Enumerating the Community
Census Reports (1896 to 2011) that map the changing complexion of The Chitrapur Saraswat 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.
Listing of the population continued in successively improving versions of the Census compilations in 1911, 1922 and 1932. In 1956, a more thorough and extensive Census was carried out, and a more scientific approach adopted with a Census Report and statistical table being incorporated with a Directory of members spread out over different cities nationwide. This was possible with major demographic changes in the community that took place in the Inter Wars and post Independence period, with major population shifts to urban centres, leaving villages and rural landholdings behind... a trend that has almost reached its apogee with an overwhelming majority of our population not only concentrated in cities, but also settled down in many countries of the English speaking West; a phenomenon accelerated by the growth of Information Technology in all its avatars, and an exponential rise in advanced education across the Community.
The 1971 and 2001 Censuses show further sharp changes in demographic movement — by 1971 greater Bombay replaced Mangalore, accounting for nearly 54% of the total population, and the 3 cities of Bangalore, Bombay, Madras accounted for nearly 65% of total population. Quantitatively, Chitrapur Saraswats were an insignificant fraction of the country`s population, accounting for just 0.00004% of India`s population (then) of 547.36 million. In other words, for every 100,000 Indians, there were only 4 Chitrapur Saraswats! However, as ground realities over time have shown, the Community's contribution to social, economic and cultural advancements of the Nation has been totally out of proportion to its total numbers.
Other interesting facets of statistical information come out of the analyses in the Census reports e.g. in the eight odd decades since 1932, our community population has moved rapidly from a mature to an aged population i.e. persons aged 65 and over grew gradually from about 4.5 % to 7.5% in the 1970s, and exponentially to 20.1 % by the turn of the century! The figure is higher than that of Japan, which is the most ageing nation in the world today with 16% of its population aged 65 or more (corresponding figures for the developed world are 15%, and rest of India is only 3.6%)
For these and other interesting insights into the demographic spread of our community, do read the operative parts of the Census reports which we have digitized. We have not included the Directory segments. Census reports, graphs and pie charts and other indicators would serve as planks for further examination and base material for research on the Community in the present century, and these are all included.
The latest Census figures (as in the 2016 version) still peg us as a microscopic minority ... we are barely 25000+ globally... a mirror representation of Small being truly Beautiful.