Brahmin: see Brahman.

Brahmin (ब्राह्मणः) is the class of educators, scholars and preachers in Brahminical Hinduism. It occupies the highest position among the four varnas of Brahminical Hinduism.

The English word brahmin is an anglicised form of the Sanskrit word (Brāhman also refers to a mystical concept in Hinduism). Brahmins are also called Vipra "inspired", or Dvija "twice-born".

In the Vedic period, the Brahmins dedicated their life to propagate knowledge and dharma. The Kings paid their respect to their Brahmin gurus and took their advice in ruling. By the time of British Raj, the Brahmins had become a powerful and influential group in India, attracting accusations of discriminating against 'lower' castes. In modern India, the Brahmins have complained of reverse discrimination.


The history of the Brahmin community in India begins with the Vedic religion of early Hinduism, now often referred to by Hindus as Sanatana Dharma, in ancient India. The Vedas are the primary source of knowledge for brahmin practices. Most sampradayas of Brahmins take inspiration from the Vedas. According to orthodox Hindu tradition, the Vedas are and anādi (beginning-less), but are revealed truths of eternal validity. The Vedas are considered Śruti (that which is heard), signifying their validity or relevance and are the paramount source of Brahmin traditions. Shruti includes not only the four Vedas (the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda), but also their respective Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. Brahman and Brahmin (brahman, brahmán, masculine ) are not the same. Brahman (Brahman, neuter) refers to the Supreme Self. Brahmin or Brahmana (brahmán, brāhmaṇa) refers an individual. Additionally, the word Brahma (brahmā) refers to first of the gods.

In 1931 (the last Indian census to record caste), Brahmins accounted for 4.32% of the total population. Brahmins even in Uttar Pradesh, where they were most numerous, constituted just 12% of the recorded population. In Karnataka they formed less than 6%,Tamil Nadu they formed less than 3% and in Andhra Pradesh, less than 2%. In Kerala, Nambudiri Brahmins make up 0.7% of the population.

Brahmin communities

The Brahmin castes may be broadly divided into two regional groups: Pancha-Gauda Brahmins and Pancha-Dravida Brahmins as per the shloka,however this sloka is from Rajatarangini of Kalhana which is composed only in 11th CE and many communities find their traces from sages mentioned in, much older Vedas and puranas.

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

Translation: Karnataka, Telugu (Andhra), Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), Maharashtra and Gujarat are Five Southern (Panch Dravida). Saraswata, Kanyakubja, Gauda, Utkala, Maithili are Five Northern (Pancha Gauda). This classification occurs in Rajatarangini of Kalhana and is mentioned by Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya in "Hindu Castes and Sects."

Pancha Gauda Brahmins

Panch Gaur (the five classes cant sayof Northern India): (1) Saraswat,(2) Kanyakubja, (3)Saryuparin Brahmins (4) Gauda brahmins (including Sanadhyas)) (5)Utkala Brahmins including Bengali, Oriya and Maithili Bahmins]], 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 Sakaldipi or Shakdweepiya Brahmins.

In Haryana, the Brahmin are classified in mainly Dadhich_Brahmin, Gaud Brahmin, Khandelwal Brahmin. But large proportion of Brahmin in Haryana are Gaud(about 90%). Approximately all Brahmin in west U P are adi gaur.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Brahmins are classified in mainly Shri Gaud, Sanadhya brahmin, Gujar-Gaud Brahmins. Majority of Shri Gaud Brahmins are found in the Malwa region (Indore, Ujjain, Dewas). Eastern MP has dense population of Sarayuparain Brahmins. Hoshangabad and Harda Distt. of MP have a considerable population of Jujhotia and Naremdev Brahmins.

In Nepal, the hill Brahmins are classified in mainly Upadhaya Brahmin, Jaisi Brahmin and Kumain Brahmins. Upadhaya Brahmins are supposed to have settled in Nepal long before the other two groups. Majority of hill Brahmins are supposed to be of Khasa origin.

In Punjab, they are classified as Saraswat Brahmins.

In Karnataka, Brahmins are mainly classified into Havyaka speaking Havigannada, Hoysala Karnataka speaking kannada, Shivalli and Kota speaking Tulu, Karahada speaking Marathi and have their own tradition and culture.

In Rajasthan, the Brahmins are classified in mainly Dadhich_Brahmin, Gaud Brahmin,Sanadhya brahmins, Rajpurohit / Purohit Brahmins, Sri Gaud Brahmin, Khandelwal Brahmin, Gujar-Gaud Brahmins. Rajpurohit / Purohit Brahmins are mainly found in Marwar & Godwad region of Rajasthan. In Sindh, the saraswat Brahmins from Nasarpur of Sindh province are called Nasarpuri Sindh Saraswat Brahmin. During the India and Pakistan partition migrated to India from sindh province.

