The Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins represent a relatively small group of Brahmins who firmly established their identity as a unified group in the year 1708. The history of migration of their ancestors from Kashmir to a variety of places all over the country of India serves to demonstrate how their strong religious and cultural beliefs developed into the present century. Today, the unique members of this group are situated in a variety of places in India including Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka, and Madras. By tracing their ancestral heritage, we will see how the cultural history of this group came to define their remarkable characteristics which have survived throughout the centuries.
The brahmin caste of India consists of a number of regional castes which are spread out all over the country. Ever since the times of the Puranas, the brahmin caste had been divided into two groups based on the geographical origin of the people. The brahmins that lived to the north of the Vindhyas were referred to as the Gaud Brahmins, whereas the brahmins which lived to the south of the Vindhyas were referred to as the Dravida Brahmins. These two Puranic divisions of brahmins were then divided into five subdivisions. From the five subdivisions of the Gaud Brahmins, the ones which lived to the west of the Saraswati River were referred to as the Saraswat Brahmins. According to a brahminical legend, the Saraswati river “flows underground, from where it loses itself in the deserts north of Rajputana, till it joins the Ganges and Yamuna at Prayag (Allahabad)”. Throughout the course of history, the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins have migrated to a variety of locations and are found today in Rajasthan, Western Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, and Jammu and Kators migrated from Kashmir to Goa via Bengal.
Many Gaud Saraswat Brahmins also refer to the legend of Shri Parashurama to explain how their ancestors arrived in Goa. Set forth in the Skanda Purana, it is said that Shri Parashurama was a brahmin lad who was a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. To avenge his father’s death, Shri Parashurama killed all the warriors and kings in India during that time period. He then wished to cleanse himself of this horrendous crime by retiring to a land of peace. Therefore, the sea granted him a boon: it would recede as far back as he could throw an ax from the Western Ghats. By receding, the sea would offer Shri Parashurama the land he had requested. Shri Parashurama then filled the land with all of the brahmin caste members from the Gulf of Cambay to Cape Comorin. Part of the land became known as Goa, and the people that Shri Parashurama placed in this region were referred to as the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins.
Once the migrants arrived in Goa, they occupied various plots of land and organized their community. The immigrants were comprised of ten gotras, or clans. Settling primarily in the Sasasthi (Salcette), Tisrade (Tissuary), and Bardesh (Bardez) regions of Goa, these founders produced magnificent fields of rice on their new land. However, the cultivation of the land was probably forced upon the lower caste natives of Goa who were traditionally given a percentage of the crops. Some time after these founders developed the lands and villages of this region, other groups of brahmins left their homes in the north and came to settle in Goa as well. The second wave of immigrants were representatives of the Kaundinya, Vatsa, and Kaushika gotras. For the most part, these immigrants decided to live in two villages of Sasasthi named Kuthalor or Kushasthat (Cortollim) and Keloshi (Quelessam). Consequently, the representatives of these two gotras came to be known as Kushasthalikars and Keloshikars. The exact date of their migration is unknown, but the representatives of this batch contributed to an integral part of the history of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins in Goa. By the eighteenth century, there were either nineteen or twenty-one gotras in the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin caste. Therefore, it is presumed that other groups of migrants arrived in Goa some time after the second batch.
The Kushasthalikars and Keloshikars were members of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins who belonged to the smarta persuasion. Those who represent this persuasion primarily engage in the worship of the following five deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya, and Ganesha. The Kushasthalikars and Keloshikars of Goa were collectively referred to as the Shenai or Shenvi (learned) due to their increased interest in pursuing secular employment in addition to maintaining their land. They primarily sought professional careers in the fields of teaching, writing, and accounting. It is important to note that these terms (Shenai or Shenvi) are used in the Maharashtra region today in reference to any Gaud Saraswat Brahmin; however, in the regions south of Goa, these terms are generally used to identify only the smarta Gaud Saraswat Brahmins.
