Sunday, March 7, 2010

On who I am and what I represent

By birth I am a Hindu (West) Bengali Brahmin of Radhi Sreni (rADhi) and Bharadwaj Gotra (bharadvAja gotra). My family is originally from Bromhottar, Boro Champatala (near Panchanantala) in Chandernagore (Hooghly District, West Bengal) where we have been staying for the past 200 years or so. Prior to that our family used to stay in Krishnanagar, Nadiya district.

Till around 35-40 years back, our family was more or less one big joint family residing in our traditional house (which is more than 200 years old). However, starting from mid-70's a few members of our family moved to different parts of West Bengal, some moved to other parts of India and my father, Gourisankar Mukhopadhyay (gourisankara mukhopAdhyAya) eventually moved to Lagos, Nigeria (and returned early 1990's). Some members, including my uncle (father's brother) Atanu Mukherjee, left the traditional home and built their own house on our ancestral land nearby (near Kundughat). Some people continue to stay in our traditional house.

I have personally never lived in Chandernagore, although I have been there from time to time and ocassionaly still go there. However, after the death of my grandfather, Bholanath Mukherjee in 2002 and my grandmother, Nilima Mukherjee in 2003, my frequency of visit to Chandernagore has gone down.

But the fact remains that I have always been interested in the history of our family, in the history of Mukhopadhyay's, in the history of Bengali Brahmins and in general in the history of Indian Brahmin's. From 1997 to 2002, over a period of 5 years I tried to piece together my family history from documents and stories from various family members and relatives and eventually compiled a family history book.

That book is incomplete.

Brahmin families in Bengal, especially 'higher' Bengali Brahmins (or Kulin) are expeced to maintain a traditional record of their lineage starting from the first Brahmin of his 'gotra' to arrive in Bengal from Kanauj / Kolancha. In the case of Mukhopadhyay, the traditional ancestor is Sreeharsha (shrIharsha).

Till mid 1970's my father had carefully preserved many of these ancient documents and charts. However after he left Chanderanagore and evntually left India, most of these documents and charts got misplaced/ stolen/ sold-off/ thrown away and so my entire research has been based on people's memory (which is usually poor and selective), on traditional stories (which are stories and not facts) and on some facts (like school certificates, old letters which my father has preserved).

I have built a complete tree starting from Krishnachandra Mukhopadhyay (born around 1790) of Krishnanagar, Nadia who was supposedly the first member of the Chandernagore clan to which we belong.

Over the next few years my plan is to build a complete lineage starting from Sreeharsha and tracing the migration of our ancestors over the centuries. It is by no means an easy task and would require painstaking research and effort to separate facts from fictions. However, the great cause, I believe justifies the efforts.

16 comments:

  1. Hi there. Interesting blog. Over the last few years I have been delving into genetic genealogy as a hobby and even got myself tested with National Geographics Genographic Project. I got my Y-chromosome tested, which determines which 'haplogroup' you belong to. It gives you an idea of deep ancestry. If interested you can google NGC's project to learn about this in detail(in case you don't already know)or check out my blog: www.r2dnainfo.blogspot.com.

    I am a Bengali myself (Chatterji)but not very well versed about our ancestry, and have never lived in WB. Recently I happened to discover that within my haplogroup, R2a, there is a specific genetic marker that is unique to Bengali Brahmins. I have been trying to figure out recent geographical origins since. So far it's a dead end at Kanauj. Someone in a genetics forum disagrees and says it's Kolancha, NOT Kanauj, and that they are not the same place.

    Would like to hear from you regarding this.

    Cheers.

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  2. Hi RJ - Thank you for the comment.

    1. Genetic Genealogy - Although not an expert, I am somewhat aware of the fundamentals of deep ancestry, but never got around to getting myself tested. But plan to do something in the near future. Hopefully.

    2. About Kanauj/ Kolanacha
    Again I am no expert. But based on whatever I have read from texts and understood:
    a. rADhis seem to have come to Radh from Gauda (old Bengal) from Kolancha (a.k.a Krodancha) - at least older genealogist/ historians like eDumishra, harimishra, vachaspati mishra seem to think so

    b. Kolancha
    Whether Kolancha is the same as Kanauj, is difficult to conclude as there is really no evidence tying these two places. However there exists evidence based on copper plates and continuity of name which would indicate that Kolancha might have referred to a place called Koolach in Bogra district (or something similar) somewhere in modern day Norther Bangladesh. Again, I have very little knowledge of Bangladesh (except that they speak weird Bengali).
    This Kolancha was a part of a larger administrative area called Sravasti (not to be confused with Buddhist Sravasti of UP).

