Sankethis – The Brahmins of Karnataka

Posted on December 21, 2006

The Sankethis are a brahmin sect that originate from Sengottai (literal translation: Red Fort) in Tamil Nadu.

Historically, they are known to have migrated to Karnataka from Sengottai sometime in the last 200-400 years. There is a very interesing legend as to how they came about:

Long ago, in a ‘Sabha’(Congregation of Brahmins), one Acharya made a mistake while reciting a Shloka. A lady in the audience pointed out the mistake. Male chauvinism being as old as manking itself, she was punished for her arrogance. The punishment meted out was that she had to prepare and serve food to the Brahmins while wearing a saree coated with chalkstone. Now chalkstone would make the saree slippery and difficult to hold in place. The resourceful lady conceived a new way of tying the saree which would be held in place with a knot. Nowadays this style of wearing the saree is called the “Gandi” style (from “Gath” which means knot, perhaps).

Later, the community split and several members moved to places in the Hassan, Mysore and Shimoga districts in Karnataka, where they have remained to date. Their Tamil has since been corrupted, and is sometimes irrecognizable in itself. Some even go so far as to say they might be from the Trichur district of Kerala, which might have acted as a stopover on the way to Karnataka via Coorg. and are two websites where you can learn more about them.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done when it comes to tracing the migratory paths of communities in India. Little or no historically verified information is available regarding the origins and family trees of many sub-sects. With the slow but progressing dispersion of people from their homelands, the challenge seems all the more steeper.


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9 Comments so far
  1. S. Sankar February 4, 2010 8:24 am

    Dear Sir,

    As a member of the “Sankethi” sect of brahmins from Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu and living for more than a century in Kerala, I have been given to understand that the origin of the Sankethis was in an “agraharam” in the present day “Saapathur”(literally, the place of curse) near Tirunelveli. It was when the learned woman was asked to serve food to the brahmins wearing a sari coated with some slippery substance, as you rightly say; but she did not wear it with a knot at that time and her modesty was compromised while serving food and she was jeered. Earlier to this incident her family consisting of husband, wife and a son, suffering from extreme poverty, drank a special drink with magical properties; that drink could kill, make a person mad or bestow him/her with great knowledge equal to that of Goddess Saraswathi. The son died, her husband went mad and the lady became a great “jnaani” and that was all the more reason for the Pundits to defame her.

    Overcome by intolerable grief the lady known as “Nacharamma” among us, cursed the brahmins of the agraharam that they would be destroyed before the next sunrise if they remained in that place. Soon she became aware of their difficulties and so, not herself having the power to cancel her curse, she took them as a group (Sankaetha) and went off north to Madurai and thence to the presnt day Karnataka; on the way some people who were walking very far behind, lost their way and walked somewhat eastwards while the others went with Nacharamma to a place which is the Rudrapatnam today or somewhere near that.

    As a matter of fact even today Rudrapatnam is preponderantly Sankethis.

    Those who did not follow Nacharamma, left the village to nearby places like Tirunelveli, Shencottah, etc., and from there spread out in search of livelihhod to other native kingdoms which offered them (Brahmins) scope for eking out a living.

    One gentleman from Karnataka has written a book in this regard during 1930s.

  2. Reverse Osmosis : October 31, 2010 10:05 pm

    Family Trees are very interesting to know specially if you have a large extended family _

  3. Carson Washington December 1, 2010 11:56 am

    we always keep track of our family tree because it is exciting to know the family tree ~*:

  4. Shower Pump %0B January 24, 2011 8:30 am

    ..~ I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information ~~`

  5. Subbu October 11, 2011 5:18 am

    The Sankethis migrated to Bettadapura around 600 years back. Their migratory route took them through Kerala and then Coorg (Mercara) in Karnataka. Near the present day Kushalnagar,in Coorg, the local chieftan and his men kidnapped the Sankethi women. The Sankethi men settled outside the chieftan’s settlement and waited for their women to head back. The women were eventually re-united with their menfolk and they settled down at Bettadapura which is around 8 kilometers from Kushalanagar. This also explains why the Bettadapura Sankethis initially chose to settle near a hill and not near a river. This also explains why the Sankethi women and the Coorgi women drape their sarees in exactly the same way. This is different from the conventional South Indian way of wearing a saree.

  6. Raghav April 24, 2012 11:07 pm

    A book written in Kannada language by Dr. C.S Ramachandra (prof. Mysore university) “Sankethi Jenaaoga Samskruthi mathu Bhashe” will be very informative about the Sankethi’s

  7. tkrcp May 22, 2012 6:39 pm

    as per guna karma vibhaga even though sankethi
    BRAHMIN may claim his route from kerala tamilnadu
    i dont think they belong to ARYANS as they
    havae got some of the asuri gunas
    such as
    1 loud voice
    2 harsh in their talk and voracious eaters
    3 very intelligent in vedas/VEDANGAS
    4 devoted TO lord shiva/other gramadevatas EXCEPT FOLLOWERS OF LORD KESHAVA

  8. bmniac March 1, 2016 9:12 am

    It is sad to note a certain meanness in your remarks unbecoming of a cultured person. You also have problems with your spelling and grammar.
    Incidentally I am not a Sankethi Brahmin.

  9. sankethi November 24, 2016 4:08 am

    Dear tkrcp,
    Yes, you are 100% right. Sankethis are Dravidians & not of Aryan race. The attributes mentioned are true more or less otherwise. But the truth remains same, locals can’t compete with Sankethis. Whether in Knowledge, Hardwork, Strength, Intelligence etc. It is like Neighbour’s envy Owners Proud issue for us. We love our mother tongue (other than Kannada). It is unfortunate that we forgot the script (originally in Tamil)