Speaking from Siva’s temple: Banaras scholar households and the Brahman ‘ecumene’ of Mughal India – Rosalind O’Hanlon

  • Abstract
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    By the early sixteenth century, a substantial community of Maratha Brahman scholar families had emerged in Mughal Banaras. These scholar households mobilized substantial cultural and practical resources to address the challenges that ‘early modernity’ posed to Brahman communities such as themselves. They provided the locale within which reputations were built up and skills passed on. Locating their assemblies in the city’s Visvesvara temple, Maratha scholar-intellectuals were able to advertise an arena where disputes could be resolved and Brahman unity restored. Drawing on older universalizing geographies of Brahman identity, they addressed their letters of judgement to Brahman communities across the ‘gauḍa’ and ‘drāviḍa’ regions of northern and southern India and appealed explicitly to a ‘we’ of the pious and discerning, the ‘good people’ of the Brahman śiṣṭa. This remarkable position of social and intellectual leadership emerged very much within the context of the Mughal imperial framework. The latter’s gradual disintegration also spelled the waning of this remarkable social formation within the city, as many of its functions passed to new regional states.
    Keywords

    * Brahman,
    * scholar,
    * household,
    * Banaras,
    * Mughal,
    * public

    Introduction
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    A consistent theme in recent social histories of early modern India has been the opportunities, as well as the challenges, that scribal specialists encountered during this era. 1 From the perspective of intellectual history too, the early modern centuries have been a particular focus of interest. The Sanskrit intellectual cultures of this period are now the subjects of an impressive body of scholarship. 2 In particular, attention has focussed on contemporary intellectuals’ engagement in self-consciously new and often more deliberately historical modes of thinking about their disciplines, often characterized by contemporaries as ‘navya’, although within a broader intellectual culture still deeply committed to ideas of continuity and stability. 3 This concern with ‘newness’ has provoked much disagreement. 4
    In terms of social history, there is still much that we do not yet know about these Brahman intellectuals and the nature of their social authority and ritual entitlements. What did Brahman privilege in its various different forms really mean in contemporary social terms, and what shifts and negotiations were necessary to maintain it? Being able to act and be treated as a Brahman was not only a matter of securing due recognition from those who were not Brahmans. Just as important, Brahman social authority rested on the ideals of unity and community among Brahmans themselves. How did contemporaries articulate these ideals in early modern India? 5
    These are important questions. The early modern centuries, and the framework of the Mughal Empire in particular, brought significant opportunities for Brahmans. The Mughal demand for cash revenues created substantial new advantages for Brahman office holders in the revenue systems of regional states, while the expansion of settled agriculture benefitted those, often Brahmans, with access to capital to undertake its development. Brahman families able to combine scribal skills, religious prestige and access to cash were able to accumulate substantial property rights in this setting. 6 The expansive cultural strategy developed at Akbar’s and at many regional courts drew in ambitious and talented Brahmans seeking patronage and promoted exchange between them. 7 Improved communications implied benefits for many different Brahman communities, from lowly priests who serviced north India’s pilgrim trades to intellectuals who sought wider audiences for their work and sectarian leaders looking to recruit new devotees. 8
    These same processes contributed to the emergence of Banaras, city of Siva, as a destination for hopeful Brahman migrants. The city was an unrivalled centre for Sanskrit education, a place where the learned could make their reputations with well-connected sponsors and the pious could meet wealthy patrons. Banaras also benefitted from its Mughal setting at another level. Particularly in matters of ritual entitlement and Hindu religious law, its pandit communities supplied the moral and judicial authority that some Muslim state officials of the period felt themselves unable to do. The latter sometimes referred difficult questions of religious law to the city, because its ‘pandits’ were the appropriate experts to decide matters pertaining to ‘Hindus’. 9 For leading scholar families in the city, this meant an opportunity to develop expertises in the practical context of disputes brought to them from outside the city. Derrett has rightly observed that Banaras’s leading pandit family, the Bhattas, were influential because they were willing to apply their deep knowledge of religious law to the resolution of practical sociopolitical disputes within the Maratha regions and beyond. 10 Connections of this kind were one of the many different ways in which Banaras stood at the centre of what, following Christopher Bayly, we might call Mughal India’s Brahman ‘ecumene’. 11
    But the Mughal milieu also imposed significant strains. Regional economic development and new forms of commercialization enabled some Brahmans to accumulate wealth and lucrative offices, whereas others clung on to petty local priestly roles or remained poor farmers. These changes deepened class divides between different Brahman communities, often resulting in fission and the creation of new sub-castes, of new hierarchies of worth amongst Brahmans themselves. This posed an acute challenge for Brahman religious authority. One way in which dharma, right action in the world, could be known for Brahmans was through the example of the śiṣṭa, the community of the learned and well-conducted. 12 At the same time, a person could be known as a śiṣṭa only by the fact that his actions were according to dharma. As Madhav Deshpande has pointed out, this involved a circularity. Sometimes this could be avoided, by maintaining that the śiṣṭa were in fact the pious and learned of the ancient world, such that their behaviour could be known outside the mutable world of the present. 13 But as we shall see, the pandit families of Banaras thought of themselves very much as the śiṣṭa in the present. This made acrimonious divisions between Brahman sub-castes particularly damaging.
    Brahman communities from the Maratha regions felt these challenges acutely. 14 The old religious centres of the Konkan littoral and the shrine towns that clustered along the Godavari, Bhima and Krishna Rivers clearly offered an environment in which the learned and the pious could flourish. Outside these centres, the relatively poor and famine-prone agrarian economy of the Deccan Plateau impelled Brahman families to diversify, to spread their risks beyond the precarious livelihoods to be earned as petty teachers, village priests, astrologers or small farmers. In some cases, this meant one or more members of the family migrating to Banaras; in others, it meant deploying their literate skills in state service and revenue administration. These opportunities expanded under the Bahmani kings and their successors in the states of the Deccan Sultanate and then, of course, within the Maratha state of the warrior king Sivaji. It became almost a cliché for seventeenth-century observers, including bhakti critics, that what Maratha Brahmans prized above all was secure positions in state service.15 These changes were to result in deepening divisions of status, wealth and opportunity amongst the region’s Brahman communities and unseemly factional struggles that reached their climax under the Brahman governments of the eighteenth-century Maratha state.
    As a consequence, in part, of these regional pressures, a substantial community of Maratha Brahman scholar families had emerged in Banaras by the middle of the sixteenth century. The scholar households of the city were able to mobilize substantial cultural and practical resources to address these problems of ‘early modernity’. Within the household or panditgharāṇa, skills were passed to new generations. Locating their assemblies in the city’s temple to Visvesvara, Siva in his guise as Lord of All, reconstructed probably with patronage from leading lights at Akbar’s court, Maratha pandit families were able to advertise an arena where disputes could be resolved and Brahman unity restored. The expanding conduits of news, discussion and social communication associated with the Mughal court and its regional client states facilitated these families’ efforts. Drawing on older universalizing geographies of Brahman identity in this new Mughal context, they addressed their letters of judgement to Brahman communities across the ‘gauḍa’ and ‘drāviḍa’ regions of northern and southern India and appealed explicitly to a ‘we’ of the pious and discerning, the ‘good people’ of the Brahman śiṣṭa.
    This remarkable position of social and intellectual leadership exercised from Banaras thus emerged very much within the context of the Mughal imperial framework. This also meant, however, that the gradual decay and disintegration of that framework and the passing of political power to India’s regions from the end of the seventeenth century spelled the waning of this remarkable social formation within the city.
    Families in motion: Maratha Brahman migrations to Banaras
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    The growth of Maratha Brahman dominance in Banaras had some of its beginnings in the city’s own changing religious culture. Bakker and Isaacson suggested that Qutb al-Din Aibak’s destruction of many of the city’s older temples and shrines in 1194 prepared the ground for the rise of Banaras as the uniquely favoured city of maraṇamukti, where Siva’s teachings, whispered into the ear of the dying, brought certain liberation to the soul. 16 The Kāśīkhaṇḍa described the ancient king Divodas’s relinquishing of Kasi so that Siva could make his home in his beloved city. The purana marks a point in the consolidation of this ‘new’ Banaras as the subcontinent’s supreme centre of spiritual power and stronghold of Saivite Brahman prestige. It described in detail the awe-inspiring temple to Visvesvara in the centre of the city, with its four mandapams or pavilions: the Aisvarya to the north, the Jnana to the east, the Mukti pavilion – beloved home of Siva himself – to the south and the Srngara pavilion in front of it. 17 The dating of both the Kāśīkhaṇḍa and the Visvesvara temple it celebrates remains controversial, although there is clear evidence for the destruction of a Visvesvara temple in the first half of the fifteenth century, when materials from it appear in nearby Jaunpur. 18
    The Kāśīkhaṇḍa gained particular depth and resonance from the relationships that it described between Kasi and pious people and places elsewhere in the subcontinent. The Vedic sage Agastya, with his southern associations, occupies a prominent place in the narrative. The ‘southern’ direction, dakṣiṇā āśā, was represented in a particularly alluring way, the sensuousness of its spice-filled airs, its luscious fruits, swelling mountains and charming languages causing the gods themselves to linger there. 19 This quickly opened the door to regional translations of the Kāśīkhaṇḍa, which promoted the consoling attractions of the ‘south’, with its own holy spots, from which the pious soul could long for Kasi but without experiencing the pains and disappointments that encounters with the real city sometimes brought. 20
    Also adding to the prestige of Banaras was its expanding population of scholars, amongst which learned families from the Maratha regions came to predominate. External events may have precipitated particular waves of migration: the fall of Yadava Devagiri in 1294 and decline of nearby Paithan as a centre of Brahman learning, the catastrophic Deccan famines of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and the affluence of Banaras itself during the fifteenth century, brought by its close proximity to Jaunpur under the Sharqi dynasty. 21 We know quite a lot about the most prominent of the Maratha pandit families – Bhattas, Devas, Sesas, Puntambkars, Caturdharas, Bharadavajas – who migrated in this way, but less about the practicalities of their migrations. 22 These often took place as a series of smaller and local moves. Once established in Banaras, there were commonly comings and goings over several generations before a distinctive ‘Kasi’ branch of the family emerged. In addition, Banaras was commonly only one destination for migrant families, who might despatch further members to establish themselves at other courtly or religious centres flourishing within the Mughal imperial framework.
    The Sesa family provides a good example. 23 The most detailed family history that we have traces their origins back to a thirteenth-century ancestor, Ramakrsna, who held lands in Nanded, an important centre of learning and pilgrimage on the eastern Godavari. 24 He had three sons, Ganesapant, Vitthalapant and Bopajipant. Ganesapant and his descendants remained in Nanded. Descendants of Vitthalapant left for Bijapur, and in the 1560s we find one of them, Vamanpandit bin Anant Sesa, working as royal librarian to Ali Adil Shah I (1558–1580). 25 Vamanpandit’s grandson was the Marathi poet Waman Pandit (1608–1695), who spent his youth in Bijapur, but went to Banaras for his education in Sanskrit. 26 Another notable descendant of the Nanded family was Narasimha Sesa, who moved to the Bijapur court, probably in the first half of the sixteenth century. His expertise led the pandits at the court to confer on the family the title of ‘Bhaṭṭa-bhaṭṭāraka’, ‘revered among scholars’. 27 His son was the grammarian Krsna Sesa, who emerged, as we shall see, as a prominent leader of the Banaras pandit community by the 1580s.
    But by this time, other Sesas, probably descendants of Vitthalapant, were already well established in Banaras. One Visnu Sesa moved there from Nanded, according to the family history, in the later fifteenth century. A family story conveys something of the individual ways in which such decisions might have been taken and the relationship with broader family strategies. Visnu Sesa moved to Banaras for his Sanskrit studies after developing a settled dislike of his elder brother’s wife, for her scoldings about his study habits. In Banaras, he quickly excelled as a grammarian himself, early winning the title of sabhāpati, ‘lord of the assembly’, for his outstanding performances in debate. 28 It is not clear exactly what the relationship was between this branch of the family and the father and son Narasimha Sesa and Krsna Sesa mentioned above. If, as seems likely, there was a connection, it meant that when Krsna Sesa moved to Banaras, he was going not to a city where he would be a stranger, but to a place where there was an established network of Sesa households, with a reputation as grammarians already developed. Moreover, the links between Banaras and Nanded continued. In a family document confirming a division of lands in Nanded, dated to 1629, one Vasudeva Pant Sesa, ‘resident of Kasi’, is a party to the document. 29
    Such continuing connections are evident in the lives of less well-known pandits too. Ramacandra, a member of the Jade family of Karhade Brahmans from Narwe in the southern Konkan, moved to Banaras in the first or second decade of the seventeenth century, following a visit of the distinguished philosopher saint of Banaras, Bhaskarananda, to the family’s home. By the 1630s, the Jade family was appearing in the city’s pandit assemblies. Annotations to the catalogue of the extensive library that the family built up reveal their continuing interest in the work of scholars back in the Konkan. 30 Members of the Arade family of Karhades, also from the southern Konkan, migrated south to Karnataka, east to the town of Saugor in modern Madhya Pradesh, as well as to Banaras. The family was well settled in the city by the 1630s, when the scholar Narayanabhatta Arade flourished as a logician and learned commentator on dharmaśāstra and kāvya and the family sufficiently well established to take part in the pandit assemblies. However, Narayanabhatta maintained his links with the south, recording that he completed works at Hyderabad in 1640 and at Pune in 1651. 31
    The scholar household and the Brahman ‘ecumene’ in Banaras
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    Following the work of Bayly and others, we now have some understanding of the place of Banaras and its scholar-intellectuals within the Indian ‘ecumene’. 32 Pandits such as Narayanabhatta of the Bhatta family during Akbar’s time and Kavindracarya during the time of Shah Jahan negotiated with the Mughal court on behalf of wider constituencies of the Hindu pious. They maintained good connections with the Mughal court, Kavindracarya particularly through the relationship he enjoyed with Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shukoh. 33 They received addresses of thanks for their services from grateful Brahmans in other parts of India. 34 Rulers and sometimes pandit communities themselves conferred titles in public recognition of conspicuous learning. 35 Honours and rewards were also bestowed for success in the public disputations that great men as well as rulers staged as a form of prestige entertainment and elite cultural patronage. 36 In terms of religious culture, Advaitin views were beginning to come to dominate the literate institutions and public arenas of the city. 37
    However, what remains less well explored is the role of the scholar household in this quasi ‘public sphere’. 38 Well represented in Banaras, the great sectarian maṭhs were themselves powerful centres of teaching, learning and scholarly communication. 39 Many sanyasis appear as the teachers of scholar pandits in particular disciplines. In the sanyasi Kavindracarya, the city found one of its most brilliant scholars, teachers and conduits of patronage to the learned and pious.40 By the middle of the seventeenth century, as Bernier recorded, Rajput patronage founded schools for pupils of the elites in the city. 41
    For most Banaras scholars, however, the household provided the vital mainstay of their working lives. It is difficult to find direct accounts of the pedagogy of the scholar household. Vedic tradition prescribed that a Brahman boy undergo his initiation before joining the household of his instructor. This relationship was understood very much in filial terms, some texts representing the student quite literally as an ‘embryo’ within the teacher’s body. 42 Most students seem to have been educated partly within their own households, as we saw happening in the Sesa family. Many contemporaries prefaced their writings with elaborate tributes to their fathers as teachers: Narayanabhatta himself recorded that he had learned all of the sastras at the feet of his own father. 43 Fathers sometimes wrote texts for the instruction of their sons, as Kamalakarabhatta did when he composed a work on mantras for his son Anantabhatta. 44 We can think of many lineages where particular disciplines were a speciality: the Bhattas and Devas for mīmāṃsā, the Sesas for grammar, the Puntamkars for logic. As sons matured, they might write alongside their fathers and in some cases complete their works. Gagabhatta completed his father’s digest the Dinakaroddyota. 45 Samkarabhatta edited and added to the work of his father Nilakanthabhatta, who was the cousin of Kamalakarabhatta and author of major works on religious law. 46 As Benke has described, Krsna Sesa very likely completed the Govindārṇava of his father Narasimha. 47 The intensive ritual work of the householder is likely also to have offered opportunities for the education of sons. 48 Considerable investment thus went into the training of sons, for they represented in effect the family’s future intellectual capital.
    Marriage strategies were consequently important for pandit households in building up their resources and reputations. When Mahadeva Bharadavaja came to Banaras, he married the daughter of the Nilakanthabhatta just mentioned and established the Bharadavajas thereafter as a leading scholarly family in the city. 49 Sometimes marriage relationships with families back in the Maratha regions could be equally effective. The Arade family in Banaras, whose migrations we followed above, had long established ties with the eminent Padhye family of scholars from the Konkan and Pandharpur, the Padhyes sending sons to study with Arade teachers in Banaras, and the Arades marrying their daughters to Padhye sons. 50
    But of course students learned in other scholar households beside their own. Banaras in this period offered an extraordinary wealth of teacherly talent: long settled scholars and recent arrivals, local householders and sanyasis from the city’s monastic institutions, polymaths and single-discipline specialists. Bhattoji Diksita had Krsna Sesa as his teacher in grammar and the prominent scholar-sanyasi of Banaras, Narsimhasram, as his teacher in Vedanta. 51 The poet Nilakantha Sukla had Bhattoji Diksita as his teacher in grammar and Bhatta Srimanda in alaṃkāraśāstra. 52 Some contemporaries had teachers in many different individual disciplines: Nilakantha Caturdhara recorded the names of six, in the Vedas, Vedanta, sacrificing, logic, yoga and śrauta. 53
    Bernier’s well-known description of the ‘private houses’ in which most Sanskrit teaching took place in Banaras of the 1660s may reflect these accommodative arrangements. The masters were
    dispersed over different parts of the town in private houses, and principally in the gardens of the suburbs, which the rich merchants permit them to occupy. Some of these masters have four disciples, others six or seven, but this is the largest number. 54
    Thus in the Sesa household, the great grammarian Bhattoji Diksita was a pupil of Krsna Sesa, thus educated in the same household as Krsna Sesa’s son Viresvara. Viresvara’s student, the great poet Panditaraja Jagannatha, would thus have received his education alongside Viresvara’s own son, Cakrapani. 55
    The scholar household thus included the networks of quasi-filial relationships established by teachers and their students. In terms of household strategy, this made excellent sense. It widened the pool of intellectual talent on which a family could draw for the education of its sons. It was an essential component of a scholar’s reputation, which depended not only on the works of learning that he wrote, but on the numbers of famous students trained by him, and who went on to spread his traditions of learning further afield. 56 It guarded against the possibility that there might be no sons or sons who lacked aptitude for the profession of their fathers.
    Manuscript libraries were another way in which scholar households operated as intellectual and pedagogical concerns. Great libraries were naturally associated with royal households and with the maṭhs of the ascetic orders. 57 But Maratha scholar-intellectuals in Banaras were able to accumulate significant manuscript libraries. In March 1651 in Pune, the mobile scholar Narayanabhatta Arade composed his Pūjāsāgara, a compendium of correct ritual practices. But he apologized for some parts of the work, for, he explained, he was away from Banaras and did not have access to all of the works at his residence. 58 The Jade family noticed above amassed a very substantial library, particularly in works of Advaita Vedanta. The early nineteenth-century catalogue to the library suggests that it was cross-referenced according to discipline, making it an effective intellectual tool for a working scholar. 59
    Such libraries were part of the family’s capital, intellectual as well as material, and a key basis for its livelihood. 60 The work of sons and pupils was important, adding to the household’s stock of manuscripts by copying new ones or replacing texts worn out through use or damaged by careless handling, spillages, the ravages of insects, damp and other such enemies of paper documents. 61 Borrowing and lending texts, often a few manuscript pages at a time, was another way of augmenting the household’s collection. 62 Such lending was sometimes a source of anxiety and exasperation, of the kind that the peshwa Bajirao I (r. 1720–1740) expressed when he found that the copy of the Vedabhāsya he had lent was difficult to trace, as it had been passed from hand to hand. 63
    Something of this personal relationship between the text, the copyist, the needs of the household and the household’s reputation with others emerges in the discourse of the seventeenth-century poet saint Ramdas on the study of writing. This discourse included detailed guidance on the preparation of good ink and even strokes of the pen in forming each Devanagari character, ‘so that a person looking at it will think that the whole book, from the first letter right to the end, has been written by the same pen’. 64 The young were reminded that although their eyes could take in small print, the eyes of the old could not, and they should therefore make their letters big enough to accommodate the deficiencies of their elders. The margins needed to be sufficiently generous so that wear on the edges of the pages would not damage the inscribed area. If a manuscript was written with this degree of skill and care, ‘people will imagine all sorts of things about who could have written it, and they will say, “We must see this man”’. 65
    The unity of the scholar family and its intellectual production also came together in matters of law. A very important question for such families was that of vidyādhana, ‘gains of learning’. Were the earnings of learning and teaching the property of the individual scholar, or did such wealth belong to the whole household? Nilakantha Bhatta explored this point in hisVyavahāramayūkha, written between the second and fourth decades of the seventeenth century. The work affirmed the rights of the individual in wealth obtained by teaching, by the exhibition of learning or ability in disputation or by ‘means of eminent study’. However, reflecting the influence in southern India of the scholar-jurist Mitaksara, Nilakantha affirmed the jointness of the scholar household’s property. Wealth acquired by brothers from learning gained within the family, or as the result of the father’s teaching, or acquired by one scholar-brother whilst he was being supported by another constituted the joint property of the whole family, on which members had a claim if the property were to be divided. 66
    These were not just abstract discussions. In the Sesa family, it is striking that of the two brothers Viresvara and Narayana, the former is not known to have left any works, whereas the latter found time to write. Aryavaraguru speculated that Viresvara’s engagements as a teacher took up all his time, and we have noted some of those engagements above. 67 Would his earnings have gone to support the whole household, including the family of his scholarly brother? Family and property rights affected relationships in other ways too. In the well-known rivalry between Nilakantha and his cousin Kamalakarabhatta, one issue they differed about was the degree of ownership that fathers had in their sons. Although Nilakantha had emphasized the jointness of the scholar household, he stopped short of arguing that this gave rise to any actual right of property in sons or in wives. Kamalakarabhatta took a more assertive view of the internal dependencies of the extended family. In his great compendium the Nirṇayasindhu, he asserted that only a fool could think that a man had no rights of ownership in his own son. 68
    It was also as part of successful extended families that Maratha scholar-intellectuals presented themselves in their writings. At the start or end of their works, authors described the accomplishments of their lineage, acknowledged their debts and advertised their own talents. Raghavabhatta, the late fifteenth-century author of a commentary on the Śākuntala, described his grandfather Ramesvarabhatta, an expert in dialectics, residing in Nasik, on the banks of the Godavari, and his father, Prthvidharabhatta, well versed in mīmāṃsā and Vedanta. Prthvidharabhatta migrated from Nasik to Banaras, where Raghavabhatta was born. Raghavabhatta evidently considered himself a worthy scion of the house, for he described himself as an expert in Vedanta, logic, mīmāṃsā, mathematics, medicine, erotics, music and other arts. 69 The colophons of pupils were equally effective in advertising the merits of the scholar-intellectual, as the Maratha scholar Raghunatha Navahastha made clear in the eulogies to his teacher Anantadeva that appear in many of his works. 70
    Families displayed themselves together in person too. As we shall see, fathers and sons, teachers and their students appeared together in the ‘public’ forum of pandit assemblies. Scholar-brothers might attend competitive public debates together. Bhattoji Diksita and his brother Rangojibhatta went to the Ikkeri court of Venkatappa Nayaka I (1595–1629), where they defeated a Madhva ascetic in debate and received many honours. 71 The award of titles to individuals sometimes had a public afterlife for their families. Visnu Sesa’s title of sabhāpati and Narasimha Sesa’s title of bhaṭṭa-bhaṭṭārākar continued to be enjoyed in person by the Sesas after his death. 72
    What we can glimpse into other aspects of the life of the household, of course, is only fragmentary. Deshpande suggests that these families may have spoken Marathi at home, with a Hindi dialect for communicating with neighbours, and Sanskrit itself as the language of learning. 73 We do not know how far they shared the same hearth. Krsna Sesa had a brother, Cintamani, and his two sons, Viresvara and Narayana, noted above. They, their parents, their wives and children would very likely have occupied the same family home, perhaps in a wada, the old-style mansion built around a courtyard that was a typical form of domestic architecture in Maharashtra of the period. 74 But would the four sons of Samkarabhatta, grandson of the first Bhatta to move to Banaras, have continued to live in the same household? At some point, of course, such households would need to have divided, with implications for division of family property and many other formerly joint arrangements.
    The family history written by this Samkarabhatta demonstrates many strategies of the migrant scholar household. 75 In the first decade of the sixteenth century, his grandfather Ramesvarabhatta moved from Paithan some 80 miles west to Sangamner, where he set up as a teacher. Failing to have a son, he and his wife went to Kolhapur to worship the family deity, but they took his students with him. The visit was successful and, convinced that she was carrying a son who would be a great scholar, the family went on to Krsnadevaraya’s Vijayanagar to see its wealth of learning. Their son, Narayanabhatta, was born in 1513, but he developed consumption. So the family, again along with Ramesvara’s students, went to Dwarka for a cure. Here, Ramesvara spent some time training a local student to carry on his own intellectual traditions in that city. From there Ramesvara returned to Paithan. After some 3 or 4 years in the city, he and his household left for Banaras, where they settled. Here, the remarkable Bhatta dynasty emerged. Outstanding scholars in many disciplines emerged from the next four generations of sons and cousins, whose working lives spanned the middle of the sixteenth century to the end of the seventeenth. 76
    However, Samkarabhatta made it clear that the quasi-filial connections between leading members of the Bhatta family and their pupils were equally important as a measure of his family’s success. He describes how famous scholars came from Dravida, Gurjara, Kanyakubja, Malwa, Braja, Mithila, the Himalayan regions, Karnata, Utkala, the Konkan, Gauda, Andhra, Mathura, Kamarupa and other parts of India came to learn with his father and grandfather. 77
    The scholar household was thus a mainstay in the lives of Banaras’s Maratha intellectuals. What made possible the brilliant achievements of so many of their members during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was precisely that corporate and familial dimension of their lives which we, perhaps, do not often associate with individual intellectual distinction. The household provided an exceptionally high degree of specialized training and accumulation of expertise, very much in the same way that heritable craft specializations produced outstanding levels of skill in other areas of the early modern Indian economy. 78 In Mughal Banaras, there was a unique concentration of such households, linked by ties of family, migration and pedagogy to Brahman communities elsewhere in India, creating a critical mass, which multiplied in its effects.
