The term Brahmana means one who has realized the Ultimate Reality.
Brahmins are one of the groups of India who pray for the welfare of the people in general , are ordained to be a role model for the Society and are expected to lead the society.
In exercise of this, Brahmins have been priests,Advisers to kings(which continues even today) and in some cases have also been Kings, though this is not the function of the Brahmins.
Brahmins are called ‘Vipra’ the ‘Inspired ones’ ‘Dwija ‘ Twice , first being born physically, the second,when a Brahmin is anointed with the ceremony and practice of the Upanayana, the opening of the third Eye.
The authority for the Brahmins are the Sruthi( which is heard), the Vedas, and the Smritis(The remembered).
The Vedas are four in number, Rig, Yajur(Krishna and Shukla), Sama and Atharva.
There are many Smritis.Vasishta,Vishnu, Manu and many more.
To be a Brahmin is no Birthright.
It is be nature and character one becomes a Brahmin.
Such is the expectations from the Brahmins, the Manu Dharma Shastra sanctions 1000 times more severe punishment for Brahmin for similar offence committed by the other groups like Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudras.
There are references to Brahmins from time of the Vedas, about 5000 years old, and in the Purans.
Pippalatha, Katyayani.Angiras,Bharadwaja,Maitri, Gargi are some of the Brahmins who composed the Veda sutras.
Maitri, Gargi and Katyayani were women.
The Brahmins were spread through out the world as were the Vedas.
The Brahmins from the South of the Vindhyas generally follow the Apasthamba Sutra, Apasthamba being a descendant of Viswamitra.
This sutra contains some material culled out from another great Culture the Tamils.
However there is commonality between the Brahmins from North and South.
For both of them the primary Deity is Agni, the God of Fire.
Both follow the Vedas.
Both have Upnayana, Jathakarma,marriage ceremonies up to Samskara (Death Rites)
There are minor variations in the mantras and both follow the basic 40 Samskaras.
Kalhana , in His Rajatharangini describes and assigns the geographical locations for Brahmins.
कर्णाटकाश्च तैलंगा द्राविडा महाराष्ट्रकाः,
गुर्जराश्चेति पञ्चैव द्राविडा विन्ध्यदक्षिणे ||
सारस्वताः कान्यकुब्जा गौडा उत्कलमैथिलाः,
पन्चगौडा इति ख्याता विन्ध्स्योत्तरवासि ||
Karnataka (Kannada), Telugu (Andhra), Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), Maharashtra and Gujarat are Five Southern (Panch Dravida). Saraswata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Utkala (Orissa), Maithili are Five Northern (Pancha Gauda).
This classification occurs in Rajatarangini of Kalhana, mentioned by Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya in “Hindu Castes and Sects.”
Pancha Gauda Brahmins.
Panch Gaur (the five classes of Northern India):
(1) Saraswat, (2) Kanyakubja, (3) Maithil Brahmins, (4) Gauda brahmins (including Sanadhyas), and (5)Utkala Brahmins .
In addition, for the purpose of giving an account of Northern Brahmins each of the provinces must be considered separately, such as, Kashmir, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Kurukshetra, Rajputana, Uttar Pradesh,Ayodhya (Oudh), Gandhar, Punjab, North Western Provinces and Pakistan, Sindh, Central India, Trihoot, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, Assam, etc. The originate from south of the (now-extinct) Saraswati River.
In Bihar, majority of Brahmins are Kanyakubja Brahmins, Bhumihar Brahmins and Maithil Brahmins with a significant population of Sakaldiwiya or Shakdwipi Brahmins.
With the decline of Mughal Empire, in the area of south of Avadh, in the fertile rive-rain rice growing areas of Benares, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Ghazipur, Ballia and Bihar and on the fringes of Bengal, it was the ‘military’ or Bhumihar Brahmins who strengthened their sway.
The distinctive ‘caste’ identity of Bhumihar Brahman emerged largely through military service, and then confirmed by the forms of continuous ‘social spending’ which defined a man and his kin as superior and lordly.
In 19th century, many of the Bhumihar Brahmins were zamindars.
Of the 67000 Hindus in the Bengal Army in 1842, 28000 were identified as Rajputs and 25000 as Brahmins, a category that included Bhumihar Brahmins.
The Brahmin presence in the Bengal Army was reduced in the late nineteenth century because of their perceived primary role as mutineers in the Mutiny of 1857, led by Mangal Pandey.
