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Śākadvīpīya Brahmins (or Bhojaka Brahmins or Maga Brahmins), is a class of Hindu Brahmin priests and Ayurveda teachers (acharyas) and practitioners, with significant concentrations of their populations occurring in Western and Northern India.
The Śākadvīpīyas are also known as Maga Brahmins (or sometimes Mragha) see origin myth below). Historically, Maga Brahmins are Sūryadhvaja ("white flag") Brahmins, who nevertheless today consider themselves to be distinct from the Śākadvīpīya or Bhojaka Brahmins.
The Śākadvīpīya Brahmin community of India identify themselves as having Iranian roots, and assert that they inherit their by-name mragha from a group of priests (cf. mobed) who established themselves in India as the Mragha-Dias or Mragha-Brahminas.
- Krishna's son Samba was afflicted with leprosy, which was cured after he worshiped [[Sūrya]], Hinduism's god of the Sun. In response, he built a temple to Sūrya on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, but no Brahmin could be found willing to take up the role of a temple priest, as they could not accept offerings made to gods. So Samba sought help of Gauramukha ("white face"), the adviser of the Yadu chief, Ugrasena.:Gauramukha responded with a suggestion that Samba go to Shakdvipa (see note on Mahabharata 6:11, below) and invite their priests to worship Sūrya. Further, asked Samba, "tell me, oh Brahmin, what are the antecedents of these worshipers of the Sun?" To which Gauramukha replied... "The first of the Brahmins amidst the Śakas was called 'Sujihva.' ("good tongue") [...] He had a daughter of the name Nikshubha, who so enamored Sūrya that she was impregnated by him. Thus she gave birth to Jarashabda who was the founding father of all the Maga-Ācārya. They are distinguished by the sacred girdle called the Avyanga that they wear around their waist." And so Samba called on Krishna to send him Garuda, on whose back he then flew to Shakadwipa. He collected the Maga-Ācārya ("Maga teacher"), brought them back to India and installed them as priests of his Sūrya temple.
- Of the pious representatives of 18 families Samba invited to resettle in the city of Sambapura, eight were Mandagas, and their descendants became Shudras. The other 10 were Maga Brahmins, who married Bhoja vamsa women and so their descendants came to be known as Bhojakas.
Whatever their original beliefs, by the time the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa 133 was composed the Śākadvīpīyas were identified as devotees of [[Sūrya]], Hinduism's deity of the Sun (cf. Hvar). Subsequently, in Vrihata samhita 60.19, [[Varāhamihira]] directs that the installation of the [[Sūrya]] images should be made by the maga, as they were the first to worship the divinity. Other texts enjoin that the images of Sūrya should be dressed like a northerner with the legs covered, that he should wear a coat and a girdle. The early representations of the divinity actually follow these injunctions, and early iconography depicts the deity in central Asian dress, replete with boots. In time, the alien features by either discarded or stories were inventing to interpret the others. Nonetheless, the use of the word Mihir in India to refer to Hinduism's Sūrya is regarded to represent Śākadvīpīya influence, a derivation from Middle Iranian myhr, that is itself a post-4th century BCE development of another development of Avestan Mithra (< Indo-Iranian *mitra). But in Sanskrit, Mihir is derived from the root mih (cf. MW) which is also the root of Megha(cloud), and the chief meaning of this root is to cause rains. Since Sun also causes rains, Mihir came to mean 'Sun'. Mitra (cognate of Avestan Mithra ) was related to Sun, but only functionally, not structurally. And the Shakdwipi Brahamins do in fact appear to have been instrumental in the construction of Sun temples in different part of the country, to include Kashmir, Kathiawad and Somnath in Gujarat, Dholpur in Rajasthan, Hissar in Jodhpur, Bharatput and Khajuraho in Madhya pradesh, Konark in Orissa and Deo, Punyark, Devkund and Umga in Bihar.
The tale of the arrival of the Śākadvīpīyas appears to have been part of living tradition for many centuries. The Govindpur inscription of 1137-1138 refers to a maga family of Gaya, Bihar that was celebrated for its learning, Vedic scholarship and poetic faculty, and who descended from one of the original Samb invitees. The Brahmins of the Godda district in Jharkhand likewise trace their lineage to the original invitees. The maga-vyakti of Krishnadas Mishra is an elaboration of the legend. The Bhojakas are also mentioned in the inscriptions of Maurya Ashoka and Kharavela. Kadamba Dynasty (4th-6th century) copperplates found in Karnataka mention Bhojakas as administrators of Jain institutions.