    The scholar household in this setting was not a ‘private’ sphere in any simple sense, contrasted with the ‘public’ of the city and its political and intellectual life. 79 It was part of a wider network of pedagogy which itself constituted an important dimension of the Brahman ‘ecumene’. In many ways, it was an ideal milieu for students to acquire the deep disciplinary expertises and intellectual confidence that the training of the household could provide, but in a setting of considerable intellectual and cultural heterogeneity. Here, shifting populations of mobile scholars, seekers of enlightment, ritual specialists, travelling ascetics and pilgrims could open up wider horizons for students and prompt them to ask new questions about established bodies of knowledge, their intellectual underpinnings and their relation to one another and to the pressures and dilemmas of the present. Such might have been the context, at least, in which the scholar-intellectuals of early modern Banaras and their compeers at centres elsewhere in India wielded their remarkable disciplinary skills, but for the purposes of reappraisal and critique, in some cases, of the foundations of those disciplines themselves.
    Geographies of Brahman identity
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    From their vantage point in Banaras, how did these scholar families view Brahman communities in other parts of India? 80Around the end of the first millennium, there seems to have begun a gradual move to develop a classification of regions as markers of Brahman origins and affiliation, in addition to the older identifiers of family śākhā or branch of Vedic study andgotra or exogamous lineage unit. 81 Certain geographical concepts emerged with especial significance. Dākśiṇātya, ‘southerner’, seems to have been an important and perhaps prestigious identifier for many Maratha pandits. It was associated with the old centres of Brahman learning on the Godavari and other rivers of central southern India, perhaps seen from the vantage point of Mughal Banaras as the pristine remains of older traditions of small town scholarship and piety that had remained untouched by the sometimes uncomfortable compromises of the present. 82 Many scholars described themselves as ‘southerners’ in this way. 83 Some part of Narayanabhatta’s reputation depended on his consistent advocacy of the intellectual traditions of ‘the south’. 84 An important part of these lay in the distinctive Mitaksara approach to family law, as we have seen in the compendium of family law, the Vyavahāramayūkha, compiled by Narayanabhatta’s son Nilakantha.
    Dakśiṇātya scholars in Banaras were numerous enough to attract hostile comment. The Kanyakubja Brahman Dhiresvara Misra was teacher in logic to Nīlakaṇṭha Caturdhara. In his compendium the Dvijarājodaya, ‘Rise of the kingdom of the twice-born’, composed about 1630, he made a series of sarcastic attacks on what he called the navīnadākṣiṇātyāḥ, the ‘new southerner’ or ‘southerners’. Sometimes he referred to these, perhaps with some irony, as the dākṣiṇātyaśiṣṭammanyāḥ, ‘the southerners who fancy themselves learned’. 85 It may be possible to see here the resentment of a Kanyakubja Brahman for the collective esprit de corps of the city’s dākṣiṇātya Brahmans, who seemed to think of themselves very much as the learnedśiṣṭa of the contemporary world.
    As we shall see, however, both Brahmans in the city and those in the regions who looked to the learned in Banaras for the resolution of disputes sought to develop a more comprehensive classification of the mobile Brahman communities of the subcontinent and one without particular regional partialities. By the end of the first millennium, we begin to see evidence of such a classification based on the notion that there were pañca gauḍa or ‘five northern’ and pañca drāviḍa, ‘five southern’ communities of Brahmans.
    How did this classification arise? ‘Gauḍa’ we know variously is the name of the ancient kingdom of Gauḍa in West Bengal, the country in which Bengali is spoken, and as a collective name for the eastern regions of India. 86 Generic territorial names were often a combination of cultural and linguistic regions together with elaborate classifications on the basis of numbers: the ‘fifty-six countries’ of India, the ‘seven Koṅkaṇas’ of the Konkan region, the ‘five drāviḍas’ said to be part of the realm ruled by the Colas, the ‘three Kaliṅgas’ of the old Kalinga empire in central eastern India. 87
    As Whitney Cox has suggested, however, these territorial names could be recruited to new uses, to describe peoples rather than territories, and in a more deliberately systematizing way. 88 Perhaps significantly, given their location between north and south, the earliest uses of the pañca gauḍa and pañca drāviḍa classification together seem to be from the Maratha regions. A Rastrakuta grant of 926 CE from the town of Samyana in the northern Konkan describes the gifting of revenues for the feeding of nine persons belonging to the pañca gauḍīya mahā parisad, the ‘great assembly of the five gauḍas’ settled in the town. 89
    The most widely circulated early reference to the pañca gauḍa/pañca drāviḍa formulation together is in western Maharashtra’s ‘purana of place’, the Sahyādrikhaṇḍa. 90 This purana describes the god Parasurama’s settlement of the region with its many different Brahman communities. In the context of a discussion about the origins of Chitpavan Brahmans, Skanda asks Mahadev to explain the 10-fold division of Brahmans. Mahadev’s reply is interesting because it indicates that although the classification itself was recognized, which Brahmans actually belonged to each grouping was still indeterminate:
    The Drāviḍās, Telaṅgās, Karnātās, Madhyadeśas and Gurjaras are the pañca drāviḍas. The Sāraswatās, Kānyakubjās, Utkalās, Maithilās and Gauḍā are the pañca gauḍas. These are the ten kinds of Brahmans. Similarly, some say that the pañca gauḍas consist of the Trihotrās, Agnivaiśyās, Kānyakubjās, Kanojyās and Maitrāyanās. All these divisions of Brahmans were made by the rishis. Throughout this wide land, each of them follows the practices of their own countries. 91
    Mahadev hastened to add that nonetheless all shared the distinguishing marks that united all Brahmans. ‘All of these Brahmans have the gayatri mantra, and they have their rituals said with Vedic mantras. They all have the same six karmas.’ 92
    An inscription of CE 1425, in the Virinchipuram temple in the northern Arcot district, records the proceedings of an assembly of Brahmans. Although it does not allude to the ‘five drāviḍas’, it does show the way in which affiliations of gotra and śākhāpersisted alongside this emerging vocabulary of regional affiliations for Brahmans. The Brahmans who signed the document committed themselves neither to give, nor to take, money at the marriage of a daughter. ‘According to this, if the Brahmans of this kingdom of Paḍaivīḍu, Kaṇṇaḍigas, Tamiṛas, Teluṅgas, Ilāḷas, of all gotras, sūtras and śākhās conclude a marriage, they shall, from this day forward, do it by kanyādāna.’ 93 Regional identifications of this kind for Brahmans were commonplace by this period.
    But what ‘work’ did the more specific classification of ‘five gauḍa’ and ‘five drāviḍa’ communities of Brahmans do, over the long period of its development? Madhav Deshpande suggested a link with earlier phases of Brahman migration south of the Vindhyas. It provided a framework for what were often fierce political battles that continued into the early modern period, to explain the cultural differences between Brahman communities of different regions, to include some within the ambit of approved Brahman identities and to exclude others. 94 Further research is needed into the uses of this classification in other regions of India. However, it is possible too that it emerged earliest and most clearly among Brahmans of the Maratha regions precisely because these regions lay between ‘north’ and ‘south’, making it particularly important for these Brahmans to establish a clear geography of Brahman identity within which their own communities could be located.
    The Maratha scholar-intellectuals of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Banaras and their constituencies in the regions were active players in the development of the classification. As we shall see, for Brahmans back in the Maratha country who took their disputes to Banaras, the clear grid of regional affiliations represented in the pañca gauḍa/pañca drāviḍa conception was attractive because it offered the chance to anchor local and perhaps precarious identities within a framework that aspired, at least, to be recognized across the subcontinent. For the pandit assemblies themselves, the classification provided an authoritative grid onto which they could map the place of every local Brahman community. It offered an extremely useful tool in determining what and who a Brahman was and in bringing cohesion to the fractious communities who claimed that status for themselves.
    The pañca gauḍa/pañca drāviḍa conception also came to fulfil an important judicial role. It suggested both comprehensiveness of representation among the assemblies of Brahmans brought together to consider questions of ritual authority and religious law and the broad Brahman audiences to which they addressed their findings. In this sense, one might almost see this conception, articulated from Siva’s own city, as a Brahman version of the tour d’horizon contained in the royaldigvijaya, enumerating all of the different regional Brahman communities of the subcontinent claimed as a part of its unifying sociological framework. Brought to bear in the new communicative spaces of Mughal India, this older universalizing geography of the Sanskrit cosmopolitan sphere enabled the assemblies to present themselves as something like an all-India deliberative Brahman ‘public’.
