K L Mahendra: A history of the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad

In my attempt to record and find recorded history, I have come across compilations of the Brahma Kshatriyas history by members of the community and this is one example. This account will be examined through further research. For example, the myth related to the origin of community as mentioned below: from Scythians is an interesting one that can be explored further. The migration along with nobles and Asaf Jahs have available documentation and that is another space for research. K L Mahendra’s account has nuances and depth and gives a vivid picture of his own research.

Malini Waghray

In Hyderabad there is a well-knit community- namely the Brahma Kshatriyas. There is a tendency to link caste or communities with the epics, which is a slippery ground. Some claim descendants of Parashuram i.e., half-Brahmins, half-Kshatriyas.

Historical studies reveal that those who came from outside the country were adjusted within the four castes in the caste system prevailing in the country. The Jats were treated as Kshatriyas. Now, among the Jats there are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. In spite of these religious differences they consider themselves as one Jat biradari. Similarly, the Gujjars are the Huns that came from outside India. There is no caste differentiation among them and they all live as one biradari.

The Kshatriyas, in the four-fold caste division among the Hindus, were considered as warriors and also rulers. But, today we find that the Kshatriyas in Punjab are mainly in business. There are Brahma Kshatriyas also in Uttar Pradesh and in Bengal. In Maharashtra, the Brahma Kshatriyas are a well-knit community. Bhupendra Dutta, the renowned anthropologist, (brother of Swami Vivekananda) in his book “Indian Polity” has written that the Brahma Kshatriyas are Scythians, who, after coming to India, remained a distinct entity without entering into inter-marriages. They first settled in Punjab. Some moved to Uttar Pradesh, some to Bengal, and some to Gujarat. According to him, the royal family of Tripura, the “Burmans”, belonged to this community.

Some families of Brahma Kshatriyas came to Hyderabad from Gujarat along with some of the nobles’ families. Some came with Asaf Jahis. Some came with the nobles of Fakhr-ul-Mulk and his brother Khan Khana, and some others with the nobles of Paigah. Those who came with the nobles stayed with them as administrators for generations.

The details mentioned below of the members of the community is specific and some family members have kept an account of the stories. The nature of life back in the day, of the details that have been passed on through the generations provides a rich oral history of the members.

Malini Waghray

In Hyderabad there were five jagirdar families in the Brahmakshatriya community, a few sirishtadars and mansabdars. These were Rai Vasudev Rai, Jai Shanker Das who inherited the jagir from his maternal grandmother Rani Gangu Bai, Raja Bansilal and family; Mugat Ram and family, Mohan Lal and family and Tej Rai and family. A large number of community members were related directly or indirectly to these jagirdar families. Socially and educationally, the community was more advanced and hence persons of the community held high posts or were executives or took up clerical posts.

Rai Bal Mukund was the Chief Justice of Hyderabad High Court. Some were working in the peshi of the Nizam himself. There were some magistrates and even some collectors during the Nizam’s time. Some came from Uttar Pradesh and after studies became professionals like doctors, lawyers etc. or joined government service.

Amongst the locals, Rai Shanker Pershad was Accountant General, and Rai Bheem Rai was Commissioner of Excise. Rai Brij Mohan Lal and Rai Raj Mohan Lal were judges of the Criminal Court. Dr. Major B.S. Raj was family doctor to the Prince of Berar (Nizam’s son) and was a renowned surgeon. Others held high positions in Paigah administration and with other nobles.

Amongst those who came from Uttar Pradesh were Rai Bisheshwar Nath and Kailashnath Waghray. Rai Bisheshwarnath became the Chief Justice of Hyderabad and after his retirement from Hyderabad High Court, the Raja of Bikaner appointed him the Chief Justice of Bikaner. Dr. Kailashnath Waghray, on return from army service was appointed the Director of Medical Services. He was also the personal physician to the Nizam himself. He was amongst the top few physicians.

There were social reformers like Rai Bal Mukund who, along with Bhagya Reddy Verma, devoted himself to the uplift of the untouchables of the Scheduled Castes and depressed classes. Together, they were the founders of the Adi Hindu Social Service League and built the Adi Hindu Bhavan at Chaderghat. Bal Mukund wrote in his will that the Adi Hindus – Harijans – should perform his funeral. Because of this, the priests of the community boycotted the family for some time. From this family, Barrister Sri Kishen was a well-known public figure. Rai Jagat Narayan paid attention to social reforms in the community. Raja Bansi Lal took the initiative to start the Mufeed-ul-Anam School, now High School and College and one of the oldest educational institutions in the city of Hyderabad.

The Quomi Fund was started with the object of helping the needy in the community in education. Every member, rich or poor, contributed to the fund at the time of any ceremonial occasion in the family like moondan, janvai (thread ceremony), but especially in marriages. Mufeed-ul-Anam Girls Hindi School was started which became a high school. But due to a financial crunch, the Girls School was handed over to the Hindi Prachar Sabha, Hyderabad, during the lifetime of Sri Hari Lal Waghray, who was also in the leadership of the Hindi Prachar Sabha.

Unlike other communities in the Hindus, the Brahma Kshatriya community had two distinct features of social life. One, to ask for dowry or to negotiate for it at the time of marriage was looked down upon. None claimed dowry. Whatever was given at the time of marriage was accepted. Moreover, while bigamy was practiced among other communities, none took a second wife as long as the first wife was alive, even if she was invalid and incapacitated.