Although the lifestyles of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins could have continued in this manner, it was not able to due to military forces outside of Goa. The Bahmani raids in 1351 apparently encouraged several Shenvi families to migrate to the Kanara district in Karnataka, which is located to the south of Goa. By the seventeenth century, it was evident that a considerable number of Kushasthalikar and Keloshikar families had migrated and eventually settled in Kanara. Once they had migrated to the Kanara district, the Shenvis were not able to sustain their unity with the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins they had left behind in Goa. Therefore, this group broke away from the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins and eventually formed their own caste, called the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins (also referred to as Bhanaps after one of their popular caste members).
However, this distinction between the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa and the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins required sufficient time to solidify. During the reign of Basavappa Nayaka I (I 696 -1714), some people of Kanara accused the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis of not being true brahmins. This accusation is said to have evolved in consequence to two factors: 1) the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis had no guru, or spiritual leader, to represent their community and 2) since many of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis were holding impressive administration positions during this time period, the natives of Kanara were aroused with jealousy which stimulated them to form this accusation.
Since the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis did not have a spiritual guide to represent their caste, the ruler of the region most probably would not recognize their brahminical status. Therefore, the Shenvis felt that it was necessary to seek a spiritual preceptor for their community. Soon after, the Shenvis prayed to two of their deities, Shri Bhavanishankar and to Shri Mahabaleshvara, in hope of finding a guru. Some time after their prayers had been addressed, a sanyasi (one who is in the final stage of life and completely renounces all worldly possessions) of North Indian Saraswat Brahmin descent came to Gokarn. At the request of the Shenvis, the sanyasi accepted the role to guide and represent their community in 1708. This commenced the development of a new caste known as the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins, who had now firmly differentiated themselves from the rest of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa. The acceptance of the sanyasi, Shrimat Parijnanashram Swami, as their guru also started the new smarta guruparampara, or line of gurus.
After Shrimat Parijnanashram Swami consented to guide the community, his acceptance had to be formally confirmed by all of the other members of the community. The people of Gokarn sent letters to the members residing in Mangalore and Vithal to notify them about the guru who would be touring around the south to give sermons and grant blessings. Some of the Kushasthalikar and Keloshikar families did not accept the new guru at once. For example, some families residing north of the Gangavali river decided not to accept the guru. However, the families who accepted the guru decided to provide for the living expenses of the swami by offering donations every year. Whenever the guru would travel among his community members, they also had the duties of providing him with any necessities.
Next, the Sringeri matha (holy shrine) in the Kanara district was asked for their consent of the new guru. Basavappa Nayaka, on his behalf of the matha, granted his consent soon after the request was made. In 1739, Basavappa Nayaka II gave the Bhanaps land in Gokarn to build a matha in reverence to their primary deity, Shri Bhavanishankar. This firmly established Parijnanashram Swami as the guru of the community.
The guruparampara was continued by each successive gurus adoption of a shishya, or a disciple. This disciple would then succeed his guru when he attained mahasamadhi, or final liberation. Before Parijnanashram Swami attained mahasamadhi, the community members had asked him to adopt a shishya to continue the lineage of gurus. He then chose a young boy from the Shukla Bhat family to be his student. Since this family had given up there son for the community, they were given the duties of maintaining a certain part of the matha. They would also be given the privilege of helping to select the future shishyas of the community. The young boy, given the title Shankarashram Swami, guided the community of Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins from 1720 to 1757. During his reign, he traveled to many different places to bless his community members and collect the annual donations needed to support the matha. He also helped the community by performing the necessary religious rituals which they had specifically requested. Under his leadership, the community members also built a matha at the memorial of Parijnanashram Swami in Gokarn.
Other than the information that has been set forth, not much has been found about the daily rituals and activities of Parijnanashram Swami and Shankarashram Swami. Apparently, there was a conflagration in the beginning of the nineteenth century which had ruined many sources of information from the matha. However, it is known that the Shukla Bhat family was still managing the matha. Shankarashram Swami attained mahasamadhi in the year 1757 when he was on a visit to Shirali. So a devoted community member, by the name of Nagarkatte, contributed land for the erection of a matha in commemoration of the guru. This new matha was given the name Shri Chitrapur, and it soon came to be “premier religious institution of the Chitrapur Saraswats and was thereafter the principal seat of the gurus.”
