Introduction / History
Brahman is a Hindu Indian caste. The English word brahmin is an anglicised form of the Sanskrit word Brahmana. Brahman refers to the 'Supreme Self' in Hinduism or the first of the gods.
Where Are they Located?
In 1931 (the last Indian census to record caste), Brahmans accounted for 4.32% of the total Indian population. Due to the diversity in language, religious and cultural traditions and practices, and the Vedic schools which they belong to, there are numerous types of Brahmans.
Brahmans are par excellence the performers of Hindu rituals, and caste status is profoundly tested by whether Brahmans are willing to perform rituals for non-Brahman castes (i.e., if they are willing, the caste for which they do so is a high caste). But most Brahmans do not perform rituals for others (most Hindus of all castes perform daily worship rituals) and many non-Brahmans perform rituals for their own and even other caste groups."
Only a subset of Brahmans are involved in priestly duties including teaching and preaching. They have also excelled as educators, law makers, scholars, doctors, warriors, writers, poets, land owners, politicians. Modern Brahman parents aspire for their sons to become computer programmers and engineers. Many famous Indians are Brahmans.
The history of the Brahmans is associated with the Vedic religion of early India, usually referred to as Sanatana Dharma. Brahmans first come to notice historically in the Vedic period, but how the modern caste system developed is a highly contested topic due to lack of clear data. Brahmans and kings became the dominant social and religious forces in many of the kingdoms that developed over pre-modern India. Discrimination became of a feature of the caste system with Brahmans often being assigned blame for the system. Over time, Brahmans became a powerful and influential group in India and many discriminated against lower castes. However, in modern India some Brahmans claim reverse discrimination due to affirmative action policies of the central and state governments in India that favor lower caste groups.
Brahmans are located throughout India and there are influential Brahmans among all the major language groups. Brahmans tend to be a higher percentage in the north Indian language groups than they are among the south Indian language groups. There are small concentrations in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Brahmans are generally among the well-to-do in India and place a high value on education. (Thus an inordinate percentage of Brahmans are among the Hindus who have migrated to the West.) Probably most still perform daily worship rituals, but the growing forces of secularization and globalization in India are strongest among the Brahmans. Most are vegetarian but some groups eat some meat, particularly fish, and many individuals even from vegetarian Brahman groups are now eating meat (rarely beef, and often meat eating is surreptitious). Discerning opinions and heart attitudes is difficult, but it seems that only a small minority of today's Brahmans would uphold what was once considered Brahman orthodoxy: that Brahmans are better by birth than all other peoples.
They see themselves as the preservers and teachers of Hinduism.
What Are Their Beliefs?
As just noted, most modern Brahmans do not espouse a doctrine of their superiority by birth above other peoples. It was also noted that many are now secularists. But most Brahmans respect the ancient (and many not-so-ancient) traditions of their forefathers. Some work to synthesize modern science and Hindu beliefs and practices. There are hundreds of "denominations" of Hinduism and Brahmans have a presence in many; so it is not easy to generalize on what Brahmans believe. Some would be devotees of Vishnu or his avatars of Krishna or Ram, some would be devotees of Shiva, and some would be devotees of the goddess in one of her manifestations. Others are followers of modern gurus. Few today have seriously studied, let along memorized, the ancient Vedas; but one is more likely to find a person knowledgeable about the Vedas and other Hindu texts and teachings among Brahmans than among any non-Brahman caste group.
Scripture Prayers for the Brahmans in India.
Brahmans are seen as knowledgeable and enlightened; pray for the light of the gospel to bring the knowledge of Christ to them and to India, and pray wisdom for disciples of Jesus who befriend and share faith with Brahmans.
Pray that the true God will reveal Himself to this community and use Brahmans to preach and teach about Jesus Christ.
Scripture Prayers for the Brahmin unspecified in Bangladesh.