    The Banaras assemblies and their appeals gave a powerful forward impulse to the wider currency of the pañca gauḍa andpañca drāviḍa conception. By 1749, for example, we find the concept invoked at the Satara court as a means of demarcating the ritual entitlements of Brahmans from those of their kāyastha rivals. 95 We saw above the ties of teaching and marriage that linked the Arade family of Banaras with the Padhyes of the Konkan. In 1756, the Padhye brothers were locked in bitter dispute at the peshwa’s court in Pune over their rights to priestly office in the Konkan. The brothers demanded: ‘Let us you and we sit down together in front of the five draviḍas, and talk of the justice in this case.’ 96 The classification also entered popular traditions of narrative poetry, appearing in the kathā of one Anand, whose poem about the rise of Citpavan Brahmans was performed at the Satara court in 1820. 97 By the start of the nineteenth century, in colonial and Indian commentaries alike, the categories of pañca gauḍa and pañca drāviḍa had become the standard way of classifying the subcontinent’s Brahman communities. 98
    Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of the assemblies
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    Let us turn now to Visvesvara temple in Banaras, which the pandit assemblies advertised as the location for their meetings. The temple was rebuilt during Akbar’s time, probably during the 1570s or 1580s, under the leadership of Narayanabhatta of the Bhatta family. 99 I have argued elsewhere that the temple followed the earlier cruciform layout described in theKāśīkhaṇḍa. 100 The traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier, touring in India between 1638 and 1643, described ‘the pagoda of Benares, which, after that of Jagannath, is the most famous in all India, and of equal sanctity’. It was built in the form of a cross, with four equal arms, in the middle of which
    a lofty dome rises like a kind of tower with many sides terminating in a point, and at the end of each arm of the cross another tower rises, which can be ascended from outside. Before reaching the top there are many niches and several balconies, which project to intercept the fresh air; and all over the tower there are rudely executed figures in relief of various kinds of animals. 101
    As Michell has suggested, the temple so constructed illustrates the way in which Mughal building techniques could be brought into the service of Hindu ritual requirements. 102
    Visiting the city in September 1632, the traveller and commercial prospector Peter Mundy went inside the temple
    where, in the middle, on a place elevated, is a stone in forme like a Hatters blocke plaine and unwrought, as per the figure; on which they that resort powre water of the River, flowres, rice, Butter, which here (by reason of the heat) is most comonly liquid, whilest the Bramane reads or sayes something which the Vulgar understands not. Over it hanges a Canopie of Silke and about it severall Lampes lighted. 103
    Tavernier also ventured inside, where he saw many other deities, which suggest a broad and inclusive religious culture for the temple: ‘Bainmadou’, Visnu in his guise as Veni Madhava, lord of the junction of the three sacred rivers, Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati, which meet together at Prayag; the massive gold figure of Visnu’s mount, Garuda; and Murlidhara, Krsna playing the flute. 104
    The central Asian traveller Maḥmūd Balkhī, who toured north India between 1624 and 1631, noted the bustle and crowds of pilgrims visiting what he called ‘the temple of Lala Bir Singh’:
    This temple is situated in the heart of Banaras, and is made of stone and brick. Its height is 130 zira (yards) and the interior circumference is one hundred zira (yards), consisting of wonderful aspects and high verandahs. Outside this grand and matchless building are a school, a worship house, an inn, about 80 houses in all, fully occupied and engaged. Although the worship was coming to an end, the men and women were dispersing, nearly thirty thousand women and men together and close (to each other) were present on that unique place. Orators, reciters of holy books, dominis, and all the administrators of affairs and others were present. Everyone stayed with their respective guides. Due to the large crowd and the ecstasy due to religious songs, it was difficult to keep one’s bearing there. 105
    The charismatic deities of the temple were beginning to attract the attention of Rajput rulers anxious to associate themselves with its power. At some point in the decades after the rebuilding of the 1580s, the Visvesvara temple may have benefitted from the beneficence of Vir Singh Bundela, ruler of Orccha between 1605 and 1627, for here we see Maḥmūd Balkhī describing it as the temple of ‘Lala Bir Singh’. 106
    Raja Jai Singh of Amer also established close links with the temple. He built a school attached to it for the education of children of noble families. 107 He also constructed a shrine to house Parvati, consort of Siva, in her form of Annapurna, goddess of nourishment and food and a presiding deity of Banaras. This deity, Tavernier tells us, had formerly been in the Visvesvara temple itself, but ‘the Raja desiring to have this idol in the pagoda of his house and to remove it from the great pagoda, has expended in gifts to the Brahmans and in alms to the poor more than 500,000 rupees, which make 750,000 livres of our money’. Newly adorned with jewels and pearls, the goddess stood in a specially constructed shrine attached to the Raja’s house. 108
    What do we know about the Muktimandapam itself, where the pandit assemblies described themselves as meeting? Its name suggests a peculiar sacred quality: in the city itself of mukti, liberation, this is the liberation’s own pavilion. Let us go back to the Kāśīkhaṇḍa, because for his late sixteenth-century guide to Kasi, the Tristalīsetu, Narayanabhatta reproduced much of theKāśīkhaṇḍa’s fourteenth-century description. 109 Having described the whole temple as the place of his greatest happiness and beautiful abode of his sports, Siva goes on to the Muktimandapam itself. ‘To the south thereof is the abode of the glory of salvation, my pavilion. I stay there always. That is my hall of assembly, sadomaṇḍapa.’ 110
    After reproducing Siva’s description of the extraordinary merits that pilgrims would gain by actions performed in the pavilion, Narayanabhatta departed from the text of the Kāśīkhaṇḍa and inserted his own lines, perhaps to re-emphasize the associations of the pavilion with discussions in matters of religious law: ‘Because one can worship in the pavilion of liberation, and converse on matters of dharma there, as well as listen to the Puranas, a man who is a receptacle of dharma should live in Kasi.’ 111 Narayanabhatta’s text then returned to the Kāśīkhaṇḍa for his description of the other three pavilions. But it was the Muktimandapam, the ‘southern’ pavilion, whose prestige and spiritual potency shine out most in these passages that he reproduced. The suggestion of ‘southern’ authorship for the Kāśīkhaṇḍa can only be speculative. What is certain, however, is that by the time of Narayanabhatta, the ‘southern’ pavilion was acquiring associations with a new kind of ‘southern’ prestige, in the southern or dakśinātya origins of many of the learned scholars who were coming to dominate the assemblies held there.
    Perhaps most interestingly, the Muktimandapam seems to have been familiar to Brahman audiences outside the city. TheVāḍeśvarodaya-kāvya, by one Visvanatha, of the Pitre family of Karhade Brahmans from the Konkan, was completed in the third or fourth decade of the seventeenth century. 112 The work celebrated the temple to Vadesvara, family deity of many Chitpavan Brahmans, at Guhagar in the Ratnagiri district of the Konkan. Amongst the many stories he told, Visvanatha described how pandits in the sacred Muktimandapam at Banaras had held investigations to determine whether the presence of the gods in the great peaks of the Sahyadri range transformed those peaks into gold, as a Suta or teller of puranic histories had told them. Was śabdaprāmāṇya, the authority of the puranic scriptures, greater than that of pratyakṣaprāmāṇya, the authority of evidence that could be seen? A messenger was despatched to find out. The mountains, when he got there, were made of ordinary earth. But the lump of soil he carried back with him to show his masters in Banaras was transformed into gold as soon as it came within the boundaries of the city. After seeing it, the doubters in the Muktimandapam found their confidence in the truths of the eternal Vedas restored – and happily, perhaps, the authority of the sastras and the truths of visual evidence to be at one.
    Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies and their judgements
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    It was thus very much in the setting of Mughal Banaras, with its links with the Mughal court, and with its elite culture of Rajput patronage and pious public building, that the Maratha scholar-intellectuals were able to find a place of such grandeur for their meetings. The form of their assemblies was straightforward: it was the standard dharmasabhā or pariṣad of learned Brahmans called to settle disputes or prescribe penances in matters of religious law. 113 The disputes brought to them were very much the local consequences of the wider pressures of ‘early modernity’ discussed at the start of this essay.
    Devarukhe or Devarsi Brahmans and their relations with the Citpavan community in the Konkan were the subject of an ongoing struggle. Devarsis who had migrated to Banaras were successful, indeed prestigious ritual specialists. However, their caste-fellows who had remained behind in the Konkan were locked in a dispute with their Citpavan Brahman neighbours, which seems to have had its origins in the Devarukhes’ refusal to work as labourers for their wealthier Citpavan neighbours.114 A Marathi letter of 1583 sent from Banaras back to the Konkan reported that the pandit assembly held in the Muktimandapam to discuss the matter had urged reconciliation:
    All this community of Brahmanas (he samasta brāhmana), the Chiplunas, Devarsis and Maharastras, have the same vedic karmas (samāna vaidika karmi) and that there is authority for sharing of food together. It was also agreed that Brahmans should not conduct hostilities with each other. This much was agreed by common consent.