Shankarashram Swami had not adopted a shishya during his reign. Since the community strongly desired the continuation of the guruparampara, they asked one of their pious members to succeed Shankarashram Swami. Once he accepted this great honor, he was given the name Parijnanashram Swami II. His humility and devotion towards his community members left this guru little time for the administration of the matha. He then decided to adopt a shishya to help him in the management of the matha. Given the title Shankarashram Swami II, he succeeded his master and represented the community until the year 1785. Keshavashram Swami then succeeded Shankarashram Swami II in 1785 and continued to lead the community for another thirty-eight years.
From the end of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth century, the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins were experiencing many changes within their caste. The gurus continued to emphasize the importance of the Shri Chitrapur matha as a common religious shrine among the caste members. Many of the community members who were rising in affluence also contributed the monetary necessities for the maintenance and improvements of the matha. Many disciples were extremely devoted to assisting their community members and maintaining the matha. The Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins refer to this era as the “reaffirmation of ancestral dharma (duties in life).”
The gurus of the community simultaneously endeavored to develop a strong bond among their devotees by encouraging them to engage in the activities of matha. Three leaders of the community who are especially accredited for this accomplishment are: Shrimat Keshavashram, Shrimat Vamanashram and Shrimat Krishnashram. They held the members of the community together from 1785 to 1864 and developed many of the strong religious values that have been passed down to the present generations of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins.
Shrimat Keshavashram Swami focused on the wishes of the older community members. He strongly encouraged the members to join in the rituals of the matha; by doing so, he brought the community members closer together. Previous swamis generally visited the towns of Gokarn and Shirali, but Keshavashram Swami was different in this respect. In addition to visiting these places, he also ventured out to Bhanap villages that were farther south such as Kundapur, Mangalore, Bantwal, and Vithal. During these visits, he emphasized to his community that they should not engage in Vaisnava rituals in their daily lives.
Although the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins were smartas, allowing them to worship Lord Visnu, they “were not to wear Vaisnava sectarian marks.” Although we may interpret the reasoning behind this ordinance in a variety of ways, we will never know for certain why and how he had made these statements, for there are no written documents of Keshavashram Swamis teachings. In any event, he also advised the members to only make monetary contributions to the Shri Chitrapur matha. Because of his strength and perseverance, the community started to obtain more land for the matha. The donations of the community members were utilized to improve the maintenance to the memorials of the previous swamis.
Keshavashram Swami visited the memorial of his master in the town of Mallapur in the year 1816. Many of the community members also came to the location of the memorial to obtain blessings from their guru. Before leaving the site, he gave funds from the matha to renovate the memorial of his master. He also visited the Shrimat Ananteshwara temple at Vithal during on their holy ceremonies. During the visit, he encouraged the community members to contribute money towards the matha. Prior to attaining mahasamadhi, Keshavashram Swami utilized these funds for a very important purpose: the erection of a new Shri Chitrapur matha at Shirali.
Vamanashram Swami was formally invited to be a shishya of Keshavashram Swami in 1804. He began his training at Mangalore with certain brahmin teachers; however, once he succeeded Keshavashram Swami in 1823, he focused his time and energy in the southern region of the Kanara district. During his reign from 1823 to 1839, one of his most important tours was to the sacred shrine at Tala Kaveri in Coorg. Bhanap tradition maintains that Vamanashram Swami focused more of his attention on the spiritual and religious aspects of the matha and left less time for its actual management than Keshavashram Swami. However, the documents that have survived clearly show that guru ardently sought donations from the members of the community in order to maintain the matha and purchase more land for the matha. One of the documents demonstrating this fact is a letter that the guru himself wrote to his laity requesting payments for this very purpose.
