Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Thu Aug 21 01:35:01 CDT 1997

On Wed, 20 Aug 1997, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:


> Here things get a little murkier.  One Naga bawa that my family knew was
> called Nilakantha Giri.  Maybe it started with Puri, Bharati, and
> Saraswati then spread to the other names?  Anyway I thought that all
> 10 names were represented.  And there is a caste called gosais (From
> Sanskrit Goswami) who are functionaries in Shaiva mandirs and have
> surnames like Saraswati, Giri etc. but they are householders not sannyasis
> of any kind.  They are also different from the Vaishnava leaders called
> Goswamis who are also householders.  May be somewhere along the line they
> got mixed up with the Nagas?

The Vaishnava Goswamis seem to be quite independent of the dasanamis.
There are some Gosains who bear dasanami titles, but are householders. In
this connection, read J. N. Bhattacharya's "Hindu Castes and Sects". It
was reprinted in 1969 from Calcutta, and contains some information on the
dasanamis and the gosains. As for representation of all 10 names, araNya,
ASrama, vana, parvata and sAgara are very rare nowadays, but there are a
number of ascetics surnamed giri. However, tIrtha and sarasvatI have come
to be used by non-advaita traditions too, especially dvaita and gaudiya
Vaishnavism. Also, bhAratI has come to be used as a general title given to
learned men, especially in south India. Two famous Tamil poets,
Gopalakrishna Bharati (18th cent.) and Subrahmanya Bharati (19th-20th
cents.) were not dasanamis, although the first lead a very ascetic kind of


> There was an A.S. Ghurye who wrote a book about the history of Sannyasa
> too but I've only glanced at it so I can't tell you if its any good. I'll
> take another look and also at the others you mention.

Ghurye's book is quite good, but it is more general than the other two. It
covers the monks belonging to various Hindu and non-Hindu traditions,
while the other two concentrate on the dasanamis. Sadananda Giri's book is
quite comprehensive, although he writes from a north Indian perspective,
and doesn't seem to understand the southern maThas very much.


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