The Kayastha trace their genealogy from Adi Purush Shri Chitraguptaji Maharaj. It is said that after Lord Brahma had created the four Varnas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras), Yama snonym Dharamraj requested Lord Brahma to help him record the deeds, good and evil, of men, and administer justice.
Lord Brahma went into meditation for 11000 years and when he opened his eyes he saw a man holding pen and ink-pot in his hands and a sword girdled to his waist. Lord Brahma spoke: Thou hast been created from my body (Kaya), therefore shall thy progeny be known as the Kayasthas. Thou hast been conceived in my mind (Chitra) and in secrecy (gupta), thy name shall also be Chitragupta. Brahma then enjoined him to dispense justice and punish those who violated the dharma. Thus, the Kayasthas were accorded a dual caste, Brahmin/Kshatriya.
In the legends of Shree Chitraguptaji Maharaj, he is referred to as the greatest King, while the rest are rajakas or little kings.
चित्र इद राजा राजका इदन्यके यके सरस्वतीमनु ।
पर्जन्य इव ततनद धि वर्ष्ट्या सहस्रमयुता ददत ॥ RIG VEDA 8/21/18
In the Garud Puran, Chitragupta is hailed as the first man to give the script.
“Chitragupta namastubhyam vedaksaradatre”
(Obeisance to Chitragupta, the giver of letters)
The Rig Veda mentions an invocation to be made to Chitragupta before offering sacrifice. There is also a special invocation to Chitragupta as Dharmraj (Lord of Justice) to be made at the performance of shradh or other rituals.
“Om tat purushaya vidmahe Chitragupta dhimahi tena lekha prachodayata.”
The priests also pay reverence to Shri Chitragupta :
“Yamam Dharmarajya Chitraguptaya vain namah.”‘
* Vedah.net, which presents a list of the main sub-divisions of Brahmins, lists the Kayasthas as one of the 31 main sub-divisions of Brahmins. Vedah.net
* Kamat.com puts forward a comprehensive list of more than 50 Brahmin Communities in India, the Kayasthas are also listed. Kamat.com
* The Sanskrit dictionary at Hindunet.org defines ‘Kayastha’ as follows:
ka_yastha, ka_yata a man belonging to the writer-caste; a tribe of bra_hman.as whose employment is writing (Ka.)(Ka.lex.) Sanskrit Dictionary at Hindunet.org
The 12 clans of Brahma Kayastha:
Sons of Mata Shobhawati (Iravati)
* Shree Charu (Mathur): He was a disciple of sage Mathure, Rashi name was Dhurandhar, was married to Devi Pankajakshi and worshipped Devi Durga. Mathureshwari. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Charu to establish a Kingdom in the Mathura region. His descendants were known as the Mathurs. After defeating the demons, a term regularly used for the anti-Vedic tribes, they established the Kingdom of Mathura. This done, they also propagated to other part of Aryavartha. In the meanwhile they were further divided into 3 sub-divisions 1.The Mathurs of Mathura, 2.The Pancholi or Panchali of Pnachal Kingdom, 3.The Kacchi of Gujrat. The Mathurs seem to enjoy a long history of Ruling many Kingdoms, to mention the most important, Ayodhya was ruled by them before the Raghuvanshis took the reign. They are divided into 84 Als. According to Madan Kosh by Madanlal Tiwari of Etawah (P.220)they established Pandya Kingdom covering Madurai Trinivelli etc. Their emissary went to Augustus Ceaser of Roman Empire.
* Shree Sucharu (Gaur): He was a disciple of sage Vashista, Rashi name was Dharamdutta and worshipped Devi Shakambari. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Sucharu to establish a Kingdom in the Gaud region. Shree Sucharu married Devi Mandhiya, the daughter of Nagaraj Vasuki. The gauds are divided into five divisions: 1.Khare, 2.Doosre, 3.Bengali, 4.Dehlavi, 5.Vadanyuni. Gaud Kaystha have been further sub divided in 32 Als. Bhagdutta of Mahabharat and Rudradutta of Kalinga were famous.
