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Community History

Enumerating The Community


The Chitrapur Saraswat Community has had a significant head start over many other groups in the country, in the matter of community enumeration and creating internal statistical records. The first national head count (done by the English administration in India) took place in 1881, and our community head count, done by the Saraswat Club (predecessor of the Kanara Saraswat Association in Bombay/Mumbai) happened as early as 1896. The resulting product was a fascinating one–of-a-kind heritage calendar cum census, inspired by the efforts of Sh. Shamrao Vithal Kaikini (President of the Club) who convinced the then spiritual head of the community, HH Pandurangashram Swamiji of the utility of such a compendium for the Community. The 'Panchanga' (Almanac) aside from enumerating the population, its distribution and education, also gathered a variety of information under one cover e.g. thumbnail sketches of saints/poets of the community, auspicious dates in the year and, most interesting, a railway guide to important pilgrimage centres in India.

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Chitrapur Saraswat Temples & Shrines

Author: Ugran Sunder Rao;

Published by Shri Anandashram Trust, Bombay, 1992

Temples in India come in all sizes, shapes and have their own histories. Whether it is the majestic structures at Madurai, Thanjavur and Gangakondaicholapuram, or the humble shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha at Aldangady (to take an example), each has its focus of faith, its unique impact on society around it, and most important, its role in social and spiritual cohesion. In the 1937 HH Anandashram Swamiji Jubilee Souvenir, the revered Swamiji observed:  

”Although the rules relating to image worship may require it to be conducted by individuals separately, this may be impossible in the present conditions. Nevertheless, the fact that our forefathers have been observing congregational image worship in temples has made it possible for us to remember God in the difficult days. Sankata Bandaga Venkatramana: "the minds of those who are in trouble naturally run in the direction of temples ... Devotion is inspired and strengthened by mass action ... may all those who have striven for restoration of such temples be blessed.” 

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A Caste in A Changing World: The Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmans, 1700-1935

Author: Frank F Conlon

Year of print: 1977

Dr. Frank Conlon's "A Caste in A Changing World: The Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmans c1700-1935" is the piece de resistance of serious writing on the history of Chitrapur Saraswats, and evolution of social and religious developments within this community since late medieval times to the 20th century. Dr. Conlon is Professor Emeritus of History, South Asian Studies at University of Washington, Seattle; This publication was part of his doctoral thesis.

Dr. Conlon's overview of the Chitrapur Saraswats gives us, and the wider world outside, a mirror to the progression of a microscopic community from humble rural settings to the major metropolises of India; the role of the spiritual centre - Sri Chitrapur Math, and its leaders - in binding and keeping the group together; the rise of social leaders and organisations in the community that helped it metamorphose, literally, from a "cocoon to a butterfly."

To bring it into contemporary context, we have a page dedicated to Dr. Frank Conlon's work which includes an Interview, and a special message from him. 

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Chitrapur Saraswat Retrospect

Author: Kilpady Guru Dutt , Bangalore, 1955

Kilpady Guru Dutt, a member of the Indian Administrative Service in Karnataka (formerly Mysore Province) held key administrative positions, ending as Director of Public Instruction. In 1957, after the formation of linguistic states, he was appointed the first Chairman of the Karnataka Electricity Board. A distinguished writer and public speaker, he also plunged into community activities, serving as the President of the Standing Committee, Shri Chitrapur Math.

Written in mid 1950s, the book gives a sharp perspective on our community in a newly independent India, its historical and spiritual roots; the travels of HH Swamiji; thumbnail career sketches of notable aamchis, and most interesting: his views on the Saraswat psyche. We are happy to present Shri K Guru Dutt's work to our readers in the hope that his torch of knowledge will be picked up, and carried further into the 21st century.


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Saraswat Families

Author: Shripad Subrao Talmaki

Originally published in 4 volumes by Brittanic Durbar Printing Works, Bombay/The Popular Book Depot, Bombay, 1935-1951. Later compiled into 1 volume by the Kanara Saraswat Association in 2006, Mumbai.

“Saraswat Families” is the result of a lifetime`s labour of love, created by a simple and dedicated man who made it his life's mission to document the social history of our community and establish genealogical lines of all families who make it up. We are talking about Shripad Subrao Talmaki (1868-1948 CE), a resident of Bombay who accomplished all these tasks without a cellphone, computer, and obviously without Google; in fact without any modern communication and workaday gadgets that we take for granted today. He toiled on with paper, pen (and his mind, of course!), gathering and analyzing data, and by sheer effort and grit, created methodology in many fields for others to follow.

His patient and purposive planning in the field of Cooperation bore fruit for the community - Cooperative housing, banking, social organizations like the Kanara Saraswat Association - they all laid solid foundations for community wellbeing. The Housing scheme was in fact the first of its kind in India and Asia. The KSA which began as a ”meeting place for no higher purpose than card playing and having social talk over a cup of tea” grew over the years to become an achievement in cooperative endeavour for promoting social, physical, economic and general well being of our community, a tribute to selfless work by Talmaki and his contemporaries, later ably followed up by his successors. He multi-tasked in an age when that word was unknown. His leadership inspired many inside, and outside the community, and his work became an exemplar, in an age when national and international communications were slow or absent, and when India's fate was in the hands of colonial masters. This alone could have given him name and fame, but he was not content, and worked virtually till his last day on earth.

We salute this illustrious and unique member of our community, and hope that converting his book into digital form will assist future generations of Amchis keep his memory alive in our midst.

We thank the governing committee of the KSA, particularly the President, Sh. Raja Pandit, and the Secy., Sh. SS Murdeshwar for their speedy assistance in facilitating our mission.


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A Chitrapur Saraswat Miscellany

Compiled and Edited by Hattiangdi Shankar Rau

Bombay, 1938

A compilation of articles excerpted from the time the Kanara Saraswat was the Saraswat Quarterly(1919). The volume has 24 chapters, 24 annexures, and looks at our community, its institutions and eminent individuals. Interesting facts about our Maths and temples, the Guruparampara as well as inspiring life sketches of worthies of the Community in late 19th and early part of 20th centuries are included. It forms, as it were, "a stream of consciousness" for the Community.


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