Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why we are Pandits

Pandit Nehru on his Mekhal,
 carrying a Mulberry stick 
This is a 'Did you know it was all thanks to Bhan Saheb!' post.

[...] the circumstances under which the Brahman Bhattas of  Kashmir came to be called Pandits. Briefly, it would seem that, after the incorporation of Kashmir into the Mughal empire, quite a few of those Brahmans who migrated out of Kashmir attracted attention and even rose high at the imperial court, first in Agra and then in Delhi. In recognition of their sevices to the emperor or their scholarship, or both, suitable titles were conferred upon them. These were similar to those conferred upon distinguished Muslims. One such successful emigre, Jai Narain Bhan, was elevated to the status of a Raja. It was he who reportedly asked that Kashmiri Brahmans should be addressed as 'Pandit' and not by such honorifics as 'Khuajah'. The request was granted by emperor Muhammad Shah (1719-49) (Sender 1988: 43 [Source: Henny Sender's The Kashmiri Pandits: A Study of Cultural Choice in North India (Delhi, 1988), the name is given as Jai Ram Bhan]). Subsequently, 'Pandit' became established as the community name of Kashmiri Brahmans living outside Kashmir. In more recent times it has emerged as on of the ethonyms of the Bhatta of Kashmir.

~ from The T.N. Madan Omnibus

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