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Bengal Kayasthas,  kulin, origin of


Naomi Canton, It’s one big family? Study says Big B, Netaji & Shastri related, December 1, 2017: The Times of India

A study shows Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, considered a jamai (son-in-law) of Bengal as he married a Bengali Jaya Bhaduri, may have a deeper connection to Bengal than he imagined.

And when UP voted for Subhas Chandra Bose in the contest to be re-elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1939, they had no idea they were possibly rooting for one of their own.

A team of distinguished global researchers have discovered that Bachchan, India’s second PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and freedom fighter Bose may all be related.

The new interdisciplinary study has shown that the three men may all be descended from the same family hundreds of years ago. It re-explores the legend of five kulin Kayasthas migrating from Kannauj in northern India to Bengal, allegedly accompanying five Brahmins, a thousand or more years ago, as depicted in historical and genealogical works.

The five kulin Kayastha lineages in Bengal, which according to legend are descended from the Kayasthas who accompanied the five Brahmins from Kannauj, are Bose, Ghosh, Mitra, Datta, and Guha. The study combines a reappraisal of historical and genealogical works with a genetic analysis of a small group of individuals belonging to present-day Bengali kulin Kayastha families.

If the Boses of Bengal and the Srivastavas of UP were originally the same family, it would make Bachchan, ex-PM Shastri and Subhas Chandra Bose distant relatives of each other.

Complete text: the Pagani, Bose, Ayub, Tyler-Smith study

Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly

Legends, Genealogies, and Genetics

About the authors:

Luca Pagani (lp.lucapagani@gmail.com) is a researcher at the Estonian Biocentre and at the Department of Biology, University of Padova, Italy. Sarmila Bose (sarmila.bose@politics.ox.ac.uk) is a senior research associate with the Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford. Qasim Ayub (qasim.ayub@monash.edu) was staff scientist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, and is presently associate professor and director, Genomics Facility, at the School of Science, Monash University, Malaysia. Chris Tyler-Smith (cts@sanger.ac.uk) is head of the Human Evolution team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK

A study of the legendary migration of five Brahmins, accompanied by five Kayasthas, from Kannauj in North India to Bengal to form an elite subgroup in the caste hierarchy of Bengal, combines genetic analysis with a reappraisal of historical and genealogical works. This combination of historical and genetic analysis creates a new research tool for assessing the evolution of social identities through migration across regions, and points to the potential for interdisciplinary research that combines the humanities and genetic science.

In the early 20th century, a debate erupted among the Bengali intelligentsia in India over the historicity of genea- logical literature, which claimed that the Bengali King Adisur had invited five Brahmins from Kannauj, an ancient city in the northern Gangetic plains located in the present In- dian state of Uttar Pradesh, to migrate to Bengal, in eastern India. According to legend, these five Brahmins from Kannauj were accompanied by five Kayasthas, who became an “elite” subgroup described as “kulin” among the Kayasthas of Bengal.

Hindu communities labelled “Kayastha” are found all over northern India, but historically, their social ranking was not uniform. At different times and in different places, those labelled Kayastha were accorded the same status as Brahmins, Kshatriyas or Sudras, and there was even a claim that they formed a fifth varna within the Hindu caste structure. In the popular legend, King Adisur is portrayed as the founder of “kulin-ism” in Bengal, a system of social ranking which accorded some lineages a special higher status within the Brahmin and Kayastha varna.

This study explores the legend of the migration of kulin Kayasthas from Kannauj to Bengal by combining a reappraisal of historical and genealogical works with a genetic analysis of a small group of individuals belonging to present-day Bengali kulin Kayastha families. Genetic analysis creates a new and more powerful research tool with which to assess the evolution of these social identities through migration across regions and historical events affecting relative status. The genetic trail left within present-day Bengali Kayasthas is compared to the his- torical and genealogical claims asserted through other means, to enable a reappraisal of the legend of Kannauj and kulin-ism in the social hierarchy of Bengal.

This study first recounts the legend of the migration of Kayasthas from Kannauj to Bengal as depicted in historical and genealogical works, including two competing theories that claim to explain the appearance of kulin Kayasthas as an “elite” subgroup in the caste hierarchy of Bengal. It then de- scribes the data set gathered for this study, the limitations of both the genealogical and genetic data, and the methodologies applied for the genetic analysis. The original legend is recon- sidered in the light of the genetic findings and their interpreta- tions. We conclude with a discussion of the potential future paths of interdisciplinary research combining humanities and genetic science, to explore further the meanings of social constructs such as kulin-ism in Bengal, and the evolution of social identities in India.

Migration from Kannauj: The Origin Legend

Legendary direction of migration of five Brahmins, accompanied by five Kayasthas, from Kannauj to Bengal at the invitation of King Adisur
From: Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly

The region referred to as Bengal approximates the present-day Indian state of West Bengal as well as present-day Bangladesh (Figure 1). This area comprised several distinct subregions in earlier centuries, delineated by the Rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which flowed into the Bay of Bengal. The five kulin Kayastha lineages in Bengal, which according to legend are descended from the Kayasthas who accompanied the five Brahmins from Kannauj, are Bose, Ghosh, Mitra, Datta, and Guha in the region known as Rarh or southern Bengal (Figure 1). According to genealogical historian Nagendra Nath Basu, in the genealogies of Rarh, all Kayasthas except “Gautam Bose, Soukalin Ghosh, Viswamitra Mitra, Kashyap Guha and Bharadwaj Datta” (where the prefixes refer to gotra or clan), were considered “Gour-kayastha,” or local, indicating that these five lineages were the “migrants.” In northern Bengal the “non-locals” included “Vatsya Sinha” and “Moudgalya Das,” as well as “Kashyap Datta;” in eastern Bengal they in- cluded “Moudgalya Datta,” “Nag,” “Nath” and “Dam.”

The original legend has a lack of clarity about the exact rela- tionship between the five Brahmins and the Kayasthas who accompanied them. The kulin Kayastha lineages of Bengal contest any suggestion that they were the “servants” of the five Brahmins, which would suggest that they belonged to the labouring lower castes of northern India. Instead, they claim to belong to the scribal/administrator/warrior strata of the caste hierarchy of northern India. In a popular saying in Bengali, the Dattas reject the notion that they were anyone’s servant: “Datta karo bhritya noy, songey eshechhe” (Datta is nobody’s servant, but has come along with). Basu cites a variation: "Datta karo shishya noy” (Datta is nobody’s disciple). He argues that the idea that the Kayasthas were “servants” is a misunder- standing of their becoming “disciples” of the different Brah- mins at the Sena court in Bengal in the 11th–12th century.

The story of King Adisur remains in the realm of legend, with some scholars questioning whether he existed at all. Mention of such a king is found in the Ain-i-Akbari, the 16th century work by Abul Fazl, adviser to the Mughal Emperor Akbar, among lists of Hindu dynasties and the years of their reign. Regardless of the authenticity of King Adisur, however, whether the five Kayasthas from Kannauj accompanied the Brahmins to Bengal, and whether these migrants were the founders of the kulin Kayastha lineages of Bengal, is also open to question.

Basu rejected as an unfounded myth the story of five kulin Kayasthas arriving from Kannauj with five Brahmins at the in- vitation of King Adisur and joining the existing Kayasthas in Bengal as an elite subgroup. In his view, all the Kayastha fami- lies had been living in Bengal long before King Adisur and therefore all were “local.” However, of 99 “surnames” in the kulagranthas (written genealogies),12 were listed as siddha (blessed/elevated): Bose, Ghosh, Guha, Mitra, Datta, Nag, Nath, Das, Dey, Sen, Palit and Sinha (the ones examined in this study in bold). The remaining 87 were described as mool Gour Kayastha or original Bengal Kayastha: Nandi, Pal, Indra, Kar, Bhadra, Dhar, Aich, Sur, Dam, Bardhan, Shil, Chaki, Adhya, and so on. Basu argued that “Adisur” was actually King Bhaskaravarman of Kamarupa (Assam) who had conquered Rarh or southern Bengal— “Adi” meaning the “original” or first of his dynasty in Rarh, and “sur” meaning conqueror. Basu also argued that there was a second “Adisur, Adisur Jayanta, who invited five Kannauj Brahmins to come to Bengal in the 8th century." In other words, there seems to be a consensus that five Brahmins from Kannauj came to Bengal at the invita- tion of a Hindu king, but disagreement about when this migra- tion took place and whether the Brahmins were accompanied by five Kayasthas.

According to Basu, there was evidence of Brahmins con- ducting rituals and Kayasthas supervising royal matters long before King Adisur, from around the 5th century AD. Basu argued that the special status of some of the Kayastha lineages came about not because they arrived with the five Brahmins of Kannauj, but because the King of Bengal honoured these line- ages at his court. Basu attached particular significance to the year 1072, when Vijay Sena became King of Gaur (western Bengal) and Samal Varma the King of Vanga (eastern Bengal). According to him, many Brahmins and Kayasthas assembled for the coronations at the respective capitals, confusingly both called Vikrampur. Vijay Sena’s court was attended by Makaranda Ghosh, Kalidas Mitra, Purushottam Datta and Dasharath Bose (of the Mahinagar Bose clan), while Birat Guha attended the court in eastern Bengal.

Regardless of the uncertainties about who King Adisur was and whether he even existed, there appears to be a consensus that kulin-ism was institutionalised in Bengal in the 12th century by King Ballala Sena, a member of the Senas (1097–1223), the last Hindu dynasty to rule Bengal. Before the Senas,the Pala dynasty (750–1161) had been patrons of Buddhism, which moved away from social hierarchies based on birth. By contrast, the Senas, who migrated to Bengal from southern India (from the region in present-day Karnataka) in the 11th century, were strong devotees of Hinduism. Their institution- alisation of kulin-ism included compiling genealogies of kulin lineages of the Brahmin, Kayastha, and Baidya varnas which formed the main echelons of the upper castes in the hierarchy of the caste system in Bengal.

The higher status of the kulin lineages within their varna was linked to the claim that they were descendants of immi- grants from Kannauj. As an ancient Hindu city in northern India, Kannauj was at the heart of Brahmanical Hinduism. Migration between Kannauj and Bengal would be plausible de- spite the distance of nearly 700 miles, as there were historical connections between the two. King Dharma Pala of Bengal (775–812) had expanded his kingdom all the way to Kannauj from the original Pala base in northern Bengal, a region then known as Varendra. In the 11th century, Kannauj became a target of raids by Mahmud of Ghazni during his invasions of India. Muslim invasions from the north-west may have made the Brahmins and Hindu scribal elites of Kannauj more open to migration eastwards. By the end of the 12th century, Muhammad of Ghor had established himself in northern India and in 1204 one of his Turkish commanders, Muhammad bin Bakhtiar Khilji, led a cavalry charge into Bengal. King Lakshmana Sena, reportedly taken by surprise as he sat down for lunch, abandoned his capital and fled further east.

Maintaining Caste Status

The institutionalisation of kulinism was based on rules regulating marriage practices, influenced particularly by king Bal- lala Sena. Violation of the rules of matrimony led to loss of social status and even expulsion from the caste community. Mar- riage practices to enforce group endogamy became the central feature of kulin-ism, particularly due to political power in Ben- gal passing to Muslim rulers by the turn of the 13th century, as there was no Hindu king to grant honours to line- ages any more. As this kind of group endogamy was prac- tised over centuries, the kulin Kayasthas of Bengal may be expected to be a genetically close-knit group.

Marriage practices as the instrument to maintain caste status also affected the rest of the Kayastha community. Nirad C Chaudhuri wrote that there were regular discussions in his ancestral village in Mymensingh district about the “evil of mésalliance”: “ ... the blue blood of a Chaudhuri of Banagram was acknowledged as readily in Kishorganj and elsewhere as it was taken for granted at Banagram ... The five families of our common Banagram house were particularly proud of the fact that even among the Chaudhuris they were the only people who had never married, nor given in marriage, below them.” This kind of pressure to intermarry within specified caste strata suggests that the Kayasthas who were not kulin would also be expected to have little connection with the non-Kayastha lineages.

However, group endogamy was not watertight. The rules of matrimony themselves permitted certain types of dilution: higher status Brahmin and Kayastha males were permitted to marry women from lower status families, but not vice versa. Moreover, it was difficult to contain liaisons within the defined caste boundaries. King Ballala Sena, who is supposed to have institutionalised kulin-ism in Bengal, was himself criticised for his relationships with women of lower castes and his alleged wish to marry a woman who was a Dom, one of the lowest castes.

Over the centuries of Muslim rule in Bengal, many Hindus— Brahmins, Kayasthas and Baidyas—pursued successful careers, holding administrative and military positions under the Muslim sultans of Bengal. One of the kulin Kayastha lineages, known as the Mahinagar Bose family after the area in southern Bengal where they acquired land (jaigirs), held powerful posi- tions at the court of the independent sultans of Bengal for suc- cessive generations. According to the legend, the founder of the Mahinagar Bose lineage in Bengal was Dasharath Bose, who had come to the Sena court in the 11th century.

During the sultanate period in Bengal, relations between the Mahinagar Bose family and the sultanate were so close that when the Mughal Emperor Akbar finally subjugated Bengal in the 16th century, he chose a different Kayastha family, the Pals, as his allies in the province.

The most famous of the Mahinagar Boses was Gopinath Bose, known by his Islamic title Purandar Khan, who was finance minister and commander of the navy under Sultan Hussain Shah in the 15th century. He was simultaneously the leader of the Kayastha community in the region. Purandar Khan was influential enough to amend the rules of matrimony, allowing kulins to marry “moulik” (non-kulin) Kayasthas, except in the case of the eldest son.

The highly placed Kayasthas of Bengal became proficient in Persian (Farsi), adopted Persianised manners, and in some cases there were romantic liaisons or even marriage between upper caste Hindus and the Muslim ruling families.

In order to curb the tendency of Bengali Brahmins and Kayasthas to develop close social relations with the Muslim rulers they served, there was a periodic assembly of the caste community hosted by its leaders in which social verdicts would be delivered, based on the conduct of various families. Yet, material wealth and power influenced actual practice. Purandar Khan (Gopinath Bose) hosted such an assembly (samikaran or ekjai) in the 15th century.

In fact, Purandar Khan was so powerful that he was able to anoint two newly arrived chiefs from Rajasthan as kulin Kayasthas, establishing them in Bengal as the Datta family of Raina.

Given that King Dharma Pala of Bengal had expanded his kingdom up to Kannauj, migration between Bengal and north- ern India may have been a two-way traffic. Indeed, Basu spec- ulated that the appearance of some Kayastha surnames in other parts of India may indicate travel from Bengal, rather than the other way around. In his hypothesis, there are con- nections between Bengali Kayasthas and Kayasthas in north- ern India, but the origins of these connections arise much earlier than the legend suggests. In a remarkably specific claim, Basu argued that the Bose lineage in Bengal (or “Vasu,” as the surname is in Sanskrit and Bengali) was the same as the Kayastha lineage Srivastava of northern India.

The caste system and kulin-ism have endured to present-day India.

Caste identity has become entrenched in Indian society despite a commitment by independent India to abolish it. It not only continues to govern social status and matrimony, but has also emerged with renewed vigour through caste-based quo- tas in education and jobs, and caste-based political parties, in particular across northern India. Yet it is a truism that social identities such as the caste hierarchy are a contrived human construct. A new dimension in the critical appraisal of the evolution of such social identities over the longue durée (long term), through migrations and changing fortunes of wealth and power, is now possible by combining historical enquiry with information about patterns of inheritance that might be revealed by genetic analysis.

Study Questions

This study explores the legend of the migration of the kulin Kayasthas from Kannauj to Bengal. Due to the major popula- tion rearrangements that were likely to have taken place in India in the last 1,000 years, little can be said about the timing and actual migratory path followed by these families. Howev- er, comparing the genetic ancestry in present-day descendants can help us address the following broad questions:

(i) To what extent do the kulin Kayasthas of Bengal form a distinct genetic group, distinguishable from other Kayasthas and caste com- munities of present-day Bengal and India?

(ii) Does the genetic analysis support a connection between the mem- bers of the Bose, Ghosh, Datta and Guha families in our study (that represent four of the five lineages said to have come to southern Ben- gal from Kannauj) and the present-day northern Indian populations from the region around Kannauj?

Samples and Data Sets

Genealogical relationships between the anonymised samples gathered from the Kayasthas of Bengal
From: Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly

To address these questions, we gathered genetic data from 12 adults, representing four of the five lineages said to have come to southern Bengal from Kannauj. The sampled individuals belonged to the Mahinagar Bose lineage and their relatives by marriage, and a few other kulin and moulik Kayastha lineages of Bengal. Eleven volunteer donors of the study data were drawn from among the paternal and maternal relatives of a Bose individual and others belonging to the kulin Kayastha lineages of Bengal. An additional volunteer was a Srivastava from Uttar Pradesh (Figure 2).

All the samples had their DNA genotyped by 23andMe (www.23andme.com) for a set of ~500,000 genetic variants on the Illumina HumanOmniExpress platform. Four of the five kulin Kayastha lineages of Rarh Bengal—Bose, Ghosh, Datta and Guha—were covered by these samples, as well as the moulik Kayastha lineages Dey, Pal, Nandi, and Indra, who were believed to have resided in Bengal before the arrival of the kulins from Kannauj.

The genotype data were an- onymised (KB for Kayastha from Bengal followed by a code number), and merged with a set of 1,605 samples from 107 South Asian and neighbouring populations available from the literature (Behar et al 2010; Chaubey et al 2011; Metspalu et al 2011, the 1,000 Genomes Project 2015) to produce an overall data set consisting of 4,17,579 variants in 1,617 individuals.

Data Limitations

Before considering the findings of the genetic analysis in com- parison to the genealogical histories and popular legends, it is important to consider the limitations of both historical and genetic data. With regard to the genealogical histories, the indigenous production of caste histories needs to be seen in context. The interest in caste histories was strongest from around 1850 to 1930, coinciding with the rise of Indian nationalism. At the same time, the British colonial censuses were seen as po- tentially closing the door to upward mobility through the caste hierarchies, creating an incentive to lobby the census au- thorities to assign a higher status to particular groups. There was a “clear cultural and political purpose” behind these pro- jects—“the preservation of Brahmanical social order.” Tracing origins back to northern India and Kannauj, the heartland of Brahminical culture, would be an important part of that project. The interpretation of genealogical source materials also needs to weigh up the risks of bias. Basu’s history of the Kayasthas is rich in genealogical data, painstakingly gathered from kulagranthas kept by families. As he laments himself, much of the family genealogies appear to be lost, making future scholars even more dependent on his works. Basu demonstrates a formidable deployment of Sanskrit texts, Bengali traditional literature, and historical works by Indian and European authors, to complement his study of kulagranthas. However, Basu’s work seems hostile to Muslim rule in India and appears to assume an unquestioning allegiance to the Brahminical Hindu social order, which creates the risk that his selection and interpretation of genealogical and historical material may have been affected by these strongly held beliefs. There may be additional problems of errors arising when oral traditions were converted into written records, or differences of interpre- tation. There is a possibility that families may have created or amended their genealogies to suit their aspirations in the process of identity construction.

With regard to genetic analysis in discovering ancestry, there is an inevitable limitation when looking back over 1,000 years or more. Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 ...), with the result that over about 30 generations, or around 900 years, each of us has a billion potential ancestors. In reality, as the world’s current population is around 7 billion, and earlier populations were much smaller, these large numbers of poten- tial ancestors did not exist, so the same person appeared in dif- ferent places of a family tree. The number of potential ances- tors of a single individual and world population size intersect at around 900 years ago—assuming an average generation time of 30 years—which means that before this time, every person was a potential ancestor of every other living person on earth. Therefore, ultimately, “the best answer to the question ‘Where did my ancestors come from?’ is ‘Everywhere’.” This is especially true when exploring trajectories of human migra- tion over the past 1,000 years in the Indian subcontinent, which has witnessed remarkable population movements and invasions over this period.

Human sexual reproduction dictates that when comparing individuals who have only one ancestor in common ~33 gen- erations ago (that is, 1,000 years ago), the expected amount of shared genome inherited from this ancestor is in the order of 2-66, which is close to nothing, considering that the haploid human genome comprises just over 3 billion nucleotides. How- ever, any two present-day individuals may in practice share a considerable portion of their genome because they are closely related or because their genomes contain segments that have been around in their population of origin for a long time, and hence make them more similar to each other than to another person from a distant population.

Two particular data limitations affect our examination of the Kayasthas of Bengal, although these are likely to ease in the future with the availability of ever-increasing comparison data. The first problem is the lack of population samples from West Bengal, in lieu of which we compare them with their geographi- cal neighbours from eastern Bengal, present-day Bengalis in Bangladesh (BEB), who were sampled by the 1,000 Genomes Project. The BEB samples are assumed to be predominantly Muslim, reflecting the population of Bangladesh. Without infor- mation on whether the lineages sampled were originally Hindu, and if so, which caste, the BEB samples cannot be used to ad- dress questions at the family level, but do still provide the best available population from the geographical region of interest.

The available population comparison data also contains no samples specifically identified as “Kayastha” from Uttar Pradesh or other parts of northern India. The majority of the data com- prises self-identified samples of Brahmins, a number of lower castes including “Scheduled Castes,” and many indigenous tribal communities of India. This means that the caste group of northern India to which the Bengal Kayasthas claim to be connected is largely absent. However, there are seven samples identified as “Kshatriya” from Uttar Pradesh, who may be a caste stratum similar to the Bengal Kayasthas. The other sam- ple of an identified Kayastha lineage from Uttar Pradesh is the Srivastava sample generated and analysed in this study.


Closest admixture matches of Kayastha in Bengal ancestries with populations available- Table 1
From: Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly
Admixture distances between reconstructed ancestries focusing on genomic regions shared between individuals and s set of South Asian populations
From: Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly
Subset of Admixture distances between Kayastha in Bengal, reference samples and a set of South Asian populations
From: Luca Pagani, Sarmila Bose, Qasim Ayub, Chris Tyler-Smith, Kayasthas of Bengal, November 25, 2017, Volume-I: Economic and Political Weekly

Principal components and Admixture analyses: Principal components and Admixture are methods that we employed to infer an individual’s genetic ancestry. The merged data set comprised 4,17,579 variants in 1,617 individuals (Figure 3). Admixture (Alexander et al 2009) assigns individuals to an- cestral populations on the basis of variant allele frequencies at various values of K clusters, representing the chosen number of ancestral populations. The optimum value of K is not known in advance, and is determined from the data. In this case the best-supported model was represented by nine ancestral com- ponents (K=9, showing the smallest cross validation error) and this model was subsequently used to infer relationships between the KB and other population samples. We also used the nine Admixture values to compute the Euclidean distance between each of the KB samples and the average values of each of the comparison populations. For each population pi we also drew a sample si at random and computed the si-pi Selfi dis- tance. Each Euclidean distance between a given KB sample and a population pi was then compared with the Selfi distance and, if smaller, used as the 1/distance radius of the circles reported in Figure 4. Those circles are therefore to be interpreted as a measure of affinity between a given KB or reference sample and each of the reference populations. The bigger the circle, the higher the affinity, with simple dots repre- senting populations for which a given sample did not yield dis- tances smaller than the Selfi distance.

Admixture distances based on the ancestry-specific data set: To account for potential confounders arising from recent marriages between representatives of the KB lineages and people from outside families, we used the reconstructed genealogies reported in Figure 2 to narrow down genomic segments linked with the lineages of interest. We resolved the maternal and paternal chromosomal components by phasing our data set with SHAPEIT (Delaneau and Zagury 2012), and specifically looked for stretches of 500 variants shared between relatives. These shared genomic portions were assumed to be part of a given shared ancestry and labelled according to the scheme proposed in Figure 2. The genomic portions belonging to each ancestry were then pooled to form four “ancestry-specific” genomes. These ancestry-specific genomes, encompassing a subset of the total variants, were then combined with the original data set, keeping only the overlapping variants. These four ancestry-specific data sets were re-run on the Admixture soft- ware and the Euclidean distances calculated as before, using K=5 and reported in Table 1 and Figure 5. This smaller value of K was chosen since at higher K the ancestry-specific genomes started to accumulate their own ancestral component, becom- ing uninformative for the proposed analysis.

Comparisons with the Srivastava sample: Given the possi- bility of a surname shift in a branch of the KB family, leading to its formation from the Srivastava surname (or the other way around), we explicitly compared each of the available KB family samples with the Srivastava sample from Uttar Pradesh. A subset of Admixture distances (K=9) between KB, reference samples and a set of South Asian populations, showing only populations that are shared by both the Srivastava sample and at least one of the KB samples, is shown in Figure 6 (p 51). The geographical locations of this sample in such comparisons are shown in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.

Results and Interpretations

The studied samples—all known to be Bengal Kayasthas on their paternal side—were confirmed to be genetically closely- related and, as expected, cluster with other populations from South Asia in the principal component analysis, a widely-used method that draws population comparisons from allele fre- quencies. Relative to other broad groups of world populations (Figure 3) these samples cluster together and lie adjacent to BEB, their geographical neighbour in East Bengal (Figure 3–inset).

Further, their strictly paternal (Y chromosome) and mater- nal (mitochondrial DNA) genetic information reported in Figure 2 included, in most cases, lineages broadly diffused in the South Asian region and, hence, uninformative in tracing their specific geographical origin. An exception is provided by the Y chromosome lineage “O2a*” carried by the Kulin (Datta) KB10 sample. This lineage is characteristic of the South-East

Asian region, but has been ob- served at low (<5% frequency) in East Bengal and is rare (<1% fre- quency) in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Such a lineage would therefore provide tentative support for a Bengal origin of this particular kulin surname. How- ever, given the high number of generations that have occurred since the putative origin of the Datta surname, many confounding events may affect the reliability of this signal. Overall, the Kayasthas do not show any consistent relationship to the northern Indian region of Uttar Pradesh, or with particular caste groups therein. Individuals sampled here were clearly different from each other in terms of their closeness to the population samples availa- ble for comparison, and show ge- netic affinity with several popula- tions across the Indian subconti- nent, including the 1,000 Genomes South Asian samples (Table 1), sug- gesting a history of mixed populations and a fluidity of labels of caste or community.

A word of caution is necessary about the interpretation of the matches shown in Table 1. It is important to bear in mind that the specific populations or caste groups that appear in Table 1 do not signify definitive relationships with the Kayastha samples in our study data. As explained above, the comparison data lack any samples from West Bengal or any Kayastha sam- ples from northern India—the populations to which the Kayasthas of Bengal would be expected to be most closely related. Many other populations are also under- or un-repre- sented. As data from the many missing populations become available, the relative position of specific groups in this figure is expected to change. What the table does show, however, is that (i) the four ancestry-specific genomes of the Bengal Kayastha lineages here are very different from each other in terms of their relationship to various available comparison population groups, and (ii) all four ancestry-specific lineages show connections to all regions of India, and not just the north Indian plains.

The diversity of the Admixture distances from different

Bengal Kayastha genomic components in our study is in con- trast to some other populations of South Asia. The Admixture distance analysis showed very different results for individual samples of known origin, such as Bengali in Bangladesh (BEB), Punjabis in Lahore, Pakistan (PJL) and Indian Telugu in the UK (ITU), all of which showed the best matches with other samples from their population or region (Figure 4). On this basis it is remarkable to see how the various KB samples show, collectively, a variety of sharing patterns, some pointing to a marked Bengal origin (KB1 and KB2 in Figure 4), while others (KB3, KB9, KB10) show a more widespread Indian origin. Samples KB9–13 show some affinity with Srivastava and non-Bengal populations. However, we cannot determine how much of this is due to recent genetic contributions from non- kulin relatives. In order to deconvolute the ancestral information, we focused only on genomic regions shared between individuals belonging to a given family to infer the affinity of each of the study’s Kayastha samples with the available comparison popu- lations. While Bose and Pal lineages seem to indicate a pre- dominant origin in Uttar Pradesh and western India, the Deylineage points to modern south Indians as their best genetic match, while the Nandi lineage does not seem closer to any Indian population than its respective self (Table 1, Figure 5). In addition, it is worth noting how the ancestry deconvolution that was performed, for example for the Bose lineage, intro- duced dramatic improvements. Samples with Bose ancestry (KB1, KB3 and KB4 in Figure 4) in particular have a much less clear “kulin-like” signal than the reconstructed Bose ancestry (Figure 5). Such deconvolution was not possible for samples KB9–13 due to lack of maternal lineages.

With regard to the claim that the Srivastavas of Uttar Pradesh and the Boses of Bengal may have a common lineage, it is worth noting how the similarity between the KB data and the Srivastava sample changes depending on which study sample is considered (Figure 6). While KB3 and KB9, known to have one Bose parent, indeed show similar sharing patterns with the Srivastava sample, others (most notably KB2 and KB5 with no known Bose ancestry) do not. This could be interpret- ed as a distant relationship (identity) between the Srivastava and Bengal Kayastha samples, which, due to the number of generations since their separation, is currently reflected in random sharing of Srivastava lineages among the various Bengal Kayastha descendants. Conclusions The genetic analysis shows that the Bengal Kayastha individu- als in this study are genetically closely related, regardless of whether or not they are known to be relatives in the present day. Overall, they cluster with other South Asian populations, as would be expected, particularly with their geographical neighbours (BEB) in eastern Bengal (present-day Bangladesh).

After deconvolution of their ancestral components, each Bengal Kayastha sample shows a specific signature of popula- tion sharing (Figure 5), indicating that the lineages are different from each other and highlighting their complex demographic history, suggestive of different origins and/or diverse migration paths through India to Bengal.

Do our results shed light on whether or not the legend of the migration of kulin Kayasthas from Kannauj could be true? Individuals belonging to some of the Kayastha lineages, whether termed kulin or moulik in later times, show genetic relatedness with present-day populations in Uttar Pradesh (Bose, Pal), while others show a significant genomic contribution from South India, or do not yield any informative signal on the basis of available Indian populations for comparisons (Nandi). According to Nagendra Nath Basu’s definition, Pal and Nandi were reported as “local Bengal” surnames. While our genetic results seem to confirm this for Nandi (Figure 5), the variegated genetic origin of Pal points to limitations in our genetic approach, mostly due to the fluidity of labels of caste or community, and it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between kulin and moulik lineages in this regard.

Nevertheless, the high similarity to the Bose ancestry com- ponent of individuals currently living in Uttar Pradesh and North India seems to indicate a north Indian origin of this family. However, while genetic analysis might suggest a relationship, it cannot establish directionality, nor can it say exactly when a migration may have occurred. These questions can only be answered in conjunction with historical evidence. As both the Kannauj legend and Basu’s theory posited migration of the Bose lineage from north India, with Basu claiming it happened several centuries earlier, along with other Kayasthas, the genetic analysis of the Bose family provides some evidence in support of both the legend and Basu’s theory in pointing to a north Indian connection, but cannot resolve their disagree- ment over the timing, or how the family came to be considered kulin. In addition, the conserved affinity between Bose individ- uals and the Srivastava sample analysed here is supportive of Basu’s claim of a surname shift in the history of these two families.

With regard to potentially fruitful future research, a larger sampling of Bengal Kayasthas is unlikely to resolve the par- ticular question of the migration of a handful of kulin Kayasthas from Kannauj at a certain time. The impact of non- kulin maternal lineages would continue to be far greater, with an increase in “noise” generated as well as any meaningful signal. More comparison samples of Kayasthas from northern India may not yield much more either, as the signals from a migration that took place 1,000 or more years ago are likely to prove too faint and dispersed to capture specific relationships.

The increasing comparison data from the Indian subconti- nent as a whole and beyond, however, would continue to pro- vide possible discovery of relationships with groups as yet unrepresented. One such avenue might be to expand the sam- pling to the five Brahmins whom the five Kayasthas were meant to have accompanied to Bengal according to the Kan- nauj legend. Such an enquiry would face the same constraints as the Kayasthas, but would generate additional data on the stories of migration to Bengal. As in this study, however, it would be important to note that despite the strong constraints introduced by the caste system, a thousand years of constant dilution of the “migrant” signature through marriage with “local” women may have irremediably erased most of the genetic signature that forms the backbone of the legend of Kannauj. Analysis of relevant ancient DNA could, in principle, overcome the complexities introduced by such dilution, but would introduce both practical challenges due to likely DNA degradation in this environment, and also potential ethical issues.

In summary, our current study has explored the application of genetic analysis to a proposed historical migration, and pro- vided support for some aspects of it. The combination of his- torical and genetic research seems likely to become increas- ingly fruitful in the future.

Sub-castes, Groups/subgroups, surnames

(From People of India/ National Series Volume VIII. Readers who wish to share additional information/ photographs may please send them as messages to the Facebook community, Indpaedia.com. All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.)

Synonyms: Kaith, LaJa

[Bihar and/or Jharkhand]

Kaith, Lai, Lala

[Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

Kaet, Kait, Kayet

[West Bengal]


Astham, Bhatnagar, Gour, Karan, M athur, Nigam, Saksena, Srivastava

[Andhra Pradesh]

Ambasth, Asthana, Balmik, Bhatnagar, Gaur, Gour, Ka ran, Kulshresta, Mathur, Nigam, Saksena, Srivastav, Surajdwaj

[Bihar and/or Jharkhand]

Ambasth, Asthana, Balmiki, Bhatnagar, Dushre, Gour, Karan, Khare, Kulsreshta, Mathur, Nigam, Saksena, Shrivastava, Suryadhwaja

[Madhya Pradesh and/or Chh attisgarh]

Bangaja, Barendra, Dakshin Rarhi, Uttar Rarhi

[West Bengal]

Subcastes: Achal, Adhama, Aithana, Amashla, Amasht a, Bahatture, Balmik, Banga, Bangaja, Barendra, Bha tnagar, Dakshin Rarhi, Dusre, Gour, Hej, Karan, Kulin, Kulr eshta, Madhya Sreni, Madhyalya Mahapatra, Mathur, N igam, Sadhya, Sadhya Maulik, Saksena, Samanya Maulik, Sid dha Maulik, Srivastav, Surajdhawa, Uttar Rarhi

[H.H. Risley]

Ambascha or Amisht, Ashthana or Aithana, Bhatnagar, Gaur, Karan, Kulsreshtha, Mathur, Nigum, Saksena, Srivastab, Suryadhwaja, balmik or Valmiki

[Russell & Hiralal]

Aithana, Ambastha, Balmik, Bhatnagar, Ousre, Gour, Karan, Khare(Srivastav), Kulsrashta, Mathur, Nigam, Saksena, Srivastav, Surajdwaj

[S.S. Hassan]

Aithan, Amisht, Anvasta, Asthana, Balimik, Bangala, Batnagar, Bhatnagar, Budauni, Delhi, Dihlawi, Ousr a Srivastav), Gauda, Gaur, Gayawala, Gour, Kachchhi, Karan, Karau a, Khara, Kharua Kulshreshta, Lachauli (Panchauli), Maghribi, Manbi Kachchhi, Mathur, Nigam, Pachhani, Purabi, Sa ksena, Shimali, Sorathi (Valimiki), Srivastava, Sura jdhwaja, Tirhutiya, Tirhutwal, Unaya Valmiki

[W. Crooke]

Titles: Lala, Roy [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Chowdhuri, Dastidar, Majumdar, Roy, Sarkar

[West Bengal]

Abasakti, Adhya, Adicya, Aich, Ankur, Apa, Arnab, B aitosh, Bakshi, Bal, Ban, Bandhu, Basu, Bhadra, Das, Datta, De, Deb, Ghosh, Guha, Kar, Lai, Mitra, Nag, Nath, Palit, Rai, Sen, Singh Sinha [H.H. Risley] Ambasth, Gupta, Mathur, Nigam, Prasad, Sahay, Saxen a, Sinha, Srivastav, Verma

[Bihar and/or Jharkhand]

Beohar, Dayal, Lai, Nigam, Prasad, Saksena, Sinha

[ Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

Aditya, Aich, Banja, Bardhan, Basu, Bhadra, Bramah, Chandra, Das, Datta, Dey, Dhar, Ghosh, Guha, Gupta, Kar, Kshem, Mitra, Nandan, Nandi, Pal, Palit, Raha, Raks hit, Rudra, Sen, Sinha, Som, Sur

[West Bengal]

Bhatta, Hansa, Mandhwaj, Sambar, Saubhara, Walabhya

[S.S. Hassan]

Gotra: Bharadwaj, Goutam, Kashyap

[Madhya Pradesh a nd/or Chhattisgarh]

Alimman, Atreya, Basuki, Biswamitra, Goutam, Kashya p, Madugalya, Moudgoulya, Parasara, Sandilya, Sauka lin, Saupayan, Vatsa, Kaushika

[West Bengal]


[H.H. Risley]

Alambayana, Atri, Bharadwaj, Goutam, Goutama, Harit a, Kashyap, Koushik, Parasar, Sriharsha, Valmiki, Vas isht

[S.S. Hassan]


Agniberma, Agnibesya, Ajaidapal, Alambya n, Aliman, Ambahla, Ari, Atari, Atreya, Baidsain, Baijaghrapadya, Baijahmapadya, Baiyaghrapadya, Baks hi, Balain, Bardiar, Basuki, Batsya Bharadwaja, Bil war, Birnawar, Biswamitra, Datkiliar, Dedhgawe, Gaprai, Gautama, Ghritakausik, Gyasain, Hargambai, Jaipuria, Jamadagnya, Jamuar, Kablear, Kachgawai, Kalvisa, Ka rpatne Kasyapa, Katariyar, Kathautiar, Kausika, Kou shik, Krishnatreya, Lakhauriar, Mahtha, Mandilwar, Maudga lya, Nandkiriar, Narhatiar, Nimandhih, Nuniyar, Pan sain, Parasara, Rohita, Rukhiar Sabrna, Samaiar, Sandhawa r, Sandilya, Saraiyar, Saukalin, Sonknare, Supayan, Tinriar

[H.H. Risley]

Exogamous units/lineages (vans, khandan):

[Bihar an d/or Jharkhand]

Central Indian Kayasths

This section 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
of all of India. It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
the insights it gives into British colonial writing about the various communities
of India. Indpaedia neither agrees nor disagrees with the contents of this
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article. The general rule is that if we have nothing nice to say about
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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.

Kayasth, Kaith, Lala

The caste of writers and village accountants. The Kayasths numbered 34,000 persons in 191 1 and were found over the whole Province, but they are most numerous in the Saugor, Damoh, Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur Districts. In the Maratha country their place is to some extent taken by the Prabhus, the Maratha writer caste, and also by the Vidurs. No probable derivation of the name Kayasth appears to have been suggested. The earliest reference to Kayasths appears in an inscription in Malwa dated A.D. 738—739.

