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BRAHMIN & HINDUISM
Posted On 28/01/2008 13:37:08 by viney_pushkarna
 

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The Sanskrit word Brāhmaṇa denotes priestly class (varṇa) and caste (tribe). The Sanskrit terms Brahman and Brāhman ("belonging to Brahman") are also used. The English word brahmin is an anglicised form of Sanskrit word brāhmana.

Brahmins are also called Vipra "inspired",or Dvija "twice-born".[6]


In 1931 (the last Indian census to record caste), Brahmins accounted for 4.32% of the total population. Brahmins even in Uttar Pradesh, where they were most numerous, constituted just 9% of the recorded population. In Tamil Nadu they formed less than 3% and in Andhra Pradesh, less than 2%.[7] In Kerala Brahmins make up 1.59% of the population.




Main article: History of Hinduism

The history of the Brahmin community in India begins with the Vedic religion, also known as Sanatana Dharma, in ancient India. The Vedas are the primary source of knowledge for brahmin practices. All the sampradayas of Brahmins take inspiration from the Vedas. According to Brahmin tradition, it is believed that Vedas are apauruṣeya and anādi (beginning-less), but are revealed truths of eternal validity. The Vedas are considered Śruti (that which is heard, signifying the oral tradition). Traditional Brahmin accepts Vedas as apaurusheyam (not man-made), but revealed truths and of eternal validity or relevance and hence the Vedas are considered Srutis that which have been heard and are the paramount source of Brahmin traditions and is believed to be divine. These Srutis include not only the four Vedas (the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda), but also their respective Brahmanas.


 


Brahmin communities


 

The Brahmin castes are broadly divided into two regional groups: Pancha-Gauda Brahmins and Pancha-Dravida Brahmins as per the shloka,


कर्णाटकाश्च तैलंगा द्राविडा महाराष्ट्रकाः,
गुर्जराश्चेति पञ्चैव द्राविडा विन्ध्यदक्षिणे ||
सारस्वताः कान्यकुब्जा गौडा उत्कलमैथिलाः,
पन्चगौडा इति ख्याता विन्ध्स्योत्तरवासिनः ||[8]


Translation: Karnataka, Telugu (Andhra), Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), Maharashtra and Gujarat are Five Southern (Panch Dravida). Saraswata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Utkala, Maithili are Five Northern (Pancha Gauda). This classification occurs in Rajatarangini of Kalhana and is mentioned by Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya in "Hindu Castes and Sects." [9]


 


Pancha Gauda Brahmins

Panch Gaur (the five classes of Northern India): 1) Saraswat, 2) Kanyakubja, 3) Gauḍa brahmins, 4) Utkala Brahmin, and 5) Maithil Brahmin. In addition, for the purpose of giving an account of Northern Brahmins each of the provinces must be considered separately, such as, North Western Provinces and Pakistan, Gandhar, Punjab, Kashmir, Sindh, Rajputana, Kurukshetra, Nepal, Oudh, Central India, Trihoot, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, Assam etc. The originate from south of the (now-extinct) Saraswati River.[10]



In Punjab, they are classified as Saraswat Brahmins.


In Bihar, majority of Brahmins are Bhumihar Brahmins, Kanyakubja Brahmins and Maithil Brahmins with a significant population of Sakaldipi or Shakdweepiya Brahmins.


In Haryana, the brahmin classified in mainly Dahima/Dayama/Dahima brahmin, Gaud brahmin, Khandelwal brahmin.


In Rajasthan, the Brahmins are classified in mainly Dahima/Dayama/Dahima brahmin, Gaud Brahmin, Sri Gaud Brahmin, Khandelwal Brahmin, Gujar-Gaud Brahmins.


In Nepal, the 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.


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.


 


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.[11]


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), which are further divided into several sub-castes. However, majority of Brahmins, both Vaidika and Niyogi, perform only secular professions. [12]


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 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 including dik???ar, shastri, sharma and gurukkal of Smarthas, the followers of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Sri-Vaishnavas (Iyengars), who are the followers of Sri Ramanujacharya.


In Karnataka, Brahmins belong to 3 major groups: Smarthas, the followers of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Madhvas (or Vaishnavas) who are the followers of Sri Madhvacharya, and Sri-Vaishnavas (Iyengars), who are the followers of Sri Ramanujacharya and Srimathe Vedanta Desika. Smartha Brahmins of Karnataka include Hoysala Karnataka, Mysore Iyers, Babboor Kammi , Ulucha Kamme, Babboor Kamme, Sankethi, Badaganadu, Mulukanadu, Sthanika Brahmins, Kota and Havyaka Brahmins


In Maharashtra, Brahmins are classified into four groups: Chitpavan Konkanastha Brahmins, Deshastha Brahmin and Karhade Brahmin, Devrukhe. As the name indicates, Kokanastha Brahmin are from Konkan area. Deshastha Brahmin are from other plains region of Maharashtra. Karhade Brahmins are perhaps from Karhatak, and an ancient region in India that included present day south Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, Devrukhe Brihamins are from Devrukh near Ratnagiri.


In Gujarat, Brahmins are classified into Eight groups: Anavil Brahmin , Awadhich Brahmins , Bardai Brahmins, Girinarayan Brahmins, Khedaval, Nagar Brahmins, Shrimali Brahmins, Sidhra-Rudhra Brahmins.


 


About Sakaldipi

They are distinct. They were Brahmans associated with Ayurvedic practices. They are mainly in Bihar and Jharkhand, but nowadays spread everywhere. Its a community known by "Sakaldwipiya", "Shakadwipi", "Sakaldwipi", "Shakdwipiya", "Sakaldweepi" or Maga Brahmins.


Sakaldwipi Brahmins are pioneers in Astronomy, Astrology & Ayurvedic. Varahmihir, Chanakya,Aryabhtatta, Banbhatta are the famous ancient Sakaldwipiya in their field. The historical facts suggest that sakaldwipiya were originally from shakdweep which was near Iran. The Magi priests had blessed Jesus Christ when he was born.


The [[Bhavisya Purana]] (139, 13-15) records, "contrary to the Vedic practices, your son will become famous by name of Mag. His name will be Jarathushtra Mag — and will bring fame to the dynasty. His descendants will worship fire and will be known by the name Mag (Saka), and being Soma worshippers (Magadha Sakadvipi) will be known as Mag Brahmins."


Sakaldwipiya are descendants of "Aswini Kumar" the god of medical science and they are residing in heaven (Swarga) as well as from "Shakadweep" an island which was in Central Asia.


In Dwaper yuga, Lord Krishna brought them to India for cure of his son, who was suffering from Yakshma.


Shakadwipis are also known as Maga Brahmanas in India. There entrance into this Land called Bharata goes back to the time of Mahabharata. A section of Iranian priestly class, called Magi who entered into India as Magi-Dias or Magi-Brahmanas. A detailed, thought legendary, account of their immigration into India is given in some Puranas. The substance of what is given in the Bhavisya Purana is as follows. Samba, a son of Krishna, was stricken with leprosy. He was cured of the disease through the worship of Sun god, and he erected a temple of god at Mitravana on the chandrabhaga. No Brahmin willing to serve as priest at the temple, Samba has to bring in eight families of the Sun worshiping Maga-Brahmanas, descendants of Jarasabda (viz. Jalagambu, Jarasastra, evidently Zoroster) from Sakadvipa, and settle them at Sambpura, built by him.


These Brahmans were given daughters of Bhoja line in marriage and hence become known as Bhojkas. The association of Zoroster, the founder of the Zoroastarian religion, and some of the special customs of the Maga Brahmanas, such as wearing the girdle called "avyanga" (the aiwyaon of the Avesta and the Kusti of the modern Parsees), having beards, eating in silence, the prohibition of touchingcorpses, using barsma (Avestan baresman, modern barsom) in place of darbha (Kusha grass), etc., leave no room for doubt that they were the ancient sun worshipers of Iran.


