Brahmin

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This article is about the social caste. For the moth family, see Brahmaeidae. For similarly spelled words, see Brahman (disambiguation).
Brahmin (Brahmana)
Religions Om.svg Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism

Brahmin (/ˈbrɑːmɪn/; also called Brahmana; from the Sanskrit brāhmaṇa ब्राह्मण) are traditional Hindu societies of India, Nepal and The Far East.

Brahman, Brahmin, and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self. Brahmin (or Brahmana) refers to an individual belonging to the Hindu priest, artists, teachers, technicians class (varna or pillar of the society) and also to an individual belonging to the Brahmin tribe/caste into which an individual is born; while the word Brahma refers to the creative aspect of the universal consciousness or God. Because the priest / Acharya is knowledgeable about Brahma (the God), and is responsible for religious rituals in temples and homes and is a person authorized after rigorous training in vedas (sacred texts of knowledge) and religious rituals to provide advice and impart knowledge of God to members of the society and assist in attainment of moksha, the liberation from life cycle; the priest / Acharya class is called "Brahmin varna." The English word brahmin is an anglicized form of the Sanskrit word Brāhmana.

According to ancient Indian philosophers and scholars, the human society comprises four pillars or classes called varnas or colors. In the ancient Indian texts such as Smritis, vedas, upanishads, puranas, etc., these four "varnas" or classes or pillars of the society are: the priests / Acharya (Brahmins), the rulers and military (Kshatriyas), the merchants and agriculturists(Vaishyas), and the Assistants (Shudras).

Brahmin priests / Acharya were engaged in attaining the highest spiritual knowledge (brahmavidya) of Brahman (God) and adhered to different branches (shakhas) of Vedas. Brahmin priest is responsible for religious rituals in temples and homes of Hindus and is a person authorized after rigorous training in vedas and sacred rituals, and as a liaison between humans and the God. In general, as family vocations and businesses are inherited, priesthood used to be inherited among Brahmin priest families, as it requires years of practice of vedas from childhood after proper introduction to student life through a religious initiation called upanayana at the age of about five.

The Brahmin priest has to wake up at four in the morning and bathe in cold water, rain or shine, warm or cold. Then, without a break, he has to perform one rite after another: sandhyavandana, brahmayajna,[1] aupasana, puja, vaisvadeva and at least one of the 21 sacrifices for hours, in front of a sacred fire, with all the heat and smoke. So many are the vows and the fasts the priest must keep, and as many are the ritual baths the priest must take in a day. The dharmasastras require that the Brahmin priest adheres to the rules and rituals imposed on the priest not only during the performance of so many rites and rigorous discipline, but also every second of his life, because the Brahmin priest life is dedicated to God. The priest performing rituals, may have his first meal at 1 or 2 PM (and on the day of a sraddha (cremation)) it will be three or four PM). The Brahmin priest's vegetarian meal and dwelling are simple and humble.[2][3]

Individuals from the Brahmin castes/tribes have taken on many professions such as priests, ascetics and scholars to warriors and business people, according to 12th century poet Kalhana, in Rajatarangini.[4] According to Valmiki, a hunter and Sanskrit poet, in Ramayana history, Brahmin sage Parashurama is an Avatar (divine incarnate representation) of Lord Vishnu, who takes up arms against kings to deliver justice. Sage Parashurama is portrayed as a powerful warrior who defeated the Haiheya kshatriyas twenty one times, was an expert in martial arts and the use of weapons, and trained others to fight without weapons.[5][6]

Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa, son of a Brahmin sage Parashara and a fisher woman Satyavathi, in his Mahabharata, describes several warriors belonging to Brahmin caste/tribe, such as Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Parashurama etc., who were professors in the schools of martial arts and the art of war.

History[edit]

Main article: History of Hinduism

Tatrapi janma shata kotishu manavatvam : After attaining shata koti [Hundred crore] janma [births] one comes to manava janma.

Tatrapi janma shata kotishu brahmanatvam : After attaining shata koti[Hundred crore] manava janma [human births] one comes to Brahmana janma.

