Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Saraswat Brahmins

Saraswat Brahmins

The Saraswat Brahmins claim descent from a Brahmin caste mentioned in ancient Hindu scriptures as inhabiting the Saraswati River valley, the geographic location of which is unknown. The actual origins of this community and the circumstances of its relocation to the areas that they now inhabit are shrouded in mystery. It is said that one of the offshoot of this community merged into the Brahmkshatriyas. Mostly after Sri Parshu Ram carved the community out of the 5 sons of Raja Ratten Sen. A few Brahmkshtriyas i.e. Kapoors, Malhotras/Mehras and Chopra, retain the Brahmin Gotras, such as Bharadwaj, Angiras, Bhargav, Atri and Kashyap. They fell under the Kshatriya Varn, but were considered the Highest among them.

Saraswat brahmins are found in north and south-west India. Brahmins of Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana are mostly Saraswat Brahmins. Other saraswat brahmins such as those found along the western coast of India also claim to be originally from Kashmir and through migration have settled in various parts of India

Several distinct groups of Saraswat Brahmins exist; Goud Saraswats,Rajapur Saraswats,Chitrapur Saraswats and Shenvis are all sub-groups of the Saraswat Brahmin community. The traditional religion of the Saraswats was evidently a strict Shaivism, i.e., Unique devotion to Shiva, with each sub-group being led by a different spiritual guru. In more recent centuries, the religious tradition has become more eclectic, with some Saraswats having even adopted the Vaishnavite dvaita philosophy preached by Madhvacharya. Most saraswats however, including those of the Chitrapur and the Gaud Saraswat communities, follow the liberal and non-partisan Smartha tradition.

There are four key Matha's or Mutt's or religious sects in the Saraswat tradition - the Kashi, Gokarna, Kavle & Chitrapur Mutts. Of these, the Kashi Mutt is dominated exclusively by the Gowd Saraswats of Kerala & of the Dakshina Kannada / Udupi districts of Karnataka. The Gowd Saraswats of Uttara Kannada, Goa, and Southern coastal Maharashtra follow the Gokarn Mutt as well as the Kavle Mutt. The Chitrapur Mutt is the preserve of the Chitrapur Saraswats,The Rajapur saraswats follows Kavle Mutt. Each different saraswat group are usually endogamous.

A number of Konkani Christians claim to be of Saraswat descent. While a small percentage of all Indian Christians, they dominate the Catholic Church hierarchy in the country. This perhaps reflects the importance of caste even outside Hinduism in India. Another factor could be the ancient tradition among Saraswats of children being encouraged to embrace religious vows or sanyasa.

A distinct characteristic of this class of Brahmins is the inclusion of fish in their cuisine.

Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of Cochin
GSBs of Cochin form the southern most subsect of Saraswats of West coast. GSBs of north Kerela are similar to GSBs of Canara in speech and customs, whereas GSBs of central and South Kerala have developed their own dialect and Customs, which distinguish them from rest of GSB community, this subsect is now called Cochin GSBs.

History of Cochin GSBs
GSBs started trickling into Cochin from late 13th century onwards following the the military campaign by Alla-ud-din Khalji. The largest and the last great migration happened in A.D 1560 in wake of inquisition in GOa. History of Cochin GSBs can be divided into three eras.

Late 13th centrury to late 18th century

With all its ups and downs, this period marked the golden age of Cochin GSBs. This period saw the emergence of Cochin as the focal point of lucrative spice trade among other things. Cochin konkanis played a key role in the emergence of Cochin as the international trade centre. Local rajas have granted them privileges to encourage trade in their domain. Cochin konkanis acted as middlemen between locals and Europeans. Overall GSBs had excellent relationship with the Dutch. Ascendancy of Dutch in Cochin saw GSBs emerge as the single most important trading community of Cochin. All major GSBs were established in period. Prosperous GSBs patronized the temples. Kashi math samsthan was established during this era of prosperity.

Late 18th century to Late 20th century

Two major developements which affected GSBs in an adverse manner was the crowning of Shakthan Thampuran and the decline of Dutch, both later in the 18th century. Following a trade dispute, Sakthan Tampuran order sacking of Cochin tirumala devaswom and GSB businesses. Many prominent GSBs were killed. Around the same time British displaced Dutch as the paramount power of Cochin, thus depriving GSBs of a prominent trading partner. This marked the beginning of a long and steady decline fortunes of Cochin GSBs. It was also the beginning of the social isolation of Cochin GSBs from rest of the population. Social status of Cochin GSBs suffered immensely, reducing them to a minority living in Ghettos. While community as a whole declined, the GSB temples continued to be rich providing the focal point around which the GSB life revolved, both in spiritual and secular sense. Land reforms initiated by communists of Kerala contributed a lot to the decline of GSBs temples, a decline which continues even today. These two centuries were a period of great stagnation and degeneration among GSBs, a blow from which Cochin GSBs are yet to recover completely.