In Uttar Pradesh from west to east: Sanadhya & Gauda(western UP), Kanyakubja(Central UP), Sarayuparin (CENTRAL UTTAR PRADESH Eastern, NE,& SE UP) and Maithil(Varanasi), the South western UP, i.e. Bundelkhand has thick population of Jujhotia brahmins(branch of Kanyakubja brahmins:ref. Between History & Legend:Power & Status in Bundelkhand by Ravindra K Jain). Mathure or mathuria Brahmins 'choubeys' are limited to Mathura area.

In West Bengal the Brahmins are classified in Barendra & Rarhi corresponding to the ancient Barendrabhumi(North Bengal) and Rarhdesh(South Bengal) making present day Bangladesh & West Bengal. It is also said that Barendras are traditional Brahmins who practiced the art of medicinal science and surgury rather than the traditional function of being the teacher or the priest, and so many a times they are not considered true brahmins by the Rarhis, although they are their own offshoots.

The traditional accounts of the origin of Bengali Brahmins are given in texts termed Kulagranthas (e.g., Kuladīpīkā), composed around the 17th century. They mention a ruler named Ādiśūra who invited five Brahmins from Kanyakubja [7], so that he could conduct a yajña, because he could not find Vedic experts locally. Traditional texts mention that Ādiśūra was ancestor of Ballāl Sena from maternal side and five Brahmins had been invited in AD 1077. Historians have located a ruler named Ādiśūra ruling in north Bihar, but not in Bengal. But Ballāl Sena and his predecessors ruled over both Bengal and Mithila (i.e., North Bihar). It is unlikely that the Brahmins from Kānyakubja may have been invited to Mithila for performing a yajña, because Mithila was a strong base of Brahmins since Vedic age. Another account mentions a king Shyamal Varma who invited five Brahmins from Kānyakubja who became the progenitors of the Vaidika Brahmins. A third account refers to five Brahmins being the ancestors of Vārendra Brahmins as well. From similarity of titles (e.g., upādhyāya), the first account is most probable.

Besides these two major community there are also Utkal Brahmins, having migrated from present Orissa and Vaidik Brahmins, having migrated from Western and Northern India.

Pancha Dravida Brahmins

Panch Dravida (the five classes of Southern India): 1) Andhra, 2) Dravida (Tamil and Kerala), 3) Karnataka, 4) Maharashtra and Konkon, and 5) Gujarat. They originate from north of the (now-extinct) Saraswati River.

In Andhra Pradesh, Brahmins are broadly classified into 2 groups: Vaidika (meaning educated in vedas and performing religious vocations) and Niyogi (performing only secular vocation). They are further divided into several sub-castes. However, majority of the Brahmins, both Vaidika and Niyogi, perform only secular professions.

In Kerala, Brahmins are classified into three groups: Namboothiris, Pottis and Pushpakas. (Pushpakas are commonly clubbed with Ampalavasi community). The major priestly activities are performed by Namboothiris while the other temple related activities known as Kazhakam are performed by Pushpaka Brahmins and other Ampalavasis. Sri Adi Shankara was born in Kalady, a village in Kerala, to a Namboothiri Brahmin couple, Shivaguru and Aryamba, and lived for thirty-two years. The Namboothiri Brahmins, Potti Brahmins and Pushpaka Brahmins in Kerala follow the Philosophies of Sri Adi Sankaracharya. The Brahmins who migrated to Kerala from Tamil Nadu are known as Pattar in Kerala. They possess almost same status of Potti Brahmins in Kerala.

In Tamil Nadu, Brahmins belong to 2 major groups: Iyer and Iyengar. Iyers comprise of Smartha and Saivite Brahmins and are broadly classified into Vadama, Vathima, Brhatcharnam, Ashtasahasram, Sholiyar and Gurukkal. There are mostly followers of Adi Shankaracharya and form about three-fourths of Tamil Nadu's Brahmin population. Iyengars comprise of Vaishnavite Brahmins and are divided into two sects: Vadakalai and Thenkalai. They are mostly followers of Ramanuja and make up the remaining one-fourth of the Tamil Brahmin population.

Karnataka, In Karnataka, Brahmins belong to 3 major groups: Smarthas, the followers of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Madhvas (or Vaishnavas) who are the followers of Sri Madhvacharya, and Sri-Vaishnavas (Iyengars), who are the followers of Sri Ramanujacharya and Srimath Vedanta Desika. Major subsects of Smartha Brahmins of Karnataka are Hoysala Karnataka, Mysore Iyers, Ulucha Kamme, Babboor Kamme, Badaganadu, Sthanika Brahmins, Kota, Havyaka Brahmins, Moogooru Karnataka and Devanga Karnataka. All the sub sects just mentioned either follow the Rigveda or the Krishna Yajurveda There are two other groups known as Sama Vedi's (affiliated to Sama Veda) and Shukla Yajurvedi's (affiliated to Shukla Yajurveda); all the Sama Vedi's are Smartha's while the Shukla Yajurvedi's are either Smartha's or Maadhva's. Other traditional non-Kannada speaking Brahmin groups in Karnataka are Mulukanadu (Telugu speaking Smartha's), Gowda Saraswat (Konkani speaking Maadhva's), Deshastha Brahmin (Marathi speaking Maadhva's) Konkani speaking Daivajnas and Sankethi ( Sankethi speaking Smartha's). Irrespective of their denominations, customs followed by all the Smartha's mentioned, are to a very large extent, identical.

In Maharashtra, Brahmins are classified into five groups: Chitpavan Konkanastha Brahmins, Gaud Saraswat Brahmin, Deshastha Brahmin and Karhade Brahmin, Devrukhe. As the name indicates, Kokanastha Brahmin are from Konkan area. Gaud Saraswat Brahmins are from Konkan region or they may come from Goa or Karnataka, Deshastha Brahmin are from plains of Maharashtra, Karhade Brahmins are perhaps from Karhatak (an ancient region in India that included present day south Maharashtra and northern Karnataka) and Devrukhe Brahmins are from Devrukh near Ratnagiri.

In Madhya Pradesh the descendents of Somnath temple priests, Naramdev Brahmin, Who migrated from Gujrat to Madhyapradesh after the Mohd. Ghazni notorious forays in saurashtra and desacration of Somnath, and sedenterized along the coast of Narmada river hence derived there name ie Narmdiya brahmin or Naramdevs. Guru of Adi guru Shankaracharya, shri Govindacharya claimed to belongs to this community who initiated him in the Omkareshwar in the bank of river Narmada. Naramdevs are in high concentration in Nimar (Khandwa and Khargone)and Bhuvana region (Harda) of Madhyapradesh.

In Gujarat, Brahmins are classified into Eight groups: Anavil Brahmin, Audichya Brahmins, Bardai Brahmins, Girinarayan Brahmins, Khedaval, Nagar Brahmins, Shrimali Brahmins, Sidhra-Rudhra Brahmins and Modh Brahmins.

[Modh Brahmins] woshipped MATANGI-Modheshwai mata (MODHERA).Most of these found in North Gujarat and in ahd,baroda region...they are known as BARA BAVAN MODH CHATUVEDIY BRAHMIN.....

Gotras and pravaras

In general, gotra denotes any person who traces descent in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as ' apatyam pautraprabh*rti gotram' (IV. 1. 162), which means 'the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son's son. When a person says ' I am Kashypasa-gotra' he means that he traces his descent from the ancient sage Kashyapa by unbroken male descent. According to the Baudhâyanas'rauta-sûtra Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvâja, Gautama, Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyapa and Agastya are 8 sages; the progeny of these eight sages is declared to be gotras. This enumeration of eight primary gotras seems to have been known to Pānini. These gotras are not directly connected to Prajapathy or latter brama. The offspring (apatya) of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ' gotrâvayava '.

The gotras are arranged in groups, e. g. there are according to the Âsvalâyana-srautasûtra four subdivisions of the Vasishtha gana, viz. Upamanyu, Parāshara, Kundina and Vasishtha (other than the first three). Each of these four again has numerous sub-sections, each being called gotra. So the arrangement is first into ganas, then into pakshas, then into individual gotras. The first has survived in the Bhrigu and Āngirasa gana. According to Baud, the principal eight gotras were divided into pakshas. The pravara of Upamanyu is Vasishtha, Bharadvasu, Indrapramada; the pravara of the Parâshara gotra is Vasishtha, Shâktya, Pârâsharya; the pravara of the Kundina gotra is Vasishtha, Maitrâvaruna, Kaundinya and the pravara of Vasishthas other than these three is simply Vasishtha. It is therefore that some define pravara as the group of sages that distinguishes the founder (lit. the starter) of one gotra from another.

