Anavil Brahmin is the sub-caste of Brahmin caste that derives its name from a village called in South Gujarat called Anaval. Currently, most Anavil Brahmins reside in the areas of Valsad District, Navsari District and Surat District.
The origin of the Anavils is traced to the period of Lord Rama. According to the Skanda Purana, when Rama was returning from Lanka with Sita after killing Ravana, he came to the hermitage of Agastya which was situated in a dense forest on the southern slopes of the Vindhya hills. At a great rishi's bidding, Rama decided to perform a solemn act of expiation at Anadisidha, for the slaying of Ravana. But as there were no Brahmins there, seven ajachak Brahmins were summoned from Gangakulgiri in the Himalayas to complete a ritual of Ashwamegh Yagna.
The lineage of the summoned Brahmins became known as 'Anavil' as they were turned to Brahmins for Lord Rama. The word "Anavil" is a combination of two Sanskrit words: UN+AVIL; UN, a prefix, means NOT in Sanskrit and AVIL means "that which is dirty or impure." The combined word therefore means "free of impurity." It is believed that 'Anavil' is the only Brahmin varna in India which received the teachings of brahminism directly from Parashurama and Lord Rama himself.
Anavil Brahmins are not practising priests though they belong to Brahmin varna.They are mainly agriculturist and large number of them are large landowners. Anavils are Ajachak Brahmins (non-fee taking Brahmins).
During early sixteenth century when the Mughals first came to the Surat district, the Anavils became tenacious soldier-farmers. Thereafter, the titular Desai surname became highly coveted. The community was split into two: the Desai or Masthanas and the Bhatella. They were popularly known as Desais and Bhatella rather than just Anavils. There are several interpretations of the root of the name 'Bhatella':
1. Bhatella is a combination of two Sanskrit words: (bhat + eela). Bhat means soldier and eela means earth. The word, therefore, means a soldier-farmer;
2. The word could also be a combination of bhat + hathila. Hathila means tenacious or obstinate and hence the word would be interpreted as a tenacious or obstinate soldier;
3. The word could have some bhat meaning rice + eela meaning earth thus being interpreted as rice cultivators. It is also true that they were the very first rice farmers in southern Gujarat, and
4. The word could be a combination of bhat meaning river delta + eela meaning earth and hence being interpreted as a people who farmed or lived in river deltas.
The first interpretation, that of the soldier-farmer, appears to be the most likely as it is a proper Sanskrit word. T surnames (family names) that are common to the Anavil Brahmin caste confirm this: Naik, Vashi, and Mehta all denote professionals in the Army or Royal Administration. Naik means a platoon leader, e.g. Gananayak. The Sanskrit word "vash" means to control and Mehta was a title given to the prime ministers of the princely states in Saurashtra. Today, the meaning of the word Mehta has expanded to include accountants and teachers, which may be due to their history as advisors to the rulers of the princely states. The original, true Desais ruled vast lands in Western India so it is not uncommon for other members of the Anavil community, and others, to change their family name to Desai.Nowadays they are mainly into profession of Agriculture,Teaching,Legal experts, Company Management experts etc.
Taking the 1962 population census, the Anavils formed roughly 5% of Surat district's population. Assuming a density of 700 people per square mile, the Anavil population can be approximated as 200,000. Assuming that half as many now live in foreign lands and other large urban centers in India, the total can be estimated to be about 300,000.
Kuldevi of Anavil Brahmin is "Garadi Mata". Temple of Gardi Mata is situated in village called Palsana, situated Near Surat City, in District Surat of State Gujarat.
Kuldev of Anavil Brahmin is "Sukleshwar Mahadev". Temple of Sukleshwar Mahadev is situated in Village Called Anaval situated in Gujarat.
- Morarji Desai, Former prime minister of India
- Dr Amul Desai, Freedom Fighter, Praja Socialist Party Leader, famous for defeating Morarjee Desai in the 1st Bombay State Assembly election in 1952 from the Valsad Constituency. Was Minister of Finance & Planning of Gujrat State in 1973. He had a large medical practice in Andheri in Mumbai and was a genuine social worker.http://www.gujaratplus.com/news/Others/61554.html
- Mahadev Desai, close associate of Mahatma Gandhi
- Manmohan Desai, famous Bollywood film producer & director.
- Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General, United Nations, New York
- A. M. Naik, Chairman & Managing Director of Larsen & Toubro Limited.,chairman of IIM AHMEDABAD
- Prachi Desai, Famous Actress and winner of reality show "jhalak dikhlaja".
- Bhulabhai Desai
- Anoop Desai, contestant on American Idol, Season 8
- Bindu (actress) Desai, Very famous Indian Actress of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s
- Divya Desai is an Indian actress
- Bianca Desai AKA Biyanka Desai famous southern movie actress also seen in Bollywood movies.
- Vaishali Desai,film actress,grand niece of Manmohan Desai
- Khandubhai Kasanji Desai, A prominent labor leader, Gandhian, labor minister in Pandit Nehru's cabinet, Founding member of Textile Labor Association, and INTUC (Indian National Trade Union Congress). Governor of the state of Andhra Pradesh from 1968–1975. Member of the Indian Constitution Assembly.
- Dolatbhai Natubhai Desai, MLA Valsad
- Himansu Desai Mechanical Engineer from 1967 batch of M.S. University, Baroda, India. Was selected to play for Baroda in Ranjitrophy Cricket Tournament from 1963 till 1967. Also selected to play for Cricket Control Board's President's XI against Sri Lanka in 1965. Awarded Honorary degree of FELLOW by Institute of Engineers, India.
- Gulabbhai Bhikhabhai Mehta, ajrai former president of Valsad dist bank, former chairman Vasudhara dairy
- Dhirubhai Desai former high court judge
- Dr. Shailesh Nayak Indian Scientist and present secretary of Ministry of Earth Sciences, Indian government
- Jan Breman (2007). The Poverty Regime in Village India: Half a Century of Work and Life at the Bottom of the Rural Economy in South Gujarat. Oxford University Press.
- Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Rachnawali (1972). Selected works of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. Delhi: Prakashan Sansthan.
- Klaas W. van der Veen (1972). I Give Thee My Daughter: A Study of Marriage and Hierarchy Among the Anavil Brahmans of South Gujarat. Van Gorcum.
- Singh, Kumar Suresh; Rajendra Behari Lal,. Gujarat. Part 1. Anthropological Survey of India. pp. 65–68.