the plate with sweets on returning it .A Saraswat woman frequently had tea at a pure Brahmin's apartment [....]Although the pure Brahmin occasionally had tea at the Saraswat household , I never saw her eat anything but sweets. In both these cases , and many others , the higher caste gave cooked food ( which carries pollution easily ) to the lower caste . The lower caste individual provided sweets which usually are ritually neutral .
  32. ^ S. Devadas Pillai (1997). Indian Sociology Through Ghurye, a Dictionary. Popular Prakashan. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-81-7154-807-1.
  33. ^ Dennis Kurzon (2004). Where East Looks West: Success in English in Goa and on the Konkan Coast. Multilingual Matters. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-1-85359-673-5. Saraswatis claim that they come from the Brahmin caste – hence their name - but others believe that they are usurpers using some fake brahmin ancestry to maintain their superiority.
  34. ^ Ramesh Bairy (11 January 2013). Being Brahmin, Being Modern: Exploring the Lives of Caste Today. Routledge. pp. 193–. ISBN 978-1-136-19820-5. Saraswat claim to Brahminhood is still strongly under dispute, particularly in the coastal districts of Karnataka.
  35. ^ Kumar Suresh Singh (1998). India's Communities, Volume 6. Oxford University Press. p. 3175. The Saraswat Brahman are an ancient and a dynamic community of India, spread from Jammu and Kashmir to Konkan. They are divided into various territorial endogamous groups, who at one time did not intermarry.
  36. ^ "Department Of Sociology:Dr. Gopa Sabharwal". Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  37. ^ Gopa Sabharwal (2006). Ethnicity and Class: Social Divisions in an Indian City. Oxford University Press. p. 131. ISBN 9780195678307. In fact, marriages between Saraswat and non-Saraswat Brahmins are on the increase though they were unheard of before, mainly because the Saraswats eat fish and occasionally meat, while all other Brahmins are vegetarians.
  38. ^ Ramesh Bairy (11 January 2013). Being Brahmin, Being Modern: Exploring the Lives of Caste Today. Routledge. ISBN 9781136198199. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  39. ^ Frederick J. Simoons (1994). Eat Not this Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 284. ISBN 9780299142506. There are even reports of certain Brahmin (Bengali Brahmins, Oriya Brahmins, Brahmins of certain parts of Bihar, Saraswat Brahmins of northern India, and Kashmiri Pandits) eating fish.
  40. ^ Kaw, M. K. (2001). Kashmiri Pandits: Looking to the Future. APH Publishing. ISBN 9788176482363. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  41. ^ "Forward castes must think forward as well". Hindustan Times. 23 November 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  42. ^ Maria Couto (2005). Goa: A Daughter's Story. Penguin Books India. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-14-303343-1.
  43. ^ Understanding Society: Readings in the Social Sciences. Macmillan International Higher Education. October 1970. p. 273. ISBN 9781349153923. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  44. ^ Anant Kakba Priolkar (1967). Goa Re-discovered. Bhatkal Books International. p. 53. Saraswats are mainly vegetarians but are permitted to eat fish.
  45. ^ G. C. Hallen (1988). Indian Journal of Social Research, Volume 29. p. 4. In Maharashtra among most Brahmin castes non-vegetarian food is taboo but the Saraswat Brahmins eat fish.
  46. ^ The Illustrated Weekly of India, Volume 91, Part 2. Published for the proprietors, Bennett, Coleman & Company, Limited, at the Times of India Press. 1970. p. 63. The Saraswats are largely a vegetarian community, whose coconut- based cuisine is famed for its variety.
  47. ^ S. Anees Siraj (2012). Karnataka State: Udupi District. Government of Karnataka, Karnataka Gazetteer Department. p. 189.
  48. ^ Kumar Suresh Singh (1998). India's Communities: N -Z. Oxford University Press. p. 3178. ISBN 9780195633542.
  49. ^ J. Rajathi (1976). Survey of Konkani in Kerala. Language Division, Office of the Registrar General. pp. 7–8.

Bibliography

  • Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti (2000), A History of the Dvaita School of Vedānta and Its Literature, Vol 1. 3rd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass (2008 Reprint), ISBN 978-8120815759