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Brahmin priests and teachers (acharya) were engaged in attaining the highest 'spiritual' knowledge (brahmavidya) of Brahman and adhered to different branches (shakhas) of the Vedas. The 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 priestly 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.
Some Brahmins were also warriors. Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa, son of a Brahmin sage Parashara and a fisher woman Satyavathi, in his Mahabharata, describes several warriors belonging to Brahmin castes/tribes, such as Dronacharya, Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, Parashurama[according to whom?] etc., who were professors in the schools of martial arts and the art of war.
- 1 Myth of origin
- 2 Clerical positions
- 3 Requirements for being Brahmin
- 4 Communities
- 5 Sampradayas
- 6 Nepali Brahmins
- 7 Burma (Myanmar)
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Myth of origin
- Swami (Priest) - Purohita (performer of domestic ceremonies) and Rtvij (performer of seasonal ceremonies)
- Acharya or Upadhyaya (Spiritual teacher)
- Tapasvin - Mendicant
Requirements for being Brahmin
According to a Buddhist scripture, at the time of the Buddha in eastern India there were five requirements for being Brahmin:
- Varna or Brahmin status on both sides of the family
- Sila or virtue
- Panditya or learned
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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. According to four surveys conducted by CSDS in 2005-2007, Brahmins are 5% of India's total population. Brahmins have been very influential in India and there have been some Prime Ministers also.
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 these main categories:
- Kashmiri Pandits
- Goud Saraswat Brahmin
- Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin
- Rajapur Saraswat Brahmin
- Kudaldeshkar Gaud Brahman
- Daivajna brahmin
- Shand Saraswat Brahmin
- Bhumihar Brahmins
- Kulin Brahmins
- Bengali Brahmins
- Sanadya Brahmin
- Kamrupi Brahmins
- Kanyakubja Brahmin
- Sakaldwipiya Brahmins
- Pareek Brahmins
- Pushkarna Brahmin
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Pancha-Dravida Brahmins comprise five categories:
- Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
- Dravida (Tamil Nadu and Kerala)
Niyogis are further divided into the following subcategories: Nandavarika Niyogi, Prathama Shakha Niyogi, Aaru Vela Niyogulu, Karanaalu, Sistukaranalu, Karana kamma vyaparlu, Karanakammulu.
During the days of Maratha India, Koknastha(Chitpavan) Brahmins primarily served as prime ministers or Peshwas, 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. They took up military jobs and ended up being the de facto head of the Maratha Dynasty.
- Hoysala Karnataka Brahmins
- Smartha Brahmins
- Halenadu Karnataka Brahmin
- Madhwa Brahmins
- Mysore Iyengars
- Kota Brahmins
- Tuluva Brahmins, which consist of Kandavara Brahmins, Karhade Brahmins, Padia Brahmins, Saklapuri Brahmins, Shivalli Brahmins, Smartha Shivalli Brahmins, Sthanika Brahmins, Padarthi Brahmins.
- Havyaka Brahmin
- Gowda Saraswat Brahmins
- Sankethi Brahmins
- Daivadnya Brahmin's
- Iyengar (sub-divided into Vadakalai and Thenkalai)
- Iyer (sub-divided further into Vadama, Vathima, Brahacharanam, Ashtasahasram, Chozhiya or Sholiyar, Dikshitar, Kaniyalar, Prathamasaki,Gurukkal)
Gujarati Brahmins consist of various sub-castes such as :
- Tapodhan Brahmins
- Shrimali Brahmins
- Aboti Brahmins
- Modh Brahmins
- Nagar Brahmins
- Audichya Brahmin
- Bardai Brahmins
- Anavil Brahmin
- Nodera Brahmin
- Khedaval Brahmins
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. 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. This sampradaya was founded in the latter part of the 18th century.
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.
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).
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Historically, Brahmins, known as ponna 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.
Burmese Brahmins can be divided into four general groups, depending on their origins:
- Manipur Brahmins: Brahmins who were sent to Burma after Manipur became a Burmese vassal state in the 1700s and ambassadors from Manipur
- Arakanese Brahmins: 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 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 similar to that of India. Because the Burmese monarchy enforced the caste system for Indians, Brahmins who broke caste traditions and laws were subject to punishment. . However, in the Arakanese kingdom, punished Brahmins often became kyun ponna, 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 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. This practice continues to be practised in modern-day Burma.
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