Goud Saraswat Brahmin

Gowd (also spelt as Goud or Gaud) Saraswat Brahmins are a Hindu Brahmin community in India and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmincommunity. They are popularly referred to as GSBs. They are Konkani people and primarily speak Konkani as their mother tongue. They are the first Rigvedic Brahmins.
They claim their origin to the Brahmins who lived on the banks of the now-extinct river Saraswati of upper Punjab or Kashmir. They derived their name from either the river Saraswati or from their spiritual leader, the sage Saraswat Muni(sage) who lived on the banks of Saraswati. These Brahmins were one of the Pancha Gowda Brahmin groups who lived north of the Vindhyas. They belonged to Smarta tradition and primarily worshiped the five deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya and Ganesha. Throughout the course of history, the Saraswat Brahmins have migrated to a variety of locations and are found mostly in Western coast of India.
Saraswat Muni (who was a devotee of goddess Saraswati) once needed disciples to spread his teachings and knowledge to the world. However, he could not get students who were capable of the task. So he prayed to Goddess Saraswati to help him. Pleased with his devotion the Goddess gave him fourteen sons. Each of them had a name and the same is used by his descendents as their surname. The sons had characteristics according to their names. They were taught by the sage and sent around the world with certain objectives. 
The Saraswat Brahmins are mentioned in the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and the Bhavisyottara Purana. They may have come from Central Asia and Southern Germany to the Indian sub-continent through the Hindu-Kush mountains and the Khyber pass to south in about 2000–1500 BC or they were indigenous. The meaning of 'Saraswat' has more than one origin. One refers to 'offspring of Saraswati' the goddess of learning applied usually to learned and scholarly people. It may denote the residents of Saraswati river basin. The Brahmins of this region who are referred to as 'Saraswats' in Mahabharata and Puranas were learned in Vedic lore. They concentrated on studying subjects like astronomy,metaphysics, medicine and allied subjects and disseminating knowledge.  To trace the Gauda Saraswat Brahmins' ancestry from Kashmir to Goa, story of famous seer "Saraswata" is considered: When there was a famine in north India, he continued to recite Vedic texts by consuming fish. 
Due to geo-morphosis in the Himalayas, the Saraswati began to dry up and the Saraswats were forced to migrate to greener pastures. Some went to Kashmir in the north, others went eastward. Few made their way to the Konkan and Goa. These came to be recognised as Goud Saraswats or Dakshinatya Saraswats, to distinguish them from other Saraswat groups of the north. 
The new immigrants were called 'Goud' because they were followers of Monism or Advaita as preached by Gaudapada, who was guru of Govinda Bhagavatpada whose direct disciple was Shankaracharya, who resurrected Hinduism or Vedic religion in India. Shri Gaudapadacharya Math, firstmatha of Saraswats dedicated to the memory of Goudapadacharya was established in Keloshi (Quellosim) in Goa in the 8th century AD. He later moved to Kaivalyapura or Kavale in Goa as the mathaa at Keloshi was destroyed in 1564 AD by the Portuguese rulers. To this day, the swamis of Kavale matha are known as Goudapadacharyas. Kavale Math is the Goud Saraswat community's Adimatha (first matha) and three main sub-sects of Dakshinatya Saraswats — Sashtikar, Shenvis (Karbharis), and Chitrapur Saraswats (Bhanaps) — were known as Goud Saraswats or Konkani Brahmins until 300 years ago. Other Saraswat subsects include Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins Balavalikars also known as Bardeskars, Pednekars and kudaldeshkars - Saraswats of Kudal Desh. 
In the 13th century, Dwaita (Vaishnava) philosophy advocated by Madhvacharya became popular and many Saraswats adopted Vaishnavism. They continued to worship the deities they brought with them from the north. These were 'Mahan Girish' or MangueshiShakti or ShantadurgaVishnu,Ganesh and Surya. They form the 'Panchayatan' or five deities, sacred to all Saraswats.
Goud Saraswats were in all the kingdoms of the western coast under different dynasties right from 6th century A.D. KadambaRashtrakutaHoysala,Chalukya Shilahara and Vijayanagara kings had given important posts to Saraswats. There were admirals, treasurers, ambassadors, army chiefs and foreign language interpreters among them. They were famous traders, who conducted maritime trade with Eastern and Western countries of the contemporary world. The spoken language of Saraswats is Konkani. 
Many people migrated to Kerala and built temples mainly dedicated to Vishnu and his avatars. The first Vaishnava Saraswat Math of Gokarna Math lineage was established in the year 1475 in Varanasi. The origin of Gokarna Math comes from the lineage of Sri Palimar Math, one of the eight Maths established by Sripad Madhwacharya in Udupi.Kashi Math at Kochi came up in 1560 A.D. All the Vaishnav Saraswats (Madhwa) are Kulavis (followers) of either Kashi Math or Gokarna Math. 'Smarth' Saraswats owe allegiance to either Kavale Math or Chitrapur Math. 
Saraswats continued to hold important posts under Keladi or Nagar rulers. Many families who emigrated from Goa settled down in smaller towns and villages in Shimoga, South and North Kanara districts. Saraswats were the first beneficiaries of English education introduced in 1840. 
Goud Saraswat Brahmins primarily speak Konkani as their mother tongue. The Konkani they speak is slightly different from the Konkani spoken by other communities such as the Catholics,Navayaths, and Siddis. The Konkani spoken by Goan Saraswats, Karnataka Saraswats and Kerala Saraswats is also different. The Konkani spoken by Karnataka Saraswats has borrowed loan words from Kannada while the Konkani spoken by Kerala Saraswats has borrowed loan words from Malayalam. This was due to several centuries of domicile by the Saraswats in these areas.
The usage of the language by the community is on the decline:
  • In Goa, the Portuguese discouraged the usage of Konkani in Goa and imposed the Portuguese language as official, leading to Konkani's decline in Goa 
  • In Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, the usage of Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam respectively was preferred in place of Konkani.
  • The need for usage of English and Hindi languages has also contributed to this decline.
The Goud Saraswat Brahmins, in the course of their migration settled on a small strip on the west coast of India in the present day Goa. This is evident with many of the temples of the Kuladevas being located in Goa. Over time, facing religious persecution by the Portuguese, they moved further south to coastal Karnataka and Kerala. They are found all over the west coast of India ranging from Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, most of them having their deities in Goa. They are all linked together by the common Konkani language. Konkani has been substantially influenced by local languages in each of the regions.
Gauda Saraswat Brahmins are categorised by surname (indicating profession), gotra (lineage) or matha (spiritual guru).
The Goud Saraswat Brahmins wherever they migrated mingled with the local people, but kept their identity by their surnames. GSB surname are generally based upon:
  • The village of Gomantak where the family originally settled or migrated.
  • Names indicating the traditional profession of the family. Today many GSB no longer have links with their namesake profession. 
Every GSB belongs to a particular gotra, similar to a "clan". The gotras are named for noted Hindu sages or rishis, thus the gotra's name indicates what sage its members pertain to. Marriage within the same gotra is prohibited, which may be a method to avoid inbreeding. 
  • Shri Gaudapadacharya Math (Kavale, Ponda, Goa), Advaita school with Gaudapadacharya as Adi Guru
  • Gokarna Partagali Jeevottam Mutt (Partagali-Cancona, Goa), Dvaita School with Madhva Sampradaya
  • Sri Kashi Math (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh), Dvaita Sampradaya
  • Sri Chitrapur Math (Shirali, Karnataka), Advaita School with Gaudapadacharya as Adi Guru
  • Sri Dhaboli Math (Kudal, Maharastra), Advaita School with Shankaracharya as Adi Guru
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. 
On eleventh day following a child's birth barso is held. If done with homa (holy fire – havan), it is called barso homa. Childs ears are pierced, child is named and cradled on this day.
When a child is two years old, before he completes third year the chaula (child's first haircut) ceremony is held.
When the male child turns eight years old, the munji (Konkani word for upanayanam) is performed. In this ceremony, the jannuvey (sacred thread) is placed on the left shoulder of the child. From that day on, he becomes an official member of his caste, and is called a dwija ("twice-born"). In ancient times, the boy was sent to gurukula to learnVedas and scriptures. The boy was expected to practice extreme discipline during this period known as brahmacharya. He was expected to lead a celibate life, living on alms, and surviving on selected vegetarian saatvic food and observing considerable austerity in behaviour and deeds. On completion of the thread ceremony the boy will be eligible to go to gurukula which is available in four places across India: Kashi Mutt Gurukula, Patashala at Mangalore and Mulki, Gokarn Mutt Gurukula at Partagali and Kavale Mutt Gurukula at Goa. Priests will be studying at any one of these gurukulas, as do lay GSBs. The thread is changed every year in a festival known as Sutta Punav in the Hindu month of Shravan and under different circumstances such as Suthige. Some of the main rituals in a GSB munji are Devatha Prarthana, Ganapathi Puja, Udada Murthu, Matrubhojan, Yajnopavita Dharana, Brahmachari Agnikaryam, gayitri Upadesha, Danda Dharana,Matrabiksha etc.
A typical GSB marriage consists of the following events – Varan Appoche, Nandi, Nishchaithambul, Yedur Kansnani, Urdha Murthu, Kashi Yatra, Lagna, Havan Purnavati, Chautanan, Tulsi Pujaand Mandal Virajan.
All GSBs are cremated according to Vedic rites, usually within a day of the individual's death. The death rites include a 13-day mourning period. The ashes of the departed are immersed at a confluence of two rivers (sangam) or in the sea. Like all other Hindus, they prefer the ashes to be immersed in the rivers GangesGodavari, or Kaveri. For the first twelve months following, monthly rituals called masik are performed, as well as an annual remembrance ceremony (shraddha) to be performed by male descendants (preferably the eldest son) of the departed. The family members will observe honle for 12 days, wherein a family member will not visit temples or any functions in the family.
GSB's 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.
Most of the GSB's including Chitrapur Saraswats and some Rajapur Saraswats are vegetarian. Their food is usually without onion and garlic. However some GSB's from North Kanara, Goa and Maharashtra are piscovegetarian (fish eaters). The inclusion of fish in the diet is not looked upon as non-vegetarian. Legend has it that when the Saraswati River dried up, the Saraswats who could not farm were permitted to eat seafood and fish. The fish were euphemistically called "sea vegetable". However they too eat only vegetarian food without onion and garlic on festival days and on Mondays, which is auspicious for Shiva. The recipes use large amounts of coconut and spices, and rice is the staple food.
Pathrodo, a vegetarian dish made from colocasia leaves is a GSB specialty; it is commonly eaten with rice or curd. The dish is threatened due to a lack of colocasia leaves due to urbanisation.
Kuldevtas(family deities) are considered of utmost importance to the GSB's. Normally Saraswats who follow the Advaita Sampradaya believe in the concept of "Panchayatan" – worshipping five gods like form of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Surya and Ganapati. Some GSB temples still maintain this concept, while others which follow Madhva Sampradaya believe in Lord Hari being supreme and parivara devatas being the Lords Devotees and hence they have main deity installed in the main sanctorum with four parivara devatas around. "Kuldev" or "kuldaivat" are the deities which a set of families primarily worship. Their temples are built and maintained by these families, also called "Mahajans" (or Kulavis) of their respective temple.
Many Kuldevs/Kuldevatas are situated in Goa. However, during the early Portuguese persecutions, many Saraswats fled Goa along with their Kuldevs to nearby regions of Maharashtra & Karnataka. Hence, besides Goa, there are many GSB Temples in Maharashtra (Konkan side like Malwan, Vengurla, Savantwadi, Kudal, Ratnagiri, etc.). The Saraswats of Goa are predominantly the worshipers of Shiva and Durga, though many of them have got converted to Vaishnavites but they still retain their worship to their ancestral shavaite and vedic deities.
Many Saraswats have a strong faith in Durga and continue to pay respect and tribute by either taking part in festivals or some other occasions relating to Durga. Every Saraswat Brahmin has a system of worshipping two deities amongst which one is a Pallavi or supporting deity. Majority of the Saraswats have some or the other aspect of Durga included in their family deity. It can be Shantadurga, Aryadurga, Mahamaya, Vijayadurga or Mahalakshmi. Besides the Kuladevta, Saraswats also offer their prayers to their Ishta Devta. The Vaishnavite Saraswats consider Venkatraman - Padmavati, Vithoba - Rukmini and Shri Vishnu as their Ishta Devta, similarly the Smartas consider Durgaparameshwari and Bhavani Shankar as their Ishta Devta. However many of the Ishta Devta's are in turn the presiding deities of their respective Mutts.