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The Karhade Bramhan Itihas


Karhade bramhan is indeed an enigma. It may be a good idea to explore the history of the group within the framework of the divisions of the bramhan in Brhatkomkan. Sahyadrikhand’s Karastr seems to have been derived from Karhatak, the old name of the region around the confluence of the Krsna and Koyna rivers; it seems to have included the territories comprising modern Kolhapur, Karhad and Miraj, with its capital at Karhad [Athalye, 1959: Karhade Bramhananca Itihas, 3]. The region could have got delimited by the dominion of the Kolhapur Silahar around the second half of the 11th century. Most of the sources on karhade bramhan make a mention of the Silahar connection; they claim that the first capital of the Kolhapur Silahar was at Karhad, and then it was shifted to Kolhapur. Mirashi accepts this possibility, first suggested by Fleet based on the Bilhana’s Vikramankadevachrita. But Karhad seems to have been the capital of the region even before the Silahar; some later Sinda kings, who were feudatories of the Rashtrakutas, describe themselves as the lords of Karhat [Mirashi, 1977: Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Volume VI, Inscriptions Of The Silaharas, xxvi]. Could there be any meaningful connection between the Kolhapur Silahar and the karhade bramhan, other than mere coincidence of originating from Karhad? We do not know. But we can say with some certainty that the two have no ethnic connections, as the former were ksatriya, of the same stock as the other two families ruling in north and south Komkan; we have called them kathiyavadi caddi. One possibility is that the karhade bramhan were the priests to the Kolhapur Silahar.

The main question that arises, and which is very relevant to their identity, is whether they are originally from the coastal Konkan or from the ‘des’, that is Deccan; many texts group them under the ‘Maharashtra bramhan’, and portray the sarasvat – karhade conflict as a Goa bramhan – Maharashtra bramhan conflict.

Dhume’s hypothesis regarding padye, a sub-group of karhade bramhan, could reinforce the claim that karhade bramhan are native to Goa. According to him padye have descended from Sumerian priests who landed in Goa around 2,000 BCE; he holds that the name padye has its origin in the Sumerian priest-king Patesi. Traces of Sumerian worship have been found in Savoi Verem and other places where padye inhabit; many padye deities seem to be of Sumerian origin; for instance Anant of Savoi Verem could be connected with Anu of the Sumerians [Dhume, 1986: The Cultural History Of Goa, 140]. Irrespective of whether we accept this hypothesis or not, it suggests that the entry of padye bramhan into Komkan happened through the coastal route. In a different context, Paradkar has tried to prove that the dialect of Komkani /Marathi that they speak (popularly called Padye) draws equally from Komkani and Marathi [Paradkar, 2014: Padye as a Contact Variety of Konkani and Marathi, 227]. According to Satoskar,
the padye constitute that segment of the karhade bramhan who stayed behind in Goa, when the rest migrated to Karhad [Satoskar, 1979: Prakrti ani Samskrti, 178]. In other words, there existed a certain group of bramhan; those from this group who migrated to Karhad came to be known as karhade, and those who stayed behind came to be called the padye. The hypothesis does not sound very convincing, unless we surmise that the karhade migrated back to Goa. SHK lists Karhat as one of the seven Konkans (Sapta Komkan).

Athalye writes about the history of a family by name Mavlangkar Sardesai. According to him the founder (mulpurus) of this family was one Nrsimh Bhat Satyavadi. He was originally from Paithan in Godavari valley, but later migrated to Komkan and settled there. Thereby, originally a desasth, he became a karhade. Now this is a totally new twist to the karhade identity. This family seems to have had nothing to do with Karhad; Athalye makes this very clear based on their deity of worship; their karhade identity seems to have come from their Komkan connection. But Athalye gives quite contrary evidence a little later. He refers to the fact that most karhade offer their obeisance to Mahalaksami of Kolhapur before they worship any other deity. Athalye considers this an incontrovertible evidence of their origin in the Kolhapur region. But then he cites the example of several families which had moved from the des to north Komkan, and are karhade. Like the Mavlangkar Sardesai, they had no connection with Karhad; they came from different parts of des; for instance, the Pandit family came from Kalburagi (Gulbarga). These migrations seem to have happened in the middle of the 14th century [Athalye, 1959: 7]. All these examples seem to point to a desasth to karhade change upon migration to Komkan. It also seems to give an impression that the karhade bramhan were basically desasth [Patil, 2010: Conflict, Identity, and Narratives – The Brahman Communities of Western India from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries, 131]. But where does the Kolhapur Mahalaksami connect?

Based on the copper plates Athalye contends that the Kadamb kings brought to Goa several bramhan from all over Deccan around the 11th century; obviously these were desasth. The copper plates are evidence of their being gifted villages in Goa – agrahar. A significant population of karhade bramhan can today be found in these villages; and the temples therein have karhade mahajan. Such villages include Keri (Vijayadurga), Kavlem (Shantadurga), Borim (Navdurga), Madkai (Navdurga), Mardol (Mahalsa), etc.
You will observe that these form a tight cluster across the river from the Kadamb capital at Gopakattanam. Significant karhade population can also be found in villages like Rivon and Korgao, with karhade mahajan temples. It is Athalye’s contention that many of these families later migrated out of Goa into Sindhudurga and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra. This could have happened around the 14th century [Athalye, 1959: 16].

This is a brief story of the probable odyssey of the karhade bramhan, from des to Goa to north Komkan; where does Karhad feature in it? Athalye is of the opinion that the Silahar
brought them to the Kolhapur-Karhad region. It seems to be still too early for a final word on
their identity.

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