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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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On Havyaka Brahmins Durable Link to this BLOG
Young Brahmin Boy

Havyaka Brahmins

A patron, Subrahmanya Bhat notes that thirty-two families mentioned in Amma's article on the Institution of Agraharas are the original Havyaka Brahmins. How fascinating!

He cites oral history and tradition (which is a very imporant source of information for students of Indian history -- see an example of how tradition was used to rebuild history), as well as some well reserached works (see Roots of Havyaka Brahmins by Subraya Hegde and Nagendra Hegde). It all makes so much sense to me.

For many years I have been asked to add more content on Havyak community, and today I have decided to add a new section on Havyaka Brahmin community under our fast growing People of India section.

But first I have a story to tell.

The story requires some background.

In the area of India that I and my father grew up, the Konkani Brahmin community (to which I belong to), and the Havyaka Brahmin community have a fierce social competition -- a very healthy, and natural competition --competing for higher achievements in academics, sports, giving to charity, and in political power. The two castes also have a close symbiotic relationship. Some of my best friends were Havyakas (or Haveeks, as we called them). Privately we made fun of thier language -- a very old and traditional precursor of present day Kannada, and their impracticality (most Havyaks were priests, farmers, and teachers, whereas most Konkanis were bankers and businessmen), and I am sure the Havyaks rediculed us as "fish eating brahmins", and "cunning Konks".

Now the incident.

Many many years ago (1970s), my father wrote an article documenting the Havyaka Brahmin community in a popular periodical, Karmaveera. It was well received, and earned my father many fans and admirers, and as recently as 1999 I have seen requests for its reprint. But some Havyaka leaders thought that Bappa relied too much on hearsay for documenting the traditions, and felt some parts were demeaning to the community. They burnt the copies of the magazine in protest, and called for boycott of Bappa's writings.

Due to the delicate nature of the matter and its potential for communal disharmony, Bappa did not respond to the protests. When the requests for reprints were received, he denied them. It took other Havyaka scholars like V.G. Bhat, to befriend and support Bappa, before he would write about the Havyaks again.

In some ways, I feel honored on being asked to build a website for Havyak community --a community with whom I lived, grew up, competed, and among whom I have so many friends.

I also feel a sense of satisfaction on seeing an old wound heal fully.

See Also:
• A Guide to Ethnicity and Conflict in India
• Search for pictures of Havyaka Community

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, October 30, 2003
Last Modified: 8/17/2004 4:01:35 PM

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