    The judgement concluded with a reminder of the solemn prestige of the assembly’s meeting place: ‘He who says that there should not be exchange of food, let him be brought to the place of Sri Visvesvara.’ 115
    Senvis or Saraswat Brahmans, communities of successful trading people, farmers and administrative servants of the Portuguese, the East India Company and the local states of the Konkan littoral, were the subject of repeated attack, particularly from Karhade Brahmans, for their livelihoods as traders and farmers and for the fact that they ate fish. Hence, the Karhades argued that Saraswats were not eligible for all of the six karmas or ritual duties and entitlements that distinguished a Brahman.
    Again, the Banaras pandit assemblies urged unity, describing themselves in remarkably authoritative and expansive terms. In Visvesvara’s own city, ‘the whole community of the excellent pañca drāviḍas, that is to say, Dravidas, Andras, Karnatakas, Maharastras and Gurjaras’ had met, ‘in the Muktimandapam of Srisvami’s temple’. They sent their greetings to ‘the pañca drāviḍas and pañca gauḍas who live in the region of the Sahyadri mountains of the Dakṣiṇa Desa’. Their judgement was that the Senvis or Saraswats of the region were in fact ‘eastern Brahmans of the pañca gauḍa community’. In eating fish, they were simply following the prescriptions of Parasuram, who allowed all those who came to settle in the Konkan to follow their long-established customs. The assembly concluded with a reminder of their status: ‘This is the opinion of the śiṣṭa.’ 116
    In 1657, the scholar families of Banaras again found the question of the Devarukhes before them. The stakes in the very large assembly that met to consider it were particularly high because some Brahman families in the city had themselves contracted marriage relationships with the Devarukhes, or ‘Devarsis’ as they were known in the city. Hence the assembly was vehement in its defence of the community:
    They are of the nature that they can perform Vedic sacrifices on their own behalf and on behalf of others, they purify the line in which they dine, they are worthy people as family relations, and are of the nature of being absolutely excellent Brahmins. And it is decided that the śiṣṭa do have family relations with them.
    Dire consequences would follow any disagreement: ‘Anyone who speaks against this decision, reached by the wise, is a desecrator of the god Visvanath and a murderer of Brahmins.’ 117
    We do not know whether this dispute came from outside Banaras, perhaps from critics back in the Maratha regions, or from local malcontents such as the Kanyakubja Brahman Dhiresvara. But the suggestion that Devarsis were less than excellent Brahmans struck at the heart of the scholar household as a social as well as an intellectual enterprise. If, as the judgement above suggests, some leading families had contracted marriages with Devarsis, any taint would spread to all of their social relationships. Nor could this have remained merely a ‘social’ matter. Any question over the pandit household’s social reputation would have been likely to affect the networks of teaching and co-residence so central to its livelihood and reputation. Even more important, such questions about the social standing of the household might well have spread to affect perceptions of the intellectual work carried on within it.
    This helps us to make sense of the remarkable assembly of pandits who met to consider the question. 118 Maratha pandit families therefore made up the core of those attending, 23 of the 77 signatories to its judgement identifiable as Maratha Brahmans. In these signatures, it is also the extended scholar family that stands out. Members of the Bhatta, Sesa, Deva and other Maratha pandit families were present, alongside an extraordinary array of other scholars and intellectuals, householders and ascetics, from the Maratha country, from Bengal and from southern India.
    Conclusions
    Jump to section

    * Introduction
    * Families in motion: Maratha Brahman…
    * The scholar household and the Brahman…
    * Geographies of Brahman identity
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the locale of…
    * Speaking from Siva’s temple: the assemblies…
    * Conclusions

    Within a few years of this meeting, however, the world of these scholar-intellectuals began to undergo profound changes. With the execution in 1659 of Dara Shukoh, a key link between the Banaras pandit communities and the Mughal court disappeared. A decade later in 1669–1670, for reasons that are not clearly understood, Aurangzeb ordered the Visvesvara temple to be pulled down, along with the Vaisnava temple at Mathura, and important parts of the temple at Vrandavan. 119With the emperor embarking on a protracted struggle with his Maratha adversaries in the Deccan, and their prestigious meeting place reduced to rubble beneath a mosque placed conspicuously atop its visible remnants, the political climate of Banaras turned increasingly adverse for the city’s Maratha pandit families. 120 Scholars from the Bhatta and Deva families in particular moved to associate themselves with Sivaji’s court at Raigad in the Maratha regions. As is well known, pandits from these families played a central role in his consecration as a royal dharmic king in 1674. 121
    This was a prescient move. If the Mughal imperial framework had helped bring into being the remarkable Brahman social formation studied here, the fragmentation and decay of that framework and the shifting of political as well as judicial power to Maharashtra’s regions were also to mean the gradual passing of many of this formation’s judicial and intellectual functions from Banaras to the regions too. Within the Mughal context, Maratha scholar pandits had benefitted from the disjunction between the royal authority of Muslim courts in north India and authority in matters of Hindu religious law. The city’s intellectuals were to some extent able to step into this gap and to provide mediation and judicial expertise in a wide range of disputes without the benefit of close support from Hindu royal authority. Their vantage point in Siva’s own city may have had a special aptness in this particular context. As noted above, one of the central narrative themes of the Kāśīkhaṇḍa described the evacuation of royal power from the city so that Siva could make his abode there. However, the rise of the Maratha empire created in effect conditions for a re-attachment of Brahman authority to the royal power of ‘Hindu’ states in the new courts of western India, whose ministers early evinced a determination to build up their own textual resources and local expertise in matters of religious law. 122 This development was to erode the position of Banaras and its scholar-intellectuals and to shift many of their functions to Pune, Satara, Kolhapur, Tanjore and Baroda and, in the eighteenth century, to the courts of a new generation of expansive Rajput courts with their own ritual ambitions. 123 It was the Pune court that now inherited the task of mediating conflicts between Maharashtra’s Brahman communities and of pressing and persuading all of them to adhere to common norms of conduct appropriate to the śiṣṭa. 124
    However, these eighteenth-century changes should not allow us to overlook the strategic effectiveness with which the scholar households discussed in this essay capitalized on the opportunities that the Mughal imperial framework brought them in Banaras. The intellectuals of these households carried older regional geographies through into the ‘ecumene’ of early modern India to construct a new kind of arena within which the strains of ‘early modernity’ could be mediated and deflected. They contributed substantially to the systematization of the Brahman community identities examined here in ways that set the terms for colonial classifications. Their close familiarity with Deccan society meant that their writings in the field of dharmasastra – Kamakalarabhatta’s Nirṇayasindhu and his cousin Nilakanthabhatta’s Vyavahāramayūkha – remained definitive texts throughout the colonial period, enshrining their conceptions of ritual entitlement, family relationships and property rights. Carried into the Maratha country and beyond, their ritual expertise helped to secure the authority of a new generation of regional states in the eighteenth century and to ensure that the morals and law of the dharmasastras found a central place within them. As Minkowski has described, these pandit communities of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were equally influential in the realm of theology. They laid the intellectual foundations of the modernized ‘big-tent’ Advaitic Hinduism that later came to be something like the ‘establishment position’ in India’s religious culture during the colonial period and after. 125
    Whatever the complexity of their intellectual approaches to innovation in their own disciplines, these scholars were highly inventive in their practical engagements with the novel opportunities and pressures of their own times. They were adept at finding ways to protect the principles of Brahman unity and Brahman privilege and to give these principles new force and social relevance. If, as some historians suggest, the eighteenth century was to see the emergence of a ‘Brahman Raj’ in India that lasted through the colonial period, some of its most important foundations were laid in the scholar households of Banaras in the preceding two centuries. 126
    Acknowledgements
    For their kind assistance in developing the arguments in this essay, I thank participants in the Oxford 2009 workshop ‘Religious cultures in early modern India’ and also Arjun Appadurai, Hans Bakker, Ted Benke, Jim Benson, Raul Concha, Nina Mirnig, Sheldon Pollock, Alexis Sanderson, Travis Smith and Peter Szanto.
    Notes
    1. See Alam and Subrahmanyam, ‘Making of a Munshi’; Narayana Rao, et al., Textures of Time, 93–139; Subrahmanyam, ‘Aspects of State Formation’; Alam, ‘Culture and Politics’; Chatterjee, ‘History as Self-Representation’; Guha, ‘Speaking Historically’; Bayly, Caste, Society and Politics, 64–96; and O’Hanlon and Washbrook, ‘Munshis, Pandits and Record Keepers’.
    2. Particularly, of course, in the project ‘Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism’. Seehttp://www.columbia.edu.ucsf.idm.oclc.org/itc/mealac/pollock/sks/papers/index.html (accessed February 2, 2011); and Pollock, Language of the Gods. For a review of the project, see Kaviraj, ‘The Sudden Death of Sanskrit Knowledge’, 119–42. For more recent discussions, see Pollock, ‘Is There an Indian Intellectual History?’, 533–42.
