Marathi Brahmin

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Marathi Brahmins are communities native to the Indian state of Maharashtra. They are classified into five sub-divisions based on their places of origin, "Desh", "Karad" and "Konkan". Together, these divisions comprise members of various gotras, being the Deshastha, Konkanastha, Saraswat, Karhade, Daivadnya, Devrukhe. The Konkanastha are also known by the alternative name, Chitpavan. The Deshastha Brahmins are considered the original Brahmins of Maharashtra, with communities such as the Chitpavan being thought of as migrants from other areas.

Geographical distribution[edit]

The location of state of Maharashtra in India. Majority of Maharashtrian brahmins live in Maharashtra (left).
Divisions of Maharashtra.

Maharashtrian Brahmins are native to the Indian state of Maharashtra. However, their training as priests, expertise in Hindu laws and scriptures, and administrative skills have historically led them to find employment in all corners of India. For example, in the 1700s, the court of Jaipur had Maharashtrian Brahmins recruited from Benares. This community had in turn migrated to Benares after the fall of Vijayanagar empire in southern India.[1] The greatest movement of the community took place when the Maratha Empire expanded across India. Peshwa, Holkars, Scindia, and Gaekwad dynastic leaders took with them a considerable population of priests, clerks, and army men when they established new seats of power. Most of these migrants were from the literate classes such as various Brahmin sub-castes and CKP. These groups formed the backbone of administration in the new Maratha Empire states in many places such as Baroda, Indore, Gwalior, Bundelkhand, and Tanjore.[2] The community in Tanjure in modern day Tamil Nadu state in southern india dates back to early 1700s.[3] In modern times the Maharashtrian brahmin and CKP communities of Indore dominated the RSS and Bharatiya Janasangh (the forerunner of the BJP).[4]

In present-day Maharashtra, the community is now mostly urban based.[5] Brahmins were landlords in many regions of Maharashtra, however, land reform measures undertaken after Indian independence drove them out of the villages.[6]



Marathi Brahmin is located in India
Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
Location of places a long distance away from Maharashtra region where Maharashtrian brahmins have settled over the centuries. Most of these had Maratha rulers sometime in their history. Hover over the dot to see the placename.

Unlike Brahmins elsewhere in India, who traditionally were mostly priests and scholars, those in Maharashtra have had a wider occupational basis, including as administrators, as warriors, as courtiers, in business and in politics.[7][8] During the era of the Deccan sultanates, when few people in the region shared the Muslim faith of its rulers, Maharashtrian Brahmins were significant recruits to administrative roles and as tax collectors.[9][10][11][12][13] They were also administrators during the period of the Maratha Empire, spanning the 17th and 18th centuries, when some Chitpavans also emerged as peshwas and thus the de facto rulers.[14][15] During the peshwa rule, Pune became the de facto financial capital of the empire with the bankers (sawakar in Marathi) being mainly Maharashtrian brahmins.[16] During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many Marathi brahmins migrated north to Hindu holy city of Benaras on the Ganga river. During this period Benaras had become an important center of learning. Seven Marathi brahmin clans became the intellectual elites of the city with patronage from wealthy benefactors during the early Mughal era or even from an earlier period. The clans included Sesa, Bhat, Dharmadhikari, Bharadvaja, Payagunde, Puntambekar and Chowdhuri. These brahmins were collectively called dakshinatya brahmins. The clans dominated the study of Sanskrit scriptures and Hindu laws in the city for many centuries. Most them also mentioned maintained close connections to their original homes in the centers of learning on the Godavari river such as Paithan, Puntamba, and Trimbakeshwar. [17] All these clans had expertise in particular area of Sanskrit literature.[18] During this era, Benaras also became a base from which scholars could go to regional courts and display their learning. The Bhatta family, for example, had branches in Benaras, Amer and Mathura. [19] A number of Maharashtrian brahmins settled in the Kumaon and Garhwal region of present day Indian state of Uttarakhand in places such as Almora.[20][21] These brahmins now form part of the Kumaoni brahmin community and the Garhwali Pandit Community.[22][23]

John Roberts has argued that from the time of the Maratha Empire and into the period when the British East India Company was forming the administrative unit of the Bombay Presidency, they were mostly urban dwellers, along with other non-Brahmin clerical castes, and shunned trading roles.[24] This view appears to be distinct to that of Edmund Leech and S. N. Mukherjee, who note the Chitpavan incomers to the region as being involved also in trade and cultivation.[25]

Modern era[edit]