The inscription is of a Maurya king, and the term Kayasth is used there as a proper noun to mean a writer. Another dated A.D. 987 is written by a Kayasth named Kanchana. An inscription on the Delhi Siwalik pillar dated A.D. 1 1 64 is stated to have been written by a Kayasth named Sispati, the son of Mahava, by the king's command. The inscription adds that the Kayasth was of Gauda (Bengal) descent, and the term Kayasth is 1 This article is based partly on papers by Munshi Kanhya Lai of the Gazetteer office, Mr. Sundar Lai, Extra Assistant Commissioner, Saugor, and Mr. J. N. Sil, Pleader, Seoni.

here used in the sense of a member of the Kayasth caste and not simply meaning a writer as in the Malwa inscrip- tion. 1 From the above account it seems possible that the caste was of comparatively late origin. According to their own legend the first progenitor of the Kayasths was Chitragupta, who was created by Brahma from his own body and given to Yama the king of the dead, to record the good and evil actions of all beings, and produce the result when they arrived in the kingdom of the dead. Chitragupta was called Kayastha, from kaya stJia, existing in or incorporate in the body, because he was in the body of Brahma. Chitragupta was born of a dark complexion, and having a pen and ink-pot in his hand.

He married two wives, the elder being the granddaughter of the sun, who bore him four sons, while the younger was the daughter of a Brahman Rishi, and by her he had eight sons. These sons were married to princesses of the Naga or snake race ; the Nagas are supposed to have been the early nomad invaders from Central Asia, or Scythians. The twelve sons were entrusted with the government of different parts of India and the twelve subcastes of Kayasths are named after these localities. There has been much discussion on the origin of the 2. The Kayasth caste, which now occupies a high social position ^caste owing to the ability and industry of its members and their attainment of good positions in the public services.

All indications, however, point to the fact that the caste has obtained within a comparatively recent period a great rise in social status, and formerly ranked much lower than it does now. Dr. Bhattacharya states :

2 " The Kayasths of Bengal are described in some of the Hindu sacred books as Kshatriyas, but the majority of the Kayasth clans do not wear the sacred thread, and admit their status as Sudra also by the observance of mourning for thirty days. But whether Kshatriya or Sudra, they belong to the upper layer of Hindu society, and though the higher classes of Brahmans neither perform their religious ceremonies nor enlist them among their disciples, yet the gifts of the Kayasths are usually accepted by the great Pandits of the 1 Hindus of Gujarat, p. 59, quoting from Ind. Ant. vi. 1 92- 1 93. 2 Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 175.

country without hesitation." There is no doubt that a hundred years ago the Kayasths of Bengal and Bihar were commonly looked upon as Sudras. Dr. Buchanan, an excellent observer, states this several times. In Bihar he says that the Kayasths are the chief caste who are looked upon by all as pure Sudras and do not reject the appellation.

1 And again that " Pandits in Gorakhpur insist that Kayasths are mere Sudras, but on account of their influence included among gentry (Ashraf). All who have been long settled in the district live pure and endeavour to elevate themselves ; but this hss failed of success as kindred from other countries who still drink liquor and eat meat come and sit on the same mat with them." 2 Again he calls the Kayasths the highest Sudras next to Vaidyas.3 And " In Bihar the penmen (Kayasthas) are placed next to the Kshatris and by the Brahmans are considered as illegitimate, to whom the rank of Sudras has been given, and in general they do not presume to be angry at this decision, which in Bengal would be highly offensive.

4 Colebrooke remarks of the caste : " Karana, from a Vaishya by a woman of the Sudra class, is an attendant on princes or secretary. The appellation of Kayastha is in general considered as synonymous with Karana ; and accordingly the Karana tribe commonly assumes the name of Kayastha ; but the Kayasthas of Bengal have pretensions to be con- sidered as true Sudras, which the Jatimala seems to authorise, for the origin of the Kayastha is there mentioned before the subject of mixed castes is introduced, immediately after describing the Gopa as a true Sudra." 5 Similarly Colonel Dalton says : " I believe that in the present day the Kayasths arrogate to themselves the position of first among commoners, or first of the Sudras, but their origin is involved in some mystery.

Intelligent Kayasths make no pretension to be other than Sudras." 6 In his Census Report of the United Provinces Mr. R. Burn discusses the subject as follows : 7 " On the authority of these Puranic accounts, and in view of the fact that the Kayasths observe certain of the 1 Eastern India, i. p. 162. •' Essays, vol. ii. p. 182. 2 Ibidem, ii. p. 466. 6 Ethnology of Bengal, pp. 312, 313. 3 Ibide?n, ii. p. 736. 7 United Provinces Census Report 4 Ibidem, ii. p. 122. (1901), pp. 222-223.

Sanskars in the same method as is prescribed for Kshatriyas, the Pandits of several places have given formal opinions that the Kayasths are Kshatriyas. On the other hand, there is not the slightest doubt that the Kayasths are commonly regarded either as a mixed caste, with some relationship to two if not three of the twice-born castes, or as Sudras. This is openly stated in some of the reports, and not a single Hindu who was not a Kayasth of the many I have personally asked about the matter would admit privately that the Kayasths are twice -born, and the same opinion was expressed by Muhammadans, who were in a position to gauge the ordinary ideas held by Hindus, and are entirely free from prejudice in the matter. One of the most highly respected orthodox Brahmans in the Provinces wrote to me confirming this opinion, and at the same time asked that his name might not be published in connection with it.

The matter has been very minutely examined in a paper sent up by a member of the Benares committee who came to the conclusion that while the Kayasths have been declared to be Kshatriyas in the Puranas, by Pandits, and in several judgments of subordinate courts, and to be Sudras by Manu and various commentators on him, by public opinion, and in a judgment of the High Court of Calcutta, they are really of Brahmanical origin. He holds that those who to-day follow literary occupations are the descendants of Chitragupta by his Brahman and Kshatriya wives, that the so-called Unaya Kayasths are descended from Vaishya mothers, and the tailors and cobblers from Sudra mothers. It is possible to trace to some extent points which have affected public opinion on this question.

The Kayasths themselves admit that in the past their reputation as hard drinkers was not altogether unmerited, but they deserve the highest credit for the improvements which have been effected in this regard. There is also a widespread belief that the existing general observance by Kayasths of the ceremonies prescribed for the twice-born castes, especially in the matter of wearing the sacred thread, is comparatively recent. It is almost superfluous to add that notwithstanding the theo- retical views held as to their origin and position, Kayasths undoubtededly rank high in the social scale. All European

3. The rise of the Kayasths undi-r rulers. writers have borne testimony to their excellence and success in many walks of life, and even before the commencement of British power many Kayasths occupied high social positions and enjoyed the confidence of their rulers." It appears then a legitimate conclusion from the evidence that the claim of the Kayasths to be Kshatriyas is compara- tively recent, and that a century ago they occupied a very much lower social position than they do now. We do not find them playing any prominent part in the early or mediaeval Hindu kingdoms. There is considerable reason for sup- posing that their rise to importance took place under the foreign or non - Hindu governments in India. Thus a prominent Kayasth gentleman says of his own caste

" The people of this caste were the first to learn Persian, the language of the Muhammadan invaders of India, and to obtain the posts of accountants and revenue collectors under Muhammadan kings. Their chief occupation is Government service, and if one of the caste adopts any other profession he is degraded in the estimation of his caste-fellows." Malcolm states: 2 "When the Muhammadans invaded Hindustan and conquered its Rajput princes, we may conclude that the Brahmans of that country who possessed knowledge or distinction fled from their intolerance and violence ; but the conquerors found in the Kayastha or Kaith tribe more pliable and better instruments for the conduct of the details of their new Government. This tribe had few religious scruples, as they stand low in the scale of Hindus.

They were, according to their own records, which there is no reason to question, qualified by their previous employment in all affairs of state ; and to render themselves completely useful had only to add the language of their new masters to those with which they were already acquainted. The Muhammadans carried these Hindus into their southern conquests, and they spread over the countries of Central India and the Deccan ; and some families who are Kanungos 3 of 1 Lala Jvvala Prasad, Extra Assistant Commissioner, in Sir E.

A Maclagan's Punjab Census Report for 189 1. 2 Memoir of Centra/ India, vol. ii. pp. 165-166. 3 The Kanungo maintains the statistical registers of land -revenue, rent, cultivation, cropping, etc., for the District as a whole which are compiled from those prepared by the patwaris for each village.

districts and patwaris of villages trace their settlement in this country from the earliest Muhammadan conquest." Similarly the Bombay Gazetteer states that under the arrange- ments made by the Emperor Akbar, the work of collecting the revenues of the twenty-eight Districts subordinate to Surat was entrusted to Kayasths.

1 And the Mathur Kayasths of Gujarat came from Mathura in the train of the Mughal viceroys as their clerks and interpreters.2 Under the Muhammadans and for some time after the introduction of English rule, a knowledge of Persian was required in a Government clerk, and in this language most of the Kayasths were proficient, and some were excellent clerks.3 Kayasths attained very high positions under the Muhammadan kings of Bengal and were in charge of the revenue department under the Nawabs of Murshldabad ; while Rai Durlao Ram, prime minister of Ali Verdi Khan, was a Kayasth.

The governors of Bihar in the period between the battle of Plassey and the removal of the exchequer to Calcutta were also Kayasths.4 The Bhatnagar Kayasths, it is said, came to Bengal at the time of the Muhammadan conquest.5 Under the Muhammadan kings of Oudh, too, numerous Kayasths occupied posts of high trust.6 Similarly the Kayasths entered the service of the Gond kings of the Central Provinces. It is said that when the Gond ruler Bakht Buland of Deogarh in Chhind wara went to Delhi, he brought a number of Kayasths back with him and introduced them into the administration. One of these was appointed Bakshi or paymaster to the army of Bakht Buland. His descendant is a leading land- holder in the Seoni District with an estate of eighty-four villages.

Another Kayasth landholder of Jubbulpore and ' Hindus of Gujarat, p. 60. country and one of them laid down ' Ibidem, p. 64. rules for the structure and inter - 3 Ibidem, p. 61. marriage of the Brahman caste, it is 4 Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and practically impossible that they could Sects, p. 177. It is true that Dr. have been Kayasths. The Muham- Bhattacharya states that the Kayasths madan conquest of Bengal took place were also largely employed under the at an early period, and very little Hindu kings of Bengal, but he gives detail is known about the preceding no authority for this.