Last decades of 20th century to present

Breaking down of joint family system saw many GSBs venturing out of the ghettos, thus bringing them in contact with various malayali communities. This has resulted in infusion of some fresh ideas into the community. Coming out of shell, Cochin GSB have started making progress in various fields. Today Cochin GSBs are much more integrated to the larger malayali communities than they were quarter of a century ago, they are yet to carve a niche though.

Population of Cochin GSBs
In the absence of reliable census data, it is difficult to ascertain the number of Cochin GSBs.Based on the voter lists maintained by GSB temples, one can assume that there are about 40,000 - 60,000. Cochin GSBs. Most of them live in Cherelai area of Ernakulam city. Allepuzha, Shertalay, Thuravoor, and downtown Ernakulam also have sizeable GSB populations.

Social profile of Cochin GSBs
Two centeuries of Ghetto life has its taken toll on the Cochin GSBs. It deprived community of social and language skills. Self confidence and self esteem of the community suffered immensely. It resulted in a community which is essentially introverted which internalises its energies, living in the margins of Kerela society. On cannot but observe the fact that GSBs are not a respected community in central and sotuhern Kerala. Till some years ago, GSBs were caricatured in popular media. Eventhough such caricaturing is not in fashion anymore, stereotyping of GSBs still persist albeit with less intensity.

Economic profile of Cochin GSBs
Most prominent among Cochin GSBs are traders, who constitute about 5% of Cochin GSBs. Some of them have achieved great degree of success.GSBs traders have done well in Hardware, Textile, and Sanitary retailing.However GSBs are only a shadow of their former self as far as trade is concerned.

Professional class include large number of Chartered accountants and lawyers. Most of the salaried class include bank employees and government employees. About 40% of Cochin GSBs can be classified as middle class.

GSBs traders employ large number of not so well to do GSBs. Many have taken up vocations which do not command respect in Indian society. Many Cochin GSB women make papad to supplement their meagre earnings. Bulk GSBs thus belong to lower class.

Cochin GSBs failed to take advantage of Gulf boom due to their isolation, but they did not miss IT boom. Cochin GSBs can now be found almost all over the world. Many have migrated to the US, UK, Europe, and Australia. A good number of cochin GSB families have moved to middle strata of the society thanks to the IT boom.

History of Cochin GSBs have been a rollercoaster ride. Cochin GSBs have definitey fallen behind other advanced communities as well as their brethren elsewhere. After two centuries of stagnation GSBs have emerging out of isolation. As far as GSBs are concerned worst is over. Will Cochin GSBs ever regain their eminence once they enjoyed? Only time can tell...

Chitrapur Saraswats of Shri Chitrapur Math
The Chitrapur Math, Shirali with its brilliant line of Gurus, is a vital link that holds together the widely scattered units of the Community. It is the oldest religious institution of the community. The Chitrapur Saraswat community believes this Math to be the blessed seat of Lord Bhavanishankar, the patron deity of the Math.

The Math had its beginnings at Gokarn in 1708 when the Community was blessed by its first Guru. Chitrapur became the religious headquarters in 1757 when the second Guru took his samadhi at that place.

Earlier records make it clear that the then representative of the Community desired the Guru not only to be the head of the Math but also to regulate the achar (behaviour) and vichar (beliefs) of the Community and further, that the community itself, obey his orders and provide the finance required from time to time.

However, this distinction between the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa and the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins required sufficient time to solidify. During the reign of Basavappa Nayaka I (1696 -1714), some people of Kanara accused the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis of not being pure brahmins. This accusation is said to have evolved in consequence to two factors: 1) the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis had no guru, or spiritual leader, to represent their community and 2) since many of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis were holding impressive administration positions during this time period, the natives of Kanara were aroused with jealousy which stimulated them to form this accusation.

