|6 % of Bihari population plus significant population in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal|
|Hindi, Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili, Angika, Vajjika, Bundeli|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Kanyakubja Brahmins, Jujhautiya Brahmins, Saryupareen Brahmins|
|Commonly called Babhan|
Bhumihar Brahmin or Babhan or Brahmarshis is a Hindu Brahmin community mainly found in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh and Nepal.
- 1 Varna status
- 2 Origin and history
- 3 Social organisation
- 4 Domestic ceremonies and religious beliefs
- 5 Common titles and last names
- 6 Political and social movements
- 7 Some notable Bhumihar Brahmin personalities
- 8 See also
- 9 References
The Bhumihars are classified in the Brahmin varna of the Indian caste system and traditionally are landowners. Their land has been acquired at different times through grants by kings or during the rule of Brahmin kings. In ancient times, the Brahmin Empires like Sunga Empire and Kanva dynasty are believed to be the historical ancestors of present day Bhumihar Brahmins.
The Kanyakubja Mahati Sabha, an association of Kanyakubja Brahmins, determined at its 19th and 20th national conventions in 1926 and 1927 that the Bhumihar Brahmins are among the Kanyakubja Brahmin communities, which also include the Sanadhya, Pahadi, Jujhoutia, Saryupareen, Chattisgarhi, and different Bengali Brahmins.
"Kanyakubj Vanshavali" mentions five branches of Kanyakubja Brahmins as Saryupareen, Sanadhya, Bhumihar, Jujhautiya and Prakrit Kanaujia:
Saryupareen Sanadhyascha Bhumiharo Jijhoutayah
Prakritashcha Iti Panchabhedastasya Prakartitah
First modern Indologist of Indian origin, and a key figure in the Bengal Renaissance, Rajendralal Mitra writes about the five branches of Kanyakubja Brahmins as Saryupareen, Sanadhya, Bhumihar, Jujhoutia and Prakrit Kanaujia or Kanyakubj proper. In Kanyakubj Vanshavalis (360 on record), it is mentioned that Kashyap gotra Bhumihar Brahmins are ancestors of Kashyap gotra Kanyakubja Brahmins, making Kashyap gotriya Sanadhya Brahmins also as descendents of Kashyap gotriya Bhumihar Brahmins. Threfore, it is merely a difference in profession between Kanyakubja proper and Bhumihar Brahmins where they kept converting from Ajachak (Bhumihar) to Jachak(Kanyakubja) and from Jachak(Kanyakubja) to Ajachak(Bhumihar) depending on the times which shows the jivikartha karma of Brahmins.
Bhumihars have been the traditional priests in Prayag, at Vishnupad Mandir in Gaya as Gayawar Pandas and in the adjoining districts like Hazaribagh. The Kingdom of Kashi belonged to Bhumihar Brahmins and big zamindari like Bettiah Raj, Hathwa Raj, Pandooi Raj and Tekari Raj, Sheohar Raj, Ram Nagar belonged to them. Bhumihars were well respected Brahmins in the courts of Dumraon Maharaj, King of Nepal and Raj Darbhanga. Some Mohyal Brahmins migrated eastward and are believed to constitute some sub-divisions of Bhumihars.There is also a significant migrant population of Bhumihars in Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and others.
Origin and history
When Parashurama destroyed the Kshatriya race, and he set up in their place the descendants of Brahmins, who, after a time, having mostly abandoned their priestly functions, took to land-owning (Zamindari) or became kings. Lord Parashurama was the first Bhumihar. The ancestor of Dronwar Bhumihar Brahmins is Guru Dronacharya and that of Kashi Naresh is Gautama Maharishi.
The literal meaning of Bhumihar is Bhumi – "Land", kara or hara – "maker" in Sanskrit. In the language of the Indian feudal system, Bhum is the name given to a kind of tenure similar to the Inams and Jagirs of Mohammedan times. By a Bhum, according to the Rajputana gazetteer, a hereditary, non-resumable and inalienable property in the soil was inseparably bound up with the revenue-free title. The meaning of the designation Bhumihar being as stated above, the Bhumihar Brahmins are evidently those Brahmins who held grants of land for secular services. Bhum was given as compensation for bloodshed in order to quell a feud for distinguished services in the field, for protection of services in the field, for protection of a border, or for the watch and ward of a village.
By the 16th century, Bhumihars known as "karm kandi pandit" controlled vast stretches of territory, particularly in North Bihar. In South Bihar, their most prominent representative was the Tekari family, whose large estate in Gaya dates back to the early 18th century. 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 19th century because of their perceived primary role as mutineers in the Mutiny of 1857, led by Mangal Pandey.
