Baidya

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For the occupation, see Vaidhya.

Baidya[1] or Vaidya[2][3] is a Hindu caste community of Bengal. In pre-colonial history of Bengal, Baidyas were regarded as the highest Hindu castes along with Brahmins and Kayasthas in the caste system of Bengal.[1]

Baidya is a caste community confined to Bengal, which has traditionally claimed Brahmin status, but has been most commonly associated with the Ambashtha caste or sub-caste.[4] Ambashthas are believed to have originated from Brahmin father and Vaishya mother, and variously thought to be a sub-caste or a separate caste[5] or even technically belonging to the Brahmin varna.[6] Historian Bijay Chandra Mazumdar strongly suggests that the Vaidyas of Bengal owe their origin to the Vellala Vaidyas, known for their military prowess in Southern India, who actually started functioning as Brahmins some time earlier than 10th century AD, and originally got the designation 'Vaidya' on account of their knowledge or rather the study of the Vedas. The Vellala Vaidyas also serverd as military leaders and high civil officers apart from being priests of the Dravidian Kings.[7] It is believed that these migrants, probably Ambashthas as well as the other groups like Vellala Vaidyas, started moving from north and south to Bengal during the Pala Empire. They mainly dealt with medicine and other fields of study. In the later half, some of them rose to power and endeavored to revive Vedic Hinduism in predominantly Buddhist Bengal. Kulagranthas of Rarhiya and Varendra Brahmins and Vaidyas (for example, Dhananjay's 'Kulapradip', Bharat Mallik's 'Chandraprabha', Ramananda Sharma, Ananda Bhatta) say that Sena Kings were Vaidyas/Ambashthas of Vaishwanar gotra.[8] Most of the Baidyas perform rituals like wearing the sacred thread. It is believed that legendary Sena King Ballal Sen divided the Baidyas into two divisions, wearing the sacred thread was compulsory for one group, but optional for the other.[4] Tej Ram Sharma, an Indian historian, says that

Originally the professions of Kayastha (scribe) and Vaidya (physician) were not restricted and could be followed by people of different varnas including the brahmanas. So there is every probability that a number of brahmana families were mixed up with members of other varnas in forming the present Kayastha and Vaidya communities of Bengal.[9]

During historical times, Brahmin, Baidya and Kayastha together formed the next elite group apart from rulers, in the power structure and all the rulers of Bengal - Palas, Senas, Pathans and Mughals, had to rely on their support.[10] Baidyas shared the knowledge of Sanskrit with Brahmins.[10] These three castes held major landholding and control over education and major professions.[1][11][12]

Vaidyas hold surnames like Sengupta, Dasgupta, Duttagupta, Gupta, Sen-Sharma, etc.[11]

The term 'Baidya'/'Vaidya' also literally means a physician in Bengali/Sanskrit,[13] which further corroborates that the caste may have traditionally been named after their profession.

History and Mythology of the Dashoshormas of Bengal

Kobidash was a member of the court of Adisur the ruler of Bengal

He is the fist recorded name in this genealogy which is quoted from a copy of the Ghatak Bisharod Bongshaboli (extracted from Baidya protibha, the Journal of the Baidyas of Bengal)

This Baidya clan of Bengal is supposed to have originated with Amritacharjo whose daughter Grihabhadrika Devi married Maudgollo Rishi (who finds mention in the epic Mahabharat)

Most of the followers of Moudgollo Rishi are supposed to originate from two families Shen Debosharma and Dash Debosharma. (Thus the claim to the Moudgollo Gotro)

For reasons unknown to us the 'Debo' part of the title or surname was truncated to Sensharma and Dassharma. Sharma was a brahmin title, but the Baidyas are supposed to have broken away to practise medicine (Vaidya/ 'Boddi') for the benefit of all, including the 'untouchables'. They were therefore considered unwothy of the brahmin title by the then brahmin elite.

In later years the 'sharma' suffix was supplemented by the 'gupta' title' leading to the present 'Sengupta' and Dasgupta titles. However variants of these exist as Dassharma, Dasgupta and even Sharma and Gupta sometimes within the same family; under the same roof!

In most cases, names are spelt to match closely to the Bengali pronounciation and not the 'more accurate' Sanskrit version.

The data available here follows only the Dash Deboshorma (Dassharma / Dasgupta) lineage. A record of the Sensharma (Sengupta) lineage is supposed to exist in a well organised document / book and is not included here.

Most of the people on record here, especially from the 22nd Generation onwards claim their affiliation / origin to Dhaka- Vikrampur (now in Bangladesh)

Plese refer to the additional note for mythological references to the Baidya clan.


Traditionally Baidyas are physicians and there are legends associating them with the gods of medicine, Dhanvantari and the Asvin. Though small in number, they have also made a notable contribution to other aspects of life in India, particularly in Bengal. They do not believe in amassing wealth and enjoy life as long as health and means permit.

A Panini Sutra says that `vaidya` or `baidya` means one who has studied the Vedas. There are references to Brahmins who, after becoming conversant with the Vedas, studied Ayurveda and became Baidyas or physicians.

History of the Baidya Community: There are a number of legends, which speaks about the history of the Baidya caste. Legend has it that Dhanvantari was born when the devas and asuras churned the ocean. He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and has four hands - in one he holds medicinal herbs and in one the text of Ayurveda. He was the first Baidya.

