Bengali Brahmins

Bengali Brahmins are those Brahmins who traditionally reside in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, currently comprising the Indian state of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Bangladesh. When the British left India in 1947, carving out a separate nation (see partition) of East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh in 1971), a number of families moved to be within the borders of the newly defined secular Indian Republic, and continued to migrate for several decades thereafter.

Bengali Brahmins are generally well-educated, and a number of prominent figures of India belong to this community. They had leanings toward Shaktism and Tantra . Vārendra, for instance, meant rain-maker magicians [Vāri+indra, Vāri meant water : cf.A History of Brahmin Clans , page 283.] . Historically, they have been the standard bearers of Madhyadeshiya (the historic-cultural region of the upper Ganga-Yamuna doab which was the seat of Panch-Gauda brahmins) Indo-Aryan culture in Bengal. Panch-Gauda and Panch-Dravida are two chief divisions of Brahmins, as per the śloka from Rājatarangini of IAST|Kalhaṇa / Kalhana:

कर्णाटकाश्च तैलंगा द्राविडा महाराष्ट्रकाः ,गुर्जराश्चेति पञ्चैव द्राविडा विन्ध्यदक्षिणे |

सारस्वताः कान्यकुब्जा गौडा उत्कलमैथिलाः,पञ्चगौडा इति ख्याता विन्ध्स्योत्तरवासिनः |

Meaning :(The-) Karnātakas, Tailangas, Dravidas, Mahārāshtrakās and Gurjaras; these five(-types who-) live south of Vindhya (- mountains) are (called-) "five Dravidas" (- brahmins); (whereas-) Sārasvatas, Kānyakubjas, Gaudas, Utkalas, and Maithilas, who live north of Vindhya (- mountains) are known as "five Gaudas" (-brahmins) [cf. Kalhana's Rajatarangini in reference for English version.] . Dorilāl Śarmā says that the 'Five Gaudas' mentioned above were settled in region around Indus (Sārasvata brahmins), Kannauj and its territories (Kānyakubja brahmins),Mithila (Maithil Brahmins)and Orissa (Utkala Brahmins); the fifth branch Gauda brahmins settleed in the remaining areas north of Vindhya mountains ,in two distinct regions (1)Haryana and adjacent districts of Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh, and (2) northern Kosala around ancient Śrāvasti; he quotes Matsya Purana (chapter-12, śloka 30) in which Śrāvasti is said to be seat of Gauda brahmins [(A History of Brahmin Clans, p.41-42)] . According to this view, South Bihar, Bengal, Assam, etc were not inhabited by any of the brahmins mentioned by Kalhana. Hence, at the time of Kalhana, Bengali brahmins had not emerged as a distinct branch of Panch-Gauda. But all Bengali brahmins are descendants of Panch-Gauda, excepting some IAST|Dākṣiṇātyas Vaidikas who came from South India originally but are now part and parcel of Bengali brahmins [A History of Brahmin Clans, p.288] . Gauda meant the region from western Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan, but it was also used for Bengal in mediaeval age. Entire North India was also called Gauda country, which is the reason why five north Indian branches have received the common name Panch-Gauda ["Ādi Gauda Dipikā" quoted in A History of Brahmin Clans, p.100] .

History

A large scale migration of Brahmins from Kanyakubja region occurred during Pala and Sena periods. However historical evidence attests significant presence of Brahmins in Bengal since the Maurya period. The Jain Acharya Bhadrabahu, regarded to be the preceptor of Chandragupta Maurya is said to have been born in Brahmin family of Pundravardhana ( or IAST|Puṇḍra , the region north of Ganges and west of Brahmaputra in Bengal, later known as Vārendra). A copper-plate grant from the Gupta period found in the vicinity of Somapura mentions a Brahmin donating land to a Jain vihara at Vatagohali. Such evidences suggest IAST|Puṇḍra or Vārendra and regions west of Bhagirathi (called Radha in ancient age) to be seats of brahmins from ancient times; Rādhi and Varendra are still chief branches of Bengali brahmins settled in these regions [cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281 ] ..

