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|Regions with significant populations|
|Indian state of Karnataka|
|Havyaka Kannada, a dialect of Kannada|
Havyaka Brahmins (also referred to as Haveeka, Haiga and Haveega) are the Hindu Pancha Dravida Vedic Brahmins from the Indian state of Karnataka. Havyakas profess the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Shankaracharya.
The word Havyaka is derived from the words Haveega or Haveeka which is various interpreted as one who is from ahichchatra or as the one who performs Havana and Homa. These are known as Havya and the person who performs them is known as Havyaka. The traditional vocation of Havyaka Brahmins was to perform the rituals of Homa-Havana and therefore they came to be known by the name of their profession.
Other theories have been proposed as well. In ancient times the region of today's Uttara Kannada between Konkan in the north & Tuluva in the south was known by the name of Haiva. This could be the possible source of the term 'Haiga' as Havyakas are also referred to. In fact, the name "Haiga" persists in Havyaka lexicon. The word Havyaka might also be derived from the place named Haigunda.
Havyakas Brahmins were invited and brought to present day Karnataka around the end of 9th century CE or beginning of 10th century CE from a place called Ahicchatra. Other sects like Shivalli, Smartha etc., are believed to have arrived later around 11th century CE. The king Mayooravarma-II was instrumental in bringing the first Havyaka families. It is proven through Talagunda and Varadahalli inscriptions that Kadambas brought Havyaka Brahmins in to perform the royal rituals and the related functions of the empirical government from a place called Ahichchathra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. There is a suggestion that this is somewhere in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. However, the archaeological site of Ahicchatra lies in the district Bareily UP. Thus the first few families were settled in Haigunda (a small island in Sharavati river, Honavar taluk, Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka) and also in Banavasi, the capital of the Kadambas and the place adored by Pampa. King Mayooravarma's act of inviting Havyakas to Banavasi has been inscribed on a stone slab (Shilashasana) which now lies near the village of Varadahalli in Sagar Taluk of Shimoga district. However, Eminent historian D R Bhandarkar includes castes like Bhojaka, Chitpavan, Havyaka, Karhade, Nagar Brahmins, as of partly foreign origin.
Most of the Havyakas of today follow either Ramachandrapura Matha (presently headed by Shri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji) or Swarnavalli Matha (presently headed by Shree Gangadharendra Saraswati Swamiji) and are guided by the advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya. Till recently Havyakas were primarily engaged in agriculture especially growing betel nut, paddy, banana, coconut etc., while some practiced vedic professions like priests. A few decades back they also started entering into other vocations like business, education, employment etc. During Indian freedom struggle, Havyaka community played a prominent part. Men and women took leading role in Salt March and No-Tax Campaign. Dodmane Hegdes of Siddapur had an important role in freedom movement at all stages.
Many of the Bhat Priests who served and serving at Pashupatinath temple complex in Kathmandu, Nepal for last 350 years have been Havyaka Brahmins.
The Havyakas are united by their unique language. They speak a dialect of Kannada known as Havigannada (Havyaka and Kannada). It is 60-70% similar to mainstream Kannada but draws more words from ancient Kannada. However, most mainstream Kannada speakers find it difficult to understand Havyaka Kannada. There are multiple variations to the Havyaka dialect based on the locality. The Havyaka dialect is supposed to be quite old. Its origins, like many other things in India, are shrouded in mystery. Notably certain Havigannada speakers from Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada district, use neutral gender in place of feminine gender while addressing females. This fact can be correlated to north Indian languages which lack neutral gender and restricted to masculine or feminine genders while most of Dravidian languages use words with Masculine, feminine and neutral genders. The similarity of Havigannada words with Tulu and old Kannada and variability of the gender usage with respect to the major Dravidian languages help the hypothesis that Havyaka Brahmins migrated to the region during the Proto-Dravidian languages and Havigannada was developed with the prevailing languages with North-Indian influence. But Havyaks in certain part of Karnataka, like Kundapura, Thirthahalli and Kodagu do not speak Havigannada.
Havyakas are the subsect of the Brahmin caste of Hinduism, followers of Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Advaitha philosophy. Most Havyakas are Yajurvedi Brahmins and follow the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra. Some are Samavedi's and Few Havyakas follow Rigveda which is the oldest in vedas e.g., Vaidyas.
Art, literature and culture
As Havyakas gained population in Karnataka they became influential in politics and also cultivated fine arts. The Yakshagana folk theatre has been exclusively developed by Havyakas. Music, dance and writing became very attractive to Havyakas. Karki Yakshagana group which toured Maharashtra in the mid-19th century has the credit of inspiring Marathi theatre. In 1842, Karki Mela (group) performed before the Rajasaheb of Sangli (Maharashtra State), who encouraged court artists to learn from the group acting and singing. This laid basis for Marathi Professional theatre.
The first social play in Kannada was written by Suri Venkataramana Shastri in 1887. The play titled Iggappa Hegade Vivaha Prahasana deals with child marriage and evils of incompatibility. The play has been recently translated into English with an introduction by Prof. Narayan Hegde and published by the Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi) in the journal, Indian Literature (No. 268, March/April 2012). There have been a good number of writers, singers, teachers, doctors, industrialists, scientists, engineers and executives from Havyaka community.
Yakshagana troupes of Idagunji led by Keremane Shivarama Hegde, later by Keremane Shambhu Hegde have entertained many generations. Similarly, almost every taluk had many Havyaka Yakshagana troupes. Recently, Chittani Ramachandra Hegde, a famous Yakshagana artist was awarded Padmashri for his immense contribution towards the art. Another art form, called, Prasanga was made popular by Havyakas. A good number of youngsters have taken up Hindustani classical music.
They are traditionally lacto-vegetarian in their diet, and their cuisine consists of some unique food items including Tellavu (a light type of dosa), Todedev (a wafer-thin sweet preparation), Melara, Balehannu Shavige (A vermicelli preparation using banana), Odappe, Holige, Halasinakayi huli (very popular in Kalache-Yellapur region of Uttarakannada district), various types of Thambli (buttermilk/yoghurt-based rice accompaniment) including Korskayi Tambli, various types of Gojju (gravy) including Kocheegayi Gojju,Korskayi Gojju,Kai Gojju,Kadle Gojju (famous in Sagara prantya), etc. Other commonly prepared items include Hagalkai Hashi (a type of salad made from bitter gourd), Kai Rasaa, Karkli, patrode, famous Soppina Tambli-Swarle-kudi, various leaf-based preparations such as Honegone Soppu, Vidangada Soppu, Vasange Soppu, Yelgurge kudi/soppu, Sorle kudi/soppu, Kanchi-soppu and Choand Gte-soppu, Kajale-palya, Huli, Sasame made of mango and Kannekudi katne. Many items are prepared using jack-fruit such as sweet pappads, several types of Thamblis and a variety of Chatni pudis, Sandige and Happala which can be preserved for a long time. They are also known for their preparations of banana Halwa, Berati of jack-fruit and Halasina Hannina Kadubu. "Holige" is the most popular sweet among havyakas in Mangalore. No Havyaka marriage is complete without Holige. Havyakas have a unique food system which has intrinsic medicinal values. Some of the ingredients used in food items include wild leaves, roots/herbs and barks of trees, among others. Havyakas typically lived in villages where abundant sources of these were readily available around them, from where they were directly extracted and processed fresh.
The Havyakas Brahmins follow the gotra system.