SARASWAT BRAHMINS

The Saraswat Brahmins are a sub-group of Hindu Brahmins of India who trace their ancestry to the banks of the Saraswati River.

The Brahmans in India were divided into two major geographical groups namely Gowd Brahman who lived to the north of the Vindhyas and Dravid Brahmans living south of Vindhyas. Each group was further divided into 5 sections.

The five (Pancha) Gowda Brahman groups were Saraswats, Kanyakubjas, Gaudas, Utkals, and Maithilas. The five (pancha) Dravida Brahman groups were Andhras, Maharashtras, Dravidas or Tamils, Karnataka, and Kerala Brahmans.

The origin of Saraswat Brahmans :

The exact origin of the Saraswat Brahmans is difficult to ascertain. One theory puts them as Aryan(indo-iranian) migrants from Central Asia who came to the Indian sub-continent through the Hindu-Kush Mountains and the Khyber pass to south in about 4000-1500 B.C.

Most of them settled along the banks of Saraswati River. They (Saraswats) settled for an agrarian life. Education was of great importance to the Saraswats, so they taught their young the Sanskrit language and enlightened themselves from the Veda(s). Although they spoke Sanskrit in public, their invented a simplified version of Sanskrit called Brahmani and spoke only at home. Over the years along the Saraswati, they established the concept of Kul devta or family gods, and began worshipping them.

The Saraswat Brahmins :

Panch Gaur Brahmins (five classes of north Bharat) are :

1. Saryupareen 2. Kanyakubja 3. Maithil 4. Saraswat and 5. Utkala.

Saraswat from Uttarapatha (Aryavart) (northern and eastern Bharat) are :

No. Places of original stay
1.
Kashmiri Pandits
2. Mohyal Brahmins
3. Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins
4. Gouda Saraswat Brahmins
5. Punjabi Saraswat Brahmins
6. Rajasthan Saraswat Brahmins
7. Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin
8. Nasarpuri Sindh Saraswat Brahmin
9. Brahmbhatt Brahmin

The Migrations

Some calamity struck Saraswat Desh and Saraswati began to dry out to become non-existent by 1000 BC. Saraswats had no choice but to pack up and move. This period of history saw many civilizations abandoning their settlements. The migration happened not overnight but spread over centuries. The Saraswats migrated in three directions - mostly followed the river routes and migrated to the South-West (Sind), North (Kashmir), East (Bihar).

Migration to South and West :

The migrations to south and west followed the course of the River Saraswati, went up to Dwaraka and by ship they sailed to Goa. For their stay in Dwaraka, these settlements have been referred to as Saraswat Tirthas in Mahabharata. From Goa they spread to entire Konkan, Karnataka and Kerala region.
Migration to North and East.

The second route of migration was from Punjab into Kashmir. They were haunted by Muslim rulers for centuries until some prominent Kashmiris appealed to the Sikh Chief Ranjit Singh for help and he succeeded in getting rid of the Afghans. The Kashmiri Saraswats were Devi worshippers.

Those who migrated to Kashmir called themselves as Kashmiri Pandits, Sind-Sind Saraswats, Kutch-Kutchi Saraswats, Punjab-Punjab Saraswats, Rajasthan-Rajasthan Saraswats and Gomantak- Gowda Saraswats.

Migration to Bihar :

The Saraswats who moved South East were mainly from the Saraswat Desh and they followed the Ganges and reached Trihotrapura or modern Tirhut in upper Bihar. This was in 400-350 BC. The major settlements were in Kanyakubja (Kanpur area), Magadha and Mithila.

Saraswats of Punjab :

The Saraswat is essentially the Brahman of the Punjab, just as the Khatri is distinctively a Punjabi caste.