* Shree Chitraksh (Bhatnagar): He was a disciple of sage Bhat, was married to Devi Bhadrakalini and worshipped Devi Jayanti. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Chitraksh to establish a Kingdom in the region of Bhat river at Bhattdesh and Malwa. They established Chittor and Chitrakoot He settled then there and his progeny came to be known as Bhatnagar. They are divided into 101 Als.
* Shree Matiman (Saxena): This illustrious son of Mata Shobhawati (Irawati) was married to Devi Kokalesh and worshipped Devi Shakambari. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Matimaan to establish a Kingdom in the Shak region. His (Shree Matimaan’s) son was a great warrior and established his kingdom in the modern day Kabul-Kandhar and Eurasia region. As they were Sakha (friends of Sena) and also from Shak kingdom, their progeny was called Shaksena or Saksena. A part of modern Iran was under their rule. Today they are abundantly found in the regions of Kannuaj, Pilibhit, Bareli, Shahjahanpur, Badayun, Farrukhabad, Etah,Etawah, Mainpuri, Aligarh. They are divided into Khare and Dusare and have 106 main Als at present.
* Shree Himavan (Ambashth): His Rashi name was Sarandhar, was married to Devi Bhujangakshi and worshipped Devi Amba-Mata. Settled in Girnar and kathiawar area called Amba-sthan, hence the name. Shree Himvaan had five divine sons Shree Nagasen, Shree Gayasen, Shree Gayadatta, Shree Ratanmool and Shree Devdhar and they married Gandharvyakanyas. These five Sons settled at different locations and accordingly their lineage spread their rule over these and were further divided into : Nagasen: 24 Als, Gayasen: 35 Als , Gayadatta: 85 Als, Ratanmool: 25 Als, Devdhar: 21 Als. Later they settled in Punjab after their defeat by Alexander’s general and then by Chandragupt Maurya.
* Shree Chitracharu (Nigam): His Rashi name was Sumant, was married to Devi Ashgandhmati and worshipped Devi Durga. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Chitracharu to establish a Kingdom in the Mahakoshal and the Nigam region (on the bank of river Saryu). His progeny were very proficient in the rules laid in Vedas and the Shastras, hence Nigam. Today they live in Kanpur, Fatehpur, Hamirpur, Banda, Jalon, Mahoba. They are divided into 43 main Als.
* Shree Aruncharu (Karna): His Rashi name was Damodar, was married to Devi Kamakala and worshipped Devi Laxmi. They were Vaishnavites. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Aruncharu to establish a Kingdom in the Karna region (modern day Karnataka). His progeny slowly migrated to the Northern Kingdoms and now live abundantly in the present day Nepal, Orissa and Bihar. The Bihar branch is further divided into two; namely the ‘Gayaval Karna’ who settled in Gaya and the ‘Maithil-Karna’ who settled in the Mithila region. The Maithil Karna Kayasthas are characteresied by their usage of Panjis, a system of genealogical records. They are divided into an astounding 360 Als; this huge figure is attributed to the families who migrated in different phases from South. The clan has nothing to do with Karna of Mahabharata.
* Shree Jitendriya (Kulshreshtha): His Rashi name is Sadananda, was married to Devi Manjubhashini and worsipped Devi Laxmi. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Atiyendriya (also known as Jitendra) to establish a Kingdom in the Kannauj region. Shree Atiyendriya was one of the most religious and pious ascetic of the twelve Sons. He was known as ‘Dharmatama’ and ‘Pundit’ and was a master of passions; His progeny came to be known as Kulshrestha. Today the Kulshresthas live abundantly in Mathura, Agra, Fawrookhabad, Etta, Etahwa and Mainpuri. A few are in Nandigaon, Bengal.
Sons of Mata Nandini (Dakshina)
* Shree Shribhanu(Srivastava): His Rashi name was Dharamdwaj. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Shribhanu to establish a Kingdom in the Shrivaas(Srinagar)region in Kashmir and Kandhar. He was married to Nagaraj Vaasuki’s daughter Devi Padmini and two divine sons named Shree Devdatta and Shree Ghanshyam were born. Shree Devdatta got the rulership over Kashmir and Shree Ganshyam got the rulership over the banks of Sindhu river. They were called Srivastava ‘Khare’ born from second wife Kheri. Two divine sons named Shree Dhanvantari and Shree Sarvagya were born. They were called Srivastava ‘Doosre’.The Srivastavas are divided into 65 main Als.