To ease the gurus anxieties over the maintenance of the matha, however, the community then requested that he adopt a shishya, a to help him. This request was strongly suggested again to the guru by forty-eight Bhanap families of Kundapur when they heard that his health was deteriorating. The Bhanap families assured their guru that once he selected a shishya, the donations would be sent to the matha. An influential man of the community, named Yellur Devapaya, suggested that the guru should adopt a young boy from the Nagar family. The young boy, Parameshvara, was a servant to Devapaya in his house. Devapaya had taken the boy to an astrologer who assured him that the child was suited for a life beyond the tasks of a servant. This question was also put forth to the spirit medium oracle at Shrimat Ananteshwar temple at Vithal. The oracle also suggested that Parameshvara had been ordained for more spiritual duties in life.
However, there was one problem with the acceptance of this child as shishya: the family of the Shukla Bhats were supposed to be given the first option in the selection of the shishya (since this family had offered their son to the community to be a shishya and then a guru). They also had been given the right to nominate any other child as a substitute candidate for the shishya position. However, the people of the Chitrapur Saraswat community who lived in Gokarn, Bantwal, Manjaeshvar, Ullal, and Bekal all strongly supported Devapayais suggestion to adopt Parameshvara as the shishya. In this situation of such a large portion of the community favoring the adoption of one particular child, Shrimat Vamanashram Swami finally selected Nagar Parameshvara in 1836. During the formal initiation ceremony in Mangalore, he was given the name Shrimat Krishnashram Swami.
Therefore, the Shukla Bhat family was not given preference in the selection of the shishya in this case. Since they had felt that they had not been given their due consideration, some members of this family wrote a letter from Shirali to Vamanashram Swami in Mangalore. In the letter, they stated that since the shishya Krishnashram had been selected from another family without their formal consent, they should be given something of monetary value in return. They felt that they should receive certain supplies, such as rice and donations, for maintenance of the matha as well as for the Shukla Bhat family. Unfortunately, the contributions from the laity at that time were so small that it is questionable whether the Shukla Bhatis request was immediately met or not. In response to the low level of funds, the community members urged Vamanashram Swami to allow Krishnashram to go on tour to request contributions for the matha.
Shrimat Vamanashram Swami was better at encouraging the community members to donate money to their own towns or villages. For example, there was a town named Bantwal which had no temple for the Bhanaps. Shrimat Vamanashram Swami felt that a temple in this location would benefit the community in a variety of ways, and it would also serve as place for the swami to stay there on his way from Mangalore to Vithal. Therefore, he initiated a plan which would allow for the building of a center that would serve this dual purpose. So in 1836, Nagarkatte Manjappaya (a judge in the town of Bantwal) and Kombrabail Subraya (an accountant) began the construction of the Shri Sitarama temple. Due to the Coorgi invasion, the construction of the temple was delayed in 1837, but it was finally completed by the year 1838. At first, the expenses for the daily rituals were paid for by donations from members of the community. However, a judge named Venkappaya insisted that the donations be invested so that the necessary funds would be available when the community would want to purchase more lands for the shrine. Therefore, Shrimat Vamanashram Swami successfully initiated the construction of a caste temple for the members of his community. Vamanashram Swami attained mahasamadhi in November of 1839 at Mangalore. The members of the community donated a substantial amount of money in order to cover the costs of the rituals of his memorial.
In 1858, Krishnashram Swami decided to adopt his nephew, Nagar Kalappa, as his shishya. During his initiation ceremony, he officially assumed the title of Shrimat Pandurangashram Swami. Some members of the community criticized the young boy for not completely renouncing some of his materialistic pleasures upon his initiation. Consequently, Pandurangashram Swami gave up all of his worldly pleasures in exchange for a life of complete asceticism immediately after these complaints had been voiced.
Pandurangashram Swami supported the technological advances that had been made during his reign in order to promote the dharma of the members of his community. When the Southern Maharatta Railway had been built, connecting Hubli to Poona, Pandurangashram Swami encouraged his devotees to travel on this train to help his disciples make pilgrimages to far-off shrines. To demonstrate his acceptance of the new railway, he took a train to Benares, first going through Hubli and Allahabad. He stopped to visit the members of the community situated in Hubli, Dharwar, Gadad, and Bijapur. Although the railway did connect to a town near Bombay, he did not stop there to meet those representatives of the community. He may have done this because there was not an organized Bhanap community established there at that time. Nevertheless, the omission of Bombay from his itinerary created a rift in the relations between urban and rural members of the community.
