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.
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.
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."
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 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 , 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.
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.....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The six duties of Brahmin are given as per the Sloka
yajanam yajanam tathā
dānam pratigraham caiva
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.
Brahmins also perform sixteen major Samskaras (rites) during the course of their lifetime.
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.
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.
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 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.