Some Bhumihars had settled in Chandipur, Murshidabad, Bardhaman during late 19th and early 20th centuries where they are at the top of the social hierarchy. Pandit Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya in his book Hindu Castes and Sects published in 1896, went on to write about the origin of Bhumihar Brahmins of Bihar and Banaras as: "The clue to the exact status of the Bhumihar Brahmans is afforded by their very name. The word literally means a landholder. In the language of the Indian feudal systems, Bhoom is the name given to a kind of tenure similar to the Inams and Jagirs of Mohammedan times. By a Bhoom, according to the Rajputana Gazeteer, an hereditary, non-resumableand inalienable property in soil was inseparably bound up with a revenue-free title. Bhoom was given as a compensation for bloodshedin order to quell a feud, for distinguished services in the field, for protection of a border or for the watch and ward of the village. The meaning of the designation Bhumihar being as stated above, the Bhumihar Brahmans are evidently these Brahmans who held grants of land for secular service. Whoever held a secular fief was Bhumihar. Where a Brahman held such a tenure, he was called a Bhumihar Brahman....Bhumihar Brahmans are sometimes called simply Bhumihars..."
They perform all their religious ceremonies in the same manner as other Brahmins, but as they also practice secular occupations like the Laukik Brahmans of Southern India, they are not entitled to accept religious gifts or to minister to anyone as priest. The usual surnames/titles of the Bhumihar Brahmins are same as those of other Brahmins of Northern India. Being a fighter by caste few of them have Rajputana surnames/titles. The general editor of the book "People of India (Bihar and Jharkhand)", published by Anthropological Survey of India (ASI), and noted academician-bureaucrat, the late Kumar Suresh Singh, said that the surname Singh, which used to denote connection with power and authority, was used in Bihar by Brahmin zamindars, like the surname "Khan" in Muslims.
Before independence, it was the custom of the Bhumihar Brahmins to stage an elaborate Kālī puja, during which annual payments were made to servants and gifts of cloth were distributed to dependents, both Hindu and Muslim.
M. A. Sherring in his book Hindu Tribes and Castes as Reproduced in Benaras published in 1872, mentions, "Great important distinctions subsist between the various tribes of Brahmins. Some are given to learning, some to agriculture, some to politics and some to trades. The Maharashtra Brahmin is very different being from the Bengali, while the Kanaujia (Kanyakubja Brahmins) differs from both. Only those Brahmins who perform all six duties are reckoned perfectly orthodox. Some perform three of them, namely, the first, third and fifth and omit the other three. Hence Brahmins are divided into two kinds, the Shat-karmas and the tri-karmas or those who perform only three. The Bhumihar Brahmins for instance are tri-karmas, and merely pay heed to three duties.
Bhumihars were referred to as "Military Brahmin" by Francis Buchanan and as "Magadh Brahmin" by William Adam in 1883. William Crooke in his book, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, has mentioned Bhuinhar as an important tribe of landowners and agriculturists in eastern districts and that they are also known as Babhan, Zamindar Brahman, Grihastha Brahman, or Pachchima or 'western' Brahmans.
Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, a Bhumihar himself, wrote extensively on Brahmin society and on the origin of Bhumihars. He stated that the Bhumihars are among the superior Brahmins. Some Bhumihar Brahmins are also known for their secular and unorthodox practices, where some of them are also descendants of Husseini Brahminss. On the social scale, although the Bhumihars are known to be Brahmins, on account of the fact that they were cultivators they were not given the ritual status of Brahmins. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who came from a Niyogi Brahmin community who are just like the Bhumihar Brahmins and are called Laukik or Ajachak Brahmins attests in his Hindu View of Life to the fact of "The Rishis of yore were agriculturists and sometimes warriors too".
Siyaram Tiwari, the former dean at Visva Bharati University, stated that the Bhumihars are "landed Brahmins who stopped taking alms and performing pujas and rituals", These are Tyagis of Western UP, Zamindar Bengali Brahmins, Niyogi Brahmins of Andhra Pradesh, Nambudiri Brahmin and Ezhavathy Brahmins of Kerala, Chitpavans of Maharashtra, Anavil Desais of Gujarat and Mohyals of Punjab. Bhumihars are classified in the Brahmin varna in Hinduism and hence use the designation Bhumihar Brahmin.
Acharya Tarineesh Jha, himself a Maithil Brahmin scholar has attested how from ancient times to modern all great Brahmin scholars like Maithili Manishi Mahamahopadhyay Chitradhar Mishra, Mahamahopadhyay Balkrishna Mishra; Saryupareen Brahmin scholars Mahamahopadhyay Dwivedi, Mahamahopadhyay Shivkumar Shastri, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi; Kanyakubja Brahmins scholars Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, Pandit Laxminarayan Dixit Shastri, Pandit Venkatesh Narayan Tiwari and others have mentioned about Bhumihar Brahmins as their fellow Brahmin brothers.
They are also called Ajachak Brahmans, i.e., Brahmans who do not take alms (jachak) in contrast to the ordinary Brahmans who are Jachaks or almstakers but there are still some who traditionally take alms as in Gaya and Hazaribagh. Like fellow Brahmans, they did not use to hold the plough, but employed labourers for the purpose.
The census returns give no less than four hundred and fifty-eight sections: but here the territorial sections and the Brahminical gotras are mixed up together. The most important local sections are the Gautama, and Kolaha in Banaras; the Gautama in Mirzapur; Bhriguvanshi, Donwar, Gautama, Kinwar, Kistwar, Sakarwar, Sonwar, in Ghazipur; Bhagata, Kinwar, Benwar, of Ballia; the Baghochhiya, Baksaria, Gautama, Kaushik and Sakarwar (Sankritya) of Gorakhpur; the Barasi, Birhariya of Basti; and the Barwar, Bharadwaj, Parashar of Siwan, Denwar, Gargbans, Gautama, Purvar, Sakarwar, and Shandilya of Azamgarh. 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."
Domestic ceremonies and religious beliefs
The Bhumihar Brahmins follow in every respect the standard Brahminical rules. They are usually Shaivas and Shaktas. There are also Vaishnavas, following the Tatvavada school of Madhavacharya. Bhumihar Brahmins, like all other Brahmins are endogamous, but marital relations are known to exist since ancient times between Bhumihar Brahmins and Maithil Brahmins in Tirhut and Mithila and between Bhumihar Brahmins and Kanyakubja Brahmins in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh where Kanchanwar and Jihoutia clan of Bhumihar Brahmins live. Bhumihar Brahmin men of Purnea took to Maithil Brahmin wives in Purnea and married their daughters to Bhumihar Brahmin/Babhan men.
Common titles and last names
Common titles of Bhumihar Brahmins are Pandey, Shukla, Mishra, Ojha, Yajee, Karjee, Dwivedi, Sharma, Tiwari, Tripathi, Upadhyay but Awasthi, Dixit, Malviya and Jha are known to exist. However, due to their profession of kings and landholders a lot of Bhumihar Brahmins use Rai, Singh, and Shahi in Uttar Pradesh and Kunwar, Thakur, Chaudhary, and Singh in Bihar, and Pradhan in Jharkhand. Some Singh converted and anglicised their surnames to Sinha
Bhumihars are considered a politically volatile community. Bhumihar Brahmins in Champaran had revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia) and Pandit Raj Kumar Shukla took Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran and the Champaran Satyagraha began. Sri Krishna Sinha, born into a Bhumihar Brahmin family is considered the architect of modern Bihar. Barring the war years, Shri Babu (Sri Krishna Sinha was Chief Minister of Bihar from the time of the first Congress Ministry in 1937 until his death in 1961. He led Dalit’s entry into the Baidyanath Dham temple (Vaidyanath Temple, Deoghar), reflecting his commitment to the upliftment and social empowerment of dalits. He was the first Chief Minister in the country to abolish the zamindari system.
The community has produced stalwarts like Sir Ganesh Dutt, lone minister representing pre-independence interim government from the then united Bihar and Orissa province, and Ram Dayalu Singh, the first Speaker of Bihar legislative assembly.
Nationalist, trade unionist, and the first leader of opposition in Bihar Basawon Singh (Sinha), the stalwart Communist leader Pandit Karyanand Sharma and the biggest Jan Sangh leader from the state Kailashpati Mishra were all Bhumihar Brahmins.
Some notable Bhumihar Brahmin personalities
Scholars, writers and government agency
- Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Ram Avatar Sharma- was an Indian Sanskrit scholar and academic, apart from being an indologist and historian Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India and a favourite student of Pandit Sharma
- Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan- who is called the Father of Hindi Travel literature,was one of the most widely-traveled scholars of India, spending forty-five years of his life on travels away from his home.He is referred to as the 'Greatest Scholar' (Mahapandit) for his scholarship.He got Sahitya Akademi Award in 1958 and later Padma Bhushan in 1963.
- Nalin Vilochan Sharma-was a professor of Hindi Literature in University of Patna.
- Swami Sahajanand Saraswati-Writer,Freedom Fighter
- Vagish Shastri- Sanskrit Grammarian
- Ram Karan Sharma- Sanskrit poet and scholar
- Kapil Muni Tiwary- is a former professor and head of the department of Linguistics and Literature at Patna University and currently a professor of English in Yemen.
- Siyaram Tiwari -Littrateur, He served Nalanda Open University, Patna as Chief Co-ordinator in the Faculty of Languages for three years.
- Shashindra Pal Tyagi - Air Chief Marshal and former IAF Chief
- Acharya Kishore Kunal -Hindu philosopher and Bihar Religious Trusts Board chairman, is a retired IPS Officer.
