Who Are Gauda Saraswat Brahmins

I had written on the History of Brahmins in India and followed it up with an article From where did the Brahmins come from.

I had written a couple of articles about the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu ,Karnataka.

Now let us see who the Gouda  Sarswat Bramins are .(GSB)


Kalhana, King cum Historian about the distribution of Families in India thus.

कर्णाटकाश्च तैलंगा द्राविडा महाराष्ट्रकाः,
गुर्जराश्चेति पञ्चैव द्राविडा विन्ध्यदक्षिणे ||
सारस्वताः कान्यकुब्जा गौडा उत्कलमैथिलाः,
पन्चगौडा इति ख्याता विन्ध्स्योत्तरवासि ||

Karnataka (Kannada), Telugu (Andhra), Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), Maharashtra and Gujarat are Five Southern (Panch Dravida). Saraswata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Utkala (Orissa), Maithili are Five Northern (Pancha Gauda ).

-Kalhana in Raja Tharangini


During the period of Sanatana Dharma, when the landmass of India was different,when Lemuria and Atlantis were in place as a part of Rodina , the Super Continent, Hindus were apread throughout the world.

Brahmins being a part of the group, were also spread through out the world.

Brahmins were found in as far away places from the present India to Ireland,Egypt, Turkey,Caucasus Region, Arctic, Polynesia and Australia to mention a few placed.

Taking into account the present political map of the present India, concentration of Brahmins were in the following regions.

Dravida Desa, comprising of the present States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka,and Andhra.

Among this there were two areas were Brahmins were more concentrated.

That is in The Godavari Valley and the Cauvery Delta.

While the former are now found more in Andhra and Karnataka, the later are settled in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

In the North we have the Brahmins in the Basins of Sind, Saraswati,Ganges.

Panch Gaur (the five classes of Northern India):


(1) Saraswat, (2) Kanyakubja, (3) Maithil Brahmins, (4) Gauda brahmins (including Sanadhyas), and (5)Utkala Brahmins .


In addition, for the purpose of giving an account of Northern Brahmins each of the provinces must be considered separately, such as, Kashmir, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Kurukshetra, Rajputana, Uttar Pradesh,Ayodhya (Oudh), Gandhar, Punjab, North Western Provinces and Pakistan, Sindh, Central India, Trihoot, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, Assam, etc. The originate from south of the (now-extinct) Saraswati River.

In Bihar, majority of Brahmins are Kanyakubja Brahmins, Bhumihar Brahmins and Maithil Brahmins with a significant population of Sakaldiwiya or Shakdwipi Brahmins.

Of this there were Families that migrated from the Saraswathi River region towards the south,probably due to a Tsunami that engulfed the Region towards the closing years of Dwapara Yuga, that is some time after the Mahabharata War.

This finds a reference in the Bhagavatha Purana and Tamil Classics.

One group led by Sage Agastya came to Dravida Desa and they were 72 Families who were called Velirs and formed a part of Tamil Kingdom.

These Kingdoms were mostly under the tutelage  of the Cholas of Tamil Nadu though at times they became independent  and at some other times with the Rashtrakutas.

. Im They belonged to Smartatradition and primarily worshipped Panchayatana (the five deities): Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya and Ganesha.  These Brahmins were one of the Pancha Gouda Brahmin groups who lived north of the Vindhyas. 

Saraswat Brahmins mastered the Vedas, and administered the priestly rites in the temples. The Vedas were passed down to the generations by the virtue of word of mouth, as written records didn’t exist at that time.  The Saraswat Brahmins had to maintain a very tight hold on their culture to maintain and protect their legacy. 
The first migration of Saraswats to Goa took place around 700 BC. They migrated from the Saraswati, mostly through sea routes in search of greener pastures.  They took up farming and trading business in Goa and worked in partnership with indigenous people. At the same time, they retained their Vedic way of life, performing their rituals and retaining their cultural traditions.  They also brought theirKuladevtas and established temples for their deities. These temples facilitated socio-cultural activities of the community.’
‘According to the mythological chronicle Sahyadrikhanda of the Skanda Purana, ninety-six Brahmin families belonging to ten gotrasmigrated to Goa from north-western India.The Purana adds that the sage Parashurama brought Saraswats to Goa. Even if Parashurama is considered as a historical figure, the regionalisation of Brahmins had not taken place during his era and he had brought only Brahmins and not specifically Saraswats Brahmin. According to Bhau Daji and Dharmananda Damodar Kosambi, there is no connection between Parashurama and the migration of the Brahmins. The Sahyadrikhaṇḍa is a later inclusion in the original SanskritSkanda Puraṇa, not a part of the original Sanskrit text. The Parashurama legend serves as a symbol of the Sanskritisation that Goan culture experienced with the advent of Brahminical religion to the region. This was achieved to a certain extent through the agency of the Saraswat Brahmins who had migrated to Goa who sought to establish their hegemony.

