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This website is a renovated website of Adyar Gopal Parivar. I am Dr. Mohan G Shenoy inviting you to visit and explore the website.
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By Mohan Shenoy

The Saaraswat People: The Saaraswat people got their name from the Saraswati river along the banks of which they were originally settled. The Saraswati river is now seen only as a subterranean shadow in the pictures of the state of Punjab taken from the satellites.

        There occurred a 12-year famine in about 5000 B.C. (period mentioned needs authentication) in Punjab which caused the river Saraswati to dry up and vanish. This famine was enough to kill a large number of people in the area due to starvation. A lot of information which the people of the time kept memorized was lost by the death of the masses. The written information on papyrus was either left unattended to be lost to nature, or carried along to the destinations by the escapees.

        A large number of able bodied survivors escaped to the east and came to live along the banks of the river Ganga and its tributaries. Many families settled down in the new location but a good percentage of the new generations returned to Punjab in later years.

        After many many years the migrant Saaraswats in Gangetic plains gained name and fame in the new colonies as wise men. They had known ways and means to appease gods and to consign the souls to the heaven after death. They performed elaborate fire sacrifices and dictated the correct procedures for the same. They were in demand in all different kingdoms and courts. They were identified by their family names such as Bhrigu, Angirasa,Vsishta, Kashyapa, Agastya and Atri. All those men through the ages born to Bhrigus for example would be known by the same name. They were placed in the highest class among men and called the Brahman(s). The Saaraswat Brahman had other rivals such as the Kanyakubja, Maithila, Gauda and Utkal Brahmans who were either original residents or off-shoots of the new settlers.

        Meanwhile in the peninsular portion of the land known as Bhaarath (later referred to as India) below the Vindhya mountain ranges, there were Brahman families bearing names such as Dravida, Tailang, Karnaata, Madhyadesi, and Gurjara. Thus there were in the course of time, about ten different primary divisions constructed among the Brahmans of Bhaarath.

The Story of Lord Parasurama: The history of Saaraswat Brahmans is incomplete if Lord Parasurama is not taken into account. It is said that Parasurama was the godly administrator of the west-coast of India so much so that he had thrown his pickaxe across the sea to extend the land upto the line along which his axe fell. Therefore the land consisting of Konkan, Goa, coast of Karnataka, and Kerala is known as Parasurama territory.

        To give a more rational explanation to this improbable legend, the discovery of land beyond the Western Ghats and conquering it by Parasurama led to the theory of the pickaxe. This land was inaccessible for people of Gujarat, Madhyadesha, Karnaata, Tailang and Dravida and hence it was a new discovery when Lord Parasurama rode across the Western Ghat mountains and established his control over it.

The Story of Brahman settlements in Goa: Once Parasurama established himself as the ruler of Konkan, Goa and other coastal territories, he experienced the lack of Brahmans in the region. He arranged to bring in Brahmans from the Tri-hotra region of northern Gangetic plains. The region in the northern Gangetic belt (consisting roughly the present districts of Champaran, Saran, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur) was known as Tri-hotra which later shortened to Tirhut. The first batch of Brahmans were settled in Goa.

        Their family names or Gothra(s) were the following: Bhaaradwaaja, Kausika (also known as Kaumsa), Vatsa, Kaundinya, Kashyapa, Vasishta, Jamadagni, Vishwaamitra, Gautama and Atri. More Brahmans from other areas including the Bengal came to Goa on invitation of the rulers following Parasurama. These families were belonging to Sankha Pingala Kamsa, Garghya, Angirasa, Nair dhruva, Dhananjaya, Mudgala, Vainya, Harsha, Hariha, Shandilya and Sankhyana.Family Deities or Kula Devata.

