What types of Brahmins are there?

The divisions of the Brahmans

The Brahman caste or class is divided into ten great sections, all based upon geographical distribution, which differs in customs and standing and do not intermarry. They again are divided into two groups each containing five sections, as follows: –

The five Dravidas (south of the Vindhyas)

The Maharashtra (of the Mahratta country).
The Tailanga or Andhra (of the Telugu country).
The Dravida (of the Tamil or Dravida country).
The Karnata (of the Carnatic).
The Gurjara or Gujarati (of Gujarat in Sindh)

The five Gaurs (north of the Vindhyas)

The Gaur (of Gaur, probably not Bengal, see below).
The Saraswat or Sarsut (of the Panjab, beyond the Saruswati).
The Kanyakubja (of Kanauj).
The Maithila (of the Mithila country).
The Utkala (of Orissa).

Of these great divisions the Punjab Brahmans belong for the most part to the Gaur in the Jamna and south-eastern districts and the eastern hills, and to the Sarsut in the remainder of the Province. It may be said that a line drawn north-east and south-west through Shimla and Patiala roughly divides the Gaur from the Sarsut.

The Gaur Brahman

There has been much dispute about the position of the Gaur from which this section is names. Their traditional place of origin is Hariyana, and their present home is the portion of the North-West Provinces laying west of Aligarh and Mathra, and the part of the Punjab defined above; and they are separated from Bengal by other sections of the caste. General Cunningham suggests that Gaur is the old name of Gonda, while Sir George Campbell would make it another form of the word Ghaffar. The Gaur Brahmans are far more strict in all caste observances than the Sarsut Brahmans, from whose hands they will not eat bread, and upon whom they look down.

The Sarsut Brahman

These are the Brahman of the Punjab Proper, and take his name from the Saruswati which lies near his eastern boundary. He is said to be less grasping and quarrelsome with most of the stricter Hindu castes, such as Banyas, Khatris, suds, and Kayaths. He eats flesh in the hills, and perhaps in some parts of the plains also.

The Gujarati and Dakaut Brahmans

These men are scattered in small numbers all over the Province. The Gujarati Brahmans probably belong to the Gurjara section already mentioned. The Dakaut or Kakotra Brahmans are fortune-tellers and astrologers, and came from Northern Rajputana. They belong to the Panj Gaur group, of which they are sometimes, in Tajputana, which is their house, reckoned as a separate section.

The Pushkarna Brahmans

These group takes their name from the sacred lake of Pushkar or Pokhar near Ajmer, one section of them is said to have been originally Beldars or Ods who were raised to Brahminical rank as a reward for excavating the tank. They still worship the pickaxe. They are the hereditary Brahmans of the Rajputana Bhatias, and are stricter in caste matters than the Sarsut. They are found in some numbers in the western districts of the Punjab.

The Mahabrahman or Acharj

This is the Brahman who performs the funeral ceremonies. After the cremation he is scatted on the dead man’s bedstead and the sons lift him up, bedstead and all, and make obedience to him. He then receives the bedstead and all the wearing apparel of the dead man. He rides on a dondely, and is considered so impure that in many villages he is not allowed to come inside the gate.

Muhial, Moyal or Mial Brahmans

This is a sub-section of the sarsut section, who are said to be so named from the seven Muhins or clans of which they consist. They are almost confined to the sub-mountain Salt-range Tract. They say that certain of their ancestors rose to high position under the Mughals, since when they have abandoned all performance of priestly functions or claim to a sacerdotal character, and cultivate land, but especially take service in the army or as clerks. They object to be called Brahmans, as the enlistment of Brahmans is said to be forbidden in our army. This is their own account; but in Hazara proper the Muhials perform priestly functions and receive alms and oblations just like other Brahmans. Another story derives their name from a place called Mava, now deserted.’

Dharukra Brahmans

are Caur Brahmans of the Dehli Territory who have taken to widow marriage, and with whom other Brahmans will not intermarry. They are much the same as the Dasa or Doghla Brahmans.”

Chamarwa and Gurra Brahmans

These are the Brahmans who minister to the Chamars, Aheris, and other outcastes. They are not recognized as Brahmans by the other classes; and though they wear the sacred thread it is perhaps possible that their claim to Brahman origin is unfounded. Yet on the whole it seems most probable that they are true Brahmans by descent, but have fallen from their high position. They are often called Chamarwa Sadhs.

The Pujaris and Bhojkis

Pujari means really nothing but an officiating priest at a temple or shrine, and in the majority of cases would be a Brahman or faqir. But the Pujaris of the shrines in the Kangra and Simla hills have grown into a distinct caste, composed originally, it is said, of a mixed collection of Nais, Brahmans, Rajputs, and Jogis, who all intermarries. Those of the great shrines, such as Jawalamukhi and Bawan, are called Bhojkis. They are all priests of Devi, and their name is said to be a corruption of Pujki. The Bhojkis are not Brahmans, though they are the hereditary priests of these celebrated temples. They all wear the sacred thread they intermarry among themselves alone.

[i]Source: The Himalayan Gazetteer Vol.III No.1 published in 1882 and reprint in 1998[/i]