The Origin of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins

The Gauda Saraswat Brahmins (GSB) belong to the Aryan stock that occupied the banks of the now extinct river Saraswati. As they lived to the north of the Vindhyas mountain range, they were distinguished by the name "Gauda", meaning those belonging to the Aryavarta, distinguished from Dakshinapatha. Legend has it that from there they migrated to Trihotrapura, (in Bihar) and hence were brought by Lord Parasurama to Gomantak (presently known as Goa) for the performance of certain sacrifices. Because they settled in the Sixty Six Villages, they were referred to as ‘Sasashtikars’. Though they were Brahmins, their main vocation was trade. Their medium of communication was Konkani, a dialect originating from Sanskrit.

To preserve their religious observances, the Gauda Saraswat Brahmins built temples each for a group of ten families known as Dhaijan. The dieties each group worshipped for generations were called Kuladevata or the family dieties. The temples gradually became centres of socio religious activities of the community and the term Dhaijan was replaced by Mahajan meaning a larger group of people. This term Mahajan is still used to refer to the community members. During 1510 AD, Goa was invaded and captured by the Portuguese. Christianity was made the State Religion. In order to protect themselves from conversion to Christianity, a large section of the pious Gauda Saraswat Brahmins, fled Goa towards south, carrying with them the idols of their Kuladevatas and what ever wealth they could carry along and made settlements all along the west coast. Some families settled in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Indore, Gwalior, Baroda, Mumbai etc.

A group of 60 families under the leadership of Sri Keshava Kini and another group of 300 families under the leadership of Sri Anantha Shenoy reached Cochin travelling on country boats all the way from Goa. They were given refuge by the then Raja of Cochin, and were allowed to settle as a community with well-defined boundaries. As they hailed from Konkan, they were also called Konkanis.
During one of his tours Swami Vijayendra Tirtha belonging to the Kumbhakonam Mutt happened to visit Cochin GSB community and performed Chaturmasa Vrita. The community members under the leadership of Sri Mala Pai happened to see an idol of Lord Venkatesvara with the Swamiji and on their request the idol was handed over to the community members by the Swamiji. A temple was built and the idol was consecrated in the year 1599 at Cochin.




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