There are two kinds of pravaras, 1) sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara, and 2) putrparampara. Gotrapravaras can be ekarsheya, dwarsheya, triarsheya, pancharsheya, saptarsheya, and up to 19 rishis. Kashyapasa gotra has at least two distinct pravaras in Andhra Pradesh: one with three sages (triarsheya pravara) and the other with seven sages (saptarsheya pravara). This pravara may be either sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara or putraparampara. When it is sishya-prasishya-rishi-parampara marriage is not acceptable if half or more than half of the rishis are same in both bride and bridegroom gotras. If it is putraparampara, marriage is totally unacceptable even if one rishi matches.

Sects and rishis

Due to the diversity in religious and cultural traditions and practices, and the Vedic schools which they belong to, Brahmins are further divided into various subcastes. During the sutra period, roughly between 1000 BCE to 200 BCE, Brahmins became divided into various Shakhas (branches), based on the adoption of different Vedas and different rescension Vedas. Sects for different denominations of the same branch of the Vedas were formed, under the leadership of distinguished teachers among Brahmins.

There are several Brahmin law givers such as Angirasa, Apasthambha, Atri, Brihaspati, Boudhayana, Daksha, Gautam, Harita, Katyayana, Likhita, Manu, Parasara, Samvarta, Shankha, Shatatapa, Ushanasa, Vashishta, Vishnu, Vyasa, Yajnavalkya and Yama. These twenty-one rishis were the propounders of Smritis. The oldest among these smritis are Apastamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, and Vasishta Sutras.

Descendants from rishis

Many Indians and non-Indians claim descent from the Vedic Rishis of both Brahmin and non-Brahmin descent. For example the Dash and Nagas are said to be the descendants of Kashyapa Muni, the Gotamas (including Lord Buddha apart from the Gautam Brahmins are said to descendants of Gautama Muni. It is also believed that Buddha was a descendant of the Vedic Angirasa Muni. Visvakarmas are the descendants of Pancha Rishis or Brahmarshies. According to Yajurveda and brahmanda purana They are Sanagha ,Sanathana,Abhuvanasa,Prajnasa, Suparnasa. The Kani tribe of South India claim to descend from Agastya Muni.

The Gondhali, Kanet, Bhot, Lohar, Dagi, and Hessis claim to be from Renuka Devi.

The Kasi Kapadi Sudras claim to originate from the Brahmin Sukradeva. Their duty was to transfer water to the sacred city of Kashi.

Dadheech Brahmins/dayama brahmin trace their roots from Dadhichi Rishi. Many Jats clans claim to descend from Dadhichi Rishi while the Dudi Jats claim to be in the linear of Duda Rishi.

Lord Buddha of course, was a descendant of Angirasa through Gautama. There too were Kshatiryas of other clans to whom members descend from Angirasa, to fulfill a childless king's wish.

The backward-caste Matangs claim to descend from Matang Muni, who became a Brahmin by his karma.

The nomadic tribe of Kerala, the Kakkarissi according to one legend are derived from the mouth of Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu, and came out Brahmin.

The Sikhwal (also known as Sukhwal or Shringi) Brahmins of Rajasthan claim descent from Ṛṣyaśṛńga.

Brahmins taking up other duties

Brahmins have taken on many professions - from being priests, ascetics and scholars to warriors and businesspeople. Brahmins with the qualities of Kshatriyas are known as 'Brahmakshatriyas'. An example is the avatara Parshurama who destroyed the entire Haiheyas 21 times. Not only did Sage Parashurama have warrior skills but he was so powerful that he could even fight without the use of any weapons and trained others to fight without weapons. The Pallavas were an example of Brahmakshatriyas as that is what they called themselves. King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir ruled all of India and even Central Asia.

Today there is a caste, Brahmakhatris, who are a clan of the Khatris, however this is suspicious since Khatris are a business caste/community of Punjab and belong to the Vaishya caste. Khatri has often been misinterpreted as a variation of the word Kshatriya, meaning warrior, however there are no records of any Khatri kingdoms or empires in Indian history and this claim to Kshatriya is recently made in the 20th century.

Perhaps the word Brahma-kshatriya refers to a person belonging to the heritage of both castes. However, among the Royal Rajput households, brahmins who became the personal teachers and protectors of the Royal princes rose to the status of Rajpurohit and taught the princes everything including martial arts. They would also become the keepers of the Royal lineage and its history. They would also be the protectors of the throne in case the regent was orphaned and a minor.

Kshatriyan Brahmin is a term associated with people of both caste's components.

King Rudravarma of Champa (Vietnam) of 657 A.D. was the son of a Brahmin father.

