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Kulin Brahmins are those Brahmins in Bengal who can trace themselves to the five families of Kanauj (Kanyakubja), Uttar Pradesh who migrated to Bengal.They were given immense power during the reign of the Sena/Sen kings who were staunch Hindus and did not encourage the practice of any other religion. The five Brahmin families were differentiated by their gotras. The Kanaujiya/kanyakubj Brahmins who settled in Bengal had the following gotras: (Shandilya, Bhardwaj, Kashyap, Saavarna and Vatsav/Vatsya); these gotras denote the Rishis whose followers the Brahmins were.
Some of these kuleen families settled in Barendrabhoom and some in Rarhbhoom. The descendants of these families became known as Rarhi and Barendra Brahmins as per their settlement.
The Kulin Pratha or Kulin System was initiated by the Sena kings in Bengal whereby the kings gave land and power to the Brahmins to promote vedic principles in the society, leading to a strict and disciplined lifestyle. Simultaneously they also enforced strict rules on family and marriage rules on Brahmins, leading to the birth of Kulin Brahmins, an apex section/class/caste of the society. It was said that a person is Kulin if and only if all the 14 generations on his father's and mother's side were Kulin. This created a very problematic divide in the society. This was also opposed by many Brahmins. Yet it became a norm, probably because the kulin Brahmins got lured by the newly acquired power in the society.
It was a very strict practice leading to many problems in Bengali society. If a daughter of a Kulin family doesn't wed in a Kulin family then the parent family loses their Kulin identity. These led to several problems like young girls getting married to old Kulin married men out of desperation of finding a Kulin groom. It was not uncommon for Kulin grooms to have several wives, most of which stayed at their parents home, just to be wed (for the sake of the ritual) to a Kulin and hence maintain their Kulin status.
- "Hindu Castes and Sects", Jogendranath Bhattacharya, Thacker, Spink & Company, Calcutta, 1896.
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