* Shree Vibhanu (Suryadhwaj): His Rashi name was Shyamsunder, was married to Devi Malti. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Vibhanu to establish the Kingdom in northern parts of the Kashmir region. Since Mother Dakshina was the daughter of Suryadev, the progeny of Shree Vibhanu carried the emblem of the Sun God on their flags and were called Suryadhwaj. Jarasandha of Mahabharat and Jamnaya of Taxila were well known. Later they settled at Magadh
* Shree Vishwabhanu (Valmik): His Rashi name was Deendayal and worshipped Devi Shakumbhari. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Vishwabhanu to establish a Kingdom in Valmiki region near Chirakoot and Narmada. Shree Vishwabhanu was married to Nagakanya Devi Bimbvati. He’s known to have spend a great part of his life practicing intense meditation(Tapasya) on the banks of river Narmada, when covered with the leaves of creeper Valmiki. His progeny were known as Valmiki. They became Vallabhpanthi. His son Shree Chandrakant settled in Gujarat while the other Sons migrated with their families to the North, near river Ganga and the Himalayas. Today they live in Gujarat and Maharashtra. They are also known as ‘Vallabhi Kayastha’ in Gujarat.
* Shree Viryabhanu (Asthana): His Rashi name Madhavrao, was married to Devi Singhdwani. Maharaj Chitraguptji sent Shree Viryabhanu to establish a Kingdom in Adhisthana. His progeny came to be known as Asthana as Ramnagar-Varanasi’s king bestowed them with eight jewels. Some say that they had no fixed sthan, hence the name. Today the Asthanas live abundantly in various districts of U.P. In Bihar they live in Saran, Sivaan, Champaran, Mujjafarpur, Sitamadhi, Darbhanga, Bhagalpur regions. Their population is also notable in U.P.’s neighboring state M.P. They are divided into 5 main Als.
These twelve sub-castes are further divided into ALs. A Vansh originates from a King, a Rishi or a Deity and as it grows it divides itself in to several branches. The descendants start to build their own sub-Vansh depending upon the places and situations met, at the same time acknowledging their submission to the MOOL Vansh. These sub-Vansh add specific nouns to their names which in case of the Chirtagupta Vansha(Chitranshi) are called the Als (Kindly be clear upon the point that the 12 main sub-castes are acknowledged divisions based on the family of the 12 Sons, they are not called Als, their further divisions are what Als are) One has to be careful to avoid confusing them with Gotra. Gotra goes after the name of a Vedic Rishi, who was either a Guru, RajGuru or Progenitor of that Vansh. The gotra for a MOOL Vansh is always the same. It is Kashayap for the Kayasthas. Thus, a Vanshaz can be known from his Gotra and Al (The term Kul is often used for Al, though the former has a much broader meaning).The Als can be thousands in number and must be added to the name in conjunction with one of the 12 main sub-castes. The ignorance of this law is precisely the reason why so many can not find their surnames mentioned amongst the 12 main sub-castes.
NOTE: The second sub-group of Kayasthas is called CHANDRASENIYA KAYASTHA PRABHU of Maharastra and Punjab. Their linkage is from Sahastrajita-Haihey- Sahastrarjuna Chandrasen and Somsen.
Aspects of Kayastha culture
Kayasthas practice family exogamy and caste endogamy preferring to marry only within their sub-castes. The individuals of same Al can not intermarry, while those of same caste and different Als can. Thus an individual from Srivastava subcaste and Pandey Al should not marry another Pandey of the same subcaste but can marry an individual belonging to another Al of the same subcaste. Though not required, it is still widely practiced as a tradition.
Kayasthas worship ShreeChitraguptaji and on Bhai-Dooj, they celebrate Kalam-Dawaat Pooja (pen, ink-pot and sword worship), a ritual in which pens, papers and books are worshipped. This is the day when Shree Chitraguptji was created by Lord Bramha and Yamaraj got relieved of His duties and used this leave to visit His sister Devi Yamuna; hence the whole world celebrates Bhaiya dooj on this day and the Kayastha celebrate ShreeChitraguptajayanti, i.e. the ‘Birthday’ of their progenitor.