The three main divisions among Bengali brahmins are :
* Rādhi from Radh (region south-west of Ganga).
* Varendra, from Vārendra region (North-East) or IAST|Puṇḍra.
* Vaidika (migrants, originally experts of Vedic knowledge).

Traditional accounts

The traditional accounts of the origin 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 [cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281-283 ] , 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 [cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281 : this book quotes Krishna-Charita by Vidyāsāgar for dating.] .

Historians have located a ruler named Ādiśūra ruling in north Bihar, but not in Bengal Facts|date=August 2007. 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 [cf. D.D. kosambi, p. 123.] .

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.

Divisions among Bengali Brahmins

The three main divisions of Bengali Brahmins are
* (1) Rādhi from Radh , modern West Bengal south of Ganges.
* (2) Varendra, from Varendra region (North-East)
* (3) VaidikaOther minor divisions are :
* (4) Saptaśati
* (5) Pirāli
* (6) Patita

It is believed that the Brahmins of Bengal adapted kulinism from a similar hierarchical system used by the Brahmins of Mithilā, although Kānyakubja and more especially Saryupāriya were also highly scrupulous. The five original Brahmins belonged to five gotras : Śāndilya, Kāśyapa, Vatsa, Bhārdvāja, IAST|Sāvarṇa [cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 282 : it quotes Kula-dīpīkā, a mediaeval text. ] .

Both Brahmins and Kayasthas in Bengal have followed a system that ranks the clans hierarchically. The Kulinas formed the higher ranking clans.

Rādhi

Rādhi (also IAST|Rāṭhi in some old texts) is the major branch of Bengali brahmins . The descendants of these five Pancyājñika brahmins were hierarchically organised into three categories :

(1) "Kulin" comprised the most noble brahmins among these, who possessed all the nine qualities fixed by Ballāl Sena (nine qualities or "navadhā lula IAST|lakṣanam" were :āchāra, vinaya, vidyā, IAST|pratiṣṭhā, tirtha, darśana, karma, IAST|niṣṭhā, IAST|śreṣṭha-vritti, tapa, dāna) [Kuladīpīkā quoted in History of Brahmin Clans,page 283] . (2)"Śrotriya" is the second rank among the descendants of these five brahmins because they were deft in Vedic knowledge but were considered to be somewhat inferior to the Kulina brahmins (possessing 8 out of 9 noble qualities).

(3)"Vamśaja" is the third rank which was a result of kulinas marrying outside kulinas [Kuladīpīkā quoted in History of Brahmin Clans,page 283] .

Major titles adopted by the high Rādhi brahmins :
*Vandopādhyāya and its adaptation Banerjee
*Mukhopādhyāya and its adaptation Mukherjee
*Chattopādhyāya and its adaptation Chatterjee
*Gangopādhyāya and its adaptation Ganguli / Ganguly

Jāti-IAST|Bhāṣkar mentions that those who were given grants along the Ganges by Ballāl Sena were called Gangopādhyāya (literally 'the Vedic teachers in the regions around the Ganges') [Jāti-IAST|Bhāṣkar quoted in History of Brahmin Clans,page 285] .

Mukhopādhyāya means chief Vedic teacher. Vandopādhyāya is a Sanskritized form of 'Vanodha + upādhyāya' , Vanodha being the ancient name of Raebareli-Unnāva whence their ancestors had come from [History of Brahmin Clans,page 287] .

Other titles of Rādhi brahmins include Bhattāchārya (or Bhattacharya or Bhattacharjee). Bhattāchārya meant 'expert of Vedic rituals'. This was an honorary title awarded to a Rādhi or Vārendra brahmin who excelled in spiritual and vedic matters.

Vārendra

These brahmins also claim descent from five original brahmins, although four out of five names are different, and they are also hierarchically organised into three groups :

(1) "Śri Kulin" comprising of Maitra(Moitra), Lāhiri, Bāgachi, Bhāduri, Sānyal, etc.

