BRAHMAN. This is written Brahmana, but the final a is dropped in conversation. It is the designation of the highest of the Hindu castes, whom it is usual to call the priestly class. Their duties, according to Menu, are—(1) Performances of holy sacrifices; (2) assisting at the performance of such by others ; (3) reading the Vedas ; (4) teaching the Vedas; (5) making gifts; (6) ac cepting gifts. If any of these means of existence failed, they were permitted to resort to certain trading occupations, being restricted, however, as to the articles in which they might trade. let now-a-days Brahmans employed in sacerdotal functions are considered to be in a degraded posi tion. The author of the Gita says, The pre scribed duties of the Brahmans are peace, self restraint, zeal, purity, patience, rectitude, wisdom, learning, and theology' (Gita, p. 130). The word Brahman, according to Weber, means draw ing forth, as well in a physical sense producing,' creating,' as in a spiritual sense lifting up,' elevating," strengthening ' (Weber).
The Maha-brahman of Hindustan, who performs uneral ceremonies, is deemed so unclean that other Brahmans will not touch him. Gunga-putra or Ghat Brahman is a byword ; and the Panda or temple priests, the Barna Brahmans who con duct the worship of the lower castes, the Gyawal and Prayagwal who rule over the ceremonies connected with pilgrimages to Gya and Allahabad, the Ojhas exercising the vocation of wizards, the Dayabagya, the Ganak, and the Jaudi Brah mans who cast horoscopes and predict events, are all looked upon by other Brahmans as lower classes. Menu writes in high-flown terms (Instit. chaps. ii. iii. vii. viii. ix.) of the sacred character of the Brahman learned in the Vedas, but com ments with an equal severity on the unlearned of this class.
There are ten great divisions of Brahmans, viz. five Gaur, the Kanya-Kubhya Saraswat, Gaur, Maithala, and Utkala ; and five Dravidian, viz. Dravida, Telinga, Karnata, Maharashtra, and Gurjara. These have many subdivisions. The Gaur tribe, for instance, has 56 branches ; the Kanoujia are divided into Sarwaria, Sanaudha, Jijhotia, and Bhunhar, and these again have sub divisions. Some of the subdivisions' names are
taken from the district to which they origin ally belonged, others are named from their sects, or literary acquirements. The Chaturji of Bengal are so named from their acquaintance with the four Vedas, Chaturpadhya. The Chuckerbutty of Bengal are the Chakravarti, meaning a prince or ruler. Smartta is the name of a religious sect of Brahmans founded by Sankaracharya, whose expositions of the principle of unity, according to the Vedanta doctrine, they professedly follow. Siva is held by them in especial honour.
Brahmans are also recognised as of three classes, viz. Loukik or secular ; Vaidik or theologian ; and Bhikuk, whose sole means of support is the alms obtained by begging.
The Brahman as a distinct class seems to be first mentioned in the Atharva Veda, ;the oldest of the Vedas. They were known before the great war between the Kaurava and Pandava, but were seemingly in humble positions. .Arjuna disguised himself as a Brahman when he com peted at the Swayamvara of Draupadi, and won her, as he hit the golden fish with his arrow after all the rajas had failed. Draupadi became the wife of the five Pandu brothers.
The great bulk of the Brahmans of India are admissibly of Aryan origin,—tall, robust men, and light yellow in colour. In the Tamil and Telugu countries of Southern India, the recognised Brahmans are all undoubtedly of the same stock. Some of them can converse in Sanskrit, although they use the vernacular language of the district in which they reside, and are styled Dravida, Kerala, and Karnatica, etc., with reference to the language of their district. Brahmauical tribes arc as much separated as are other castes. Some of them may eat together, but they do not intermarry; and the first approach at union is seemingly to be with the Konkan, Mahratta, and Gujerat Brah mans, amongst whom the influence of European knowledge has had snore effect than upon any of all the other races in India. Good seed has fallen there on a good soil ; and from a body of mendi cants, these have become active, powerful, and useful men.