- Pandit Devendranath Sharma- was a writer and scholar of Hindi Literature. He was also a playwright, and the Vice Chancellor of the universities of Patna and Bhagalpur.
- Vinod Rai is the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
- Ram Sharan Sharma-was an eminent historian of Ancient and early Medieval India.He taught at Patna University, Delhi University (1973–85) and the University of Toronto and was a senior fellow at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; University Grants Commission National Fellow (1958–81) and President of Indian History Congress in 1975. It was during the tenure of Professor R. S. Sharma as the Dean of Delhi University's History Department in the 1970s that major expansion of the department took place. The creation of most of the positions in the Department owes to Professor Sharma's efforts. He is the founding Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and a historian of international repute.He is from Barauni, Begusarai, British India.
- Professor G. R. Sharma archaeologist and historian.
- Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' Member of Parliament,Poet, Essayist, Literary critic, Journalist, Satirist, Rashtrakavi ("National poet")
- V.S.Naipaul-Novelist, travel writer, essayist.He got Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, Booker Prize in 1971 numerous other literary prizes.
- Rambriksh Benipuri-Writer, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist
- Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Buddhist scholar
- Professor Ramjee Singh Philosopher, Gandhian activist
- Balmiki Prasad Singh writer, scholar, administrator, Governor of Sikkim
- R. K. Sinha scholar of English
- Vibhuti Narain Rai Indian Police Service officer and an eminent writer
- Acharya Kuber Nath Rai Scholar of Hindi and Sanskrit
- Viveki Rai famous writer in Hindi and Bhojpuri
- Abhayanand Present Director General of Police, Government of Bihar
- Sri Krishna Rai Hridyesh,Prominent literary figure of Hindi.
- Mridula Sinha - female writer in Hindi Literature
- Pankaj Rag - Poet, writer, Historian, Archaeologist, and Indian Administrative Service officer
- Dushyant Kumar - Great Hindi Writer
- J. K. Sinha former Director General of Police of Central Reserve Police Force
- Vijendra Narayan Singh Hindi writer and critic
- Dr. Madhusudan Mishra Sanskrit scholar and professor of Linguistics; http://www.indusscript.com/author.html
- Acharya Shiv Balak Rai Sanskrit scholar, Ramayana scholar, Hindi Literature
- Baleshwar Rai Indian Administrative Service official
- Dhananjay Singh Executive Director, National HRD Network
- Air Marshal(Retd) Bejoy Kumar Pandey, Former Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command,Indian Air Force.A living legend, a scholar of his service and a staunch Indian.
- Avinash Rai From Nallasopara
- Yogendra Shukla
- Shaheed Baikuntha Shukla
- Basawon Singh (Sinha)
- Raj Kumar Shukla
- Pandit Yadunandan (Jadunandan) Sharma
- Pandit Yamuna Karjee
- Ramdhari Singh Dinkar-Freedom Fighter
- Gauri Shankar Rai-Freedom Fighter, participated in Quit India Movement.
- Indradeep Sinha- Freedom Fighter
- Ganga Sharan Singh (Sinha)-nationalist, freedom fighter and litterateur,MP
- Pandit Karyanand Sharma- nationalist and peasant leader who led movements against zamindars and British.
- Sri Krishna Sinha - First Chief Minister of Bihar.
- Mangal Pandey
- Sir Ganesh Dutt
- Sir Chandeshwar Prasad Narayan Singh
- Lalit Mohan Sharma- 24th Chief Justice of India,S/O-L.N. Sinha..
- L.N. Sinha- former Attorney General of India and He was also the Solicitor General of India from 17 July 1972 until 5 April 1977
- Arvind Kumar Sharma-Current Principal Secretary To Chief Minister Gujarat
Monarchs and zamindars
- Maharajadhiraj- Prabhu Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur,Maharaja of Benaras & Moving force behind Benaras Hindu Vishwavidyalaya(BHU).He donated 1,300 acres (5.3 km2)of land in the heart of Benaras.
- Vibhuti Narayan Singh,Maharaja of Benaras,Custodian of Kashi Viswanath Temple-Most Important Hindu Shrine in the world.
- Maharaja Sir Harendra Kishore Singh-was the last ruler of Bettiah Raj.
- Tekari Raj-Gaya-Bihar
Entertainment, sports and films
- Sandali Sinha- Bollywood actress
- Gurmeet Chaudhary-TV Actor,A native of Jairampur (Bhagalpur)
- Shilpa Shukla
- Neha Sharma
- Sudeep Tyagi-Indian International Cricketer.
- Adi Shankara
- Kingdom of Kashi- an independent Bhumihar Brahmin state until 1994.
- Royal House of Benares- was the ruling Bhumihar Brahmin family of Benares
- Kanyakubja Brahmins
- Jujhautiya Brahmins
- Sangli State
- Hathwa Raj
- Bettiah Raj
- Tekari Raj
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