About Goud Saraswats

Origin

Goud (also spelt as Gowd or Gaud) Saraswat Brahmins (Devanagari:गौड सारस्वत ब्राह्मण, Kannada:ಗೌಡ ಸಾರಸ್ವತ, Malayalam:ഗൌഡ സാരസ്വത) are a Hindu Brahmin community in India and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. They are popularly referred to as GSBs. They areKonkani people and primarily speak Konkani as their mother tongue.They claim their origin to the Brahmins who lived on the banks of the now extinct river Saraswati of upper Punjab or Kashmir. They derived their name from either the river Saraswati or from their spiritual leader Great Sage Saraswat Muni who lived on the banks of Saraswati. These Brahmins were one of the Pancha Gowda Brahmin groups who lived north of the Vindhyas. They belonged to Smarta tradition and primarily worshiped the five deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya and Ganesha. Throughout the course of history, the Saraswat Brahmins have migrated to a variety of locations and are found mostly in Western coast of India.

Population and Distribution

The GSB population is estimated to be around 3 lakhs.

The Goud Saraswat Brahmins, in the course of their migration settled on a small strip on the west coast of India in the present day Goa. This is evident with many of the temples of the Kuladevas being located in Goa. Over time, facing religious persecution by the Portuguese, they moved further south to coastal Karnataka and Kerala. They are found all over the west coast of India ranging from Goa, MaharashtraKarnataka and Kerala, most of them having their deities in Goa. They are all linked together by the common Konkani language. Konkani has been substantially influenced by local languages in each of the regions.

Gaud Saraswat Brahmins are categorized by Last name (indicating profession), Gotra (lineage) or Math (spiritual guru).

Language

Goud Saraswat Brahmins speak primararily Konkani as their mother tongue. The Konkani they speak is slightly different from the Konkani spoken by other communities such as the Catholics,NavayathsSiddis etc. The Konkani spoken by Goan Saraswats, Karnataka Saraswats and Kerala Saraswats is also different. The Konkani spoken by Karnataka Saraswats has borrowed loan words from Kannada while the Konkani spoken by Kerala Saraswats has borrowed loan words from Malayalam and speak with a corrupted Malayalam accent. This was due to several centuries of domicile by the Saraswats in these areas.

However the usage of the language by the community is on the decline due to the following factors-

  1. In Goa, the Portuguese discouraged the usage of Konkani in Goa and imposed Portuguese language as official, leading to its decline in Goa.
  2. In Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, the usage of Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam respectively was preferred in place of Konkani.
  3. The need for usage of English and Hindi languages has also contributed to this decline.

Sub-Sects

  • Bardeskars/Bardezi (Saraswat Brahmins who settled in “Bara Desh”(12 countries) region of Ancient Goa, in mordern day called as Bardez Taluka)
  • Bhalavalikars/Rajapur Saraswat Brahmin ( Saraswat Brahmins who left Goa during Portuguese inquisition, and settled in Rajapur, Maharashtra)
  • Shenavi/Karbhari (Shenvi,Wagle,Pandit,Kakodkar, Borkar, Nagarsekar, Patki,Rajadhyaksha,Ginde,Satoskar,,etc.)
  • Sashtikars (Saraswat Brahmins who settled in ‘Sashti'(sixty-six villages) region of Ancient Goa, in mordern day called as Salcette Taluka)
  • Bhanap/Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin (Chandavarkar, Benegal, Karnad, Haldipur, Padukone, Nadkarni etc.)

Most of the Saraswat settlements including the Chitrapur Saraswats and Shenvi/Karbhari were in settled Bardez and Salcette Taluka.

GSB Mutts

Kashi Math, Walkeshwar branch, Mumbai.

Surnames

The Goud saraswat Brahmins wherever they migrated mingled with the local people, but kept their identity by their Surnames even today. The most popular surname among GSBs is Kamath Those in agriculture were called Kamathi. Mathi means soil and Kama is work, that is working in soil ( Kama + Mathi). Later this became Kamath.

The surnames of GSBs are mainly two types.