In the subsequent period, there were Brahma Kshatriyas holding high positions in administration and judiciary. There were Secretaries to Government i.e. Sri H. Ram Lal (HCS), Guru Das, Narsing Raj, B. N. Waghray, Dilsukhram, all IAS, Rai Daulat Rai (Chief Conservator of Forests) Rai Mahender Bahadur, Director of Agriculture, Dr. N. Ram Lal, Director of Education. There were Chief Engineers, Superintending Engineers: Radha Kishen, Laxminarayan, Bala Pershad, Veernath Rai, Chain Rai, Gopal Kishen. There were eminent doctors like Dr. V. N. Waghray, Supt., Osmania General Hospital, Dr. Tulsi Das, R.M.O. Osmania Hospital, Dr. Dharam Rai eminent Orthopaedic Surgeon and Head of Orthopaedic Dept., Dr. B. K. Sahay, Suptd. Osmania Hospital, Dr. Chandrakala Sahay Suptd., Maternity Hospital, Dr. P. Ramchander, Suptd. Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and renowned Ophthalmologist; Dr. Karan Pershad, Suptd., Fever Hospital and Dr. Sathyanarayan Sahgal, Professor, Osmania Medical College. In the Judicial Services were Rai Nauratan Lal, Mohan Lal, Mahesh Narayan, and R. P. Sahgal – all Sessions Judges. In the Railways, Sri Arjun Pershad retired as General Manager. Govind Lal was in the Railway Recruitment Board. Guru Pershad entered the Railway service but when the Road Transport was separated, he became the first architect of the present A.P.S.R.T.C.

The Brahma Kshatriyas were initially not successful in business. Few entered the field i.e. Gopal Pershad, proprietor of G. Paul & Co, and Somnath Burman. But after formation of Andhra Pradesh, entry into business has started. More and more young men and women are taking to independent professions like doctors, lawyers, architects, specialized medical services, M.B.A. etc. where the trend was to join govt. services, banks, insurance and other public sectors.

The ladies in the community followed tradition. They observed purdah in old city during the Nizam’s rule. After independence, more and more girls took higher education and now there are lady doctors, teachers, technicians, and women-folk working in banks, offices and factories. This has brought about a sea change in the social outlook. Now whether a boy or a girl marries outside the caste or into another linguistic group, they are considered part of the community. Some girls have married Muslims and are considered friends. A scientific outlook has developed as is manifested by the trend to take the dead to the electric crematorium.

Generally members of the community kept aloof from the political movement. But, during the last phase of the freedom struggle, five or six members took an active part in the political and social life and some of them who participated in the communist movement were extended great sympathy and active support from several households in the community during the period when they had to work underground. They took great risks on themselves thereby. Nauratan Lal, though a magistrate at that time was arrested for his support to his communist brother Amolak Ram and for suspected sheltering the underground communists Somnath Burman, Hari Lal Waghray, Radha Kishen and Gopal Pershad. Gopi Kishen and Daulat Rai Waghray were among the many who extended their help at great risk to themselves. Certainly Smt. Gayatri Devi’s magnificent role can never be forgotten.

The explanation of biradari and the ties that keep it together is something to be explored as well.

Malini Waghray

A significant feature of the Brahma Kshatriyas is that they call themselves a “biradari” which implies much more than a community or caste.

Adaptability to circumstances and environment is normal. Those who came from Uttar Pradesh, or Gujarat or Punjab picked up Urdu, which was the official language. This helped them to get into government services.

But being educated in English or Urdu kept them away from the ancient culture and civilization, which was mostly available in Hindi or other languages but not in Urdu or English. Nor was the culture of Persia or Arabs imbibed because neither Persian nor Arabic was studied. Perhaps this is the community. History has recorded processes of denationalisation and here we have our example. Some members with education in English have settled down in US or England but still marriages are within the biradari.

Our customs are rituals that have been sustained by the women-folk who studied Hindi. They kept track of the festivals and various functions like first pregnancy, Naamkaran, moondan, sacred thread ceremony and marriages and shraadh. The men followed the advice of the women folk and the Brahmins. They were agnostics fulfilling the rituals mechanically without any idea of what it all meant.

The predominant section came from Uttar Pradesh or other Hindi-speaking people in Gujarat. This had its impact on the observance of rituals. It is evident from the songs sung in all festive occasions from birth to marriage. These are mainly Hindi an admixture of Gujarati. In old days children used to shout: “Ram Laxman Janki- Jai Bolo Hanuman ki” typical of the Indo-Gangetic region.

Our men-folk studied Urdu and bulk of our women-folk studied Hindi, while the Purohit and Shukal of the community knew Gujarati. Earlier, family disputes used to be settled mainly by intervention and arbitration of elders as was the practice in all castes, which had their respective caste panchayats quite distinct from village panchayats. This has disappeared with urbanisation and education. Even the joint family system has started breaking up from the thirties and we also have moved towards the single-family system. Such has been the socio-economic and cultural background of the Brahma Kshatriya community living in the past and its changes with the time.

by K. L. Mahendra in The Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad (1997): Amolak Ram Waghray

Published by Hema Malini

I am a trained sociologist and an archival researcher. I am the principal investigator for an archival research project on the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad and also founder of choosingwellness.org. I also go by my other name Malini. I am a translator of notes that remain in the margins to bring the user of technologies into sharper focus. I use the term community researcher, immersive researcher to talk about the work I do. In the past, as a Director and user experience lead at Code for Princeton I worked with non-profits, community groups, users, and subject matter experts to identify areas of need. I translated this into conversations with brigade members, developers, potential users, and other stakeholders. The applied ethnography and social research skills got me to meet with a diverse set of people across the broad middle class spectrum in Urban India. Living and working in New Jersey for the past several years has given me a breadth and width of understanding and engaging with people adding critical diversity to my bracket of "users" and experience all rolled in one.

One thought on “K L Mahendra: A history of the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: