Friday, August 31, 2007

List of Brahmin Communities

The following is a list of Brahmin communities of India. It is documented here for anthropological research purposes. Please suggest additions/corrections to -

List of Brahmin Communities
(in alphabetical order)

* Anavil Brahmins
* Ashtasahasram Iyers
* Aravttokkalu Brahmins
* Audichya Brahmins
* Babburkamme Smartha Brahmins
* Badagnadu Smartha Brahmins
* Barendra Brahmins of Bengal
* Bhumihar Brahmins
* Brahatcharanam Iyers
* Daivajna Brahmins
* Dadhichi Brahmins (Derived from Maharshi Dadhichi)
* Deshastha Brahmins
* Devrukhe Brahmins of Konkan region in Maharashtra
* Dhima Brahmins
* Dravida Brahmins (originally from Tamilandu, migrated to parts of Godavari and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh)
* Embranthiri Brahmins of Kerala
* Gaur Brahmins
* Gouda Saraswat Brahmins
* Gurukkal or Shivacharya Brahmins
* Havyaka Brahmins
* Hebbar Iyengars
* Hoysala Karnataka Brahmins
* Jijhotia Brahmins
* Kandavara Brahmins
* Kanyakubj or Kanaujia Brahmins
* Karhada or Karade Brahmins of Karhad region of Maharashtra
* Kashmiri Saraswats or Kashmiri Pundits
* Kayastha Brahmins
* Kerala Iyers
* Khajuria or Dogra Brahmins of Jammu
* Khandelwal Brahmins
* Khedawal Brahmins
* Konkanastha or Chitpavan Brahmins
* Konkani Saraswat Brahmins
* Kota Brahmins
* Koteshwara Brahmins
* Kudaldeshkar Brahmins
* Madras Iyengars
* Madhwa Brahmins
* Maithili Brahmins
* Malwi Brahmins
* Mandyam Iyengars
* Modh Brahmins
* Mohyal Brahmins
* Muluknadu Brahmins
* Nagar Brahmins
* Namboothiri Brahmins
* Nandimukh or Nandwana Brahmins of Gujarat and Rajasthan area.
* Naramdeo or Narmdiya Brahmins
* Niyogi Brahmins
* Padia Brahmins
* Paliwal Brahmins
* Pottee Brahmins of Kerala
* Punjabi Saraswat Brahmins
* Pushpaka Brahmins
* Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins
* Rahri Brahmins of Rahr region of Bengal
* Rigvedi Deshastha Brahmins
* Sakaldwipi Brahmins
* Saklapuri Brahmins
* Sanadhya Brahmins mainly of western Uttar Pradesh
* Sanketi Brahmins
* Sarwaria Brahmins
* Sarypari Brahmins of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh
* Sirinadu Smartha Brahmins
* Shrimali Brahmins
* Shivalli Brahmins
* Smartha Brahmins
* Srigaur Brahmins
* Sthanika Brahmins
* Suryadwij Brahmins (of Kota region in Rajasthan)
* Thenkalai (a.k.a.Thengalai) Iyengars
* Tuluva Brahmins
* Utkal Brahmins
* Uluchakamme Brahmins
* Vadagalai Iyengars
* Vadama Iyers
* Vaidik or Vaidiki Brahmins
* Vaishnava Brahmins
* Vathima Iyers
* Yajurvedi Deshastha Brahmins

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Adi Shankaracharya

Shankaracharya is the first among the three acharyas who reformed Hindu religion by giving their own interpretation to the ancient sacred texts. At the time, the vedic texts which have come down to Indians through the ages and only orally studied were the monopoly of a certain class. This knowledge was known as shruti, or learning by careful listening. The vedas were in very old esoteric language were beyond the reach of the common man. The tremendous task of interpreting the true catholic spirit of Hindu philosophy was yet to be undertaken, and the three acharyas, Shankaracharya (c 788 - 820 AD), Ramanujacharya (11th century AD), and Madhwacharya (13th century AD) -- all hailing from southern part of India are credited for the status of present day Hindu thought and philosophy.

Adi Shankaracharya

Shankara's arrival on the scene was at a most critical juncture when both Buddhism and Hinduism were fast disintegrating into various sects and cults. Buddha's original teachings were a reaction to the vedic sacrificial extremities. But in the later centuries practices like magic and sexual mysticism crept into Buddhism. Vedic religion was not very different, having given way to superstitious ways, and a large number of rituals. It was Shankara who tried to re-assess and integrate sound teachings of Buddha in the vedic (Hindu) following, and was successful in the revival and reformation of Hindu thinking and way of life.

Shankara was born of poor but pious Nambudiri Brahmin couple in the Kaladi village of the Kerala kingdom. He lost his father early. Shankara has ascetic leanings from the beginning and he wanted to put to use all of the knowledge he could acquire for the better use of the society. He was the couple's only child and the mother resisted her son becoming a monk giving up all worldly life. It took great persuasion on Shankara's part to win her over. He promised attending on her final hour.

He went in search of a guru for further spiritual guidance and studied under Govinda Bhagavatpada, who was a famous disciple of the great saint Gowdapadacharya. Gowdapadacharya advocated monism or advaita. All the learning Shankara mastered was put to use through his brilliant eloquence. Dialetics, logic and semantics were the primary areas of scholarhood in those days, and the only means to achieve supremacy was to argue and win debates in august assemblies of scholars. Shankara argued and won over many great scholars of his time belonging to different faiths. He established that the original teaching of the vedas was that God is one and the study of vedas is the only way to salvation.

At the time Vedic texts were summarized in brief aphorisms. The basic texts of vedic knowledge was preserved in Brahmasutras of Badarayana, a work of First century A.D. This was known as the main composition of Vedanta (literally meaning "End or culmination of Vedas", used sometimes as culmination of Indian thought). Shankara wrote a brilliant and convincing commentary on Brahmasutras which were accepted throughout India. He wrote commentary of Bhagavad-Gita, chief Upanishads and other philosophic works. He is created beautiful compositions in praise of God and Mother Goddess. Vedanta and its interpretation by Shankara is accepted and revered even by modern theologists including Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo.

Shankara then took missionary work traveling the entire country (what is India today, then consisting of numerous feudal kingdoms). He established four muthas (or monasteries) in the four corners of the Hindu land -- Kashmir in the North, Dwaraka in theWest, Puri in the East and in Sringeri in the South. These institutions are operational till today (year 2003), with innumerable followers upholding Shankara's adwaitism. These muthas and the pilgrims who visited them held India together as one nation for more than twelve centuries! All the heads of these institutions are today known as Shankaracharyas and wield tremendous political power in India. To distinguish these pontiffs from the first preceptor, Shankara is referred to as Adi Shankaracharya or Jagadguru (Universal teacher).

Shankara did not forget his old mother or the promise he had made. Tradition records that he was by his mother's side in her final moments. He then arranged for her funeral, although he himself was an ascetic, "dead" to the world.

While Shankaracharya criticized Buddhism in its decayed form, he assimilated many tenets of Buddhism cleverly, like that of nirvana (void). It was Shankaracharya who was responsible to absorb Buddha into Hinduism and recognize Buddha as an avatar (incarnation) of God !

Shankaracharya was only thirty-two years old at the time of his death. But his life's mission was complete. Revival and reformation of original vedic religion, which is considered intellectual Hinduism is alive to this day.