King Jayavarma I of Kambuja (Kampuchea) of 781 A.D. was a Brahma-kshatriya.

Brahmins with the qualities of a Vaisya or merchant are known as 'Brahmvyasya'. An example of such persons are people of the Ambastha caste, which exist in places like South India and Bengal. They perform medical work - they have from ancient times practiced the Ayurveda and have been Vaidyas (or doctors).

Many Pallis of South India claim to be Brahmins (while others claim to be Agnikula Kshatriyas.) Kulaman Pallis are nicknamed by outsiders as Kulaman Brahmans.


Brahmins adhere to the principles of Brahmanism or Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, such as acceptance of the Vedas with reverence, adherence to the position that the means or ways to salvation and realization of the ultimate truth are diverse, that God is one, but has innumerable names and forms to chant and worship due to our varied perceptions, cultures and languages. Brahmins believe in — Let the entire society be happy and prosperous and — the whole world is one family. Many Brahmins are reformers. Most Brahmins today practice vegetarianism or lacto-vegetarianism. There are some Brahmins who are non-vegetarians, mainly the Brahmins of cold mountain areas like Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Nepal, and coastal areas like Bengal, who are fish eaters. However, even the meat eating Brahmins shun beef in India although some American and Western Brahmins eat beef.

Traditional duties

The six duties of Brahmin are given as per the Sloka

adhyāpanam adhyāyānam
yajanam yajanam tathā
dānam pratigraham caiva

Teaching, study (svādhyāya), performing Yajna, make performing Yajna, accept Daana, and give Daana are the six duties of a Brahmin.

samodamastapah saucham
jnanam vijnānamāstikyam
brahmakarma svabhavajam

The Brahmins are expected to have control of their emotions, control of senses, purity, truthfulness, tolerance, simplicity, renounce material wealth and have sustenance from other community, belief in God, and studying and teaching of sacred scriptures.

The daily routine includes performing

The last two named Yajnas are performed in only a few households today. Brahmacharis perform Agnikaryam instead of Agnihotra or Aupasana. The other rituals followed include Amavasya tarpanam and Shraddha.

See also: Nitya karma and Kaamya karma


Brahmins also perform sixteen major Samskaras (rites) during the course of their lifetime.

  • In the pre-natal stage,
    • Garbhadharana (conception),
    • Pumsavana (rite for consecrating a male child in the womb) and
    • Simantonnayana (rite for parting the hair of a pregnant woman) are performed.
  • During infancy,
    • Jatakarma (birth ceremony),
    • Namakarana (naming ceremony),
    • Nishkarmana (first outing),
    • Annaprasana (first feeding solid food),
    • Choodakarana (first tonsure) and
    • Karnavedha (ear piercing) are performed.
  • During childhood and adolescence of the child,
    • Vidhyarambha (starting of education),
    • Upanayanam (thread ceremony- initiation),
    • Vedarambha (starting of the study of the Vedas),
    • Keshanta or Godana (first shaving of the beard) and
    • Samavartanam or Snaana (ending of studentship) are performed.
  • During adulthood,
    • Vivaha (marriage)
    • Nisheka (first sexual intercourse, 4 days after marriage) and
    • Antyesti (funeral rites) are the main ceremonies.


The three sampradayas (traditions) of Brahmins, especially in South India are the Smarta sampradaya, the Srivaishnava sampradaya and the Madhva sampradaya.


Srivaishnava sampradaya and the Madhva sampradaya are the two major Vaishnavite sects. From these two were influenced several other Vaishnavite sects such as the Ramananda Sampraday, and Ramdassi Sampraday. The chief propounder of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya was Ramanuja while Madhava was the founder of the Madhav Sampraday. The Pushtimarg Sampraday, founded by Vallabh Acharya is yet another sect influenced by the other two major Vaishnavite sect.

Vaishnavism included many sect such as the Swaminarayan Sampraday.

There are many members of the Swaminarayan Sampraday founded by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, born as Ghanshyam Pande a Vaishnavite Brahmin of present-day Uttar Pradesh. He later settled in Gujarat, wherein the highest density of sampraday members live. This is a Vaishnavite sect. This sect was founded in the latter part of the 18th century.

There is also the Varkari Sampraday, which worships Sri Krishna as "Vithal". The word "Varkari" means travelers because members of this sect travel from their home towns on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, almost always on foot! Important saints of this movement were the Brahmins Dnyaneshwar, Muktabai as well as several non-Brahmin icons.