By worshipping Chitragupta who is their ancestor, kayasthas have the singular distinction of being the only “Ancestor-worshipping” sect of Hinduism.
Unlike most Baniya (Vaishya) or Brahmins, Kayasthas eat onions, garlic, meats like mutton and chicken, fish and eggs, though a large number are also vegetarians. Meat eating kayasthas do avoid beef as the cow is considered sacred for Hindus.
Kayasthas of holy towns like Prayag, Mathura, Varanasi, etc. are purely vegetarians, while in other areas they may be mixed. It is said that Kayasthas started eating meat during the Muslim period when they socially mixed with the Muslims.
Kayastha ministers find mention in Hindu mythology. Prior to the Raghuvanshis, Ayodhya was ruled by Mathur Rulers, progeny of Shree Chitraguptaji.
The Kayastha who are represented by the “Kayats” or the hereditary caste of the scribes of the present day, formed originally a sub-military class. The Anthropological Survey of India conducted a survery during the British Raj which concluded that the Kayastha community were also influential during the Mauryan period as administrators. Also, many proof have been found that the Hindu Kings used to grant lands to the Kayasthas, a practise enjoyed only by a particular caste. Also, it is but logical to consider the status of the Kayasthas when Sanskrit was the state language under the Hindu Kings.
The Kayastha were one of the most influential Caste in Kashmiri politics around 7th century. The economic status of the Kayastha community bettered than that of other castes when the Muslims conquered India. Other Indian castes would typically not find employment under the Muslim rulers, as they could not learn the Muslim languages of Persian and Arabic. On the other hand, the Kayastha community as a whole traditionally put a lot of emphasis on education and prospered during the Islamic period of India.
Kayasthas down the ages
Kayasthas were valued in the second millennia by most kingdoms and princely states as desired citizens or immigrants within India. They were treated more as a race rather than a caste because they developed expertise in Persian (the state language in Islamic India), learnt Turkish and Arabic, economics, administration and taxation. This gave them an edge over the Brahmins (the priestly caste), who traditionally had reserved the study of Sanskrit shastras to themselves. They successfully adapted themselves as scribes and functionaries under Islamic rule and later on under the British. Their secular viewpoint to life, adaptability and lifestyle was an asset which allowed them to succeed. The Kayastha community also adapted to changes, such as the advent of the British rule in India. They learnt English, the more affluent ones sent their children to England, they became civil servants, tax officers, junior administrators, teachers, legal helpers and barristers. They rose to the highest positions accessible to natives in British India.
Kayasthas in modern India
Post independence Kayasthas rose to the highest positions including the first President of India , Dr. Rajendra Prasad,third Prime Minister of India , Lal Bahadur Shastri , judges, top civil servants and high ranking officers in the Indian armed forces. Kayasthas also emigrated to the West in the 1970s and 80s, most of them as knowledge workers in medicine, academia, engineering, computing etc.
Main article: List of Kayasthas
With the passing of time, the Kayasthas have surged ahead. They have broken new grounds in vocations other than those relating to writing and record-keeping, and excelled in them. Thus, in public life, Dr Rajendra Prasad rose to become the first President of the Republic of India, whereas Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister. Dr Sampuranand was the Chief Minister of U.P. and Governor of Rajasthan, besides being a literary figure. Jayaprakash Narayan brought down Indira Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose fought the British rule militarily. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, and Jagdish Chandra Bose were eminent scientists. Munshi Prem Chand, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Raghupat Sahai “Firaque” Gorakhpuri, Dr Vrindavan Lal Verma, Dr Ram Kumar Verma and Dr Dharm Vir Bharti have been men of letters. Swami Vivekanand and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were philosophers. Alakh Kumar Sinha, C.I.E, O.B.E, was the first Indian Inspector-General of Police , his son Mithilesh Kumar Sinha, KPM, President’s Police Medal, was the longest serving Inspector-General of Police and a noted philanthropist, and his grandson Gen. S.K. Sinha, PVSM, has served as Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Governor of Assam and Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha have excelled in the film world, Mukesh and Sonu Nigam in the world of music.