The Kingdom of Kashi belonged to Bhumihar Brahmins and big zamindari like Bettiah and Tekari belonged to them.
In Gujarat,the Brahmin are classified in mainly Nagar Brahmin, Unewal Brahmin, [[Khedaval Brahmin]], Aavdhich Brahmin and Shrimali Brahmin.
In Haryana, the Brahmin are classified in mainly Dadhich_Brahmin, Gaud Brahmin, Khandelwal Brahmin. But large proportion of Brahmin in Haryana are Gaud (about 90%). Approximately all Brahmin in west U P are adi gaur.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Brahmins are classified in mainly Shri Gaud,
Sanadhya brahmin, Gujar-Gaud Brahmins. Majority of Shri Gaud Brahmins are found in the Malwa region (Indore, Ujjain, Dewas).
Eastern MP has dense population of Sarayuparain Brahmins. Hoshangabad and Harda Distt. of MP have a considerable population of Jujhotia (a clan of Bhumihar Brahmins, e.g. Swami Sahajanand Saraswati) and Naremdev Brahmins.
In Nepal, the hill or Khas Brahmins are classified in mainly Upadhaya Brahmin, Jaisi Brahmin and Kumain Brahmins.
Upadhaya Brahmins are supposed to have settled in Nepal long before the other two groups. Majority of hill Brahmins are supposed to be of Khasa origin.
In Punjab, they are classified as Saraswat Brahmins.
In Karnataka, Brahmins are mainly classified into Havyaka speaking Havigannada, Hoysala Karnataka speaking kannada, Shivalli and Kota speaking Tulu, Karahada speaking Marathi and have their own tradition and culture.
In Rajasthan, the Brahmins are classified in mainly Dadhich_Brahmin, Gaur Brahmin,Sanadhya brahmins, Rajpurohit / Purohit Brahmins, Sri Gaur Brahmin, Khandelwal Brahmin, Gujar-Gaur Brahmins. Rajpurohit / Purohit Brahmins are mainly found in Marwar & Godwad region of Rajasthan.Shakdwipiya Brahmins are also found at many places in rajasthan they are the major pujari in many temples of western rajasthan.
In Sindh, the saraswat Brahmins from Nasarpur of Sindh province are called Nasarpuri Sindh Saraswat Brahmin. During the India and Pakistan partition migrated to India from sindh province.
In Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, the Bhardwaj, the Dogra from Himalayan region of Indian subcontinent.
In Uttar Pradesh from west to east: Sanadhya, Gauda & Tyagi (western UP), Kanyakubja (Central UP), Sarayuparin (Central Uttar Pradesh, Eastern, NE,& SE UP) and Maithil (Varanasi), the South western UP, i.e. Bundelkhand has thick population of Jujhotia brahmins (branch of Kanyakubja brahmins: ref. Between History & Legend:Power & Status in Bundelkhand by Ravindra K Jain).
On the Jijhoutia clan of Bhumihar Brahmins, William Crooke writes, “A branch of the Kanaujia Brahmins (Kanyakubja Brahmins) who take their name from the country of Jajakshuku, which is mentioned in the Madanpur inscription.” Mathure or mathuria Brahmins ‘choubeys’ are limited to Mathura area.
In West Bengal the Brahmins are classified in Barendra & Rarhi corresponding to the ancient Barendrabhumi (North Bengal) and Rarhdesh (South Bengal) making present day Bangladesh & West Bengal.
It is also said that Barendras are traditional Brahmins who practiced the art of medicinal science and surgery rather than the traditional function of being the teacher or the priest, and so many a times they are not considered true brahmins by the Rarhis, although they are their own offshoots.
The traditional accounts of the origin of Bengali Brahmins are given in texts termed Kulagranthas (e.g., Kuladīpīkā), composed around the 17th century.
They mention a ruler named Ādiśūra who invited five Brahmins from Kanyakubja , so that he could conduct a yajña, because he could not find Vedic experts locally.
Traditional texts mention that Ādiśūra was ancestor of Ballāl Sena from maternal side and five Brahmins had been invited in AD 1077.
Historians have located a ruler named Ādiśūra ruling in north Bihar, but not in Bengal. But Ballāl Sena and his predecessors ruled over both Bengal and Mithila (i.e., North Bihar).
It is unlikely that the Brahmins from Kānyakubja may have been invited to Mithila for performing a yajña, because Mithila was a strong base of Brahmins since Vedic age.