(2) "Śrotriya" have Nanda, Bhato Shāstri, Karanja, Laduli, Navasi, etc.

(3) "IAST|Kaṣṭa Kulin" compride of 85 "gains" (villages given in grant by Sena kings).

Another intermediate order is called Kāpa(originally Kulin but "negligent in duty") which is between first two.

Other famous titles of Vārendra brahmins are Bhattāchārya, Majumdāra, Rāi, Choudhary, Jovādāra,Mishra,Tāluqdār, etc. There were many big landlords among Vārendra brahmins. Literally , Bhattāchārya meant 'experts of Vedic rituals'. Rāi and Choudhary were administrative titles.

Vaidikas

These are of two types :
*IAST|Dākṣiṇātyas (coming from South India originally but now part and parcel of Bengali brahmins.
*Pāschātyas, coming from western and northern India originally but now part of Bengali brahmins.

These were experts of Vaidika knowledge who were invited to Bengal in different ages, later than the original five brahmins from which Rādhi brahmins originated.

aptaśati

Before the coming of Five Brahmins, there were 700 houses of brahmins in Bengal, but now they are few. They were less learned than the migrants and therefore were deprived of patronage. Some of them mixed with the immigrants, which explains their decline in relative population. Many Saptaśatis became priests of lower castes and were labelled as Agradāni and grahavipra. Main titles are Arath, Bālkhāvi, Jagāye, Pikhoori, Mulkajoori, Bhagāye, Gāi, etc.

Others

*Pirāli : literally, "boycotted" brahmins. Some kulin brahmins mixed with muslims in eating and other activities and were therefore boycotted by the orthodox sections. Prominent among these were Thākurs, anglicised as Tagores. Thākurs literally meant lords and were big landowners.
*Patita : Some Bengali brahmins were publicly declared to be "fallen" brahmins.

Chakraborty (Chakravarti) is essentially a IAST|kṣatriya title suitable for emperors adopted by some Bengali brahmins.

Another peculiar title is "Chir Kori" or "IAST|Chir Koḍi".

Impact of British occupation

The kulinist system degenerated during the 18-19th century and is no longer popular. The British occupation of Bengal radically transformed the Bengali culture. Bengal has now gone through two century of missionary efforts and a quarter century of a Marxist government. Eastern Bengal became an Muslim majority region in mid-19th century which resulted in the first partition of Bengal in 1905, and then final partition in 1947. Although the interaction with the British resulting in what is termed the Bengal Renaissance, it altered the hold of traditional mainstream Hinduism in the region.

Naming conventions

Many Bengali Brahmin family names are written in two different ways. For example, Chattopadhyay (compound of village name "IAST|Chaṭṭa" and "upādhyāya" denoting "priest, teacher" originally granted with the village named IAST|Chaṭṭa) is the Sanskritized form of the local Prakrit word "chaturjye", anglicized to Chatterjee.

Similar analyses may be performed on Mukhurjye/Mukherjee/Mukhopādhyāya and Banurjye/Banerjee/Bandyopādhyāya. Bhattāchārya which is made by two words Bhatta and Achārya which means teacher also called as Bhattāchārjee. Tagore is the anglicized form of Thakur, meaning "lord". Other Bengali Brahmin family names are anglicized in particular ways that have become the standard English spellings over time. Other Bengali Brahmin surnames are Chakraborty, Sanyal, Ghoshal etc. Bengali Vaid Brahmin surnames include Gupta, Sengupta, Dasgupta, Roy etc.

