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Anavil Brahmins



Anavil Brahmins

In the 17th and 18th century the city of Surat was the most important harbor in the Arabian Sea and the main port of the Moghul empire having a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants at the peak of its expansion, in the first half of the 18th century. The neighboring area was beside very fertile land and the whole coastal region was rich.

The Surat district was at the southern end of the Moghul empire and the Maratha were so to say constantly on the lurk to get hold of the riches of Surat.

As major part of their rule the Moghul princes established in every region, so called tax-farmers, who had to collect the land-taxes the cultivators paid to get protection against ?robbers? and invaders. The Moghul-bureaucracy chose for such a position, men (families) who owned much land in that area and who could command respect. These officials were called Desai (from desh). The emerging power and wealth of these dignitaries of central government, lies at the root of the major differentiation between the Desai and the non-Desai or Bhathela.

We know from historical records that the vast majority of the Desai appointed in the Surat district belonged to, what at that was officially designated, the Bhathela Desai community.

The Desai wee as said, responsible for a the collecting of land rent in different villages and so among the more than hundred villages were Anavil of Bhathela Brahmin lived about five villages became the residence of Desai families. These became the Sara-Gam; the good villages were Desai families lived next to non Desai, Bhathela and cultivators of a number of other communities, like Kanbi, Koli and the artisan caste. From this center, each Desai covered a number of surrounding villages to exact the land rent from cultivators.

The Desai villages like Palsana, kharsad Dihan, Untidy, Bhadeli, Puni, Gandevi, Chikhli, Vesma, Kaliawadi, Katargam, etc. were obviously at that time already bigger townships because the Desai families of course preferred to live in villages with better facilities.

During the 18th century the local power of the Desai only increased because the central power of the Moghul?s came more and more under siege from side of the Maratha invasions as well as due to the ever expanding power of the British. The Desai became a sort of raja within their own domains and they were able to amass riches at the expense of the common Cultivators, Bhathela, Kanbi, Koli, etc.

Around 1815 the British established their direct colonial rule in certain parts of the Surat district while in other parts the Gaikwar of Baroda (a Maratha prince who had helped the British against the Moghul) remained in power.

In the British-ruled areas the system of land rent-collection was changed. The so called rayot ?wari ?system was introduced. Therein, the rayot (the cultivator paid land rent directly to the government and the role of the Desai was brought back to zero.

Around 1830 the British government agreed to pay a compensation for the loss of Desai-rights to all the families who prove that descended directly for Desai?s, who in the past had got official rights from the Moghuls. (In Surat district this concerned about 900 heads of household who claimed so called Desaigiri, of them 728 belonged to the then so-called, Bhathela Desai.

A number of important effects resulted from this development:

1.      The claims to a Desai- status were so to say frozen which made the difference between the Desai and the non-Desai official. Only someone who received Desai-giri descended from a real Desai at least in the British territories but similarly also in the Gaikwar areas.

2.      The Desai lost in the British territories their main source of income and power, while the tax-farming system was continued in the Gaikwar State until about 1875, when the then Gaikwar of Baroda was by the British replaced for the later famous Sayajirao. This meant that Desai in Gaikwar state could maintain their old lifestyle to a great extent. It is therefore not surprising that the highest of the highest Desai, the Pedhhiwala, resided in Gandevi, Palsana and Mahuva towns belonging to the Baroda-State.

3.      Another important effect of the inclusion in the British colonial state and economic influence was that, with the introduction n of the Railway Bombay-Baroda, impetus was given to agriculture as well as trade and new occupational opportunities.

Especially in the comparatively poorer non-Desai villages, the Bhathela took the opportunity to improve their economic position. They were less hampered by considerations of status than the Desai, when it came to making use of new occupational options. As Brahmans they as well as the Desai were also among the first to take advantage of new opportunities for education. They went in for ?nokri? in Railway, school teachers and as clerks (Mehta) in the British Government.

So while at the one hand the distinction between the Desai and non-Desai was bureaucratically ?officialized?, the economic developments made it more and more easy for non-Desai to attain economic importance, political influence and consequently to increase their demand for status. Especially in the villages near to railroad more and more, non-Desai aspired to be like the Desai.

One of the major ways to express publicly, that a family has attained a certain status was/is the arrangement and celebration of marriage. Like everywhere in the world it is also a way to improve one?s status.

There's more information in Wikipedia for Anavil Brahmins

Linked toDahyabhai Ranchhodji Desai; Bhikhabhai Lallubhai Naik

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