A senior English daily editor, Mr. K. R. Bhatt was long since inviting us to visit his native place, the Padre and Perala and surrounding villages in Kasargod district of Kerala state. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bhatt, Mr. Sachin Tatake and myself toured that area in the last week of June 2007. The ancestors of these families had migrated into that area nine hundred to thousand years back; maybe due to natural calamities or atrocities made by those intolerant of our culture as had happened elsewhere. Many of them have migrated prior to our borrowing the family name system from the British establishment. Anyway, this is a populous area in which more than 25,000 Karhade Brahmins are residing preserving with minute details our own culture including the Karhada language! Mangalore, Chikmangaloor, Karwar in Karnataka state and Kasargod in Kerala state are the known districts in western coastal area beyond Goa for Karhada culture. Out of the 24 Gotras among Karhades here one could come across people of this community belonging to only seven gotras. Most of them have family names a Bhatta - maybe due to their scholastic learning or profession. Even in Maharashtra we do find Karhade people having this surname. The noted poet Shri. Suresh Bhat and Shri. Shreekrishna Bhat - noted journalist / astrologer are Karhades.
Majority of them are agriculturists, besides preserving their golden tradition of studying with the aim of preserving vedic literature, thus achieving speciality and mastery in vedas and sanskrit shastras - such as Paniniya Grammer, Navya Nyaya Shastra, Meemansa Vedanta, Sahitya Shastra. Dozens of scholars in these branches of learning have marked their names in these Indological learnings. Some of them I may mention here are Pandit Khanderi Ananta Shastri. Perala Krishna Bhatta, Shreepathi Shastri, Madhav Upadhyay, Vishvanath Bhatt, Ganapathi Talek, Ramachandra Bhatta, Durgaprasad Bhatta, Venkataraman Bhatta, Dr. Radhakrishna Bhatt. This list is a long one, showing peculiar enrichment of our culture. The names are fashioned with regional colour.
The special contribution of Karhada Brahman community people is also known for Yaksha Ganam - in which Pandit Perala Krishna Bhatta, Ram Bhatta, Sadashiv Bhatta, Balip Narayan Bhagwat are a few names known for their rich contribution. Shri. Yogesh Sharma has marked his name in Carnatic music. Shri. Girish Bharadwaj is reputation for developing special mechanical devices in rubber production. Shri. Balkrishna Bhatta is a MLC. Many Doctors, Pleaders, Engineers, Business Managers, Industrialists, Lawyers, Architects, CAs have sprung from here and spread in surrounding cities/areas. The Karhadas, as elsewhere, are known even here for their true, effective and harmonious intellectual activities right from historical period. In return, many have received recognitions, respects and regards from society, including Shri. Shringeri Math of Adi Shankaracharya. This is because of their modesty, learning and enchanting humane qualities and for developing a true and ideal Brahmanic culture - which requires no efforts or methods in discarding other communities; also there is no requirement of constantly creating icons, imposing qualities on lesser quality people of own caste, neither is there any need to follow a special variety of propogation in pulling down the qualitative people by not even mentioning their names and ill-intended whispering for other sub-castes constantly running through hidden forms owing to the false superiority complex as is experienced elsewhere. A very peculiar, sublime and spiritual quality for which Karhada culture is known from historical period is superbly preserved here. Here one would find a strong and steady belief in their muscle and brain with constant cultivation of harmonious humane qualities! As a result of these qualities, we did observe their progressive outlook in practical life.
"The Karhada Abhyudaya Sangha" at Perala is an illustrious community institute which is truely functioning for the community with true democratic principles. Although Perala is neither a District Headquarter nor even a Taluka Headquarter, that a village has such a vibrant activity of a Sangha itself is a novelty. In addition to already existant construction, admeasuring 7,500 sq. feet a new hall is nearing completion admeasuring 5000 sq. feet. Rarely would one find a community building with such a huge area. This is the only Sangha which has published a directory of names and addresses with many details of Karhade Brahmans of southern coastal area. A new President is elected after every two years, by which new blood with newer ideas of development of the Sangha, resulting in not making the Sangh a self-destructive place of groupism, full of passivity in heart, and thus making it a pond of stale water is also a novelty. We were surprised to learn that there is an active participation of every community member, including youth and women on large scale! It is therefore, that the sangha has been able to construct two big halls admeasuring 5000 sq. feet each. A transparency with true sense of brotherhood is perceived here.
Thoroughly devoted Shri. Madhav Bhatt Perla as chief editor and Shri. Venkat Subba Rao as associate editor are running a monthly magazine "Karada masa patrike" which is regularly published - partly in Karhada language as they call it and partly in Kannada for the last six years. Subscribers run into thousands.
Long back, Pandit Guru Shri. Shreepathi Shastri had published Prahladacharitam in Karhada language. It is a champookavya styled composition, There are constant publications of translating good sanskrit or any language verse / good thoughts in Karhaadaa language.