  1. The village names of Gomantak where they settled originally or migrated. This practice is prevalent among Rajapur saraswats. They have surnames like Salkar, Asgaonkar, Bandivadekar, Madkaikar, Borkar, Sakhalkar, Sawerdekar, Haldwanekar, Chimbalkar, Navelkar, Marathe, Lotlikar, Salwankar, Karlekar, Burake, Bhagav,Bhatkar, Tendulkar, Patkar, Juvale, Dhonde, Shinkar, Shendre, Shetye, Bokade, Takur, Gawade, Potkar, Askekar, Shenai, Gavalkar, Shembekar, Lanjolkar etc. which are the original local village names of Gomantak. The word ‘Kar” means “From” or citizen of. Thus kakodkar means person from village kakod. Kar is also a surname of viswabrahmins of bengal. This enabled one to identify the profession and the domicile.
  2. Surnames indicating the profession adopted by the Saraswats like Pai, Purohit, Nayak etc.
  • Shenoy– Originally for the Shenvis in Goa. Since most of them took up Administrative jobs they were called Shanbhags (clerks) which later became Shenoy.
  • Pai– Pai in Konkani language means foot or leg. The common person who had not amassed wealth or power was known as Pai.Their job was menial in maintaining ledgers and doing odd jobs. The Pai who was mainly ledger keepers.
  • Kamat – Those in agriculture were called Kamathi. Mathi means soil and Kama is work, that is working in soil ( Kama + Mathi). Later this became Kamat.
  • Keni, Kini– Those who cultivated herbs were Kinvis, presently called Kini or Keni.
  • Vaidya- Those who prepared the concoction was prepared and dispensed it
  • Hegde– The animals required for tilling, transportation and other works were under Haya- Gade (actually Horse tenderer), modernized to Hegde.
  • Nayak, Rao- Those worked as Army commandants were called Nayaks. Some Nayaks who were honoured by the King with titles like Ravubahadur adopted Rao as their Surname
  • Baliga – The daily requirements of every family for survival, presentations, etc. were the responsibility of the Ballo. There is another theory that the foot soldier with a spear was called Ballo. The soldier Ballo (Baliga) was under the command of Nayak.
  • Prabhu – Feudal lords called themselves Prabhu. He lived in a palatial home called mahal, and the caretaker was known as Mahalyar, presently modernized to Mallya.
  • AcharyaBhat and Vadhyar- The poojas in the big temple and its rituals were under Acharya, and in small temples conducted by Bhat. Every family had exclusive priest to perform the rites, and he was the family Purohit and was called Vadhyar.
  • Mahajan- The temples were administered by Mahajans
  • Bhandarkar- Stores and godown keepers were called Bhandari or Bhandarkar.
  • Nadkarni, Kulkarni- A person maintaining statistics was called Karni. Land was called Nadu, and the person maintaining land records was known as Nadkarni, and Kulkarni maintained census, and social register.
  • Bhakta – Doing odd jobs in temples and poojas.

In Karnataka, the village of refuge was used as a prefix to call oneself Padbidri Mohandas Prabhu, or Kinnigoli Ramanath Kamath. The kerala civilization induced the name of the house or the exact area rather than the village, and in some places, the present profession was also added to the name. So we have today, Thayyil Muralidhar Kamath (Thayyil means tailoring house), or Kannaparambil Gopalakrishna Pai (Parambil means garden or farm belonging to kannan).

Today the name has no links with the profession. However the GSBs still retain their Surnames down the generations.

For a list of surnames, refer List of Goud Saraswat Brahmin surnames.

Rituals

Like most Hindu communities, the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins have rituals which occur throughout the life cycle.

During the 8th month of pregnancy, a woman moves to her mother’s house, especially during the birth of her first child. The expecting mother also performsGanapathi Pooja for a successful delivery and a healthy child. On the 6th day, a pen and lamp are kept near the child’s head, symbolic of a wish for an intelligent child. On the 12th day, the naming and cradling ceremony is performed wherein the paternal grandmother whispers the child’s name into his/her ear and a horoscope is cast. When the child turns 3 months old, a visit to the temple is done and thereafter, the child goes to the father’s abode.

Munji

When the male child turns 8 years old, the Munji (Konkani word for Upanayanam) is performed. In this ceremony, the jannuvey or the sacred thread is placed on the left shoulder of the child. From that day on, he becomes an official member of his caste, and is called a dwija (translated in English as “twice-born”). In ancient times, the boy was sent to gurukula to learn Vedas and scriptures. The boy was expected to practice extreme discipline during this period known asbrahmacharya. He was expected to lead a celibate life, living on alms, and surviving on selected vegetarian saatvic food and observing considerable austerity in behaviour and deeds. On completion of the thread ceremony the boy will be eligible to go to our gurukula which is available in 4 places across India i.e. Kashi Mutt Gurukula / Patashala at Mangalore and Mulki, Gokarn Mutt Gurukula at Partagali and Kavale Mutt Gurukula at Goa. Our priests will be studying at anyone of these gurukulas and even members of our GSB Community study here. The thread is changed every year in a festival known as Sutta Punav in the Hindu month of Shravan and under different circumstances like Suthige etc.