Sahyadrikhanda mentions the original home of Saraswats as Tirhut. The section in which the Tirhut is mentioned has been tentatively dated to 1400 CE. A writer on the basis of the genealogy and chronology of Puranic sages has mentioned that Aryans reached Goa around 2500 BCE. This is based on a preconceived notion that Aryans and Saraswats were identical. Elsewhere in the same work the author has argued that Parashurama had brought only Brahmins and not Saraswats. Therefore, equating Aryans and Saraswats seems to be far-fetched.[3] It is more reasonable to suppose that the Saraswats of Goa migrated from northwestern Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sindh, Kutch and Saurashtra. There is no agreement among scholars about the original home of Saraswats. The name by which these Brahmins have been designated clearly indicates that the river Saraswati had played an important role in the life in their life. Even after the disappearance of the river, the Brahmins who had once inhabited the banks of river Saraswati retained the name of the region. There are evidences in history about the migration of the population from one region to another regions account of foreign invasions and sudden climatic changes. Recent researches in archaeology have shown that the Saraswati river dried up before 1000 BCE. For the study of the migration of the Saraswats to Konkan and Deccan, the linguistics provides corroborative evidence. The main line of Indo-Aryan linguistic expansion began from north to south much before 500 BCE. The Saraswats settled themselves in Rajasthan, Sindh and Gujarat. In ancient Gujarat there was a separate division called Saraswat Mandal. There are many Konkani words which are found only in Gujrati. From this it is evident that Saraswats had settled in Gujarat migrated to Goa. This also indicates that the Saraswats from the Kutch regions might have migrated to Goa on account of Arab invasion in the 8th century CE.[3]

Reference to Saraswat names are found in Shilaharas well as Kadambacopper plate inscriptions. Certain Muslim incursions in North India provoked the Brahmin exodus. The inscriptions found in Goa bear testimony to arrival of Brahmin families in the Konkan region.Sahyadrikhanda and Mangesh Mahatmya allude to migrations of Saraswats, constituting sixty-six families, who settled in eight villages of Goa. There were regional variations among the Saraswats, such as those among Bardeskars, Pednelkars, Kudalkarsand Sashtikars. The Konkana mahatmya, from the 17th century CE, deals with the internal rivalry of the Saraswats and strained relations between these groups. Saraswats were not recognised by the local Brahmins as well as others. They were not entitled to the six duties of the Brahmins called Shatkarmas and they were called Trikarmi, entitled to three duties like the other Dvijas. Hence besides their sacerdotal duties, they took up administrative vocations under the ruling dynasties. Therefore, they gradually established themselves in the landowning class and also as traders. After settling down in Konkan and Goa in about 800 CE Saraswats may have taken about a century to acquire patronage from the Shilaharas and the Kadambas of Goa. Many Saraswats left Goa after the invasion of Malik Kafur to the neighbouring regions and during the period of religious persecution of the Portuguese also Saraswats migrated to Uttar Kannada, Dakshina Kannada and North Konkan. The Saraswat Brahmins particularly served as village Kulkarnis, financiers, tax farmers, merchants in the intra-Asian trade, and diplomats. Many sources of government income in Goa, Konkan and elsewhere, including taxes on commodities and customs duties, remained in their hands.


First Migration :
A king from Saraswat country, called Videgha Mathava with his preceptor, Gautama Rahugana set out eastwards to find out new pastures. In those days fire was to be carried physically from place to place and the king carried a tiny spark on his tongue. On the way the preceptor started conversing with the king but the king remained tight-lipped without giving any reply for fear that the spark might fall or get extinguished. The preceptor understood the anxiety of the king and invoked Agni, the fire-god. On hearing the praises, out came the flames of fire from the mouth of the king and started rolling on the ground like the waves of the sea. “Agnideva, what is thy command?” the priest asked, “Follow me,” was the commandment of the fire-god. Accordingly, they followed. The flames sped away eastwards through the Gangetic belt and on reaching the western bank of the River Sadaneera vanished. This is how the civilisation moved to the eastern region, later to be known as Aryavarta, and some of the families of Saraswat Brahmins moved to the east and settled down in Trihotrapura a township in Gowda Desha and later called them selves as Gowda Saraswats. According to another version, our forefathers never went to Trihotrapura but were called Gowda Saraswats as Saraswats were one among five groups of Brahmins who were collectively called Panchagowdas as stated above at the beginning. Whatever be the version, civilisation moved from western part of India to the Eastern India and definitely some families, when the river went dry must have gone to Trihotrapura. This anecdote is mentioned in Shatapatha Brahmana.

Second Migration :
As stated in the Sahyadri Khanda of Skanda Purana Lord Parashurama after reclaiming land from the western sea invited various groups of Brahmins from different parts of Bharat Khanda. In response ten families of Gowda Saraswats came down from Trihotrapura with their deities of daily worship and settled down in Gomantak now known as Goa. In gratitude even today the Gowda Saraswats dedicate all their havans and yajnas be it Gayatri or Mrityunjaya to Lord Parashurama stating “Yajnantargat Bhagwan Shri Parashuramamurti priyatam.”

