GSB... and their brief history..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, November 30, 2009 4:12 AM
GSB stands for Goud Saraswat Brahmin, a Konkani community as one may identify them in India. Names like Kamath, Nayak, Pai, Bhandarker, Bhat, Puranik, Shanbhag, Shenoy, Kini, Acharya, Mallya identify a GSB.



With a broad outlook to life, the GSB's are an enterprising community and have wandered away from their native lands since centuries. The origins trace them to have come from as far away as the Indus valley which sounds strange but historically is true.


A lot can be read on the net about the community and trust me, it does make good reading.

Theories about the original home of Goud Saraswat Brahmin are a legion. That the word Saraswat is derived from Saraswati, name of an ancient river is, however, more or less certain. The river sprang from Himalayas and a number of references to it are found in Rigveda and later Hindu religious literatures like Mahabharata and Smrities.

Several prayers in Rigveda are addressed to the river Saraswati, invoking her grace and beseeching her not to compel the inhabitants who had made the banks of the river their abode to leave her fair banks to migrate to other territories. However, there was a black famine in the region for twelve years due to which the Brahmin families were forced to migrate to other regions like Bengal, Bihar and Southern India. It is believed that the saraswat community which settled in Bengal, then known as Goud, derived the name Goud Saraswat Brahmins.

As per the renowned historian, Shri Bhagwan Das Gidwani, author of the 'Return of the Aryans'. the Saraswati-Sindho river was existent in Sindh. Furthermore, it was also believed that the Saraswat Brahmins originated from the sindh region.

However, only a little number of Sindhis are aware of their Saraswat Brahmin caste. Due to Islamization in Sindh since 712 AD, most of the Saraswat Brahamins (largest population of Sindh back then) and other tribes like the Saindhav Rajpoots and the Jhaatts, adopted the Islamic lifestyle. As a result, till today the modern day Sindhi Hindu community, bears little knowledge of their tribes and caste. However a few surnames like 'Joshi', 'Paathak' and 'Kumar' still exist.

Others over the years have been modified into the Sindhi surnames. The Aamil Sindhi community (surname eg: Advani, Madhvani, Chandrani etc) are mostly from the Saraswat Brahmin clan of Sindh.

Punjabi Saraswat Brahmins are one of the most influential communities in aforementioned areas. 'Mohyal' one of the sub-community within Punjabi Saraswat Brahmins were landlords, Dewans, Shahs, and Kings in Northern areas. Many of Brahmins in NWFP region were "mohyals". The "mohyals" were clans of Brahmins who lived independent of law of the land and were warriors, educators, and law-makers in NWFP. Even, the Pathans clans sought Brahmin knowledge for tribal laws.

Saraswat Brahmins form a great proportion of the Hindus in Kashmir, who are called the Kashmiri Pundits. These Kashmiri Brahmins are thought to be the descendants of the Aryans. However, these people differentiate themselves from the rest of the Saraswat Brahmins in that they identify their deity with the Goddess Saraswati, who has been mentioned in the Vedas as the goddess of learning. However, the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins residing on the western coast of India (primarily in Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka) are thought to have descended from these Kashmiri Brahmins.

Substantial evidence has been set forth by several historians relating that the Kashmiri Brahmins migrated to Goa by the eleventh century AD.

Saraswats believe in the concept of "Panchayatan" - worshipping 5 gods like form of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Surya and Ganapati. Some GSB Temples still maintain this concept, while others have a single deity instead of five.

"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 GSBs and Saraswats fled Goa along with their Kuldevs to nearby regions of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Mumbai and Gujarat. Hence, besides Goa, there are many GSB Temples in Maharashtra on the Konkan side like Malwan, Vengurla, Savantwadi, Kudal, Ratnagiri, Mumbai etc.

The Popular kuldevs of Gouda Saraswats are: Shri Shantadurga, Shri Mahalakshmi, Shri Vijayadurga, Shri Mahalsa Narayani, Shri Aryadurga etc. In the Kuldevta system of the GSB they must have a Pallavi, which is a supporting deity.

My family Kuldevta is Shri Mahalsa Narayani. Our main deity is kept in Goa at Mardol. We try to visit this temple every time we are in India on holiday. All auspicious events like marriage, thread ceremony etc requires a visit to our deity for its blessing.

Mahalasa is considered as the Mohini form of Lord Vishnu and hence she is referred to as "Mahalasa Narayani". The deity, it may particularly be noted, also wears the holy thread, which is its unique feature. This holy thread is only worn by Brahmin men and also the male gods. No other goddess in the Hindu Pantheon wears this kind of thread except goddess Mahalasa and goddess Parvati. Mahalasa is the Kuldevi (family goddess) of many Goud Saraswat Brahmins, Karhade Brahmins, Daivajnas and Bhandaris.

One characteristic trait of the GSB is their love for food. We literally live to eat. The number of recipes we have mastered and taken as konkani food probably cannot be matched by any other community. There are some delicacies which need to be blogged at a later date with the able help of my wife and my mother in law.

3 Response to "GSB... and their brief history.."

  1. ashok Says:

    whenever i asked my father about our kuldevata.. he says "Narayani"... after reading this page i realise that its non other than Shri Mahalsa Narayani..

  2. Gabi532 Says:

    Thank u for the explanation! I am adopted to a Western family and you are opening my eyes!Thank u again. :)

  3. Gabi532 Says:

    Let's not forget the Bhandaris :)

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