(Last Updated on : 29/11/2013)
The Saraswat Brahmins are a small, highly urbanized community. This particular group can be divided into 3 main groups: the Vaishnavite Goud, the Smarta Chitrapur and the Shenvis. Although their home is in the Kanaras and the region around them, more than 90% of the erstwhile Saraswat landowners have migrated to metropolises, such as, Mumbai, Bangalore and Dharwar in search of either education or employment.
The name Saraswat suggests the legendary origin of the community-- Aryan, a group who originally inhabited the valley of the fiver Saraswati in Kashmir. One theory proclaims that the Aryans left the Saraswat country and traveled further northwest, to settle down in Iran and to establish Zoroastrianism there. However another theory claims that the Saraswats are the descendants of a rishi (sage) whose name was Saraswat and who preserved Vedic texts during a calamity in the region which is now Kashmir. Yet another theory suggests that they are Kashmiri Brahmins who venerated Saraswati (the goddess of learning). Hence they came to be called after her.
Quite possibly they migrated from Kashmir to Goud (Bengal) and from there to the Konkan coast and Gomantak about the 12th century. The legend of their arrival in Western India relates that Parasurama invited ten of his learned relatives from the northern regions to preside over a yajna at Pande in Goa and it was these scholars who settled down in the 96 villages Parasurama gifted to them and from which they came to be known as Shahnavi or Shenvi. Their gotras are said to have originated from the names of some of those settlers such as Bhardvaja, Vasta, Kaundinya and Kasyapa.
Society and Religion of the Saraswat Brahmin
: With adaptable ideas the society and religion of the Saraswat Brahmins is contemporary. At the beginning of the 20th century the Saraswats began to migrate from the Kanaras to the cities, chiefly Mumbai and now only a few Saraswat families are to be met within the villages. Their ancestral homes are set in mango, jack fruit and cashew groves. The local people still refer to them as Shambhagru, Shenoy or Patel.
Position of Women In Saraswat Community
: As the community is fully literate, social progress had made great strides. Saraswat women are reputed for their beauty and accomplishments. They have more freedom, receive more education and have been exposed to the world outside their homes for decades. They have been working in their own community development projects but doing laudable work as devoted social workers in nationwide organizations. Thousands of Saraswats have traveled abroad, bringing a certain amount of Westernisation into their homes and ways of life.