In contemporary sources
The A History of Brahmin Clans states that Śākadvīpī Brahmins have a love for traditional (Sanskrit) knowledge and their Saṃskāras are like those of the Maithil Brāhamanas, although matrimonial and other customary relations with Maithil (or other Brahmins) are not in vogue.
Dorilāl Śarmā Śrotiya described them as follows: "they wear long Yajnopavita at the age of 8 years, keep quiet while eating, like to keep beards like sages, perform agnihotra, and charmed with mantras, and were called maga because they read the Vedas in haphazard ways."
Apocryphally, the Śākadvīpīya centre was at Magadha. According to their tradition, they were there allotted 72 principalities (purs), and were identified by their purs rather than by their lineage (gotras). In time they migrated in all directions, but retained their affiliation with the original purs (as opposed to identifying themselves with their lineage, their gotras), and are strict in their practice of gotra and pur exogamy (unlike other Brahmins) and give it prime importance in arranging marriages; endogamy within one of their 74 paras (i.e. allas) is prohibited.
The Sūryadhwaja have 5 gotras:Garga, Sūrya, Soral, Lakhi, Binju and Malek Jade.
The term 'Bhojaka' is popular in the western states while 'Sakadvipi' and its numerous variations is typical for the north and east. The terms 'Graha Vipra' and 'Ācārya Brahmin' are common in Orissa, West Bengal and Rajasthan. One of the Śākadvīpīya groups, the 'Sūryadhwaja' Brahmins, are endemic to Northern India and is the only Shakadwipiya group classified as Kashmiri Pandits.
The Bhojakas and sewaks are historically associated with several Jain temples in Gujarat and Rajasthan, where they serve as priests and attendants. Some of the Shakdwipi Brahmins of Bihar and Uttar pradesh are Ayurvedic physicians, some are priests in Rajput families, while yet others are landholders.
- Śarmā 1916, p. 491.
- "MahaBharata", Bhishmaparva, Adhyaya-11, Shlokas-35 to 38
- Misra 1914, p. 150.
- Chand 1964, p. 4
- The reference to the inhabitants of Śakadvīpa is, however, older than the Purāṇas, appearing first in Rigveda and subsequently in almost all veda & Mahabharata 6:11, where Sakadwipa is said to lie to the north-west (of ancient India). The region is mentioned again in 12:14 as a region to the east of the great Mount Meru. Consequently, the word 'Śākadvīpīya' (and variations) is presumed to reflect Śaka-, the people of a region beyond the Hindukush mountains.
- Mitra 1962, pp. 612–615.
- Upadhyay 1982, pp. 116–124.
- Sharma 1981, p. 330.
- Śarmā 1988, p. 280.
- Śarmā 1988, pp. 279, 281.
- Cort 2001, p. ?.
- Mitra 1962, p. 615.
- Mitragotri, Vitthal Raghavendra (1999), A socio-cultural history of Goa from the Bhojas to the Vijayanagara, Institute Menezes Braganza, p. 54
- Cort, John E. (2001), Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-513234-3.
- Chand, Tara (1964), Indo-Iranian relations, Tehran: Information Service of India, Embassy of India.
- Mitra, Debala (1962), Foreign Elements In Indian Culture, The Cultural Heritage of India II, Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute, pp. 612–615.
- Misra, Pt. Jwālā Prasād (1914), Jāti-Bhāṣkara, Khemaraj Shrikrishnadas.
- Śarmā, Dorilāl (1998), A History of Brahmin Clans (Brāhmaṇa Vaṃshõ kā Itihāsa, in Hindi) (2nd ed.), Aligarh: Rāśtriya Brāhamana Mahāsabhā.
- Sharma, Jagdish Saran (1981), Encyclopaedia Indica II (2nd ed.), New Delhi: Chand
- Śarmā, Pt.Chhote Lāl (1916), Brāhmaṇa Nirṇaya, Aligarh.
- Śāstri, Harikṛṣṇa (1871), Brāhmaṇotpatti-mārtaṇḍa (in Sanskrit)
- Singh, Kumar Suresh; Vyas, N. N.; Lavania, B. K.; Samanta, Dipak Kumar; Mandal, S. K. (1998), People of India, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan/Anthropological Survey of India, ISBN 81-7154-769-9.
- Upadhyay, Basudeo (1982), Missing or empty
- The complete reference to Brahmins. This article incorporates material from that site with due permission from Dr. Vepachedu