Since the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis did not have a spiritual guide to represent their sub-group, the ruler of the region most probably would not recognize their brahminical caste status. Therefore, the Shenvis felt that it was necessary to seek a spiritual preceptor for their community. Soon after, the Shenvis prayed to two of their deities, Shri Bhavanishankar and to Shri Mahabaleshvara, in hope of finding a guru. Some time after their prayers had been addressed, a sanyassin (one who is in the final stage of life and completely renounces all worldly possessions) of north Indian Saraswat Brahmin descent came to Gokarn. At the request of the Shenvis, the sanyassin accepted the role to guide and represent their community in 1708. This commenced the development of a new sub-group known as the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins, who had now firmly differentiated themselves from the rest of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa.

Shrimadh Anantheshwar Temple located in Vittal(Karnataka) is the Main temple for all Chitrapur Saraswath Brahmins.

Main function: Six days Shrashti is held every year. And also Karthik Poornima.

In Summary
The history of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins serves to demonstrate how their religious and cultural views developed into the present century. Starting from the valleys of Kashmir, the ancestors of the Bhanaps migrated to all parts of India. As they migrated to new kashmir.

Also included in the Saraswat Brahmins are a great proportion of the Hindus in Kashmir, called the Kashmiri Pundits. These Kashmiri Brahmins are thought to be the descendants of the Aryans who migrated into India from Central Asia or Eastern Europe. However, these people differentiate themselves from the rest of the Saraswat Brahmins in that they identify their Deity with the Goddess Saraswati, who has been mentioned in the Vedas as the Goddess of Learning. However, the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins residing on the western coast of India (primarily in Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka) are thought to have descended from these Kashmiri Brahmins. Substantial evidence has been set forth by several historians relating that the Kashmiri Brahmins migrated to Goa by the eleventh century AD.

To trace the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins ancestry from Kashmir to Goa, one must begin with the story of the famous seer, Saraswata. When there was a famine in northern India, he continued to recite the vedic texts by consuming the fish that the goddess Saraswati had given to him. The brahmins of later generations who accepted fish as a part of their diet were often known to have referred to this story to justify their full-fledged status as brahmins despite their acceptance of fish. Since the acceptance of fish was also prevalent in the culture of many Bengali brahmins and because of the apparent similarities between the languages of the two groups, many Gaud Saraswat Brahmin scholars suggested that their ancesplaces, they maintained some of their religious views while modifying others. In the year 1708, a small group of these migrants had established their own unique sect and initiated a guruparampara. The teachings of the gurus and their dedication to the devotees strengthened the unity of the sect members which has survived till the present day.

Gaud Saraswat Brahmins' fish eating habit finds mention even in Ramanyana. Before performing Rajasuya yagna, Shri Rama asked Lakshmana to invite all the Brahmins for the yagna. Lakshmana invited everybody, except Gaud Saraswat Brahmins.

When asked, Lakshmana explained that he observed them eating fish, which was considered non-vegetarian and therefore, they could not be Brahmins. Shri Rama was puzzled and asked Lakshmana to elaborate what he saw. Lakshmana explained how the Brahmins would catch the fish, separate the head and tail from the fish, then using vedic mantras rejoined the head and tail. They would then release the fish in water. The fish would live again! The Brahmins ate the middle portion of the fish.

Shri Rama was impressed! Since the Brahmins were not killing the fish, he felt that no Sin was committed. Shri Rama instructed Lakshmana to invite Gaud Saraswat Brahmins to the Rajasuya Yagna.

Footprints of a community
Faced with dwindling numbers the Chitrapur Saraswat community, which boasts of talent ranging from Guru Dutt to Nandan Nilekani, gets together to record its illustrious history-Harsh Kabra

"Although the number of Chitrapur Saraswats stands at 22,498 according to KSA's 2001 census, up 7 per cent from 20,932 in 1971, the disconcerting reality is that the 0-19 age group, its veritable future, has shrunk from 33 per cent to an alarming low of 18 per cent and the 20-44 age group has also gone down from 38 per cent to 34 per cent."

Guru Dutt, Shyam Benegal, Bhaskar Chandawarkar, Kalpana Lajmi, Girish Karnad, Geeta Hattangdi, Raghuveer Nadkarni, Nandan Nilekani and Prakash Padukone, Air Chief Marshal L M Katre, to name a few. Other glowing names -B.N. Rao, who chaired the committee that drafted the country's Constitution in 1950, and B. Rama Rao, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India.What connects all these people is the fact that they hail from the community of Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmans.