There is also the Mahanubhava sampraday founded by King Cakradhara, known popularly to members as Sri Chakradhar Swami, in the 12th century. The members of this sect worship Lord Vishnu in His five forms; Lord Krishna, Lord Sri Dattatreya, Lord Sri Chakrapani, Lord Sri Govindaprabhu, and Lord Cakradhara (the founder Himself).


The Shaiva Brahmins have important icons such as, Basava Swami of Karnataka, Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar or Tamil Nadu, and Lakulisa of Gujarat.

Other sects

There are additional sampradayas as well which are not as widely followed as the rest.

The Mahima Dharma or "Satya Mahima Alekha Dharma" was founded by the Brahmin Mukanda Das of present-day Orissa, popularly know by followers as Mahima Swami according to the Bhima Bhoi text. He was born in the last part of 18th century in Baudh ex-state as a son of Ananta Mishra. He was Brahmin by caste as mentioned in Mahima Vinod of Bhima Bhoi in Vol.11. This sampradaya is similar to Vaishnavism. Although the members of this sect do not worship Lord Vishnu as their Ishta-Deva, they believe that the Srimad Bhagavatam is sacred. The founder of this sect was a Vaishnavite before founding the new order. This sampradaya was founded in the latter part of the 18th century.

There is also the Avadhoot Panth, wherein Lord Dattertaya and his forms such as Narasimha Saraswati and Sai Baba of Shirdi are worshiped. Lord Dattatreya is worshiped by many as the Hindu trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in one divine entity. Many even worship Dattatreya as an avatar of Vishnu or of Shiva.

Brahmins in Buddhism

Brahmins feature extensively in Buddhist canonical texts i.e. the Tripitaka, and are found among the chief disciples of the Buddha. The Brahmana Varga (section on Brahmins) contained in the Dhammapada lists down the Buddha's views on Brahmins

Brahmin bhikshus

  • Abhaya Raja (built Mahabouddha temple with his descendants in Patan, Nepal in year 1604)
  • Asvaghosa (wrote the 'Buddhacharita' and is considered along with Nagarjuna to have founded the Mahayana). His philosophy was favored in the court of King Kanishka.
  • Atapa
  • Bakula
  • Bhitka (Buddha's fifth successor)
  • Cuda Panthaka
  • Dignaga
  • Gopaka
  • Guhyashila
  • Harita (wrote the "Harita Dharmasutra")
  • Humkara
  • Jnanadharma
  • Kacanna
  • Kamashila (Kashmiri Pandit)
  • Kalika
  • Kumarajiva (was imprisoned in China for spreading Buddhism)
  • Kanaka (Yamantaka Tantra)
  • Kukuraja
  • Manjushri (The mentor of Asoka)
  • Padma (woman)
  • Palden Dekyong
  • Pingala-Koccha (preached to the Buddha the Cūlasāropama Sutta, after which he became a dedicated student of the Buddha)
  • Radhasvami (another mentor of Asoka)
  • Majnushrimitra
  • Nagasena
  • Narpola (student of Tipola)
  • Sahara (master of Tipola)
  • Sariputra
  • Shantideva
  • Shantarakshita (Kashmiri Pandit)
  • Subha
  • Subhadra
  • Subrahman (coming father of Bodhisattva Maitreya)
  • Tipola (Mahasiddha, from modern-day Bangladesh)
  • Vakkali
  • Vanavasi

Brahmin Bodhisattvas

Aryadeva (successor of Nagarjuna) Asangha (from Hinayana sect and Peshwar city founded the Yogacarya and established the Classical age of Buddhism)

Scriptures dedicated to Brahmin bhikkus

Because of the aim of the Brahmins, and the Buddha following on their path, several Buddhist texts have been dedicated to them.

  • Annatara Brahmana Sutta: To a Brahmin
  • Aññatra Sutta: To a certain Brahman (SN XII.46), To Unnabha the Brahman
  • Cankii Sutta: To the Brahmin Cankii
  • Esukaari Sutta: To the Brahmin Esukari
  • Janussoni Brahmana Sutta: To the Brahmin Janussoni
  • Ganakamoggallaanasuttam B: To the Brahmin Ganakamoggallaana
  • Paccha-bhumika Sutta: To Brahmins of the Western Land (SN XLII.6)
  • Saleyyaka Sutta A: The Brahmins of Sela
  • Saleyyaka Sutta B: The Brahmans of Salahar"

In kingdoms

There have been Brahmin Buddhists too in Buddhist kingdoms.

