Ambashtha

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Ambashtha or Ambastha is a caste or sub-caste or a community of Hindus in India. According to Hindu scriptures, the term Ambastha refers to the community who prays to the eight forms of amba or commonly called GODDESS DURGA[1][2] Ambastha refers to a sub-caste of Kayasthas, and Crooke suggests that "they may be connected with the old Ambastha caste" as some Kayasthas are also associated with the practice of medicine and surgery.[3]

Mythology and varna status[edit]

Ridgeon mentions about the myth related to the origin of the four varnas in the Rigveda,[1] and says that in order to explain "the great number of castes, a theory was developed that unions between men and women of different varnas produced offspring of various castes".[1] Regarding the varna status of the offspring of a Brahmin father and a Vaishya mother, J. Muir (1868) cites the Mahabharata and says that "A son begotten by a Brahman in the three castes [i.e. on a woman of either of the upper three classes] will be a Brahman" (also suggested by G.S. Ghurye)[4][full citation needed], and mentions that "purity of caste blood was not much regarded among Hindus in early ages".[5]

Citing the Hindu text Parasara, Leslie mentions that the Ambastha is supposed to treat the Brahmins only, and hence considered as "a clean caste, definitely below the brahman, but certainly well within the twice-born group".[6] This differentiates the Ambasthas from the average Vaidyas, who were considered "unclean" and were denied the status accorded to the Ambastha.[6]

In the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata, a warrior tribe named Ambastha has been mentioned. During Alexander's invasion, they had 60000 infantry, 6000 horsemen and 500 chariots. They have been described as inhabitants of northwestern part of Indian subcontinent (near Lahore), and they were conquered by Nakula and paid tribute to Yudisthira. They fought in the Kurukhetra war (initially for the Pandavas but later for Drona). They took to different professions like priesthood, farming and medicine, and are assumed to have migrated to eastern India later on.[7][full citation needed]

Ambastha Kayasthas form a sub-caste of the larger Kayastha community of India. They "may be connected with the old Ambashtha caste", as suggested by Crooke, and were supposed to be involved in the practice of surgery. The name Ambastha may also come from the Ameth region of Oudh or their patron deity Ambaji.[3]

Early medieval Bengal[edit]

In the Brihaddharma Purana the Ambashthas and the Vaidyas were considered as the same caste in its list of 36 castes but another text, the Brahma Vaivarta Purana considered them as two separate sub-castes. Bharatmallik (17th century), the author of the Chandraprabha and Bhattitika has introduced himself as both Vaidya and Ambashtha, which indicates both the castes were considered as one in early medieval Bengal.[8]

Present[edit]

At present, Ambashtha Kayasthas exist as a sub-caste of Kayasthas, mainly in the Hindi-speaking areas of India mostly in U.P, Bihar and West Bengal.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Ridgeon, Lloyd (2003). Major World Religions: From Their Origins To The Present. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-13442-935-6.
  2. ^ Manu, Patrick Olivelle; Suman Olivelle (2005). Manu's Code of Law. Oxford University Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-19517-146-4.
  3. ^ a b c Russell, R.V. The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, Volume III of IV. Library of Alexandria. ISBN 978-1-46558-303-1.
  4. ^ Ghurye, G.S. Caste and Race in India. p. 85.
  5. ^ Muir, J. The People of India, Their religions and institutions.
  6. ^ a b Leslie, Charles M. (1976). Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study. University of California Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-52003-511-9.
  7. ^ Garg, G.R. Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. p. 377.
  8. ^ Roy, Niharranjan (1993). Bangalar Itihas:Adiparba (in Bengali), Kolkata:Dey's Publishing, ISBN 81-7079-270-3, pp.227,246-7
  • Ambastha Kayastha (The Evolution of a Family and Its Socio-Cultural Dimensions)/K.N. Sahay. New Delhi, Commonwealth, 2001, xxi, 344 p. 42. ISBN 81-7169-660-0.