Famous Bengali Brahmins

Pre-1947

* Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 - 1534), ascetic, founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism
* Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), Hindu reformer and founder of Brahmo Samaj
* Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905) A leading proponent of Brahmo Samaj
* Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820 - 1891) Polymath
* Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894), author and one of the founders of Indian nationalism
* Kisari Mohan Ganguli, one and only translator of the Mahabharata to English.
* Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay Author of famouls novels like Devdas, Parineeta etc. and one of the most popular Bengali novelist and story-teller
* Sukanta Bhattacharya Poet
* Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), poet, philosopher and nationalist
* Abanindranath Tagore Author, Painter.
* Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) (1879-1915), revolutionary leader
* Gadadhar Chattopadhyay (Ramakrishna Paramahansa) (1836-1886), Revered Religious leader, led Hindu revival
* Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee
* Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938) popular and sometimes controversial novelist
* Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
* Rakhal Das Banerjee (1885-1930) archaeologist, Mohenjo‑daro excavations
* Manabendra Nath Roy (1887-1954), a founder of Indian Communism
*Dwarkanath Tagore (1794-1846) One of the earliest entrepreneurs from India. Founded the first Indo-British agency house from India, Carr, Tagore and Company.
* W C Banerjee. Founder of Indian National Congress
* Upendra Kishore Roychoudhuri. Famous Children's littérateur-- whose grandson Satyajit Roy went on to win the Oscar for lifetime achievement in film direction.
* Vibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay. Novelist, author of 'Pather Panchali'.

Post-1947

* Kishore Kumar Ganguly , Great Singer, Actor
* Ashok Kumar Ganguly, Actor
* First Air Chief Marshall of India Subroto Mukerjee
* Sitar Player Ravi Shankar
* Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder president, Bhartiya Jana Sangh
* Buddhadeb Bhattacharya Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2000.
* Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
* Sunil Gangopadhyay
* Suchitra Bhattacharya
* Bharati Mukherjee
* Banaphool(Balaichand Mukherjee)
* poet Subhash Mukhopadhyay
* Famous Comedian/Actor Keshto Mukherjee
* actor Joy Mukherjee
* actor Jaya Bhaduri
* actor Soumitra Chatterjee
* actor Uttamkumar (Arun Kumar Chatterjee)
* actor Victor Banerjee
* film actresses Madhabi Mukherjee
* Kajol
* Rani Mukherjee
* biologist Eric Mukherjee
* painter Benode Behari Mukherjee
* musician Budhaditya Mukherjee
* music director Hemanta Mukhopadhyay
* singer Amit Kumar
* popular singer Shaan
* singer Shreya Ghoshal
* singer Madhushree
* singer Abhijeet
* singer Kumar Sanu
* Calcutta's mayor Subrata Mukherjee
* director Hrishikesh Mukherjee
* director Basu Chatterjee
* director Basu Bhattacharya
* Actor Mithun Chakraborty
* Sitar Player Nikhil Banerjee
* police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee
* tennis player Jaideep Mukherjee
* India's current External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee
* Music Director Bappi Lahiri
* Music Director Pritam Chakraborty
* Sourav Ganguly, former captain of Indian cricket team
* Satyajit Ray, Oscar-winning film director
* Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize Winning author of "Interpreter of Maladies" and acclaimed novel 'The Namesake'
* Upamanyu Chatterjee, Civil Servant and author of 'English, August'
* Mashumi Chatterjee, Film Actress
* Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, American author
* Subroto Bagchi, cofounder of MindTree Consulting Ltd., an IT Services company based in Bangalore

Notes

Sanjay Bandopadhyaya a Civil Servant.