    c. Kanauj
    But again this does not imply that Brahmins did not come from Kanauj. For example, during the Muslim rule when Hindus especially Brahmins were persecuted and killed, it is quite possible that many Brahmins from Kanauj and "Madhya Desha" may have come to Bengal and got assimilated with the local Brahmin populace. For example, in my family, I have heard that long back (when?) the groom used to arrive on horses during marriage, which as we know is a peculiarly "Hindustani" culture. Again this may be a coincidence.

    d. Pre-Existing Brahmin population and Other cultures
    Prior to Radhis and Varendris, Bengal already had a Brahmin population - the Shatsatis or the ancient Saraswat Brahmins (similar to GSBs) from Saraswati river area, who were later assimilated into the Hindu Brahmins fold. During the Buddhist rule (followed by Sahajiya cult etc) a lot of racial inter-mixing happened - people used to come from different parts of Asia to Bengal. Brahmins used to marry non-Brahmins and so on. Brahmins from different parts of India also came to Bengal and settled (Vaidikis etc)

    So there is a high chance that Kolancha is not Kanauj, but that doesn'nt preclude the independent migration of some Brahmins from Kanauj.

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  3. Thanks for the reply. Going by genetics I would say that a migration from the west of Bengali Brahmins is true in all probability(not all, but most). The community itself belongs to mainly two haplogroups (R1a1a and R2) - approx 90% which is the highest concentration observed anywhere in the world. What that basically proves is that this community descended from only a few recent(relatively) ancestors - which fits in very well with the traditional stories. Also, there is a direct correlation between my gotra(Kashyap)and a genetic marker for people who are R2. That marker happens to belong to ONLY Bengali Brahmins(out of everyone whose DNA data is publicly available) and they all happen to be Kashyap gotra. I have not looked into other gotras and haplogroups yet. Will do that soon. My theory, based on available information is that we did migrate from Kanauj and prior to that, thousands of years perhaps, from the Afghan/Kashmir/North Pak geographical region. DNA data indicates this but nothing certain as yet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is very interesting and I would like to explore this more (R2). Could you please let me know how to go about doing research? Disclaimer: My knowledge on haplogroups is rudimentary. :)

    Note: BB - Bengali Brahmins.

    I wasn't aware of R2 among BB - I was under the impression that R1a1a was the most common haplogroups among BB. However, please correct me if I am wrong, I had read somewhere that R1a1a is NOT conclusive (of any migration) as it is equally common also among adivasis, Manipuris and many other tribes. In fact, R1a1a is often used by the "Out-of-India Arayan Migration" theorists to buttress their claim that Aryans were indigenous to Indian sub-continent - hence the wide-spread nature of R1a1a. Maybe you could clarify.

    And one more thing - irrespective of whether you refer to Radhiya or Varendri kulapajis - the first ancestor of Chatterjees (daksha) came from Kolancha, whereas in our case (Mukherjees), some say we came to Kolancha from Ourambar (wherever that is).

    Personally here is what I believe:
    a. Brahmins migrated from West (NW or SW) India to Kolancha in Sravasti (in present day North Bangladesh/ WB)
    b. From there a sub-set migrated to Gauda (Bengal)
    c. From there some settled in Varendra-bhooma, some in Radh bhoom (we people).

    ReplyDelete
  5. R1a1a is more prevalent among BB's at approx.72%, R2 at 23%. IMO there was no Aryan Invasion at all, and most people, even die hard AIT theorists are dropping it. R1a is older and its variance is highest in India indicating a point of origin. Besides, Haplogroup R itself, the parent of both R1 and R2 is likely to have originated in the same area.Haplogroup F which is the parent of almost all haplogroups is mainly found in India and is the parent of all non-African haplogroups. 'Out of India' is actually gaining more credibility now amongst those who are still interested. The implications are big. However they still cling on to linguistic theories that Europeans educated the world - with not much to back it up when genetics and archaeology are taken into consideration. You may check out haplogroup R2a and R1a on Wikipedia. My blog also has a lot of info on R2(now all R2's are R2a) and there's a link to tutorials on this subject.

    Unfortunately many people have agendas and I've come across many racists that refuse to see India as a place of origin. After years on Wiki they finally do say that R1a 'most probably' originated in South Asia. I think that it's the only possibility as do many others that R,R1,R2 all originated in South Asia. IMO - somewhere near Kashmir.

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  6. Mukherjees so far have all been R1a1a1 in case you're curious. However as is the case with all of South Asia, not many people have tested so nothing is conclusive as yet.

    I think the best place for a person interested in learning more about genetic genealogy should start off with Wiki and follow the links and so on from there. I just checked the R2a page, and notice it has been edited a LOT by an R2a guy from the Middle East and his whole objective in life is to distance himself from India(kind of figured that out from his discussions on a forum).. :) So keep that in mind when referring to wiki. Surprisingly the page on R1a isn't as biased as it used to be.

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  7. Some links:

    http://r2dnainfo.blogspot.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetics_and_archaeogenetics_of_South_Asia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R2a_%28Y-DNA%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1a_%28Y-DNA%29
    http://www.ethnoancestry.com/index_files/index_data/Haplogroup_R2_Manoukian.pdf
    http://dna-forums.org/

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  8. Lots of info on BB's:

    http://tanmoy.tripod.com/geneology.html#genetic

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  9. Thank you for the update about R1a1a. I'll definitely start looking into it. Genetics (to use a crude term) is perhaps the only things that would help us going forward in terms of this Aryan debate.

    As far as Aryan Invasion (now Aryan Migration) is concerned, it is true that there is much acrimony. Indian scholars have very little expertise in lingustics and unfortunately linguistics is the basis on which Migration scholars base their theories. Indian scholars, given their lack of expertise in this field, typically completely deny the importance of linguistics, typical "chalta hai" attitude. IMHO, unless Indian scholars can come up with linguistics based hypothesis to counter the migration claim, things would remain the same.

    On the other hand Indian scholars base their Indigenous Aryan theory among other things on the absence of invasion mentioned in Rk Veda and absence of archaelogical evidence of invasion. But we need to keep in mind that absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. In fact among recent books that I have read, Shrikant Talageri's Rk Veda: A Historical Study somewhat stands out, but I found that although his approach of creating a genealogy of the rishis is sound, the conclusions drawn are somewhat suspect from a mathematical standpoint. I can share my workings once I finalize them.

    While no one can deny the existence of Saraswati river, the efforts so far to link the Harrapan culture with Aryans, have been very un-scientific. While we may not like, Michael Witzels guts we cannot deny that his research on substrata in Sanskrit and language X (among other things) is essentially scientific. Interpretations of test results is a different matter altogether.

    Don't know if you have read the book by Edwin F. Bryant: "The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate". It is a wonderful book (a tad expensive) summarizing all the findings of both AIT and OOI scholars in an unbiased way. I have also reviewed the book on flipkart.

    Personally I do not subscribe to AIT - in fact AIT fell out of fashion some 20-30 years back. At the same time I am open to both Aryan Migration into India as well as Out of India migration. Small migration(s) may have happened into India and migration out of India may have happened, not to colonize the world but perhaps for trade, better life or simply based on migratory instincts. In fact some researchers (like Sethna) talk about an Aryan band/ zone extending from Central India to West Asia - a region of mutually co-existing and similar cultures, perhaps linguistically affiliated, or similar and encompassing a variety of ethnic groups. And this is something I find very appealing. Findings in Mehargarh indicate a continuous civilization for the last 10,000 years or so. Plus I had read somewhere that a study indicated that OO Africa migration happened in one swoop instead of two as postulated earlier.

    We need some scholar who can piece together all the evidence and come up with a good story. But thats neither here nor there. People have written books on this subject. :) So I completely agree with you on genetic markers - ultimately markers may indicate what may have happened.

    I'll go through the links you sent me. In fact I had been planning to get myself tested and write about markers in my blog. Your insightful comments may have now accelerated that process.

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  10. If you want to get tested I would suggest FTDNA's 67 marker test (Y-Chromosome) and if you're willing to spend a little extra get your mtDNA test done as well, but there's much less research done on that. For a more thorough result get tested at 23&me, but it costs a whole lot more.

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  11. Regarding AIT, yes I hope more scholarly studies are done within India to be more readily accepted in the west and generally within the scientific/scholarly circle in general.

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  12. sorry for the double negative(generally/general)and the multiple posts. :) Need to get into the habit of previewing/editing my comments before posting!

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  13. Thanks! Let me see when I can get myself tested. Looks pretty expensive though :)
    ITMT am doing a survey of existing literature of genetic studies on BB's and attempting to assess the general concensus.

    ReplyDelete
  14. There have been no studies done exclusively on BB's but what you're doing sounds like a good idea. For an idea about R2 frequency around the world you may refer to a list on my site:
    http://sites.google.com/site/r2dnainfo/R2-Home/r2-dna/r2-frequency/r2-frequencies-worldwide

    Following the links provided(sources) may lead you to more info on BB haplogroups.

    ReplyDelete
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