Another account mentions a king Shyamal Varma who invited five Brahmins from Kānyakubja who became the progenitors of the Vaidika Brahmins.
A third account refers to five Brahmins being the ancestors of Vārendra Brahmins as well.
From similarity of titles (e.g., upādhyāya), the first account is most probable.
Besides these two major communities there are also Utkal Brahmins, having migrated from present Orissa and Vaidik Brahmins, having migrated from Western and Northern India.
Pancha Dravida Brahmins.
Panch Dravida (the five classes of Southern India):
1) Andhra, 2) Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), 3) Karnataka, 4) Maharashtra and Konkon, and 5) Gujarat. They originate from north of the (now-extinct) Saraswati River.
In Andhra Pradesh, Brahmins are broadly classified into 2 groups: Vaidika (meaning educated in vedas and performing religious vocations) and Niyogi (performing only secular vocation).
They are further divided into several sub-castes. However, majority of the Brahmins, both Vaidika and Niyogi, perform only secular professions.
In Karnataka, Brahmins are broadly classified into 2 groups: Madhwa (followers of Shri Madhwacharya) and Smartha (followers of Shri Adi Sankaracharya).
They are further divided into several sub-castes.
The Tamil Brahmins (both Iyers and Iyengars) are also part of Karnataka Brahmin Community for ages.
Other than these groups, there are other brahmin communities viz, Havyaka, Kota, Shivalli, Saraswata etc.
Distribution of Brahmins in India
In Kerala, Brahmins are classified into three groups: Namboothiris, Pottis and Pushpakas. (Pushpakas are commonly clubbed with Ampalavasi community).
The major priestly activities are performed by Namboothiris while the other temple related activities known as Kazhakam are performed by Pushpaka Brahmins and other Ampalavasis. Sri Adi Shankara was born in Kalady, a village in Kerala, to a Namboothiri Brahmin couple, Shivaguru and Aryamba, and lived for thirty-two years.
The Namboothiri Brahmins, Potti Brahmins and Pushpaka Brahmins in Kerala follow the Philosophies of Sri Adi Sankaracharya.
The Brahmins who migrated to Kerala from Tamil Nadu are known as Pattar in Kerala.
They possess almost same status of Potti Brahmins in Kerala.
In Tamil Nadu, Brahmins belong to 2 major groups: Iyer and Iyengar.
Iyers comprise of Smartha and Saivite Brahmins and are broadly classified into Vadama, Vathima, Brhatcharnam, Ashtasahasram, Sholiyar and Gurukkal.
There are mostly followers of Adi Shankaracharya and form about three-fourths of Tamil Nadu’s Brahmin population.
Iyengars comprise of Vaishnavite Brahmins and are divided into two sects: Vadakalai and Thenkalai.
They are mostly followers of Ramanuja and make up the remaining one-fourth of the Tamil Brahmin population.
In Maharashtra, Brahmins are classified into five groups: Chitpavan Konkanastha Brahmins, Gaud Saraswat Brahmin, Deshastha Brahmin, Karhade Brahmin, and Devrukhe.
As the name indicates, Kokanastha Brahmin are from Konkan area. Gaud Saraswat Brahmins are from Konkan region or they may come from Goa or Karnataka, Deshastha Brahmin are from plains of Maharashtra, Karhade Brahmins are perhaps from Karhatak (an ancient region in India that included present day south Maharashtra and northern Karnataka) and Devrukhe Brahmins are from Devrukh near Ratnagiri.
In Madhya Pradesh the descendents of Somnath temple priests, Naramdev Brahmin, Who migrated from Gujrat to Madhyapradesh after the Mohd. Ghazni notorious forays in Saurashtra and desecration of Somnath, and sedenterized along the coast of Narmada river hence derived their name i.e. Narmdiya brahmin or Naramdevs. Guru of Adi guru Shankaracharya, shri Govindacharyaclaimed to belongs to this community who initiated him in the Omkareshwar in the bank of river Narmada. Naramdevs are in high concentration in Nimar (Khandwa and Khargone)and Bhuvana region (Harda) of Madhyapradesh.
In Gujarat, Brahmins are classified into eight groups: Anavil Brahmin, Audichya Brahmins, Bardai Brahmins, Girinarayan Brahmins, Khedaval, Nagar Brahmins, Shrimali Brahmins, Sidhra-Rudhra Brahmins and Modh Brahmins. The Modh Brahmins worship Matangi Modheshwari mata (Modhera) and are mostly found in North Gujarat and in the Baroda region.
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