The Bharadwajs

I’m married to a Bharadwaj. To put it another way, I’ve “bailed out” a Bharadwaj. Let me explain.

There is a concept of “gotras” among “Caste Hindus”. Each person is supposed to have a paternal ancestral line to a rishi, and that rishi’s name is your gotra. For example, I’m supposed to be a descendant of the sage Haritsa (such an obscure rishi he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page). And so my gotra is “haritsa”. Knowledge of your own gotra is important when you go to a temple to get “archane” (where you pay 10 rupees, give some vital stats and get sugar candy in return) done. It is also important when you are going to get married.

So Hindus have a weird way of defining cousins, especially for the purpose of marriage. Only male ancestry matters, and male brotherhood also. If you examine this further, everyone who has the same gotra as you (and hence are related to you by a paternal line) are your cousins. Sisters and mothers don’t particularly matter in this definition of cousins, hence the widespread incest, especially in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There is one important exception of course – your mother’s sister’s siblings are also your cousins, though no one bothers keeping track of such relationships over more than a generation.

Like in any other good religion, Hinduism doesn’t allow you to marry your cousins. And due to the weird definition of cousin, you effectively can’t marry someone from your gotra. That is supposed to be incestuous. If you have any doubts about this, please travel to Haryana and ask any of the khap panchayats there.

So among Brahmins (due to lack of sufficient data points, I’ll restrict my discourse to Brahmins), the most “popular” gotra is Bharadwaja. It is either the Rishi Bharadwaja himself, or some of his descendants, or all of them collectively, who did a “Genghiz Khan”. Rather, one should say that Genghiz Khan did a Rishi Bharadwaja. Because of this, Bharadwajas constitute a really large proportion of Brahmins. I’m not sure of exact statistics here, but they are easily the largest Brahmin Gotra.

So now, “rules” dictate that you should marry within your caste, but outside of your gotra. And this puts the Bharadwajas at a great disadvantage, for so many other Brahmins are Bharadwajas, that the sample space from which to look for a spouse is severely restricted indeed. I know of a cousin (mother’s father’s sister’s son’s daughter) who is a Bharadwaja, and who spent a really long time in the arranged marriage market. As I told you, restricted sample space. That way, people like me who belong to obscure gotras should consider ourselves lucky, I guess.

So if you are a Brahmin, and not a Bharadwaja, please help out a needy fellow-Brahmin, who may otherwise have to spend a really long time in the marriage market (arranged or otherwise) only because one of their ancestors happened to be particularly prolific. And this is one thing in which I can proudly claim to lead by example.

PS: The proportion of Bharadwajs among Brahmins might be overstated due to the sheer number of them who put the name of their Gotra as their surname. I don’t think putting gotra as surname is common among any other Brahmin gotra.

Family Associations

I spent some time this afternoon looking at the address book released by the association of descendants of my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather (yes, I’m serious; there does exist one such association). Since I didn’t have much else to do, I did go through much of the book in detail. The makers seem to have put hajaar fight in order to prepare it – calling up thousands of descandants and asking them for addresses and phone numbers. It also took quite long to make I suppose – my address and phone number that is put there are from last August.

The first thing I noticed about our family is that there is no such thing as a “family tree”. Us being Kannada Types and the customary incest being there, there are lots of cycles in the “family tree”. I noticed at least two cases of first cousins being married to each other. The book has handled this rather inelegantly – putting the same pair of names and addresses in two¬† places. However, I don’t know how they could’ve handled it more elegantly without embarrassing the incestuous couples – since the concept has become taboo only recently.

It was also interesting to look at the geographical distribution of the family. As expected, the maximum number of addresses are from Bangalore. Interestingly, Mysore also seems to have a lot of people from the family, with not too many people inhabiting other parts of India. There is an incredibly large number of people from the family in America, and they seem to be distributed in almost all parts – though with a bias to California (not just the Bay Area – I saw a number of southern California addresses.

Interestingly, other countries have little representation. There is one family in Australia and a couple of families in the Gelf. Interestingly, there is no one in England (the book lists two families with England addresses, but both of them have since returned to India (one of them is scheduled to move to the US soon) ). There also seems to be a high proportion of ABCDs – a large number of people seem to have emigrated in the 60s and 70s.

It seems like a large number of ABCD cousins and aunts and uncles have ended up marrying people of non-Indian origins, but it is hard to say where their spouses are. In true Kannadiga tradition, everyone has been listed by given name only (with a few initials thrown in here and there) which makes it hard to determine who is from where (talking about in-laws of the family).

Another interesting phenomenon is the strange names that have been given to people who seem to have been born in the last 10 years or so (I’m only talking of people with two Indian parents). Some people still continued to get named after Gods and other popular Indian names, but quite a few names of this generation seem to be the types that won’t be found in any Sanskrit dictionary.

I had a few other pertinent observations as I was going through the book, but I seem to have forgotten the rest. I’ll add them here if I remember any of those.