The Maga did not confine them to Sambpura, identified with the modern Multan, where Hiuen Tsang saw a grand Sun temple in the seventh century. They soon spread over other parts of India. Ptolemy (middle of the second century AD) vouches for the existence of the ‘Bbrach manai Magoi’ in the south. An inion from Deo –Barnark (District sahabad) records the initial grant of a village to the Sun god by the ruler Baladitya in favour of the bhojka Suryamitra. e known in different places by different names. In Rajputana they are called Bhojak. They are known in Bengal as graham-vipras and Acharya Brahmanas, interested in astrology and the lore of the planets. Some of the Shakdwipi Brahmanas of Bihar and Uttarpradesh are Ayurvedic Physicians, some are priests in Rajput families, while others are landholders. There are also many who had taken to other professions. (D.Mitra,1937, 615) It is very much clear from different historical account that the Shakadwipi Brahamana were instrumental not only in introducing Sun-worship but also construction of Sun-Temples In different part of the country (viz. Kasmir, Kathiawad and Somnath in Gujarat, Dholpur in Rajputana, Hissar in Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, Konark in Orissa etc.)[13] The three famous Sun temples at Deo, Devkund and Umga in Bihar were also constructed on their recommendations. The major concentration of Sakadwipies was in Magadh (place that holds Magas) kingdom so named after Maga-Brahmana domain. Here they were allotted 72 principalities of villages ("Pur"). They gradually migrated to different nooks and corners of the country.


They are identified through their PUR affiliations than Gotra.affiliation. They are endogamous caste groups but strictly practice Gotra and Pur exogamy unlike others and give it prime importance in marriage. They were the priest of many Indian Kingdoms till British regime in India. Most of them remembers their mythological immigration and are proud of it. They have their associations called Sakadwipi Brahman Mahasabha at almost all places of their habitat. This community has produced many astrologers, Ayurveda specialists, poets, priests and novelists in this country. Mention may be made of Aryabhatta, Varahmihir, Van Bhatta, Vagbhatta etc. In modern times Shakadwipi Brahman of Godda district in Uttar Pradesh established his kingdom at Ayodhya. The king of Ayodhya was Shakadwipi Brahmanas, their descendants still live in the castle of Ayodhya. Pt. Janki Vallabh Shastri, the great Hindi poet belongs to this community. There are numerous scholars, physicists, engineers, doctors, administrators belonging to this community.




 


Suryadhwaja Brahmins

Some sections argue that Sakaldwipi Brahmans were not the only Magi Brahmins to enter India from Southern Iran, as a clan calling itself Suryadhawaja (Suryadhwij) has a separate argument. The Suryadhwij brahmins now settled in north Indian states of Kashmir, Punjab and Western UP, differentiate themselves from Sakaldwipis. They argue that they had a marked migration from North-Western Iran (close to the Caucasus range) and belong to an alternate sect of sun worshippers. Though there are various similarities between both Sakaldwipi and Suryadhwijs, the later claim their lineage from the sage Surya (also a medicine man). Easily identified by their fair complexion and European body structures, Suryadhwijs differ from other brahmins in their day to day lives. With fire being the centre of all worship activity, the Suryadhwijs are staunch vaishnavites still following age old systems of aprasa'(not accessible before the daily union with god). The Suryadhwij brahmins also being a part of the eight mag brahmins who entered India are known by specific surnames and gotras, with Soral, Lakhi and Mehrishi being most widely used by the clan.


 


Gotras and pravaras


See also: Classification of Brahmins

In general, gotra denotes any person who traces descent in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as ' apatyam pautraprabh*rti gotram' (IV. 1. 162), which means 'the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son's son. When a person says ' I am Kashypasa-gotra' he means that he traces his descent from the ancient sage Kashyapa by unbroken male descent. According to the Baudhâyanas'rauta-sûtra Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvâja, Gautama, Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyapa and Agastya are 8 sages; the progeny of these eight sages is declared to be gotras. This enumeration of eight primary gotras seems to have been known to Pānini. The offspring (apatya) of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ' gotrâvayava '. [14]


The gotras are arranged in groups, e. g. there are according to the Âsvalâyana-srautasûtra four subdivisions of the Vasishtha gana, viz. Upamanyu, Parāshara, Kundina and Vasishtha (other than the first three). Each of these four again has numerous sub-sections, each being called gotra. So the arrangement is first into ganas, then into pakshas, then into individual gotras. The first has survived in the Bhrigu and Āngirasa gana. According to Baud, the principal eight gotras were divided into pakshas. The pravara of Upamanyu is Vasishtha, Bharadvasu, Indrapramada; the pravara of the Parâshara gotra is Vasishtha, Shâktya, Pârâsharya; the pravara of the Kundina gotra is Vasishtha, Maitrâvaruna, Kaundinya and the pravara of Vasishthas other than these three is simply Vasishtha. It is therefore that some define pravara as the group of sages that distinguishes the founder (lit. the starter) of one gotra from another.


