panjis - the actual
the "curse panji" -
against the community
for which people were
chhapa, a book
Lesson of the Genealogist
said that the person to talk to if I wanted to understand
the genealogies and the lineages was Pandit Harinandan Jha.
He became my principal informant, the priest-expert who is
the keeper of the genealogies of the Khandavala Dynasty and
all the Srotriyas. Only he has a complete understanding of
the system of patrilineages and the rules of marriage which
determine the rank of the offspring. No Srotriya can marry
without his permission. He maintains the genealogical
records which proves a family's good bloodlines going back
Panditji's student, spending every evening for three months
on the floor of his small house with only a kerosene lantern
for light. He taught me about the lineages of the Brahmans,
how their records are maintained, how he goes about
certifying that a proposed marriage is not incestuous, and
how he writes the certificate on behalf of the maharaja
which allows a marriage to proceed.
I am the
panjikar (genealogist) to the Srotriyas.
Srotriyas are found in forty villages in Mithila, in Bengal,
and other places, even America.
- I began my
work as panjikar to the Srotriyas in 1941. I have their
genealogies since viji purusha [the
founding ancestor], for 1000 years. It has been 670
years since the beginning of the panjis (panji
prabandha). That was Sake 1232, or 1310 AD.
Sixteen years after the beginning of Maharaja Harisingh
Dev's reign he went to Nepal, so some say it started in
1248. For 18 generations my family has done this work. My
son is the 19th generation. Harisingh Dev gave
responsibility for this work to Gunakar Jha, and I am the
18th generation since then.
- In the
genealogies gotra [clan] and
mul [lineage] are recorded. There
are 19 gotras. Shandilya gotra has 43 muls. Seven of
these have remained in one place and retained their
status. They never left. The others migrated
is the book defining rank. It was written 80 or 90 years
ago. At first my father couldn't get the right to it.
When his father died my father applied to the king and
said, "I must have the right to Chhapa. Then Hajur Nabis,
a Kayastha, an official of the Maharaja's, was ordered by
Maharaja Rameshwar Singh to give a copy to my father. So
father got the copy to copy. This was about 90 years ago
in 1882 or 1884.
- The Curse
Panji (Dukhan Panji) is another book. The
panjikar is always trying to protect this. It shouldn't
be seen. This is parampara--customs coming
down from generation to generation.
book of panji, or genealogy, of one
clan of the Srotriyas
began, the histories were written. Gotra
Panji is the name of this work. It was
commissioned by Harisingh Dev. Gunakar Jha, my ancestor,
wrote it. Panjis contain information about their origin.
[One particular panji has details about origins.
He brings a copy of it to show me. Opening the
book, first he prays:]
Durga. Shiva is always worshipping you for
auspiciousness. Therefore I draw near to you.
Therefore Ambika, Gauri, and Narayani I do namaskar
- The world
originated from Vishnu's body. Brahmans came from the
mouth, Ksatriyas from his arms, Vaish from his stomach,
Sudra from his feet. There were allotted work for the
good of society. The vyavahar [which
he translates as "rules and regulations" for making
society work] were made. It is my thought that
originally there was no caste system. But in Vedic Yug,
the slok of the origin of castes was spoken
and this is when it began. Afterward the
varnavyavastha [varna system] was
organized. The activities were made differently according
There is a
slok that says: "At birth all men are Sudra
but if they do good samskar then they would
be Brahman." Due to exercize of Vedas a man becomes
Bipra, i.e., Brahman. Therefore he who knows Brahma is
Brahman. According to my thinking there was no caste
system until Vedic times. From the womb until the time of
sacred thread a man is Sudra. At the sacred
threadceremony he receives dvijetva, the
quality of Brahmanness. [dvijetva -
"twice-bornness"] When he exercizes the Vedas he is
Bipra. When he knows the mystery of the Vedas, if he does
sandhya (daily puja), chants Gayatri, and
does Vishnu puja and related things then he will be
So there are
four stages in the development of the Brahman: 1) Sudra,
3) Bipra, 4) Brahman. Also
there is: Muni, Rishi, and Maharishi.
there was no distinction between Brahmans. All Brahmans
were Brahmans. But afterward those who lived in Gaur
Province were Gaur, those in Dravida were Dravida, etc.
Dravida is divided into five kinds: Karnatak,
are South of the Vindachal mountains. North of the
Vindachal there are: Saraswati,
these, the munis certified that the Maithil
are the best.
all ten married together; but then they dispersed across
India and formed separate communities. The Maithils in
thinking (vichar) and activities (acharya) and learning
were the best Brahmans. All Brahmans were involved in
Vedic and Sruti activities and griha
(customary) activities. In every way they have tried to
preserve their Brahmanness.
places, they have adopted different kinds of acharya
or activities, and prolonged them over generations;
and tried to speak Vedas in regional languages but preserved
the basic content. In this way their activities and methods
became different. Accordingly in each country the customs of
Brahmans varied. In Mithila they have adapted their own
methods. Up to today our customs have been