Mukherjee (Bengali: মুখার্জি Mukharji), Mookerjee or Mukerji or Mukherji is a Bengali surname, common among residents of the Indian state of West Bengal. The traditional Bengali version is মুখোপাধ্যায় Mukhopaddhae, which is sometimes written Mukhopadhyay, which is alternately spelled as Mookerjee or Mukerji. According to the Indian caste system, Mukherjees have traditionally belonged to the Kulin Brahmin group and along with Chatterjee, Banerjee, and Ganguly, constitute the top ranks of the Bengali Brahmin caste.
All Mukherjees belong to the Bharadwaj Gotra or the clan of Rishi Bharadwaj. The Mukherjees belong to the Kulin Brahmin class and are also classified as Radh Brahmins. The origins of most Brahmins in Southern Bengal was the Gangetic plains of Northern India, chiefly Kanauj. The Mukherjees, along with Banerjees, Chatterjees and Gangulys moved on to settle on the western banks of the Bhagirathi river in Southern Bengal during the reign of the Sena Dynasty of Bengal. This region is known as Radh or Radh Bhoomi, leading to these clans of Brahmins being categorized as Radh Brahmins.
For several decades from the 1970s to the 1990s, the West Bengal Higher Secondary board mandatorily changed all spelling variants (Mukherjee, Mukerjee, Mookerji etc.) to Mukhopadhyay (as was done with Bannerjee, Ganguly, etc.)
Historical and traditional accounts
The earliest historically verifiable presence of Brahmins in Bengal can be ascertained from Dhanaidaha copper-plate inscription of Kumargupta 1 of the Gupta Year 113 (433 C.E.) which records the grant of land to a Brahmin named Varahasvamin of the Samavedi school. A copper-plate grant from the Gupta period found in the vicinity of Somapura mentions a Brahmin donating land to a Jain vihara at Vatagohali. Literary sources like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jain and Buddhist works, however record the presence of Brahmins in various parts of Bengal during earlier periods. Historical evidence also attests significant presence of Brahmins in Bengal during the Maurya period. The Jain Acharya Bhadrabahu, regarded to be the preceptor of Chandragupta Maurya is said to have been born in Brahmin family of Pundravardhana ( or Puṇḍra, the region north of the Ganges and west of Brahmaputra in Bengal, later known as Vārendra). Such evidences suggest Puṇḍra or Vārendra and regions west of Bhagirathi (called Radha in ancient age) to be seats of Brahmins from ancient times; Rādhi and Varendra are still chief branches of Bengali Brahmins settled in these regions. Medium to large scale migrations of Brahmins from various parts of India like Kanyakubja region, Kolancha, southern India and Pushkar in Rajasthan, among other places, occurred from time to time, especially during Pala and Sena periods.
- Rādhi from Radh (region south-west of the Ganges)
- Varendra, from Vārendra region (North-East) or Puṇḍra. Vārendra originally meant rain-maker magicians.
- Vaidika (migrants, originally experts of Vedic knowledge)
- Paschatya Vaidika (Vedic Brahmins from west of Bengal)
- Dakshinatya Vaidika (Vedic Brahmins from south of Bengal)
- Madhya Sreni (Brahmins of the midland country)
- Shakdvipi/ Grahavipra (migrant Brahmins of Shakdvipa in Central Asia)
The different Brahmin communities of Bengal have their own traditional accounts of origin, which are generally found in various genealogical texts known as kulagranthas or kulapanjikas. Other details may also be obtained from court chronicles of various kings of Bengal. Important writers are Harimishra (13th century C.E), Edu Mishra (13th century C.E), Devivara Ghatak (15th century C.E), Dhruvananda Mishra (post 15th century C.E), Vachaspati Mishra, Rajendralal Mitra among others.
- Radhi and Varendra
The traditional origin of both Radhi and Varendra Brahmins has been attributed to a king named Ādiśūra who is said to have invited five Brahmins from Kolancha (as per Edu Mishra and Hari Mishra) and/or from Kanyakubja, (as per Dhruvananda Mishra) so that he could conduct a yajña, because he could not find Vedic experts locally. Some traditional texts mention that Ādiśūra was ancestor of Ballāl Sena from maternal side and five Brahmins had been invited in 1077 C.E. Other texts like Varendrakulapanjika, Vachaspati Mishra's account and Edu Mishra's account attribute a date of 732 C.E for the migration. Additionally, other sources like Sambandhanirnaya, Kulanrava and others attribute various dates like 942 C.E, 932 C.E and others.