Tatrapi janma shata kotishu vaishnavatvam : After attaining shata koti[Hundred crore] Brahmana janma [Brahmin births] ones comes to vaishnava janma

According to Purusha Sukta, a Rigveda hymn, Brahmins were born from purusha's (Vishwakarma's) face.[7][8]

Most sampradayas (sects) of modern Brahmins claim to take inspiration from the Vedas. According to orthodox Hindu tradition, the Vedas are apauruṣeya and anādi (beginning-less), and are revealed truths of eternal validity. The Vedas are considered Śruti ("that which is heard") and are the paramount source on which Brahmin tradition claims to be based. Śruti texts include the four Vedas (the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda), and their respective Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.

Apart from clerical positions, Brahmins have also historically been ministers (known as Sachivas or Amatyas) in dynasties.

Clerical positions[edit]

  1. Swami (Priest) - Purohita (performer for domestic ceremonies) and Rtvij (performer of seasonal ceremonies)
  2. Acarya or Upadhyaya (Spiritual teacher)
  3. Yogin
  4. Tapasvin - Mendicant

Classification of priests[edit]

Pāṇini classes priests into four classes, according to the four Vedas, and then further describes priests subordinate to them.[9]

  1. Adhvaryu (of the Yajur Veda), and their subordinate priests are Pratiprasthata, Nestha, and Unneta
  2. Udgatta (of the Rig Veda), and their subordinate priests are Prastota, Pratiharta, Subrahmanya
  3. Hotr (of the Sama Veda) or chanter of invocations, and their subordinate priests are Maitra varuna, Achchhavak, Pota
  4. Brahma (of the Atharva Veda), and their subordinate priests are Brahmanachhansi, Agnidhra, Gravastuta

Requirements for being Brahmin[edit]

According to a Buddhist scripture, at the time of the Buddha in eastern India there were five requirements for being Brahmin:[10]

  1. Varna (ubhato sujato hoti) or Brahmin status on both sides of the family
  2. Jati (avikkitto anupakutto jativadena) or born without physical defects
  3. Mantra (ajjhayako hoti mantradharo) or well-versed in scriptures
  4. Sila or virtue
  5. Panditya or learned

Practices[edit]

Brahmins, basically adhere to the principles of the Vedas, related to the texts of the Śruti and Smriti which are some the foundations of Hinduism, and practice Sanatana Dharma. Vedic Brāhmaṇas have six occupational duties, of which three are compulsory — studying the Vedas, performing Vedic rituals and practicing dharma. By teaching the insights of the Vedic literature which deals with all aspects of life including spirituality, philosophy, yoga, religion, rituals, temples, arts and culture, music, dance, grammar, pronunciation, metre, astrology, astronomy, logic, law, medicine, surgery, technology, martial arts, military strategy, etc. By spreading its philosophy, and by accepting back from the community, the Brahmins receive the necessities of life.[citation needed]

Male members of all Brahmin sects wear the Yagnopaveetham (Hindi:जनेऊ or sacred thread) that is a symbol of initiation to the Gayatri recital. This ritual is often referred to as Upanayana. This marks the learning of the Gayatri hymn. Brahmin sects also generally identify themselves as belonging to a particular Gotra, a classification based on patrilineal descent, which is specific for each family and indicates their origin.[citation needed]

Brahmin communities[edit]

The Brahmin castes may be broadly divided into two regional groups: Pancha-Gauda Brahmins from the Northern part of India (considered to be the region north of the Vindhya mountains) and Pancha-Dravida Brahmins from the region south of the Vindhya mountains as per the shloka of Kalhana.

  • Saraswat, Kanyakubja, Gaud, Utkala and Mithila form the Pancha Guada
  • Karnataka, Telangaa, Dravida, Maharashtra and Gurjarat form the Pancha Dravida

Pancha-Gauda[edit]

Adi Guru Shri Gauḍapādāchārya, the grand guru of Shri Adi Shankaracharya and the first historical proponent of Advaita Vedanta, also believed to be the founder of Shri Gaudapadacharya Math.
Main article: Pancha-Gauda

The Brahmins from Sārasvata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Mithila and Utkala, who with passage of time spread to North East, East and West, were called Pancha Gauda. This group is originally from Uttarapatha (Āryāvarta). Pancha Gauda Brahmins are divided into five main categories:

Sarasvat Brahmins[edit]

Kanyakubja Brahmins[edit]

Gauda Brahmins[edit]

Mithila Brahmins[edit]

The Maithil Brahmiṇs are a group of Brahmins typically originating from and living in and around Mithila, which is part of North Bihar. They are a community of highly cohesive, traditional Brahmins who strive to follow rites and rituals according to ancient Hindu canons.[citation needed] They have a reputation for orthodoxy and interest in learning.[citation needed] A large number of Maithil Brahmins migrated a few centuries ago to adjoining areas of South-east Bihar and Jharkhand, as well as to adjoining Terai regions of Nepal. Most of the Maithil Brahmins are Śāktas (worshippers of Śakti) . However, it is also not uncommon to find Vaishnavites among the Maithil Brahmins. Some surnames of Brahmins in Bihar include Shukla, Sharma, Mishra, Kissoon, Bhardwaj, Bhagwan, Choudhary, Jha, Bhatt, Kanojia, Kaileyas, Bhaglani, Pingal, and Lakhlani, amongst others. Maithili is their mother tongue, though many use Angika (a south-eastern dialect of Maithili) as their mother tongue.

Utkala Brahmins[edit]

The Sanskrit text Brāhmaṇotpatti-Mārtaṇḍa by Pt. Harikrishna Śāstri mentions that a king named Utkala invited Brahmins from the Gangetic Valley to perform a yajna in Jagannath-Puri in Odisha. When the yajna ended, these Brahmins laid the foundation of Lord Jagannath there and settled around Odisha, Jharkhand and Medinipur. The Utkala Brahmins are of three classes 1) Shrautiya (vaidika), 2) Sevayata and 3) Halua Brahmins.

Pancha-Dravida[edit]

Brahmins who live in south of Vidhya mountains are called Pancha-Dravida Brahmins and they are divided into following groups. Drava means Water in sanskrit. Peninsular area in India surrounded by water is "Dravida".

  • Karnataka
  • Telugu
  • Dravida (Tamil Nadu & Kerala)
  • Maharashtra
  • Gujarat

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

Brahmins of Andhra Pradesh known as Telugu Brahmins are broadly classified into five groups: Vaidiki Brahmins, Vishwa Brahmins,Niyogi, Dravida Brahmins, and Vaikhānasa.[11] [12]

Niyogis are further divided into the following subcategories: Nandavarika Niyogi, Prathama Shakha Niyogi, Aaru Vela Niyogulu, Karanaalu, Sistukaranalu, Karana kamma vyaparlu, Karanakammulu.[13]

Maharashtra[edit]

During the days of Maratha India, these Marathi/Konkani Brahmins primarily served as prime ministers or Peshwas,[14] apart from taking up military jobs and converged into the sovereign or the Chhatrapati of Satara. One of the notable Peshwa families is the Bhat family, who happen to be Chitpavan Konkanastha Brahmins.[15] They took up military jobs[16] and ended up being the de facto head[17] of the Maratha Dynasty.[18] Originally the Chitpavan held a low rank in the social hierarchy amongst Marathi Brahmins, however in modern times they enjoy the same social ranking with Deshastha and Karhade Brahmins, inter-marriages between these three communities is now very common.

Karnataka[edit]

Kannada Brāhmans(ಕನ್ನಡ ಬ್ರಾಹ್ಮಣ): The Brāhmans of the Carnatic, or the Canarese country. The Canarese area comprises Mysore State, and the British Districts of Canara, Dharwar and Belgaum.[19]

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Kerala[edit]

Kerala Brahmins include the following categories of Brahmins: Namboothiri Brahmin, Vishwa Brahmin

Nepali Brahmins[edit]

Bahun is a colloquial Nepali term for a member of the Pahari or "Hill" Brahmin (ब्राह्मण) caste, who are traditionally educators, scholars and priests of Hinduism. They are also known as Barmu in Newari, Bavan in Kham. Brahmins are the second largest caste group in Nepal (12.18% of the population), with the Chhetri (Kshatriya) being the first (16.60%).[21] Brahmins were inhabitants of Nepal in prehistoric times.[citation needed] In the ancient history devkota(`देवकोटा’ यो शब्दको विकास ‘संस्कृत' र यसको अपभ्रंस रूप 'देव:कोटी' हुँदै भएको हो।) is the root of the Brahmin (वाहुन) community. They divided into different Brahmin groups.

