While on the one hand there have been Baidya claims even on Kalidasa because his name was Matri Gupta, on the other there was a demand for discarding the name 'Gupta' as being a Vaishya surname. There was perhaps not a single Baidya among traders and shopkeepers, which shows that the Vaishya occupations were not pursued by them. Even as landholders they never held the plough and always got the work done by hired labour even if they were not zamindars as such.
Talented, cultured and intelligent as a class, the percentage of literacy and education of the Baidyas is much higher than that of any other community in Bengal. The women are treated as equals and even in the days of Kulinism, when polygamy was practised, a Baidya hardly ever had two wives at a time.
Baidyas form a small percentage of caste Hindus, being only about 10 per cent or so of the Brahmins or Kayasthas. They are sometimes clannish and are like a single family, guarding their interests jealously.
Although they have shed much of their rigidity they have retained their identity. By and large, being of the intellectual middle class and always ready to accept radical changes, they have been liberal in outlook. Even in the early days, well-known Baidya kavirajas distributed gifts among Brahmins on puja days as well as to the 'maulvis' of 'maktabs' where they might have studied Arabic or Persian. The Baidyas were greatly influenced by Buddhism which was powerful in eastern India at one time. Buddhists gave them a place of high esteem in society because healing and relieving suffering of any kind was considered the highest virtue by the Buddhists.
(Last Updated on : 02-02-2009)
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