Some of the main rituals in a GSB munji are Devatha PrarthanaGanapathi PujaUdada MurthuMatrubhojanYajnopavita DharanaBrahmachari Agnikaryam,Savitri UpadeshaDanda DharanaMatrabiksha etc.

Marriage

A typical GSB marriage consists of the following events – Varan AppocheNandiNishchaithambulYedur KansnaniUrdha MurthuKashi YatraLagnaHavan PurnavatiChautananTulsi Puja andMandal Virajan.[9]

Death Ceremonies

The other extremely important rituals for the GSB’s are the death ceremonies. All GSB’s are cremated according to Vedic rites, usually within a day of the individual’s death. The death rites include a 13-day ceremony. The ashes of the departed are immersed at a confluence of two rivers (sangam) or the sea. Like all other Hindus, the preference is for the ashes to be immersed in the Ganges river or river Godavari. There is also a yearly shraddha that needs to be performed. These rituals are expected to be performed only by male descendants (preferably the eldest son) of the deceased.

Festivals

See List of Festivals of Goud Saraswat Brahmins

GSB’s celebrate almost all festivals in Hinduism. They follow the Hindu Lunar calendar, almanac to be specific which is known as Panchang in Konkani, that gives the days on which the fasts and festivals should be observed.

Cuisine

Most of the GSB’s including Chitrapur Saraswats and some Rajapur Saraswats are vegetarian. Their food is usually without onion and garlic. However some GSB’s from North Kanara, Goa and Maharashtra are piscovegetarian (fish eaters). The inclusion of fish in the diet is not looked upon as Non vegetarian. Legend has it that when the Saraswati River dried up, the Saraswats who could not farm, were permitted to eat sea food/fish. The fish were euphemistically called Sea Vegetable or झळकें from ( जल काय -Jal Kaay). However they too eat only vegetarian food without onion and garlic on festival days and on Mondays, which is auspicious for Lord Shiva. The recipes use large amounts of coconut and spicesRice is the staple food of all GSB’s.

Some of the special recipes of GSB’s are-

Kuldevtas

Kuldevtas are considered of utmost importance to the GSB’s. Normally Saraswats who follow the Advaita Sampradaya believe in the concept of “Panchayatan” – worshipping 5 gods like form of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Surya and Ganapati. Some GSB Temples still maintain this concept, while others which follow Madhva Sampradaya believe in Lord Hari being supreme and parivara devatas being the Lords Devotees and hence they have main deity installed in the main sanctorum with 4 parivara devatas around. “Kuldev” or “kuldaivat” are the deities which a set of families primarily worship. Their temples are built and maintained by these families, also called “Mahajans” (or Kulavis) of their respective temple.

Many Kuldevs/Kuldevatas are situated in Goa. However, during the early Portuguese persecutions, many Saraswats fled Goa along with their Kuldevs to nearby regions of Maharashtra & Karnataka. Hence, besides Goa, there are many GSB Temples in Maharashtra (Konkan side like Malwan, Vengurla, Savantwadi, Kudal, Ratnagiri, etc.). The Saraswats of Goa are predominantly the worshipers of Shiva and Durga, though many of them have got converted to Vaishnavites but they still retain their worship to their ancestral shavaite and vedic deities.

Many Saraswats have a strong faith in Durga and continue to pay respect and tribute by either taking part in festivals or some other occasions relating to Durga. Every Saraswat Brahmin has a system of worshipping two deities amongst which one is a Pallavi or supporting deity. Majority of the Saraswats have some or the other aspect of Durga included in their Family Deity. It can be Shantadurga, Aryadurga, Mahamaya, Vijayadurga or Mahalakshmi.

See List of Kuldevatas of Goud Saraswat Brahmins

Gotras

GSBs belong to Following family stocks (Gotras):

  • Bharadwaja
  • Kausika
  • Vatsa
  • Kaundinya
  • Kashyapa
  • Atri
  • Vashista
  • Jamadagni
  • Gautam
  • Vishwamitra (Kamshi)
  • Shankha Pingala (Kamsa)
  • Dhananjaya
  • Bhargava
  • Naidhruva
  • Kutsa
  • Harita
  • Garga cf. Gaygeya
  • Shandilya
  • Harihar

See Gotravali of Goud Saraswat Brahmins

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goud_Saraswat_Brahmin

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