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"Calcutta Kayasth", from a 19th Century book
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Kayastha (also referred to as Kayasth or Kayeth) is an ancient community. Kayastha word is very often seen in Tipitika the Buddha's verses where this is used for the deep jhani's(Meditator) It comes in the famous Buddha's discourse given in "Satipatthana Sutt" where the Gotama The Samma Sambuddha explain about the four types of mindfullness. 1, kaye kayanupassi viharati atapi sampjano satima vinniyeloke abhijjadomanassan.( Here a monk dwells ardent with awareness and constant thorough understanding of impermanence observing Body in Body(.काया के भीतर स्थित (कायस्थ) होकर जो अविद्या को दुर कर्ता है).Kayastha are the person instead of community in itself who are mindfull with the self that is dwell in his "Kaya" where one can sees the truth within. and experience insight. the real knowledge the truth actually exist inside the body(Kaya). Later on when all the beings living in "Jambudeepa" which was now evolve to the vast states as "Maha janapada".were specially known in four specific sects like Brahmin(Bamana),kkhattiya(,kshatriye),vanijo(vaishye) and Sudra. There was a time when people were known with samana,bamana and grahasta. Samana who live in forest to find the ultimate truth. Brahmana also search for the ultimate truth but believed that ultimate knowledge can only be attained by Brahmins. But samana were not agree with this theory of attaining ultimate knowledge only by certain sect of the society.

One mythological character "Chitragupta" were also known with the four-father Kayastha community of North India, Chandraseniya(CKP) of Maharashtra and Bengali Kayastha of Bengal. As per the 1779 AD letter of council of Pandits of Benaras to the Brahmin Peshwa Darbar regarding varna status of various Kayastha subgroups, the Chitraguptavanshi Kayastha are Brahmins (Kayastha Brahmin/ Brahma Kayastha) while the CKP are Kshatriya.[1]

During Mughal Era Kayasthas are considered to be members of the writer caste, and have traditionally acted as keepers of public records and accounts, writers, and administrators of the state.Ancient times Kayasthas were the most powerful rulers of ancient India.In modern times, Kayasthas have attained success in politics, as well as in the arts and various professional fields.

Varna status[change | change source]

The exact varna status of Chitraguptavanshi Kayasthas has been a subject of debate. According to some accounts, they are a literate and educated class of Kshatriyas, and they have been referred to as a twice-born caste.

In Bengal, Bengali Kayastha, alongside Brahmins, have been described as the "highest Hindu castes". After the Muslim conquest of India, Bengali Kayasthas absorbed remnants of Bengal's old Hindu ruling dynasties - including the Sena, Pala, Chandra, and Varman - and, in this way, became the region's surrogate Kshatriya or "warrior" class. During the British rule, the Bengali Kayasthas, along with the Bengali Brahmins and Baidyas, were considered as Bhadralok, a term coined in Bengal for the 'Gentry' or 'respectable people'- based on refined culture, prestige, education etc.

The last census of the British Raj in India (1931) classified them as an 'upper caste' i.e. Dwija and the final British Raj law case involving their varna in 1926 placed them into the Kashtriya varna.

According to W.Rowe's account (that later scholars disagreed with), during the British Raj era, certain law cases in Calcutta, led to courts classifying Kayasthas as shudras to diminish their influence with Indian royalty, based largely upon the pseudo-theories of Herbert Hope Risley who had conducted studies on castes and tribes of the Bengal Presidency. According to Rowe, the Kayasthas of Bengal, Bombay and the United Provinces repeatedly challenged this classification by producing a flood of books, pamphlets, family histories and journals to pressurize the government for recognizing them as Kshatriya and to reform the caste practices in the directions of sanskritisation and westernisation. However, scholars from the University of Berkeley as well as the University of Cambridge have disagreed with Rowe's research by pinpointing 'factual and interpretative errors' in his study as well as criticizing his study for making 'unquestioned assumptions' about the kayastha movement of sanskritisation and westernisation.

H.Bellenoit gives the details of the individual British Raj era law cases and concludes that since the kayasthas are a non-cohesive group and not a single caste, their varna was resolved in the cases that came up by taking into account regional differences and customs followed by that particular caste. Bellenoit also disagrees with W.Rowe by showing that Herbert Hope Risley's theories were in fact used to ultimately classify them as Kshatriyas by the British courts. The first case began in 1860 in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh with a property dispute where the plaintiff was considered an 'illegitimate child' by the defendants, a north-Indian Kayastha family. The British court denied inheritance to the child, citing that Kayasthas are Dvija, "twice-born" or "upper-caste" and that the illegitimate children of Dwijas have no rights to inheritance. In the next case in 1875 in the Allahabad High Court, a north Indian Kayastha widow was denied adoption rights as she was an upper-caste i.e. Dwija woman. However, in a 1884 adoption case as well as a 1916 property dispute, Calcutta High Court argued that Bengali kayasthas have started using names like 'Das' and classified the Bengali Kayasthas as shudras - although the court did acknowledge their Kshatriya origin. The Allahabad High Court ruled in 1890 that Kayasthas were Kshatriyas. Finally, in a property dispute case in Patna in 1926, the Patna court characterized both the 1884 and 1916 Calcutta courts rulings as inconclusive and ultimately ruled that the kayasthas were of Kshatriya origin and hence twice born or dwija. The Patna court cited smritis and Puranas, several colonial ethnologists, such as William Crooke and Herbert Hope Risley, and used their qualified endorsements on the dwija origins of Kayasthas. The British census of 1931 also lists Kayasthas as one of the upper (twice-born) castes.

References[change | change source]

  1. Gupte, TV (1904). "Appendix I.(page 7) Translation of the letter addressed by the Benaras Pandits to the Peshwa Darbar". Ethnographical notes on Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu. p. 8. Kayasthas are said to be of three sorts (kinds)— (1) the Chitragupta Kayasthas (2) Dhalbhaga Gatri Kshatriya Kayasthas and (3) Kayasthas . The origin of Chitraguptavanshi Kayasthas is given in the Puranas. He was born from the body of Brahma while he was contemplating how he should know the good and evil acts of living beings. He was a brilliant person with pen and ink in his hands. He was known as Chitragupta and was placed near the God of death. He was appointed to record the good and evil acts of men. He was a Brahmin possessed of supra sensible knowledge. He was a god sharing the offerings at sacrifices. All the Brahmins offer him oblations of rice before taking their meals. He is called Kayastha because of his origin from the body of Brahma. Many descendants of his bearing different Gotras still exist on this earth. From this it will be seen that Kayastha Brahmins of Karhada and Khandesha are the Brahma-Kayasthas. Now about the origin of Chandraseniya Kshatriya Kayastha.....