Community book Kayasth Encyclopedia sheds new light on the study of caste

Former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Uday Sahay is passionate when talking about the history, culture and traditions of the Kayasth community in India because he wrote a book from the heart rather than with keystrokes on a laptop.

“You cannot separate yourself from realities. You were born in a particular setting, a village or a town, of particular parents and in a particular community. You must be proud of where you belong. You will become a wonder without roots if you do not attached to your roots or your moorings, says Sahay, to the oft-repeated question of why a book about the Kayasth community to which he belongs.

“You have to be proud of what you have and that includes your caste,” says Sahay, now a communications professional, adding that the journey to know your culture, religion, traditions and civilization starts with being proud of what you have, rather than throwing it on the altar of modernization.

The Kayasth Encyclopedia talks about maps, migration and forgotten footprints. Maps codify the magic of existence, but Sahay is not a cartographer tracing mountains and rivers on blank pages. He does not even speak of the established present. He goes back 2,500 years to unearth the forgotten past of the Kayasth community and recounts it in 382 brilliant pages of Kayasth, An Encyclopedia of Untold Stories.

Cards don’t talk. History does. And in this one-of-a-kind book, the story borrows the tenor from Sahay, who for 27 months criss-crossed 21 Indian states, dumped dog-eared books and sepia-toned documents into libraries, sifted through facts, pieced together entries sketchy, asked questions, posed theories, had long conversations with scholars and historians to string together an ethnographic account (he calls it illustrative, not exhaustive) of the Kayasth community, who, according to mythology, are the descendants of Shri Chitragupta, the heavenly custodian of the records of virtues and sins.

Even before you leaf through the first page of the hardcover book, faces on the cover catch the eyes of readers. Some known and often repeated in conversations, others forgotten and left on the sidewalk of memory. Swami Vivekananda, Munshi Premchand, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Paramhans Yogananda, Raja Todar Mal, Mahadevi Verma, Satyajit Ray, Suchitra Sen, Manna Dey, Firaq Gorakhpuri, among several other faces adorn the cover of the book.

Sahay’s narrative, however, is not limited to the bright faces on the cover. He brings in Alexander the Great, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya, Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, emperors and nawabs to trace the migration footprints of the community which is now scattered across 21 Indian states and the union territory of Chandigarh. Wars, temples, trade, intellect become the dramatic characters of the long saga that Sahay co-wrote with Poonam Bala, former visiting professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and currently visiting scholar at Cleveland State University (USA). United).

Available in English and Hindi, the encyclopedia is neatly divided into chapters, each describing an aspect of the community’s ethno-cultural diversity. The Grand Narrative deals with the mythological origin of Kayasthas, particularly in the nine Hindi-speaking Indian states of northern/central India and four southern states. The chapter on temples details the temples dedicated to Chitragupta, the mythological ancestor of the community as well as the temples of the Sun built by the great Kayasth rulers.

There are chapters on interstate migration, linear evolution of the writer class, nuances of Kayasth culture, Kaithi writing, Kayastha identity symbols, cuisine, among others. Infographics trace the migration routes from Kayastha to various parts of the country as well as to Sri Lanka.

An interesting element mentioned in the book is the Kayasth cuisine, which is so popular in several parts of northern and eastern India due to its uniqueness.

“Bhuna (slow roasting), dum (steaming) and dhungar (smoking) are three common Kayastha cooking techniques applied equally to vegetarian and non-vegetarian Kayasth cuisine. Judicious use of Garam Masala, however, acts as an arbiter in the final judgment,” the book reveals.

According to the book, Kayasth women (several of whom are vegetarians) can cook and present vegetarian dishes to look like non-vegetarian dishes. For example: dal kaleji, dal keema matar, bhuna kathal (jackfruit), kathal kabab, bhuna zimikand (elephant’s foot), Ishtu potato, black gram shami kabab and vegetables like bitter, round, wax gourd and okra that can rival the best non-vegetarian dishes.
The list of sweets is pure temptation: kheer, halwas, barfis, malpua, shahi tukda, rabri, jalebis, almond pista and lauz, khurchan, firni, parwal-ki-mithai and double-ka-meetha. The book makes special mention of the famous daulat-ki-chaat (also called nimish) in which thickened milk is mixed with sugar, rose water and saffron, and left uncovered or covered with a thin cloth of muslin, in the cold of winter. night to infuse the dew. In the morning, it is churned several times and the foam collected in shakoras (small earthenware bowls).
Kayasth, An Encyclopedia of Untold Stories is Sahay’s eighth book and there are others. Book shipping details can be obtained at

The book “Kayasth: An Encyclopedia of Untold Stories” is a hardcover book printed in four colors, counting 400 pages with rich textual content, stunning images, illustrations and paintings, mainly contributed by the best talents of Kayasth in India . It was launched on the birthday of Lord Shri Chitragupta. Available in Hindi and English, the book costs Rs 3,000 each in India, US$85 and £60.

The book has 13 chapters, which include legal status, mythology, history, subcastes, state presence, interstate migration, script, food, identity symbols, cultural practices , temples, festivals, rituals.

The book is the first ever community study of Kayasthas in 21 states and one UT in India, studied over 2 years, and it intends to revisit their identity and retain the glorious heritage of their three types – Chitraguptvanshiya, Chandraseniya and Chitrasenitya – extending over more than 2 years. several centuries. It highlights their interstate migration over 2,500 years, which they have largely forgotten. It explores the circuit of Chitragupt as well as the main temples of the sun in the context of their great stories in the mythologies.

Australian National University historian, Professor Angela Woolacott, said: “This rich and beautifully illustrated book presents many stories of the Kayastha community. The Kayasthas have contributed to Indian history and heritage in various fields ranging from politics to science and technology, literature and the arts Readers will find much interest.

Adds best actor Shatrughan Sinha, “The highly anticipated book Kayasth, An Encyclopedia of Untold Stories revisits issues of identity as well as heritage conservation of the Kayasth community which has shaped Indian civilization in many ways. A community study undertaken by two illustrious initiates, it is intended to strengthen the bond between members separated by territories, languages ​​and the loss of civilizational memories”.


Uday Sahay, a 1988 voluntarily retired IPS officer from AGMUT, is credited with editing the book titled Making News, published by Oxford University Press, which was one of the best sellers on the media in 2007. He has edited seven volumes on Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Renewable energy, Kumbh, Gaya, Bodh Gaya, and this book on Kayasthas is his eighth. As a photographer, he has organized photo exhibitions in India and abroad. Holder of a master’s degree in sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, Sahay is pursuing his doctoral research in media and advertising at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Socially, Sahay is currently the national working president of Akhil Bhartiya Kayasth Mahasabha.
Poonam Bala, Ph.D. (Sociology, UK), former Visiting Professor, JNU and Professor, Amity University, currently Visiting Scholar at Cleveland State University and Fellow, UNISA (South Africa). She received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh with postdoctoral research at the Universities of London and Edinburgh, and held visiting professorships in Germany, South Africa and Greece.

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