    3. See in particular Pollock, ‘New Intellectuals’.
    4. See Pollock, ‘Pretextures of Time’, 366–83; and Narayana Rao et al., ‘A Pragmatic Response’, 409–27.
    5. I thank Sheldon Pollock for a very helpful discussion of Brahman privilege. See also Houben, ‘The Brahmin Intellectual’, 463–79; Parry, ‘The Brahmanical Tradition’, 200–25; and O’Hanlon and Minkowski, ‘What Makes People Who They Are?’, 384–6. For the importance of historicization, see van der Veer, ‘Concept of the Ideal Brahman’, 67–80; and Smith, ‘The Sacred Center’.
    6. For western India, see, for example, Preston, The Devs of Cincvad; Perlin, ‘Of White Whale and Countrymen’; and Fukazawa,The Medieval Deccan, 1–48 and 73–87.
    7. For a good recent survey of these themes, see Asher and Talbot, India Before Europe, 126–85.
    8. Bayly, ‘From Ritual to Ceremony’, 163.
    9. See O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’, 228; and O’Hanlon, ‘The Social Worth of Scribes’, 563–95.
    10. Derrett, ‘Kamalakara on Illegitimates’, 231.
    11. Bayly, Empire and Information, 180–211.
    12. Davis, ‘Dharma in Practice’, 813–30. I am also grateful to Sheldon Pollock for assistance with this point.
    13. Deshpande, ‘The Changing Notion of śiṣṭa’, 75–116.
    14. For general histories of society and state in western India in this period, see Fukazawa, The Medieval Deccan; Gordon, The Marathas; Wink, Land and Sovereignty; Eaton, A Social History of the Deccan; Kotani, Western India in Historical Transition.
    15. See, for example, the satire of the south Indian poet Venkatadhvari, writing during the 1630s in his Viśvaguṇādarśacampū, vss. 133–8, 111–17; and Tukārām Gāthā, vol. 2, nos. 6163–6.
    16. Bakker and Isaacson, Skandapurāṇa. The Vārāṇasī Cycle, 66–82. See also Eck, Banaras; Altekar, History of Banaras; Parry,Death in Banaras; Minkowski, ‘Nīlakaṇṭa Caturdhara’s Mantrakāśikhaṇḍa’.
    17. Kāśi Khaṇḍa, Purvārdha, adhyāya 79, vss. 70–5.
    18. Bakker, ‘Construction and Reconstruction of Sacred Space in Vārāṇasī’, 43. Bakker and Isaacson argue for the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century and a link with Hindu responses to the challenge of Islam. Smith suggests that bothKāśīkhaṇḍa and temple predate the Muslim invasions and expressed the imperial ambitions of the eleventh-century Kalacuri kings and the Saiva Siddhanta cults with which they were associated. Bakker, ‘Construction and Reconstruction’; Smith, ‘The Sacred Center’ and ‘Renewing the Ancient’. See also Kṛtyakalpataru of Bhaṭṭa Lakṣmīdhara, introduction by Aiyangar, pp. lxxxv–lxxxvi, for a twelfth-century description of Banaras which does not mention the Kāśīkhaṇḍa or a great Visvesvara temple. Smith suggested a deliberate omission by its author, minister to the Gahadavalas who had displaced the Kalacuris and patronized different Saiva institutions.
    19. Tagare’s English translation of the Kāśīkhaṇḍa suggests that the author may himself have been a southerner: Tagare, Kāśī-Khaṇḍa, Pūrvārdha, 10–11, n. 1. Smith’s suggestion of a Kalacuri imperial association for the Kāśīkhaṇḍa would certainly help explain its ‘southern’ themes, because the Kalacuris themselves had important links with central and southern India. I thank Travis Smith for helpful exchanges on these themes.
    20. Shulman, ‘Ambivalence and Longing’, 192–214.
    21. For Paithan, see Morwanchikar, The City of the Saints. For Jaunpur, see Asher and Talbot, India Before Europe, 97.
    22. See O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’.
    23. For the Sesa family and their links with Nanded, Bijapur and Banaras, see Benke, ‘The Śūdrācāraśiromaṇi of Kṛṣṇa Śeṣa’, 17–55. Older sources are Kanole, ‘Nāṅḍeḍace śeṣa gharāṇe’, 56–73; and Aryavaraguru, ‘On the Sheshas of Benaras’, 245–53.
    24. Kanole, ‘Nāṅḍeḍace śeṣa gharāṇe’, 56–73.
    25. Joshi, ‘’Ālī Ādil Shāh I of Bījāpūr’.
    26. Kanhere, ‘Waman Pandit’, 305–14.
    27. Aryavaraguru, ‘On the Sheshas of Benaras’, 247. I thank Sheldon Pollock for suggesting the appropriate translation of this title.
    28. Ibid., 60–1.
    29. Ibid., 61.
    30. Sarma, ‘Manuscripts Collection of the Jade Family’.
    31. Gode, ‘Some Authors of the Ārḍe Family’, 17–24; and Katre, ‘Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭa Ārḍe’, 74–86.
    32. Bayly, Empire and Information, 180–211; Bronkhorst, ‘Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita on Sphoṭa’, 3–41; Pollock, ‘New Intellectuals’; Minkowski, ‘Sanskrit Scientific Libraries’; and O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’.
    33. Raghavan, ‘The Kavīndrakalpalatikā of Kavīndrācārya Sarasvatī’.
    34. Sarma and Patkar, Kavīndracandrodaya. For a less well-known address, see Nṛsiṁa-sarvasva Kavyām, in Shastri,Descriptive Catalogue, vol. iv, 81–5. I thank Chris Minkowski for assistance with translation of this text.
    35. For the award of titles, see Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’.
    36. For these traditions of debate, see Vidyabhushan, Indian Logic, 1–21, 55–114.
    37. Minkowski, ‘Advaita Vedānta in Early Modern History’, in this volume.
    38. For a penetrating discussion of the neglected sphere of the household, see Chatterjee, Unfamiliar Relations, 1–45.
    39. Scharfe, Education in Ancient India.
    40. Raghavan, ‘Kavīndrācārya Sarasvatī’, 159–65.
    41. See Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, 334–5.
    42. Scharfe, Education in Ancient India, 98.
    43. Kane, Vyavharāmayūkha of Bhaṭṭa Nīlakaṇṭha, vii.
    44. Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. 2, part I, 929.
    45. Kane, Vyavharāmayūkha of Bhaṭṭa Nīlakaṇṭha, xi.
    46. Ibid., xxiii.
    47. Benke, ‘The Śūdrācāraśiromaṇi of Kṛṣṇa Śeṣa’, 30.
    48. Davis makes the point that the household was the foremost institutional locale for ritual observance as required in the laws of dharmasastra. Davis, The Spirit of Hindu Law, 39.
    49. Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’, 13.
    50. Katre, ‘Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭa Ārḍe’, 74; and Pangarkar, Moropant, 113.
    51. Gode, ‘The Identification of Gosvāmi Nṛsiṁhāśrama’, 447–51.
    52. Gode, ‘Nīlakaṇṭha Śukla’, 471.
    53. Gode, ‘Date of the Bhāṭṭabhāṣāprakāśikā’, 69.
    54. Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, 334–5.
    55. This combustible mix of filial and quasi-filial relationships could also fuel animosities: see Bronkhorst, ‘Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita on Sphoṭa’, 12–15; Minkowski, ‘I’ll Wash Out Your Mouth with My Boot’, 113–36; and Bali, Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita, 6–7.
    56. See the discussion in Kelkar, ‘Mahārāṣtṛātīl kāhī paṅḍit gharāṇī’, 29–34.
    57. Minkowski, ‘Sanskrit Scientific Libraries’.
    58. Katre, ‘Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭa Ārḍe’, 86.
    59. Sarma, ‘Manuscripts Collection of the Jade Family’.
    60. For libraries as tools of livelihood, see Minkowski, ‘Sanskrit Scientific Libraries’, 97–105. See also Sastry, Kavindracharya List, for the catalogue to Kavindracarya’s library.
    61. Gough, Papers, 22.
    62. A brisk movement of manuscripts between elite Maratha households is described in Sardesai, Selections from the Peshwa Daftar, vol. 18, nos. 78–84.
    63. Sardesai, Selections from the Peshwa Daftar 9, no. 68 (undated).
    64. Ramdas, Dāsabodha, daśak 19, samās 1, ‘Lekhankriyānirūpan’, 433–4.
    65. Ibid., 434. See also Gode, ‘Saint Rāmadāsa’s Discourse’, 127–8.
    66. Kane, Vyavharāmayūkha of Bhaṭṭa Nīlakaṇṭha, 136–8. See also Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. III, 581–5. This aspect of Hindu family law generated continuous litigation in the colonial law courts, until the passing of the Hindu Gains of Learning Act in 1930. Newbigin, ‘The Hindu Code Bill’, 89–92.