In the course of time the ten families multiplied and with the passage of time they took to trade and commerce as permitted by the scriptures, besides officiating as priests. Depending upon their occupations this gave them various surnames as they have to-day like Kini – a treasurer handling money with the jingling sound, Mallya – a construction contractor who built mansions or mahals, Nayak-a leader in any army. In Goa they were in full bloom and they built up hundreds of shrines and temples besides establishing Shri Kaivalya Math in the eighth century.

Brother Communities :
Their brother Saraswats migrated to various other parts of the country. Those who migrated to Kashmir called themselves as Kashmiri Pandits, Sind-Sind Saraswats, Kutch-Kutchi Saraswats, Rajapur-Rajapur Saraswats, Punjab-Punjab Saraswats, Rajasthan-Rajasthan Saraswats and Chitrapur-Chitrapur Saraswats.

This in a nutshell is the mythological and historical background of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins popularly known as GSBs. 

Saraswat Muni : Saraswat was the son of Maharshi Dadhichi and the River Goddess Saraswati brought him up. When he was a student mastering the scriptures on account of successive droughts, the river went dry and people leaving their home and hearth on the banks of the River Saraswati left for other places in search of food and water. The young Saraswat also wanted to leave the place but the mother persuaded him to stay back and pursue his studies, and assured that she would provide him food and water. According to another version, he had the prowess to conquer hunger, thirst and sleep. Like this 12 long years passed and the normalcy returned only thereafter. In the meantime the Brahmins had forgotten the Vedas in their anxiety to survive. 

When they were eager to learn again, only one person, that was Saraswat, was available as a teacher. They became his shishyas irrespective of their age and learnt from him the Vedas that were forgotten. They were altogether 60,000 brahmins and single handedly Saraswat taught them in his gurukula. Perhaps nowhere in the history of mankind there is a record available that one single teacher had taught such a huge assembly of students. This story is told in Mahabharat and it is believed that long ago our forefathers must have been his disciples and we acquired the name Saraswats as his disciples. Vishnupurana while giving a list of Vyasas (which in fact is a title given to a sage who had rendered selfless service for the preservation and propagation of Vedas) mentions Saraswat’s name also.

Jagaduru Gowdapadacharya : Lived in 8th Century and for the first time expounded Adwaita philosophy. His very name and fame attracted Shri Adiguru Shankaracharya and at the behest of Shri Gowdapada, his shishya Shri Govindapada gave deeksha to Shri Shanakara and also to Shri Vivarananda Saraswati to commence a new Guruparampara for GSBs. More is narrated about him under “Our Religious Seats, Shri Kavle Math.”


Citations and references.





One thought on “Who Are Gauda Saraswat Brahmins

  1. The term GAUDA first originated only in sixth century AD coinciding with KING HARSHA. Actually Gaur is a town and kings ruled from the capital Gaur were known s GAUDAS. There has been the practice of identifying the kingdoms with capital like KUNTALA/VENKI etc., During ASOKA’S period there was no separate territory called ANGA/VANGA and was part of KALINGA. Actually VANGA is well known only bin Tamil literature since it means place where huge boats were operated and probably from the time of SATAVAHANAS it would have gained that name since SATAVAHANAS were great sea faring kings and SILAPATHIKARAM mentions numerous ships provided by SATAKARNI ton Senguttuvan to cross mighty GANGES. Hence GAUDA became prominent only from the time of KING HARSHA and afterwards during the reign of PALAS. Similarly the term DRAVIDA referred never to TAMIL COUNTRY but only to RAYALASEEMA since KUMARILA PATTA in his THANTHRA VARSHIKA refers ANDHRA DRAVIDA. Further DANDIN in his AVANTHISUNDARI KATHA while referring to KANCHIPURAM refers only to DRAVIAS and not PALLAVAS. Tamil was wholly unknown in SANSKRIT LITERATURE. While SAURASENI/ARTHA MAGADHI/MAHRASHTRI PRAKRIT/ANDHRA DRAVIDA were mentioned there was no reference to TAMIL. Further the earlietst BUDHHIST LORES mention only MAHISHA MANDALAM AND BANAVASI and never refer DRAVIDA. The Buddhists began to use this term only from fifth century AD. Further nobody analyses TIRUVALANGADU SEPPEDUS. It refers VANGA/ILADA/VAJJIRA/AYODHYA/PURVA DESHA/MADURA MANDALAM/PANCHAPALLI. There is no reference to GAUDA but CHOLA INSCRIPTIONS REFERS NUMEROUS settlement of BRAHMINS from ILADA/MADHYA DESHA/PURVA DESHA/ARYA DESH/KASHMIRA. The concept of PANCHA GAUDA AND PANCHA DRAVIDA originated only during thirteenth century AD and hence there is no necessity to anaalyse the same. While analysing the hisotry one has to discern whether one has to corroborate with SOUTH INDIAN INSCRIPTIONS or OMIT SOUTH INDIAN INSCRIPTIONS AS BUNCH OF RIDDLES AND CONTROLVERSIES. We cannot take the same and at the same time do not corroborate it.


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