The British rulers of Maharashtra region during early years of colonial rule in the nineteenth century recruited for clerical and lower level administrative work mainly from castes such as brahmin and CKP whose traditional occupations involved scholarship, teaching, and record keeping. Incidentally, these castes had considerable experience in government administration during the Peshwa rule which preceded the British rule. Brahmins and CKP were also the first to take to western education. This was their gate way to rise to positions of dominance in many fields during the nineteenth century colonial era. These included positions in professions such as teaching, law, medicine, and engineering.[26] Maharashtrian brahmins also dominated lower level jobs in the colonial government. The 19th century social reformer, Jyotirao Phule lamented the brahmin domination in education and government jobs.[27] In the early 20th century, however, different governments in the region such as the Bombay Presidency or the princely state of Kolhapur started reservation policies in government jobs at lower levels that discriminated against the brahmins.[28]

Being the first to receive western education, Maharashtrian brahmins such as Justice Ranade, or Gopal Hari Deshmukh were at the forefront of social reform, female education, and participation in political process at the local level. They were also equally opposed by more orthodox members' of their own communities such as Lokmanya Tilak for advocating reforms.[29] In the twentieth century, Maharashtrian brahmins such as Savarkar formulated the Hindutva ideology, and Hedgewar, and his successor Golwalkar founded or led the Hindu nationalist organization, the RSS.

In the last one hundred years, many brahmin families such Kirloskar, Garware, Ogale,[30] and Mhaiskar have been successful in creating large manufacturing, and construction businesses.[31]

Society and Culture[edit]

Religious customs[edit]

Sociologist S. D. Pillai states, basing on the studies by G. S. Ghurye, that claim of Brahminhood by communities such as the Saraswats of the Western Indian Konkan belt who historically had no knowledge of vedas, no priesthood, and even ate non-vegetarian food demonstrates that the Brahmin claim was available on other grounds and using legends to justify Brahmin origins. But the non-vegetarian tradition did not apply to Saraswats of the south.[32][33][34]

Chitpavans, on the other hand, in Konkan area performed rituals and also did farming.[35]

Most Karhades are Shaivites however a few were Vaishnavites who, like the Saraswat Brahmins came under the influence of Madhva.[36][37]

The deshastha and the karhade historically allowed cross-cousin marriages but the chitpavan did not.[38] The ritually upper castes in Maharashtra i.e. Marathi speaking brahmins, CKPs and Saraswat Brahmins oppressed their widows by preventing widow remarriages until the late 20th century unlike ritually lower castes like Marathas and others.[39]


A Maharashtrian vegetarian meal with a variety of items

Maharashtrian Brahmins, Deshasthas, Chitpavans and Karhades have historically been pure vegetarian. As per Singh, Saraswats eat only fish. [40][41][32][42]Singh's claim is, however, contradicted by the Saraswat Mahila Samaj (Saraswat caste association of Women) of Mumbai that has published a book Rasachandrika in 1988 on Saraswat cuisine discussing egg, fish and even mutton recipes. [43]

During the Peshwa era, brahmins of Pune passed caste specific laws for alcohol consumption.[44]

Social and political issues[edit]

Sociologist Sharmila Rege writes that, as the demand of the British Raj for administrators increased and thus guided the direction of education policy, the "caste composition of the emerging intelligentsia" demonstrated how the upper castes were able to cement their socio-economic position by dominating recruitment to the available bureaucratic positions. They also dominated selection for the schools themselves, demanding that lower caste students be rejected. For example, from 1827 to 1848, in the Elphinstone institutes of Bombay, 25 of the 152 matriculants came from lower castes, while in 1886 one Pune school registered 911 Brahmins in its roll of 982 students.[45]

Gail Omvedt concludes that during the British era, the overall literacy of Brahmins and CKPs was overwhelmingly high as opposed to the literacy of others such as the Kunbis and Marathas. Specifically, the top three literate castes were Chitpavans, CKPs and Deshasthas. Men were more literate than the women from any caste. Female literacy as well as English literacy showed the same pattern among castes.[46][a]

Bal Gangadhar Tilak believed that the Deshastha, Chitpawan and Karhade should get united. He encouraged this by writing comprehensive discussions on the urgent need for these three sub-castes to intermarry and dine together.[47]


Maharashtrian Brahmins have played a significant role in the Hindu nationalist movement. Christophe Jaffrelot, a political scientist, states that even in Indore (a city in Madhya Pradesh), from 1950 to 1965, Maharashtrian Brahmins and CKP together accounted for two-third or three-fourth of the Hindu nationalist representation in the municipal councils.[48]

Jaffrelot thinks that Brahmins are still resented by the Marathas and Dalits of Maharashtra despite no longer having much political power.[49]

Anti-Brahmin violence[edit]

After Gandhi's murder by Nathuram Godse, himself a Brahmin, Brahmins in Maharashtra, in 1948, became targets of violence, mostly by some elements from the Maratha caste.[50][51] V. M. Sirsikar, a political scientist at the University of Pune, noted that

It will be too much to believe that the riots took place because of the intense love of Gandhiji on the part of the Marathas. Godse became a very convenient hate symbol to damn the Brahmins and burn their properties.[50]

