Brahman: Maharashtra, Maratha

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This article was written in 1916 when conditions were different. Even in
1916 its contents related only to Central India and did not claim to be true
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From The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India

By R. V. Russell

Of The Indian Civil Service

Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces

Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner

Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916.

NOTE 1: The 'Central Provinces' have since been renamed Madhya Pradesh.

NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from the original book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to their correct place.

Brahman: Maharashtra, Maratha

The Maratha Brah- mans, or those of the Bombay country, are numerous and important in the Central Provinces. The northern Districts were for a period governed by Maratha Brahmans on behalf of the Peshwa of Poona, and under the Bhonsla dynasty of Nagpur in the south they took a large part in the administra- tion. The Maratha Brahmans have three main subcastes, the Deshasth,Konkonasth and Karhada. The Deshasth Brahmans belong to the country of Poona above the Western Ghats, which is known as the desk or home country. They are numerous in Berar and Nagpur. The Konkonasth are so called because they reside in the Konkan country along the Bombay coast. They have noticeably fair complexions, ' Bombay Gaze/leer, Hindus of Gii/'ardt, p. II.

^ood features and often grey eyes. According to a legend they were sprung from the corpses of a party of shipwrecked foreigners, who were raised to life by Parasurama/ This story and their fine appearance have given rise to the hypothesis that their ancestors were shipwrecked sailors from some Euroj^ean country, or from Arabia or Persia. They are also known as Chitpavan, which is said to mean the pure in heart, but a derivation suggested in the Bombay Gazetteer is from Chiplun or Chitapolan, a place in the Konkan which was their headquarters. The Peshwa of Poona was a Konkonasth Brahman, and there are a number of them in Saugor, The Karhada Brahmans take their name from the town of Karhad in the Satara District.

They show little difference from the Deshasths in customs and appearance. Formerly the above three subcastes were endogamous and married only among themselves. But since the railway has been opened they have begun to intermarry with each other to a limited extent, having obtained sanction to this from the successor of Shankar Acharya, whom they acknow- ledge as their spiritual head. The Maratha Brahmans are also divided into sects, according to the Veda which they follow. Most of them are either Rigvedis or Yajurvedis, and these two sects marry among themselves. These Brahmans are strict in the observance of caste rules.

They do not take water from any but other Brahmans, and abstain from flesh and liquor. They will, however, eat with any of the Panch- Dravid or southern divisions of Brahmans except those of Gujarat. They usually abstain from smoking, and until recently have made widows shave their heads ; but this rule is perhaps now relaxed. As a rule they are well educated, and the majority of them look to Government service for a career, either as clerks in the public offices or as officers of the executive and judicial services. They are intelligent and generally reliable workers. The full name of a Maratha or Gujarati Brahman consists of his own name, his father's name and a surname. But he is commonly addressed by his own name, followed by the honorific termination Rao for Raja, a king, or Pant for Pandit, a wise man.

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