The Gaur Hindu dynasties. Kayasths also claim that the Sena 5 Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal, kings of Bengal were of their caste, art. Bihar Kayasth. but considering that these kings were 6 Sherring, Tribes and Castes, vol. looked on as spiritual heads of the iii. pp. 253-254.

Mandla occupied some similar position in the service of the Gond kings of Garha-Mandla. Finally in the English administration the Kayasths at first monopolised the ministerial service. In the United Provinces, Bengal and Bihar, it is stated that the number of Kayasths may perhaps even now exceed that of all other castes taken together. 1 And in Gujarat the Kayasths have lost in recent years the monopoly they once enjoyed as Government clerks.2 The Mathura Kayasths of Gujarat are said to be declining in prosperity on account of the present keen competition for Government service,3 of which it would thus appear they formerly had as large a share as they desired.

The Prabhus, the writer -caste of western India corresponding to the Kayasths, were from the time of the earliest European settlements much trusted by English merchants, and when the British first became supreme in Gujarat they had almost a monopoly of the Government service as English writers. To such an extent was this the case that the word Prabhu or Purvu was the general term for a clerk who could write English, whether he was a Brahman, Sunar, Prabhu, Portuguese or of English descent. 4 Similarly the word Cranny was a name applied to a clerk writing English, and thence vulgarly applied in general to the East Indians or half-caste class from among whom English copyists were afterwards chiefly recruited. The original is the Hindi karani, kirani, which Wilson derives from the Sanskrit karan, a doer. Karana is also the name of the Orissa writer-caste, who are writers and accountants.

It is probable that the name is derived from this caste, that is the Uriya Kayasths, who may have been chiefly employed as clerks before any considerable Eurasian community had come into existence. Writers' Buildings at Calcutta were recently still known to the natives as Karani ki Bank, and this supports the derivation from the Karans or Uriya Kayasths, the case thus being an exact parallel to that of the Prabhus in Bombay.5 From the above argument it seems legitimate to deduce 1 Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and 4 Ibidem, p. 68, and Mackintosh, Tribes, p. 177. Report in the Ramosis, India Office 2 Hindus of Gujarat, p. 81. Tracts, p. 77. 3 Ibidem, p. 67. 5 Hobson-Jobson, s.v. Cranny.

that the Kayasths formerly occupied a lower position in 4. The Hindu society.

The Brahmans were no doubt jealous of profession them and, as Dr. Bhattacharya states, would not let them of the learn Sanskrit. 1 But when India became subject to foreign ayas rulers the Kayasths readity entered their service, learning the language of their new employers in order to increase their efficiency. Thus they first learnt Persian and then English, and both by Muhammadans and English were employed largely, if not at first almost exclusively, as clerks in the public offices. It must be remembered that there were at this time practically only two other literate castes among Hindus, the Brahmans and the Banias.

The Brahmans naturally would be for long reluctant to lower their dignity by taking service under foreign masters, whom they regarded as outcaste and impure ; while the Banias down to within the last twenty years or so have never cared for education beyond the degree necessary for managing their business. Thus the Kayasths had at first almost a monopoly of public employment under foreign Governments. It has been seen also that it is only within about the last century that the status of the Kayasths has greatly risen, and it is a legitimate deduction that the improvement dates from the period when they began to earn distinction and importance under these governments. But they were always a literate caste, and the conclusion is that in former times they discharged duties to which literacy was essential in a comparatively humble sphere.

" The earliest reference to the Kayasths as a distinct caste," Sir H. Risley states, " occurs in Yajnavalkya, who describes them as writers and village accountants, very exacting in their demands from the cultivators." The pro- fession of patwari or village accountant appears to have been that formerly appertaining to the Kayasth caste, and it is one which they still largely follow. In Bengal it is now stated that Kayasths of good position object to marry their daughters in the families of those who have served as patwaris or village accountants. Patwaris, one of them said to Sir H. Risley, however rich they may be, are considered as socially lower than other Kayasths, e.g. Kanungo, Akhauri, Pande or Bakshi. Thus it appears that the old patwari 1 Hobson-Jobson, p. 167.

5- The caste an offshoot from Brahmans. Kayasths are looked down upon by those who have improved their position in more important branches of Government service. Kanungo, as explained, is a sort of head of the patwaris ; and Bakshi, a post already noticed as held by a Kayasth in the Central Provinces, is the Muhammadan office of paymaster. Similarly Mr. Crooke states that while the higher members of the caste stand well in general repute, the village Lala (or Kayasth), who is very often an accountant, is in evil odour for his astuteness and chicanery. In Central India, as already seen, they are Kanungos of Districts and patwaris of villages ; and here again Malcolm states that these officials were the oldest settlers, and that the later comers, who held more important posts, did not intermarry with them. 1 In Gujarat the work of collecting the revenue in the Surat tract was entrusted to Kayasths.

Till 1868, in the English villages, and up to the present time in the Baroda villages, the subdivisional accountants were mostly Kayasths.2 In the Central Provinces the bulk of the patwaris in the northern Districts and a large proportion in other Districts outside the Maratha country are Kayasths. If the Kayasths were originally patwaris or village accountants, their former low status is fully explained. The village accountant would be a village servant, though an important one, and would be supported like the other village artisans by contributions of grain from the cultivators.

This is the manner in which patwaris of the Central Provinces were formerly paid. His status would technically be lower than that of the cultivators, and he might be considered as a Sudra or a mixed caste. As regards the origin of the Kayasths, the most probable hypothesis would seem to be that they were an offshoot of Brahmans of irregular descent.

The reason for this is that the Kayasths must have learnt reading and writing from some outside source, and the Brahmans were the only class who could teach it them. The Brahmans were not disposed to spread the benefits of education, which was the main source of their power, with undue liberality, and when another literate class was required for the performance of 1 Memoir of Central India, lor. cit. 2 Hindus of Gujarat, p. 60.

duties which they disdained to discharge themselves, it would be natural that they should prefer to educate people closely connected with them and having claims on their support. In this connection the tradition recorded by Sir H. Risley may be noted to the effect that the ancestors of the Bengal Kayasths were five of the caste who came from Kanauj in attendance on five Brahmans who had been summoned by the king of Bengal to perform for him certain Vedic ceremonies. 1 It may be noted also that the Vidurs, another caste admittedly of irregular descent from Brahmans, occupy the position of patwaris and village accountants in the Maratha districts.

The names of their subcastes indicate generally that the home of the Kayasths is the country of Hindustan, the United Provinces, and part of Bengal. This is also the place of origin of the northern Brahmans, as shown by the names of their most important groups. The Rajputs and Banias on the other hand belong mainly to Rajputana, Gujarat and Bundelkhand, and in most of this area the Kayasths are immigrants. It has been seen that they came to Malwa and Gujarat with the Muhammadans ; the number of Kayasths returned from Rajputana at the census was quite small, and it is doubtful whether the Kayasths are so much as mentioned in Tod's Rajasthan. The hypothesis therefore of their being derived either from the Rajputs or Banias appears to be untenable. In the Punjab also the Kayasths are found only in small numbers and are immigrants.

As stated by Sir H. Risley, both the physical type of the Kayasths and their remarkable intel- lectual attainments indicate that they possess Aryan blood ; similarly Mr. Sherring remarks : " He nevertheless exhibits a family likeness to the Brahman ; you may not know where to place him or how to designate him ; but on looking at him and conversing with him you feel quite sure that you are in the presence of a Hindu of no mean order of intellect." 2 No doubt there was formerly much mixture of blood in the 1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. the king of Bengal. This, however, Bengal Kayasth. The Kayasths deny is improbable in view of the evidence the story that the five Kayasths were already given as to the historical status servants of the five Brahmans, and of the Kayasths. say that they were Kshatriyas sent on a mission from the king of Kanauj to - Tribes and Castes, ibidem. 4 , 4

caste ; some time ago the Kayasths were rather noted for keeping women of other castes, and. Sir H. Risley gives instances of outsiders being admitted into the caste. Dr. Bhattacharya states 1 that, "There are many Kayasths in eastern Bengal who are called Ghulams or slaves. Some of them are still attached as domestic servants to the families of the local Brahmans, Vaidyas and aristocratic Kayasths. Some of the Ghulams have in recent times become rich land- holders, and it is said that one of them has got the title of Rai Bahadur from Government.

The marriage of a Ghulam generally takes place in his own class, but instances of Ghulams marrying into aristocratic Kayasth families are at present not very rare." Further, the Dakshina Rarhi Kayasths affect the greatest veneration for the Brahmans and profess to believe in the legend that traces their descent from the five menial servants who accompanied the five Brahmans invited by kino- Adisur. The Uttara Rarhi Kayasths or those of northern Burdwan, on the other hand, do not profess the same veneration for Brahmans as the southerners, and deny the authenticity of the legend. It was this class which held some of the highest offices under the Muhammadan rulers of Bengal, and several leading zamlndars or landholders at present belong to it. 2 It was probably in this capacity of village accountant that the Kayasth incurred the traditional hostility of one or two of the lower castes which still subsists in legend. 3 The influence which the patwari possesses at present, even under the most vigorous and careful supervision and with the liability to severe punishment for any abuse of his position, is a sufficient indication of what his power must have been when supervision and control were almost nominal. On this point Sir Henry Maine remarks in his description of the village community : " There is always a village accountant, an important personage among an unlettered population ; so important indeed, and so con- spicuous that, according to the reports current in India, the earliest English functionaries engaged in settlements of land were occasionally led, by their assumption that there 1 Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 155. 2 Ibidem, pp. 375, 380. 3 See articles on Ghasia and Dhobi. ii THE SUCCESS OF THE KAYASTHS 415 must be a single proprietor somewhere, to mistake the accountant for the owner of the village, and to record him as such in the official register. 1 In Bihar Sir H. Risley shows that Kayasths have obtained proprietary right in a large area. It may be hoped that the leading members of the 6. The Kayasth caste will not take offence, because in the dis- ^ces cussion of the origin of their caste, one of the most interest- Kayasths ing problems of Indian ethnology, it has been necessary p"^^^ to put forward a hypothesis other than that which they hold position, themselves. It would be as unreasonable for a Kayasth to feel aggrieved at the suggestion that centuries ago their ancestors were to some extent the offspring of mixed unions as for an Englishman to be insulted by the statement that the English are of mixed descent from Saxons, Danes and Normans.

If the Kayasths formerly had a compara- tively humble status in Hindu society, then it is the more creditable to the whole community that they should have succeeded in raising themselves by their native industry and ability without adventitious advantages to the high position in which by general admission the caste now stands. At present the Kayasths are certainly the highest caste after Brahman, Rajput and Bania, and probably in Hindustan, Bengal and the Central Provinces they may be accounted as practically equal to Rajputs and Banias.

Of the Bengal Kayasths Dr. Bhattacharya wrote : 2 " They generally prove equal to any position in which they are placed. They have been successful not only as clerks but in the very highest executive and judicial offices that have yet been thrown open to the natives of this country. The names of the Kayastha judges, Dwarka Nath Mitra, Ramesh Chandra Mitra and Chandra Madhava Ghose are well known and respected by all. In the executive services the Kayasths have attained the same kind of success. One of them, Mr. R. C. Dutt, is now the Commissioner of one of the most important divisions of Bengal. Another, named Kalika Das Datta, has been for several years employed as Prime Minister of the Kuch Bihar State, giving signal proofs of 1 Village Communities, p. 125. 2 Hindu Castes and Sects, ibidem, p. 177. 7

his ability as an administrator by the success with which he has been managing the affairs of the principality in his charge." In the Central Provinces, too, Kayasth gentlemen hold the most important positions in the administrative, judicial and public works departments, as well as being strongly represented in the Provincial and subordinate execu- tive services. And in many Districts Kayasths form the backbone of the ministerial staff of the public offices, a class whose patient laboriousness and devotion to duty, with only the most remote prospects of advancement to encourage them to persevere, deserve high commendation. The northern India Kayasths are divided into the fol- Sub- lowing twelve subcastes, which are mainly of a territorial character

(a) Srivastab. {g) Mathur. (b) Saksena. (k) Kulsreshtha. (c) Bhatnagar. (z) Suryadhwaja. id) Ambastha or Amisht. (k) Karan. (e) Ashthana or Aithana. (/) Gaur. (/) Balmik or Valmlki. (jn) Nigum.

{a) The Srivastab subcaste take their name from the old town of Sravasti, now Sahet-Mahet, in the north of the United Provinces. They are by far the most numerous subcaste both there and here. In these Provinces nearly all the Kayasths are Srivastabs except a few Saksenas. They are divided into two sections, Khare and Dusre, which correspond to the Blsa and Dasa groups of the Banias.

The Khare are those of pure descent, and the Dusre the offspring of remarried widows or other irregular alliances. (b) The Saksena are named from the old town of San- kisa, in the Farukhabad District. They also have the Khare and Dusre groups, and a third section called Kharua, which is said to mean pure, and is perhaps the most aristocratic. A number of Saksena Kayasths are resident in Seoni Dis- trict, where their ancestors were settled by Bakht Buland, the Gond Raja of Deogarh in Chhlndwara. These consti- tuted hitherto a separate endogamous group, marrying among themselves, but since the opening of the railway negotiations

have been initiated with the Saksenas of northern India, with the result that intermarriage is to be resumed between the two sections. (V) The Bhatnagar take their name from the old town of Bhatner, near Bikaner. They are divided into the Vaishya or Kadim, of pure descent, and the Gaur, who are apparently the offspring of intermarriage with the Gaur subcaste. (d) Ambastha or Amisht.

These are said to have settled on the Girnar hill, and to take their name from their worship of the goddess Ambaji or Amba Devi. Mr. Crooke suggests that they may be connected with the old Ambastha caste who were noted for their skill in medicine. The prac- tice of surgery is the occupation of some Kayasths. 1 It is also supposed that the names may come from the Ameth pargana of Oudh. The Ambastha Kayasths are chiefly found in south Bihar, where they are numerous and influential. 2 (e) Ashthana or Aithana. This is an Oudh subcaste. They have two groups, the Purabi or eastern, who are found in Jaunpur and its neighbourhood, and the Pachhauri or western, who live in or about Lucknow. (f) Balmlk or Valmiki. These are a subcaste of western India. Balmlk or Valmlk was the traditional author of the Ramayana, but they do not trace their descent from him. The name may have some territorial meaning.

The Valmiki are divided into three endogamous groups according as they live in Bombay, Cutch or Surat. (g) The Mathur subcaste are named after Mathura or Muttra. They are also split into the local groups Dihlawi of Delhi, Katchi of Cutch and Lachauli of Jodhpur. (/*) The Kulsreshtha or 'well-born' Kayasths belong chiefly to the districts of Agra and Etah. They are divided into the Barakhhera, or those of twelve villages, and the Chha Khera of six villages. (z) The Suryadhwaja subcaste belong to Ballia, Ghazi- pur and Bijnor. Their origin is obscure. They profess excessive purity, and call themselves Sakadwlpi or Scythian Brahmans. 1 Tribes and Castes, art. Kayasth. 2 Bhallackarya, loc. cil., p. 188. VOL. Ill 2 V,

(/•) The Karan subcaste belong to Bihar, and have two local divisions, the Gayawale from Gaya, and the Tirhutia from Tirhut. (/) The Gaur Kayasths, like the Gaur Brahmans and Rajputs, apparently take their name from Gaur or Lakh- nauti, the old kingdom of Bengal. They have the Khare and Dusre subdivisions, and also three local groups named after Bengal, Delhi and Budaun. (;//) The Nigum subcaste, whose name is apparently the same as that of the Nikumbh Rajputs, are divided into two endogamous groups, the Kadlm or old, and the Unaya, or those coming from Unao. Sometimes the Unaya are considered as a separate thirteenth subcaste of mixed descent. 3. Exo- Educated Kayasths now follow the standard rule of gam7 " exogamy, which prohibits marriage between persons within five degrees of affinity on the female side and seven on the male.

That is, persons having a common grandparent on the female side cannot intermarry, while for those related through males the prohibition extends a generation further back. This is believed to be the meaning of the rule but it is not quite clear. In Damoh the Srivastab Kayasths still retain exogamous sections which are all named after places in the United Provinces, as Hamlrpur ki baink (section), Lucknowbar, Kashi ki Pande (a wise man of Benares), Partabpuria, Cawnpore-bar, Sultanpuria and so on. They say that the ancestors of these sections were families who came from the above places in northern India, and settled in Damoh ; here they came to be known by the places from which they had immigrated, and so founded new exogamous sections.

A man cannot marry in his own section, or that of his mother or grandmother. In the Central Provinces a man may marry two sisters, but in northern India this is prohibited. 9. Mar- Marriage may be infant or adult, and, as in many places husbands are difficult to find, girls occasionally remain un- married till nearly twenty, and may also be mated to boys younger than themselves. In northern India a substantial bridegroom-price is paid, which increases for a well-educated boy, but this custom is not so well established in the Central

Provinces. However, in Damoh it is said that a sum of Rs. 200 is paid to the bridegroom's family. The marriage ceremony is performed according to the proper ritual for the highest or Brahma form of marriage recognised by Manu with Vedic texts. When the bridegroom arrives at the bride's house he is given sherbet to drink. It is said that he then stands on a pestle, and the bride's mother throws wheat-flour balls to the four points of the compass, and shows the bridegroom a miniature plough, a grinding pestle, a churning-staff and an arrow, and pulls his nose.

The bridegroom's struggles to prevent his mother-in-law pulling his nose are the cause of much merriment, while the two parties afterwards have a fight for the footstool on which he stands. 1 An image of a cow in flour is then brought, and the bridegroom pierces its nostrils with a little stick of gold. Kayasths do not pierce the nostrils of bullocks themselves, but these rites perhaps recall their dependence on agriculture in their capacity of village accountants. After the wedding the bridegroom's father takes various kinds of fruit, as almonds, dates and raisins, and fills the bride's lap with them four times, finally adding a cocoanut and a rupee. This is a ceremony to induce fertility, and the cocoanut perhaps represents a child.

The following are some specimens of songs sung at 10. Mar- weddings. The first is about Rama's departure from Aiodhia nage r j songs. when he went to the forests : Now Hari (Rama) has driven his chariot forth to the jungle. His father and mother are weeping. Kaushilya 2 stood up and said, ' Now, whom shall I call my diamond and my ruby ? ' Dasrath went to the tower of his palace to see his son ; As Rama's chariot set forth under the shade of the trees, he wished that he might die. Bharat ran after his brother with naked feet. He said, ' Oh brother, you are going to the forest, to whom do you give the kingdom of Oudh ? ' Rama said, ' When fourteen years have passed away I shall come back from the jungles. Till then I give the kingdom to you.'

The following is a love dialogue : 1 Hindus of Gujarat, p. 72. 2 Dasrath and Kaushilya were the father and mother of Rama.

Make a beautiful garden for me to see my king. In that garden what flowers shall I set? Lemons, oranges, pomegranates, figs. In that garden what music shall there be ? A tambourine, a fiddle, a guitar and a dancing girl. In that garden what attendants shall there be ? A writer, a supervisor, a secretary for writing letters. 1 The next is a love-song by a woman :

How has your countenance changed, my lord ? Why speak you not to your slave ? If I were a deer in the forest and you a famous warrior, would you not shoot me with your gun ? If I were a fish in the water and you the son of a fisherman, would you not catch me with your drag-net ? If I were a cuckoo in the garden and you the gardener's son, would you not trap me with your liming-stick ? The last is a dialogue between Radha and Krishna.