There are two kinds of pravaras, 1) sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara, and 2) putrparampara. Gotrapravaras can be ekarsheya, dwarsheya, triarsheya, pancharsheya, saptarsheya, and up to 19 rishis. Kashyapasa gotra has at least two distinct pravaras in Andhra Pradesh: one with three sages (triarsheya pravara) and the other with seven sages (saptarsheya pravara). This pravara may be either sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara or putraparampara. When it is sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara marriage is not acceptable if half or more than half of the rishis are same in both bride and bridegroom gotras. If it is putraparampara, marriage is totally unacceptable even if one rishi matches.[15]


 


Sects and rishis

Due to the diversity in religious and cultural traditions and practices, and the Vedic schools which they belong to, Brahmins are further divided into various subcastes. During the sutra period, roughly between 1000 BCE to 200 BCE, Brahmins became divided into various Shakhas (branches), based on the adoption of different Vedas and different rescension Vedas. Sects for different denominations of the same branch of the Vedas were formed, under the leadership of distinguished teachers among Brahmins.


There are several Brahmin law givers such as Angirasa, Apasthambha, Atri, Brihaspati, Boudhayana, Daksha, Gautam, Harita, Katyayana, Likhita, Manu,[16] Parasara, Samvarta, Shankha, Shatatapa, Ushanasa, Vashishta, Vishnu, Vyasa, Yajnavalkya and Yama. These twenty-one rishis were the propounders of Smritis. The oldest among these smritis are Apastamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, and Vasishta Sutras. [17]


 


Descendants from rishis

From the Vedic Rishis, many Indians and non-Indians claim descent who are not from the Brahmin caste. For example the Dash and Nagas are said to be the descendants of Kashyapa Muni, the Gotamas (including Lord Buddha apart from the Gautam Brahmins are said to descendants of Gautama Muni. It is also believed that Buddha was a descendant of the Vedic Angirasa Muni.[18]


It is said that an educated person of their caste, named Deben Babu, came to this region from Calcutta about 50 or 60 years ago, and called a convention of all people of that caste at Navaran in Jessore district. At the convention, Deben Babu told them that they were actually the descendants of the ancient Rishis and Munis(sages) who wrote the Vedas and the Puranas, but that they had fallen in Society as a result of their lowly occupation. He called upon them to abandon their dirty occupation and adopt the surname or caste name Rishi.


The Kani tribe of South India claim to descend from Agastya Muni.


The Gondhali, Kanet, Bhot, Lohar, Dagi, and Hessis claim to be from Renuka Devi.


The Kasi Kapadi Sudras claim to originate from the Brahmin Sukradeva. Their duty was to transfer water to the sacred city of Kashi.[19]


Many Jats clans claim to descend from Dadhichi Rishi while the Dudi Jats claim to be in the linear of Duda Rishi.


Lord Buddha of course, was a descendant of Angirasa through Gautama. There too were Kshatiryas of other clans to whom members descend from Angirasa, to fulfill a childless king's wish.[20]


The backward-caste Matangs claim to descend from Matang Muni, who became a Brahmin by his karma.


The nomadic tribe of Kerala, the Kakkarissi according to one legend are derived from the mouth of Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu, and came out Brahmin.[21]


The Sikhwal (also known as Sukhwal or Shringi) Brahmins of Rajasthan claim descent from Ṛṣyaśṛńga.[citation needed]


 


Brahmins taking up other duties

Brahmins in history have taken on many professions - from being priests, ascetics and scholars to becoming warriors and even businesspeople. Brahmins with the qualities of Kshatriyas are known as 'Brahmkshatriyas'. An example is the avatara Parshurama who destroyed the entire Haiheyas 21 times. Not only did Sage Parashurama have warrior skills but they were so powerful that He could even fight without the use of any weapons and trained others to fight without weapons. The Pallavas were an example of Brahmakshatiryas as that is what they called themselves. King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir ruled all of India and even Central Asia according to many historians.