Historians have located a ruler named Ādiśūra ruling in north Bihar, but not in Bengal. But Ballāl Sena and his predecessors ruled over both Bengal and Mithila (i.e., North Bihar). It is unlikely that the Brahmins from Kānyakubja may have been invited to Mithila for performing a yajña, because Mithila was a strong base of Brahmins since Vedic age. However some scholars have identified Ādiśūra with Jayanta, a vassal chief of the Gauda king around middle of 8th century C.E. and is also referred to as a contemporary of Jayapida (779 to 812 C.E) of Kashmir (grandson of Lalitaditya) in Kalhana's Rajatarangini.
Kulin Brahmins are those Brahmins in Bengal who can trace themselves to the five families of Kanauj (Kanyakubja), Uttar Pradesh who migrated to Bengal. The five families were of the five different gotras (Shandilya, Bharadwaj, Kashyap, Vatsya and Swavarna). They are widely believed to be at the apex of Bengal's caste hierarchy.
The kulin families are further divided into two sections:
Barendra : Belonging to those families who settled at the north or north east region of the Ganges or Padma river. Rarhi : Belonging to those families who settled at the south or southwest region of the Ganges or Padma river.
The origin of Rarhi Brahmin: According to another hypothesis the term Rarhi (Shreni) is derived from Gaudiya (Saraswat Shreni). Gaud (Malda) was a place of Sanskrit studies later shifting to Nabadwip. Hussain Shah was also a patron of Gaudiya pundits and invited Rup, Sanatan and Srijiv Goswami in his royal court. Some mistakenly think that the term Rarhi is derived from Rarh region of western Bengal. But that Rarh is derived from Ruksha (dry). It is a modern geographic term while Rarhi is a traditional ethnic term.
The Gaudiya pundits established a distinct philosophy and rituals in Bengal. Many followed the path of Gaudiya pundits and came to be known as the Gaudiya (Saraswat Shreni) Brahmans and later Rarhi Brahmans (Gaudiya = Rarhi) by alternative accent. The section established by Sri Chaitanya Dev is called the Gaudiya Vaishnavism and he is often called the Gaud. Some denied the newly originated path of the Gaudiya pundits and claimed to be follower of original Varanasi pundits later known as Vaidik shreni. Later the term Rarhi became popular to distinguish from the Barendra Brahmans. It is to note that Barendras are homogenous but Rarhis are heterogenous. The Rarhi Brahmans (not all) are presumed to have migrated and come from north India. It is from the Ananda Bazar matrimonial advertisement that the term Rarhi became popular forgetting its origin from Gaudiya. Rarhi—Gaurhiya Gaurh-- Rarh.
Ref- Kanak Chandra Sarkar, "Banglar Samaj O Sanskriti" (Bengali), Published by Ratna Prakashan, Kolkata-75. (www.wetpaint.com)
Note that "Mukherjee" evolved from the Sanskrit Mukhopadhyay (Bengali: মুখোপাধ্যায় Mukhopaddhae). Mukhopadhyay is from the purer Sanskrit form Mukhyopadhyay (in Sanskrit Mukhya - chief, Upadhyay - teacher, not necessarily a religious teacher). In modern parlance, the two are often used interchangeably, much like other such pairs (Banerjee/Bandhyopadhyay, Chatterjee/Chattyopadhyay, Ganguly/Gangopadhyay), with the latter being used primarily in religious contexts. How these interchangeable pairs arose is unknown. Another theory is that Upadhyay from Kanauj settled at different villages in present day West Bengal and thus earned the prefixes of the villages before their Upadhay surname.
Families with surnames Mukhati or Mukhuti are believed to be of the same origins as Mukherjees and it is possible that these surnames represent the older forms of the Mukherjee surname. According to another alternative hypothesis in common belief, Mukhati or Mukhuti came to be the surname of some Mukherjees who took to the fields and worked with the langol (plough) akin to the Bhumihar Brahmins in neighbouring Bihar and are therefore sometimes called "langla bamun". Mukhoti village near Bankura, West Bengal may be the original village in this case (refer to Niharranjan Ray's "Bangalir Itihas").
Families with surname Deogharia are also Mukherjee. The title of Deogharia belongs to Mukherjee families of erstwhile Panchkot kingdom (near Adra, Purulia, West Bengal). The title of Deogharia was given by the kings to the Mukherjee families of that place who were involved in religious activities. However, now as neither there is any kingdom, nor any signification of such title, many are reconverting surname of their children back to Mukherjee.