Hindu Businessline Article

Lt.Gen R.K. Jaitley retd. DGAFMS pujabi saraswat Arun Jaitli leading lawer and ex law minister

Prominent Saraswats
Prominent Saraswat Brahmins of the south-western coast of India (sorted by last name):

Vaikunta Baliga (Speaker of earstwhile Mysore Legislative Asssembly)
R. K. Baliga (Father of the Electronics City in Bangalore (Ex.CMD Keonics))
Dr.B.S.Baliga (Architect of Madras Archives (Late Curator))
Bantval Jayant Baliga (renowned inventor and scientist in the field of Semiconductors)
Shyam Benegal
Upendra Bhat( Hindustani classical singer)
B. H. Borkar (Legendary Marathi Poet)
Bhaskar Chandawarkar
Leena Chandavarkar (actress)
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya
Shobha Dé
Jayavant Dalvi
Sunil Gavaskar
Lt.Gen. Prakash Gokarn
Rohini Hattangadi (Popular Film Actress)
U Srinivas Mallya
Vijay Mallya
Rambhau Moze
Suman Mulgaonkar (Ex CMD TELCO)
Jayant Nadkarni (Admiral Indian Navy)
Raghuveer Nadkarni
Jawahar Lal Nehru (Kashmiri Pandit Saraswat)
Ajit Kadkade
Sanmesh Mahesh Kalyanpur (National Bravery Award Winner 2005)
Suman Kalyanpur Popular playback singer)
Jyotsna Kamat (nee Burde, historian, writer, activist)
M V Kamath (editor, Times of India & Chairman, Prasar Bharathi)
K V Kamath (CEO, ICICI bank)
Vice Admiral V.A.Kamath PVSM, (first Commandant of the Indian Coast Guard)
Girish Karnad (Jnanapeetha award reciepient and eminent actor)
Ajit Baburao Kerkar (Ex CMD Taj Group of Hotels)
Anupam Kher (Kashmiri Pandit Saraswat)
Isha Koppikar (Actress)
V S Kudva
Bhau Daji Laud
Kalpana Lajmi (Film director)
Nandan Nilekani (CEO Infosys)
R V Pandit (Jnanapeetha award reciepient)
Gurudutt (Padukone)
Prakash Padukone
Anuradha Paudwal (Popular playback singer)
GuruDutt Redkar
Amrita Rao
Dilip Vengsarkar
Raghunandan S Kamath
Dr Sharu Rangnekar
Shamrao Samant (Illustrious Criminal Lawyer)
Prabhakar Sanzgiri
Rajdeep Sardesai
Sourav Ganguly
Madhuri Dixit (Actress)
D M Sukhthankar (ex Chief Sec Govt of Maharashtra)
Dr Ramesh N Usgaonkar (Eminent Medicinal Chemist)
M S Usgaonkar (former solicitor General of India)
Varsha Usgaonkar (Actress)
Dr. T.M.A.Pai (Educationist and founder of Manipal)
A. Subba Rao Pai (Founder: Canara Bank)
T.V. Mohandas Pai (CFO: Infosys)
Sanjeev Kabeer,Journalist.


Blogger EBS Stocks said...

Please add my father to the list. Colnel Vilas Vaman Nadkarni - Sikh regiment.

12:18 PM  
Blogger EBS Stocks said...

Also, add admiral J.G Nadkarni and Babu Nadkarni (Indian Cricket Player). I am Vikrant Nadkarni, Senior Manager IBM Global Services. Thanks.....

12:21 PM  
Blogger jayadev said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:08 AM  
Blogger bush said...

We have started matrimonial portal for brahmins alone.Any sarswat brahmin can make use of the services of sarswat brahmin matromony

10:09 PM  
Blogger jersy said...

Please add the name of Padmshre Dr. V. K. Saraswat (Controller R&D) Missile, DRDO. He is very famous scientrst in his area.

Dr. R. K. Pachauri (TERI)Noble Laureat
Dr. Malti Sharma Famous hindi author

8:41 AM  
Blogger Prasad said...


u forgot vikram gokhale (the actor), his grandma, Durgabai Kamat, the first female artiste of the Indian screen & his mom, Kamlabai Gokhale (Kamlabai Kamat), the first female child artiste of Indian cinema

source - wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikram_Gokhale)

prasad kamath

7:54 AM  
Blogger Sachin S Prabhu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Suresh Babu Shenoy said...

