Goud Saraswat Brahmin
|Regions with significant populations|
|Primary populations in Karnataka and Goa|
|Related ethnic groups|
Goud (also spelt as Gaud or Gawd) Saraswat Brahmins are a Hindu Brahmin community in India and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. They belong to the Pancha (five) Gauda Brahmana groups. They are popularly referred to as GSBs. They primarily speak Konkani as their mother tongue, but they tend to be fluent in language of the region they are resident in. For example, those living in Karnataka also speak Tulu, and Kannada whereas those living in Maharashtra speak Marathi.
Perceptions of mythology and history
According to the mythological chronicle Sahyadrikhanda of the Skanda Purana, ninety-six Brahmin families belonging to ten gotras migrated to Goa from western India.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 Saraswat Brahmins. 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 Sanskrit Skanda 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 specifically Saraswat Brahmins. Therefore, equating Aryans and Saraswats seems to be far-fetched. 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 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 much before 500 BCE.
Reference to Saraswat names are found in Shilaharas well as Kadamba copper plate inscriptions. The inscriptions found in Goa bear testimony to arrival of Brahmin families in the Konkan region. Sahyadrikhanda and Mangesh Mahatmya allude to migrations of Saraswat brahmins, constituting sixty-six families, who settled in eight villages of Goa. There were regional variations among the Saraswats, such as those among Bardeskars, Pednekars and Sastikars. The Konkana mahatmya, from the 17th century CE, deals with the internal rivalry of the Saraswats and strained relations between these groups. The GSB ancestors identified themselves as of the Saraswat section of the northern Gaud division, in contrast to their Maharashtra and Karnataka Brahman neighbors of the southern division. Those neighbors questioned the GSB’s competence to perform all six duties (shatkarma) reserved to brahmans. It was said that the GSB could study the vedas, but not teach them; give alms to brahmans, but not accept them; and have sacrifices performed, but not perform them. There is no substantial evidence to bear out these assertions. They seem mainly to have rested upon a general suspicion of outsiders, and perhaps the inclusion of fish in the GSB diet. In spite of such vilification, Saraswats continued to prosper in Maharashtra. Furthermore, the Dravida Brahmins, in the scramble for posts and positions, developed antipathy towards the Gauda Brahmins, and this rivalry had its manifestation in various places. (In Maharashtra, the Saraswats were looked down upon and were described as not Shatkarmis but only Trikarmis. But the Bombay High Court during the 19th century decreed that they were qualified to perform all the six karmas).
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 Karnataka 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.
During the eighth month of pregnancy, a woman moves to her mother's house, especially during the birth of her first child. The expecting mother also performs Ganapathi Pooja for a successful delivery and a healthy child. On the 6th day, a pen and lamp are kept near the child's head, symbolic of a wish for an intelligent child. On the 12th day, the naming and cradling ceremony is performed wherein the paternal grandmother whispers the child's name into his/her ear and a horoscope is cast. When the child turns three months old, they are taken to the temple, and thereafter the child goes to the father's abode.
GSBs celebrate almost all festivals in Hinduism, and follow the Hindu lunar calendar (Panchang in Konkani) that gives the days on which the fasts and festivals should be observed.
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