Another political scientist, Donald B. Rosenthal, said that the motivation for the violence was the historical discrimination and humiliation faced by the Maratha community due to their caste status and "Even today, local Brahmins claim that the Marathas organized the riots to take political advantage of the situation".[51]


The Deshastha Brahmins are considered the original Brahmins of Maharashtra, with communities such as the Chitpavan being thought of as migrants from other areas.[52]

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ Omvedt does add a proviso saying that: There is difficulty in using such Census data, particularly because the various categories tended to be defined in different ways in different years, and different criteria were used in different provinces for classifying the population. Nonetheless, the overall trend is clear


  1. ^ Heidi Pauwels (26 October 2017). Mobilizing Krishna's World: The Writings of Prince Sāvant Singh of Kishangarh. University of Washington Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-295-74224-3.
  2. ^ Roberts, John (1971). "The Movement of Elites in Western India under Early British Rule". The Historical Journal. 14 (2): 243–244. JSTOR 2637955.
  3. ^ Jaishri P. Rao (29 April 2019). Classic Cuisine and Celebrations of the Thanjavur Maharashtrians. Notion Press. ISBN 978-1-68466-649-2.
  4. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (1999). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s : Strategies of Identity-building, Implantation and Mobilisation (with Special Reference to Central India). Penguin Books India. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-14-024602-5.
  5. ^ Vora, Rajendra. “Shift of Power from Rural to Urban Sector.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 31, no. 2/3, 1996, pp. 171–173. JSTOR, Accessed 3 Feb. 2020
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  7. ^ Gold, Daniel (2015). Provincial Hinduism: Religion and Community in Gwalior City. Oxford University Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780190266332. In Maharashtra, Brahmins have been known for traditional occupations of broader scope than those in most of the rest of India. Not just characteristically priests and scholars as elsewhere, Maharashtrian Brahmins were also recognized as men of action: administrators, businessmen and political leaders
  8. ^ Richard I. Cashman (1 January 1975). The Myth of the Lokamanya: Tilak and Mass Politics in Maharashtra. University of California Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-520-02407-6.
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  10. ^ Deborah S. Hutton (2006). Art of the Court of Bijapur. Indiana University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780253347848. Bijapur Sultanate certainly inherited patterns of cultural interaction from the Bahamani dynasty. One notable practice was the use of Maharashtrian Brahmins and Marathi-speaking soldiers in the kingdom's administration and army. Because the number of Muslims in Deccan was relatively small, the Deccan Islamic kingdoms depended on Brahmins, primarily from the Maharashtrian region, for administration and tax collection.
  11. ^ Eaton, Richard M.; Faruqui, Munis D.; Gilmartin, David; Kumar, Sunil; Richards, John F. (2013). Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History: Essays in Honour of John F. Richards. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN 9781107034280.
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  13. ^ Mohammad, T.A. (2008). Nobility in the Bijapuri Kingdom (PDF). Aligarh Muslim University. p. 61. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  14. ^ Kulkarni, Sumitra (1995). The Satara Raj, 1818–1848: A Study in History, Administration, and Culture. p. 129. ISBN 978-81-7099-581-4.
  15. ^ "India : Rise of the peshwas". 8 November 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  16. ^ H. Damodaran (25 June 2008). India's New Capitalists: Caste, Business, and Industry in a Modern Nation. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-230-59412-8.
  17. ^ Benke, T., 2010. THE ŚŪDRĀCĀRAŚIROMAN I OF KR S N A ŚES A: A 16th Century Manual of Dharma for Śūdras. Publicly accessible Penn Dissertations, p.159.[1]
  18. ^ Rosalind O'Hanlon; David Washbrook (2 January 2014). "Speaking from Siva's temple:Banaras scholar households and the Brahmin ecumene of Mughal India". Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives. Taylor & Francis. pp. 274–. ISBN 978-1-317-98287-6.
  19. ^ - Rosalind O'Hanlon. 10 Dec 2013, Scribal Migrations in Early Modern India from: Routledge Handbook of the South Asian Diaspora Routledge Accessed on: 25 Nov 2019
  20. ^ Koranne-Khandekar, Saee (2017). "A taste of home". live Mint. No. 1 Dec 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  21. ^ Dr. R. K. Thukral (1 January 2017). Uttarakhand District Factbook : Almora District: District level socio-economic data of Almora District, Uttarakhand. Datanet India Pvt. Ltd. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-93-86277-98-5.
  22. ^ Braj Bhushan (28 August 2017). Eminent Indian Psychologists: 100 years of Psychology in India. SAGE Publishing India. pp. 285–. ISBN 978-93-86446-43-5.
  23. ^ Namita Gokhale (17 August 2015). Mountains Echoes: Reminiscences of Kumaoni Women. Roli Books Private Limited. ISBN 978-93-5194-180-4.