During Pandurangashram Swamis visit to Benares, he participated in many important activities that benefited the community. First, he performed many special rituals for people who had especially requested him to do so during his trip. He also joined several Pandits during there usual discussion sessions. Topics of discussion were the Veda, Paniniis grammar, nyaya shastra, and Mimamsa. These examples symbolize the developing relationship between the guru and his devotees.
After returning from his trip to Benares, he wrote two books which were then immediately published for use within the community. The first book explained the rituals and prayers to be used in honor of each deity on specific holidays; the second book was a Sanskrit book with a Kannada translation of morning, evening and special prayers for the Saraswats. He devoted the preface of his second book to a lecture on advaita (nondualistic) philosophy. In this introduction, he expounded that true happiness would be understood only by those who realized that Brahman was the central principle of the universe.
Perhaps the most remembered aspect of life under the guidance of Shrimat Parijnanashram Swami dealt with the resistance of social reforms. In Mangalore, one religious controversy erupted in the year 1870 when several men began to revive the beliefs of the Arya Samaj. The most active advocate among this group of men was one named Gulvadi Venkatrao. After reading Swami Dayananda Saraswatiis Satyarth Prakash, he wrote an Arya Samaj magazine in Kannada. Pandurangashram Swamis reaction to this uprising of Arya Samaj ideas was not favorable. After reading about the principal views of this group, he announced them to be against the dharma of the Saraswats. Fortunately, this controversy did not disrupt the lives of the Saraswats by any great measure since most people agreed with their guru.
This was not to be the case in the controversy of 1888, however. This controversy questioned whether young widows of the caste could be allowed to remarry. Traditionally, the brahmin caste had never allowed a woman to marry more than once, and the Saraswats were no exception to this rule. If a woman was to become a widow, she was to then immerse herself in her devotion to god. This had been done in the past by brilliant Bhanap saints such as Jognani (in the seventeenth century) and Nadghar Shanti Bai (in the 1890’s). Social reformers, however, argued that young widows who were still virgins should be allowed to remarry if they wished to do so. Therefore, in 1884, a group of Madras Bhanaps initiated a widow-marriage group and requested that the Saraswats of South Kanara join them. Before doing so, the South Kanara Bhanaps sought the advice of their guru, Pandurangashram Swami. He rejected the plan pointing out that the dharmashastra did not cite enough cases of widow marriages for it to be acceptable in the culture of the Saraswats. The Bhanaps of South Kanara did not want to oppose the wishes of their guru, so many maintained indifferent views on the issue. However, the Madras Bhanaps still strongly justified the propriety of young widow marriages. Another form of opposition stemmed from Shamrao Vithal Kaikini who wrote a brief excerpt favoring widow marriages. These events should not be viewed as an urbanized revolt against the matha, however. For it was merely a time marked by great changes and technological advances. This was simply one example of how the Bhanap community and their guru tried to adapt to these developing trends of society.
Nevertheless, Pandurangashram Swami was dissatisfied with the opposition he had encountered in this matter, and he endeavored to emphasize the Saraswat tradition that had been maintained by their ancestors. His tension rising, he told the community that he would not adopt a shishya because he thought “that too many disciples of the matha were not prepared to follow the dharma of their caste.” The members of the community pleaded with him eight times to adopt a shishya, but he was adamant in his decision. He prayed to Shri Bhavanishankar to help him remain strong in his decision, but the Lord had ordained otherwise. For in June of 1915, he relented and selected a twelve-year old boy named Shantamurti, who was to be the last guru of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins. He was the son of Haridas Ramachandra who had been a priest at the matha. A few days after the formal initiation of Shantamurti, given the title Anandashram, Pandurangashram Swami attained mahasamadhi. Therefore, the young shishya had been given sole sovereignty over the community of Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins although he had not yet had the opportunity to learn from his master.