Radha with her maidens was bathing in the river when Krishna stole all their clothes and climbed up a tree with them. Girdhari is a name of Krishna : R. You and I cannot be friends, Girdhari ; I am wearing a silk- embroidered cloth and you a black blanket. You are the son of old Nand, the shepherd, and I am a princess of Mathura. You have taken my clothes and climbed up a kadamb tree. I am naked in the river. K. I will not give you your clothes till you come out of the water. R. If I come out of the water the people will laugh and clap at me.

All my companions seeing your beauty say, ' You have vanquished us ; we are overcome.' ii. Social Polygamy is permitted but is seldom resorted to, except for the sake of offspring. Neither widow- marriage nor divorce are recognised, and either a girl or married woman is expelled from the caste if detected in a liaison. A man may keep a woman of another caste if he does not eat from her hand nor permit her to eat in the chauk or purified place where he and his family take their meals. The prac- tice of keeping women was formerly common but has now been largely suppressed. Women of all castes were kept except Brahmans and Kayasths. Illegitimate children were known as Dogle or Sura.it and called Kayasths, ranking as 1 These are the occupations of the Kayasths.

an inferior group of the caste. And it is not unlikely that in the past the descendants of such irregular unions have been admitted to the Dusre or lower branch of the different subcastes. During the seventh month of a woman's pregnancy a 12. Birth dinner is given to the caste-fellows and songs are sung. custonis - After this occasion the woman must not go outside her own village, nor can she go to draw water from a well or to bathe in a tank. She can only go into the street or to another house in her own village. On the sixth day after a birth a dinner is given to the caste and songs are sung.

The women bring small silver coins or rupees and place them in the mother's lap. The occasion of the first appearance of the signs of maturity in a girl is not observed at all if she is in her father's house. But if she has gone to her father-in-law's house, she is dressed in new clothes, her hair after being washed is tied up, and she is seated in the cliaiik or purified space, while the women come and sing songs. The Kayasths venerate the ordinary Hindu deities. 13. Reii- They worship Chitragupta, their divine ancestor, at weddings glon ' and at the Holi and Diwali festivals. Twice a year they venerate the pen and ink, the implements of their profession, to which they owe their great success.

The patwaris in Hoshangabad formerly received small fees, known as dizvat pfija, from the cultivators for worshipping the ink-bottle on their behalf, presumably owing to the idea that, if neglected, it might make a malicious mistake in the record of their rights. The dead are burnt, and the proper offerings are made 14. Social on the anniversaries, according to the prescribed Hindu customs - ritual. Kayasth names usually end in Prasad, Singh, Baksh, Sewak, and Lala in the Central Provinces. Lala, which is a term of endearment, is often employed as a synonym for the caste. Dada or uncle is a respectful term of address for Kayasths. Two names are usually given to a boy, one for ceremonial and the other for ordinary use. The Kayasths will take food cooked with water from Brahmans, and that cooked without water (pakki) from Rajputs and Banias. Some Hindustani Brahmans, as well

as Khatris and certain classes of Banias, will take pakki food from Kayasths. Kayasths of different subcastes will some- times also take it from each other. They will give the huqqa with the reed in to members of their own subcaste, and without the reed to any Kayasth. The caste eat the flesh of goats, sheep, fish, and birds.

They were formerly somewhat notorious for drinking freely, but a great reform has been effected in this respect by the community itself through the agency of their caste conference, and many are now total abstainers. The occupations of the Kayasths have been treated in discussing the origin of the caste. They set the greatest store by their profession of writing and say that the son of a Kayasth should be either literate or dead.

The following is the definition of a Lekhak or writer, a term said to be used for the Kayasths in Puranic literature : " In all courts of justice he who is acquainted with the languages of all countries and conversant with all the Shastras, who can arrange his letters in writing in even and parallel lines, who is possessed of presence of mind, who knows the art of how and what to speak in order to carry out an object in view, who is well versed in all the Shastras, who can express much thought in short and pithy sentences, who is apt to understand the mind of one when one begins to speak, who knows the different divisions of countries and of time,1 who is not a slave to his passions, and who is faithful to the king deserves the name and rank of a Lekhak or writer." 2 1. General notice.

Deccan Kayasths

This article is an extract from






Of Merton College, Oxford, Trinity College, Dublin, and

Middle Temple, London.

One of the Judges of H. E. H. the Nizam's High Court

of Judicature : Lately Director of Public Instruction.




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Kayasth, Kaeth — an influential and highly respected caste, which counts among its members some of the chieif landholders and nobles of Hyderabad.

Origin & Internal Structure

The Kayaslhs claim to be Kshatriyas and trace their parentage to Chitragupta, the scribe of Yama, who was produced from the inner consciousness of Brahma. Chitragupta had two wives, Nandini and Saubhavati ; the former bore him four sons — Gangadhar, Bhanuprakash, Ramdayal, and Dharma- dhwaj and the latter, eight sons — Shamsundar, Sarangdhar, Dharma- datha, Somasta, Damodar, Dindayal, Sadanand, and Raghavrao. Chitragupta and his sons were invested by Brahma with the sacred thread and enrolled among the twice-born. Their occupation was ordained to be the management of the business affairs and the keeping of the accounts of the other castes. For this purpose, the sons were sent to different localities and became, subsequently, the founders of the twelve sub-castes of the Kayasths, each of which was called after the country its founder occupied.

The following table will illustrate this point : —


The. Sri Bastab sub-caste is further divided into two sub-divi- sions, Khare and Dusre. tracing their origin to the two sons of Dharamadhwaj the fourth son of Chitragupla. The Khare Sri Bastabs claim to be higher than the ordinary Sri Bastabs. The two sub-divisions do not intermarry nor eat nor drink together.

Of these thirteen sub-castes, those that are numerous in these dominions are the Mathur, Bhatnagar, Aithana, Saksena, Sri Bastab Khare and Dusre. T-he Mathur Kayasths are recognised by all to be the chief class.

The Chandra Seniya Kayasths of Bombay and Poona, a few of whom only are to be found in the Hyderabad State, claim to be the descendants of Raja Chandrasena, a Kshatriya king of Oudh, and style themselves ' Prabhu *, popularly ' Parbhu ', from ' Prabhu ' a lord. The legendary origin of these people is just the same as that of the Bengal Kayasths (Risley's "Tribes and Castes", Bengal, Vol. I, p. 438), both claiming descent from Raja Chandrasen of the lunar race, whos^ wife and son were protected by the sage Dalabhya from Pa?suram's wrath. This may lead to the conclusion that both have come originally from the same stock and their separation is due to geographical causes.

The Chandraseniya Kayasths were divided, formerly, into two endogamous divisions!, Davane fjom Daman, and Chandraseniya proper, the members of which did not intermarry. The two branches have been recently reunited and marriage relations have been re- established, as it was recognised that they were originally one and the same people and the differentiation was due to purely geogra- phical causes. The Prabhus rendered distinguished services as reve- nue accountants and soldiers under the Muhammadan and subsequently under the Maratha rule.

As regards marriages, the Brahmanical gotras, though re- cognised in theory, are ineffective. Thus, all Mathurs belong to the Kasyapa gotra and of necessity violate the primary rule of exogamy upon which the gotra system depends. The intermarriage is regu- lated by a number of exogamous sections, mostly of territorial or titular type. A man must marry within the sub-caste and outside the exogamous section to which he belongs. The system is supple- mented by a table of prohibited degrees, calculated in rfie manner prevalent among other Northern India castes of the same social standing.


As a rule, girls must be married after the com- pletion of the eighth year and before attaining puberty. It is not unusual, however, for the daughters of poor Kayasth families to remain unmarried up to the age of eighteen or nineteen. When a girl is married before puberty, she lives with Jier own people, apart from the husband, until she has attained sexual maturity. When she is married after puberty, she goes to live with her husband at once or, at the latest, after a year. Polygamy is allowed, but is rarely resorted to unless the first wife is barren or incurably diseased. Widows may not marry again nor is divorce recognised.

The first step towards initiating a proposal for marriage is taken by the parents or guardians of the bride, who depute a Brahman and the family barber to select a suitable bridegroom. The ceremony is of the orthodox type and comprises several observances. Sindm- handhan, or the smearing of vermilion by the bridegrooni on the bride's forehead, is deemed to be the binding portion of the ceremony. Connubial relations cannot commence until the ceremony of Dwgaman, or the bringing home of the bride, has been performed. This may take place one, three, five or seven years after the marriage, according to the age of the bride.


The religion of the Kayasths is that of the ortho- dox high caste Hindu. They are either Vaishnavas or Saivas. The worship of Durga and Sakti is believed, however, to be their favour- ite cult. Chitragupta, the mythical ancestor of the caste, is honoured once a year with offerings of sweetmeats and money and the symbo- lical worship of pen and ink and the tools of the Kayasth's trade. Brahmans are employed for religious and ceremonial purposes and for the worship of the greater gods. The Kayasths burn their dead, throw the ashes into a holy river and perform Sradha generally on the 13th day after death.

Social Status

The social status of the caste is highly respect- able. The Vaishnava members of the caste abstain from flesh and wine, but the Kayasths usually eat mutton and goat's flesh, and indulge froely in strong drink.


Clerical work is believed to be the original and characteristic occupation of the caste and an illiterate Kayasth is looked upon as a creature with no proper reason for existing. Kayasth tradition, however, puts a very liberal construction on the expression clerical work, and includes in it not only clerkly pursuits of a sub- ordinate character, but the entire business of managing the affairs of the country in the capacity of deoan, sarharhkar, etc., to the ruling power. It is doubtless owing in some measure to this con- nection with former governors that the Kayasths are now in possession of considerable zamindaries and tenures of substantial value, while comparatively few of them are to be found among the lower grades of cultivators.

See also

Ari, Kayasths


Kayastha, Karan

Madhyasreni Kayastha

Mana, Bangaja Kayasths

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