Gotras and pravaras[edit]

Brahmins classify themselves on the basis of their patrilineal descent from a notable ancestor.[citation needed] These ancestors are either ancient Indian sages or kshatriyas (warriors), who chose to become Brahmins.[citation needed] The major gotras that trace descent from sages are: Kaushikasa/Kausika, Srivatsa, Kanva, Jamadagni, Bhrigu, Bharadvâja, Kaundinya, Gautama Maharishi, Sandilya, Bhrigu, Vashista, Parāshara, Atryasa, Harithasa, Kashyapa, Shrotriya, and Agastya gotra. Other gotras are Mitra, Vishvamitra and Chaurasia gotra.[citation needed]. And Bharathiyar gotra is newly inserted in gazette .

Rishis[edit]

Due to the diversity in religious and cultural traditions and practices, and the Vedic schools to which they belong, 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 the Brahmins.

There are several Brahmin law givers, such as Angiras, Apasthambha, Atri, Bhrigu, Brihaspati, Boudhayana, Daksha, Gautama, Harita, Katyayana, Likhita, Manu,[22] Parasara, Samvarta, Shankha, Shatatapa, Ushanasa, Vashista, Vishnu, Vyasa, Yajnavalkya, and Yama. These twenty-one rishis were the propounders of the Smritis. The oldest among these smritis are Apastamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, and Vashista Sutras.[23]Provide Vepachedu's Sources[citation needed]

Claimants of Brahmin ancestry[edit]

Rishi Agastya, one of seven vedic sages extolled at many places in the Vedas and author of Agastya Samhita

Many Indians and non-Indians(though they may have Indian relatives.) claim descent from the Vedic Rishis of both Brahmin and non-Brahmin descent.[citation needed] For example, the Dasharna and Nagas are said to be the descendants of Kashyapa Muni.[citation needed] The descent of Brahmins is generally indicated by the gotra, which refers to his patrilineage. It is indicated by the name of the 'great sage' to whose descent the Brahmin is said to belong.

Descendants of saints[edit]

Claimants of Brahmin status[edit]

  • Brahmbhatts of North India claim to be Brahmins that took on the military profession in history.
  • Brahmakshatriyas claim the status of Brahmins, and that they had taken the military profession since ancient history, and sometimes claim to descend from a Brahmin Pravara Rishi.[25]
  • Dhusar Baniyas of UP have claimed to be Bhargava Brahmins.
  • Jethis or Jyestimallas of Gujarat identify as Modh Brahmins and claim ancestry from Agnihotri Brahmins.[26]
  • Namasudra (Namassej) community of Bengal in the beginning of the twentieth century claimed Brahmin status and in 1901 a Vyavastha was signed by 41 Chief Brahmin Pundits all over Bengal, Headed By The Chief of All of them, Mahapopadhya of Nabadwip which declared the community as descendant of ancient sages or Rishis and that they should not be named or called as 'sudra".[27]
  • Namdevi Chhipas of Rajasthan consider themselves to be Joshi.[28]
  • Satnami community's certain members in Chhatisgarh claimed Brahmin status in the Status Report of 1911.[29]
  • Saini of Rajasthan (gardener) claim in one of their stories that they descended from a Brahmin and call themselves Parpadh Brahman, which in course of time became Phulmali.[30]
  • Soni community's Shrimali Sonis and Maru Kansara Soni of Gujarat claim to be Brahmins.

Achieving Brahminhood by non-Brahmins[edit]

According to the Mahabharata, originally there were only four gotras, namely of Angiras, Kashyapa, Vasistha, and Bhrigu, and that others came into existence by people performing penances.[31] In one legend, outcaste Nandanar entered a fire and came out of the fire as a Brahmin.[32] There were also some non-Brahmins, who although weren't officially coronated as Brahmin, were accepted by as Brahmins, such as Sudra-born Nandanar. In modern times, Subramanya Bharathi to illustrate the irrelevance of caste he performed upanayanam to a young harijan man and made him a Brahmin.

Sage Parasara advises King Janaka:

Brahmanas, learned in Vedas, regard a virtuous Shudra (or one born in the house of a Shudra) as a model of Brahman himself.