Fortunately, Pandurangashram Swami had foreseen the difficulties which his young shishya would encounter; therefore, prior to his attainment of mahasamadhi, he ordained that his shishya should not be given the duties of maintaining the matha until he had received his due education and necessary training. Until that point in time, the Shukla Bhat family would maintain the matha, and the community members would worship the sandals of Pandurangashram Swami. Pursuing his education without the help of a guru was one of the hardships he had to bear. Generally, the priests of the matha tended to his education with the additional help of tutors. However, as a true scholar, Anandashram Swami laboriously taught himself most of the time. However, this was not an easy task to accomplish and frustration overcame him on two instances. Both times, he left the matha in order to live as a sanyasi, but he returned upon the urgent requests of his devotees. Upon his return, he was still frustrated with his life at the matha. So in 1927, Anandashram Swami set out for Rishikesh with a brahmin friend from the north named Krishnashrama. On his way, he halted in Bombay to visit his community members; they were greatly impressed with the inner strength and piety that emanated from the young boy.
The revival of the urban Bhanap’s interest in the matha and their guru could have evolved from a few factors. Bombay was in the midst of an economic recession at the time. It had become more difficult for men of the household to find employment; those who were employed feared that they would soon be unemployed. This may have caused more Bhanaps to realize their need for spiritual enlightenment from their guru. Also, many of the families in Bombay had asked their parents from the rural areas to come and live with them in the city. Therefore, the older generations may have encouraged the younger generations to engage in the activities of the matha and religious services of their community.
During the brief survey of Anandashram Swami’s reign, it was mentioned that many Bhanaps had been living in Bombay. Their migration from Kanara to Bombay marks an interesting point in the history of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins. In the year 1860, most Bhanaps resided in Kanara, and most of them continued to live there even up till the year 1900. Around this time period, a few Bhanaps slowly began to migrate into Bombay. These small groups of Bhanaps who set out for Bombay primarily went there for education. The educational system in India at that time was quite different from today. In order to graduate from high school, one had to pass an exam given by a university in Bombay, Madras, or Calcutta. Therefore, the students from the Kanara district had to go to one of these cities to take the exam. In this time period, most Bhanaps showed a preference for either Bombay or Madras.
The first Bhanap to migrate to Bombay, however, chose to go there for employment rather than education. Shamrao Vithal Kaikini (1841- 1905) was an intelligent and determined young Bhanap who had the courage to leave the Kanara district, which had been the home of Bhanaps for over a century, and venture into the modernized city of Bombay. Shamrao had learned English with a tutor when he was a young boy up until he was eighteen years of age. In 1859, he passed a test enabling him to seek employment in the field of public service. The revenue department in Kanara then employed him soon after he passed the examination. Also working in this department was an Englishman named William Wedderburn. Wedderburn immediately recognized the unique abilities that Shamrao possessed. In due time, Shamrao had heard the magnificent stories about the tremendous opportunities that were awaiting him in Bombay. So, by the time he was twenty years of age, Shamrao set off for Bombay by himself to conquer his dreams of becoming a lawyer. Once in Bombay, his first job was with S.N. Patkar who employed him as a clerk in his law office. It was not long before Shamrao became frustrated with this job; consequently, he returned to Kanara to work with his brother who had just opened his law practice. In 1867, his brother received a case which had to go to the Bombay High Court. Shamrao was employed by his brother to translate all the necessary documents. Therefore, when the case was called to Bombay, Shamrao and his brother set off to the city. Soon after, Shamrao was recognized for his talents and was employed as the “second Kannada translator to the Bombay High Court.” Shamrao then sent for his wife in Kanara to come and live with him in Bombay In 1871, Shamrao passed the Bombay High Court pleaders examination. This allowed him to finally establish his profession in the field of law by beginning his practice with the appellate part of the Bombay High Court.