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  29. ^ Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (2002). Education and the Disprivileged: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century India. Orient Blackswan. p. 238. ISBN 978-81-250-2192-6.
  30. ^ Damodaran, H., 2008. Brahmins, Khatris, and Babus. In India’s New Capitalists (pp. 48-91). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
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  33. ^ Dennis Kurzon (2004). Where East Looks West: Success in English in Goa and on the Konkan Coast. Multilingual Matters. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-1-85359-673-5. Saraswatis claim that they come from the Brahmin caste – hence their name - but others believe that they are usurpers using some fake brahmin ancestry to maintain their superiority.
  34. ^ Ramesh Bairy (11 January 2013). Being Brahmin, Being Modern: Exploring the Lives of Caste Today. Routledge. pp. 193–. ISBN 978-1-136-19820-5. Saraswat claim to Brahminhood is still strongly under dispute, particularly in the coastal districts of Karnataka.
  35. ^ Paul Hockings, ed. (1992). Encyclopedia of world cultures: South Asia - Volume 2. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 69. The occupation of the Chitpavans in their original territory of the Konkan was farming, with some income from performing rituals among their own caste.
  36. ^ M. V. Kamath (1989). B.G. Kher, the Gentleman Premier. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 4. The majority of Karhades are Shaivites and subscribe to Advaita though a small minority are Vaishnavites, having, like many Saraswat brahmins, come under the influence of Madhva.
  37. ^ Tapan K. Bose; Rita Manchanda (1997). States, Citizens and Outsiders: The Uprooted Peoples of South Asia. South Asia Forum for Human Rights. p. 25. The Brahmins, who found very few jobs in the arid hills of the western ghats, since one subcaste, the Chitpawan brahmins, dominated that region, felt the Chitpawan competition very unfair in Maharashtra. Most notably, these were Deshastha and Karhade Brahmans many of whom migrated across Deccan into the East Godavari basin. This was administered through the 19th century by Deshastha Brahmins who used the Maharashtrian surname, Rao.
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  40. ^ India's Communities, Volume 5. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 2079. ISBN 9780195633542. Among them the Chitpavan, Desastha, Karhade and Devdny Brahman are pure vegetarian.
  41. ^ K. S. Singh (1998). India's Communities, Volume 5. Oxford University Press. p. 2082. ISBN 9780195633542. The Saraswat Brahman eat only fish while other Brahmans like Deshastha, Karhade and Konkanastha take a vegetarian diet.
  42. ^ Nita Kumar; Usha Sanyal (20 February 2020). Food, Faith and Gender in South Asia: The Cultural Politics of Women's Food Practices. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 120–. ISBN 978-1-350-13708-0.
  43. ^ Saraswat Mahila Samaj (1991). Rasachandrika: Saraswat Cookery Book with Notes and Home Remedies, Useful Hints and Hindu Festivals. Popular Prakashan. pp. 199–. ISBN 978-81-7154-290-1.
  44. ^ Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1969). Caste and Race in India. Popular Prakashan. p. 5. ISBN 9788171542055. Thus the Brahmin government of Poona, while passing some legislation prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquors, excluded the bhandaris kolis and similar other castes from the operation thereof but strictly forbade the sale of drinks to Brahmins, Shenvis, Prabhus and Government officers
  45. ^ Rege, Sharmila (2014) [1999]. Writing Caste/Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women's Testimonies. Zubaan. p. 32. ISBN 9789383074679.
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  47. ^ Sandhya Gokhale (2008). The Chitpavans: social ascendancy of a creative minority. p. 147. As early as 1881, in a few articles Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the resolute thinker and the enfant terrible of Indian politics, wrote comprehensive discourses on the need for united front by the Chitpavans, Deshasthas and the Karhades. Invoking the urgent necessity of this remarkable Brahmans combination, Tilak urged sincerely that these three groups of Brahmans should give up caste exclusiveness by encouraging inter sub-caste marriages and community dining."
  48. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (15 October 1998). Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s. Columbia University Press. p. 147,148. ISBN 9780231103350. (pg 147)Members of the Maharashtrian high castes were particularly numerous, whether Brahmins or - like Thakre[Kushabhau, pg 133] - CKPs.(pg 148) In Indore, the Maharashtrian upper castes were particularly over-represented within the RSS and the Jana Sangh. In the municipal councils, from 1950-65, the Maharashtrian Brahmins and CKP accounted for two-thirds or three-fourth of the Hindu Nationalist representation.
  49. ^ "A war of labels". 9 January 2018.
  50. ^ a b V.M.Sirsikar (1999). Mariam Dossal; Ruby Malon (eds.). State Intervention and Popular Response: Western India in the Nineteenth Century. p. 11. ISBN 9788171548552.
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