  • Ajamidha - A Chandavansi Kshatriya that became Brahmin and henceforth his descendants are the Kanvayana Brahmins[33]
  • Arishtishena mastered the Vedas
  • Ayu
  • Datta
  • Devapi - Kshatriya prince by birth
  • Dhrista - Manu's (Kshatryia) son that became Brahmin
  • Drupada - Kshatriya by birth
  • Duritakshaya - Kshatriya by birth
  • Dwimidha - A Kshatriya that became Brahmin and henceforth his descendants are the Kanvayana Brahmins[34]
  • Gargya - Kshatriya by birth
  • Hanuman - A Kishkindha tribal or Adivasi became a Brahmin through performing penances
  • Kavi - Kshatriya by birth
  • Matsya - A Sudra Fisherman by birth
  • Mandhata - Koli Adivasi that became a Brahmin[35]
  • Matanga - He was the son of a barber Shudra father and Brahmin mother, and achieved the status of Brahmin through his karma and tapasya
  • Mudgalya's sons all became Brahmin, according to the Padma Purana
  • Nabhagarishta's two sons became Brahmins according to the Harivamsa[36]
  • Purumidha - A Kshatriya that became Brahmin and henceforth his descendants are the Kanvayana Brahmins[34]
  • Purnananda - A Sudra by birth
  • Pushkararuni - Kshatriya by birth
  • Rom Harshan Suta Maharaja was a Sudra by caste but achieved the status of Brahmarishi
  • Satyati - A former Kshatriya king
  • Satya Kam Jabali had a maidservant mother and his father is unknown, although he learned Vedic scriptures and was given the upanayana by Gautama Rishi
  • Shadmarshana - A group of King Ikshvaku's Kshatriya descendants
  • Sindhudwipa - Kshatriya by birth
  • Traiyyaruni - Kshatriya by birth
  • Vaibhandaka - Sudra by birth
  • Valmiki - He was a Koli Adivasi and through the Ram Mantra taught to him by Narad Rishi, he performed severe austerities
  • Vishvamitra - He created the Gayatri Mantra
  • Vitahavya - Haihaya Kshatriya prince by birth, from the dynasty that Parashurama defeated but he accepted Vitahavya or Vitihotra because he was auspicious[37] and well versed in the Vedas[38], and so Vitihotra's descendants became known as Vadhulas
  • Vyasa - born a Sudra ("asat-kshetra-kula") according to the Padma Purana

Brahmin taking up other duties[edit]

Brahmins have taken on many professions - from being priests, ascetics and scholars and doctors to warriors and business people, as is attested for example in Kalhana's Rajatarangini. Many Brahmins took up the profession of medicine. There are Vaidya Brahmins (called Baidya Brahmins) in Bengal [Gupta, Dasgupta and Senguptas], described mythically as descendants of Dhanavantari, the god of medicine and father of Ayurveda.[citation needed] Brahmins with the qualities of Kshatriyas are known as 'Brahmakshatriyas'. An example is the avatara Parashurama who is considered an avataram of Vishnu. Sage Parashurama was a powerful warrior who had defeated the Haiheya kshatriyas twenty one times, was an expert in the use of weapons, and trained others to fight without weapons. The Bhumihar Brahmins were established 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 (although some still perform), took to land-owning.

Perhaps the word Brahma-kshatriya refers to a person belonging to the heritage of both castes.However, among the Royal Rajput households, Brahmins who became the personal teachers and protectors of the royal princes rose to the status of Rajpurohit 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.

The Pallavas were an example of Brahmakshatriyas as that is what they called themselves. King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir ruled all of India and even Central Asia.

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

King Jayavarma I of Kambuja (Kampuchea) of 781 A.D. was a Brahma-kshatriya.[citation needed] The Pandava Brothers were considered Brahma-Kshatriya's.[citation needed] Many Pallis of South India claim to be Brahmins, while others claim to be Agnikula Kshatriyas. Kulaman Pallis are nicknamed by outsiders as Kulaman Brahmans.[citation needed]

Brahmin Kings[edit]

Shrimant Bajirao Peshwa, the Peshwa (Premier) of the Maratha Empire of India, was a Brahmin warrior[16][39] and belonged to the ethnic Marathi Brahmin community

Kashi Naresh, the hereditary ruler of princely state of Varanasi, is a Brahmin and is hailed as dvij-raj, or king of all the Brahmins.

Among the Royal Rajput households, Brahmins who became the personal teachers and protectors of the royal princes rose to the status of Rajpurohit and taught the princes everything, including martial arts.

Mayurasharma a Brahmin scholar and a native of Talagunda (in modern Shimoga district), was the founder of the Kadamba Kingdom of Banavasi.