As many great leaders in history, Shamrao also pursued many other interests besides his professional career. He started to help his family members from the Kanara district to come to Bombay for education in 1869. One of the people whom he helped was his nephew, Narayanrao Ganesh Chandavarkar. This boy had passed his high school matriculation test in the year 1871; he then received an acceptance at Elphinstone College in Bombay. In 1876, he was the first Bhanap to receive a University of Bombay Bachelor of Arts degree. Shamrao also encouraged other members of his caste to come to Bombay. The first group of Bhanap men that came to Bombay for their education established a room club, or a hostel, in an apartment near Shamrao’s residence in Kandewadi to alleviate the financial pressures of securing independent housing. At any rate, the Bhanaps had finally made their way into the cosmopolitan city of Bombay by the late 1800’s.
Bhanaps had also begun to migrate to the city of Madras in the year 1865. Similar to the reasons for going to Bombay, many Bhanaps originally went to Madras to take their high school matriculation examination and then pursue further study at the university. The first Bhanap to matriculate from the university in Madras was Ullal Baburao in 1869 when he received his Bachelors degree in law. Soon after, many other Bhanaps received their college degrees form the university in Madras as well. Madras had earned an excellent reputation in terms of its educational prospective and its employment opportunities in the field of administration. However, the weak point of this city was that it was not very technologically advanced and thus did not offer many employment opportunities for the fresh graduates of the university. The Bhanaps who ultimately did settle in this city were those who had educational backgrounds in administration. Many others were force to seek employment elsewhere. In this respect, Madras did not become as popular as a place of migration for the Bhanaps as did Bombay which was a more modern city. Thus, Bombay attracted more Bhanaps since it offered more employment opportunities.
One of the major aspects of this unique group that has not yet been emphasized is that of language. The members of this cast speak Konkani, one of the Indo-Aryan languages which descended from the Middle Indic Prakrits. Some Bhanap scholars noticed that the caste continued to become increasingly confined within their own group as time passed. One of the major contributors to this developing situation may be the fact that the Konkani language binds the members of this small caste in a way that is unique among the Saraswats. Although some ascertain that the Konkani language restricts the members of the caste from socializing with their Kannada friends in Karnataka, Tamil friends in Madras, Gujarati friends in Bombay, etc., other members of the caste maintain that their language is a strong symbol of their identity and cultural heritage. In fact, many members of the community fondly refer to their mother-tongue as amchigele meaning of our own. From either perspective, it is unquestionable that Konkani as a language is one of the most defining characteristics of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins today.
The history of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins serves to demonstrate how their religious and cultural views developed into the present century. Starting from the valleys of – Kashmir, the ancestors of the Bhanaps migrated to all parts of India.
Also included in the Saraswat Brahmins are a great proportion of the Hindus in Kashmir, called the Kashmiri Pandits. These Kashmiri Brahmins are thought to be the descendants of the Aryans who migrated into India from Central Asia or Eastern Europe. However, these people differentiate themselves from the rest of the Saraswat Brahmins in that they identify their caste with the Goddess Saraswati, who has been mentioned in the Vedas as the Goddess of Learning. However, the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins residing on the western coast of India (primarily in Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka) are thought to have descended from these Kashmiri Brahmins. Substantial evidence has been set forth by several historians relating that the Kashmiri Brahmins migrated to Goa by the eleventh century AD.
To trace the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins ancestry from Kashmir to Goa, one must begin with the story of the famous seer, Saraswata. When there was a famine in northern India, he continued to recite the vedic texts by consuming the fish that the goddess Saraswati had given to him. The brahmins of later generations who accepted fish as a part of their diet were often known to have referred to this story to justify their full-fledged status as brahmins despite their acceptance of fish. Since the acceptance of fish was also prevalent in the culture of many Bengali brahmins and because of the apparent similarities between the languages of the two groups, many Gaud Saraswat Brahmin scholars suggested that their ancesplaces, they maintained some of their religious views while modifying others. In the year 1708, a small group of these migrants had established their own unique caste and initiated a guruparampara. The teachings of the gurus and their dedication to the devotees strengthened the unity of the caste members which has survived till the present day.