It is pity that GSB themselves are not aware of their heritage and simply mirror what others say about them. The section Saraswath Brahmins that migrated to Kerala due to christian oppression where pure vegeterians and followed brahmanical code of life very strictly, though very much forward in their outlook regarding career activities. It has to be remembered that most of migrations of community was due to the fact that the community refused to deviate from its brahmanical way of life and identity. However there where some sections of Konakani speaking brahmins who used to take fish as food claiming that it is jala pushpa. This practice is prevalent amongst Bengali brahmins. Bengal also falls in the Konkan belt. This habbit of taking fish as food has created misunderstanding among other brahmin communities forcing them to declare that Gowda Saraswaths as brashtas. One can also say that many of the rival brahmin communities used this to spread contempt and belittle GSb's.

2:41 AM  
Blogger Suresh Babu Shenoy said...

Practically every site on Internet states that story of fish eating habit if Saraswath Brahmins is mentioned in Ramayana. Which Ramayana. It is not mentioned in the foremost and most authentic of Ramayana- which is Valmiki Ramayana.

It should also be understood that Gowda Saraswath Brahmins are essentially Vaishnavites and pure vegeterians, while Saraswath Brahmins are Shaivaites and rarely pure vegetarians. Most of the other brahmin communities like tulu brahmins, Namboothiri brahmins, iyers, iyengars don't realise this difference and consider both the sections as one and same.

2:47 AM  
Blogger hrk said...

dear Sir

Please post text of Shankarnaryan geet in english. I couldnot get in any site or
please mail me the address where it will be available.

A peace inspiring song



10:05 PM  
Blogger hrk said...

Dear Sir

Kindly mail .publish Shankarnarayan geet test in english. A truly inspiring song

10:06 PM  
Blogger martin sharma said...

aryans never migrated to india thats all nonsence created by those evil british ........read gita in that aryans r those people who r noble they can be from any varna aryans were nobels and some central asians nomads britishers are dumb ...........aryans were all from bharat varsha !

3:05 AM  
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8:58 AM  
Blogger vinod gautam said...

sir ji

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2:25 AM  

Is the saraswat brahmins are the vanshaj of Ravana please confirm this many people said this

9:31 AM  

Delhi me bhi hai kya

9:36 AM  
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11:10 PM  
Blogger Ayusman Mohanty said...

My self Ayusman Mohanty. I am from Bhubaneswar, Orissa. My village Kapileswar has a community called Mallia, who are worshipping Lord Kapilnath(Shiva). But they are in a dilema that wheather they are Brahmin or Sudra. Because in the past there records hadbeen mentain as Sudra caste. But according my research the may migrate from Kerala Mallia Community, as King of Orissa Gajapati Kapilendra Deva was conqured from West bengal to Bank of river Kaveri. So he may make migrate this community to Orissa for the rituals of Lord Kapilnath, Bhubaneswar. Now this Mallia Community,who may be the Goud Saraswat Brahmin fighting for their Identity and for their existance. So please friends help me to find out the Identity of your Mallia brothers. If you guys have any information or inscriptions regarding this then please contact me on 09338810225. Please freinds help a community in a novel purpose for their identity and existance. Jai Hindu...

4:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Plz tell about mairish nd kanchangor gotras ?

12:24 PM  
Blogger Gurunath P. Vaidya said...

Please add

1--Air Chief Marshal Mr Mulgaonkar

2--Mrs Leela Mulgaonkar--Sherif Of Mumbai

3:48 AM  
Blogger jatin said...

We are decendents of Nityudana ... please confirm

10:07 AM  
Blogger Ajay Gangoli said...

My father Maj Gen Harsh Gangoli, I am Col Ajay Gangoli

4:30 AM  
Blogger Ajay Gangoli said...

Also my grandfathers, Mr Chaitanya Gangoli and Mr Kishore Honawar who were both in the Police

4:32 AM  
Blogger Ajay Gangoli said...

Also my grandfathers, Mr Chaitanya Gangoli and Mr Kishore Honawar who were both in the Police

4:32 AM  
Blogger panditsantosh sharma shastri said...

मूर्ख नेट मे सारस्वत ब्राह्मण के साथ क्षत्रिय लोगो को क्यो जोडे है । सारस्वत ब्राह्मण का पुख्ता साबुत हमारे पास है । बनारस मे ।। अत्री ऋषि के पुत्र सारस्वत ब्राह्मण है ।

8:09 AM  
Blogger Anish Kumar said...

My name is Anish Kumar Saraswat .

8:24 PM  

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