Society and Religion of the Baidya Community: Talented, cultured and intelligent as a class, the percentage of literacy and education of the Baidyas is much higher than that of any other community in Bengal. The women are treated as equals and even in the days of Kulinism, when polygamy was practised, a Baidya hardly ever had two wives at a time.

Profession of the Baidya Community: The Baidyas were originally the physicians. In recent times, many Baidyas have joined the Brahmo Samaj, including some of the leaders. Some well-known Baidyas have achieved distinction as political and social workers, historians, authors, music directors, film directors, film stars, actors, dancers and singers.

Another legend about his birth is that when the sage Galava was on a pilgrimage and dying of thirst, he accepted water from a Vaidya girl named Virbhadra. He blessed her and said she would have a son. But as she was unmarried, Galava chanted a Vedic mantra and a boy arose out of a wisp of grass and it was this child who was Dhanvantari. He is also known as Amritacharya or Ambastha. He was a Baidya because he owed his birth to a Vedic hymn and he was an Ambastha because he had no father and was brought up by the mother and her family. So Baidyas are also called Ambasthas. But Baidyas say that Ambastha is the name of a place on the banks of the river Indus from where one branch of Baidyas went to South India and another to Bengal (Goud).

There is still another legend, which describes Baidyas as begotten of a Brahmin woman by the Ashvins, the gods of healing. Their union being `pratiloma` in which the father is inferior in caste to the mother the offspring was not Brahmin. Even the gods were considered inferior to the Brahmins. Originally the practice of medicine all over India was mostly in the hands of Brahmins.

Medicine was the original profession of the Baidyas, but from the time of the Sen kings, they began to adopt other pursuits as well. A Baidya by caste need not only be a physician.

The Sen kings were probably Baidyas. The evidence of inscriptions shows that a dynasty of Baidya kings ruled over at least a part of Bengal from 1010 AD to 1200 AD. The most famous of these kings is Ballal Sen. He separated the Baidyas into divisions: the first group was allowed to wear the sacred thread and fifteen days observance of mourning while the other group has an option to adopt the thread and to observe the mourning for a month. He is also said to have made three classes -Rarhi, Barendra and Bangaja. This was done by him according to the place of residence and introduced three hypergamous divisions - Kulin, Bangsaj and Maulik.

He is also supposed to have instituted 3 other rigid divisions of purity of lineage-the Siddha, Sadhya, and Kashta. The nomenclature is interesting because, according to a legend, Amritacharya or Dhanvantari married the Ashvin`s three daughters-Siddha Vidya, Sadhya Vidya and Kashta Vidya. Even in recent times, the Baidyas of these `sthanas` consider themselves higher than others. Those who went farther east to places like Tripura, Sylhet and Chittagong were looked down upon still further. They intermarried with the Kayasthas probably because in those distant parts they could not always get a suitable match within their own clan.

Centuries later, Raja Raj Ballav Sen was not only the undisputed leader of the Baidya community but a great Indian whose name will always find a place in history. He was appointed collector general of the province of Dacca and given the title of Raja by the Nawab of Murshidabad. Shah Alam, the Mughal Emperor of Delhi, made him a maharaja with the title Rai Raiyan Salar Jung Bahadur and presented him with a sword of honour. He played an important role in political history and court intrigues during a chequered period. When Mir Jaffar succeeded Siraj-ud-daula with the help of the British, he made Raj Ballav his minister. He tried to get rid of the British but Mir Qasim`s men drowned him and his son, Krishnadas Sen, in the Ganga when he was the Subedar of Monghyr.

He persuaded some Brahmins to invest his son with the sacred thread after which many Baidyas wore this badge of distinction. For several generations, the leadership of the Baidyas has been vested in his family, which had its seat at Rajnagar on the south bank of the River Padma. The Baidyas retained among their group not only rajas and maharajas and powerful zamindars (landlords) but also scholars of great distinction such as the five gems at the court of Lakshman Sen, two of whom were Jayadeva, the famous composer of the Gita Govinda and Dhoyee Kaviraj.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c [1] Caste, culture, and hegemony: social domination in colonial Bengal By Śekhara Bandyopādhyāẏa
  2. ^ A statistical account of Bengal: Volume 11 by Sir William Wilson Hunter, Hermann Michael Kisch, Andrew Wallace Mackie - 1877
  3. ^ [2] Origin and growth of caste in India, Volume 2
  4. ^ a b Sir Herbert Hope Risley (1892). The Tribes and Castes of Bengal: Ethnographic Glossary. Bengal Secretariat Press/British Library. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-1-240-90710-6. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  5. ^ Patrick Olivelle. The Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India. 
  6. ^ John Muir. Original Sanskrit texts on the origin and history of the people of India, their religion and institutions (Volume 2). p. 52. 
  7. ^ Bijay Chandra Mazumdar (1920). The History Of The Bengali Language. University of Calcutta. p. 52. ISBN 81-206-1452-6. 
  8. ^ "Ballamohamudgar". 
  9. ^ Sharma, Tej Ram (1978). Personal and Geographical Names in the Gupta Empire. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 115. 
  10. ^ a b [3] Elites in South China, pages 55, 56
  11. ^ a b [4] South Indians in Kolkata: history of Kannadigas, Konkanis, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, South Indian dishes, and Tippoo Sultan's heirs in Calcutta
  12. ^ Beyond Nationalist Frames
  13. ^ Women's activism and globalization: linking local struggles and ... By Nancy A. Naples, Manisha Desai