Origin of Konkan Brahmins?

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat May 2 04:39:40 UTC 1998

>Another question: What is the relationship between the Konkanasthas and
>the Deshasthas? Is it amiable or one of hostility?

A most interesting question! Since there are people who are experts
on mahAraSTra history, I believe they would be the most competent
authorities to address the issue, but I will tell you what I know..

The Deshastha Brahmins seemed to have held sway till about the early
18th century( The Deshastha Kingdoms" of Aundh and Bhor near Poona were
created in this period) and treated the Konkanastha Brahmins as being
little better than "hill-billies" since they were employed mainly as
spies and did not have any hold over the adminstration.  I believe that
this attitude also continued into the initial years of the pEzvAI, since
there is mention of Deshastha priests refusing to
perform some of the ceremonies for Balaji Vishwanath.

  Once the Peshvas established themselves in the early 18th century and
the Konkanastha influence grew, the Deshastha Brahmins seemed to have
suffered a setback in the political sphere( none of the aSTapradhAn in
the mid pEzvAi period were DEshastha) though there were Deshastha
Brahmins and families who had a lot of power in their hands because of
the land holdings acquired previously or because of the involvement in
financing/business etc. Maurice Patterson mentions the formulation of a
Konkanastha stereotype about DEshasthas as being "Brahminized Marathas"(
since a Maratha would be the Deshmukh of a village and a DEshastha
Brahmin was invariably the Deshpandey), I'm not sure if this is the time
she says this stereotype began to be propagated. Interestingly one of
the pEzvAs did marry a lady who belonged to the Deshastha "Bakre" family
sometime in the mid 1700s in spite of lack of such marital relationships
at a lower level and when there was no political gain involved( since
the Konkanastha domination had peaked by this time); I am not sure as to
why this took place.

  By the time of the 19th century, political power had passed out of
the Konkanastha hands into the hands of the British. I believe that both
Konkanasthas and DEshasthas resented and joined hands to undo
what they percieved as injustices to them; i.e. Tatya Tope who was
a DEshastha fought on the side of NAna Saheb Peshwa in the 1857 war,
Bal Gangadhar Tilak fielded a Deshastha Pandit in the famous
"zAstrArtha" in Poona regarding widow remarriage; at a slightly later
stage while the Konkanastha stars Tilak and Gokhale were clashing in
Pune, their DEshastha deputies Aney and Mudholkar (respectively) were
clashing in the Central Provinces. This period also seems to have seen
some intermarriage among the more wealthy elite on both sides;
the 4 Deshastha native states and the 7 Konkanastha native states
entered into marital relationships amongst themselves. However, the
political and social life of Maharashtra was completely dominated by
Konkanasthas during this period.

  Maurice Patterson has a few interesting things to say about their
mutual relationship in her papers; I have also read a book called
"the New Brahmins" which indirectly talks about the relationships
of the various sub-groups in Maharashtra thru the medium of chroniciling
the lives of 5 prominent Maharashtrian Brahmins in the
late 19th-early 20th century.


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