Sakaldwipiya Brahmins or Bhojaka Brahmins, is a class of Hindu priests and Ayurveda teachers (acharyas), with significant concentrations of their populations occurring in Western and Northern India.
Spelling variants of "Sakaldwipiya" include Shakdvipi, Shakdwipi, Shakdweepi, Shakdvipiya, Shakdwipiya, Shakdweepiya, Shakadwipi, and Sakadwipi.
The Sakaldwipiyas are also known as Maga Brahmins (see origin myth below). Also known as Maga Brahmins are the Suryadhwaja Brahmins, who however consider themselves to be distinct from the Sakaldwipiya/Bhojaka Brahmins.
The Sakaldwipiya Brahmin community of India identify themselves as having Iranian roots, and assert that they inherit their by-name maga from a group of priests (cf. maga) who established themselves in India as the Maga-Dias or Maga-Brahmanas.
- Krishna's son Samba was afflicted with leprosy, which was cured after he worshiped Surya, Hinduism's god of the Sun. In response, he built a temple to Surya on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, but no competent Brahmin could be found to take up the role of priest in the temple. So Samba sought help of Ugrasena.
- Gauramukha responded with a suggestion that Samba go to Shakdvipa (see note on Mahabharata 6:11, below[a]) and invite their priests to worship Surya. Further, asked Samba, "tell me, oh Brahmin, what are the antecedents of these worshipers of the Sun?" To which Gauramukha replied... "The first of the Brahmins amidst the Shakhas was called 'Sujihva.' [...] He had a daughter of the name Nikshubha, who so enamored Surya that she was impregnated by him. Thus she gave birth to Jarashabda who was the founding father of all the Maga-Acharya. They are distinguished by the sacred girdle called the Avyanga that they wear around their waist." And so Samba called on Krishna to send him Garuda, on whose back he then flew to Shakadwipa. He collected the Maga-Acharya, brought them back to India and installed them as priests of his Surya temple.
- Of the pious representatives of 18 families Samba invited to resettle in the city of Sambapura, eight were Mandagas, and their descendants became Shudras. The other 10 were Maga Brahmins, who married Bhoja vamsa women and so their descendants came to be known as Bhojakas.
Whatever their original beliefs, by the time the Bhavishya Purana 133 was composed the Sakaldwipiyas were identified as devotees of Surya, Hinduism's deity of the Sun (cf. Hvar). Subsequently, in Vrihata samhita 60.19, Varahamihira directs that the installation of the Surya images should be made by the maga, as they were the first to worship the divinity. Other texts enjoin that the images of Surya should be dressed like a northerner with the legs covered, that he should wear a coat and a girdle. The early representations of the divinity actually follow these injunctions, and early iconography depicts the deity in central Asian dress, replete with boots. In time, the alien features by either discarded or stories were inventing to interpret the others. Nonetheless, the use of the word Mihir in India to refer to Hinduism's Surya is regarded to represent Sakaldwipiya influence, a derivation from Middle Iranian myhr, that is itself a post-4th century BCE development of another development of Avestan Mithra (< Indo-Iranian *mitra). But in Sanskrit, Mihir is derived from the root mih (cf. MW) which is also the root of Megha(cloud), and the chief meaning of this root is to cause rains. Since Sun also causes rains, Mihir came to mean 'Sun'. Mitra (cognate of Avestan Mithra ) was related to Sun, but only functionally, not structurally. And the Shakdwipi Brahamins do in fact appear to have been instrumental in the construction of Sun temples in different part of the country, to include Kashmir, Kathiawad and Somnath in Gujarat, Dholpur in Rajasthan, Hissar in Jodhpur, Bharatput and Khajuraho in Madhya pradesh, Konark in Orissa and Deo, Punyark, Devkund and Umga in Bihar.
The tale of the arrival of the Sakaldwipiyas appears to have been part of living tradition for many centuries. The Govindpur inscription of 1137-1138 refers to a maga family of Gaya, Bihar that was celebrated for its learning, Vedic scholarship and poetic faculty, and who descended from one of the original Samb invitees. The Brahmins of the Godda district in Uttar Pradesh likewise trace their lineage to the original invitees. The maga-vyakti of Krishnadas Mishra is an elaboration of the legend. The Bhojakas are also mentioned in the inscriptions of Maurya Ashoka and Kharavela. Kadamba dynasty (4th-6th century) copperplates found in Karnataka mention Bhojakas as administrators of Jain institutions.
In contemporary sources
The A History of Brahmin Clans states that Śākadvīpī Brahmins have a love for traditional (Sanskrit) knowledge and their Saṃskāras are like those of the Maithil Brāhamanas, although matrimonial and other customary relations with Maithil (or other Brahmins) are not in vogue.
Dorilāl Śarmā Śrotiya described them as follows: "they wear long Yajnopavita at the age of 8 years, keep quiet while eating, like to keep beards like sages, perform agnihotra, and charmed with mantras, and were called maga because they read the Vedas in haphazard ways."
Apocryphally, the Sakaldwipiya centre was at Magadha. According to their tradition, they were there allotted 72 principalities (purs), and were identified by their purs rather than by their lineage (gotras). In time they migrated in all directions, but retained their affiliation with the original purs (as opposed to identifying themselves with their lineage, their gotras), and are strict in their practice of gotra and pur exogamy (unlike other Brahmins) and give it prime importance in arranging marriages; endogamy within one of their 74 paras (i.e. allas) is prohibited.
The Suryadhwaja have 5 gotras: Surya, Soral, Lakhi, Binju and Malek Jade.
The term 'Bhojaka' is popular in the western states while 'Sakadvipi' and its numerous variations is typical for the north and east. The terms 'Graham Vipra' and 'Acharya Brahmin' are common in West Bengal and Rajasthan. One of the Sakaldwipiya groups, the 'Suryadhwaja' Brahmins, are endemic to Northern India and is the only Shakadwipiya group classified as Kashmiri Pandits.
The Bhojakas are historically associated with several Jain temples in Gujarat and Rajasthan, where they serve as priests and attendants. Some of the Shakdwipi Brahmins of Bihar and Uttar pradesh are Ayurvedic physicians, some are priests in Rajput families, while yet others are landholders.
Surnames (Padavi or Āspada titles) in alphabetical order, with their respective traditional areas are:
|Pradesh|Uttar Pradesh]], Bihar
- ^ The reference to the inhabitants of Sakadwipa is however older than the Puranas, appearing first in Rigveda and subsequently in almost all veda & Mahabharata 6:11, where Sakadwipa is said to lie to the north-west (of ancient India). The region is mentioned again in 12:14 as a region to the east of the great Mount Meru. Consequently, the word 'Sakaldwipiya' (and variations) is presumed to reflect Saka-, the people of a region beyond the Hindukush mountains.
- shakdwipi.com: Community portal of Shakdwipi Brahmins
- The complete reference to Brahmins. This article incorporates material from that site with due permission from Dr. Vepachedu