The most common interpretation of the Sanskrit word ‘Chitpavan’ is the one with a pious thoughts and moral ideology. The historians are divided over whether the ‘Chitpavans’ are the natives of this country or they are ‘Aryans’ or some other race in the west Asian or European continent who arrived and settled in this country and acquired the title due to the place they initially settled in. Some of the interpretations are as follows:

     1.   The historians following the Hindu religious books of Puranas, which contain diverse myths, are emphatic about the settlement of the Chitpavans by the Rishi Bhagwan Parshuram in the Konkan region of the State of Maharashtra in India. Even if we go by this premise, the Puranas fail to syncronise the period and the reasons behind their settlement in Konkan. (A particular reference of Parshuram and city ‘Chiplun’ in respect of the ‘Chitpavans’ is found in ‘Skand’ Puranas.)

    2.   According to the article published in the publication of the ‘Bharat Itihas Sanshodhan Mandal’, ‘Itihasacharya’ V.K. Rajwade has stated that ‘Chitpavanastha’ are the residents of the place named ‘Chitpavan’. Hence they were given the name ‘Chitpavanastha’, which got changed over time to ‘Chittapavan’ and then to ‘Chitpavan’ as they are called today.

     3.   Ravbahadur Sane contradicted with this viewpoint offering some traditional evidences and stated that the name ‘Chitpavan’ could not have emerged from the name of a place.

    4.   The very peculiarities of the ‘Chitpavan’s namely their bluish green eyes and their fair skin branded them to be from either of the following:

a)       erstwhile ‘Persia’

b)       Greeks who accompanied King Alexander,

c)       Egypt,

d)       The ‘Shaka’s from Afghanistan,

e)       The  Jews or

f)        The Germans.

Some call them as ‘Sashtik Brahmins’ of the ‘Hiranyakeshi Branch’ based on the recent history.

     5.   In the ‘Kulavruttant’ of the ‘Kanitkar’s the following explanation is found:  

Konkan region of Maharashtra is also called as Parshuram-Bhumi. It is believed that after having fought a long battle with the Kshtriyas, Bhagwan Parshuram arrived in this barren and deserted land of Konkan for rest. Water is termed Jeevan (Life) in Sanskrit as no living being can survive without it. As such the human civilizations were predominantly around the banks of rivers. Chiplun is a city in the peninsula of ‘Vashisthi’ and ‘Savitri’.  The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘Chitpolan’ is burning the land to make it cultivable. It is believed that Parshuram got with him Brahmins of 14 ‘Gotras’ to purify the land in this manner. The land so recovered was named after the process ‘Chitpolan’, the word which later degenerated to ‘Chiplun’. The other line of thinking is the cast ‘Chitpavan’ originated from ‘Kshitipavan’ which again means purification (Pavan) of the land (Kshiti).

According to yet another premise, the chitpavans, due to their opposition to marriages within the same family (gotra), are presumed to have come from the north and settled here in Konkan . It is pertinent to note that the marriages between cousins are not prohibited amongst the Brahmins of South as opposed to the Brahmins from North India. The ‘Nagar’ Brahmins of Kutch province of Gujrat and ‘Chitpavan’s from Konkan, resemble much as regards colour of the skin and eyes, shape and proportionality of the facial organs. Even some surnames have some distant resemblance. This confirms the conclusion that the Brahmins of North migrated to south, some settling in Kutch and Gujarat regions while others migrating further south to Konkan of Maharashtra.  

 6.   Shri. Prakash Narhar Godse had made following observations in the Godse Kulavruttant:

Many a peculiarities found among the Chitpavans like colour of their skin, their peculiar looks, language, their habits of using tamarind, jaggary and buttermilk in the food preparations, their miserly,calculated approach in financial matters and proud but tending to egoistic behavior, habits of being content with whatever they have, all these make them standout from other sects and castes found in Maharashtra. This, more than justifies the premise, that they have settled here coming from elsewhere. The tales of Puranas, historical evidences, various myths and their origins, the resemblance to manners of living, food habits, languages and rituals prevalent in other Indian provinces can be of help in the task of determining the origin of the Chitpavans. It is also possible to emphatically conclude about their settlement in various places in Konkan, from the research by some Chitpavan Clans, which is well documented in their Kulavruttants, mythological tales and the notes in historic documents and deeds of gift by erstwhile rulers,

Though the prime reasons for the migration of sects could logically be an urge to earn their living and carrying out their profession, the major reason behind a mass exodus from a place could be a sudden natural calamity like a famine or a earthquake. Chitpavans were basically ‘Shatkarmi Brahmins’ well versed with the Vedas. Their main occupations were ‘Vidyadan’ (educating the society), ‘Paurohitya’ (religious rituals) and Agriculture. On their arrival in the Konkan region, the Chitpavans, who were a respected lot due to their role in the upliftment of the society, were allotted the baron, salty/ marshy lands near the shores. By their sheer determination and hard work, over period of time, they developed and cultivated them gainfully. Trade and Service were fields untouched by the Chitpavans since their very nature would have been a deterrent. Thus they were a financially self-sufficient and happy lot. The reason for migration of such hard working community predominantly involved in agriculture could only be a famine or draught which compelled them to migrate from their previous settlements. The worst famine of 12 years around 200 BC (Jain history has a mention of this) had its impact on areas in Rajasthan, Kutch in Gujarat and parts of Madhya Pradesh, though it would not have caused much destruction in the peninsula of rivers Sindhu, Ganga and Yamuna. This more than supports the premise that these people migrated to these regions in North and/or to the southern regions like Konkan, which were rich with pure water from many a rivers flowing in the region.  

Two facts standout clearly: 1) The colour of the skin of the Chitpavans is fairer than that of many a native tribes and 2) The percentage of fairer colour of skin among other casts which are known migrants from North like ‘Pathare Prabhu’, ‘Somvanshi Kshtriya’, ‘Suryavanshi Kshtriya’, ‘Panchals’ as well as ‘Saraswats’ ‘Gaud Saraswats’, ‘Kayasthas’ who were migrants later in 14th or 15th Century, is also very high.  These two facts more than support the above premise. 

Apart from this, if we apply the criteria of ‘Cultural heritage’, Chitpavans are followers of the concept of ‘Prohibition of marriages’ between the individuals of same ‘Gotra’ (i.e. within 5 generations on Father’s side and 3 generations on Mother’s side). This is religiously followed in upper castes to north of Gujarat including the upper castes of Gujarat. (e.g. Khap Panchayat from Hariyana). Such marriages are prohibited among ‘Chitpavan’s although they are prevalent among other Brahmin castes of Maharashtra. 

  Period of Migration:  

The unavailability of any information about their migration from some other place and settlement in the Konkan region of Maharashtra can hardly be explained as the clan was well educated and comparatively progressive as against the primitive castes in Maharashtra. The reasons may be 1) their indifferent attitude or reluctance towards recording the events in the history or 2) the frequent piracy attempts on their settlements due to their nearness to seashore or 3) frequent transformations in the rulers of the region, the reasons may be varied! However one act of theirs had a great hand in restoring much of the currently available information about their predecessors and that is their practice of keeping records of their family trees (Kulavruttants) and the ritual of reciting the names of last four generations during the performance of the last rites of the deceased. This has brought forth a fact that the Chitpavans are residents in the Konkan from the 17th Century.  According to R.S. Walimbe, during the later half of the 17th century i.e. during the times of Chatrapati Shivaji, some Chitpavans who were enthused by the bravery of Shivaji Maharaj, adapted to the lifestyle of the ‘Kshtriyas’. Even after that, during the beginning of the 18th century, some families of the Chitpavans accompanied the first Peshva ‘Balaji Vishwanath’ to the ghats and settled with him in the city of Pune. They also discarded the traditional ‘Paurohitya’ and adapted to the ‘Kshatradharma’ i.e. were inducted in the army of the Peshavas.

Shri. Prakash Narhar Godse had made following observations in the Godse Kulavruttant:

The inscriptions on the copper plates excavated during 1060/1061 AD, reference to the donations made by the then rulers to the Brahmins by name ‘Bhat’, ‘Ghaisas’ and ‘Deval’ is found. In the ‘Bakhar’ of ‘Mahikavati’, in year 1139 AD, brahmins named ‘Devdhar’ and ‘Chatre’ accompanied the troop of Brahmins who visited the kingdom of ‘Pratapbimba’ to bless him on the occasion of his coronation. Also a reference is found to the services of a Brahmin named ‘Patwardhan’ during the times of ‘Shilahar’s being continued by the next ruler ‘Pratapbimba’. A reference is also available evidencing the excavation of a leveled lake done by a brahmin named ‘Anantbhatt (Vasudevbhatt) Chitale to make available ample drinking water to the residents of the place named ‘Basni’ near ‘Ratnagiri’. Bhat, Ghaisas, Deval, Devdhar, Chatre, Patwardhan, and Chitale are the surnames most common only among the Chitpavans and not in any other Brahmin castes settled in Maharashtra. This is evidence enough to assume the existence of the ‘Chitpavans’ in Maharashtra from times as early as eleventh century.

A place called ‘Roopkund’ at an altitude of 5540 m, in the Garhwal region in Himachal Pradesh is always well covered with snow. It came into limelight in the year 1942 due to the most conspicuous reason. Many human skeletons were found buried under the snow in this place in 1942.  The experts from the University of oxford carried out many tests like ‘Carbon dating’ on these skeletons to finally arrive at a conclusion that the skeletons were of persons living during year 850 AD. The ‘Centre for cellular and molecular biology’ at Hydrabad carried out DNA tests on the skeletons only to conclude that these skeletons belonged to the Chitpavan Brahmins.

According to the research published by Dr. D.V. Jog, the first and second ‘Pulkeshi’ kings brought the  Citpavans to Konkan region during the period  535-642 AD to perform the ‘Paurohitya’ of the ‘Havans’ or ‘Yadnya’s performed by them.

Thus to conclude, as mentioned earlier, Chitpavans must have migrated from the regions of Kutch, Rajasthan to North in the peninsula of Ganga and Yamuna or to the south to the Konkan region or even further south to Karnatak and Tamilnadu after the famine of 200 BC.

Thus it would not be out of place to assume that the migration of the Chitpavans started from the year 200BC i.e. 2000 years ago and even continued thereafter for many a reasons. The site 1880 Gazeteers of Bombay Residency-Ratnagiri and Sawantwadi has the most authentic and official reference to their existence here


The Original place of the Chitpavans, settled in the region from River Savitri in North and Devagad in South, is the place called ‘Parshuram Tekdi’ near Chiplun. Though no reference to the history of the Chitpavans is available, according to the myths prevalent in the Ratnagiri region, the 14 bodies almost in the dying stage, probably the lucky survivors of a shipwreck, were spotted by Rishi Bhagwan Parshuram, who, with his spiritual prowess brought life into them. He then settled them in Ratnagiri region. Their descendents are known as ‘Chitpavans’. They do not have any sub-castes and marriages outside their caste are prohibited amongst them. Their number is 30000 i.e. 45.42% of the total Brahmin population of the district Ratnagiri.


  Language, Social structure and Lifestyle:  

In the pre-independence era i.e. till 1940/45, the chitpavans spoke their own language called ‘Chitpavani’ at homes though they spoke Marathi while conversing with others in the society. Chitpavani is a dialect much influenced by Marathi although many words in chitpavani have been adapted from the Konkani/Portugese spoken in erstwhile Goa region and to some extent Tulu language from northern Karnataka. It was being spoken in the Ratnagiri region till recently say 30/35 years ago. However it is still being spoken in some parts of Goa and Mangalore, South Canara and Karwar from Karnataka. This dialect is fast degenerating and hence some Chitpavans from Goa and surrounding regions are putting in efforts to revive it. Around 1980 Dr. Mrs. Vasudha Bhide wrote a thesis on the ‘Chitpavani’ spoken in the Ratnagiri region. Mrs. Joshi from Mangalore has written two books ‘Chitpavani Geete’ and ‘Chitpavani Mhanyo’ whereas one person from Goa has published ‘Chitpavani Grammer’. (Ref: Prakash Godse).

