Śākadvīpīya Brahmans or Bhojaka Brahmans, is a class of Hindu priests and Ayurveda teachers (acharyas) and practitioners,[1] with significant concentrations of their populations occurring in Western and Northern India.

Spelling variants of "Śākadvīpīya" (IAST transcription) include Shakdvipi, Shakdwipi, Shakdweepi, Shakdvipiya, Shakdwipiya, Shakdweepiya, Shakadwipi, Śākadvīpīya, and Sakadwipi.[1]

The Śākadvīpīyas are also known as Maga Brahmans (or sometimes Mragha) see origin myth below). Historically, Maga Brahmans are Sūryadhvaja ("white flag") Brahmans, who nevertheless today consider themselves to be distinct from the Śākadvīpīya or Bhojaka Brahmans.

Origin myth

The Śākadvīpīya Brahman community of India identify themselves as having Iranian roots, and assert that they inherit their by-name mragha from a group of priests (cf. mobed) who established themselves in India as the Mragha-Dias or Mragha-Brahmanas.

Mahabharata describes fourfold varna system that was followed in Shakadwipa: Mragha, Mashaka, Manasa, Madanga.[2]

The doctrinal basis for that assertion is Bhaviṣya Purāṇa 133, which may be summarized as follows:[3][4]

Krishna's son Samba was afflicted with leprosy, which was cured after he worshiped , Hinduism's god of the Sun. In response, he built a temple to Sūrya on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, but no Brahman could be found willing to take up the role of a temple priest, as they could not accept offerings made to gods. So Samba sought help of Gauramukha ("white face"), the adviser of the Yadu chief, Ugrasena.:Gauramukha responded with a suggestion that Samba go to Shakdvipa (see note on Mahabharata 6:11, below)[5][6] and invite their priests to worship Sūrya. Further, asked Samba, "tell me, oh Brahman, what are the antecedents of these worshipers of the Sun?" To which Gauramukha replied... "The first of the Brahmans amidst the Śakas was called 'Sujihva.' ("good tongue") [...] He had a daughter of the name Nikshubha, who so enamored Sūrya that she was impregnated by him. Thus she gave birth to Jarashabda who was the founding father of all the Maga-Ācārya. 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-Ācārya ("Maga teacher"), brought them back to India and installed them as priests of his Sūrya 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 Brahmans, who married Bhoja vamsa women and so their descendants came to be known as Bhojakas.

As such, the Śākadvīpīya are one of only two[b] Brahman groups who are said to have originated outside India, even if about half their clan names (gotras) are the same as those of other Brahmans.

Whatever their original beliefs, by the time the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa 133 was composed the Śākadvīpīyas were identified as devotees of , Hinduism's deity of the Sun (cf. Hvar). Subsequently, in Vrihata samhita 60.19, directs that the installation of the images should be made by the maga, as they were the first to worship the divinity. Other texts enjoin that the images of Sūrya 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 Sūrya is regarded to represent Śākadvīpīya 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,[7] 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.

In epigraphy

The tale of the arrival of the Śākadvīpīyas 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.[8] The Brahmans of the Godda district in Jharkhand 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 Brahman Clans states that Śākadvīpī Brahmans 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 Brahmans) are not in vogue.[9]

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."[9]

Brahmand Chetna (First and only International print and e magazine of Shakdwipiya Mag Brahmans according to it Late Janki Ballab Shastri famous poet is shakdwipiya, Sajal Mishra innovator of modern Hindi and famous artists of Katthak dance late Jamuna Prasad Pandey is also shakdwipiya the emagazine may be seen at

Internal structures

Apocryphally, the Śākadvīpīya centre was at Magadha. According to their tradition, they were there allotted 72 principalities (purs),[10] 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 Brahmans) and give it prime importance in arranging marriages; endogamy within one of their 74 paras (i.e. allas) is prohibited.

There are altogether 13 Śākadvīpī gotras: Kāśyapa, Garga, Pārāśara, Bhrigu/Bhargava, Kauṇḍinya, Kausala, Bharadwaj, Vasu, Sūryadatta/Arkadatta, Nala, Bhavya Maṭi and Mihrāsu.

The Sūryadhwaja have 5 gotras:Garga, Sūrya, Soral, Lakhi, Binju and Malek Jade.


Major Śākadvīpīya centers are in Rajasthan in Western India and near Gaya in Bihar.

The term 'Bhojaka' is popular in the western states while 'Sakadvipi' and its numerous variations is typical for the north and east. The terms 'Graha Vipra' and 'Ācārya Brahman' are common in Orissa, West Bengal and Rajasthan. One of the Śākadvīpīya groups, the 'Sūryadhwaja' Brahmans, are endemic to Northern India and is the only Shakadwipiya group classified as Kashmiri Pandits.

The Bhojakas and sewaks are historically associated with several Jain temples in Gujarat and Rajasthan, where they serve as priests and attendants.[11] Some of the Shakdwipi Brahmans of Bihar and Uttar pradesh are Ayurvedic physicians, some are priests in Rajput families, while yet others are landholders.[12]

A community called as Daivajna who speak Konkani hailing from Konkan area are believed to have descended from Magas.[13]

Surnames (Padavi or Āspada titles) in alphabetical order, with their respective traditional areas are:

Surname Traditional "Root" Areas
Bhatta J&K, Bihar
Bhatt J&K, Bihar
Upadhyay Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh
Ganak Assam
Ganaka Kerala
Ācārya Bengal
Graha Vipra Bihar
Bhojak sewak Koushik sharma Rajasthan, Maharastra
Miśra Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
Pāṭhaka Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
Mehrishi Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan
Pāṇḍey[9] Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
Sharma Rajasthan
Shukla Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
Rai Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
Soral Delhi, Rajasthan
Dasguru, Indraguru Jharkhand, Bihar
Vajpayee Uttar Pradesh
Vadhyayar/Vadhyar Kerala, Karnataka
Ojha,Jyotishi Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh
Mohapatra, Nayak,Jyotishi,Jyotish,Khadiratna, Senapati, Ojha, Patta joshi, Nathsharma Orissa

Das Guru people from Jharkhand

See also



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Further reading

  • with due permission from Dr. Vepachedu

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