  • In Cambodia (Sanskrit Kambhoja) there is an edict saying that King Jayavarman and his son Rudravarman build a monument in dedication of Lord Buddha and appointed a Brahmin to protect it.
  • In Sri Lanka, Maha Adigar was the first Buddhist emperor of Sri Lanka, converting many to Buddhism.
  • In 120 BC, the Indo-Greek King Milinda converted to Buddhism under sage Nagasena.
  • The Shunga Dynasty is thought by neo-Buddhists as an anti-Buddhist dynasty but the Shungas themselves built a stupa dedicated to the Buddha at Baharut.

Brahmins in Burma

Historically, Brahmins, known as ponna (ပုဏ္ဏား) in modern-day Burmese (Until the 1900s, ponna referred to Indians who had arrived prior to colonial rule, distinct from the kala, Indians who arrived during British rule), formed an influential group prior to British colonialism. During the Konbaung dynasty, court Brahmins were consulted by kings for moving royal capitals, waging wars, making offerings to Buddhist sites like the Mahamuni Buddha, and for astrology. Burmese Brahmins can be divided into four general groups, depending on their origins:

  1. Manipur Brahmins (မုနိပူရဗြာဟ္မဏ) - Brahmins who were sent to Burma after Manipur became a Burmese vassal state in the 1700s and ambassadors from Manipur
  2. Arakanese Brahmins (ရခိုင်ဗြာဟ္မဏ): Brahmins brought to Burma from Arakan after it was conquered by the Konbaung king Bodawpaya
  3. Sagaing Brahmins: oldest Brahmins in Burmese society, who had consulted the Pyu, Burman and Mon kingdoms prior to the Konbaung dynasty
  4. Indian Brahmins: Brahmins who arrived with British colonial rule, when Burma became a part of the British Raj

According to Burmese chronicles, brahmins in Burma were subject to the four-caste system, which included brahmanas (ဗြာဟ္မဏ), kshatriyas (khettaya), vaishya (beisha), and shudra (thottiya). Because the Burmese monarchy enforced the caste system for Indians, Brahmins who broke caste traditions and laws were subject to punishment. In the Arakanese kingdom, punished Brahmins often became kyun ponna (ကျွန်ပုဏ္ဏား), literally 'slave Brahmins', who made flower offerings to Buddha images and performed menial tasks. During the Konbaung dynasty, caste was indicated by the number of salwe (threads) worn; brahmins wore nine, while the lowest caste wore none. Brahmins are also fundamental in the Nine-God cult, called the Nine Divinities (Phaya Ko Su ဘုရားကိုးစု) which is essentially a Burmese puja (puzaw in Burmese) of appeasing nine divinities, Buddha and the eight arahats, or a group of nine deities, five Hindu gods and four nats. This practice continues to be practiced in modern-day Burma.

Brahmins in Jainism

  • The first convert of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism was Indrabhuti (aka Gautamswami) the Brahmin, who headed a group of other Brahmins and converted them to Jainism. He was from the village Gobbar (also called Govarya) near Rajgriha. It is said that at the sight of Gautama, the tapsas who were competing with him to reach the top of a hill once, by seeing the winner Gautama at the top, achieved moksha.
  • Sajjambhava was another born from Rajgriha and was elected the head of the Jain temple. He is famous for his composition of the "Dasavaikalika Sutra."
  • Acharya Vidyanand is a Brahmin of the Dhigambar Jain sect and compiled in the Sanskrit language, "Ashta Shahastri" with eight thousand verses.
  • Acharya Shushil Kumar, known better to Jains as "Guruji", was born a Vaidik in the Shakarpur village of the Haryana province. At the age of 15, he took Diksha (became a sanyassin) into the Sthanakvasi, a Swhetambara sub-sect.
  • There is also a story about a wealthy Brahmin named Dhangiri in the town of Tumbhivan, who, when heard the sermons of the Jain Acharya Sinhgiri, while he regularly listened to but later lost his interest in wealth and decided to take the Diksha.
  • Umasvati was a composer who was so loved by Jains that he is considered by the Dhigambar sect to be a Dhigambar member and the Svetambara sect to be a Svetambara member.

In kingdoms

  • The Jain Acharya Bhadrabahu of Pundravardhana is said to be the preceptor of Chandragupta Maurya of the Mauryan dynasty, grandfather of Ashoka the Buddhist ruler.
  • A copperplate grant from the Gupta period found in the vincity of Somapura mentioned a Brahmin donating land to a Jain vihara at Vatagohali.
  • A Brahmin general by the name of Vasudeva in the army of Kamadeva in the Vijayaditya dynasty had built a temple to Lord Parshvanath.
  • The Kadamba kings of Palasika were Jain Brahmins who supported Jainism and gave land grants and erected many temples and hence, patronised Jainism. This supports the view that Jainism entered South India through the West and perhaps from Ujjayini itself.
  • King Mrigesavarman of the Kadamba dynasty of palasika further went on to give grants to Yapaniyas, Nigranthas and Kurchakas.
  • The Brahmin Haribhadra was a pupil of Jinabhadra (or Jinabhata) and Jinadatta and later received the title of "Suri" (an honorable epithet of learning Jain monks.)