Shri. Prakash Godse writes:


The settlements of the Chitpavans used to be on and around the mostly barren and marshy/ salt lands near the sea or on the slopes of the hilly regions donated to them. These lands were made cultivable by putting in extreme hard work by the Chitpavans.

The structure of a normal Chitpavan settlement would be somewhat like this: On the land covering slopes of the hills they used to grow useful trees such as ‘Khair’, ‘Palas’, ‘Kajra’, ‘Nagchafa’, ‘Bahava’, ‘Shisam’, ‘Sag’, ‘Pangara’, ‘Jambhul’. The beds formed by leveling the slopes were used to grow their main food ‘Rice’ during the rainy season. The marshy lands near the bay or shore were leveled by the soil extracted in the process of formation of the beds. Such leveled land was used for the cash fruits like mango and cashew nuts. The house would be situated on leveled portion of the hilly slope and would have a barn for the cattle, a well on the side of the structure. The drainage water would flow into the area near the well where banana and ‘Alu’ trees are grown. The land beyond is used for trees like Coconut, ‘Pofali’, jackfruit, ‘Shevga’ ‘Papnas’ and many a flowery plants. The Chitpavans engaged in teaching ‘Vedas’ used to treat their houses as the ‘Ashramshala’. All the education of Vedas would be by reciting the ‘Ruchas’ of the Vedas and memorizing them. There used to be no written material. In the unfortunate circumstances of not getting students to teach, the supposedly immortal ‘Peepal’ tree in the front yard would be subjected to the ‘thread ceremony’ and vedic ‘Ruchas’ would be recited treating it as the student. All this was to prevent the degeneration of the vedic knowledge.


The reference to their social structure in the Gazeteers of Bombay Residency is as follows:


The settlements of the Chitpavans near the seashores are much clean and neat as compared to the other villages. Their settlement is normally surrounded by the coconut and ‘Pofli’ or mango and jackfruit trees. The houses are well designed and are built using uniformly shaped stone blocks. The frontage of the house would have a barn for the milch cattle, a well, a small puddle and a small temple.


  Physical characteristics:  

Fair skin and typical grayish green eyes are distinguishing characteristics of the Chitpavans. Due the fairer skin they are assumed to have migrated from the European countries. However this premise does not hold much ground as the fairer skin is also a characteristics of the people from the northern snow clad Himalayan regions of India.

The characteristics of the Chitpavans as recorded in the Gazeteers of Bombay Residency are: Bluish green (at time penetrating) eyes, handsome, with fairer skin, average height, average built, entire body structured to sustain strain, a face reflecting intellect are some of the peculiarities of the Chitpavan males. The Chitpavan females are very fair, normally beautiful or at least good looking, graceful and refined, having smaller built but an attractive figure.   

  Attire and Accessories:  

A reference in Gazeteers of Bombay Residency: Chitpavans are tidy, clean, particular about their appearance and social status. The attire of the Chitpavan men is a turban (pagote)a sleeved waistcoat, (bandi), a coat (angarkha) the shoulder cloth (Uparane or Angvastra), the waistcloth (Dhotar), country-made shoes (jode) in normal seasons, and sandals (vahana) during rainy season. The British rule brought about a change in the attire, mainly among the Chitpavans in government service. They started wearing trousers and broadcloth coats and polished leather shoes. The ladies wear a full long robe (lugade) and short sleeved bodice (choli) covering both back and chest. They do not wear shoes and nobody except the very rich ones wear a woolen shawl. They are very neat in wearing their dresses and the way of wearing their hair. The clothes are generally of cotton, white or dyed in single bright colour like pink, scarlet, black, green or primrose. Bikbali is the gold pearl ornamented ring worn in the right ear by the some men. The men also wear gold finger rings (angthya or Jodvi) whereas the women wear pearl studded nose rings (nath) and earrings (bugdya), gold hair ornaments (rakhadi, ketah, chandrakor, and kevda), gold neck ornaments (thushi, putlyachi mal, sari, patlya, kantha, laffa and tik) and gold bracelets (goth, tode, patlya and bangdya). Young and unmarried girls wear silver anklets (sakhalyas) and a few women wear gold finger rings (angthyas). Girl widows are no more allowed to have a red mark on their forehead (kunku) which is supposedly the mark of their husbands being alive (saubhagya). When she comes of age, the girl widow should get her head shaved off, her glass bracelets broken (bangdya fodtat) and are allowed to wear no robes except white or red (alwan) and no ornaments except the finger rings.        

  Attitude and Nature:  

The summary of the descriptions about the attitude and nature of the Chitpavans in the the Gazeteers of Bombay Residency is as follows:

Their cleverness, good sense, tact and power of management prompted the then Maratha Rulers to use their services in their army for spying and for skilled jobs. The chitpavans are generally studious, intelligent, shrewd, sharp, astute, prompt, poised. As regards financial matters they are very calculated and at times having a miserly approach. They normally are proud of their heritage and have a high level of self respect but at times are egoistic. They have tendency to dedicate self in completing allotted tasks successfully by clever planning and immaculate execution. They have an edge over the ‘Deshstha’ and ‘Karhade’ Brahmins when it comes to performing ‘Religious rituals’ and as such have ‘Paurohitya’ or ‘Bhikshuki’ as their main profession.   (These references pertain to the period 1880 to 1900)

        Their intellect, sly nature, management skills and expertise in political activities were their assets in preventing the fall of the Maratha Kingdom after the death of ‘Rajaram’ the grandson of King Shivaji. They not only restored the Maratha kingdom to its old glory but the Peshwas who were caretaker rulers for the ‘Chatrapati’ Shahu of Kolhapur also extended borders of the Maratha kingdom to Lahore in Pakistan and to the river ‘Atak’ in erstwhile Punjab Province a part of which is in Pakistan today.

The sharpness and clarity of thoughts, ability of independent thinking and boldness of expression, self reliance and upright nature, prudence, readiness to migrate for earning living and extremely patriotic nature are also the virtues attributed to the Chitpavans. However excess of many of these attributes resulted in Chitpavans being branded as misers, highly egoistic, selfish, headstrong, obstinate, stubborn, overconfident and arrogant.

  Diet and Food Habits  

Chitpavans are mainly vegetarians. The use of jaggary instead of sugar in daily food preparations is the speciality of the Chitpavans. Rice is the chief crop in Konkan region, the bastian of the Chitpavans and hence it forms the main ingradient of a Chitpavani diet. The initial course in the meal is the ‘Varanbhat’ (rice and cooked and grated grams), to add taste to it, the ‘Lonche’ (pickles of raw mango, lemon). Milk preparations like curd, buttermilk are normally used in food preparations. Also Shrikhand (made from thickened curd or Chakka), Basundi (Milk sweetened and thickened by process of evaporation) are normally used as deserts due to ample availability of milk from the pet milch animals. The use of green chilli, acidic ingradients in the food was sort of prohibited. The food is less oily except for the pickles. Meat of chicken or goat and fish are totally prohibited in food preparations. These food habits mostly resembled the food habits prevalent amongst the inhabitants in the Gujarat and Kutch regions. (Reference in Godse Kulavruttant)   

  Evolution and Progress:  

The Chitpavan migrants to the Konkan region had accomplished the knowledge of Vedas, mathematics, astrology and architecture. Though the knowledge of Vedas was initially used to perform religious rituals for the other sections of the society, the practice was not continued for long unlike the other Brahmin sects. Over a period of time there were hardly any ‘bhikshuks’ or ‘Purohits’ left among the Chitpavan clan. The amount of hard work and planning, put in cultivating the baron, marshy and slopy lands near the creeks and the hilly regions gifted to the migrant Chitpavans, made them not only self sufficient but rich enough. It was rightly said about the Chitpavans that ‘A Chitpavan would grow gold even from a baron land’. The circumstances and an extreme desire to sustain the adversities for existence, compelled the Chitpavans to accumulate wealth by whatever means, may be at times by cutting down even essential expenses, to explore various options for earning livelihood without compromising self esteem, prevent wastage of food, migrate to explore better avenues of higher income necessitated due to expanding families. These factors, brought about changes in the mindset of the Chitpavans and were the main cause for many a criticism leveled against them.

The comparatively richer Chitpavans were involved in ‘Money lending and were called as ‘Khot’s. The resemblance in this respect to the Marwaris of the Kutch and Rajasthan region furthers the premise of the migration of the Chitpavans from that region. However the fact that they were Brahmins and not the ‘Vaishya’s, prevented them from acquiring the financial progress by adapting to trade, like the Marwaris. However the acute intelligence and management skills led to the Chitpavans taking over the reins of the Maratha kingdom from the Chatrapatis. In later period, after the fall of the Peshavas and the dawn of the British rule over India, the Chitpavans graced the high posts of diplomats, government representatives, army commanders, politicians and lenders (even to the government). The freedom struggle is a classic example of the Chitpavan dominance. Agarkar, Tilak, Ranade, Kelkar, Phadke, Chaphekar, Savarkar were the chieftains in the Freedom struggle. However after the independence, the Chitpavan dominance crumbled due to absence of manipulative and compromising nature which was so very essential in the complex and opportunistic world of politics. The commoners among the Chitpavans, took to government and private services due to insufficient earning through the ‘Bhikshuki’ and ‘Vidyadan’. However the policies of the government of independent India, of reservation and appeasement, led to paucity of such opportunities. Chitpavans were quick enough to grasp the changing scenario and quickly adapted to situation. The inherent intellect helped them grab important positions in the government. They also entered the fields of education, judiciary, medical and engineering. Many took to trade, entered intellectual professions and even in contracting business.

Another peculiarity of the Chitpavans is perfect command over language and speech. This opened the doors of the fields of Literature, Marathi stage, Motion pictures and Art in general. The names like Damle, Phalke, Apte, Atre, Phadke, Bhave, Khadilkar, Deval, Marathe are the names of the Chitpavans who literally ruled the Marathi Drama and Motion Picture arena. A look at the list of achievers from the Chitpavan clan will give the idea of the dominance of the Chitpavans in these fields. This scenario continued till very recently. However the application of criteria other than merit in the fields of education and employment have reduced the employment opportunities for the Chitpavans who were clever enough to anticipate such changes. They switched over to the English Medium schools which would not hamper their education, even in case of their migration to other regions in search of better job opportunities. This resulted in a disconnect between them and the mother tongue Marathi. Those who could afford migration to developed countries for better jobs jumped to the first available opportunity. Also the uncertainty and discriminatory treatment received by them due to the feeling of jealousy caused due to their sustained dominance in these fields of literature, drama and movies, they were slowly relegated to oblivion.    

  Practicing Religion:  

The chitpavans call themselves descendents of the 14 sages and treat Bhagwan Parshuram as their mentor. As such, they are normally righteous and are of religious nature. The Chitpavans, as individuals, were reckoned as expert educators, mentors for the entire society, philosophical, knowledgeable, religious and at times resorting to extreme orthodox practices. This belief was not entirely misplaced. Each of the 14 gotras of the Chitpavans have a god as Kulswami and a goddess as a Kulaswamini. Worshiping these deities was a part of their daily rituals. To follow all the traditional rituals and festivities in the Hindu Religion, to visit Kashi in Uttar Pradesh for a pilgrim were some of the peculiarities of the Chitpavans. The concept of ‘Chaturvarna’ as conceived by Manusmruti was believed to strengthen, unify, protect, educate and bring about prosperity to the society by the four sections Brahmins (education), Kshtriya (Protection), Vaishya (trade) and Shudra (hygine) each taking responsibility of one of these aspects. The contribution of the Chitpavans was immense in the fields of Religion (to achieve unity) and education (to give clarity of thoughts). Due to the belief that the religion keeps the society united, Chitpavans were the centre of the ‘Chaturvana’ system due to their supremacy over the religious functions.

However  The need for the change in the system and effecting corrective measures to prevent the injustice meted out to the lower castes by atrocities of various kinds was felt by the social reformers like Agarkar, Savarkar and Gokhale who themselves were Chitpavans. The introspect Chitpavan community conscientiously tried to throw away the ghost (जोखड) of untouchability. Unfortunately the post independence era saw a spate of violence against Chitpavans due to killing of Mahatma Gandhi and the unrest due to excessive behavior of the Chitpavans in the past against the lower castes. This muted the efforts of the Chitpavans to bring about the change in the system.       

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