Formation of Chitrapur Saraswats
During the reign of Basavappa Nayaka
I (1696 -1714), some people of Kanara accused the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin
Shenvis of not being true brahmins. This accusation is said to have evolved
in consequence to two factors: 1) the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis had
no guru, or spiritual leader, to represent their community and 2) since
many of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Shenvis were holding impressive administration
positions during this time period, the natives of Kanara were aroused with
jealousy which stimulated them to form this accusation.
Since the Gaud Saraswat
Brahmin Shenvis did not have a spiritual guide to represent their caste,
the ruler of the region most probably would not recognize their brahminical
status. Therefore, the Shenvis felt that it was necessary to seek a spiritual
preceptor for their community. Soon after, the Shenvis prayed to two of
their deities, Shri Bhavanishankar and to Shri Mahabaleshvara, in hope
of finding a guru. Some time after their prayers had been addressed, a
sanyassin (one who is in the final stage of life and completely renounces
all worldly possessions) of north Indian Saraswat Brahmin descent came
to Gokarn. At the request of the Shenvis, the sanyassin accepted the role
to guide and represent their community in 1708. This commenced the development
of a new caste known as the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins, who had now firmly
differentiated themselves from the rest of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa.
Bhanap Migration to Bombay
The first Bhanap to migrate
to Bombay, however, chose to go there for employment rather than education.
Shamrao Vithal Kaikini (1841- 1905) was an intelligent and determined young
Bhanap who had the courage to leave the Kanara district, which had been
the home of Bhanaps for over a century, and venture into the modernized
city of Bombay. Shamrao had learned English with a tutor when he was a
young boy up until he was eighteen years of age. In 1859, he passed a test
enabling him to seek employment in the field of public service. The revenue
department in Kanara then employed him soon after he passed the examination.
Also working in this department was an Englishman named William Wedderburn.
Wedderburn immediately recognized the unique abilities that Shamrao possessed.
In due time, Shamrao had heard the magnificent stories about the tremendous
opportunities that were awaiting him in Bombay. So, by the time he was
twenty years of age, Shamrao set off for Bombay by himself to conquer his
dreams of becoming a lawyer. Once in Bombay, his first job was with S.
N. Patkar who employed him as a clerk in his law office. It was not long
before Shamrao became frustrated with this job; consequently, he returned
to Kanara to work with his brother who had just opened his law practice.
In 1867, his brother received a case which had to go to the Bombay High
Court. Shamrao was employed by his brother to translate all the necessary
documents. Therefore, when the case was called to Bombay, Shamrao and his
brother set off to the city. Soon after, Shamrao was recognized for his
talents and was employed as the "second Kannada translator to the Bombay
High Court." Shamrao then sent for his wife in Kanara to come and live
with him in Bombay In 1871, Shamrao passed the Bombay High Court Pleader's
examination. This allowed him to finally establish his profession in the
field of law by beginning his practice with the appellate part of the Bombay
As many great leaders
in history, Shamrao also pursued many other interests besides his professional
career. He started to help his family members from the Kanara district
to come to Bombay for education in 1869. One of the people whom he helped
was his nephew, Narayanrao Ganesh Chandavarkar. This boy had passed his
high school matriculation test in the year 1871; he then received an acceptance
at Elphinstone College in Bombay. In 1876, he was the first Bhanap to receive
a University of Bombay Bachelor of Arts degree. Shamrao also encouraged
other members of his caste to come to Bombay. The first group of Bhanap
men that came to Bombay for their education established a room club, or
a hostel, in an apartment near Shamrao's residence in Kandewadi to alleviate
the financial pressures of securing independent housing. At any rate, the
Bhanaps had finally made their way into the cosmopolitan city of Bombay
by the late 1800's.
Bhanaps had also begun
to migrate to the city of Madras in the year 1865. Similar to the reasons
for going to Bombay, many Bhanaps originally went to Madras to take their
high school matriculation examination and then pursue further study at
the university. The first Bhanap to matriculate from the university in
Madras was Ullal Baburao in 1869 when he received his Bachelors degree
in law. Soon after, many other Bhanaps received their college degrees form
the university in Madras as well. Madras had earned an excellent reputation
in terms of its educational prospective and its employment opportunities
in the field of administration. However, the weak point of this city was
that it was not very technologically advanced and thus did not offer many
employment opportunities for the fresh graduates of the university. The
Bhanaps who ultimately did settle in this city were those who had educational
backgrounds in administration. Many others were force to seek employment
elsewhere. In this respect, Madras did not become as popular as a place
of migration for the Bhanaps as did Bombay which was a more modern city.
Thus, Bombay attracted more Bhanaps since it offered more employment opportunities.
One of the major aspects
of this unique group that has not yet been emphasized is that of language.
The members of this cast speak Konkani, one of the Indo-Aryan languages
which descended from the Middle Indic Prakrits. Some Bhanap scholars noticed
that the caste continued to become increasingly confined within their own
group as time passed. One of the major contributors to this developing
situation may be the fact that the Konkani language binds the members of
this small caste in a way that is unique among the Saraswats. Although
some ascertain that the Konkani language restricts the members of the caste
from socializing with their Kannada friends in Karnataka, Tamil friends
in Madras, Gujarati friends in Bombay, etc., other members of the cast
maintain that their language is a strong symbol of their identity and cultural
heritage. In fact, many members of the community fondly refer to their
mother-tongue as amchigele meaning of our own. From either perspective,
it is unquestionable that Konkani as a language is one of the most defining
characteristics of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins today.
Source: NAKC 1996 Souvenir, Aarti Maskeri PA