I have heard pecularities of Karhada language in Sagar (Madhya Pradesh), Sawantwadi - Vengurla - Malwan (In Konkan), Manglore (Karnataka) and now in this area! They have slight variations due to proximity and local language spoken at large i.e. regional language like Kannada, Tulu, Bundelkhandi, Konkani, Marathi, Malyalam, but the basic characteristics are the same! Here in houses, people still communicate in Karhada language. I used to call it a dialect; but here I came to know that there is a large number of publications even in Karhaadaa language, a monthly magazine poetry, plays, novels, programmes like Yakshagana and ample daily use of Karhaadaa language is taking place. Shri. Harihar Athlekar from Sawantwadi has published a novel "Kreetaputra" mostly in Karhada language. Having perceived all this, I cannot hesitate to call it a language, whatever the learned call it. I still vividly remember, the debate among linguists whether or not Konkani is a language. At that time, those who held it as a language, placed as proofs, an ample amount of publications in that language. With the same yardstick, we call Karhaadaa a language. Two persons as per my knowledge have got PhDs on Sagar and Mangalore Karhaadaa languages from Nagpur and Pune Universities respectively. They are Dr. Indumati Shevade and Dr. V. V. Paranjape.
It was an enchanting marriage ceremony, we enjoyed profoundly, in which the traditions of Karhadas which I had been hearing only for the last sixty years in Maharashtra were vividly and minutely experienced. In this function no ugly exhibition of wealth was seen, never the Karhada modesty was waning and at the same time, the usual majesty was intact! The rituals were performed by a group of Vedic scholars, all Karhadas, including a lecturer in a local college with PhD in economics with his soft, clean clear and conspicuos pronounciation of Mantras with peculiar Karhada style. His name was Dr. Radhakrishna Bhatta, functioning with pride of being a Purohita and never a bit of shyness for his profession.
It is a well known fact that when a small group of people parts from the bigger group for any reason and migrates into a new locality having cultural and linguistic differences, the small group always tries to keep up its own identity intact! The bigger group of that community is always adjusting with newer situation arising due to ideological oneness with a still bigger group. This process, sometimes, causes the bigger group to forget/drop their peculiar characteristics, sometimes lose them completely. If some Karhaadaa wants to see his roots, the golden tradition of his community, the distinctive factors and features of his culture and identity; he has to visit this small, migrated groups and stay with them to learn it. He can learn our own distinctive identity which is humanly marvelous due to harmonious attitude towards all human beings, spiritually and culturally richest and having distinctive community features of its own! Then he will never be subjected to any inferiority complex, as we never ever have been inferior to anyone from historical period to this date!
The coastal dakshina kannada district of erstwhile madras presidency (now a part of kerala and karnataka states) is a place where one can have a glimpse of pristine karhaade culture. It is here where karhaade customs & traditions have been assiduously guarded generation after generation. This has been rendered possible by unique karhaade traits: (a) civility, modesty and graciousness has ensured that they do not get into conflict with other local people (b) willingness and ability to learn and appreciate local languages, etiquettes, sensitivities ensured that they are not singled out and discriminated against (c) tolerance, liberalism and progressiveness has enabled them to keep pace with the changing world (d) self-esteem and conformist temperament has goaded them to revere value systems that served them well and play the game accordingly and (e) compassion and cohesiveness has underscored interdependence and perpetuation of joint family system and well-knit social organisations.
An historical backdrop would be helpful. A keen observation of chronology of events and sociological pattern drives us to surmise that almost every karhaada who migrated to this region was either a (a) Sanskrit / vedic scholar / priest or (b) a 'jyothishi' or (c) a chef (or 'paaka-shastrajna', if this adds lustre). However, most of them were constrained to resort to agriculture for livelihood as the mahaaraastrian royal patronage, under which these migrants basked for a while, started waning. This partially explains relatively meagre financial resources of the vast majority. Small parcels of land were acquired, quite often on rental basis and agriculture became a way of life.
These, coupled with limited exposure to outside world led to deprivation of the benefit of modern education for long. The first engineer, allopathic doctor, charted accountant, post-graduate came only in 1960's while the first ph.d. came only in 1970's. As the families grew in size, the dependence on inherited landed properties made little sense and hence many migrated to nearby urban centres. Thus, the present generation has come to see and experience the benefit of higher / professional education, modern farming and industrial adventures.
It must be admitted that the influence of urbanisation and cross-cultural influences are certainly making a dent on the make-up, individual personality traits and thought processes. While fashions should change to keep pace with changing circumstances, discarding value systems that served us well, generation after generation, would only amount to throwing baby with bathwater.Special: Karhaadaa rituals followed for all 16 sanskaras (shodasha sanskar) in brief with a tabulated summary.
Books edited by Shri. Mundodu Narayna Bhat (© M. Narayana Bhat; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org):
Shri. Mundodu Narayan Bhat has also shared the traditional "kastoori tilak" stuti stotra of Lord Shri. Krishna.
Note: Also checkout this article on historical background of Karhade Brahmins overall and particularly those in Kasargod by Shri. Radhakrishna Belluru a Karhade Brahmin from Kasargod. Translated and shared with us by Shri. K. R. Bhatt of Mumbai. This was printed in Kasargod Karhade Brahmin Sangh's anniversary issue circa 2001.Request to all Karhade people