Brahmins have contributed to the making of India and to the world in fields such as literature, science and technology, politics, culture, music and religion.

Brahmins traditionally played a role in the spread of knowledge, sustaining the culture and revitalizing the Indian society for millennia. They played an important role in the freedom movement and national reformation movements.

During the Indian independence movement, many Brahmins, including Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Mangal Pandey, Nana Sahib Peshwa, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, Chandrashekar Azad, Yogendra Shukla, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Adyakrantikarak Vasudev BaLvant Phadke, Chaphekar Brothers, Anant Kanhere, Vinayak Deshapande, Vishwanath Vaishampayan (famous as "Bacchan", worked with Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad), Sri Krishna Sinha, Balgangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Basawon Singh (Sinha), Rajguru, Ramprasad Bismil,Chandrashekhar Azad, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Ganesh Damodar Savarkar C. Rajagopalachari, Gobind Ballabh Pant, Kamalapati Tripathi, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Ravishankar Shukla, Kailashnath Katju, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Motilal Nehru, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and others were at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and later Indian politics. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the first Vice President of India, were also Brahmins. Communist leaders like Manabendra Nath Roy, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Hiren Mukherjee, S. A. Dange, P.C.Joshi, Acharya P. K. Atre and many others were Brahmins. other brahmins include arun jaitly,arun shourie,s gurumurthy and shri ram ramesh Other Brahmins who became Prime Ministers of India are Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee. Brahmin Presidents of India include V. V. Giri, R. Venkataraman and Shankar Dayal Sharma.

Among Brahmin scholars and writers are Panini, Patanjali, Kalidas, Chanakya, Banabhatta, Goswami Tulsidas, Sur Das, Keshav das, Behari Saint Dnyaneshwar, Eknath, Samarth Ramdas. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and others like Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Hazariprasad Dwivedi, Sumitranandan Pant, Subramanya Bharathy, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Ramvriksh Benipuri, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Srilal Shukla and Manohar Shyam Joshi. Other Brahmin scholars include Pandurang Vaman Kane, Ram Sharan Sharma and Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. Modern writers include Ramachandra Guha, R. K. Narayan, as well as the famous cartoonist R. K. Laxman.

Scientists from the Brahmin fold include Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, Nobel Laureates Sir C.V.Raman and his nephew Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the agricultural scientist M. S. Swaminathan, the ethno-sociologist M. N. Srinivas, and the modern genius of mathematics Srinivasa Ramanujan, Shakuntala Devi and C. P. Ramanujam. Raja Ramanna, who was instrumental in making India a nuclear weapons state, was also a Brahmin.

In sports, major names include Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Ishant Sharma, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and many more; the world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, Ajit Agarkar, Hrishikesh Kanitkar.

Saint musicians include Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri. In entertainment, Lata Mangeshkar, Usha Uthup, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Hema Malini, Basu Chatterjee, Sudhir PhaDke, Balgandharva, Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande,Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Udit Narayan, Shantanu Mukherjee (Shaan), Abhijeet, Alka Yagnik, Madhuri Dixit, Amrita Rao,sharmila tagore,padmini kolhapuri deepika padukone,aditi gowitwikar,gayatri joshi,sonali bendreRani Mukherjee, Kajol, Bipasha Basu, Vidya Balan, Sonali Kulkarni, Sadhana Saragan (original surname is 'Ghanekar') are prominent names. Tansen, Baiju Bawra the musician of Akbar's court was born a Brahmin. Anupam Kher,arjun rampal,sanjay dutt,hritik roshan,kamal hassan Mausumi Chatterji, Chunki Pande, rekha,sridevi and meenakshi sheshadri are also Brahmins.

Brahmin saints include Adi Shankaracharya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharshi. Modern business leaders include the founder of Infosys, N. R. Narayana Murthy, Dr. Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, the founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT, Dr. Amar G. Bose, founder of Bose Corporation, and Subrata Roy, the founder and head of the Sahara Group.

Several notable names in Indian classical music belong to the Brahmin community, such as Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Veena Doreswamy Iyengar, Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (popularly Dr. Balamurali Krishna), Pandit Jasraj, Shivkumar Sharma etc.

See also



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