Notable people with the last name Mukherjee :
- Aarti Mukherji, Singer
- Abaninath Mukherji, revolutionary and co-founder of the Communist Party of India
- Ajoy Mukherjee, fourth chief minister of West Bengal, India
- Alok Mukherjee
- Amal Kumar Mukherjee
- Arindam Mukherjee
- Arun Mukherjee
- Arundhati Mukherjee
- Ashutosh Mukherjee (writer).
- Asim Mukhopadhyay
- Ayan Mukherjee, Director
- Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee (1864–1924) Educationist, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1906–1924), and referred commonly as 'Bengal Tiger'.
- Banaphool (Balaichand Mukherjee)
- Barun Mukherjee
- Bela Mukhopadhyay
- Benode Behari Mukherjee, painter
- Bharati Mukherjee
- Bijan Kumar Mukherjea
- Budhaditya Mukherjee, Musician
- Dr. Joia Mukherjee
- Jadu Gopal Mukherjee
- Jaidip Mukerjea
- Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) (1879–1915), Freedom Fighter and Revolutionary Leader
- Jolly Mukherjee
- Joy Mukherjee
- Kajol Mukherjee Kajol, Bollywood Actress
- Kalyan Mukherjea
- Kalyan Mukherjee
- Kamalinee Mukherjee, actress
- Kamu Mukherjee, actor
- Kashinath Mukherjee
- Keshto Mukherjee, Comedian/Actor
- M. Mukherjee
- Madhabi Mukherjee, actor
- Manas Mukherjee
- Mani Shankar Mukherjee, writer
- Mithu Mukherjee
- Mohua Mukherjee
- Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee
- Pranab Mukherjee, Current President of India
- Prasun Mukherjee, Police Commissioner
- Prasun Kumar Mukherjee, Managing Director, Sesa Goa Limited
- Prithwindra Mukherjee
- Priyankar Mukherjee
- Raghu Mukherjee
- Rahul Mukerjee
- Raj Mukherji
- Raktima Mukerjee
- Ram Kamal Mukherjee
- Ram Mukherjee, Rani's Father
- Rani Mukherjee, Bollywood Actress
- Rudrangshu Mukherjee
- Sabyasachi Mukherjee
- Sagarika Mukherjee
- Sandhya Mukhopadhyay
- Sangram Mukherjee
- Sapna Mukherjee
- Sarah Mukherjee
- Sashadhar Mukherjee
- Satish Chandra Mukherjee
- Satyabrata Mookherjee
- Shantanu Mukherjee, Shaan, Singer
- Sharbani Mukherjee
- Sharda Mukherjee, Governor & w/o Subroto Mukerjee
- Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
- Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
- Shomu Mukherjee, Kajol's Father, Director
- Shyam Mukherjee
- Shyam Mukherjee
- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
- Siddhartha Mukherjee
- Sreelekha Mukherjee
- Sreelekha Mukherji
- Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Poet
- Subhash Mukhopadhyay (physician) or Subhas Mukherjee
- Subodh Mukherjee
- Subrata Mukherjee, Politician
- Subroto Mukerjee,First Air Chief Marshall of Independent India
- Sudip Mukherjee
- Suman Mukhopadhyay
- Suroopa Mukherjee
- Sushmita Mukherjee, actress
- Swastika Mukherjee, actress
- Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Rachnawali (Selected works of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati), Prakashan Sansthan, Delhi, 2003.
- cf. Some Historical Aspects of the Inscription of Bengal, page xii
- cf. Banger Jatiya Itihash, Brahman Kanda, Vol 1
- cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281
- cf. Banger Jatiya Itihash, Brahman Kanda, Vol 3, Chapter 1
- cf. Hindu Castes and Sects, Jogendranath Bhattacharya, Part III, Chap 1, Pg 35
- cf. Samaj Biplab ba Brahman Andalon, Dinabandhu Acharya Vedashastri
- Vāri+indra, Vāri meant water : cf.A History of Brahmin Clans , page 283.
- cf. Harimishra, कोलांचदेशतः पंचविपरा ज्ञानतपोयुताः । महाराजादिशूरेण समानीताः सपत्नीकाः ॥
- cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281-283
- cf. History of Brahmin Clans,page 281 : this book quotes Krishna-Charita by Vidyāsāgar for dating.
- cf. D.D. kosambi, p. 123.
- cf. Rajatarangini, Tarang 4, Verse 421
- Sherring, M.A. (First ed 1872, new ed 2008). Hindu Tribes and Castes as Reproduced in Benaras. 6A, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi-110049, India: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-2036-0.
- Saraswati, Swami Sahajanand (2003). Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Rachnawali in Six volumes (in Volume 1). Delhi: Prakashan Sansthan. pp. 519 (at p 68–69) (Volume 1). ISBN 81-7714-097-3.
- See also -ji.
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