References

*Kalhana's Rajatarangini: A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir; 3 Volumes > M.A.Stein (translator),(Introduction by Mohammad Ishaq Khan),published by Saujanya Books at Srinagar,2007,(First Edition pub. in 1900),ISBN 81-8339-043-9 / 8183390439.
*A History of Brahmin Clans (IAST|Brāhmaṇa Vaṃshõ kā Itihāsa) in Hindi, by Dorilāl Śarmā,published by Rāśtriya Brāhamana Mahāsabhā, Vimal Building, Jamirābād, Mitranagar, Masūdābād,Aligarh-1, 2nd ed-1998. (This Hindi book contains the most exhaustive list of Brahmana gotras and pravaras together their real and mythological histories).
*IAST|Jāti-Bhāṣkara by Pt. Jwālā Prasād Misra, published by Khemaraj Shrikrishnadas,(1914).
*An Introduction to the Study of Indian History, by Damodar Dharmanand Kosāmbi, Popular Prakasan,35c Tadeo Road, Popular Press Building, Bombay-400034, First Edition: 1956, Revised Second Edition: 1975.
*NN Vasu, Vanger Jatiya Itihas (Bangla), 2 vols, Calcutta, 1321 BS.
*Atul Sur, Banglar Samajik Itihas (Bangla), Calcutta, 1976
*NN Bhattacharyya, Bharatiya Jati Varna Pratha (Bangla), Calcutta, 1987
*RC Majumdar, Vangiya Kulashastra (Bangla), 2nd ed, Calcutta, 1989.

See also

* Banerjee
* Bhattacharya
* Chakraborty
* Chatterjee
* Ganguly
* Mukherjee
* Thakur

External links

* http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/K_0315.htm


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kulin Brahmins — are those Brahmins in Bengal who can trace themselves to the five families of Kanauj (Kanyakubja), Uttar Pradesh who migrated to Bengal. The five families were of the five different gotras (Shandilya, Bharadwaj, Kashyap, Vatsya and Swavarna).… …   Wikipedia

  • Iyer — Infobox Ethnic group group = Iyer அய்யர் poptime = 1901:415,931 2004: 2,400,000 (Estimated) [Accurate statistics on the population of Iyers are unavailable. This is due to the fact that the practice of conducting caste based population census… …   Wikipedia

  • Brahmin communities — in India are traditionally divided into two regional groups: Pancha Gauda Brahmins and Pancha Dravida Brahmins according to the following shloka found in the Rajatarangini of Kalhana (12th century): : sa. कर्णाटकाश्च तैलंगा द्राविडा महाराष्ट्रकाः …   Wikipedia

  • Sanadhya Brahmin — Sanadya Brahmin (or Sanadh/Sanah) are a community of Brahmins, living prominently in Western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh area of India. In the 19th and 20th national convention of Kanyakubja Brahmins by Kanyakubja Mahati Sabha, in 1926 and… …   Wikipedia

  • Chakraborty — (Bengali and Assamese চক্রবর্তী Chôkroborti) is a common surname of Bengali and Assamese Hindus in India and Bangladesh. People with the surname Chakraborty commonly belong to the Brahmin caste. It is spelled in various ways, including… …   Wikipedia

  • Thakur — *Thakur (ठाकुर) Hindi surname *Thakur (ঠাকুর) Bengali surname *Thakur Muslim surname *Thakur (tribe) one of the scheduled tribes of India.Thakur may refer to: *Hindu Gods: In Bengali, deities are refer to as Thakur. *Bengali Brahmins: Also refer… …   Wikipedia

  • Brahmin — This article is about the social caste. For the moth family, see Brahmaeidae. For similarly spelled words, see Brahman (disambiguation). An article related to Hinduism …   Wikipedia

  • Jāti — Jātis (in Devanagari: जाति) (the word literally means births ) is the term used to denote communities and sub communities in India. It is a term used across religions. In Hindu society each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job …   Wikipedia

  • Bhumihar — Brahmin or simply Bhumihar or Bhuinhar is a caste mainly found in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.The Bhumihars are often classified in the Brahmin varna in Hinduism (hence using the designation Bhumihar Brahmin or… …   Wikipedia

  • Daivadnya — ethnic group group = Daivajna people दैवज्ञ वा शेठ , ದೈವಜ್ಞ ಅಥವ ಶೆಟ್ಟ| poptime = 0.8 million(approx) popplace = Primary populations in: *Goa *Maharashtra *KarnatakaPopulations in: *United Kingdom *United States *Arab States langs = Konkani ,… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.