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. The well-known Brahmin Chanakya was a Rajpurohit for Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan empire, who helped Chandragupta get a grip on the well-established Nanand prevent was a Brahma-kshatriya.[40] King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir ruled all of India and even Central Asia.

King Rudravarma of Champa (Vietnam) of 657 A.D. was the son of a Brahmin father.[40]

Brahmins with the qualities of a Vaisya or merchant are known as 'Brahmvyasya'.[citation needed] An example of such persons are people of the Ambastha[41] caste, which exist in South India.[citation needed]

Sampradayas[edit]

The three sampradayas (sects) of Brahmins, mostly in South India are the Smarta sampradaya, the Srivaishnava sampradaya and the Madhvacharya (Swami Ananda-Teertha) Madhva sampradaya. Aadi Shakaracharya contributed towards the revival of Vedic Religion at a time when Buddhism was most popular. He toured throughout India and re-established the faith in Vedas and Hindu gods. He composed countless verses (stotras) praising all the principle forms of gods and goddesses like Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati etc., at various pilgrim centers. In the later times Ramanujacharya and Madhvaacharya gave new definitions and reviewd Vedas according to the then Social and religious circumstances and established other Sampradayas viz Shri-Vaishnav and Madhva.

Smartism[edit]

Smartism (or Smarta Sampradaya, Smarta Tradition, as it is termed in Sanskrit) is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Hindu religion. This tradition is based on the Advaithic teachings of Adi Sankaracharya. He united various sects of Hinduism under on umbrella by accepting all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman. He implored the Smarthas to have an Ishta devatha in the form of Siva, Sakthi, Vishnu, Ganesha, Murugan (Subrahmanya) or Sun. The term Smarta refers to adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras.[citation needed]

Vaishnavism[edit]

One form of Vaishnavism is Madhwa (Dwaita Sampradaya or Madhva Sampradaya), and the other is Sri Vaishnava (Vishishtadvaita sampradaya). Madhwa Brahmins are mainly located in the Carnatic plains and some of them are seen in Andhra, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They follow the teachings of Sri Madhvacharya, who was born in South Canara district of Karnataka in the 12th Century. He preached Dvaita, which says that God and atma (soul) are different entities, which is contradictory to the teachings of Sri Adi Sankaracharya, who preached Advaita vedanta (non-duality). In South India, Sri Vaishnava sampradayam was propagated by Srimad Ramanujacharya.Any way all the three philosophers though different in their philosophies believed Lord Vishnu to be the supreme soul.

Shaivism[edit]

Shaivism (sometimes called Shivaism) is a belief system where Lord Shiva is worshipped as the Supreme Lord. It is a derivative faith of the core Vedic tradition.[citation needed] Saiva sects contains many subsects, such as Asdisaivas, Rudrasaivas, Veerasiavas, Paramasaivas, etc. Ravana, the ruler of Lanka in the Hindu epic Ramayana, was a staunch Siva devotee, who was the grandson of creator Brahma.

Buddhism[edit]

Although the orthodox Brahmin and Sramana communities were typically opponents, Buddha admired the Brahmin attributes of 1) The Truth (Sacca or Satya), 2) Austerities (Tapas), 3) Chastity (Brahmacariya), 4) Study of Vedic lore (Ajjhena or Adhyayana), 5) Munificence (Caga or Tyaga).

In Buddha's time there were two major types of wandering ascetics, the Paribbajakas and Sramanas. Paribbajakas were exclusively Brahmins.[42]

There were some Buddhist Brahmins that contributed much to the Brahmin communities or to Brahmin ascetic communities. Gautamiputra Satakarni, the Satavahana king, declares himself to be the sole protector of the Brahmins.[43]

Brahmins were treated as equals to all the rest, in the eyes of the Buddha and there are countless references to Brahmins throughout the Buddhist scriptures also. Buddha rejected the notion of gradation along caste lines and of the legitimacy of the higher social status, as well as the notion of ritual purity as claimed by the Brahmins compared to others.[44] Many of the major Buddhist followers and teachers were from Brahmins. They include Sariputra, Maudgalyayana, Mahakashyapa, Nagarjuna, Asvaghosha, Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, Nagasena, Kumarajiva and Shantideva, all of whom were referred by their titles devoid of their caste as Arahats etc. The word Brahmin, meaning "priest class", was redefined by the Buddha and it continued to be used alongside Arahat in their relevant contexts.[45] Max Muller points out that in the Dhamapada, Buddha etymologizes the word "Bahama", the Prakrit form of "Brahmana", by playing off the Sanskrit/Prakrit etymon -bra.

