Saturday, July 2, 2022

The People



Some socially inferior Brahmins in Bihar are connected with the actual ritual of temple worship and include miscellaneous groups such as the pujari who performs the pujas in shrines and temples, the Ojhas of occultist propensities who exorcise demons and evil spirits, the Jyotishis or astrologers who caste horoscopes and determine auspicious occasions, the Pandas who act as guides at pilgrim centres and Mahapatras who conduct ceremonies connected with the funeral rites of the upper castes. The village priests (pujaris) among the masses are usually uneducated. There is a large proportion of hereditary priests.

Many of the Brahmin pujaris are men from good families. The average priest knows little beyond reading the Karmakanda and he is often shaky at that. From the point of view of morality, certain priests as a rule lead pure and austere lives. There are also a few Brahmin pandits who devote themselves to teaching. Making gifts of land and cows to Brahmins was at one time considered very meritorious by the Puranas. Brahmins are generally strict about personal  cleanliness and begin their private devotions well before sunrise, repeat them at moon and again just before sunset.

The Brahmins of Maithila are divided into five hypergamous groups -Shrotriyas, Yogyas, Panjibadhs, Nagars and Jaiwars. The religion of the average Brahmin is a curious mixture of Hinduism and Animism, in which belief in both evil spirits and godlings is the principal element. Most of the Brahmins have their idols to which they make simple offerings in the open air.  A few of the Maithil Brahmins are Shaivites who believe in the unity and immanence of god and have a deep consciousness of personal sin.

Among the Brahmins in Bihar there are hundreds of Agradanis or Kantahas who conduct ceremonies when Hindus are burned and who receive the offerings made on the eleventh day after a person's death. Bihar is also the ancient place of settlement of the Sakaldwipi Brahmins and they continue to be one of the most numerous classes of this order. Some of these Sakaldwipis act as a purohits for people and explain to them the decree of fate with the help of an almanac. Many of them are of the Shakta sect and are guided by the tantras. Among the Brahmins of Kanoj greater part live by acting as purohits. Many are in service and some live by trade, the greatest part have lands which they cultivate by the help of servants, but they do not work with their own hand. They are mostly of the sect of Rama, a few worship Krishna or the Shaktis. The worshippers of Rama have no objection to repeat the ceremonies used in the adoration of Shiva or of any other god. Some of Saraswat Brahmins were formerly land lords. Now some of them are merchants while others are priests. The Kanyakubjas act as teachers, priests, cultivators, soldiers, messengers, clerks and accountants, traders or cooks.