        The Brahmanas brought the idols of gods along when they arrived in Goa. Their gods were Mangesh, Mahadeva, Mahalakshmi, Mhalasa, Shanta Durga, Nagesh and Sapta Kotishwara. Each person knows and remembers the name of his family deity since during various rituals the family deity is first invoked and thereafter the god that is to be worshipped. Also it is a practice for the newly married Saaraswat couple to visit the temple of their family deity in Goa immediately after a marriage. The temples of all the family deities of Saraswats are located in and around Goa.
        The state of Karnaataka has many other languages spoken by its people apart from Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. Kannada is the official language used in the government offices but Malayalam is spoken in the regions bordering Kerala; Marathi in the regions bordering Maharashtra, Tamil in the regions bordering Tamil Nadu state and Telugu in the regions bordering Andhra Pradesh. A kind of Hindi mixed with Kannada and Persian words is spoken by Mohammedans of Karnaataka origin. This language also known as Khedi boli, Hindavi or Dakhni has many Arabic, Persian and Iranian words. Pure Urdu is rarely spoken but Hindi is more common among settlers who arrived from North India.

Kannada Dialects

        Like in most of the languages of the world, Kannada is also studded with dialectal and regional varieties. Some of the dialects are given below:

1. Badaga Kannada is spoken by some people in the Chamarajnagar, Kollegal and Mysore districts adjoining Nilgiris.
2. Nadavara Kannada is spoken by agriculturists of Uttara Kannada district.
3. Harikantras Kannada of Fishermen and cultivators of Uttara Kannada district.
4. Halakki Kannada of Halakki Vokkals and Mukris of Uttara Kannada district.
5. Bajantri Kannada Halleer Vajantris of Belgaum and Uttara Kannada districts.
6. Koosa Kannada spoken by Koosas of Dakshina Kannada district.
7. Koraga Kannada of Koraga community living around Mangalaore.
8. Iruliga Kannada is a Kannada mixed with Tamil words.
9. Sholiga Kannada of Biligirirangana Betta inhabitants.
10. Toda Kannada of Todara community of border areas of Nilgiris.
11. Korama and Koracha Kannadas are Kannada language with Tamil and Telugu words.
12. Kodava Kannada is spoken in Kodagu district.
13. Banjari Kannada and Lambani Kannada of Tanda dwellers in North Karnaataka.
14. Dasari Kannada of Chenna and Holaya Dasars.
15. Dombara Kannada spoken by Dom, Dombara, Paidi and Pano people.
16. Madari Kannada of Madari community.
Kannada spoken by the people of
South and North Kanara districts.

        Kannada spoken by the people of South and North Kanara districts is called the bookish Kannada because they learnt to read and write Kannada in the schools. Their mother tongue is a language other than Kannada.

        Those Kanara people whose mother tongue is Kannada speak the language in the perfect tone and style of the Mysoreans. However the Newspapers and text books make use of the formal Kannada in publications.

Konkani Language

        Konkani is the language spoken by substantial number of residents of coastal Karnaataka. They include the Gowda Saraswath Brahmins (GSB), the Saraswath Brahmins (SB), Christians and Mohammedans.

        The Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnaataka State, in the coastal regions are where Konkanis are concentrated. The style and accents in these Konkanis differ but there is now an attempt to popularize a formal style and accent in order to introduce the language in the schools.

        The Goans speak Konkani with the original accent. Their Konkani resembles that spoken in Uttara Kannada district.

        The Konkani spoken by GSBs differs substantially from that spoken by the Christians. Also the Konkani of GSBs around Mangalore in South Kanara is slightly different from that spoken by the GSBs living in North Kanara around Karwar town.

        The community of Daivajna Brahmans with the surname Shet is mainly Sonars (Sonnaranche) concentrated in Uttara Kannada district and they speak a Konkani with their own accent and tone.

        Kudumbi people speak a Konkani which has some strange words akin to Marathi words. They are long-time residents of Mangalore, Mijar and Moodbidri.

        The Muslims living around the Bhatkal town are known as the Navaayat(s) and they speak Konkani at home having a number of words borrowed from the Arabic and Persian languages.
The Saaraswat Brahmans: The Saaraswat community in Goa and along the Westcoast of India has three main sub-communities. They are 1. Chitrapur Saaraswats, 2. Gouda Saaraswats and 3. Dravida Saaraswats.

        The Chitrapur Saaraswats have been the original Parasurama invitees and referred to as the Shenvi families because of their high levels of intelligence, physical growth, exceptional character of honesty and integrity. They were employed in high positions in the courts of the rulers of Goa and of other surrounding places.

        The Gouda Saaraswats were the Saaraswat families who arrived later in the fourth to eleventh centuries and brought with them their food habits and enterpreunerships. They commonly ate fish but not any other non-vegetarian food items. Like all Hindus they were cow-worshippers. They were also capable of taking up occupations such as agriculture and shop-keeping. They wanted to retain their separate identity when they arrived in Goa from Gouda desha that existed in Bengal and Bihar region during the first three centuries A.D. There are other explanations also for Gouda word.

        The Dravida Saaraswat Brahmans are those that live mainly in Konkan and Thane regions of Maharashtra. They have taken up the traditions and practices of the Maratha Brahmans such as Chitpavan and Deshastha.Influence of the Kadamba and Keladi Kings

        After Parasurama, history tells us of the Kadamba dynasty ruling Goa and surrounding areas. Kadamba kings were themselves Brahmans belonging to the Haritha gothra. The Saaraswats of Goa lived peacefully in the Kadamba kingdom. Banavasi a town situated southeast of Goa was its capital. In the 14th Century Muslims conquered Goa and ruled it briefly. In the 16th Century the Portuguese arrived and took over the administration of Goa. The Saaraswats were forced to leave Goa and settle elsewhere to escape persecution and conversion into Christianity. Most of these refugees were rich people in Goa. When they left their lands and houses back they carried as much gold and jewelry as they could with them.

        The Keladi king received the fleeing Saaraswats with open hands and encouraged them to settle down in his kingdom. The Saaraswats flourished in the Keladi kingdom. They were traders, soldiers and advisors. They were invited by the small and big kings alike because they were honest and hard-working. They often brought gold and jewelry and shared their wealth with the king.

        Later in the Keladi kingdom all the Saaraswats came to be known as Shanbhogue. Shanbhogue also indicated that the person is a writer or a literate person employed by the king to collect revenue from the subjects and deposit it in the treasury of the kingdom. These Shanbhogues were known for their honesty and integrity and they were considered to be fully reliable in every deal.

        Many of the families went further south along the coast and reached Kochi (formerly Cochin) in Kerala. Many families broke their journey and settled down when they found a good place along the route. At present Saaraswats are found in every town and village along the coast from Goa down to Kochi and beyond. They are spotted easily because they have a fair skin and a handsome physique. Their women are some of the most beautiful ladies in the region and in the world. Most of the Saaraswats refrain from alcohol, fraudulent deals, breaking laws of the land, and taking bribe to show favours to perform the duties assigned to them. They maintain good business practices and pay taxes honestly. They do not indulge in rape and murder and respect women and the elderly.

                                Tulu Language
      There is a very original language known as Tulu, spoken by a large section of people in and around Mangalore.

        More than 80 percent of
people in Dakshina Kannada can converse in Tulu. It is being popularized in the 21st century by Tulu lovers.

        If one knows Tulu then it is certain that he lived in Mangalore and surroundings for for a long time. There is a variety of Tulu which may be its dialect spoken by Havyaka Brahmans. Havyakas are among the original Kannada residents of Kanara.

        The Tulu language spoken by the majority of people in Canara differes from that spoken by  the Havyakas Brahmans, such as the Kota Brahmans and Shivalli Brahmans. The Havyakas of Sirsi, Siddapur and Yellapur regions speak a type of Kannada and not Tulu.

        Many Bunts and Jains also speak Tulu at home but with varying accents and style.
The Surnames of the Saaraswats

        There were no surnames before the 16th Century for Saaraswats because they were identified by the place they lived in or if they had recently migrated to another place then by the name of the place they came from.

        A man from Goa would be known as Goakar, and one from Tendul would be known as Tendulkar. But the Portuguese wanted a surname added for identification and there arose the practice of using Pai as the surname for the Saaraswats. Every Saaraswat was known as Pai added to his given name. It would be Mohan Pai for Mohan along with the place of his birth included as the fore name.

        A Mohan Pai from Karwar would be known as Karwar Mohan Pai. The Bhanup, or Shenapaiki, or Shenapanche sect stopped using their surnames during these early years of British rule in Kanara districts, and instead they used the name of the place of their birth as their surnames. Karnad is such a surname. Karnad is a village in South Kanara. Gulvady, Hattangady, Manjeshwar are other names of places which have become the surnames of many of the Bhanups or Shenapaiki people among us.

        It is necessary for us to merge all these Konkani Brahmans into a common people so that there can be more marriages between members of these communities, facilitating Indianisation, and ultimately globalisation.

        In Goa the surname Shenai or Shenoy was common along with the surname Pai. The Pai surname was reserved for the rich landlords and the surname Shenai/Shenoy was given to the accountants, clerks, agents, and employees of letter. They were always employed in the court by the kings of Goa. They were employed to read or write letters by even the Pais. The Shenai/Shenoy was always a Saaraswat Brahman. Later when the Gouda Saaraswat population increased in the Kannada areas and in Kerala, they adopted the surname Shanbhogue first and later changed it to Shenoi, Shenai, or Shenoy for convenience. There was confusion in writing the word Shanbhogue in English. Often the name was written as Shanbhag. There was confusion in the spelling of Shenoy also. Many people adopted the spelling Shenoi. Those using Shenoi are found in Goa, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Kerala and in big cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata.

        Those using the spelling Shenoy are more frequently seen among the Gouda Saaraswats than those using the spelling Shenai or Shenoi. Any one using Shenai or Shenoi (with a letter i instead of y) is only digressing from the common practice of using y to write Shenoy.

        The surnames exclusively used by Gouda Saaraswats are Kamath, Kudva or Kudav, Baliga, Kini, Nayak, Prabhu, Mallya, Bhandarkar and of course Pai and Shenoy. These surnames do not indicate the Gothra of the person. However except for Pai and Shenoy the surname of the groom is different from that of the bride until they are married.

                           Kodava Language

        The Kodava language deserves special mention. Kodagu had been a princely state since the 17th century. Kodagu people have their own language with many words from Malayalam and Tulu languages. The language of Kodava people is called the Kodava language.

        The state of Kodagu (erstwhile Coorg state) was a separate state ruled by the British and merged with the Indian Union in 1947; later it was merged with the new Karnaataka State. The people of Coorg are called Coorgis. Coorg was a word coined by the British for Kodagu. The official name for Coorg is now Kodagu. There are naturally many words borrowed from Kannada, Hindi, Persian and English in Kodava. Kodavas are descendants of warriors and their traditional dress includes a sword that signifies their combatants' lifestyles.

        Kodagu is a hilly region and has a salubrious weather. Large tracts of Kodagu are dense forests with varieties of flora and fauna.
                          BELGAUM DISPUTE       

Belgaum (Belagavi) is a city in Karnaataka state and is the capital of the district with the same name. It was a district in the Bombay State before it was merged with Karnaataka in 1956 by formation of states on linguistic basis. There is a large population who speak Marathi at home. Marathi is also widely spoken in the market and other public places. There are Marathi medium schools in the Belgaum district for Marathi people.

        Some of the people in Maharashtra state which was also formed for the Marathi speaking people incites the Marathis in Belgaum district to launch agitations to demand the excision of Belgaum district from Karnaataka and inclusion in the Maharashtra state.
Predominance of English

        English is the language of the educated class and it happens to be the language used by the Central government offices besides Hindi and the local lanugage. English is also used as a second language in the state government offices and in the Karnaataka Judiciary. When people wish to communicate with a stranger/visitor, the English language comes in handy for those who know it. Especially the people who visit Karnaataka for either pleasure or business use English for communication. Hindi replaces English when the visitor is from Indian northern states, northeastern states and northwestern states.
By Mohan Shenoy
        The Gothra of the Shenoys/Shenois/Shenais is commonly Vachcha which is not listed in any of the Gothra lists. Vachcha is not the same as Vatsa which is listed in every list of Gothras. Therefore Gouda Saaraswat Brahmans belonging to the Vachcha Gothra are probably the most recent migrants into the Konkan, Goa and rest of the West coast regions.

        There have been religious conversions among the GSB community during the Portuguese rule in Goa. Many people with Shenvi or Shanbhag surnames have been converted into Christianity but they retained their surnames. Some of them changed their surnames into Shenoy or Shenoi, the latter more common among the Christians.

        The surname Shenoy/Shenoi occurs among the Christians who got converted voluntarily from Hinduism. The Portuguese clergy insisted on changing the name and surname of the converted Hindus into Christianity in the 16th Century and later until Goa was liberated in 1964. Since Goa became a part of the Indian Union, some of the progressive Goans got themselves converted often because of their marriage to a Christian. However since the religion was not a significant factor for citizenship and other identification documents, the names were not changed like before.

        During the Portuguese administration in the year 1630 for example in the city of Madgaon (Margoa) a Krishna Kamath got converted and changed his name to Brizio Fernandes. A new born male infant in 1596, in the town of Velim born to the wife of Loku Shenai was christianed as Pera Da Cruz.. (Reference: History of the Dakshinatya Saraswats by V.N.Kudva, published by Samyukta Gowda Saraswat Sabha, Chennai, India.).

        The word sankara in Sanskrit language means joining of two different kinds of people in marriage to produce a third kind of people. The third kind are known as Sankaraja. This is supposed to have happened after the Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and Kauravas in India. There could have been shortage of men with the result that a few men married many women.

        There were children born to these mixed race couple who had some common features of both the races. In later years there were marriages among these new groups resulting in further merger of the races. New languages and cultures developed among these new people. It is said that Sanskrit was the spoken language during the Vedic period.

        But during the days of Mahavira and Buddha the spoken language was Prakrit language, a derivative of Sanskrit. Many languages evolved in later decades which derived their names by referring to the regions where they developed. Hindi was the language spoken in Central India, referred to as India by the  international travellers and traders.

        Later as time passed Hindusthan and India became the common names for Central India. The language spoken in Hindusthan and India was referred to as Hindi language. Tamil developed in Tamil country, Kannada in Karnataka, Bengali in Bengal and Odiya in Orissa, and so on.
        For each person his or her language is the basis of his identity.

        Every person eventually feels comfortable with his language to speak, read and write, and to make deals with others. A trader would learn the languages of his customers and use the language of the customer to do business.

        Every trader finds that the customer is attracted towards the traders who speak and deal in the language of the customer. All the rulers of Indian states in the past have tried to learn the languages of the local people in order to rule them effectively.

        Mixing of the races of the invaders and the residents continued rapidly during the period between the Kurukshetra war and the present. That is why we see in India faces that are showing colours and features of Chinese, Dravidian, Negroid, European, and Middle East people. The features that have evolved have developed the identity of an Indian. It is not difficult to pick and identify an Indian in a large crowd in an airport lounge.

        Sometimes it is not difficult for a person to identify his own kind. A GSB woman can fairly correctly point out another GSB woman in a crowd of different kinds of people in an audience. Yet there are many common features that add to this identity, such as the skull cap of a Muslim, the 'bindi' on the forehead of a Hindu married woman, etc. These added features are becoming rarer and rarer with the result that there is now a trend towards merger of cultures. Each one tries to find a common denominator to claim membership of a community, region, nation and continent.

        Our latest craze for photo identity cards is an example. Now it is useful to possess a photo identity card to announce our names, dates of birth and residential address. Our religion could be identified based on the name and surname that appears on the card. There has been an attempt among the people in India to wipe out the surnames that announce the caste. Many GSB people have stopped using their surnames. Many upper caste people in Tamil country have also stopped using their surnames to make it more convenient to get work done in offices, market places, schools, colleges and other institutions.

        The opening of schools and admission of children in these schools by the British Government in this period of time was responsible for this change in name. People preferred the shorter and concise name Shenoy in place of cumbersome Shanbhogue, although the name Shanbhogue is not really cumbersome. The name Shanbhogue however had different spelling in different areas. Some people used to write it as Shanubhag or Shanubhogue.

        It will also be inevitable for boys of our community to seek girls from other castes to marry. This is because there are many choices available to the present generation of children in India. Times have changed.An educated boy from the GSB community can live happily with an educated girl from any other caste, and vice versa. A new culture will be born from among these intercaste marriages. Sankara is actually Indianisation leading to globalisation.