In the Ambattha Sutra, we find the Buddha debated many Brahmins who were clearly not Arahats. Also in many important dharanis, Brahmins are mentioned in an entirely different capacity from Arahats, and therefore there is a marked difference depending on the context. The Buddha insisted that Brahmins had to live up to seek the truth, hence reach liberation(Nirvana) through the Dhamma, and this could not be by ascriptive factor of birth alone. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha mentions Brahmins and Arahats in very different capacities and dedicates an entire chapter to what it means to be a real Brahmin called the Brahmana-vagga as well.[46]

The Buddha did not believe in caste discrimination but he did endorse a fair division of labour based on merit and equality, while condemning pathological division of labour through slavery, forced labour, superstition etc. According to him, Brahmins were not to discriminate against lower castes and those of their own who joined the sangha, through the notion of purity and superior social status, which according to the buddha was false.[44][45] but were to serve them wholeheartedly. Many sutras indicate that the Buddha himself was a Brahmin in a previous life and, due to his good merit as in the previous lives, was reborn as the Buddha.[47]

The notion of ritual purity provided a conceptual foundation for the caste system, by identifying occupations and duties associated with impure or taboo objects as being themselves impure. Regulations imposing such a system of ritual purity and taboos are absent from the Buddhist monastic code, and not generally regarded as being part of Buddhist teachings[48] On the contrary, the early Buddhist scriptures defined purity as determined by one's state of mind, and refer to anyone who behaves unethically, of whatever caste, as "rotting within", or "a rubbish heap of impurity".[49]

There are many places in which the Buddha explains his use of the word brahman. At Sutta Nipata 1.7, Vasala Sutta, verse 12, he states: "Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes a brahman."[50]

Scholar Asim Chatterjee adds,

Jainism[edit]

Jain Brahmins are known by different names according to the regions they are in India. These titles are Arcaka, Indra, Jain Brahmin, Pandit, Purohit, or Upadhye.[52]

It was with the introduction of Jainism to Brahmins that it became popularized. There were many Brahmins who dedicated their lives to serving Jainism. Tirthankara Mahavira's chief disciples, 11 in number, were all Brahmins.

A Ganga Dynasty epigraph at Sravana Belgola reads,

The celebrated Gopanandi accomplished what had been impossible for any one ; for he caused the Jina dharma which had for a long time been at standstill, to attain the prosperity and fame of the time of the Ganga kings.[53]

An inscription of Nagavarma II declares he was "born of a heavenly coral tree arising in the ocean of Brahmans." Chamunda Raya earned several titles such as Samara-Parashurama.[54] Local languages too flourished with Jain Brahmins and Pampa, Ponna and Ranna, popularly known as 'three jewels of Kannada literature' enriched Kannada literature.[55]

The importance of Brahmins was recognized in Jain scriptures, and the need to protect them is explicitly referred to in the Purananuru, Silappadikaram, and the Jivaka-chintamani.[56]

  • The first convert of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism was Indrabhuti (aka Gautamswami) the Brahmin, who headed a group of other Brahmins and converted them to Jainism. He was from the village Gobbar (also called Govarya) near Rajgriha. It is said that the Tapsas, who were competing with Gautama to reach the top of a hill, achieved moksha by seeing Gautama win.[57]
  • Akalanka of the 8th century is said to the pioneer in the field of Jain logic.
  • Dhanapala (10th century) was a renowned stotra writer. He was converted by his brother Shobana. He is best known for his hymns named Rsabhapancasika, written in Prakrit (Jaina-Maharastri).[58]
  • Dhangiri, a reputedly wealthy Brahmin, in the town of Tumbhivan, lost his interest in wealth and decided to take Diksha, after hearing the sermons of the Jain Acharya Sinhgiri.
  • Sajjambhava was another born from Rajgriha and was elected the head of the Jain temple. He is famous for his composition of the "Dasavaikalika Sutra."
  • Shushil Kumar, an Acharya known better to Jains as "Guruji", was born a Vaidik in the Shakarpur village of the Haryana province. At the age of 15, he took Diksha (became a sanyassin) into the Sthanakvasi, a Shwetambara subsect.
  • Vidyanand is a Brahmin Acharya of the Digambar Jain sect and compiled in the Sanskrit language, "Ashta Shahastri" with eight thousand verses.
  • Umasvati was a composer who was so loved by Jains that he is considered by the Dhigambar sect to be a Dhigambar member and the Svetambara sect to be a Svetambara member.
  • There is a Brahmin community in South Karnataka which is traditional follower of Jainism and is known as Jain Brahmin. They have a hostel for students in Mysore, known as Jain Brahmin Hostel. This community is different from the Jain priests in Jain temples.