Today are is the caste Brahmakhatris, who are a clan of the Khatris, however this is suspicious since Khatris are a business caste/community of Punjab and belong to the Vaishya caste. Khatri has often been misinterpreted as a variation of the word Kshatriya, meaning warrior, however there are no records of any Khatri kingdoms or empires in Indian history and this claim to Kshatriya is a recent one made in the 20th century.


Perhaps the word Brahma-kshatriya refers to a person belonging to the heritage of both castes.[22] However, among the Royal Rajput households, brahmins who became the personal teachers and protectors of the Royal princes rose to the status of Raj-Purohit and taught the princes everything including martial arts. They would also become the keepers of the Royal lineage and its history. They would also be the protectors of the throne in case the regent was orphaned and a minor.


Kshatriyan Brahmin is a term associated with people of both caste's components.[23]


The Suta caste are charioters descended from a Kshatriya father and Brahmin mother.[24]


King Rudravarma of Champa (Vietnam) of 657 A.D. was the son of a Brahmin father. [25]


King Jayavarma I of Kambuja (Kampuchea) of 781 A.D. was a Brahma-kshatriya. [26]


Brahmins with the qualities of a Vaisya or merchant are known as 'Brahmvyasya'. An example of such persons are people of the Ambastha[27] caste, which exist in places like South India and Bengal. They perform medical work - they have from ancient times practiced the Ayurveda and have been Vaidyas (or doctors).


The saddle-workering Jingar caste (of the Sangar tribe) claim to be Brahmins.[28]


Many Pallis of South India claim to be Brahmins (while others claim to be Agnikula Kshatriyas.)[29] Kulaman Pallis are nicknamed by outsiders as Kulaman Brahmans.[30]


 


Practices

Brahmins adhere to the principles of Brahmanism or Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, such as acceptance of the Vedas with reverence, adherence to the position that the means or ways to salvation and realization of the ultimate truth are diverse, that God is one, but has innumerable names and forms to chant and worship due to our varied perceptions, cultures and languages. Brahmins believe in Sarvejanāssukhinobhavaṃtu — Let the entire society be happy and prosperous and Vasudhaika kuṭuṃbakaṃ — the whole world is one family. Most Brahmins practice vegetarianism or lacto-vegetarianism. However, some may follow veganism or ovo-lacto-vegetarianism or pescetarianism. There are some Brahmins who do practice a non-vegetarian diet, mainly the Brahmins of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Nepal, however no Brahmin ever consumes beef or any beef by-products which against Hindu code.



Brahmins from South India performing Sandhyavandana

Brahmins from South India performing Sandhyavandana

 


Traditional duties

The six duties of Brahmin are given as per the Sloka



adhyāpanam adhyāyānam
yajanam yajanam tathā
dānam pratigraham caiva
brahmanānāmakalpayāt[citation needed]


Teaching, study (svādhyāya), performing Yajna, make performing Yajna, accept Daana, and give Daana are the six duties of a Brahmin.



samodamastapah saucham
kshanthirārjavamevaca
jnanam vijnānamāstikyam
brahmakarma svabhavajam[citation needed]


In the ancient times the priests were expected to have control of their emotions, control of senses, purity, truthfulness, tolerance, simplicity, renounce material wealth and have sustenance from other community, belief in God, and studying and teaching of sacred ures.


The daily routine[31] includes performing




  • Snana (bathing),


  • Sandhyavandana,


  • Japa,


  • Puja,


  • Aupasana and


  • Agnihotra.

The last two named Yajnas are performed in only a few households today. Brahmacharis perform Agnikaryam instead of Agnihotra or Aupasana. The other rituals followed include Amavasya tarpanam and Shraddha.


See also: Nitya karma and Kaamya karma


 


Samskaras


Main article: saṃskāra

Brahmins also perform sixteen major Samskaras (rites) during the course of their lifetime.[32]




  • In the pre-natal stage,



    • Garbhadharana (conception),


    • Pumsavana (rite for consecrating a male child in the womb) and


    • Simantonnayana (rite for parting the hair of a pregnant woman) are performed.


  • During infancy,



    • Jatakarma (birth ceremony),


    • Namakarana (naming ceremony),


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