Kayastha (also referred to as Kayasth or Kayeth) is a caste or community of Hindus originating in India. Kayasthas are traditionally considered to be members of the literate scribe caste, who acted as record-keepers, keepers of public accounts, writers and administrators of the state.
Kayasthas have historically occupied the highest government offices, serving as ministers and advisors during early medieval Indian kingdoms and the Mughal Empire, and holding important administrative positions during the British Rule. In modern times, Kayasthas have attained success in politics, as well as in the arts and various professional fields.
In modern times, Kayasthas have attained success in politics, as well as in the arts and various professional fields
According to the Hindu scriptures known as the Puranas, Kayasthas are descended from Chitragupta, “who was born from the body of Brahma”, and is the deity responsible for recording the deeds of humanity, upholding the rule of law, and judging whether human beings go to heaven or hell upon death.
The Kayastha trace their genealogy from Adi Purush Shri Chitraguptaji Maharaj. It is said that after Lord Brahma had created the four Varnas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras), Yama snonym Dharamraj requested Lord Brahma to help him record the deeds, good and evil, of men, and administer justice. Lord Brahma went into meditation for 11000 years and when he opened his eyes he saw a man holding pen and ink-pot in his hands and a sword girdled to his waist.
Lord Brahma spoke: Thou hast been created from my body (Kaya), therefore shall thy progeny be known as the Kayasthas. Thou hast been conceived in my mind (Chitra) and in secrecy (gupta), thy name shall also be Chitragupta. Brahma then enjoined him to dispense justice and punish those who violated the dharma. Thus, the Kayasthas were accorded a dual caste, Brahmin/Kshatriya.
In the legends of Shree Chitraguptaji Maharaj, he is referred to as the greatest King, while the rest are rajakas or little kings.
Prior to the 13th century AD, during the rule of Hindu kings, Kayasthas dominated public service and had a near-monopoly on appointments to government positions. They may also have been described as Karanas, since the two groups performed similar functions.
According to Abu al-Fazl, Emperor Akbar’s prime minister, Kayasthas were rulers of the Pala Empire, one of the major early medieval Indian kingdoms that originated in Bengal.
In Bengal, during the reign of the Gupta Empire beginning in the 4th century AD, when systematic and large-scale colonization by Aryan Kayasthas and Brahmins first took place, Kayasthas were brought over by the Guptas to help manage the affairs of state
Kayasthas mastered Persian, which became the official language of the Mughal courts. One of the most notable Kayasthas of the Mughal period was Raja Todar Mal, Emperor Akbar’s finance minister and one of the court’s nine Navaratnas, who is credited with establishing the Mughal revenue system. He also translated the Bhagavata Purana from Sanskrit into Persian.
Maharaja Pratapaditya, the King of Jessore who declared independence from Mughal rule in the early 17th century, was a Kayastha.
During the British Rule, Kayasthas continued to proliferate in public administration, qualifying for the highest executive and judicial offices open to Indians. Some of the significant figures of the Indian independence movement were Kayasthas, including the spiritual leaders Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, and the revolutionary leader Subhas Chandra Bose
The Kayastha are found mostly in central, eastern and northern India, and particularly in Bengal. Today, there are an estimated 800,000 Kayasthas in India. Kayasthas that have risen to prominence since independence include the country’s first president, Rajendra Prasad, and its second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri.
चित्र इद राजा राजका इदन्यके यके सरस्वतीमनु ।
पर्जन्य इव ततनद धि वर्ष्ट्या सहस्रमयुता ददत ॥
RIG VEDA 8/21/18
In the Garud Puran, Chitragupta is hailed as the first man to give the script.
The 12 clans of Brahma Kayastha: