Kāyastha

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Kayastha, KAyastha, Kaayastha


The varṇa and jati have been an integral part of the society over the millennia. As the society progressed in the civilization with more and more professions and avenues of earning wealth, the number of jati-s also got multiplied.

The ‘kāyastha’ is one such jati which is not mentioned in the ancient dharmasutras. However, the Viṣṇu Dharmasutras[1] assigned to the period A. D. 300-700 mentions the word, but only in the sense of an accountant. It must have acquired the sense of jati at a later period.

With regard to the hierarchy of the kāyasthas among the varṇas and jatis there seem to be differences of opinion. Some High Courts have assigned to them the position of dvijās[2] whereas others have relegated them to the śudra varna.

Some works speak of three sub-jati-s among the kāyasthas:

  1. Kārāvara
  2. Kāruṣa
  3. Kirāta

These divisions were perhaps made by the differences in professions and way of life.


References

  1. Viṣṇu Dharmasutras 7.3
  2. Dvijās means ‘the twice-born’ ones
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore