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beaded styled items to wear of the wedding

GSBs are Truly Indians

‘You cannot be a South Indian,’ said my Kannadiga neighbor in Bengaluru, ‘Your language doesn’t resemble ours, nor do your food habits. You say you are Brahmins but eat fish,’ she ended wrinkling her nose.

‘You are a South Indian’ said my friend in Delhi,’ your silk saris and gold and diamond jewellery shows that you from down under, you cannot be a North Indian. You do not have the flamboyance nor the style.’

And when we were in Nagpur they said that our pujas and jewellery were like the south but our colour and food habits were of the North. Our language Konkani was ‘todki modki Marathi’ and some of the words in our language were like in Bengali.

So I, a Gowda Saraswat Brahmin decided to find out for myself what we actually were. My thesis was on Konkani language while doing my post graduation and I traced our language and the words in it to Kashmir, meandering south western on the banks or the now extinct Saraswati river (hence Saraswats) and going eastwards towards Bengal (Gowda desh so Gowda Saraswat Brahmins) Probably that’s how we incorporated fish in our diet despite being pure Brahmins. From there we are said to have crossed over the Vindhyas, settled in Goa and fled Southwards towards Karnataka and Kerala to save ourselves from the persecution of the Portuguese. GSB pockets are in Mangalore, Kochi, Belgaum, Konkan and other places.

Some GSBs went up to Dwaraka and by ship they sailed to Goa. For their stay in Dwaraka, the Gowda Saraswats are nicknamed as Dorkes also.

Some Bengali words, some Bihari words, a tradition from one state and a habit of another state, we Gowda Saraswat Brahmins are truly and complete Indians as we have a bit of every state in us.

We use coconuts and coconut oil in our cuisine. We use rayi (sarson) in almost every dish. We have unique items like pathrado(another version of aloo wadi in Marathi, or patra in Gujrati), bamboo shoots like in Assam, dal like in the upper half of our country, rice like the south and a long variety of wheat items like appos, and shevayi.

Our jewellery includes diamonds in the nose and ears like Tamilians, while our mangalsutra is like the black beads of Maharashtrians. In fact we have two mangalsutras, one of black beads given by the parents and one of corals brought by the in laws.

We have unique festivals (I have yet to find out which region they have come from). One is the vayna puja, performed a day before Ganpati. While Maharashtrians celebrate hartalika puja, we observe vayna Puja. This consists of five, seven, nine or multiples of coconuts being decorated like Gowri’s face. Haldi, Kumkum, Kaajal, sindoor( a relic of Gowda desh, perhaps) are used to make it and after the puja these coconuts are given to elder ladies along with a diya lit on it. It is an elaborate puja, handed from mother in law to her daughter in law(not her daughter) and only a selected few perform this puja.

Chudi puja doesnt mean puja of bangles. It is a tulsi puja done with bouquets of colourful flowers tied together and given to all married ladies on every Friday and Sunday of the month of shravan. At this time the countryside is full of wild flowers and these are the ones used along with the simple durba (grass blades). It is said that these flowers went to God and complained that while roses, lilies, jasmines and other flower were used in His puja, they were neglected. And God is said to have said that the GSB ladies will use only these wild flowers for the chudi puja. These chudis are now sent by post, pictures by emails or whatsup unlike in the earlier days when they were given personally by going to the elder’s houses. And now instead of every married lady performing it, samuhik(joint) pujas are done, which means all can exchange the bouquets, meet and have a nice time. beaded styled items to wear of the wedding

Interesting anecdotes are told about the GSBs. It is said that while our ancestors were living on the banks of the river Saraswati, there was a famine of sorts when no grains or vegetables were available. And the community head is said to have told us that we could fish, cook the body without the head and the tail which were to be thrown back into the river. He is said to have used his miracle powers to make these fish alive again joining the head and the tail. That is why Mangloreans do not eat the complete fish.

The GSBs have four religious maths-Kashi, Gokarn, Parthagali and Kawle. And our temples are found in Goa, one even in Assam. Kuladevatas are mainly in and around Goa and every GSB family visits its kuladevata at least once in his lifetime, wherever he is.

Our wedding customs are unique, probably picked from various places from where our ancestors passed through. Our brides wear the silk saree in a nine yard fashion with a white cloth in the shape of a V covering the blouse, like the fisherwomen of Maharashtra. We have a nose stud but not a nath. We wear toe rings but they are different from the ones of other communities. We use kumkum, not haldi or sindoor.

We have the traditional kanyadaan, the exchange of garlands, the saptapadi but we also have Ganga puja, and a unique ceremony called uddhada muhurat which is an important part of the wedding. Here the boy and the girl grind udid dal and moong dal with the help of their close relatives. In olden days (and now repeated by some) our weddings lasted five days. But all the rituals were compressed into one day and hence the girl changes at least four saris during the function.

We do not have ghodi, baraat or doli but we have a ceremony where the ladies of both the sides stand facing each other, then five ladies of the girl’s side go forward and offer kumkum, betel leaves, rice, and flowers to the bridegroom’s side who accepts them and reciprocates. Then both parties mingle and go together into the wedding venue. What a sweet custom!!

Originally the girl’s side bought only two saris for the girl while the boy’s mother brought five for her. The girl’s parents presented the boy with a ‘sanduk’ which consists of silver plate, a silver matka, a silver glass and a spoon, five ‘mudras’ which are used by every Brahmin to decorate himself during the sandhyavandan (ritual done every day after the brahmopadesh ceremony performed when he is around eight to fifteen years old). He starts to go to kashi with an umbrella in his hand and the bride’s father brings him back, offering him his daughter, silver and other gifts and makes him the bridegroom.

Our community people are called Saraswatiputras as we are highly qualified and hardly venture into business. Literacy is almost hundred per cent. We are mild in nature, broadminded and quite modern in our thinking. We have eminent people like Uncle Pai of Amar Chitra Katha, M V Kamath, well known journalist, K V Pai, BSD Baliga, Amembal Subbaraya Pai, Manipal Pais, to name a few in our community. Finance, Medicine, Engineering, Journalism, Art, Theater, Movies, Business, Restaurants, GSBs are found everywhere and now quite a few are in USA and Australia, New Zealand.

Finance and Banking are our forte. The Canara Bank was established by Amembal Subraya Pai at Mangalore in 1906, the Syndicate Bank was founded by Padmashri T M A Pai, Upendra Pai and Vaman Kudva in Udupi in 1925, and the Corporation Bank a public-sector banking company is headquartered in Mangalore. T. A. Pai and then K. K. Pai brought quite a few GSB youth into the arena of banking and finance. During the year 2000 A.D., five out of twenty governments owned giant banks had GSBs to head them as Chairmen & Managing Directors. They are Andhra Bank- B. Vasanthan, Bank of Baroda – P. S. Shenoy, Canara Bank – R. J. Kamath, Syndicate Bank – D. T. Pai and Union Bank of India – V. Leeladhar. K. V. Kamath, MD & CEO of ICICI, one of the largest financial institutions of Asia, is another great name for innovations in the financial sector.

The GSBs from Udupi and Mangalore have the credit of starting the Udupi restaurants across the country. Some of them are still highly successfully running. Rama Nayaks, Madras Cafe, Mysore Cafe and Anand Bhawan in Matunga in Mumbai are all run by GSBs.

Vijay Mallya, Sunil Gawaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Prakash Padukone, Deepika Padukone, Girish Karnad, Amrita Rao, Shyam Benegal, Vitthal Kamath, Gurudas Kamat, Pandit Jeetendra Abhisheki, Suman Kalyanpur to name just a few are also GSBs.

All the above mentioned shows that we, GSBs are truly complete Indians and cannot be compartmentalized into any one community.

-Dr Veena Adige,