Other sects[edit]

There are additional sampradayas, which are not as widely followed:

The Mahima Dharma or "Satya Mahima Alekha Dharma" was founded by the Brahmin Mukunda Das of present-day Odisha, popularly known by followers as Mahima Swami according to the Bhima Bhoi text.[59] He was born in the last part of the 18th century, in the former state of Baudh, a son of Ananta Mishra. He was Brahmin by caste as mentioned in Mahima Vinod of Bhima Bhoi in Vol.11. This sampradaya is similar to Vaishnavism. Although the members of this sect do not worship Lord Vishnu as their Ishta-Deva, they believe that the Srimad Bhagavatam is sacred. The founder of this sect was a Vaishnavite before founding the new order.[59] This sampradaya was founded in the latter part of the 18th century.[59]

There is also the Avadhoot Panth, wherein Lord Dattatreya and his forms such as Narasimha Saraswati and Sai Baba of Shirdi are worshiped. Lord Dattatreya is worshiped by many as the Hindu trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in one divine entity. Many even worship Dattatreya as an Avatar of Vishnu or of Shiva.

Burma (Myanmar)[edit]

Manipuri astrologers and Brahmins in Burma, 1900

Historically, Brahmins, known as ponna (ပုဏ္ဏား) in modern-day Burmese, formed an influential group in Burma prior to British colonialism. Until the 1900s, ponna referred to Indians who had arrived prior to colonial rule, distinct from kala, Indians who arrived during British rule. During the Konbaung dynasty, court Brahmins were consulted by kings before moving royal capitals, waging wars, making offerings to Buddhist sites like the Mahamuni Buddha, and for astrology.[60] Burmese Brahmins can be divided into four general groups, depending on their origins:

  • Manipur Brahmins (Burmese: မုနိပူရဗြာဟ္မဏ): Brahmins who were sent to Burma after Manipur became a Burmese vassal state in the 1700s and ambassadors from Manipur
  • Arakanese Brahmins (Burmese: ရခိုင်ဗြာဟ္မဏ): Brahmins brought to Burma from Arakan after it was conquered by the Konbaung king Bodawpaya
  • Sagaing Brahmins: the oldest Brahmins in Burmese society, who consulted the Pyu, Burman[disambiguation needed] and Mon kingdoms prior to the Konbaung dynasty
  • Indian Brahmins: Brahmins who arrived with British colonial rule when Burma became a part of the British Raj

According to Burmese chronicles, Brahmins in Burma were subject to the four-caste system, which included brahmanas (ဗြာဟ္မဏ), kshatriyas (ခတ္တိယ), vaishya (ဝေဿ), and shudra (သုဒ္ဒ). Because the Burmese monarchy enforced the caste system for Indians, Brahmins who broke caste traditions and laws were subject to punishment. In the Arakanese kingdom, punished Brahmins often became kyun ponna (ကျွန်ပုဏ္ဏား), literally 'slave Brahmins', who made flower offerings to Buddha images and performed menial tasks. During the Konbaung dynasty, caste was indicated by the number of salwe (threads) worn; Brahmins wore nine, while the lowest caste wore none. Brahmins are also fundamental in the Nine-God cult, called the Nine Divinities (Phaya Ko Su ဘုရားကိုးစု) which is essentially a Burmese puja (puzaw in Burmese) for appeasing nine divinities, Buddha and the eight arahats, or a group of nine deities, five Hindu gods and four nat spirits.[60] This practice continues to be practiced in modern-day Burma.

Thailand[edit]

Brahmins in Thailand are known as 'Phram' or 'Paahm' (Thai: พราหมณ์ ) and claim ancestry to Indian Brahmins who migrated to Thailand in the 6th century AD[61]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]