    67. Aryavaraguru, ‘On the Sheshas of Benaras’, 250.
    68. Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. I, part 2, 941.
    69. Gode, ‘Date of Rāghavabhaṭṭa’.
    70. Sarma, ‘Raghunātha Navahastha’, 69–82.
    71. Gode, ‘The Contact of Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita with the Rulers of Ikkeri’, 205.
    72. Aryavaraguru, ‘On the Sheshas of Benaras’, 247.
    73. Deshpande, ‘On Vernacular Sanskrit’, 32–51.
    74. For the wada as a family home, see Bhagwat, ‘Home and the March of Times’.
    75. Benson, ‘Saṃkārabhaṭṭa’s Family Chronicle’, 105–17.
    76. For the Bhatta family tree, see Kane, Vyavharāmayūkha of Bhaṭṭa Nīlakaṇṭha, xvi.
    77. Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’, 12.
    78. For a recent discussion, see Washbrook, ‘India in the Early Modern World Economy’, 87–111.
    79. For a discussion of this ‘public’ dimension of the household, see Guha, ‘The Family Feud’, 73–94.
    80. For geopolitical space in the Sanskrit ‘cosmopolis’, see Pollock, Language of the Gods, 189–222; and Inden, Imagining India, 244–62.
    81. Vaidya, History of Medieval Hindu India, vol. III, 375–81. For a discussion of Brahmin migrations, see Datta, Migrant Brāhmaṇas, and a review of the work in Witzel, ‘Towards a History of the Brahmins’, 264–8. See also Kane, ‘Gotras and Pravaras’; Kosambi, ‘On the Origin of Brahmin Gotras’, 21–80; Witzel, ‘On the Localisation of Vedic Texts and Schools’, 173–213; and Witzel, ‘Regionale und überregionale Faktoren’, 37–76.
    82. Memories of Vijayanagar as exemplary ‘Hindu’ kingdom clearly played some role here: see Hawley, ‘The Four Sampradāys’, in this volume. I thank Jack Hawley for many insightful discussions of this theme. Samkarabhatta’s family history represents Vijayanagar as a place of learning, but an unhappy place, whose ruler offended Ramesvara by attempting to give him an elephant. Benson, ‘Saṃkārabhaṭṭa’s Family Chronicle’, 110. See also Guha, ‘Frontiers of Memory’, 269–88.
    83. See, for example, Krsna Sesa’s description of his father: Kanole, ‘Nāṅḍeḍace śeṣa gharāṇe’, 62. The term could also include Gujarat: Gode, ‘Harikavi alias Bhānubhaṭṭa’, 113.
    84. Benson, ‘Saṃkārabhaṭṭa’s Family Chronicle’, 12–13.
    85. Katre, ‘Dvijārajodaya’, 144–55. I thank Sheldon Pollock for suggesting this translation.
    86. Sircar, ‘Gauḍa’, 123–34.
    87. In an inscription of CE 1024–1025, for example, the western Chalukya king Jayasimha III described his triumphs: ‘the eradication of the Cola, the mighty overlord of the five drāviḍas, the requisition of the treasure of the lords of the seven Koṅkaṇas’. Hultzsch, ‘Inscriptions of the Kailāsanātha Temple at Kānchīpuran’, 113. I thank Whitney Cox for a discussion of these points and translation of this Tamil inscription. For these geographies, see Sircar, Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, 68–109.
    88. Whitney Cox, personal communication.
    89. Sirkar, ‘Rashtrakuta Charters from Chinchani’, 46–7.
    90. The only standard edition is da Cunha, The Sahyādri Khaṇḍa of the Skanda Purāṇa, published in 1877. The purana was probably in existence by the twelfth century, because fragments are quoted in the Caturvargacintāmaṇi of Hemadri, minister of the Yadava king Mahadeva: Hemadri, Caturvargacintāmaṇi, vol. 1, 718–9; vol. 3, 306. We do not know, however, when these particular verses of the purana were written. See Levitt, ‘The Sahyādrikhaṇḍa: Some Problems’.
    91. Sahyādrikhaṇḍa, Uttarārdha, Adhyāya 1, ‘Origins of the Chitpavans’, vss. 1–2.
    92. Ibid., vss. 5–6. A Brahman’s six karmas or ritual privileges and duties were adhyāyana and adhyāpana, studying and teaching the Veda; yajana and yājana, conducting and procuring a sacrifice; and dāna and pratigraha, giving and accepting gifts. Apte, Social and Religious Life, 8.
    93. Hultzsch, ‘Inscriptions at and Near Virinchipuram’, 84. Padaividu was a kingdom in north Arcot.
    94. Deshpande, ‘Pañca-Gauḍa’.
    95. Bendrey, Mahārāṣṭretihāsaci Sādhane 2, no. 457 (8 June 1749): 491–5.
    96. Pangarkar, Moropant, 108. I thank Janaki Bakhale for making this text available to me.
    97. The poem is printed in Lalji Vaijanath Sastri’s Sadbodhacintāmanī, 182.
    98. Sabda-Kalpadruma of Raja Radha Kanta Deva, vol. ii, 370, first published in 1820; Gunjikar, Sarasvatī Maṇḍala, 4–5; Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sects, 24; and Russell and Hira Lal, Tribes and Castes, vol. II, 357.
    99. See O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’, 218.
    100. Ibid., 219. See also the discussion and photographs of the present-day remains of Narayanabhatta’s temple in Michell, ‘Temple Styles’, 80; and Gutschow, Banaras, 34. Michell questions the link with the Kāśikhaṇḍa’s structure. However, this may be a misreading of Prinsep’s 1827 reconstructed ground plan of the temple, which shows a cruciform construction of four mandapams, as described in the Kāśikhaṇḍa. Prinsep’s plan is reproduced in Altekar, Banaras, 50.
    101. Tavernier, Travels in India, vol. ii, 180.
    102. Michell, ‘Temple Styles’, 82.
    103. Mundy, Travels, vol. 2, 123.
    104. Tavernier, Travels in India, 181–2.
    105. Quoted in Habib, Medieval India, 147.
    106. In the early eighteenth century, the kāyastha scribe Bhimsen also attributed the temple to the generosity of Vir Singh:Tarikh-i Dilkasha, 3.
    107. Tavernier, Travels in India, vol. ii, 182–3. See also Gode, ‘Bernier and Kavīndrācāya’; and Gode, ‘Some Evidence’.
    108. Ibid., 184.
    109. It is likely that he composed this work after the temple rebuilding, because he implies that visiting pilgrims would see a new liṅga: ‘though here the liṅga of Visvesvara is removed and another is brought in its place by human beings, owing to the times, the pilgrims must worship whatever liṅga is in this place’. Tristhalisetuh of Narayanabhatta, 208. I thank Vincenzo Vergiani and Jim Benson for assistance with translation here.
    110. Kāśī Khaṇḍa, Pūrvārdha, adhyāya 79, vs 54; and Narayanabhatta, Tristhalisetuh, 188.
    111. Narayanabhatta, Tristhalisetuh, 189.
    112. Pusalkar, Vāḍeśvarodaya-Kāvya of Viśvanātha, 66. Pitre is a Karhade name: Gode, ‘Origin and Antiquity’, 25.
    113. See Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. II, part 2, 965–73.
    114. For this dispute, see O’Hanlon and Minkowski, ‘What Makes People Who They Are?’
    115. Pimputkar, Citaḷebhaṭṭa Prakaraṇa, 76–7. For the provenance of these letters, see O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’, 239–40.
    116. Gunjikar, Sarasvatī Maṇḍala, Appendix 2, 22–4.
    117. Pimputkar, Citaḷebhaṭṭa Prakaraṇa, 78–81.
    118. For further discussion of these assemblies, see O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’.
    119. For these episodes, see Horstmann, ‘The Temple of Govindadevajī’; and Pauwels, ‘A Tale of Two Temples’, in this volume. See also the discussion in Asher, Architecture of Mughal India, 254–5.
    120. Michell suggests that this positioning was deliberate, a lesson to the city’s Maratha Brahmans for having sheltered Sivaji during his flight from Agra 3 years earlier: Michell, ‘Temple Styles’, 80.
    121. See Bendrey, Coronation of Shivaji the Great.
    122. See Bhave, Peśvekālīn Mahārāṣtra, 97–8, 375–96.
    123. See Horstmann, ‘Theology and Statecraft’, in this volume; Horstmann, Der Zusammenhalt der Welt; and Peabody, Hindu kingship. Maratha Brahmans at these courts are discussed in Gode, ‘Viśvanātha Mahādeva Rānaḍe’; and Gode, ‘Some New Evidence Regarding Devabhaṭṭa Mahāśabde’.
    124. O’Hanlon and Minkowski, ‘What Makes People Who They Are?’
    125. Minkowski, ‘Advaita Vedānta in Early Modern History’, in this volume.
    126. Bayly, Caste, Society and Politics, 64–96.
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